Saturday, September 23, 2023


    By Sr. Angela Tran

May I learn to love You… in all that love can be.

Jubilee Farm
It was a sunny day at Jubilee Farm. We gathered at this Center for Ecology and Spirituality to dive deeper into our Creation Story with Sr. Sharon Zayac, OP. As she explained how our Creation Story shapes our cosmology, theology, and spirituality, we were reminded of our interconnectedness to our Creator and all of creation. I soon recognized that this part had been absent in my relationship with God. Coming from a developing country, the idea of a “common home” I grew up with was so narrow that it only included the house we lived in. Listening to what Thomas Aquinas once said, “A mistake in our understanding of creation will necessarily cause a mistake in our understanding of God,” I was challenged by my own preconceived notion of “who” God is. Sr. Sharon shared with us, “Even in the language we use, ‘who’ is not enough to define God.”

During our break, I wandered outside and eventually sat on a swing. The wind blew, and for a moment, I was captured by the scene of falling leaves. It was not something to be awestruck by. It was just a simple movement of an ordinary life circle. Yet I found myself gazing at all the colors in front of me. The abundance of emerald green brightened in sunlight. Shades of saffron let themselves “fly” with the flow. It just dawned on me, “God, it is you. All… is you. You have revealed a part of you that I never expected to encounter.” As I was processing, I started to write…


Mass during Orientation

I heard a story
A story I have heard before
A story I have ignored
A story that is a part of other stories
A story that is a part of the whole.

I heard this story
Yet I heard it again…
And this time, something shifted.
A myth that goes beyond facts
The sacred flares forth…
Through the gift of this beautiful land.

First day of school at CTU

Emmet – This Truth we repeat
Adamah – Wonders in your eyes
Dominion – Blessings upon all
For we are made to be a part of…

The whole of life
If only I recognized…
The heart you hold
You have revealed without reserve. A part of you has been beckoning… To be a part of my heart.

Apple picking at County Line Orchard

How love sustains With all that love is
To see you dancing on these verdant leaves
To breathe in your presence as Summer swings by
To hear you through the dawn chorus of new life
To feel your touch in the whistle of the wind
To behold you in this Season of Creation

For you have created all before me
Brought life to all so I can flourish
In my Mother's womb, you have held me tight
Nourish me with fruits from her soil
Mesmerize me with the shades of olive and amber
In the beauty of which Love utters…
Your tenderness
That a part of me is now beckoning…
To save the Heart you let yourself fall for.

Planting trees

I have known you…
Now I am encountering you again
Your arms have opened,
Now I am stepping into what remains…
To reach the Heart that holds all its beats.
I am searching for hope
In the midst of so much pain
In resistance to such constant change
Yet listening is present
In its intense attentiveness to the “how”

If an uncomplicated witness is what Love invites, May I learn to start with myself…
That I am moved to do my part
That relationships matter
That communion surpasses responsibility That kindness contributes to this cosmic energy…

Morning Prayer with our Dominican
Sisters of Springfield (MH) - Sacred
Heart Convent Chapel

For we are ONE in the being you have awakened We hold dear the life you lay down before… We join the life you continue to bring forth May you save the Heart you let yourself fall for May we be at home in your love.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Richness in the Mystery of God

 By Sr. Terri Schell

One and a half Mexicans, two southerners, one Vietnamese, one Zimbabwean, and one Vermonter all show up at a Greek Festival to try feta fries.

This is not the beginning of a joke; it was just a recent Saturday night with this year’s Collaborative Dominican Novitiate. After two very full weeks of CDN orientation, we were all eager to get to know our new city and let loose a little. Chicago’s Greektown Festival enticed us with the smells of rotisserie lamb, excitement of Greek dancing, and curiosities of foods like baklava sundaes. The event was buzzing with people greeting each other in Greek, drumming music, and dancing.

The previous twelve days and beyond had been full of transition, getting to know one another, lessons on Dominican life, prayer, and liturgy. Like good Dominicans, we had been praying, reflecting, and attempting to integrate these learnings. Earlier that week, Adrian Dominican Sr. Pat Walter led us in a conversation on our shared charism in which we discussed, among many things, the richness held within the mystery of God. She shared that Aquinas taught that God is infinitely knowable, but what we don’t know about God is infinitely more than all of our intellect together. This mystery of God leads to diversity of thought and an openness to dialogue in pursuit of truth.

Upon reflection, I was taken with this way of getting to know our God: to seek the divine in varying traditions, cultures, and perspectives with curiosity, openness, and joy. How rich we are when we are open to the mystery of God! As Paul writes to the Romans (11:33), “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” It is truly something to celebrate.

How rich we are when we are open to the mystery of God! 

One of the thrills of our time here in Chicago is to do just that: experience and celebrate the abundance of God and all that God creates. It took us no time to commence with this exploration. Firstly, in getting to know each other, sharing our full selves, experiences, culture, and hopes with increasing openness. We are women of varying backgrounds all attempting to create an intercultural community. Chicago parishes in our area also offer a feast of cultural liturgies. Some liturgical samplings include: Beethoven performed as a prelude to mass at St. Thomas the Apostle, a display of world flags at St. James, and soulful Gospel music at Our Lady of Africa. The student body at the Catholic Theological Union and our Inter-Community Novitiate Program offer, too, a diversity of language, country of origin, race, religious order, and faith tradition promising lively conversation and learning. An adventure of divine discovery is only beginning.

An adventure of divine discovery is only beginning.

We had just taken the last bites of our gyros at the Greek festival when Angela spotted a nearby Asian market. At her urging, we visited to sample yet another continent’s food items. The smell of fresh fish greeted us and we surveyed the colorful varieties of produce. We all scoured the aisles of sweet treats, noodles, and dumplings to make our selection before gathering to enjoy them. Still full from lamb and feta fries while sipping bubble tea, we experienced a moment together. A moment full of gratitude and joy for the richness of our mysterious, wonderful God.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Introducing the 2023-2024 CDN Community!

Introducing the 2023-2024 cohort 
of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) 

Thanks be to God, we traveled safely from around the United States and are in the midst of a comprehensive orientation. We are excited about our new home at the CDN for this Canonical year. Thank you for all the ongoing prayers and outpouring of support as we enter this concentrated and consecrated stage of formation. Please continue reading to learn more about our five novices, our professed sister in residence, and our novice director.

Editor: Sr. Shingai Chigwedere


Sister Angela Tran - Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose

Sending you my warmest greetings from Chicago. I am my parents’ only daughter and my brother’s older sister. I love music and poetry, writing and dancing, eating, and watching rom-coms. Born in Saigon, Southern Vietnam, I grew up in a cradle Catholic family. At 16, I left my home country and set foot in the Northwest of the U.S. to begin a whole new journey as a college student. My undergraduate degree is an AA in Nursing. I worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant for two years before life took me on another adventure.

My call to religious life surfaced with the curiosity to find a way of responding to God’s love. Providentially, while I was searching for a religious congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose offered a Discernment Retreat at their Motherhouse. At the feet of Fremont’s rolling hills, enlivened with extraordinary women of the Word, I heard what was spoken to me, For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God knows how much I love plans. After three years of discernment, I entered the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose as a Candidate on July 9, 2022. During my candidacy, I took formation classes and elemental Scripture courses. I also had an opportunity to minister at St. Dorothy Catholic Church in Glendora, CA, and Partnership for Re-Entry Program (PREP) in Los Angeles, CA. They both were life-enriching experiences for me, to learn to let the Spirit intervene in all that I offer others.

I began my Novitiate with the Reception of the Habit on July 1, 2023. I am blessed with the presence of my companions here at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago. I am deeply grateful for your prayers that have been graciously coming our way, as we learn to be in dialogue with God and with one another throughout this Canonical year.

Sister Terri Schell – Dominican Sisters of Peace

Seeking the divine in nature and community has led me from the foothills and beaches of North Carolina, to the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest US, and eventually to religious life with the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

I am the middle child of five, raised in a home full of singing and spirited conversations. This full, faith-centered family life laid the foundation for a desire for intentional living I sought out through my adult years. While at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, I began learning the language of the earth and her creatures through an Environmental Science and Biology degree. The marine life and maritime forests of coastal North Carolina ignited a wonder in me that I wanted to share with others. Environmental Education became my focus and that led me to a series of rich work experiences with science camps, sea turtle conservation, aquarium education, and eventually to Catholic camps and parish ministry with the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ letter on the environment, Laudato Si', I learned how to live my faith more concretely through the social teaching of the church. A desire to do that in community living close to the land and some wise advice led me to consider religious life. After over two years of discernment, I entered the Dominican Sisters of Peace in August of 2022. It has been a treasure to engage in the pillars of prayer, study, community, and ministry and to live deeply.

I enjoy creating (cooking, baking, crafting, watercolor painting), adventuring outside (hiking, backpacking, gardening) and being active (tennis, yoga, walking). I’ve been grateful for companions, community members, and sisters who have walked with me on this wild journey. I revel in the opportunity to expand my experience of the Dominican family and to deepen my love for God and neighbor during this novitiate year. Your prayers and support make all the difference. Thank you.

Sister Julie Rambin – Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa

My name is Julie Rambin and I am a novice with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. During my time as a candidate, I worked in a local hospital as a registered nurse in cardiac care. One thing I appreciate about healthcare ministry is the ability to be a calming presence at the time of someone’s greatest need. I have enjoyed working in healthcare and I do miss it, but I know this year of prayer, community and study is intentional and deeply important. Apart from work, other things I enjoy include cooking, baking, reading, sewing, and crocheting.
Discernment has been an interesting journey. I spent much of 2020 caring for Covid ICU patients, and being present at so many deaths changed me. I experienced God’s life-giving presence in the midst of illness, isolation and terrible suffering. I started to pray more regularly and think about what my life would mean. I began to believe that God was inviting me to live religious life in community with others while continuing to work in health care. Dominican spirituality, with its emphasis on study as a spiritual discipline, was an important piece of the puzzle. A Dominican priest who had been a college classmate suggested Sinsinawa. Though the congregation’s historical mission has involved Catholic education, sisters have engaged in a diverse range of ministries, according to their gifts and calling. The experience of balancing prayer, study, community life, and ministry, while not always easy, has been life-giving for me. I look forward to continuing this life in a new way here at the collaborative novitiate.

Sister Paula Danforth – Dominican Sisters of Peace

My name is Paula Danforth and I come from a small town (2,925 residents as of the 2020 census) in Vermont called Fair Haven.  I am an accountant by training (Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont) and I worked at Slate Valley Unified Union School District in the Superintendent's finance office, and I was a volunteer with a PATH therapy horse program in Belmont, Vermont (an even smaller town). I spent a couple of years living with a Mercy Sister in Benson, Vermont. It's okay if you have not heard of Benson, it is a farm town on the shore of Lake Champlain, where there are more sheep here than there are people. The main street in the town is a dirt road and every year the big event in town is the Burdox Festival complete with carnival type attractions and a parade with floats that celebrate all things Burdox related.   


I moved into the House of Welcome in Connecticut (a big city to this small-town girl) for a year where I worked at Albertus Magnus College in the finance office. Now I find myself in an even larger city (Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the United States) for the novitiate year.  This is definitely outside of my comfort zone.   

I met the Dominican Sisters while attending retreats at Niskayuna. I started to follow the actions and movements of the Peace Community and found myself inspired by the ability of the sisters to respond to the needs of the times. I wanted to be a part of a community that was open to change. The pillars of Prayer, Study, Ministry, and Community are in line with my own values. Then when I met more of the sisters, I saw their joy and passion for their ministries. All the sisters I have met have expressed such joy in their calling as Dominican Sisters. 


My candidacy year was an intense dive into a life lived within the four pillars. I have seen how the vows are lived by the sisters that I have encountered. I enjoyed living, praying, studying and ministering with the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Connecticut. I have a strong desire to use my Spirit-given gifts to serve God’s people. I look forward to continuing my discernment here at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate.   

Sister Shingai Chigwedere – Dominican Sisters of Peace

Hello Sisters! My name is Shingai Chigwedere and I am a native of  Zimbabwe. Looking back, my discernment journey really began in 2013 at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro when I heard God call me to, “do more with the Catholic Church.” It took a few years but, I eventually transitioned from corporate to church ministry working for an Archdiocese in human resources. Even though I could now be my full self in the workplace, openly praying with colleagues in meetings or attending Mass daily onsite, that integration did not fill this deeper longing I felt. Through lots of prayer, spiritual direction, and many hours in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, it became clearer that God was asking me to discern serving as a religious Sister.

I found myself drawn to the mission for preaching the truth of the Gospel message through peace as lived out in the values of Dominican spirituality, prayer, study, community, and ministry. I was impressed with the cultural diversity of the women in formation in the Dominican Sisters of Peace. I was also encouraged with how mindful they are of the future and have conversations and take actions to adapt to the needs of the times. The fact that eight Dominican congregations came together in 2009 because they recognized the opportunity to unify as Dominican Sisters of Peace is impressive. It shows me that they value the broader Dominican community and are not afraid to make changes in order to better serve the world.

During my candidacy, I had the privilege of ministering in the Dominican Mission office at our founded institution, Albertus Magnus College. The students, faculty, and staff were such a blessing and I am grateful for the opportunity to especially see and contribute to our student's personal and spiritual growth during the year. I was blessed with the gift of a multicultural, multigenerational house of eight women. I loved our conversations about daily life and how they connected with scripture, or with a social justice issue, or with how it called us to better disciples.

I am excited and grateful to God for the opportunity to be in this stage of formation. Thank you for your ongoing prayers during this sacred time.

Professed Sister in Residence

Sister Maria Teresa Montes Lara, O.P. – Dominican Sisters of Tacoma

Our Dominican life takes us from here to there and over there. Born in Mexico, a member of the Tacoma congregation for almost ten years in California, now in Chicago. An itinerant by the grace of God, and with an open heart and open mind to begin the journey as professed sister during this canonical year for a group of five women at the Dominican Collaborative Novitiate. 

For most of my ministry, it has been an honor to work with the Latino community. Their theological and pastoral formation through all these years is and has been a priority in my contribution and participation in the reign of God. In Papa Francisco’s words, synodality is urgent in our Church, but the most important point is to live as organic members of the Church in the priesthood of the Baptized. What a gift to witness the Gospel alive and with many voices, especially in this group of visionary women.

My wish and my hope is to walk with these valiant women who believe that our world is the place to live and to echo Jesus’s message to console, to bless, and to praise.  

Novice Director

Sister Elyse Marie Ramirez, O.P. – Dominican Sisters of Springfield

I am a Dominican Sister of Springfield, originally from Springfield. I am delighted and humbled to be sharing this year at the CDN with our five Novices and our Professed Sister in Residence, Sr. Maria Teresa Montes Lara, O.P. (Tacoma). I pray we might together deepen our hearts’ discerning listening so to joyfully and authentically respond to the worlds' needs through this Dominican vowed life. My own love for our charism has grown exponentially with the various collaborative experiences within our Dominican family. One particularly formative collaborative experience, for which I will be forever grateful, was the gift of being a member of the Dominican Alliance Community in Oak Park, IL for ten years.

Before religious life, I was a Teamster with the Retail Clerks Union and a team member on numerous Together Encountering Christ (T.E.C.) and Koinonia retreats. My years of weekly meetings as a member of the St. Francis Light of Love Charismatic community in the Springfield area continue to enrich my life to this day. My educational background includes undergraduate degrees in History, Theology, an MA in Theology from Aquinas Institute along with certificates in teaching and preaching. I have completed the RFC ForMission program and continue updating with the UISG, St. Luke’s Institute, and RFC formation courses. My ministry experience includes teaching students 5th grade through high school, high school campus ministry, vocation and formation ministries in my congregation, and serving seven years as the Director of Religious Vocation Ministries in the Office for Religious in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I love birds, playing Scrabble, Back Alley Bridge, reading books about other cultures and peoples, and watching movies that tug my heart with fresh popcorn by my side!

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Preparing to Transition from the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate

Spring: the Hope that comes with a new transition

Facilitated House Meeting with Sr. Diane Fulgenzi

McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies: Visit to the Archives


Celebrating with our Hyde Park Novices: Saying Goodbye

Reflection Day: Circle Dance Meditation    

Tram's Family visits: Cooks a Delicious Meal

Community Outing: Navy Pier

Creating other Spaces for Fun

Making Connections


Tram’s Birthday Celebration

Visit to Adrian Dominican Sisters' Motherhouse 

Siobhan's Pre-Birthday Celebration 

Appreciation of our CDN Novice Directors

CDN Closing Ritual

Through the Power of the Holy Spirit and your Kind and Generous Prayer Support We Are Renewed and Equipped to take this Next Step in our Faith Journey