“The movement to turn the world from its self-consumptive course to one of renewal and sustenance has unmistakably spread… Though in the aftermath of Rio there is a heightened awareness of, and debate over the compelling need for action, there is not yet a concerted and decisive response to the magnitude and urgency of the task… There is much to be done.” These words were spoken 20 years ago, by Maurice F. Strong, the Secretary General of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit), held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. June of 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of this summit, and plans are in process for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development: Rio + 20. Read more
Monthly Archives: August 2011
From Aug. 4–10, the 14 newest Dominican Volunteers traveled from all over the United States to Maryknoll, New York, for their orientation to the Dominican Family and a year of faith-based service. It is hard to think of a better place to inspire the next class of volunteers than the Maryknoll motherhouse (hosted graciously by Sister Janet Hockman, MM and Sister Joan Berninger, MM), where sharing meals with the sisters uncovered stories and anecdotes from centuries of mission work in developing countries around the globe.
The week began with presentations on the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers by Brother John Blazo, on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners by Sam Stanton, and on the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic by Sister Theresa Baldini.
The week—which is always planned around the Feast of St. Dominic (Aug. 8)—included a mix of sessions, trips, and conversations. Sessions covered topics like the Dominican charism, forms of prayer (liturgical and creative), Catholic social teaching, simple living, communication and conflict, Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, and for the first time a Privilege Walk activity showing what institutional or societal circumstances move us forward or backward in our careers, schools, etc.
The session began with presentations on the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers by Brother John Blazo, on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners by Sam Stanton, and on the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic by Sister Theresa Baldini.
Sister Diane Capuano, OP (Amityville) provided a rousing history lesson as Saint Dominic. Sister Gina Fleming, OP presented on the Dominican Family Today. Sister Ginny Maguire, OP spoke on community life and simple living. Sister Margaret Mayce, OP shared about the Dominican mission at the United Nations. Sister Diane Morgan, OP led a talk on what it means to be Dominican. Sister Connie Kelly, OP (Hope) spoke on Catholic Social Teaching, and Sister Janet Marchesani, OP (Hope) led us in centering prayer and the Nine Ways of St. Dominic. Sisters Alice and Eleanor Uhl, OP (Caldwell) gave a stand-up comedy routine disguised as a presentation on Myers-Briggs. Sister Pat Wormann, OP (Caldwell) presented on communication and conflict. Fr. Walter Wagner, OP from the Province of St. Joseph taught the volunteers the spiritual foundations for the Liturgy of the Hours and Lectio Divina.
The volunteers celebrated St. Dominic’s Day Eve with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and St. Dominic’s Day with the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. The volunteers prayed evening prayer with the congregations and then learned what being joyful is all about as they were treated to delicious feasts. To top it all off, they took the train to Manhattan and toured Ellis Island, St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero, and spent the evening walking around Times Square and Central Park. That last day in Manhattan, God blessed them with symbolic waters of renewal from the heavens (i.e., they got drenched in the rain).
Before flying and driving to their ministry sites in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Racine, Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta, the volunteers were commissioned in a candle-lighting ceremony at Mass in Maryknoll, joined by alumna Kira Maffet (DV 2009–10). To thank the sisters for their hospitality, the volunteers joined voices and sang the Dominican Magnificat in three-part harmony (taught to them during the week by new DV Adam Deline).
Dominican Volunteers USA was started 10 years ago by 17 congregations of Dominican sisters and two provinces of Dominican friars. Recruiting volunteers mainly from Catholic and secular colleges and universities, the organization places them in ministry throughout the United States. They will minister to the economically poor and marginalized as teachers, tutors, job coaches, campus ministers, peace and justice advocates, and more—all sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as contemplatives in action.
What is unique about the Dominican Volunteers among the hundreds of volunteer groups? DVUSA offers professional development and lay formation, providing an opportunity for both professional and spiritual growth. DVUSA is also one of a small number of programs that adds the support of living with a community of men or women religious who serve as mentors for the volunteers in their ministry. Dominican Volunteers serve for one year with the option of renewing for another year. Besides new graduates, the volunteers also accept older men and women.
For more information:
Erica Greil and Michael Chapuran (DVUSA staff) and Sister Dolores Mitch, MM, provided material for this story
Statement on Water Inadequacy for the Palestinians
Approved by the North American Justice Promoters, March 9, 2013
The United Nations has declared March 22 as the first World Water Day. Responding to this call, we, the North American Dominican Justice Promoters, call attention to the daily struggle for water of the people of Palestine.
Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law and consensus1, have robbed the Palestinians of water, cutting off access to their natural springs and siphoning off the supplies of their aquifer. This leaves West Bank Palestinians with an average of 73 liters per person each day2, well below the3 recommended 100 liters minimum. By contrast, West Bank settlements receive up to 400 liters per person each day, and many use this water to maintain swimming pools and spas.4
A recent UN report on settlements states, “Forcible takeovers and vandalism by settlers increasingly impair access to water. Some of the seized springs are turned into ‘tourist attractions’ or recreational sites, which receive Israeli government support.”5 In Gaza, the lack of potable water has reached crisis proportions.
Only 5 percent of the water there is drinkable, and since 2007 Israel has prohibited the entry of material to rehabilitate the water and wastewater systems of Gaza,6 even after Israeli attacks destroyed such facilities during bombing attacks in 2008 and 2012.
We are grieved by this injustice, and call for the return of both water and land rights to those from whom these have been wrongfully taken.
- 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, paragraph 101
- World Bank, “West Bank and Gaza Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development,” April 2009, paragraph 130.
- World Health Organization
- UN Human Rights Council “Report of Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Jan. 2013, paragraph 85
- Ibid, paragraph 87.
- B’tselem (Israeli Human Rights Organization), August , 2010, “Water Supplied in Gaza Unfit for Drinking.”
Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. For the millions who have read the book about African-American maids and their Anglo employers in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi, “The Help” will not disappoint, even though they’ll notice one important change in plot. Those who have not read the book will surely enjoy the movie too.
“The Help” has a lot of humor. However, set in the era of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, the movie has a serious side as well. Skeeter, a recent graduate of Ole Miss, wants to become a journalist. She gets a job writing a household hints column for a Jackson newspaper. Skeeter has submitted a manuscript to a New York publisher who thinks she has promise, but needs more experience. Skeeter seeks the domestic advice of her friend Elizabeth’s maid, Aibileen, with her column. As Skeeter and Aibileen talk, the idea for a much more ambitious project takes shape. Skeeter asks to interview Aibileen and other maids regarding their experiences working for white families. They realize this could be a dangerous assignment. If they were ever found out, this would certainly mean dismissal for the participants, if not much worse. Aibileen and her friends know only too well what could happen to those who challenged the segregated system of her day. After much thought, Aibileen agrees. Later she persuades her friend Minny to participate. Eventually, after a maid who wants to send her sons to college is arrested for theft, others come forth.
What was it like knowing that these women, who had few other opportunities for employment, worked below minimum wage, with no benefits, and could be fired without reason? Skeeter wanted to know the humiliation of the maids, when they were not allowed to use bathrooms in the homes where they worked. What about raising generations of white children, who grew up to be just like their mothers and fathers? As Skeeter tells her publisher, Margaret Mitchell told Mammy’s story in “Gone with the Wind.” Skeeter wanted to tell the story from Mammy’s perspective.
As someone who grew up during this era in the South, much of “The Help” rings true. I remember Savannah, our maid, who helped to raise me and my brothers. Everyone I knew in my middle class white neighborhood had a maid. Our families all cared for them and treated them like family, to an extent. However, we knew very little about their families, and even as young children, called the women by their first names. It was the way things were in the South of the 1950s and 1960s. No one questioned the system, and its injustices, at this time.
“The Help” is primarily a story about women, black and white. I am glad that the characters are three dimensional. Few, black or white, are all good or all bad. “The Help” shows the power of social sin. Both black and white women are so immersed in the system, no other way seems possible until Skeeter’s subversive book. Of course, the racist system worked in favor of the powerful to keep them in control. At the end of the film, Aibileen says that even though she suffered from her participation in the book, telling her story made her free.
Director Tate Taylor has assembled a great cast of actresses, including the young Emma Stone as the feisty Skeeter, and Viola Davis as Aibileen, who has seen it all and is willing to take a risk for the sake of change. Octavia Spencer is also excellent as the strong-willed Minny, who, in a hilarious scene, takes her revenge against Hilly, who fired her for using the bathroom. Davis and Spencer deserve Oscar nominations for their performances. Many other actresses give life to these Mississippi women, notably Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson in smaller roles.
“The Help” works both as a comedy, but also as a story that exposes the injustices and pain beneath a system that survived in the South (and other regions of the country) for generations. It salutes the black women who worked so hard, despite the injustices, to raise their families, care for the children of the white community, and still manage to retain their dignity. Telling their stories salutes their memories and helps to liberate all of us.
Tom Condon, OP