1. Your Skills and Talents

Different from a day job, skills and talents are the passions that drive us and the things that bring us fulfillment. These are things that money can’t buy, and that change our lives when they present themselves.

Sister Jo-Ann Iannotti always knew that she wanted to be a writer, but she was in the convent for nearly two decades before she discovered that she had a passion for photography, and that she was good at it.

“I never wanted to be a photographer,” Sister divulges. Now, fifty years after entering the convent, Sister Jo-Ann has had her poetry published, she has had solo exhibits of her photography, and she’s still going strong.

At the end of the day, she’s grateful for her creative bent, even though it took her years to fully realize it.

“Whether it’s through writing or whether it’s through photography, I have discovered myself as an artist,” Sister Jo-Ann says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my two loves in this way.”

What talents bring you joy and excite you? How can you put your passions to use today for free?

2. Friendships that Last a Lifetime

Come on an Artists’ Retreat at Mariandale and you’ll meet some new artists, but you’ll also find close friends who have been attending these retreats for nearly twenty years. Rose Petronella, who now helps facilitate the retreats, is quick to mention not only the creative support she gets from the group, but also the true friendships that sustain her.

“I was deeply grateful for the creativity, friendship, warmth, acceptance, encouragement of the retreat,” Ms. Petronella says.

Chances are, you, too, have a network of people who nourish you in your life. Take a moment to give thanks for them, or, better yet, give them a call or send a note to let them know how thankful you are!

Sister Jo-Ann Iannotti signs copies of her book

3. Surprises

“Our God is a God of surprises,” Sister Agnes Boyle says. Simple as it seems, this is true for all of us.

When she was in her early twenties, Sister Agnes had no idea that she would be called to become a sister. After she entered the convent, Sister Agnes didn’t realize that saying “yes” to a mission from her superior would result in best friendships for forty-five years.

“In our community here, we came into this through different paths not knowing one another,” Sister Agnes explains of the four women with whom she lives, also known as the Guzman Community. “I think not knowing one another is [indicative of] the surprise that’s here in religious life.”

Sister Barbara Hamilton, who also lives in the Guzman Community, agrees. “I’m so grateful to God that we’ve touched this peace and that we’ve gotten together,” she says.

How have you been surprised for the better in your life? How can you be more open to surprises today?

4. The Beauty of Nature

Whether it’s snowy, cloudy, or bright and sunny where you are, nature is surely a thing to behold. Take a moment to soak up sunlight, notice the little pops of color against a gray sky, or taste a snowflake on your tongue.

After all, for the Dominican Sisters of Hope, nature isn’t just scenery; it’s part of our larger community.

“We Dominican Sisters of Hope and our co-creators are grateful to have been a part of this growing sense of community, which now includes the bees,” Sister Bette Ann Jaster, a Dominican Sister of Hope and bee advocate, wrote in a statement.

The Sisters welcomed bees onto their Mariandale campus in 2015; now, when sisters pass the hives, they whisper “You are hope” and offer thanks for the buzzing reminders of the bounty of Earth.

Want to relish nature, but not sure where to start? Here are some ideas of how to connect with the natural world around you, and how to give thanks for it.

Sister Debbie with orphans in Nicaragua

5. New Opportunities

Sister Linda Rivers is no stranger to career changes. After teaching for thirty-seven years, Sister Linda transitioned into retreat ministry. After she began serving at Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center, her ministry took yet another turn. In 2015, while still working at Mariandale, Sister Linda graduated from a Spiritual Directors Training Program at Linwood Spiritual Center.

“It’s really a privilege to listen to people’s spiritual stories and try to move them onto the next step of where God wants them,” Sister Linda says.

Although she hadn’t considered becoming a spiritual director previously, she is happy with this turn in her ministry, and thankful for the new capacity for connection that it brings.

“As I get older, this is something I can do to continue my ministry,” Sister Linda added. “I’m very grateful to the community for supporting me in this.”

Are there new opportunities that you can seek to make your life fuller? Have you already taken opportunities that bring you joy?

If you’re looking for some ideas, why not consider our next point…

6. The Opportunity to Serve Others

No doubt, going to Nicaragua sixty-plus times will leave you with a lot to be thankful for. On her trips to the country, Sister Debbie Blow sees poverty first-hand: villages destroyed by natural disasters, families without access to education and healthcare, and homes without electricity and water are all inescapable. But, amidst the need, Sister Debbie discovered a gift. She became grateful for all that she had, and felt empowered to enter into a mutually giving relationship with the people she met.

“Gratitude empowers,” Sister Debbie explains. “It’s an empowerment that allows you to share your blessings. Because you’re grateful, you are moved to action.”

Whether it’s a mission trip, a faith-sharing community, or a simple good deed, where are the opportunities in your life to better serve others? How can you take advantage of them today?

7. Faith

According to Sister Julie Pintal, faith isn’t something we have; it’s a gift we’re given.

“Faith is a gift from God. You don’t have it. God gives you faith if you pray for it. He never refuses anybody,” Sister explains.

As she puts it, she has been fortunate “to breathe religion” since she was born.

Regardless of whether or not we have a calling to religious life, faith is a gift to behold. It’s not only something that you have already, it’s a promise of things to come.

Take a moment to offer up thanks for everything that you’ve been given, especially faith.

Of course, money can buy a lot of things, but it doesn’t necessarily infuse our lives with meaning and joy. Take some time to offer thanksgiving, and you just might find that the things you’re grateful for the most are free, after all.