I recently had the opportunity to meet with our new delegate to the UN in Geneva, our brother, Mike Deeb. Mike visited New York in an effort to understand the workings of the UN here, and to explore ways in which we can work together for the Dominican Family. Our conversations were fruitful, and gave each of us a sense of great possibility. What we each realize more fully is that the advocacy work we try to do in this venue requires a greater connection to what is happening “ on the ground” in those parts of the world where our Dominican Brothers and Sisters live and minister. Networking and collaboration need to be a priority.
Iraq Coordinating Committee
A wonderful example of networking and collaboration here in the US is the work being done by the Iraq Coordinating Committee (ICC), as they seek to explore how best to respond to the plight of Iraqi Christians and other minority groups which are forced to flee the current onslaught of violence. The members of the ICC include Jim Barnett (Central Province), Dusty Farnan (Adrian), Pat Farrell ( San Rafael), Arlene Flaherty (Blauvelt), Eileen Gannon (Sparkill), Beth Murphy (Springfield), Roberta Popara (Sinsinawa) Lucianne Siers (Grand Rapids), Richard Woods, (Central Province), Rick McDowell, Mary Trotochaud, and our Co-Promoters for Justice, Peace and Care of Creation – Chuck Dahm (Central Province) and Marcelline Koch (Springfield). Their direct contact with our Dominican Sisters in Iraq provides them with a clear sense of the needs as well as the direction they feel is appropriate.
As of now, the ICC is considering ways to educate and advocate here in the US regarding the crisis in Iraq, the suffering and displacement of the Iraqi people and the ongoing impact of sustained trauma on Iraqi children and youth – the future and the hope of this devastated country. As plans unfold, there will be ways in which each one of us will all be able to express our own unique solidarity with the people caught up in this tragic situation.
In addition to my visit with Mike Deeb, I also had the chance to meet with three Sisters from the Roman Congregation – Rosa Maria Barboza (Brazil), Anne Marie Geoffrey (France) and Anne Levesque, who is stationed in Staten Island, and helped with translation. Rosa Maria and Anne Marie shared some of the realities in their countries – that of Brazil being the most poignant. They spoke of the so called “ agrarian reform,” which has left untold numbers of people landless; they addressed the “enslavement” of peoples in Brazil to the coal industry and to massive deforestation for the benefit of industry and profit. And most heartbreaking of all, the Sisters spoke about the illegal organ market – body organs taken from people who lack the resources needed for their own medical care. These organs are then sold on the open market. It’s so hard to imagine that something like this actually happens; and that people allow it, because they feel they have no other recourse.
The Roman Congregation, though small, is represented in Japan, where the Sisters are in engaged in the nuclear issue, especially in the wake of the Fukushima tragedy; Africa, where they work with women and girls and the issue of human trafficking. Sisters work in prisons in Italy and with the issue of migration in Spain, and in Sweden they work with immigrants and also host three Iraqi Dominican Sisters from the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena. Right now I am in the process of contacting Sisters in these areas, in the hope of establishing a network that will strengthen the connection between our Sisters’ lived reality and the work that both Mike and I try to do at the UN.
Our Sisters Down-Under
I often feel that I am in a very privileged position, as I have had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring members of the Dominican Family. Not the least among these are our Dominican Sisters in New Zealand. They treated Anne Lythgoe and myself as if they had known us all their lives! Being with them during their Chapter days, traveling with them to where they live and minister on both the North and South Island, and speaking with the people whose lives they have touched was an enormously inspiring experience for both of us. Their depth; their simplicity; their realism in the face of diminishment, and their absolute belief that they continue to have something to offer for the sake of the mission filled me with a great sense of hope for our future as a Dominican Family. Their dedication to the charism was palpable, as evidenced in the way in which they have passed on the Dominican spirit to their lay partners. If Dominican life and mission can be so vibrant within a Congregation of 47 women, is this not a great sign of hope for us as well?
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul speaks of having learned to be content whatever the circumstances. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to live with abundance…I can do all things through God who gives me strength.” Our New Zealand Sisters seemed to embody this for me. Being with them was sheer gift, and I am so very grateful I had the opportunity to spend time with them.
The late poet Jessica Powers said that “To live with the Spirit of God, is to be a listener. It is to keep the vigil of mystery, earthless and still.” In deep gratitude for one another and the varied ways in which we participate in Dominican life and mission, let’s together keep this vigil of mystery – so that we might be open and ready to respond to the quiet invitations to join our hands and hearts in collaboration, in networking and in encouraging one another in the pursuit of justice and peace, for the good of all of God’s creatures and this one fragile Earth which we all call home.