Celebrating Blessings

Life certainly took some unexpected turns this month.  At the CDN we’re grateful to be safe and well, and our thoughts and prayers are often focused on those struggling in any way with or because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also are aware of and grateful for our many blessings. 

SPOP’s in the CDN Chapel

Like so many people who are separated from family, friends and loved ones, we’re also experiencing some separation.  Jessica and Janice, the Providence members of the SPOP’s, are sheltering in place at St. Mary of the Woods, where they had been on Spring Break.  We miss them but are grateful to be able to stay connected as a community using Zoom.  That same technology is also allowing us to continue with classes, the ICN and “Contemporary Issues in Religious Life.”

Enjoying the sisters’ hospitality at Heartland Farm

I was very fortunate that my planned Spring Break visit to our sisters in Great Bend and Garden City, Kansas with Dominican Sister of Peace Diane Traffas and our candidate, Annie Killian, happened before we were advised to shelter in place and maintain social distance.  As we are so often reminded, religious women are prophets and ministers, working on the margins where people and creation are suffering the most – the sisters in Kansas are no exception.  Sisters who in other circumstances would have been retired for years create an oasis for body, mind and spirit at Heartland Spirituality Center and Heartland Farm ecospirituality center.  Others devote countless hours to knitting, sewing, crocheting beautiful craft items, and turning pounds of fresh fruit into jams and jellies, all of which will be sold at an annual bazaar that raises tens of thousands of dollars for ministries combating poverty and other challenges in Kansas and Nigeria.  Still others companion their sisters in the infirmary wing, and made sure that Annie and I heard about their sisters’ lives and accomplishments.  

Touring St. Catherine’s Hospital in Garden City, Kansas

In Garden City, where the sisters once had a much larger presence, the hospital they established several decades ago still maintains ties to the congregation and provides outstanding healthcare with the same generous Catholic spirit that the sisters instilled.  Today, one sister ministers at St. Dominic’s Church, a parish of about 850 families, while two others have been walking with and ministering to people in and around the city, including immigrants, refugees, and women and children who have been impacted by trafficking and other forms of abuse.  As we drove around the challenging neighborhoods where many of these families live, they told us the stories of successes and disappointments (their own and those of the people they serve), and helped us understand more about the systems that keep so many people from thriving.  At the same time they told us about the many activities and learning opportunities that they and others have built in Garden City, and took us to places like Emmaus House where individuals and families can go for a hot meal, a safe place to spend the night, or food from a well-stocked pantry.  Woven through all of our conversations were the sisters’ deep love and concern for all of the people they serve, and rootedness of their almost palpable faith.  Sharing evening prayer that night and lectio divina the next morning were as moving as the stories they told. 

Emmaus House Kitchen and Cook

Emmaus House Food Pantry

The gift of that Spring Break was not just a change of scene and a chance to spend more time with sisters, and with Annie.  It was a witness to the fact that sisters continue to listen deeply to the signs of the times, discern the needs and the best opportunities to minister in response to them, and preach God’s message of love and compassion.  In this unexpected time of isolation and national and international distress, both the legacy and the on-going presence of these and so many other quietly dedicated religious women give me comfort and hope.

St. Dominic’s Church Lenten Display

Annie with Great Bend Sisters

Diane with two of her friends at the Great Bend Mother House

Enjoying every minute with the sisters in Great Bend