Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Return to Ordinary Time

Our final weeks at the CDN coincide with the end of the Easter season and the church’s return to Ordinary Time. That seems fitting. Our canonical novitiate year has been anything but the usual. Upon arriving at the CDN last August, we novices stepped out of our ordinary routines and entered an extra-ordinary time, for extra prayer, reflection, and integration. This year, we journeyed into the wilderness of our own hearts to internalize the vows and the charism to which we are committing our lives. We experienced the paschal mystery, both on a macro scale as the entire human family experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, and on a micro scale, as we sought to take on the mind and heart of Christ and become a new creation.

Taizé Prayer Around the Cross in our House Chapel
Now this extraordinary novitiate year is drawing to a close. Like the disciples in Sunday’s Gospel (Matt. 28: 16-20), we’ve been up on the mountaintop with Jesus, and we’re about to be sent down and out on mission. So, it’s also fitting that on our final Sunday together, the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Trinity. As Fr Dan Horan reminded us earlier this year, our Trinitarian God has a heart for relationship. The mystery of the Trinity reveals that God is a loving communion between persons. Because we are created in God’s likeness, we too are made for communion. Particularly as vowed religious, Pope Francis tells us, we are called to become experts in communion – an image of the Trinity.

As we return to Ordinary Time and prepare to depart from the CDN, we hear Jesus telling us, “Go and make disciples of all the nations,” teaching and preaching and inviting those we encounter into a life of communion with God and each other. Such a Great Commission can seem daunting. To reassure us, Jesus first says, “All power on heaven and earth has been given to me.” As women in the church, we are keenly aware of how easily power can be abused and misused to dominate people. But the power of which Jesus speaks is meant to empower the church to continue God’s mission. God the Creator has given all power to Jesus, who then shares that power with us through the gift of the Spirit. I think there are three aspects of that power that we have witnessed this year, and which we are called to carry forth as we come down from the mountain.
First, Jesus receives from God the power to give life, and he shares that power with us. I think of the story we heard from Sister Mary Lou, a Maryknoll Missioner who ministered in Hong Kong to refugees from mainland China. Years later, traveling through Adrian, MI, she stopped at a Chinese restaurant. When the chef heard she was a Maryknoll Sister, he came out to say that his family had been among those refugees who survived on the care and noodles provided by Sisters like MaryLou. Thanking her, he said the Maryknoll Sisters saved his life and his family. Through Jesus, we have the power to give life to one another.

From left to right: Maryknoll Sr Gloria, SVD seminarian David, Faithmary, 
Maryknoll Sr MaryLou & Annie
Second, Jesus shares the power of unconditional love, a love that is stronger than death. I think of my mom, Sally Killian, who used to say that she found something to love in every one of her patients. As a physician, she believed that love is stronger than any disease and the suffering it brings. Even now, six years since she passed, my family continues to know the power of her unconditional love for us. We all are called to love one another with that same powerful love that comes from God.

Annie's Dad, TJ, comes to visit

Finally, Jesus shares with us the power to forgive. I think of the homicide prayer vigils we attended on the last Saturday of every month, where we gathered with Catholic Sisters and friends to remember the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence here in Chicago, to pray for healing, and to commit ourselves to the work of peace-building. Jesus entrusts to us his empowering ministry of reconciliation.
The power to give life, to love without condition, to forgive and reconcile – this is the power with which Jesus sends us forth. Looking back on this year at the CDN, I thank God to have experienced a life-giving, loving and forgiving community among the directors and novices. Now we go our separate ways, knowing that we remain united in the love of Christ, who promises to be with us always – even in Ordinary Time.

Outing to Indiana Dunes State Park

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Impact of gratitude in rebirth

'You springs bless the Lord. Sea and rivers bless the Lord [1].' The universe has taught me the language of gratitude during my novitiate years. It is hard to believe though that the canonical year is coming to an end. I tend to believe that our state of the whole being as we come to the end, is the same as the energetic lake waves on the beach of Siena Retreat Center hitting the shore and the flourishing celery in spring; alive, nourished, rooted, reenergized, and singing the Magnificat of gratitude to all that has been and looking forward with faith and hope to all that is to come. There are so many edifying lessons that Mother Earth can teach us if we just stop and gaze.

Siena Retreat Center beach, Racine WI (Lake Michigan)

As I had previously written on the celery’s resilience[2], I am excited to let you know that it has survived the bitter winter snow. Like the celery, the ability to bounce back to life comes with gratitude which realizes the presence and action of God within us and in the world around us all the time. If we can hold on to this spirit of gratitude and make it a daily practice and lifestyle, it can help rewire our brains to be more positive, thus elevate our immunity, increase our enthusiasm in work, improve sleep and increase our long life. Pope Francis had this to say about gratitude, “Above all, let us not forget to thank: if we are bearers of gratitude, the world itself will become better, even if only a little bit, but that is enough to transmit a bit of hope” [3]. This says to me that I can make the world around me better by showing and living a life of gratitude that in turn instills hope.


Celery in Spring
Celery in winter
  We are invited to be people of gratitude, not because our lives are a bed of roses, but because even in the tensions of our everyday life the Spirit within us moves us and strengthens us to forge ahead. Mary the Mother of God, sang her Magnificat even in her state of not knowing what her yes implied. She believed in her own dreaming track, her inner ability to navigate through the unknown. She let it out in her song. The song of gratitude sounds sweeter in circumstances where grace touches us without any warning. An invitation for me to constantly acknowledge the abundance of God's grace in my life.
When the ten lepers were healed, only one went back to express gratitude to Jesus, and he was a Samaritan [4]. I only stand out as far as this passage is concerned when I appreciate what I have become because of the help I have received from others in the community and ministry. I stand out not because I am the best but because I connect with the life-giver Himself. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances; "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us" [5].
May the universe teach us its love for gratitude, for gratitude attracts abundance. We give gratitude for everything taking place in our favor and show gratitude that the unseen forces of nature are working on our dreams. Gratitude will help raise our vibrations and brings us into harmony with the energy of the Universe. Gratitude can immediately transform all areas of our life. In season and out of the season, like the celery and lake waves, we rejoice and give thanks. We are a people carved out of gratitude and thank you is our song.

"if the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you', that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart


1 Daniel 3: 77-79
4Luke 17:11-19
5 Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Praise Be to Our Gardening God

We at the CDN are rejoicing in the new life of Easter. Flowers bloom in the yard, trees bud with leaves, seedlings germinate and sprout. What’s more, we are now fully vaccinated and can widen our social interactions (within CDC guidelines, of course). To celebrate, we drove down to visit our Dominican Sisters in Springfield, IL. We were greeted by Sr. Elyse Marie Ramirez, who is teaching our Contemporary Issues in Consecrated Life course. What a delight to see her in person rather than on Zoom! Elyse showed us around the beautiful motherhouse grounds and pointed out the flower beds she’s been tending. 

Visiting with Springfield Dominicans Sisters Georgiana and Elyse


Our final destination was Jubilee Farm, the congregation’s Center for Ecology and Spirituality. Founded in 2000, the farm extends over 164 acres of grassy pasture, woods, and wetlands. It’s home to a vegetable garden, apple orchard, chickens and llamas, as well as a Creative Arts Center. We stayed overnight at La Casa, enjoying the hospitality of Sisters Sharon Zayac, Anita Cleary, and Rose Mary Riley. Friday morning dawned sunny and warm – a gorgeous day to spend roaming the land. Volunteers have helped with ecological restoration by planting native Illinois grasses and wildflowers. Their labors now bear fruit in an abundance of green and growing things.

Woodlands at Jubilee Farm


Sharon welcomed us and offered a stimulating reflection exercise. In addition to viewing the landscape, she invited us to spend time listening, eyes closed, to the soundscape of the environment. Notice the sounds of Earth (wind blowing, water bubbling), of living beings (trees whispering, birds chirping), and of human activity (my own breathing). Walking the trails took me over wooded hills, across grassy valleys, around ponds, along the creek, and by the apple orchard. The beauty around me, the new growth, the bird song – all filled my heart with peace and delight.


Trees in bloom and the pond fed by natural springs at Jubilee Farm


As I walked the prayer labyrinth, winding my way toward the center, I imagined Mary Magdalene in the garden on Easter morning, searching for Jesus. In John’s Resurrection narrative, the garden where Jesus is buried recalls the scene in Genesis 2:

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the human being whom God had formed (v. 8). Out of the ground the Lord God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food (v. 9). The Lord God then took the human being and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it (v. 15).


I love this image of God planting the first garden and making trees grow to give delight and nourishment for all creatures. The garden, a figure for our planet Earth, is humanity’s home, the place where God has settled us. God formed us of Earth, and our purpose on Earth is to be co-cultivators with God. We are made to be caregivers for creation.


In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene arrives on Easter morning in the garden of the New Creation. Here she encounters the Risen Christ, the true gardener who restores us to right relationship with God. We see in Jesus that God delights in giving life. Our Creator invites us to heal and bind up wounds, including the harm done to Earth. We are called to help in repairing what has been lost or destroyed, so as to share in God’s work of recreation.

Bridge over the Creek at Jubilee Farm


Looking around at the trees on Jubilee Farm, I thought of all the living creatures, from migratory birds and squirrels to tiny microorganisms, that find sustenance among their branches and roots. They delight in the trees as I do. Together we give thanks and praise to our Gardening God.


As a lifelong city dweller, I have much to learn about our mission to cultivate and care for Earth. I’m grateful to the Sisters at Jubilee Farm and all in our Dominican family who labor in the field of ecojustice and care for creation. They preach the goodness of creation with great joy. 

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Happy Easter from the CDN!

Christ is Risen, Alleluia! A photo chronicle of Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter Sunday at the CDN.

Final Friday of Lent

Fish Fry

Taizé Prayer in our House Chapel

Maundy Thursday

Delivering Cinnamon Rolls to our new Neighbors, Franciscan Sisters Julia and Sharon

Good Friday

Praying Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica

Holy Saturday

Decorating Pysanky Eggs (with gratitude to Kathy Flynn, OP)

Easter Sunday

Enjoying the Sunshine at Busse Woods with Maryknoll candidate Kirsten

Signs of New Life and Easter Joy

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A gift freely given - JOY

What is one thing that this past year has taught you? What is your learning experience? Fr. Donald Goergen, OP asked these questions as he gave a virtual retreat to Adrian Sisters, in which we participated.

Photo of a banner in the Basilica 
of Mary Our Lady of Sorrows
As I thought about the questions, the word joy flooded my mind. That surprised me since I could not see how joy could speak to me so strongly in these times of uncertainty in the world.

Reflecting on that, I realize that true joy is that which comes from following our Divine and having the Divine as a constant companion, and not only taking joy as a feeling based on happenings. This is God's invitation to me during my canonical year under the pandemic. I spend 18 to 20 hours of the day in the house, meeting people on screen and getting virtual hugs, following up on updates about the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and many other Covid-19 waves that continue to hit the world, listening to talks on racial injustices and following the updates of the current shootings, watching wakes and funeral services of our sisters at the motherhouse… how do I still find joy in the midst of all this? 

As a Christian I am reminded that joy is not an emotion or a good feeling, it is a gift of the Divine. God brings joy in our lives that circumstances cannot take away from us. This joy that is gifted to us through the Holy Spirit, transcends all circumstances; pandemic, the pain of loss, natural calamities, and all injustices. It is an internal joy fed to our hearts by the wellspring of joy the Father has toward us. We can experience joy amid trials and tribulations because we have genuine faith that this life is not all there is.

Mother Mary Joseph our foundress (Maryknoll Sisters) poses to me as a model of Joy. She spoke about 'our spirit of joy' as a great aspect of community living. In one of her conferences, she said, "I think it is the cause of our joy that dominates the life of every Maryknoll Sister - union with God. We can't talk about it. It's a thing that is too deep, too real; it touches the hidden wells of our hearts ..... "', 'MMJ  July 16, 1937  Chapter Meeting - Cloister'. Food for thought indeed!

Paul in his epistle of joy to the Philippians inspires me, more so, since he penned it while still in prison awaiting trial. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice”, Philippians 4:4. Paul had joy amid imprisonment. So what was the source of his joy? Perhaps his intimate relationship with God, and certainty of His love for him.

I am reminded that this foundational joy does not just happen. It is a process. I need patience to grow in it as I learn to know God better and better during and after this ‘canonical-pandemic’ year. This Joy empowers and gives me the ability to move forward even when things are tough. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit enables me to discover this real deep-seated joy that touches my innermost being, leads me forth, and gives courage, it penetrates through all odds. “To be full of joy,”  Pope Francis said, “is the experience of the highest consolation when the Lord makes us understand that this is something different from being cheerful, positive, bright...”

Jump for Joy- Mary, and Elizabeth on canvas

He who promises this joy is faithful. This joy is real and never in short supply, Jesus does not go without it, It is freely given. Let joy draw us, replace our situations and lift our spirit as it lifted Mary’s Spirit in her Song of Praise as she sang “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. The kind of joy that flowed from Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth released profound energy of the Spirit which produces a vibration and a wave of joy that then spreads out “from generation to generation.”

There can never be a better time than the Easter season, to celebrate the joy that is brought by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking at our situation, in the middle of the pandemic, it is much easier relating to the sufferings of Christ in Lent than feeling the joy of Easter. Even as we are experiencing the scourge of the covid-19, God has never stopped showing us his goodness and love. 

The victory of his resurrection gives hope to a world that is tormented by despair. Jesus is our true joy, a joy that comes from his bruises and pierced side. Our joy is not shallow but comes from faith. We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song! [Pope John Paul ll:1986].

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Last Week of Winter

We at the CDN marked the last week of winter in Chicago by celebrating Pi Day, St Patrick's, and early signs of spring. Blessings on the rest of your Lenten season as we prepare for Holy Week!

Cathy baked a delicious apple pie for Pi Day (3.14)

Sunday Meal in Community

Happy St Patrick's Day Selfie

Annie's first attempt at Irish soda bread

Early Spring Flowers Burst into Bloom
Ready for Easter Morning!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Lenten Visions of Love

Over President’s Day weekend, the novices ventured forth on our first overnight outing since August. We headed to the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, which neighbors the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart near Chicago. Their fifty-acre property, known as St. Francis Woods, has hermitages for private retreats. When we arrived on Friday, over a foot of snow covered the grounds, and more fell that night as temperatures plunged into the negative degrees.

Lake Michigan in January, when temperatures began to drop in Chicago


Undeterred by the deep freeze, I trekked down to the creek Saturday morning, then spent the afternoon ensconced in my hermitage. The windows faced west toward the woods, so the sun came into view as the hours passed. Shining through tree branches, the light seemed to gain strength as the sun lowered toward the horizon. 


Curled under a blanket with apple cider, I read Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue and pondered her image of the Son of God as a bridge. God “made a bridge of the Word” so that humanity might share in the good for which God created us. God reveals to Catherine the Truth “that I created humankind in my image and likeness so that they might have eternal life, sharing in my being and enjoying my supreme eternal tenderness and goodness.”[1]Human beings are destined to share in God’s own being, a Trinitarian being-in-relationship. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, communicates that gift of divine life to us by “joining the earth of your humanity with the greatness of the Godhead.” We humans, made from clay, enjoy union with God through Christ, the “bridge [who] stretches from heaven to earth.”


What beautiful and compelling images Catherine offers us! As I sat reading, the lightest of snow began to fall. Like frozen mist, ice droplets hung in the air, shot through with rays of sun. It was as if I could see particles of light shimmering through space, something I had never been able to see before. Dazzled, I closed my eyes against the glory of the light. 

Icicles covered the trees along the lakefront when the deep freeze set in

That prayer experience comes to mind this week as the church prepares for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. We read in John’s Gospel the story of the Man Born Blind. After his encounter with Jesus, the Man Born Blind comes to see with eyes of faith. His eyes are opened to belief in Jesus, “the light of the world,” who has come from God to reveal who God is: the source of light and life.


Like the Man Born Blind’s journey of faith, my time at the CDN has led me newly to encounter God-with-us in the mystery of the Incarnation. Going deeper into cosmology and eco-spirituality has opened my eyes to God’s glory made manifest in the world around me. This Lenten season, I want to gaze contemplatively at the unfolding universe and see that all Creation reveals God’s immanent presence, creating and sustaining life. As Catherine of Siena came to see, God’s Incarnate Word unites Earth, humanity, and divinity. God dwells within and around us, like light shimmering in the open air. My wintry vision at the hermitage inspired me to write this poem on the sacrament of Creation:


            Christ Self within me, life flares forth.

            Love pulses through the universe—attracting force,

heartbeat divine—drawing all things to God.

            May I reverence Christ’s immanent Light

                        in each one I meet,

in the world around me.

            Christ kneaded divinity into flesh and clay

                        like yeast in a loaf of bread.

            The heat of divine Love binds us

                        in a new Creation.


May your eyes behold new visions during this Lenten journey.

This snow creature welcomed us home during the winter months

[1] Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, trans. Suzanne Noffke. The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 58-59.