“Immersion in the New Cosmology,” a 14-day summer program, “provides an intense, transformative experience that empowers us to re-think the meaning of our lives within this new story of Earth and Cosmos.” Students attend lectures, engage in discussion, do rituals, cook with whole foods, garden, and explore the farmland and bioregion. Presented by Sister Mariam MacGillis, OP (Caldwell), co-founder of Genesis Farm, and Larry Edwards, adjunct staff member at Genesis Farm. The program is offered July 17–30 and Aug. 7–20. Genesis Farm is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey. For more information, visit Genesis Farm online.
Monthly Archives: February 2011
Honduras has been below the radar screen in U.S. media since the “election” in November 2009. Yet Human Rights Watch has recently issued a report documenting an increase in human rights abuse since the June 28, 2009 coup, as well as almost complete impunity for those who violate human rights. In 2010, the organized resistance in Honduras requested delegations from human rights advocates in other countries. I participated in a delegation of four U.S. citizens and one Canadian Nov. 27–Dec. 4, 2010, sponsored by the Friendship Office of the Americas.
In the mountain community of Guaimaca, we met with representatives from several peasant communities. The communities had taken advantage of a provision of the agricultural reform which allows landless peasants to claim idle arable land. They had been working the land for 18 years, and, before the coup, the process for obtaining documents confirming their title to the land was progressing through government channels. The coup halted the process. When a new putative owner of the entire latifundim (ranch) on which their land is located tried to evict them, they resisted. A few days later, one of their leaders was killed. They continue to be stalked by masked, armed men. This scenario occurs throughout the countryside. In one area, while we were in the country, 17 peasants were killed when they refused to leave their land.
In addition to violent attempts to take land from peasant communities, we heard of increased militarization from every community and organization we visited. The United States has used the Soto Cano (formerly Pamerola) Air Base for decades. Our government is now building two new air bases on the eastern side of Honduras. Peasants and resistance leaders alike told us of a massive military buildup, consisting of United States, Colombian, and Israeli forces.
To me, the most significant indication of human rights crisis in Honduras came from Berta Oliva, co-founder and director of the Committee of the Families of Detainees and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). From her 28-year perspective with COFADEH, Berta told us that “for the first time, I find it necessary to ask for accompaniment for COFADEH itself. For our protection, we need a North American who will stay with us for at least a year, working in our offices, daily.”
In the Jan. 31, 2011, issue of The Nation, Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, warns us that “Two fanatically right-wing Congress members… now control the Foreign Affairs Committee and the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, respectively.” These Congresspersons have placed priority on pushing the Obama administration toward a stronger support of the current Honduran administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. We need to keep informed, and let our elected representatives know that we support the nonviolent resistance movement.
For more information, visit:
- “Grave Human Rights Violations Continue in Honduras” (Feb. 10, 2011, Friendship Office of the Americas www.friendshipamericas.org)
- Latin America Working Group
- Human Rights Watch
Pat Chaffee, OP
Students and adult mentors from Dominican high schools throughout the country will gather at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan June 25–30 for the 13th annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. The mission of the conference is to “empower high school students to discover and deepen the preacher within themselves through prayer, study, community, and interaction with the Dominican family.” Registration materials for students and mentors are now available online.
Following an extended time of prayer and reflection, the Friends of God Dominican Ashram, with its core community members and its advisory council, announces a new focus in its mission to promote the contemplative dimension of our human experience. The hope is that this focus will support the sisters, friars, nuns, laity and associates of the Dominican family—and is open to all who seek to nurture a deeper contemplative consciousness.
“Holy Conversations about Engaged Contemplation” is one of the themes that has emerged and will be developed in the next phase of the Ashram’s focus, which will extend between now and the 2016 anniversary of the Dominican Order.
“Holy” — because while God is already present in a contemplative spirit, the Holy Preaching is in continual need of being blessed, nurtured and enhanced.
“Conversations” — will enable an ongoing dialogue involving more people than those able to come to an ashram, and will feature online courses, occasional papers, retreats and an annual conference.
“Engaged” — that both aspects of contemplare and aliis tradere are essential to the mission, i.e., that contemplation is engaged in preaching and responding to a broken-hearted world.
For the past 11 years, the Ashram has hosted up to 1,000 people from around the world. There have been occasions with special guests from various religious traditions participating in interfaith dialogue. The contemplative setting, rhythm of prayer and the environment of silence were unique creations of the core community of the Ashram; the sacred space has been generously provided by the Dominican Sisters of Taos, New Mexico (formerly Kenosha), and the Dominicans of Adrian, Michigan.
The first phase was located along Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin, from 1999 to 2006. The second phase was on the motherhouse grounds of Adrian, Michigan, from 2006 to the present. The third, new phase will not include a residential component. The present Ashram community in Adrian will offer hospitality for regular guests only until Easter of 2011.
While there is much sadness in having to make this decision, it came about after much prayer, research and discussion. The desire to promote contemplative consciousness is truly of God, and will be continued in other forms.
For more information, contact Jim Barnett, OP, or Corrine McCann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-266-4285.
It is hoped that the first seeds of this new focus will be sown at the “Being Dominican in the 21st Century” gathering this summer, July 8-11, 2011, at Weber Center in Adrian, Michigan. The challenges of the contemplative/active lifestyle will be presented by Dominicans Timothy Radcliffe, Ann Willits, Don Goergen, Brian Pierce, Pat Walter and Margaret Ormond, along with liturgical preachers Arlene Flaherty and Megan McElroy.
Racine Dominican Sister Monica Gabriel, 93, died on Feb. 16 at Golden Living Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A nationally respected artist, Sister Monica also taught elementary through college-level art students in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Her artwork, primarily stone, clay, metal or wood sculptures, was commissioned for various sites around the country, including Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Among other exceptional pieces, she sculpted the statue of “Christ the Teacher” that stands in front of the campus library at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Sister Monica created a 7-foot, 10-inch tall statue of the Sacred Heart that stands at the main entrance to Sacred Heart School in Racine, sculpting it from a 3,400 pound block of Indiana limestone. She also sculpted a life-size statue of Christ for Racine’s First United Methodist Church.
Sister Monica was also a gifted painter. Many of her paintings and sculptures reside at Siena Center, the Dominican motherhouse in Racine, as well as in countless other locations around the country. Her 18-foot bronze sculpture of St. Catherine of Siena graces Siena Center’s bell tower, and her paintings line the walls of the Siena Retreat Center and other parts of the building.
In 1960, Sister Monica’s art was exhibited at Marquette University, drawing favorable commentary from art critics in Racine and Milwaukee newspapers. The Milwaukee Journal stated: “Sister Monica can make wood come alive to tell a beautiful story sincerely and sympathetically, and without preachy sentimentalism.”
Sister Monica believed “there is a spark of the Creator in each person—and a need to create as well.” She said she found that spark in her students of all ages and, “It is beautiful to see.”
Whenever Sister Monica was asked to explain her art, she typically responded, “Well, what does it say to you?” Perhaps Sister Jean Ackerman captured Sister Monica, her art and her spirituality best in saying, “She truly was a mystic. She firmly believed in the still point deep in each of our hearts.”
Loretta Marie Gabriel was born in Detroit on April 2, 1917. Her mother, Ida, died when Loretta and her three siblings were very young, and her father then married Ida’s sister, Mary Agatha. The couple added eight more children to the family.
Loretta’s artistic spirit and talent were evident even as a child in the drawings she hid away in her sketch pad. She greatly respected her Racine Dominican teachers at Assumption Grotto, and upon finishing eighth grade, she begged her father to let her join the community. At age 16, she was formally received and became Sister Mona, a name she changed to Monica in 1946.
As a teacher of elementary through college levels, she was deeply loved for her kind and gentle spirit. Just last year she received a note from Alton Grobbel, a student she taught on her first mission at St. Clement in Center Line, Michigan, in the 1930s. “Your kindness to me when my mother died in 1936 I much appreciated,” Alton wrote. “I apologize it took me 74 years to thank you, but I sincerely do.”
After heading the art department at St. Catherine’s High School for eight years, Sister Monica taught first at Dominican College, Racine, and then at Holy Redeemer College in Waterford, Wisconsin. Throughout her teaching career, she continued to create her own works of art through various media, and completed a master’s degree in fine arts from Notre Dame University.
Her 17 years spent with the Redemptorists in Waterford were precious to Sister Monica. Even into her last years, she spoke warmly of the relationships and art created during that era. Fr. Dick Mevissen, a longtime friend who presided at Sister Monica’s funeral, said, “I have such warm memories of her as an artist, visionary, immensely talented woman, whom it is my pleasure to be connected with in spirit.”
Story and photos courtesy of the Racine Dominicans and congregational communications director Jean Mullooly.