July 4, 2014, will mark the 238th anniversary of the birth of America as an independent nation. Its founding document proclaims the principle that all people are endowed with certain rights that include, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as written in the document which declared our independence 238 years ago. And whether people came to this country by choice or other circumstances—they were, none the less, immigrants and laborers—who built this nation that became a symbol within the global community as a "land of golden opportunity." But as we prepare to once again celebrate the blessings that we enjoy as Americans, who are a "melting pot" of cultures and ethnicities, I find myself reflecting on our current national immigration crisis.
During the last mass of the 28th World Youth Day, Pope Francis said to the thousands of young people in attendance: Bringing the gospel is bringing God's power to pluck up and break evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance, and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus Christ is counting on you, the Church is counting on you, and the pope is counting on you! 'Go and make disciples of all nations!' He reiterated, for these young people and the world, the great commission that Jesus gave to his disciples who witnessed the Ascension event that was the culmination of his earthly life.
During this Octave of Easter, the sparseness of Lent becomes a memory and the joy of Easter fills us with new life and eternal hope. The scriptures for the Octave of Easter are filled with stories about the confusion, fear and grief of the disciples that is transformed into joy and peace when they encounter the risen Lord. Today, the transforming power of the risen Christ is still available in our everyday lives, because he lives in each one of us. He is the reason for our hope.
Easter and every Eucharist celebration remind us of the love, hope and eternal life that have been gifted to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, rejoice during this holy Easter season, as we are reminded of God’s great gift to us! And may the Easter peace of the Risen Christ, once again, prepare us to meet our Easter Challenge.
As a Dominican Sister of Peace, I have celebrated the Chinese New Year and the Vietnamese celebration of TET; participated in Mardi Gras festivities spearheaded by our sisters from New Orleans, and witnessed a wonderful St. Patrick's Day celebration—complete with great food and fun! In addition, through our Martin De Porres Center, I have appreciated events that have highlighted the gifts of various cultures including African and African American. I am deeply convinced that religious life is enriched by the variety of cultural diversity among the women whom God has called to serve in the mission of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Religious women have always been on the cutting edge of anticipating and answering the needs of society. Many religious have also embraced the challenge in Pope Francis that we should be "women and men who are able to wake up the world." And so the question becomes, "How do we nurture and engage the next generation of young women to "wake up the world" as vowed religious spreading the joy of the gospel?" On February 18-19, 2014, over 25 congregations gathered in Chicago, IL to brainstorm and share ideas around continuing the hope filled process of promoting religious life in the 21st century. The event was sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) which is an important partner in the ongoing work of supporting vocations in the Church.
One of my fondest childhood memories includes waiting excitedly each year for the annual television presentation of the "Wizard of Oz." Even as an adult it remains one of my favorite films. So, I was intrigued and excited when our retreat facilitator, Dominican Sister of Peace, Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, revealed that she would be using this enchanting movie as the theme for our upcoming vocation retreat! What possible wisdom can the tale of Dorothy's mythical journey hold for a woman in the 21st century trying to discern what to do with the rest of her life – especially if she is entertaining the thought of a possible religious vocation? What insights can Dorothy and her companions help reveal about God's call or "path" for her life? I think you will find they will be great guides for the journey!
In much of the world, the beautiful season of Advent is buried amid the constant clamor of commercialism that precedes Christmas. In many circles, hardly a thought is given to the real reason for our hope in a world that can seem to be overrun by the effects of power, greed, war and poverty, not to mention the havoc created by natural disasters. We have only to look at our local, national and international headlines to confirm the truth of this statement.
And then along comes Advent. It’s the beginning of the new Church year that reminds us of the eternal hope and light that came into the world over 2000 years ago, in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the hype we should believe in! May each of us continue to live this new spiritual year in Advent hope.
Promoting vowed religious life and a life of service to God and the people of God continues to be important to the life to the Church. As a Vocation Minister, it is deeply gratifying when others assist in promoting consecrated life as a viable life choice for young people of the 21st century. On November 5, 2013, Black Catholic Ministries of Columbus and the Diocese of Columbus Office of Vocations sponsored, "In God’s Service," a vocation event for students in the diocesan high schools and held at Christ the King Church in Columbus, OH. The program offered information and helpful discernment materials, while also allowing personal interaction with people in vowed and ordained ministry. An important part of the program focused on four participants who shared their unique call and journey into serving God as an associate, a sister, a deacon and a priest.
There are vocations which manifest themselves. They must be fostered. There are vocations which are not conscious of themselves. They must be awakened. There are vocations which are in fear of being lost. They must be renewed.