Friday, December 7, 2018

"The Holy Spirit is palpably present"

 In our most recent blog post, 2014- 15 Dominican Volunteer Juan Miguel Alvarez reflects on his recent trip to the Vatican to witness the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Juan Miguel also  tells of his spiritual encounter with Pope Francis and how both men  continue to shape his faith journey.

1.                  What   was it like to be at the Vatican for the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero and meeting Pope Francis and some of the Cardinals? Please give us a small taste of that experience.

I cannot speak on the synod itself since I was not a synod member ,but being close to it and spending time with those who were in it was an exciting and refreshing experience. You could see the passion the youth people brought to this synod – they were a fantastic group of intelligent and deeply caring young people with an enormous desire to improve their Church. I also enjoyed meeting some of the cardinals and bishops I have always admired, such as Cardinal Tagle, Cardinal Maradiaga, and Bishop Robert Barron.
The canonization of Oscar Romero, Paul VI, and five others was a powerful mass. I sat with the auditors, close to the front, with the banners of these saints directly in front of us. As I looked up at them, at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis, the hundreds of priests, and the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, I felt overjoyed at the magnitude of the day. Having led a couple of trips to El Salvador and seeing the sites of Oscar Romero’s life, I thought of the wonderful people I met there and I realized how much this canonization meant for them, for Latin America, and for the entire Church. There were Salvadorian flags everywhere, but also people from all over the world. It was a true testament to the universality of the Church. 
2014-15 Dominican Volunteer Juan Miguel Alvarez
2.                 What about your experience surprised you and impacted you?
I had so many impactful experiences on this trip. Among them were the canonization mass, my visit to the catacombs of St. Sebastian, seeing the pope’s home, getting some inside-scoop looks into the conclave process, meeting young, passionate Catholics from all over the world, and of course meeting the pope. I was impacted by the levity of Pope Francis. He must have one of the busiest schedules on the planet, yet every time I interacted with him, he was laughing, he was present, and he was relaxed. No matter how tired he was, or how late it was, or how many people had asked for a selfie, his face always lit up when someone approached him for a conversation or a blessing. 
Juan Miguel, his wife Yadira, and Pope Francis
3.                 Did any part of your experience lead you to reflect on your service year with DVUSA?

I remember two times that I was reminded of my DVUSA experience. The first was during the canonization mass of Oscar Romero. I remembered my family, my friendships in El Salvador, and the families that have gotten to know in Chicago. I thought of my students at Cristo Rey, the families at my parish, Immaculate Conception, and the families I met at Casa Juan Diego. I imagined what St. Peter’s Square might look like one day celebrating the canonization of a young person from Pilsen. The second time was on an afternoon that I was able to walk around and explore Rome’s many beautiful churches and basilicas. I came across Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a Dominican basilica that is home to St. Catherine of Siena’s tomb. I reflected on the year that my soul crossed paths with Dominican spirituality and thanked God for it. 
Juan Miguel and some of his students during  his year as a Dominican Volunteer at Casa Juan Diego youth center in Chicago
4.                 As a Latino, how have the legacies of Pope Francis and Oscar Romero impacted your life?

In different ways, they have both been hugely impactful on my spirituality. Pope Francis has made me reconsider the ways that the Church ministers to all people who seek God; he strives to find the sweet spot where the Church is 100% faithful in teaching the eternal truths we have inherited from Tradition, the scriptures, and the apostles, and also being merciful and charitable in its pastoral approach. He understands that this is not an “either/or” situation, so I have been intrigued and drawn in by his approach. He also has more patience, joy, and dedication than I will ever have. The Holy Spirit is palpably present when you spend even a few brief moments with him. 
Oscar Romero has been personally convicting and inspiring in my spirituality. He knew better than most the danger he was putting himself by standing up for justice, but he did what his conscience told him to do, regardless of the presence of these life-threatening people and groups. By their own government, the poor of El Salvador were kicked while they were down, stood upon to keep them down, and then brutally murdered. Romero radically and unabashedly lived out the gospel in that ugly reality, so seeing his birthplace, the site of his martyrdom, his home, was something that has made me reflect on the ugly realities that plague my communities – the city of Chicago, the immigrant families I am able to accompany, or my neighborhood – and radically live out the gospel in those places.

5.                 You  and your wife, Yadira experienced this journey together. What was it like experiencing the Vatican as a couple?
It was so life-giving! My wife was one of the few married young auditors; it was great to see how many people went out of their way to welcome and accommodate me as her spouse. They recognized that the role of the auditor was important and that it was, in fact, the reason each of these young people was brought to Rome, but that nothing takes precedence over your primary vocation. First and foremost, we were viewed as spouses – as a family. Through the charity and generosity of so many people, I was able to accompany my wife to nourishing, beautiful events, including the canonization mass, exploring the Vatican gardens, a powerful adoration night in San Lorenzo’s, and of course our various moments with the pope. Getting his blessing over our marriage was unforgettable. 
Juan Miguel and his wife Yadira

Monday, November 19, 2018

Finding My True Self

In our latest blog post, Dominican Volunteer Rosanna Fiasche shares how she is discovering herself and her ministry and community.

Rosie serves as a counselor at Immaculate Conception Academy Cristo Rey High School in San Francisco California.

Hello Everyone!

Six months ago or so, I made the decision to leave my family in Chicago to travel halfway across the United States to San Francisco,California to spend a year of my life as a volunteer. Who knew that three months in, that I would fall in love with San Francisco and ICA. Before I left for San Francisco, I made a promise to myself that I was going to step out of my comfort zone and go on adventures. My first weekend, before my ministry even started, I walked all over my neighborhood from checking out the beautiful murals throughout the streets to walking all the way to Castro just to check out the Rainbow Crosswalk. I have even went hiking near the ocean with a previous DV. I have been on plenty of adventures since arriving in SF. I have never lived away from home before,so this is my first time experiencing something new and chasing my dream to serve others. I put myself first and I have not regretted one moment. With the support of my family and friends I embarked on a journey of finding my true self.
Rosie Fiasche

This year I am working at Immaculate Conception Academy, which is an all-girl Cristo Rey High School. When I graduated from college I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but being in this community so far as confirmed that I want to work with young women. Being a Cristo Rey high school, the students go to work once or twice a week to help pay their tuition. I have many roles in ICA and one of them is chaperoning with the students every morning to their work. So I get a chance to interact with each grade level has been awesome and to be honest it makes me feel so old even though I am only 23, but I love it because they keep me in the loop with everyday society. They continually bless my life and keep me laughing throughout the day. There is this one student who I absolutely love. She always makes me laugh during commute and she is so smart. It is refreshing to see the world through her eyes. It is these moments where I appreciate my life. I may complain about waking up early every morning to commute with these girls everyday but secretly I love it because it gives me the chance to interact with the girls and get a glimpse of who they can become. My main job though at ICA is working in the guidance office. I have more of an assistant role in the office, where I run notes and do little projects for the counselors. For example I work on the bulletin boards we have (which I have to say are pretty great). Here is one of the boards, that the counselors and I worked on together in the beginning of the school year.  I also created a video about the freshwomen field trip to Holy Names University in Oakland, CA. (Check out our youtube channel to watch it- ICA Cristo REY Guidance Department) Each task I work on helps each counselor in so many ways because there is only two of them but 300 something students. Another role I took on is helping out with the food program, which does not sound so glamorous but it can be really fun to watch how the girls interact with each other and how they interact with me. The freshwomen at ICA are something else. They continually keep me on my toes, that is for sure. I do not regret one moment of choosing to work with this community. Many people may think I am crazy to want to work with high school girls, but for me this is a blessing.

In spirit of Thanksgiving, here are 10 things I am grateful for:

1.    My ICA Community

2.    For my 9 lovely Dominican Sisters who are always watching out for me and made me feel welcomed as soon as my feet hit the ground.

3.    The support of my family

4.    My fellow DV’s (Liz, Sean, Jake, and Lacey)

5.    Allison and Megan for the things they do for us

6.    For the city of San Francisco for just being its great self.

7.    My friends who continually push me to follow my dreams

8.    I am grateful for the love of God and all that he has provided for me

9.    My students who teach me something new everyday

10.  Lastly, for my mom because I know how difficult it is for her baby girl to be so far away from home. Thanks for letting me pursue this crazy dream of mine.

Happy Turkey Day,

Rosie <3

Friday, November 2, 2018

Responding To the Needs of our Brothers and Sisters

The bus

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Our Dominican Volunteers USA Mission Statement calls us to “respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters especially those who are poor and marginalized.” In our most recent blog post, Dominican Sister Bernadine Karge OP shares that one of the ways she responds to this call through her ministry with Nuns on the Bus. Sister Bernadine is an immigration lawyer, longtime member of the House of Connections community in Chicago, and the Dominican Volunteers USA’s 2016 Sister Marcela Conley Award recipient. Thank you for your Dominican witness Sister Bernadine!

1. Give us some background. What is Nuns on the Bus? How did it come to be?

NETWORK, the Catholic Social Justice Lobby, founded by congregations of Catholic Sisters in the early 1970’s in Washington, D.C. had their first Nuns on the Bus (NOTB) in 2012 in response to Paul Ryan’s budget.  The Network staff came up with the idea of the bus tour to lift up the work of Catholic Sisters and other partners who are serving the needs of those on the margins of society.  It is through community that we see and become aware of the gifts and needs of our sisters and brothers.  Together we the people can decide how we want to be together.  We can create the structures that will support the common good.

2. How and why did you get involved with Nuns on the Bus? What inspires, challenges and invigorates you about their mission and work for justice?

My first NOTB was the 2013 Immigration Reform bus tour.  I have known S.  Simone Campbell for many decades.  As a woman of hope and action, I made it my business to get on the bus for immigration reform.  It is amazing how hope is generated by those who welcome the sisters, mostly total strangers, but there are always connections to be found. This year Shannon Green, a DV-USA honoree greeted us in Santa Monica. Zach Moeller DV-USA 2017-2018 showed up in Irvine, CA, the next day.

Culinary Union Group
3. Please tell us about your current Nuns on the Bus Tour and its goals and mission.

TAX JUSTICE TRUTH TOUR on the Road to Mar-a-Lago, is the 6th tour of Nuns on the Bus.  It began in Santa Monica, California,  October 8 and will end on the east coast on November 2 at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida.   From sea to shining sea, Catholic Sisters will be making site visits, congressional visits and conducting town hall meetings in 20 states and the District of Columbia

Las Vegas, Nevada was our first stop after our California beginning. The Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 was the site we visited to listen to the bartenders, kitchen staff, and housekeepers as they shared their struggles to get the owners of one chain of casinos to sit down with them to negotiate a contract for just wages, consistent schedules, health care and paid time off.  173 countries and 40 languages are represented in the 60,000 workers in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas.

Those in the hospitality industry are not treated hospitably.  Their bosses recently spent $4.5 million dollars on a family wedding.  The cost of the healthcare these workers are seeking would cost $4 million! Why can’t those whose work enables the owner to gain wealth, not get their share and financial security?  The next morning after a rally on the parking lot, 2 members of Local 226, paired up with 2  sisters, like Jesus and Dominic, right?  Sister Dusty Farnan, OP and I were accompanied by Ash and Veronica.  We went to knock on doors and canvass the neighborhoods with information on voter registration, early voting and on candidates in the Nevada race.   Our shirts and our hearts said, WE VOTE. WE WIN.

4.  What has stood out to you to from your work with Nuns on the Bus?

What struck me was the fact that the fellow on our team who was 26 years old, had never voted. The woman on our team who was in her 30’s was only voting for the 2nd time in her life. As citizens they have the right to vote.  Ash and Veronica are now committed to take responsibility to vote.  They took leave of their jobs to do the canvassing for weeks, 10 hours a day at a rate of $12 an hour, instead of their usual pay.

I have a question for DV’S and other readers of this site.  Why do young persons not vote?   I have conversations each year with DV’s about voting.  Some care and vote. Others not.  Is voting not electronic enough?  Is it too much of a bother to change one’s address, register to vote or request an absentee ballot?  The power of the ballot box is there.  It is one way to speak your truth and make your choice for candidates willing to mend the inequalities in our society.  Reasonable revenue for responsible programs is what NOTB 2018 is seeking. Get to know the candidates and vote.

5. How do you view the ministry of Nuns on the Bus in relation to our Dominican mission and the ministries of St. Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena?

The voting for tax justice, is a call to accountability for those charged with serving the common good. As Catherine spoke to religious authorities to do the right thing ,we hold our leaders accountable. Like Dominic, we try to engage in dialogue to help folks see the truth of the impact of their actions on those who they many not have in their sights.    Out of sight, out of mind.
Sister Bernadine (with microphone) with Sisters at St. Sabina Church in Chicago

6. Any final thoughts you wish to share?

The 2017 Tax bill will create a deficit of $1.7 trillion in our budget.  Cuts to social services, education, healthcare, housing and nutrition programs will be made to offset the giveaway in tax cuts to the 1% and to corporations. Visit to follow the issues and ride along.

Welcome!  DON’T FORGET TO VOTE November 6th.  Thanks.

For a complete Nuns on the Bus schedule of their most recent October tour, visit

At Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles