Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:11
by Paul Caselton
The Springfield Dominican Associates practice St. Peter’s instruction at their workplaces in many ways. They show that preaching with God’s word and serving with God’s strength are not separate tasks, but different aspects of the same calling. Dominican associates preach by serving in the workplace, finding strength in the word of God. They also find special grace for their working lives through their association with the Dominican community.
Nancy Schrenk of Springfield, Ill., is a teacher with the Sangamon Area Special Education District. As a public-school teacher, she cannot overtly talk about her faith and how it affects her life and teaching. However, Schrenk has found that she does not have just a job, but a ministry of loving and caring for the students and co-workers God has blessed her with. “Situations arise in my workday that require instant discernment, counsel, and/or discipline, and I feel the relationship I foster with God throughout my day helps me to more wisely deal with the crisis of the moment,” Schrenk said.
Schrenk finds her strength to fulfill her ministry in God’s Word and the Eucharist. Her morning routine includes 6:30 a.m. Mass at St. Aloysius, followed by a few minutes spent praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament before she returns home to help her children get ready for the day. She admits that without the faith fed by this nourishment, and the intercessions of those who pray for the Dominican associates, “I could never face the demands of my work.”
Janice Tellier is also from Springfield and works as an executive secretary for the city treasurer’s office. She believes that her faith enables her to work humbly as a member of a team, not seeking credit for herself, and to go above and beyond her job description in helping her coworkers. She has found that her public profession of faith lets her fellow employees and customers know that she will not do anything unethical or immoral. This prevents anyone from even suggesting that she compromise her values. Tellier also believes that the prayers and spiritual support she receives as a Dominican associate have been a real blessing for her.
Marilyn Pessina lives in Las Vegas, where she works for Visual Healing, a business founded by Grace Halloran. Grace is blind, and her story is included in Jack Canfield’s book, Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body and Soul. Marilyn is Grace’s personal assistant, and finds her faith is fed daily by working in her ministry. Marilyn says she is proud of her association with the Dominicans, and that “I still find an inner peace when thinking of my wonderful sponsor, Sister Regina Marie Bernet.”
Lois George is a former Dominican Associate from Mokena, Ill. She is a retired public-school teacher and works part-time as a ministry rather than for the money. She works for a water purification company owned by a husband and wife who run the business themselves, with the help of their daughter. The husband has cancer, and when the daughter recently had a baby, they needed help. George, as a customer who values their product, and as a retiree whose work schedule is flexible, volunteered to help out. She sees her work as a ministry, allowing her to help the owners, to bring a valuable product to the public, and to serve and educate customers.
George has something to teach about the value of being an associate even though she is no longer active with the Dominican associate program. She found her need for community—which she calls a pillar of the Dominicans—could be better satisfied by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Their motherhouse is only a ten-minute drive from her home, and she is in formation as an associate there.
Judy Jepsen-Popel of Paxton, Ill., is also a retired teacher. She now serves as director of religious education in her home parish, and is in her second year of the New Wine pastoral ministry program in Kankakee, Ill. As a Dominican associate for 15 years, she says she tried to bring the Dominican charism to her profession as a teacher and preacher. She has also traveled twice with the Springfield Dominicans to Fort Benning, Ga., to protest against the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
These associates serve with the strength God has given them, and are fed by God’s word and by their relationship with the Dominicans. By living their faith in the workplace, they are preaching the word of God.
The author is a Dominican Associate and a former member of the JUST Words editorial board. This first appeared in JUST Words Vol. 5 No. 2, Spring 2005.