Thursday, May 19, 2022

A New "Chapter" in Religious Life

 


“Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. He breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21

I’m so blessed to have experienced (in person) the Dominican Sisters of Peace’s General Chapter in April. The grace I received from this experience is a powerful reminder to me of how the Holy Spirit continues to collaborate with us on our journey, both individually and as a religious congregation. I have to admit when I first saw the whole election process on paper; I was very confused as to how it would actually unfold at the Chapter? But then again, I forgot that the Holy Spirit was moving the process and that it is not just the work of human hands. Although it took lots of collaborating human hands to make it happen as well! With the Feast of Pentecost coming up, it’s a great reminder of how the Holy Spirit was sent to help us as collaborators with God and with each other to be witnesses to God’s plan of salvation. 

This reminds me of a great quote I recently heard, “We are waiting for God’s intervention, but God is waiting for our collaboration.” I have practiced living collaboratively for the last 10 months here at the CDN and I’ve witnessed peaceful collaboration in action at our General Chapter. I have to say, I was completely mesmerized at the peaceful, organized and prayerful way the Chapter process unfolded. I could literally feel the Holy Spirit at work in the Chapter room and in the whole Chapter process. Now, I can imagine how the Apostles felt with the power of the Holy Spirit filling their minds and hearts on that first Pentecost. Going out on the first Pentecost to powerfully proclaim the Gospel, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, I am certain was glorious. 

As I get ready “to be sent” from the CDN to move back to my congregation and into a new ministry, I’m excited to continue to practice some of the collaborative, prayerful, peace building skills I’ve been blessed to embrace.      

God's Peace be with each of you! 




Saturday, May 14, 2022

A Ministry Experience


I recently had the opportunity to visit my Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Srs. Elizabeth Dunn OP, Martha Mary Rohde OP and Barbara Becker OP) in Indiantown, Florida for a ministry experience. During my short stay in Florida, I accompanied my Sisters to their ministries in Indiantown, where I encountered those to whom they ministered, and volunteered my services. Srs. Elizabeth and Martha Mary worked at “Hope Rural School” as executive director and principal respectively. Sr. Barbara worked at the “KinDoo Family Center” as the child care coordinator.

 

Brief background on the area

Indiantown is a small town in Florida that was named after the Seminole Indians, who made it their campsite over one hundred years ago (Ashabranner, 1986). This rural town is located thirty miles from West Palm Beach. For decades, Indiantown has been home for migrants and immigrant farm workers, who continue to claim it as a refuge from economic hardships and civil wars in their countries (Dooley, 2010). Indiantown houses a diverse population of persons from Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the United States (Dooley, 2010).

 

Brief history of the Hope Rural School

In the late 1970s, a group of concerned residents wanted to provide education for children of migrant farm workers (Dooley, 2010). “Language deficiencies and cultural differences” made school challenging for migrant children (Dooley, 2010). In addition, children of migrant farm workers generally missed school during the school year (from April to September) because their parents travelled to different places where crops (such as apples, cherries, peaches, onions and oranges) were ready to be picked.

In 1980, Father Frank O’Loughlin and Sister Carol Putman, RSCJ founded and incorporated Hope Rural School, with the support of the community, in order to provide the children of migrant/immigrant farm workers with a Catholic elementary education. “The school day was extended into the late afternoon to assist parents whose working days often lasted until evening. Teachers focused on the basics of the curriculum with an emphasis on language development and assisted students with practical adjustments to the society and culture of the United States” (Dooley, 2010).

Today, Hope Rural School continues to primarily serve children from immigrant families. It supports, guides and encourages the entire family through the education of children, parenting classes and English classes for Adults (Hope Rural School, 2017). As a fully accredited institution, it fulfils its mission to offer families hope by providing a catholic elementary education to children in grades PreK3 through grade 5. The school fosters a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment that promotes gospel values.

Over the years, many communities of religious sisters have supported the Hope Rural School, particularly, the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Charity from Cincinnati, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.

 

Brief History of KinDoo Family Center

The co-directors of KinDoo Family Centre, Sisters Mary Dooley, SSND and Kate Kinnally, SSND worked as administrators of the Hope Rural School for many years. They recognized that parents were learning English at a relatively slower pace than their children and many of them relied heavily on their children to translate for them. in addition, many of the Guatemalan, Mexican and Haitian immigrant families had little opportunity for schooling in their countries prior their arrival in the United States.

The KinDoo Family Center opened for classes in October 2015. Its mission involves empowering families with life skills that will enable them to achieve a better life. KinDoo’s programs currently include sewing, literacy, nutrition and cooking, art, computer and Kids Korner. Sister Barbara helps to provide childcare services while parents attend classes.

KinDoo’s Adult Literacy Program provides English language instruction that helps parents to gain the skills, knowledge and motivation needed to read and write independent of their children; become employed; and pursue further education. Weekly Cooking, Nutrition and Conversation classes help women to adopt healthier lifestyles, which improves their health outcomes, their sense of well-being and their self-esteem (Kin Doo Family Services, 2022). The sewing program empowers the students to provide for their families and to positively impact their communities by sharing their gifts.

 

My ministry experience

This rich history is the context in which I started my ministry experience. As I entered the Hope Rural School, I was warmly greeted by the children and the staff. The “little hopes”, the 3 and 4 year-olds, enthusiastically surrounded me. The school had a diverse student population. In addition, the grounds of the school were beautiful and conducive to learning. I really appreciated that the school provided breakfast and lunch for all of the students so that they would all have the nutrients that they needed to be productive. Many of the little hopes seemed to speak mostly Spanish. It was helpful that some the teachers and assistants were fluent in both Spanish and English. The children learnt English as part of the school curriculum. In addition, reading was greatly encouraged as a source of learning. Their reading resource room was filled with fun and engaging books. Additional support was given for children who were progressing at a slower pace. There was also a peer system where older children would read to the younger children.

I was delighted to discover that the hope rural school catered to children with different learning styles. Material was presented and reinforced in varied ways. I provided additional support for teachers and assistants. I also assisted with physical education and revision of concepts. Much of my time was spent with the PreK3 students. Their teacher, Mrs. Kendly Lopez and assistant teacher, Ms. Angelica Mendoza helped to create a very welcoming atmosphere. I really appreciated that as early as 3 years, the children were encouraged to choose the ways in which they wanted to revise a concept (for example, though song, a story, or an activity that engaged their entire bodies).

The children also learned about different countries in the world. I did a presentation on Trinidad and Tobago in order to provide the children with some information about my country. They were engaged and readily answered my questions. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the children had previously learnt about Trinidad and Tobago a few years ago. Moreover, approximately once a month, a class is responsible for creatively showcasing what they had studied. The preK4s competently and enthusiastically displayed their skills in counting, adding (using their fingers), singing and advocating for care of the earth. I was also very impressed when they narrated the Passion of Christ. Each student remembered his or her lines and his or her place in the narrative. They also boldly shared their dream for their future careers (for example, a singer, astronaut, nurse, police offer or teacher).  The rest of the school, the staff and the children’s parents and guardians enthusiastically supported the preK4 class. I was so pleased to see the proud parents and guardians taking pictures and applauding their children’s efforts during the term.

 In some instances, I was learning along with the children. On one such occasion, I had accompanied the children of grades 3 to 5 with their teachers and other volunteers to the Environmental Studies Centre. There were interactive presentations to prepare us for the organisms that we would encounter in the sea later that day. The 4th graders were introduced to the mangroves and were taught to distinguish red, black and white mangroves. The 3rd graders and the 5th graders went seining, which involves using a fishing net (which is placed vertically in the water with floats at the top) to encircle the fish, shrimp, crabs, for example. These budding scientists learnt how to record and handle their findings. They were also introduced to the circle of life. They returned any organism that was carrying eggs back into the ocean and used the rest of their catch as live bait, for the fishes and lobsters that were housed at the centre.

I also had an opportunity to visit the KinDoo Family Center during their Volunteer Appreciation Day. As I entered, I recognized that the students were diligently practicing enunciating their English words using their respective scripts. I was also introduced to the children that Sr. Barbara taught at Kids Korner. The children appeared to be happy and energetic as they engaged with the toys. The KinDoo women creatively offered vote of thanks to their teachers. Some were wearing beautiful dresses they had sewn. They humbly served us a delicious and nutritious meal that they had prepared with their teacher. I was delighted by the beautiful and professional display of yummy desserts.

The fresh vegetables used in our meal were grown and harvested from the community garden. Residents of the area were gifted with a plot in the community garden. They were responsible for tending to their garden. I accompanied Sr. Barbara to volunteer at the community garden and I encountered some of the KinDoo women and their children there. Residents were removing the winter crops to plant the seeds for the “summer crops”. Seeds were donated and residents were free to take them and plant them. I observed the comradery among residents as they worked alongside each other and shared crops with each other.

 

Reflections

I am truly thankful for this ministry experience. The Hope Rural School and the KinDoo Family Center have supported many families through the gift of education. They provide a safe, stimulating and respectful atmosphere for all persons. The sisters and other members of the local community freely offer their time, talent and treasure to empower those whom they serve so that they can have more positive outcomes. They model for their students the value of hard work, community and “dreaming big”. Students are given the necessary skills and support to find gainful employment and to pursue advanced education.

The vision and mission of both of these institutions are fulfilled each day. As I continue to my discernment of vows at the CDN, I am reminded that my “yes” is intended to make me more available to God and service to God’s people. As I listen for God’s direction regarding my next ministry, I am reminded to ‘dream big’, work hard and rely on the support of community to courageously serve those in need, in the ways God calls me. In so doing, I can also help God’s people to have more positive outcomes by God’s grace.


Photos

                                       Hope Rural School                           
                           

 

(Left Picture) Sinsinawa Sisters who have worked at Hope Rural School: (from the left) Sr. Martha  Rohde, OP,  Sr. Elizabeth Dunn, OP and Sr. Marie Celeste Gatti, OP.                                      

(Right Picture): Past and Present Administrators of Hope Rural School: (from the left) Sr. Kate Kinnally, SSND, Sr. Martha Rohde, OP, Sr. Elizabeth Dunn, OP, Sr. Mary Dooley, SSND.


Photos of my ministry with the PreK3 class 

 



Left- Ms. Angelica Mendoza (Teaching assistant), Right- Ms. Kendly Lopez (Teacher)


PreK4 presentation during Earth Day

Back row- Srs. Elizabeth Dunn OP, Siobhan Burroughs, Barbara Becker OP and Martha Rohde OP
Front row- Some of the "Little Hopes"


Photos from Lesson on Trinidad and Tobago


Photos from KinDoo Family Center

A visual reminder for KinDoo Students

A KinDoo woman's display of home-made desserts

Sr. Barbara Becker, OP and Sr. Siobhan Burroughs while volunteering at the Community Garden


Thursday, May 5, 2022

"God's love is made complete in us." I John 4:12

 

         

Chicago is called the "Windy City", and that is very accurate.  My room is on the third floor of the CDN and I can see the top of all the trees right outside my windows.  Every time a mysterious wind blows hard, the leaves and branches bend and then they return back to their original shape, straight and tall. Day after day, morning to night, they want to tell me and show me the love of God through their patience, endurance, faithfulness, and their joy. This happens when the wind, the clouds, the rain, the sun, and strong Mother Earth, all help to nourish them. They grow and become strong each day as I can see the baby branches are trying to grow among the old ones. 

Although the flowers and the leaves have returned back to the Earth in the winter, the trees still show their magnificent variation with their branches trying to open up and reach toward the sky and the sun. They are able to endure through the cold winter.  I wonder what has made them so grounded and to be so strong? From my room, I can see the top half of the trees and from the chapel windows downstairs, I can see the bottom half of these same trees.  The parts that help these trees stay strong and grounded are the roots, the soil of Mother Earth, their neighbor trees which surround them, and the environment around them, either visible or unseen. All these God has given to them to help them stay strong. 

As I sit in the chapel, looking at the tabernacle and at the quiet gentle light next to it, this reminds me of the relationship Jesus has with his Father and the constant faithfulness of God’s love to me each day. I hope and pray that I am able to recognize the beauty and the many blessings God has given me and in all the diversity and uniqueness of God’s creations. I pray that I am able to embrace the unending love and be open to the graces of how, "... God's love is made complete in us.” I John 4:12. 

I am praying that God will constantly open my heart and my mind so I can continually learn how to be more present, to be more aware, to be more loving, and to discover and welcome all of God’s graces around me. I also want to be able to see Jesus in our living community and in all creation.  Pray that I can have the courage and strength to be with, to embrace and to bless others. I want to be able to reach out and touch our Mother Earth and to reach out to each of you, my brothers and sisters. Because we all belong to God's creation and are living out "God's dream" for each of us.

Thank you for reading our blog all along. God bless you. 



Friday, April 29, 2022

Hope, Peace, Joy



            



   


                    


 


          


 


 

  



 


 



 



































Thursday, April 14, 2022

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

        


“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

 This verse is the prayer on the lips of Jesus as he hangs dying on the cross. 

It is also the prayer on my lips as we enter this holiest of seasons, the Sacred Triduum.  

Our CDN community recently joined with other religious sisters, brothers and priests to pray together for the most recent homicide victims here in Chicago. We gathered on a windy cold Chicago morning, on the 2200 block of W. 72nd St. to mourn the loss of Nyziereya Moore, a beautiful 12 year old girl who was killed by gun violence as she rode down this city block in the car with her family, out to celebrate her 12th birthday. 

Nyziereya was one of the 31 names (and ages) that we reverently read aloud at the vigil, pausing to remember each of them in prayer and honoring their life. The homicide victims this past month ranged in age from 12 to 70 years old, each of their lives cut short by senseless violence. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

The Chicago Catholic Sisters come together every month, since 2018, to pray with those and for those affected by violence here in this city. The mission of the homicide prayer vigils are to pray for the victims, their families and friends as well as pray for the perpetrators and their families and friends. To ask God for a change of heart in all of us so that no more blood will be shed on our streets and to be a visible presence in confronting the issue of violence. 

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In Luke’s story of the Passion, Jesus is also quoted saying to the women of Jerusalem, “Daughters, Weep for yourselves and your children.” During this Sacred Triduum, I weep in prayer to God for a change in my own heart. Through my prayer, I want to be part of the metanoia that our world needs, to help stop the senseless killing of our sisters and brothers.  This change needs to begin with me and not by me looking to others to legislate my change of heart. No one can change our heart for us. We have to do that ourselves, with God’s grace of course. As Jesus went to his death, he didn’t rail against those who were responsible for putting him to death, he prayed for his persecutors and executioners.  And he continues to pray for us. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This canonical year here at the CDN is focused on the importance and the power of prayer. As well as the need to make time and space for prayer in our lives, especially as religious sisters. I pray that I continue to grow in my love of being a faithful woman of prayer. I want to model Jesus’ love of prayer, especially in his/my most painful times. It is painful to think about the many victims of violence around the world and how many people’s lives are cut short each day by violence, including Jesus’ life. But Jesus reminds us in his Passion that God’s love always wins in the end. And if God won’t give up on us, then I won’t either. During this Sacred Triduum and beyond, let me continue to look for signs of hope in our world and to be signs of hope for others in the world, especially through my life of prayer. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

 

So, how about you? How is Jesus asking you to be a woman of pray this Triduum? Pray about it.

     

Blessings for a holy Triduum and a joy-filled Easter!



Thursday, April 7, 2022

A glimpse of a reflection on the vow of poverty

Peacefully waiting for Sunrise at Lake Michigan

I recently heard a story of a wise teacher asking his students, “If you want to boil a pot of water and there is not enough wood, what would you do?” One answered, “I will go and look for more wood.” The other said, “I will cut the trees and make more wood.” Another said, “I will go to the market to buy more wood.” The teacher asked again, “What if none of those options are available?” There was a long silence pause because none of the students had the answer. The teacher finally said, “How about we pour some water out?” 

Sometimes, I can see we make things more complicated and try so hard to keep everything on our plate, but the easiest solution is to let go.  Many time, that is the best way. I especially experienced this when I traveled. It’s so much easier, and I was so much happier with a backpack when I didn’t have to carry heavy luggage. 

In last Sunday's Gospel, John 8:1-11, Jesus also challenged the scribes and the Pharisees to let go of their judgment, criticism, knowledge, strictly following the rules, and pointing fingers at the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was able to open the eye of their hearts and he was able to convert the scribes and the Pharisees who were present. They were able to see deep down in their souls and were able to put down the stones and the burdens they carried. Hopefully, they were able to let go of their perfectionism, education, knowledge, and criticism and were able to accept the humility of being vulnerable and failing. They too depended on God’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for their imperfections, sins, and weaknesses. 

Jesus taught people back then and now teaches us to choose life that gives us peace, joy, and frees us. Our part is to do our best to constantly make choices and to let go of the heavy burdens which we carry with us on our journey. Learning from Jesus, the vow of poverty teaches me to let go of things that I carry which can sometimes weigh me down or can damage my relationship with God and my brothers/sisters. 

In our daily life, if each of us can stop for a few seconds or slow down to hear Jesus' voice, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," Mt 11: 28-30 we will be less worried and travel lighter with greater peace, joy, and freedom.

 
Signs of new life and hope around me