Praedicare is a blog about the many ways Dominicans preach with their lives, written by Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Jones, OP, who serves as the Congregation’s Promoter of Preaching. Please click the “Subscribe” button on the right column if you would like to receive it by email.
By Sister Jane Zimmerman, OP
“Affairs are now soul size,” said the poet Christopher Fry. These words ring true in our own time, and they moved the Dominican Midwest Chapter into action. Four years ago we committed ourselves to advocate actively for humane immigration reform; to collaborate with others in this endeavor; and to accompany the immigrant, documented or undocumented, toward a more secure life.
Sister Donna Kustusch, OP, researched and created the proposal for this initiative. She was calling us to be what she called a “Witness Community.” She wrote this as part of a rationale for her proposal:
We know that Dominic’s intuitive creativity was an experiment. He wanted to insert himself, as a member of a community, into the life of the Albigensians so that the community could “preach” by presence, word, and action the Spirit of a loving God. He actually did not know where this intuition would lead. He was answering a creative call of the Spirit.
Witness Community is an experiment born from our Gospel call to walk as Jesus did. It is a call to live the beatitudes, to see and live the struggles of the poor. It challenges us to live a reflective life together, reflecting on our presence to others and our struggles as strangers in a strange place. It is an attempt to live anew Dominic’s experiment here in the Chicago area, a place rich with our history.
It is largely because of Sister Donna’s commitment and passion for this project that the Immigration Initiative has taken on a life of its own. She was taken from us four months later in July 2013, but is still so much a part of it all!
The 68 Sisters and 37 Associates in our Chapter are each, in some way, involved in the Immigration Initiative: through taking direct action with other organizations; praying and fasting for immigration reform; contacting government representatives; or donating items on the wish lists of hospitality houses.
In collaboration with the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants (ICDI), several of our Sisters have been praying the rosary early each Friday morning at the Broadview, Illinois, Deportation Center for the detainees being deported and for their families. “Detainees are brought from seven different counties,” Sister Jean Keeley, OP, said. “They are shackled at their hands, feet, and waist as they are herded onto the buses that take them to the airport. The windows on the buses are covered so that they cannot see out.” Volunteers are also present to families who must say good-bye to loved ones.
People who are released from detention and are in transition can stay in one of the two hospitality houses: the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality for women, and the Saint Mary of Częstochowa Hospitality House for men. “I am a presence there,” said Sister Dot Dempsey, OP, a weekend volunteer. “Mostly I stay in the office for phone calls, or I might go to the kitchen/dining room to make myself a cup of tea and talk to whomever is around.”
Our Sisters are also court-watchers. They are joined by university students and people of faith who write their observations while immigration court is in session. These reports and observations are sent to the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) to let the court system know that people are watching and are concerned about their immigrant brothers and sisters.
Many of our Sisters and Associates volunteer and tutor at Aquinas Literacy Center in the McKinley Park neighborhood, Chicago. Created 20 years ago by Sisters Claudia Hinds, OP, and Rosemary Brennan, OP, this nonprofit, community-based center offers free individualized English language instruction, group conversation classes, and group computer classes. The Center is sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
We also collaborate with the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, an organization of more than 150 Sisters and Brothers from 137 religious communities. Members are committed to prayer, pastoral care in detention centers, legislative action, and support of separated families. “I attend the monthly meetings of the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants,” said Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP. “I am learning much about immigration issues here on a local and state level.”
We in the Dominican Midwest Chapter feel that our involvement in this Immigration Initiative is a powerful way of preaching. If St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena were alive in our time, they would be in the thick of it right alongside us!
Homeless and Wandering
By Sister Christa Marsik, OP
O God, our loving God, where are you?
We have been driven from our homes,
driven from our lands.
And where shall we go?
Who will welcome us?
Who will love us?
Aleppo no longer wants us.
And she buses us to the other side of her city.
We suffer, waiting,
waiting while the powerful fight for our homes,
and while no one else wants us.
Mosul lies in rubble.
Can we claim her rocks and stones as ours?
The once beautiful ancient churches where
we prayed begging your loving care.
We suffer, waiting,
waiting as ISIS battles other believers
laying waste to our lives and our homeland.
How long, O God, how long?
yes, you do stand as a symbol,
a symbol of the lands that were once ours,
the lands out of which we were driven,
driven into boundary reserves so that the powerful
could claim these lands as their own.
We suffer, waiting,
waiting for those in charge to know their greed
and grant us our natural rights.
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras,
beautiful jewels of the South.
We no longer feel safe in you, our lands.
Our lives are in jeopardy, stolen from us by the greedy.
Our families are separated, kidnapped, killed.
Where can we go? Who will welcome us?
We suffer, waiting,
waiting while the wealthy take our lives, our money
and leave us poor without sustenance.
Oh God, where are you?
“No wonder the prophet weeps yet—
We begin again but not innocent…
And we feebly watch for you and wait.
Teach us how to weep while we wait,
and how to hope while we weep,
and how to care while we hope.”
~ From “Teach Us How To Weep” in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann
By Sister Pat Benson, OP
Oh God, Creator of the Universe,
You who energized the flowing forth of all that we know,
Giver of the waters of life,
hear the silent cry of your water through this voice.
Thank you for the process of evolution that emerged water on Earth.
Thank you for the emergence of life in the waters and its crawling onto land.
Thank you for emerging human consciousness and creativity.
Thank you for millennia of mutually enhancing relationship
with the rest of creation, our sister and brother creatures.
Now, we, your people, use our intelligence creatively but often blindly.
We cause all bodies of water to cry out in anguish.
We deprive people and animals of clean life-giving water.
Because of our disconnected lifestyle we are complicit in this agony.
Aquifers, underground seas of pure water,
once deep and full, now suffering from human plunder,
Their empty voices cry out due to our technological expertise.
Rivers and the tumbling streams that feed them,
flowing clean and sparkling clear for eons,
carving incredibly deep gorges or meandering in meadows,
bring hydration to all creatures living near.
Rivers now drained for human use along the way,
raise their dry voice before they reach the sea.
Lakes, expanses of water shimmering in the sun,
Frozen in the cold, sooth the spirit in a gaze.
Watching civilization grow cities on their shores,
and providing millions with water,
lakes now raise their crusty voices
polluted with chemicals, drugs, and waste debris.
Lakes, our agricultural endeavors drinking their water for growth,
pay the price of our unthinking practices
as excess fertilizer and pathogens flow back.
Their bountiful capacity overdrawn for our wants,
lakes speak with cracked voices from their dry beds,
a fraction of their former selves.
Glaciers, shimmering sheer cliffs of blue-white ice, frozen for centuries,
(with ice caps, 98% of Earth’s fresh water)
now victims of anthropogenic global warming, calve or melt.
Their voices roar as they crack and fall, or slip silently into oblivion.
Seas, salty water encircling the globe,
house abundant ecosystems of life.
Seas suffer as human beings deplete them of their bounty,
Employ practices that harm their inhabitants,
And pollute their waters with waste.
Their rolling cry brushes all shores.
Creator God, help us!
Help your human children emerge into new awareness
of our responsibility for our “home”.
Foster in us the “reverence for all” that Jesus modeled.
Help us to raise our voices to protect our waters,
and all who depend on them, especially those who are poor,
for their own sake and for future generations.
You are the Source of all that is.
Your creative Spirit is ever-present with us, desiring to lead and guide us.
Help us open our hearts and minds to your invitations
always trusting that You will show us the way.
By Sister Susie Kresse, OP
O my soul, I cry unto God,
Absent from my being.
Grieve for the violence
And suffering of the world
Affecting so many marginalized
And hurting people.
O absent God,
Show your mercy and compassion.
Provide shelter for the homeless,
Food for the hungry,
Health for the sick,
Peace for the dying.
Show us ways to provide for those in need.
Help our government:
Congress and Supreme Court.
Help President Trump be open to your grace;
Give him humility and appreciation for the gifts of others.
Preserve us from fear and anxiety….
Let us see your face.
By Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP
Polar caps that vanish and melt,
Great oceans rise and creep.
African cracked and barren lands,
Our golf links green and neat.
Global warming cynics dismiss,
Reality’s urgent prayer
Religious leaders weep and mourn
their unoccupied churches bare.
Racial skirmishes erupt and grow
Reasonable dialogue lost.
Schisms deepen, lies, deceit
hope wanes at great cost.
Darken prison bars conceal
the young and old who wait
Judicial systems clogged with tape,
appeals that decide their fate.
Why oh God are you in hiding?
Why can’t we see your face?
When will your justice rule and guide
over our human race.
You are our hope in times of trouble
You, the savior of all.
Give us the strength to trust in you
When all else seems to fall.
Why I Weep: A Lament
Election Day 2016
By Sister Kathryn Cliatt, OP
The people have spoken
and their words are filled with venom and hate.
The people have spoken
and neighbors tremble in their homes
in fear of being driven from the land.
The people have spoken
and lovers of earth
are terrified that treasures of the “Beautiful Blue Planet”
will be sold to the highest bidder.
The people have spoken
and the poor and vulnerable
anticipate the loss of access to health care
are crippled by the certainty of being trapped in slums of poverty
dread friends and loved ones being needlessly murdered in the streets.
The people have spoken
and women experience the oppression of the glass ceiling being lowered
of all claims to equality being lost,
of being owned again.
The people have spoken
and African Americans reel from flashbacks of history
of physical, mental and spiritual abuse
of life having no value
My God, my God, how can you forgive us?
Our loving God waits patiently for us to turn our hearts and minds to the Divine loving touch of healing, transforming – so that
our hatred becomes love
our vengeance becomes forgiveness
our enemy becomes our friend
our Earth becomes our Mother
all creatures become our brothers/sisters of creation.
Our God will never abandon us.
Lent is a time in the church calendar where we are called to take time to look into our souls, into our hearts and find opportunities to deepen our relationship with God. During this Lenten season several of our Sisters use the age-old form of lamentation, offering their thoughts, feelings, and hopes for our world. So come to this page each Wednesday during the Lenten season to experience the wonderful gift of preaching through lamentation. If you feel called to add your words to theirs you may send your offering to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Sister Mary Jones, OP
Why I Grieve
The first weekend of November, 10 friends (in what we call a Mission Group) met. During the time of our deep personal sharing we discovered that each of us was profoundly sad because of the state of our country and our world.
At each of our meetings we set aside time to discuss an article or book that we have been studying. At this meeting we were talking about Walter Brueggemann’s book, Reality, Grief, Hope (Walter Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014). We all have been taught and try to practice being positive, looking for the good in others and situations, not dwelling on negatives. But at this time we all confessed how sad we were and how helpless we felt. Walter Brueggemann helped us to make sense of this and gave us direction how to recognize and put to good use this sadness, this grief.
Brueggemann believes that the crisis of 9/11 amounted to the same kind of defining dislocation in our society as did the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. Further, “that U.S. society is deeply committed, as was ancient Israel to an ideology of exceptionalism” and that “we are a country in denial and the purpose of this denial is to maintain old privilege and entitlement and to fend off the reality of the world.” As a people we are in denial that the American Dream no longer is available to everyone who would earnestly pursue it. We are in denial that our planet can no longer support our lifestyle and military budget. Brueggemann says, “The prophetic task, amid a culture of denial, is to embrace, model, and practice grief, in order that the real losses in our lives can be acknowledged.”
These last words struck us profoundly and we felt impelled to respond in some way. What we have chosen to do is to write and to invite others to write lamentations that reflect our pain and sadness. Perhaps our words will strike a note in you and will help you with your grief. If so, we invite you to write a lamentation and email it to email@example.com.
In sincerity and solidarity,
The Metanoia Mission Group
Preaching in the present. How often do we take the opportunity to share faith and life when the chance presents itself? Do we recognize the gift of the moment or do we let it pass us by? This past fall our Sister Mary Keefe responded to just such an opportunity when during our Dominican Experience, a time when the freshmen from Siena Heights University come to our Motherhouse to learn about the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Sister Mary was sharing with our freshmen how the Sisters use their ability to knit and crochet to help the poor of the community. A couple of students mentioned to her, “I sure wish I knew how to crochet!” and Sister Mary not missing a beat, said, “I’d be happy to teach you.”
So they set a date and time to meet over at the Siena Heights University Center across from my office. Now having spent a few years living with Sister Mary in New Orleans, I knew that this would be no ordinary crochet class. These two students have come over every week but sometimes the crochet needles never leave their knitting bags. Instead, they spend time sharing with one another. Lexi and Taylor are learning more than just how to crochet and Sister Mary is learning about what the hopes and dreams of the latest generation are. A nice trade-off, I’d say. What a beautiful example of preaching in the present!
Sister Heather Stiverson came to the Dominican Literacy Center in Detroit as a volunteer and soon became an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor with students from Bangladesh and Yemen. The men had lost their jobs because of changes in the company and needed to aim toward new employment. Because their facility with the English language was limited, Sister Heather formed a class that meets regularly for reading comprehension, grammar, and conversation.
Sister Heather also serves as student success assistant. She enjoys contact with new students and tutors as she strives to match them with desired times and learning goals. Often a student works, attends to family members or has difficulty with transportation. “The bus,” she says, “may take an hour, and in the winter when it’s dark, this can be a problem.” Many tutors are available in the evenings, but students may not want to come at that time. “Matching student times and needs for reading, math, or both with tutor schedules can take several phone calls and some negotiation,” says Sister Heather.
God works in surprising ways! As her ministry unfolded Sister Heather trusted the skills she learned through experience in education and business. This challenge has taken her beyond her comfort zone into a ministry that serves others and is a source of unexpected delight.
Article and photos by Sue Schreiber, OP
Sharing prayer, faith, and life with others is about listening as preaching. As Dominicans who embrace contemplative life, we spend a good portion of our lives listening to God and others.
I can think of a recent example of “listening as preaching” with our New Orleans community. Sisters Pat Harvat, Judy Zynda, and Kitty Bethea hosted students and campus ministers from Siena Heights University and Barry University as part of their “alternative spring break.” The group worked with St. Bernard Project, helping to rebuild New Orleans.
Our Sisters shared a meal and prayer with the young people, and most importantly, listened. Listened to what it was like to see the devastation that still remains 10 years after Katrina, to meeting the unique people of New Orleans, and the how it felt to make a difference. Listening was an important preaching that day – one our students will not soon forget.
Mary Jones, OP
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