Letter-writing has connected Christian communities across geographical distances since the first and second centuries. The early church relied on circular letters to communicate, support one another during persecution, and strengthen bonds of friendship. Like first-generation Christians dispersed throughout Asia Minor, we at the CDN wrote and received many letters this past December as we celebrated the Advent and Christmas seasons in Chicago. Ordinarily, the novices and directors would return to their home congregations for the holidays; however, given the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to stay in place – an act of solidarity with our Sisters in motherhouses and on mission who were unable to travel or visit family because of the virus.
No social-distancing could separate us from the love of our Dominican and Maryknoll family. As soon as word went out that we would remain in Chicago, cards and packages began to pour in. Some contributed decorations, like the stockings with blinking lights that could not be turned off.
Others wrapped gifts to put under our tree. Many sent delicious baked goods and popcorn.
Never have I so appreciated the beauty of Christmas cards. Their artwork helps us recognize where we encounter the Christ child in our world today: among refugee and migrant families, in the face of children born into poverty, in the arms of single mothers and adoptive fathers. Their messages of hope announce to us the Good News that God dwells among us—hope we needed, this year especially, as we mourned members of our congregations lost to the ravages of COVID-19. Handwritten notes of encouragement from Sisters and Associates near and far lifted our spirits. Their words of love strengthened our hearts during those darkest of year-end days, not unlike the Catholic Epistles must have affected the earliest Christians in times of trial. We give thanks for these expressions of care and affection, knowing that we are enfolded in prayer.
We entered into the New Year with a double birthday celebration. Both Faithmary and I were born on the first of January, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Peace. I reflected anew on the gift of our house community, where we commit ourselves daily to following Jesus’ command, “Love one another.” Out of love, the directors baked two birthday cakes!
Faithmary blows out the candles on her birthday.
This year, life handed us lemons, so we made lemon cake.
Faithmary dances in the Southern caramel cake as Cathy sings with enthusiasm
Yet our joy turned to lament this week after the despicable attack on the U.S. Capital. Last Wednesday, this country witnessed the ugly violence borne of lies and hatred. Amidst the shock and anger I feel, I am simultaneously grateful for my vocation. I am glad to be among women religious who do not turn away from the reality of sin and idolatry. Into this reality, we are called to bring the light of Christ and the love that overwhelms evil with good. Our mission, as Dominican and Maryknoll Sisters, is to seek Truth and make God’s love visible. Together we will discern how the Spirit is leading us to build peace in our time. As 2021 begins, we commit ourselves anew to contemplation and discernment, always seeking to be transformed by God so that we can, in turn, help transform our world.
Christ’s Light illuminates our house chapel, radiating peace