Saturday, January 28, 2017

January Highlights!

It is hard to believe that not so long ago we welcomed 2017 and now have the opportunity to reflect on the adventures of the New Year. Our January has been very active and memorable.  Following are some of the highlights of the first month of the year.

We hope you enjoy!

Our fellow ICN Brother Thuan and Sister Cecilia introduced us to the celebration of the Lunar New Year or TET! It was beautiful to learn the background of the celebration and experience the beauty of the traditional outfits, the blessing tree, among other items. As an added lagniappe, Daughter of Charity sisters, Michelle and Kara, made a delicious Mardi Gras King Cake and Sister Kelly found the “baby”! Overall the celebration and gathering was lovely and very educational.

Part of our novitiate experience includes study and learning about the foundations of religious life in the United States. We began the semester learning about our congregational roots and presented out findings to our class.  Sister Cecilia treated us to a show and tell of her congregation with a habit used many years ago and books from the archives! We also had the opportunity to celebrate our professor, Sister Regina, on her recent birth day!

We were very fortunate to conclude 2016 with an invigorating Dominican panel on study. The panel was part of a series of conversations with our Dominican family regarding the Four Dominican Pillars.  As we concluded the series, we had the opportunity to gain valuable insight from Dominican Brothers Keven Stephens and Brian John Zuelke and Dominican Sisters Carla Mae Streeter and Georgiana Stubner. We are very grateful for the conversation and awareness as it provided a detail understanding regarding study in the Dominican Life and it propelled us to embrace the new year with the desire to learn and search for the truth.
Sr. Megan McElroy, O.P., Br. Kevin Stephens, O.P., Sr. Carla Mae Streeter, O.P., Sr. Joye Gros, O.P., Br. Brian Zuelke, O.P., Sr. Katherine Frazier, Sr. Georgiana Stubner, O.P., Sr. Ana Gonzalez and Sr. Margaret Uche 

We have the lovely tradition to celebrate our community.  As we started the New Year, we began with the festive celebration of Katherine! 

During the month of January we had the opportunity to enjoy the company and sisterhood of fellow religious women in the area.  Among the joyful encounters we meet up with our sisters at the St. Louis Giving Voice gathering and some of us participated in the Women’s March on St. Louis. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Pledge for Peace

As we novices begin this second semester of the New Year I was asked about my hope for this New Year. Of course I hope for a successful semester. But as a novice of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I am compelled now more than ever to pray and promote an environment of peace in our world that is so threatened with violence. 

This last Sunday the pastor of our church in his homily spoke about Martin Luther King and he urged us to make a pledge to commit ourselves the best as we can to peace and nonviolence. In the pledge I was reminded that making peace must start within me,
and that I must respect my self and others, forgive and encourage reconciliation with others, respect and care for the environment, and to challenge violence in all its forms wherever I encounter it. He reminded us that Jesus is the ultimate example of peace and love. He urged us to become nonviolent and peaceable people even in difficult times.

Inspired by this pledge, I am reminded of Jesus words in John’s Gospel, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

My prayer and hope for this New Year is that we all commit ourselves as best as we can to be instruments of God’s peace with those we meet and for our world in need.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Oh The Places You Will Go!

I can hardly believe that a week ago we welcomed the New Year and celebrated the feast of Epiphany.   Just eight days ago on January 8, the three Dominican novices journeyed back to the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate after our month long visit to our home congregations and a family.  Just like the three Magi, we three novices hit the road on the way to our continued spiritual journey at the CDN.

Sr. Nancy Garson, OP 
As indicated during our last Sunday readings, the three Wise Magi traveled following light of the star of Bethlehem searching for the Savior.  To their surprise instead of a wealthy king, at their arrival they found a humble family and a vulnerable child.  I believe that when Mathew states that “they departed for their country by another way,” he is pointing out the conversion embraced by the Magi after they got to know the Savior. The Magi encountered the unexpected and were transformed!

The readings and celebration of Epiphany resonated with me deeply as I am currently in a journey seeking to deepen my relationship with God.  Last August I embarked on a literal and spiritual journey where I am discovering new paths, insights and know that I will not return the same way as I came!

 Sisters and Associates from Akron, Ohio making a delivery to the
homeless during the Christmas Season. 
The short visit to my home congregation in Akron and with my family highlighted my transformation and the transformation of those around me.  I was touched and very grateful when Sister Nancy Garson, archivist for the Dominican Sisters of Peace, took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Margaret and me of the journey embarked by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.  Sister Nancy was very purposeful in pointing out the movement of our history; while short it has deep roots.  The narrative was filled with stories of women who were invited to follow God to the uncertain.  In their call they were transformed by their journey.  At the same time, our foremothers, our wise women, became lights that illuminated the path for future generations to follow.

An unexpected surprise came to me while one of our Akron Sisters was embracing the end of her earthy journey and was preparing to greet God.  As Sister Doreen geared up to conclude her earthy journey, I was amazed by her letting go and the love of those in the Akron community who were providing companionship during the difficult process. Without knowing it, she was a light of faith to me, as well as the Akron sisters were a testimony of compassion and mercy.

I was very fortunate to visit my home congregation during the Christmas season and experience my personal journey and transformation. I was fortunate to be attentive to the wise women who traveled before me following the light of faith, and those around me who are wisdom figures, setting an example and illuminating me.

Now I and my companions are back in our journey of discovery and transformation. We will continue to search for God and continue our spiritual, personal and Dominican development.  I ask for your prayers and support as we follow the light, the way during our novitiate journey. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Learning How to Become a Preacher

During this Christmas season, I have had the opportunity to reflect and pray with my Adrian Dominican Sisters, whether at liturgy, in prayer and in conversation. I feel richer for the insights that have come up during all these times. I have been reminded about humble shepherds being overwhelmed in night meadows by the angels’ chorus of Gloria. I have journeyed with the magi as they traveled to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to a baby. I have also been wondering about what the Christmas season has to teach us about being Dominican Preachers.

Dominicans have a long held devotion to Mary, and I can see in her a model for letting the Word of God take flesh within her. Mary didn’t just do this in the physical sense, but she was open to all the ways the Word of God continued to act in her life. Meister Eckhart wrote about the need to become pregnant with the Word of God and then to give birth to the word. This is the movement in the Dominican motto of “contemplata aliis tradere,” that there is the return to contemplative prayer that then compels us outward to preach and to serve the People of God.

Throughout this year, us novices have been encouraged to develop our identity as preachers. How can I communicate the love of God in such a way that it set the hearts around me on fire? For myself, I feel the self-doubt that comes out of my own position as a young woman. I am surrounded by women who bring with them years of wisdom and experience, and I am keenly aware of how much more I have to learn.

Cutting through my own insecurities come these stories around Christmastime that remind us of Jesus’ youth. Jesus did not appear a fully formed adult, but as a baby, the same as every other person to walk the Earth. Yet, even as a baby, Jesus had something to teach everyone around him. When the shepherds and magi saw Jesus, they didn’t necessarily know what they had witnessed, but they were profoundly changed by the experience. We hear about this in the story of the Magi where they return home by a different way. They took a different road back home, but they approached the journey differently. The experience of meeting Jesus, even as a baby, allowed them to see through Herod’s deception. Then there is the story of Jesus in the temple. We are told that Jesus was around twelve years old, and that he was teaching the elders in the Temple, who were amazed at his wisdom. Even as a baby or a youth, Jesus was preaching to those around him.

Stained glass window in Holy Rosary Chapel
at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse

There are not many stories about Jesus before he entered his public ministry, but I treasure those stories that we do have, because they speak to how God works in our youth. These stories remind me that the Word of God is spoken in often surprising places, and that all I need to do is to be open to that surprise, both in myself and in those around me.