Preaching with our Lives


Praedicare is a blog about the many ways Dominicans preach with their lives, coordinated by Sister Rebecca Hodge, OP, who serves as the Coordinator of Online Preaching for the Congregation. In addition to written blogs, we will be using a multi-media approach to preaching.

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Gathering for prayer at the Broadview Deportation Center in Broadview, Illinois are, left to right, Sisters Jean Keeley, OP, JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, Noreen George, OP, and Dot Dempsey, OP. Photo courtesy of Sister Jean Keeley.

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 CzÄ™stochowa 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!

   
LEFT: Former Aquinas Literacy Center Executive Director and present day tutor Sister Joan Mary, OP, and her student take a short break. RIGHT: Volunteer tutors Sisters Mary Margaret Mannard, OP, Norine Burns, OP, Patricia McKee, OP, and Dot Dempsey, OP, with Bishop Joseph Perry at the twentieth-anniversary celebration of Aquinas Literacy Center, October 2016. Photos courtesy of Aquinas Literacy Center

 


Sister Rebecca Hodge, OP

 


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