April 22, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Long before the faith traditions of Judaism and Christianity, people felt the presence of God and shared their spiritual and religious practices with people of other cultures. Today, we are called to be about the mission of Jesus, even as people of a variety of faiths come together to share their beliefs.
That is the gist of a special live stream presentation on Spirituality and Mission by Sister Joanne Peters, OP, a Chaplain in the Dominican Life Center and former Co-Chapter Prioress of Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Holy Rosary Mission Chapter. Sister Joanne earned a master’s degree in mission and spirituality from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and spent eight years in Kenya, teaching theology for the formation program of the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret.
“Early humans always felt there was a spirit or fire deep in their being that they could not explain,” Sister Joanne said. Each group throughout the world established its own customs and expressions to relate to God. “From the beginning of time, there was intercultural sharing as different cultures encountered each other,” she said.
Sister Joanne noted that when God was revealed to the Israelites, they developed their own practices but also adapted the stories and customs of the peoples around them. “[But] unlike other people, the Israelites did not share their beliefs,” she said. “They kept to themselves … They never felt called to go out to the gentiles.”
Jesus himself did not go to people of other cultures, Sister Joanne said. “It was the person and message of Jesus that sparked the idea of sharing his message. Not until the end of his life did Jesus speak to his disciples about going to other groups outside of Israel.”
Sister Joanne traced the history of the sense of mission in Christianity, beginning with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. “The whole power of the Spirit of Jesus was unleashed,” she said. “Now [the disciples] were inspired to take the mission of Jesus to the ends of the Earth.”
Sister Joan traced the missionary spirit of Christianity from the early days of great fervor to the time of Constantine, when the religion became more formalized; the years of 500 to 1000 AD, which brought about great expansion and evangelization – sometimes with Christianity forced upon others.
Sister Joanne spoke of the influence of religious orders such as the Benedictines, Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans and their modeling of community, and of the mid-1900s until Vatican II, when “Christians began to perceive that new ways of mission were needed.” Vatican II began to focus on the connection of mission to spirituality, Sister Joanne said.
“Now we are at a new place,” Sister Joanne said. “The trend is toward intercultural communities. We respect others while sharing our beliefs by the way we live and treat others. Mission is not about imposition or conquest but about God’s love for all people and all creation.”
Watch Sister Joanne’s entire presentation here.