“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
On July 20, 1995 I was privileged to be a part of the Founding Chapter of the Dominican Sisters of Hope. After years of work to create a “new entity,” three congregations of faith-filled, dedicated Sisters joined arms and walked into a new adventure. My identification as an Associate with one of those original congregations grew to include new people, new places, new experiences, and a new identity as a woman of Hope. I had spent almost ten years growing into my identity as a Dominican woman. At first I only knew that I was connected to remarkable Dominican women, but I didn’t see myself as such. I vividly remember being at an Associates retreat in Jersey City when we read an article by Mary O’Driscoll, OP. A light went on and for the first time I realized, “I am a Dominican woman and my life is meant to reflect that.” Growing into being a woman of Hope has added a new dimension to all aspects of my life. Taking a hopeful stance in this world can be counter-cultural. Our society values having a realistic, sometimes pessimistic, view of life. In claiming God’s gift of Hope we have to risk being seen as naïve or unrealistic. But Hope doesn’t mean we don’t deal in reality. It just means that we trust in God’s love for us and for the world. It means that we share Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
As the Dominican Sisters of Hope began their journey, they couldn’t foresee what the next decades would bring. As they lived into this new adventure, rather than create a structure on paper and live to make that happen, an effort was made to allow growth to happen “organically.” The phrase “organic model” became one of real meaning, as well as slightly ironic when things didn’t go according to expectations. It was a valuable lesson to me that control can be stifling to real growth. Hope lets us do as Anne Lamott describes: “..show up and try to do the right thing…you don’t give up.”
When we entered the Year of Hope in 2019 we surely couldn’t foresee what that year would bring. And yet here we are almost two years later and by showing up in Hope we have lived through many unexpected circumstances. Certainly our lives have been different than we had planned. In many ways living with the experience of the pandemic has given us a clearer perspective on the common challenges faced by the people of earth. I know I have a new understanding of my place in the world, the need for justice for all, the shortcomings that have led to racism and inequality in our country, and what I am being called to do. Having Hope isn’t a passive state. We have to be active participants, even when we can’t see the shape of the coming days.
At this point in my life, it sometimes seems that the actions I can take are too small to make a difference. But opening myself to new ways of seeing, speaking up when I encounter injustice and prejudice, and listening to the experience of others can all make a difference in my life and the lives of others. I can challenge myself to be engaged, to take daily action, and to support the efforts of others.
Being a Dominican woman and a woman of Hope has changed my life and my understanding of the world. I once heard that we become the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves. I have been blessed to be surrounded by women of Hope dedicated to God, to truth, to contemplation, and to justice. I don’t think I could wish to become anything better.
One of my favorite quotes is from Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well…” I often start my daily journal entry with those words. Recently I ran across an expanded version which adds: “…for there is a Force of Love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” This is the basis of our Hope, that no matter how dark the hours before the dawn, no matter how futile our efforts seem or how cloudy our understanding, we believe in the coming day, and in our God, the Force of Love in the universe. Like birds who sing in the pre-dawn darkness, we don’t have to wait for the first light to begin singing.
At 3 pm on July 20, 1995 the Dominican Sisters of Hope were founded. On July 20, 2019, we began our 25th year since our founding. We declare a YEAR OF HOPE! In celebration, we will share a reflection on the 20th of every month. This is the twenty-second reflection in this series. Read all reflections here.
This reflection was written by
Associate Dominican Sister of Hope Martha LaVallee
Martha LaVallee is an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Hope and a spiritual director and retreat facilitator. She is a retired librarian and a wife, mother, and grandmother.