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Recess: Play and Pray

November 10, 2014

Rosie Fiasche, a freshman at Dominican and first-year student leader in the Student Leadership and Ministry (SLAM) program, shares her experiences on the Fall retreat to the Sinsinawa Mound.

Over the long weekend in October, I went on my first retreat to the Sinsinawa Mound. It was not only my first time at the Mound but it was also my first time leading a retreat. It was an amazing experience. The theme this year was “Recess: A Mid-Semester Break to Play and Pray.” During this retreat we explored our inner child and how to find peace and joy as college students. We had a few sessions that explored different aspects of our theme.

Session 1 was Letting Go, where we reflected on what stresses and frustrations we experience, and we spent time focusing on how to let go. Session 2 was Peace and Joy – the fun session. We recreated the best parts of our childhood: singing, playing 1960811_10154788645480341_3764751873190113363_ooutside, making a craft, and we also had time to meditate and think about how to cope with stress. It was a time to let go and be a kid again. During my nature walk I started climbing and jumping off the rock walls around the grounds. It was fun because it reminded me of what I use to do as a child. I used to climb everything!

Session 3 was about Trust. A child often gives trust easily, but when we get older it is harder to trust because we might have had challenges that stop us. The session was special because we had time to talk to some Sinsinawa Sisters. They told us many stories of their time in ministry, which were so heartfelt and emotional. The stories I heard surprised me. Sister Nora Ryan told us of her work as a Chaplain in a hospital during the AIDS epidemic. I know there is suffering in the world, but to get a first hand account of it was moving. The Sisters talked about trusting God and how trusting God is a slow work, and it takes time. I thought back to a poem called The Slow Work of God by Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

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And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

 

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

     Humans are such impatient beings; we want things right here, right now. We cannot wait for our future to come, for our lives to begin. But the thing is, time isn’t going to go faster just because we want it to. One of the lines of the poem I found especially true was, “and it may take a very long time.”

As a leader, I saw great changes happening within our small group. It was inspiring to hear their stories. They weren’t afraid to let go, trust not only themselves but other people, and they were willing to find peace and experience joy. Above all, we had fun and that’s what we wanted to do. By the end of the weekend my face and stomach hurt from laughing and smiling all day. We created a community.10633485_10154788646435341_2893833582033804853_o

Do you think you can let go and move forward with a new destination in mind? Are you able to trust freely? Will you let yourself find peace and joy? Most of all, what can you do to receive this and pass it on to others?

New Hope

November 3, 2014

 

Elizabeth Dworzecki shares her experience at the “Just Food” Alternative Break Immersion trip.

For our long weekend at Dominican, many students stay at home, study, do homework, or relax. My long weekend was exactly the opposite. Last weekend, with 8 other Dominican students and 2 staff members, I went on an Alternative Break Immersion through University Ministry called “Just Food”. One of the main purposes of this service trip was to use our voice to address issues of social justice surrounding food. This includes concerns about access to food and corruption in the food industry.

On Friday we all met at school at 8am, had a breakfast and started our trip right here in the city of Chicago. Our first stop was at a very green, efficient restaurant called West Town Bakery and Diner. From their website I went back to find out the exact details of how “green” they really were. West Town always uses local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. They  strive to use as many local and all-natural ingredients as possible, down to the flour, butter, eggs, nuts, chocolate, milk, fruits, vegetables, oils—everything. Their products come in environmentally friendly packaging. They even make deliveries in hybrid vehicles and use green-approved lighting in the bakeries. And when they are done for the day, they compost, recycle, and use eco-friendly products to clean up. It was truly inspiring to know that there is a restaurant that cares this much and shows that it is possible. I learned how much every other restaurant truly wastes and harms the environment.

Later on we went to Logan Square and had a lunch challenge among the group. We went to a food desert, where there are no grocery stores for a couple miles, and many people depend on public transportation to get around. Some went to a “liquor store/gas station” and some to a food co-op called the Dill Pickle with only $25 to purchase a lunch meal for each other. This activity was a lot harder than it looked. It truly was an experience to see how difficult it would be to live in a food desert area and support a family as well.

We then arrived in Iowa at the New Hope Catholic Worker Farm. It was a lot different than I had expected, but, then, I really didn’t know what to expect at the time! I imagined a big red barn and horses, but it was nothing like that. It was more of a little community of 4 houses clustered together. There were about 15 individuals including children that live on this farm. They focus on joy, team work, forgiveness, and most importantly simple living. Many of us could not even imagine how simple and possible it is for people to live and survive this way in today’s world.

There were many differences between the New Hope Farm in Iowa and just River Forest itself. They found ways to live without running water, barely any meat in their diet, minimal energy by using solar panels, and using animals on the farm for the direct food that they will be eating that day. They had a cow, many chickens, sheep, and a dog on this farm, and from those animals (besides the dog!) they had received what they were going to use for food or fabric. It was quite the culture shock for me, but I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.

This Alternative Break Immersion, “Just Food” has taught me how it is truly possible to live without all the fancy, expensive, planet-harming things that we live with. It has taught me to be more earth-connected and to use what the earth has to give us in the most beneficial way. We are taught to always “think big” in school, but this weekend I have learned the exact opposite, to “think little.” Many of us want to make more money, or own more, but how about thinking of simply spending less money – to minimize waste, water, and energy usage and to help the environment since we know it may not last forever? We need to disconnect with this busy, fast-paced world, and connect more with the earth and Mother Nature herself. It’s not easy for all of us to jump into this simple-living life; we need to make baby steps, baby steps to a more simple and earth-efficient life.

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Service in the Streets

October 13, 2014

Our new Marketing Assistant, Kathleen Burns, shares her first experience with our Service in the Streets program.

“Don’t trust yourself, trust God,” Jones told us. Jones, a small man with a message grander than the city itself, lit up the street corner. He’d sat at that very same corner every day for four years. When we first approached him his head hung low and his arm modestly held out a plastic cup. We introduced ourselves and talked with him about his day. “Let me tell you all something,” Jones said, using his free hand to move his wheelchair towards us. He smiled as he told us, “God is good.” He then proceeded to tell us briefly about his story. How he had become severely handicapped as a child and lived through losing all of his remaining family members. At the end he smiled again, “God is good. Trust Him – once I learned that, everything changed.”

Jones was just one of the many incredible people I connected with on my very first Service in the Streets trip. There was James, a quiet man who’d lost his job after the passing of his brother. Cardboard signs were balanced all around him; asking for money and saying ‘God bless whoever takes the time to read this.’ There was Lawrence, whose lively jokes and energy brought smiles to all of our faces and who when offered food, said he didn’t need it as much as his friends did. He told us he’d give them our sandwiches when he returned to sleep under the bridge with them that night. Even though each of their stories were so different and their attitudes unique, they all had two things in common. First, they all took the time to shake each of our hands and ask our names. The second was that each one mentioned in some way, God. They thanked God, wished God upon us, or as Jones did, told us to trust God fully. The fact that they all mentioned God or that they were teaching me so much surprised me. Afterwards, I heard multiple people on the service trip with me say, “the homeless helped us more than our sandwiches helped them.”

The Service in the Streets program completely shattered my idea of the homeless. It flipped my concerns and assumptions around. I was always told to avoid eye contact, and just walk quickly past anyone camped out on the streets. I always wished I could do something for them, but never found a way to. Service in the Streets gave me that opportunity. Instead of avoiding these people living on the streets, my team and I were seeking them. Instead of ignoring them, we asked them how they were doing that day. Instead of dismissing their coins clanking in their cups, we gave them a fresh meal. When we talked with them, I felt so still. The world seemed to just zoom by as we stood still, taking the time to connect with each other. My biggest worry about going on this trip was not being able to talk with the homeless. I thought I would just be silent the whole time while my team members had conversations with them. My fears quickly disappeared. After watching my team leader connect with the first man we met, I was ready to try. It became so easy. I think it’s easy for us to forget that they are just people. I also quickly realized that our questions and conversations were just as important to them as the sandwiches we gave.

As previously said, each person I met that day helped my spirit just as much as our food helped them. Service in the Streets was an incredible experience that was so easy to become a part of. I strongly encourage everyone to attend our upcoming trips on October 25th and October 30th. Even if you feel nervous or have never even thought of doing something like this; come join. I wasn’t sure at first, but am now so thankful that I decided to go. I am so excited for my next experience with Service in the Streets. When we told Jones we’d be back on another trip, he told us to visit him again and chuckled, “Lord knows I’ll be here!”

 

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Stepping Back – an Easter Reflection by Bree Watral

April 21, 2014

Student leader Bree Watral shares her clever reflection on the resurrection, JN 20:1-9. Journey with her towards new hope and perspective.  

My sister and I have a rabbit named Gatsby.  Several weeks ago, Gatsby accidentally opened her cage door but couldn’t figure out how to do it on her own again.  It took a while, but my sister was just waiting for the day when Gatsby would escape.  One Tuesday afternoon about a month ago, my sister came home from school to an empty cage.  Gatsby had finally gotten out.  My sister actually saw Gatsby hopping around the house before she saw the open cage, but I didn’t have that context.  All I had was a photo of the empty cage with the caption: “This is what I came home to.”

Initially, I reacted with worry.  Was Gatsby hurt?  Did my sister have a hard time finding her?  Had Gatsby gotten herself into some other form of mischief?  My sister quickly reassured me that everything was fine.  Gatsby was unharmed and my sister managed to get the mischievous rabbit back into her cage easily.  Those few minutes of panic between receiving the photo and my sister’s reassurance gave me only a slight idea of how Mary Magdalene and the apostles must have felt upon discovering Jesus’ tomb.  Jesus had alluded to his divine heritage and resurrection prior to his crucifixion, of course, but the actual moment of resurrection is much different from the anticipation of it.  They knew that Jesus would rise again, but the sight of an empty tomb still shocked them.  However, an unnamed disciple—probably John—realized what had happened.  He put the pieces together and realized that Jesus had risen.  It took a while for the disciples to see that this was true, but they eventually came to know of the resurrection.

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Although the son of God and Gatsby the rabbit initially seem dissimilar, both serve as beacons of reassurance.  People cared enough about both of them to worry about their well-being, but it’s important to move beyond worrying whether someone is or isn’t there.  Worry often leaves the worrier stuck in negative thoughts, prohibiting them from looking at their situation with eyes of hope.  The unnamed disciple in the gospel had eyes of hope, as he could see that the absence of Jesus’ body meant that he had risen again.  Instead of becoming distraught at the loss of his friend and teacher, he stepped out of the situation and looked at it as a piece of a narrative rather than an isolated event.  The others knew what he did, but they did not step away for long enough to realize what had happened.

Distancing yourself from a worrisome situation—whether it’s the absence of the Son of God or a particularly clever rabbit—is difficult.  It’s easy to allow the rush of emotion to overtake you instead of taking a moment to step back and realize the grander scheme of events can help you to find clarity in a moment of hopelessness.

Do that today.  Step back from the stress, anger, or hurt in your life; when you come back, look at it with new eyes.  It’ll be like a resurrection.

Extravagant Love – a reflection by Fr. Mike DeTemple

April 14, 2014

Reflect with Fr. Mike DeTemple, University Chaplain, on the passion narratives read on Palm Sunday.

The Passion narrative we read every year on Palm Sunday reveals Jesus’ moment of glory, when the full truth about him as Messiah and King is made known: he is the crucified King, suffering and dying on a cross for the salvation of all. He is the Suffering Servant, who is with us in our suffering. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life to save his sheep – and does it ironically at the moment of his greatest powerlessness and shame.

This Holy Week we remember what Jesus, out of love, has done for us and we are urged to follow his example by expressing our love for him and all our sisters and brothers in profound and radical ways. In their letter, “To the Ends of the Earth” (1986) the Bishops of the United States expressed it in these words:

Had Jesus merely said that his mission was to set people free from sin and all forms of oppression, his words would have fallen on deaf ears. He had to work at this task of liberation. He not only talked about freeing the poor and oppressed but, undeterred by criticism, actually welcomed the poor and sinners to share at his table. Like Jesus, we must be able to accompany others in their suffering and be willing to suffer with them.

We do this to imitate our Savior “who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This week we remember his sacrifice and enter into it more deeply, that we may grow in our love for him and for the people of God; and we express that love concretely in the way we live our lives. In doing so, we fulfill one important aspect of the nature of the Church, as Pope Benedict XVI expressed it in his encyclical letter, “God is Love:” For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is . . . an indispensable expression of her very being. As a community, the Church must practice love, for “If you see charity, you see the Trinity.” (Saint Augustine)

The Raising of Lazarus – a Gospel reflection by Diana Hernandez

April 7, 2014

Diana Hernandez, a freshman in the student leadership program in University Ministry, invites us to think about the areas that God is calling us to come to life. Read this past Sunday’s scripture (John 11: 3-7, 20-27, 33B-45) and reflect on it with her.

In this Gospel, Jesus speaks to us and challenges us to believe in the presence of God. When Jesus was notified that Lazarus was ill, he responded by saying, “the illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God.” When Jesus returned to Judea, he found that Lazarus had recently died. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, tried to blame Jesus by saying that if he had been there with them he could have saved Lazarus from death. This made me think about how sometimes we lose faith in God when we feel that he does not answer our prayers. Then, Jesus told his people that Lazarus would rise from the dead and live again. Jesus asked Martha if she believed that he was the resurrection and the life and whoever believed in him would live and never die.

This made me think about the time when my aunt passed away after fighting breast cancer for three years. Her husband blamed God for allowing her to die. I feel like sometimes we distant ourselves or fail to have a relationship with God because we feel like we are not given clues of God’s presence in our lives.

Those who loved Lazarus confronted Jesus and said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” Even today, many seek for visible evidence of God’s existence in order to believe that he is there with us – listening to our prayers. We believe when we feel and see a response.

The people of Judea needed visual evidence of God’s existence, so Jesus called out to his father and asked to help him give them a sign. Jesus visited Lazarus tomb and brought him back to life. Seeing this visible sign, the people started believing in Jesus’s words. They saw him as truly the Son of God.

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So I invite you in this time of lent to quiet yourself and listen within – to feel God’s presence in your calmness and peacefulness, accept the invitation of extended life. Where is God calling you to come alive? Take a moment and think to yourself, what relationship do I have with God? When have I felt the closest to God? When have I felt the most distant to God and why?

Look Truthfully by Sheila Bauer-Gatsos

March 30, 2014

Professor Sheila Bauer-Gatsos reflects on this Sunday’s Gospel, John 9:1-41. All are invited to immerse themselves in the story and see how God is calling each to “see” in a new way as we RETURN throughout the season of Lent. 

“Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”

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The scripture readings this week all focus on sight—on the need to watch carefully, to see clearly, to look truthfully.  It is more difficult than it sounds.  There are many things that impair our vision, that keep us from seeing what is real and what really matters.

In our media-saturated world, we are confronted every day by false images that focus entirely on appearance.  We see and accept as “real” images that have been distorted in ways that create false standards of beauty and unrealistic, indeed often unhealthy, expectations for our bodies.  We are encouraged to place greater emphasis on superficial ideals of beauty, on appearances, rather than on ideas, values and beliefs.  The sheer volume of images we see can cloud our sight.

We’re not just blinded by what we see, though, but also by what we do.  We live busy and hectic lives.  We rush from the work on our desks to our classes to meetings and back to our piles of work.  We see what’s right in front of us, what we must do next, what is in our way, but again, that is sometimes not what matters most.

Our ability to see may be impaired, but we are also lucky.  Here, through its mission and its vision for education, Dominican University helps to counter the messages and the madness of our daily lives.  We are given frequent reminders of what matters, opportunities to return to what is truly important, and calls to look into our own hearts and the hearts of others.

We can always do more.  When I read these lines from the scripture, I am reminded that my vision is faulty.   “Not as man sees does God see because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

How can I try to see more clearly? How can I focus on what truly matters? How can I learn to look through God’s eyes?   How might my life be changed if I do?

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