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Dominicans of GR and Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament: Collaboration

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Written by Sister Sue Tracy, OP

Sent forth by the leadership team’s sung blessing, Sister Sue Tracy, OP, and Laurie Sefton, RN, headed to the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills, Michigan July 29, 2009. The Dominican nuns had invited them to facilitate four presentations on Dominican Dignity and Freedom at the End of Life.

Sister Sue Tracy, OP, oncology staff chaplain at Spectrum Health and presenter, launched the 1st session expanding on core realities of Dominican Common Life:

  • Dominican = Dominic, Order of Preachers, Mission, Itinerancy, New Creation, Inheritance, Contemplative & Liturgical Prayer, Apostolic Community, Needs of the Time

  • Common = Celibacy, Obedience, Mendicancy (poverty), Ministry, On-going Formation, Nurturance

  • Life = Local Community, Integration, Flexibility, Enthusiasm

With this foundation of our Dominican life as backdrop, she elaborated on ways and means to celebrate life come what may - day by day.

In the second session Laurie Sefton, Clinical & Life Services Director at the Marywood Health Center, delved into aspects of vulnerability. She focused on dying as both a physical and spiritual process. She shared five things that matter most in ministering to the dying and living in our lives: please forgive me, I forgive you, thank you, I love you and goodbye.

The next morning’s third session also led by Laurie looked at Four Tasks of Dying: 1) understanding and transforming suffering; 2) making a connection, healing relationships and letting go; 3) preparing spiritually for death; 4) finding meaning in life. Her message was permeated with specific mention of interactions she had experienced with Sisters involved in the dying process in Grand Rapids.

Sister Sue rounded out the fourth session with “Laff Jest for the Health of It!” Convinced that humor can be healing and provide a wholesome perspective on daily events, she proclaimed that we hunger for humor and long for laughter. Still many do not realize how vital these “nutrients” are to the well being of our body/mind/spirits. Laughter readily permeated the cloister community room.

Laurie and Sister Sue left Farmington Hills deeply honored by the warm hospitality of the Dominican nuns. Their original homes stretch from the USA to Africa, Vietnam, Japan and Australia. Their vibrant presence and interaction allowed the presenters a graced glimpse of the wholesome depth of Dominican women earnest in living the charisms of prayer, common life, study and ministry.

Sr. Mary Thomas Michalek OP, Prioress of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament, gave this overview from The Perspective of the Nuns: “The seminar with Sister Sue and Laurie on end of life issues was one of the most helpful we have ever had on a subject matter that many people try to avoid. When plans for the workshop were first announced some of the Senior Sisters in the infirmary were a bit dubious about its value and usefulness. Yet after the first and second sessions, they could not express their gratitude enough! And that goes for all of us. Laurie and Sister Sue presented the reality of aging in the context of the joy and support afforded by our Dominican Life in community. Both gave ample examples of graceful aging and delightful anecdotes from the experiences they have had with the sisters in the Grand Rapids community.

“Laurie went on to share her knowledge and experience as a Hospice Nurse. She explained the natural phenomenon of the dying process in such a beautiful way that any fear of death that one might have had was dissipated. It is a God-given process that will bring us naturally and peacefully to eternal life if we allow nature to take its course. The presentations were most helpful not only to the elders among us but also to our present and future caregivers. In the words of one of our Infirmary residents: ‘It was uplifting, encouraging and informative.’

“Thank you, Sister Sue and Laurie. Another bond has been forged between our Nuns of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament and our Dominican Sisters in Grand Rapids. May all of us continue our journey of life in the joy bequeathed us by Our Holy Father Dominic and so beautifully exemplified by your example and teaching.”

All of the presentations were captured on an iPod so that other Dominican monasteries could receive and benefit by the richness of what was created together July 29-30th on Dominican Dignity and Freedom at the End of Life. Amen.

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