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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.


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.


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.”


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?

Impressions From the Field: the Sinsinawa Mound by Molly McGrail

March 26, 2014

Senior Molly McGrail attended the Mission to the Mound Retreat over Spring Break. While in Wisconsin she enjoyed learning about Dominican history, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, and spending time in prayer and contemplation. Here Molly reflects on the adventure, reflection, and all the wonders that the Sinsinawa Mound brought her.

I was one of the chosen few asked to help with two horses on the farm at the Mound, having previously been hunted down by Sister Ruella and informed that I should finish breakfast by 7:45. Since breakfast was generally ready at 8AM, this meant I was in for cold cereal and, conversely, the challenge of drinking steaming coffee that even the most avid coffee drinker would have sympathized, given that I had about ten minutes. Thus, during the roughly three-day trip, which included two actual mornings at the Mound, I was fortunate enough to spend roughly one hour each morning outside knee-deep in snow looking out across the gently rolling hills of Wisconsin, feeding two horses more vegetables than I usually see in a week. I learned how to separate hay barrels and, using a curious combination of shovels, rakes and a broom, rescue fallen hay out from under the palettes and barrels so that they fresh hay wouldn’t rot due to the snow and rain. I also learned how to sweep (not shovel) snow in a field.

Is this what my idea of Dominican living was before I went to the Mound with all of my fellow companions? Hardly. I wasn’t expecting a 21st-century version of The Sound of Music, either, but what ultimately surprised me the most was––and is––how active and engaged the Dominican Sisters are. In addition to tours by Sister Jeri and seeing Father Samuel’s impressive command of languages (and consequently, lamenting the lost art of good handwriting), group prayer and meditation are activities that I am happy to have participated in while at the Mound. However, just as important is taking what is gleaned from those silence-filled, reflective moments and utilizing them in our other, perhaps less overtly pious and more strenuous, day-to-day actions, be it feeding horses while becoming increasingly aware of the loss of circulation in your fingers, or a lovely conversation over Snickers bars and a Mardi Gras lunch with a Sister.


The Pursuit of Everlasting Water by Miguel Ortiz

March 21, 2014

Senior Miguel Ortiz spends time looking at the 3rd Sunday of Lent’s Gospel reading from John 4:5-42. Dive deep with him and explore the pursuit of everlasting water. 

 “whoever drinks the water I shall give, will never thirst”

In today’s gospel of John, Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman at the well for water. While Jesus is asking for water, he begins to explain to the Samaritan woman of everlasting water, water that will make it so she never thirsts again – water of eternal life. He recognizes that she is a sinner yet still offers her this water. The woman goes back into town telling everyone who Jesus is and that he is at the well. The people of the town of Sychar are so inspired that they come out to see Jesus.

During this Lent it is important to realize that we can all have eternal life. The woman at the well is indeed in need of healing; but Jesus still goes to her for water and offers her water of eternal life. We are all offered this eternal life, but like the woman at the well, we yearn for healing, so that we may receive the grace of relationship with God. Lent is a perfect time to receive that water from God so that we may never thirst for things that can’t fill us up.


So what is the “water”? The water that Jesus offers is – for me – happiness. We sometimes may “thirst” for more money, more things, better grades, etc. we continue to want more and want better. But we can’t quench our thirst for happiness with those drinks. The water from Jesus, will bring us wholeness and happiness in a new way. A way that opens us up.

During Lent many of us decide to “give up” something and this, for many, can become the biggest challenge of lent. We begin to immediately thirst for it. After Lent is over we drink and drink what we have given up, but we never can fully quench that thirst. We give up those things so that we may find the drink of everlasting life, so that we can find the water that will quench all thirsts.

How is what you are doing for Lent helping to prepare you for the water of everlasting life?

Dear God, in this Lenten season we ask you to walk us to you so that we may acknowledge our brokenness and cleanse us. Help us to realize that the water we drink will never quench our thirst, and give us a taste for your water—the water of everlasting life. Amen.