Thursday, October 21, 2021

Puzzles: Figured Out One Piece at a Time


Puzzles: Figured out one piece at a time

Puzzle, according to Webster’s dictionary can be a verb (V) or a noun (N). Puzzle as a verb is to “cause someone to feel confused because they are trying to make sense of something”. It can also mean “to think deeply about something difficult to explain.” Puzzle as a noun is “a game or toy designed to test ingenuity or knowledge”.  Puzzle, puzzling, puzzled & puzzles are all alive and well here at the CDN!! I realized I’ve been walking around with a puzzled look on my face a lot since I arrived. I’m usually deep in thought about some puzzling concept about scripture, prayer, community or religious life which I’m trying to understand. Like a puzzle (N), each piece needs to fit properly in order to make sense of the big picture that is being built. I happen to like puzzles (N) and was happy to see that I could work on a 1000 piece puzzle(N) while here at the CDN, at the same time as I’m working on a religious life, theological and/or prayer puzzle (V).   I’m blessed that Cathy A., Lorraine, Siobhan & Tram are here to help, literally and figuratively, with some of the puzzles (N & V). Piece by piece, after 10 weeks, the puzzles (N & V) are beginning to come together.  But like all puzzles (N & V), they each take considerable work and can be difficult at times.   

When working on a puzzle (N), I usually try to connect the whole frame before moving on to the center. But with this particular 1000 piece puzzle (N), I could not find two pieces of the frame. I was stuck looking through the box of pieces over and over again without success. It wasn’t until I stepped back from the puzzle (N) that I was able to see I had put two of the pieces in the wrong order, thereby creating gaps in the frame. I now understand why the canonical novitiate is a year. It will take lots of time and lots of deep work to set the foundational framework in place. Lesson learned!  One puzzle completed! On to the next 1000 puzzles! Blessed puzzling! If the disciples could be puzzled, I don’t feel so bad J!

The disciples looked at one another puzzled. John 13:22


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Caution: This blog contains an experience of Racism. Some of the pictures and descriptions may be upsetting to some persons.


Images of God

We had an opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois. It was my first time visiting a presidential museum and my knowledge about Abraham Lincoln (hereafter called President Lincoln) was rudimentary. I really appreciated the different media (such as life-like displays; dramatization; sound and lighting effects) that was used to educate us about the history of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.

I stumbled upon a display that depicted “Slavery In America” (see Picture 1). As I walked into the dimly lit room, I was immersed into the anguish, fear, distress, horror, helplessness, hate, anger and indifference that characterized a “slave auction block”. The life-like display aptly depicted the trauma of a family being sold during an auction. Instinctively, I held my breath as I observed their “silent” screams. I looked at (what I interpreted to be) the mother’s agonized and pleading look to her spouse, who looked upon his wife while their son cried desperately as he (the son) held onto his mother’s dress. The father’s expression seemed to convey his pain and helplessness while seeming to also communicate (to his wife) the need for her to be strong and to persevere. All of them were restrained and were being forcibly carried away by men who wore angry, hateful or indifferent expressions as they carried on with the business of the day.

Picture 1: “Slave Auction Block” at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

Profound sadness welled up within me as I looked at their pained expressions and imagined the horror that many African families and individuals endured during slavery. As I breathed deeply, I went to another display. It effectively conveyed the history and experience of slavery in America using replicas of artefacts, photos and newsprint (see Picture 2).

Picture 2: “Slavery in America” display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

It read:

“African slavery had been a part of American culture since the early colonial period, and it had grown into an increasingly divisive and social issue in the following 200 years. It became a moral crisis tied to the economy of the country. At its most personal level, it was a demeaning and barbaric institution that destroyed families and lives. Racism was a logical outgrowth of slavery, as slave owners tried to find moral justification for their behaviour. The situation for blacks got worse as time went on and even “free” states passed laws that limited the rights of “free” blacks.

I stood transfixed as I examined the shackles used to transport or punish slaves; read notices describing runaway slaves and the rewards that were offered for them; as well as the advertisements for the grand sale of “real estate and slaves”. My eyes were then drawn to Gordon’s scars. The captioned image of Gordon read:

“The slave, Gordon, was whipped on Christmas Day 1862. Soon after, he escaped from his master and joined the Union Army to fight for freedom. These scars remained long after.”


        Overwhelmed. I felt intense sorrow as I looked upon the evil that was inflicted on human beings. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder and as I turned a Caucasian woman spoke to me. Seeing my confusion, she repeated: “I am sorry for what happened to your ancestors…”. A wave of new emotions emerged. Before she could finish her sentence, I heard laughter. The woman turned around and retorted to her companion, “I mean it…”. He responded by chuckling and pointing to something on the display. I escaped to the safety of the other room, where my novice director, Cathy Arnold OP, had been observing the dynamic. She provided a comforting presence. I felt numb, confused, and shocked. An apology? I marvelled at the vast reactions that “Slavery in America” had triggered: sorrow, empathy and comedic relief. 

   Are we not all made in the image and likeness of God? Genesis 1:26-27 confirms this infallible truth. All of creation reflects God and is imbued with God. Therefore, when we behold creation (in all its expressions), we encounter God. Similarly, when we encounter God, we also encounter all of creation. Let us take flowers for example, we understand that there are many varieties of flowers, indigenous to different places, and of varied sizes, shapes and colours.  We accept that despite their differences, they are all flowers and have the potential to make a beautiful bouquet. Human beings are also varied expressions of the same beautiful being. We reflect God and God’s divine creativity. We dishonour God when we fail to respect the dignity of all human beings. Slavery is therefore sinful. As Catholics, we are invited to sincerely confess our sin (with the intention of not repeating it) and to reconcile with God and with each other.
President Lincoln is an example of the many persons who have stood up against injustice over the years. In proclaiming the truth of equality for all, he and so many others have lost their lives. Did not our beloved Christ and the martyrs experience the same fate? As I ponder on Jesus’ passion (or martyrdom), I remember a captivating sculpture of the pieta at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church (see Picture 3).

Picture 3: The Pieta at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Chicago.

The Blessed Virgin Mary embraces the lifeless body of her son. The inscription reads: “In the sight of the unwise, they seemed to die. The breviary office for many martyrs 1914-1918”. Jesus preached a message of love, justice, mercy and inclusivity. As Christians, we are called to emulate Jesus by being bearers of radical love, mercy and truth. Persons may argue that slavery happened “so long ago”. However, it exists in different ways in the many forms of exploitation and oppression; (such as, trafficking; forced (child) labour; debt bondage or bonded labour and domestic servitude). Racism, one of the fruits of slavery, is still rampant today. Unfortunately, I continue to experience racism in the United States. 

        Many opportunities exist to speak truth; stand up against injustice; to be inclusive; to reconcile; and to be advocates for the vulnerable. How long will the cries of the oppressed go unheard? As Christians are we not all “compelled to risk our comfort and privilege to confront the evils of racism”?

Picture 4 and 5: The Cross of New Life by Ernest Caballero

I believe that the “Cross of New Life” (see Picture 4) depicts the invitation that Christ is giving to us each day to grow in love, mercy and justice: to behold the face of God in others; to respect the inherent dignity of all people; and to faithfully and boldly proclaim (and live) the Gospel. We are all called to embody and live the Gospel of Love. Picture 5 is a symbolic representation of my decision to accept Christ’s hand on this journey of faith, to love radically by God’s grace. I am committed to honour the beautiful image of our God expressed in all of creation. Will you join me? 

Thursday, October 7, 2021


The Open Door of NOW

Here at the CDN, we are able to attend Mass pretty frequently and have our Thursdays specifically reserved for a reflection day.  Our theme for last Thursday's reflection day was to focus on different types of doors, "The Open Door of Now."  Moving deeply in contemplation, many of us were invited to journey and reflect on the call to open many different doors in order to discover God’s unending love and grace for us.   

Left picture: Doors on the third floor.  Right picture: Front doors at 4950 S Ellis Ave, Chicago

Are we ready to say YES when we hear the bell ring to open the doors? One of our goals for all of us this year is to strengthen our relationship with God and with all those around us, to be able to listen, to hear, and to see God in all creation. We strive to foster and deepen our relationship with God both in our small community and surrounding communities.  

Surprisingly, when we ask, God gives us many graces.  There are many doors that begin to open. We are five unique sisters with different cultures, backgrounds, education, ages…at the CDN house (further information in our previous blog). We are also connecting with many other communities such as the Intercommunity Novitiate, CTU, local communities of other congregations, churches, ministries, and many others. This includes the Live Out Loud community with many brothers and sisters, near and far around the world. We are learning to embrace many diversities, gifts, celebrations, and we share each other's challenges and joys. We now have many opportunities to collaborate, work, celebrate, and interact with each other.


Left picture: Cathy Arnold, OP and Lorraine Reaume, OP opened doors to welcome the three new novices.  Right picture: Reflection day with local communities: Sisters from the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Felician Sisters, and Sisters from the Intercommunity Collaborative Novitiate, including Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, and a  Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.

Everyday of our lives, we are called to "open the door of now," the many doors that our God is longing and calling us to discover in order to deepen our relationship and understanding.  I am excited and happy that God has given us many doors to open and I am trusting that God will be there together with us when we are ready to open a new door. This reminded me of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who welcomed his son back with an open door, and our directors Lorraine and Cathy who opened doors to welcome us when we arrived. 

Entering an open door doesn’t mean that there are no challenges. There are times God challenges us with an open door that we do not want to enter or we are not ready for yet. But  grateful for God's faithfulness and love, we know we are not alone as we enter these many doors.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Glimpses into our time at the CDN

A Warm greeting

Handing over

The Congregation Formation Representatives entrust us into the care of the Novice Directors

Our new Dominican community

Blessing our new home

Blessing our meal 

Food: a wonderful opportunity to share our cultures

Our first Guests

Our first Panel night

First day of School

On our way to the Chicago Theological Union

Games night

Collaborative Study 

The New Creation Story with Sharon Zayac OP

Contemplating injustice

                                                         The display at the Abraham Lincoln Museum 

Reflection day with Fr. Don Goergen OP

Shakespeare in the park

Nichols Park

Learning Crokinole from the experts

Enjoying a game of croquet

Labor Day

Appreciating Chicago’s skyline

Surrounded by the beauty of creation

                                                           Jubilee Farm: Ecology and Spirituality Center

Experiencing the hospitality of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield 

Experiencing the hospitality of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa 

Taste of St. Julie at the St. Julie Billiart Parish

Experiencing the hospitality of the Vietnamese community and partaking of the fruits of their beautiful garden

Community celebration of Trinidad and Tobago's Independence day

                                                                           August 31st 2021

Contemplating the last days of summer

                                                                              Lake Michigan 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

       "BE YOU"...... the beginning of our new journey


     Collaborative Dominican Novitiate 


We are five women who come from different cultures, congregations, ages, and backgrounds, yet we are able to live peacefully together during this intense canonical year at the CDN. A year filled with Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love! Well, at least we've done it for twenty seven days! YAY... we've survived so far! There is hope for peace in this world.  Surprisingly, all three of our last names begin with "BU"! As our journey began to unfold, we embraced "BE YOU" as our theme for this special year.  Please pray for us as we immerse ourselves in Dominican life during this sacred year.

                                               MEET OUR NOVICES

                                                                             Sister Tram Bui

                                                       Dominican Sisters of Peace

Greetings and blessings to each of you as you are reading our first blog. My name is Tram Bui and I am a novice from the Dominican Sisters of Peace. I was born and raised in Viet Nam. I am the second oldest child of nine siblings. I have one older sister, four younger brothers, and three younger sisters.  

In March 1997, my whole family moved to the US to unite with my grandparents and Dad’s side of the family in Daytona Beach, FL. My family then moved to Houston, Texas in 2005 and from there I finished my doctoral degree in Physical Therapy from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. I love being with nature and gardening. I also find pleasure in cooking, singing, having simple conversations with companions, exercising, taking a walk, playing indoor games or outdoor activities. I will study the Vowed Life class and the Trinity and Mission class at CTU for the coming Fall semester.  

Being with the Dominican family, I feel very much at home and I look forward to continuing to practice, study, and deepen my understanding in the Dominican tradition. I am also excited about living and building our new community with our many diverse cultures and different backgrounds. It is a blessing and a gift from God that I’m able to be here at the CDN.  I am so thankful to God, to my community, friends, and my family.  With God’s grace, I am delighted and eager to be here to start the journey together with my companions Cathy Buchanan and Siobhan Burroughs for this coming year and to deepen my relationship with God. I will continue discerning the call under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our directors, Sisters Cathy Arnold and Lorraine Reaume. Thank you so much for your support and prayers. Peace and blessings to each of you. 


                                                                    Sister Siobhan Burroughs

                                                  Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa

Trinidad and Tobago is the land of my birth. My life has been significantly shaped by this multi-ethnic, multi-religious twin-island in the Caribbean. I have always believed that all human beings have equal worth and are deserving of respect. Sweet T&T, as we fondly call my country, has also inspired my love for celebrating life, people, the arts, nature and a variety of foods. I have a Masters in Clinical psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology as well as Management Studies. I have worked with children, adolescents as well as adults. I am the first of two girls for my parents and have two brothers and an eight-year-old niece.

The call to religious life was awakened during World Youth Day in Poland in July 2016. I was captivated by the variety of religious orders, representing regions from all over the world. In a grace-filled moment, I told God “Yes”. I later attended a vocations retreat with Sisters from different religious congregations. The Dominican mission to “preach and teach the gospel” resonated deep within me and I discerned that the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa was the best fit for me. 

I was welcomed as a candidate on August 7th 2019. My candidate year was spent in Milwaukee and Trinidad and Tobago. On August 9th 2020, I was received as a novice and began my apostolic novitiate in Trinidad and Tobago. Along this journey, I have studied and served in various ministries (including Sisters Program South; Franciscan Institute; and the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission). After receiving a blessing on August 7th 2021, I entered the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago and began my canonical novitiate. I am looking forward to this sacred time where I will learn more about being Dominican and have the opportunity to enter more deeply into prayer, community life, study and ministry.

Many blessings,


                                                                        Sister Cathy Buchanan

                                                      Dominican Sisters of Peace

Hello Sisters, I am very happy to be here at the CDN in Chicago! I want to introduce myself and let you know a little bit about me. I’m from northern New Jersey and until last year, lived there my whole life.  As it is with life, I have experienced many joys, along some challenges as well.  My greatest joys are my 2 nieces, 4 nephews, 2 great-nieces and 7 God-children. I was and am known as a chatty Cathy (a challenge J).  I am outgoing and social with a great sense of humor. I’ve loved helping people through my ministry as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for the past 32 years. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to serve the people of New Jersey as a Law Enforcement officer for 27 years and before entering the Dominican Sister of Peace, I was blessed to minister in a Catholic parish in Essex County, New Jersey for 5 years as the Coordinator of Liturgy and Adult Formation. One of my passions is as an ESL volunteer tutor and mentor for new immigrants to the U.S. I find so much joy in helping people learn English and walking with them as they study to become citizens. I have been very blessed to be surrounded by people in my life who have accepted me for who I am and for who God created me to be.

I studied and received my degrees from Caldwell University, Seton Hall University and the Immaculate Conception Seminary and School of Theology at Seton Hall. I am a lifelong learner and I thank God that I’ve had many opportunities to put the gift of my education to use in many ministries. I spent my candidacy year at the House of Welcome in New Haven, Connecticut ministering at Albertus Magnus College as the Coordinator of their Health Clinic. I had an amazingly supportive community in New Haven who helped me to navigate living into community and religious life. I pray this year at the CDN will be a time of God’s grace and blessings as I move forward into the vocation that God had planned for me. Peace & Prayers to all of you!

                                           MEET OUR DIRECTORS 


                                                                       Lorraine Reaume, OP

                                                     Dominican Sisters of Adrian

I am a Dominican Sister of Adrian, originally from Toronto, Canada. I am happy to be starting my fourth year with the CDN and to be able to minister on behalf of the many Dominican Congregations that make up the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate. My own CDN experience in 1998-1999 grounded me in the Dominican Family and gave me a solid identity as a Dominican. I am grateful to be able to walk with women on that same journey.

My undergraduate degrees are a BA in English and Psychology (University of Waterloo) and a B.Ed. (Lakehead University). I also have an MDiv and an MA in Theology from Catholic Theological Union. I have a certificate in Spiritual Direction, have completed the Collaborative Leadership Development Program, and have also done the ForMission program offered by the Religious Formation Conference.  

Before religious life, I was a teacher and then a Lay Missionary in Bolivia. I also co-coordinated the Lay Mission Program for Scarboro Missions for four years. In religious life, I have served as a Campus Minister at Siena Heights University, as a Pastoral Associate with a focus on Hispanic Ministry in both Anchorage, AK, and Detroit, MI, and as Formation Director. I love to walk with others as they discern and discover how God is calling them to life and particularly appreciate the opportunity to share life with people of many places and cultures.

Favorite quote, "All shall be well…for there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go." Julian of Norwich


                                                                      Sister Cathy Arnold, OP

                                                     Dominican Sisters of Peace 

As we begin another year at the CDN, I feel grateful to live in a community with women from different cultures, diverse backgrounds, and many gifts.  I am also hopeful that with proper precautions to prevent getting or spreading the corona virus, the novices have opportunities to experience more in-person meetings with members of our Dominican family and in our religious life circles.  I participated in the CDN as a novice from 2000 to 2001 and have many wonderful and, yes, some challenging memories, which helped me to grow more deeply into Dominican life, especially in relationship building and working on social justice issues. 

My educational background includes a BS in chemistry from Marietta College, an MA in theological studies from the University of Dayton, and completion of the Religious Formation Conference ForMission program. My final project ForMission involved developing and leading an Intercultural Living mini-workshop with our Sisters and Associates. Since then I have also completed the Collaborative Leadership Development Program sponsored by LCWR.  In the past, I participated in a Peace Ambassador Training program and helped coordinate a Leadership for Peace program for college age students.  I have ministered in special education, high school education, and from 2007 to 2018, I served as a vocation minister and then as Coordinator of Formation for the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Walking with women in formation is a gift, a privilege, and a sacred task as they and we discern how the Spirit is working in the discernment of becoming Dominican. For fun, I enjoy baking bread (learning how to make it gluten free now!), walking, reading, biking, gardening, and sharing time with Dominican Sisters, friends and family.

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