The Anawim Community


White Coat Reflections: Dominican Republic Mission Trip

by Sr. Karen Willenbring MD

March, 2016


White Coat ReflectionsThere is a song out now playing on Christian music stations by Danny Gokey called, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again”. The true story behind the song is that there was a pastor who had a heart surgeon in his congregation. The pastor wanted to see a heart surgery and so permission was obtained, and while he was watching the open heart surgery he witnessed an incredible event. When the surgery was completed and they went to shock the heart back to beating again once off cardiac bypass, the woman’s heart would not start beating. They tried everything and it wasn’t working. The pastor saw the heart surgeon lean down to the woman and he said to her – “This is your doctor. I have repaired your heart. It is OK. I need you to tell your heart to beat again.” With that, the woman’s heart began to beat again. Deep within, she had to consent to the healing process and signal to her heart to start beating. The obvious parallel is the God heals our hearts. When we bring to him our heartaches, our hurts, our grief, our sorrows, our struggles, God brings about the healing of all of this... but we have to consent to that healing. We have to be open to it and cooperate with the grace of God’s action in our hearts and our lives. God whispers in our ears, “This is God who loves you. I have repaired your heart... I have healed your hurt….I have taken your grief to myself... I know of your struggles and I am with you in it all... you are not alone... It is OK. I need you to tell your heart to beat again.”

I, myself, had such an experience of God filling my whole being with his healing grace and causing “my heart to beat again” when I went on a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic in January of 2016 with a team of 6 people. Three of us were physicians and three were assistants. We joined an additional 150 volunteers, mostly college students, at a mission program called, “Meeting God in Missions” that has been active in the Dominican Republic for almost 30 years. As part of their program, we went out to remote villages where Haitians live in the middle of the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic. They do hard manual labor in the sugar cane fields for very minimal wages. The poverty and lack of medical care was heart breaking. For two of the days we saw patients outside under the trees at the edge of one of the villages. There was no electricity or running water in these villages. The people we served were the hard working men and women field workers and so many of their babies and children. Many of the Haitians had musculoskeletal pain from their work in the fields. We were able to provide relief from pain through prolotherapy injections for their ligament and joint pain. Their appreciation was so heartfelt. Many of the children and adults were malnourished and had parasite infections of their intestinal tracts and skin. We also took care of routine medical problems as well for the children such as ear infections, eye infections, respiratory infections and skin rashes. As a medical team we would see over 100 patients a day. Many would wait all day in line to be seen without one word of complaint. At the end of each day we would continue treating patients back at the mission who showed up at the door from the surrounding area and the family members of the mission staff. There were so many needs and so few to meet those needs.

During it all, God was gently infusing me with his grace and healing my own heart. I had come on this mission trip, exhausted and grieving from just having lost my Dad two weeks prior. He had a difficult and painful four month struggle with pancreatic cancer and died on December 17th with our whole family present with him. With a heavy heart I went to serve those in great need and found myself healed in a way that I could never have predicted. Reaching out in compassion to those who are suffering, and allowing God’s love to work through me brought God’s healing love to my own soul. I found myself transformed by the welcoming nature of the people we served, the joy in their spirits despite the poverty they lived with every day, the sacred encounters of physician and patient, and the camaraderie and support of fellow team members. Finding meaning again in medicine was the experience of all of us. In fact, it was a sacred exchange between physicians, the student and other medical volunteers, the mission staff, and the Haitians and Dominicans.

  • In the sacred encounter with Haitian and Dominican patients - Physician lives are transformed and healed, meaning in medicine is rediscovered and restored.
  • In the sacred encounter with volunteer physicians – Haitian and Dominican lives are transformed and healed, hope is rediscovered and restored.
  • In the serving of the poor and under the mentoring of physicians – Students and other medical volunteers are inspired and empowered, and their lives are transformed and will never be the same.

Attached to this website is a PowerPoint presentation of my time and experience in the Dominican Republic that is set to the song by Danny Gokey called “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”. The music is not included in the PowerPoint but to enjoy it better you can find the song on the internet by searching in Google for “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again by Danny Gokey” and the You Tube video should come up. Hit play on your computer or iPhone and then move the slides according to the lyrics typed on each slide. On the second slide you will see a picture of both Sr. Therese and my Dad, Ernie. I continue to grieve their deaths from this past year, but I know they are both so thrilled with the outreach to the poor on this mission trip and the ones to come. Click here to view the presentation.

May you hear God whisper to you, “This is God who loves you. I have repaired your heart... I have healed your hurt... I have taken your grief to myself... I know of your struggles and I am with you in it all... you are not alone... It is OK. I need you to tell your heart to beat again.”


Sr. Therese DushMay 27, 2015 – Today we commemorate the one month anniversary of death of our beloved Sr. Therese Dush C.A., the founder of the Anawim Community, our spiritual leader, our companion, and our friend. It has been a month of intense grieving of the loss of her presence with us on this earth, but also a time of intense gratitude for the many graces God has blessed our Anawim Community with during this difficult time. Those graces have helped sustain us and include the prayers and support of so many people whose lives were touched in some way by Sr. Therese and who have reached out to us in so many encouraging and comforting ways. For those who are walking closely with us we are eternally grateful.


At the funeral, the chapel was filled to capacity, with standing room only, and every single person there had felt the impact of Sr. Therese’s life upon their own in some significant way. Hers was a life well lived! She had that gift of living intensely the Gospel message and drawing others deeper into that message and encouraging them in their own spiritual path. She offered hope and inspiration and healing and comfort to thousands of people by just being faithful to the call God had given to her for her life. She embraced her own humanness and limitations and invited us to do the same. Then, she allowed God to transform her to become more and more like Christ, and she invites us to do the same. In the last few weeks, she embraced suffering with an openness, and a willingness, and even an attitude of joy that we have only read about in the lives of the saints. It was her way of walking as close to Jesus as she could to unite her suffering with His. She prayed for many intentions as she willingly entered into her suffering so as to be a part of the mystery of redemptive suffering. Our hearts are still grieving, yet the grace of God remains active and evident and gives us comfort that she now shares completely in what our faith says will be ours, too, someday. We rejoice that she now shares the joy of the Risen Christ and walks with Him in that place where every tear is wiped away and every burden is laid down.


Her example is inspiring and challenging - - do I live my life with a level of faith that is deep, and convicted, and transforming so that others I encounter are drawn into the Gospel message? Do I embrace my own limitations and allow God to transform me more and more to be like Christ? When I suffer, do I unite it to Christ’s suffering and see it as a way to walk along with Christ and offer it for the intentions of others? Do I offer hope and healing and inspiration by my words or my presence? Am I faithful to the call God has given to me for my life? If we do these, we will have lives that are well-lived!


Sr. Therese, may you know of our great love for you and our gratitude for your presence and your love in our lives!

Sr. Karen Willenbring, Sr. Ruth Ann Madera, Sr. Suzanne Thibault
The Anawim Community


Jesus Christ is Risen… He is truly Risen! Alleluia!


Have you recognized Jesus? Easter gives us many opportunities to see Jesus in our midst. In the breaking of the bread, in the calling of our name, in the midst of the journey… even behind closed doors. Jesus is in our midst and journeying with us through the Paschal Mystery.

Holy Week in Frenchville was as beautiful as the colors of the rainbow. Each day and each celebration brought with it the community and stories of the many people who came together to worship and pray.

Palm Sunday was beautiful with the sun and procession from Bethany to the chapel and the singing of Hosanna! all the way over. Each day of the week more people arrived to become part the Triduum Retreat. The joy of being in touch with our Jewish heritage at the Seder Meal moved into the Christ centered celebration of Eucharist and the washing of the feet. Taking time for adoration and deep silence through the night led to the journey of the Cross and into the praying with the Passion in the afternoon. Music was the gift of prayer around the cross on Good Friday night as we shared in the Taize prayer in the chapel. Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil gave us all the opportunity to experience the love of God from Creation to Resurrection. The light returning to the Christ candle and renewing our Baptismal Promises and the return of the instruments, guitar, flute, keyboard and bells brought great joy in our community as I am sure it did in yours as well. To be united to all people all around the world who have heard Jesus call their name and have seen Him in the breaking of bread is a connecting force that brings with it joy and peace.

May we all continue to recognize our Lord and Savior in the many ways He choices to reveal Himself in our lives and in our hearts. Let us take the time to share the Good News with those around us. Happy Easter. He is Risen… He is truly Risen! Alleluia!


Lenten Reflection: Lent is the time for metanoia!

February, 2015

What is in my life that blocks the flow of God's love? What would it take to remove it? This is "metanoia": changing the direction we are looking for happiness. God reminds us, "Though your sins be scarlet, though your sins be numerous as the sands on the seashore, I will wash them away." What is in my life that blocks the flow of God's love? What would it take to remove it? God's compassion is made visible in the Paschal mystery: the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If there is no major sin in my life, then what are my attachments that keep me from running into the arms of God's mercy? Lent is the time for metanoia – May you find the mercy of God as you change the direction you are looking for happiness.

From Sr. Therese

February, 2015


As we move toward the celebration of Valentine’s Day, everywhere we look we see red hearts. The days are short, and many of them are overcast and dark. The cold winter hits us with a loneliness and a longing for spring, and for signs of life and color. And then we see red hearts reminding us of our own basic core of goodness and that we are loved. Yes, we are loved. We receive flowers and candy, something pretty to wear, and a lovely dinner that we don’t have to cook. Thank you, God, for Valentine’s Day!


I was on retreat some years ago and the retreat director gave the following definition for love: "When I say I love you, I mean that I will do everything I can to help you become the very best person you can be." I believe that Jesus Christ, by his life and resurrection, gave us the best expression of this kind of love.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Advent Reflection

December, 2014

I invite you to pray with this quote below that you may come to a deeper awareness of what it means that our God would come to our poor and wounded earth and show us how to be fully human and share in His Divine Life. During the Christmas season I invite you to go out into the crisp star-filled night realizing how small each of us is compared to the universe and yet, we are personally known and loved by the God who became a baby in Bethlehem. Allow these last few days of Advent to be filled with anticipation, peace and joy as we prepare to celebrate this MOST HOLY NIGHT.

“Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love, enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.


Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all His love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands with joy?


Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing. Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer enough and it is time for birth.


……..Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God’s image.”

Taken from A Sky Full of Children by Madeline L’ Engle

Advent is The Season of Waiting
Don’t be afraid, something is happening TO you, pay attention!
December, 2014

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings, so, too is giving up control of our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fears. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us. New things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance towards life in a world preoccupied with control.” 1
If we pray with Zachariah, Mary and Elizabeth in their waiting we find that they affirm for each other that something is happening that is worth waiting for:

“This is what prayer is all about, it is coming together around the promise. This is what celebration is all about, it is lifting up what is already there. This is what Eucharist is all about, it is saying “Thank You” for the seed that has been planted. It is saying “we are waiting for the Lord, who has already come.” 2

“Simone Will, a Jewish writer, said, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.“ 3
Let us have this attitude of waiting that allows us to be people who live in a very chaotic world and survive spiritually.

1-2 Henri Nouwen
3 Simone Will

White Coat Reflections - “The Feast of Christ the King”
November, 2014

On Sunday, November 23, 2014 we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year. We celebrate Jesus as our King. The readings of the Mass, however, do not give us images of splendor and thrones and royal trappings. We instead see what “King” means from God’s point of view --- to be a servant leader, not a royal ruler. The first reading from Ezekiel gives us that view. God says, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep… as a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place… I myself will pasture my sheep… the lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal… ” In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Last Judgment when he will separate the sheep from the goats according to how each has responded to the needs of others, and when doing so also served Him: “I was hungry, you gave me food; I was thirsty, you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus acted as the servant leader, showing us how to live this call of our Baptism to also be servant leaders.

I am reminded of a recent encounter at the clinic where certainly this call has been lived out concretely by a volunteer dentist and volunteer dental assistant. One of our patients had just finished seeing the dentist and dental assistant for the final adjustment of their new dentures. She came to the front desk where I and our office manager were working and said, “Look at me!!!” She grinned broadly and said, “I have not been able to truly smile like this for 30 years!” She had gone without a top set of dentures for all of that time. She was so excited to now be able to eat foods she couldn’t eat before and to be free to smile without feeling self-conscious. This was truly a case of “clothing the naked” by our dental volunteers using God and their talents to better the life of another.

As we close out the Church year, it is a wonderful time to reflect upon our own lives and see how we have lived out this call of our Baptism to be servant leaders. How have we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the ill, and visited those imprisoned… ? How can we do so in the new Church year?

If you are interested in being a servant leader through volunteering with the Anawim Sisters and want to know more about our ministries in this past year, please see our newsletter here.


“You Cannot Be Sad With a Grateful Heart”
Anthony DeMello ~ November, 2014

With a spirit of thanks pray a psalm a day!
You are invited to pray a psalm of thanks each day for a week.
(Sun.) Ps.65; (Mon.) Ps. 95:1-7; (Tues.) Ps. 100; (Wed.) Ps. 103; (Thurs.) Ps. 111; (Fri.) Ps. 113;
& (Sat.) Ps. 138



Read More ...

October's Reflection
October, 2014

During the month of October many have focused on devotion to Mary and her willingness to say “YES” to God.

Last week one of the Sisters was directing a retreat for young people who were preparing for confirmation. She asked them to take a few minutes to reflect upon a God Moment or experience that they have had in the past month or so. They were then invited to share. One of the young ladies who is extremely accomplished in music shared that she had the opportunity to try out for first chair in a symphony orchestra. This would be an exceptional opportunity for her. When they set the date for her interview it was the same day as her confirmation retreat – what to do? She prayed about it, talked it over with her mother and decided that, for her, the confirmation retreat was more important. She explained her situation to the people with whom she had the appointment and interview. Two days later, and three days before the retreat, she received a phone call. They had reviewed her tape of music and read her letters of recommendation and decided to accept her without the interview. What a joy to know someone who takes the risk and keeps their priorities straight.

I invite you to reflect on your own God Moment, especially during this beautiful fall season and the grandeur of the Lord is everywhere. Psalm 8 is a beautiful prayer that helps us to stay in touch with how much we are loved.


From the Desk of Sr. Ruth Ann
September, 2014

Sr. Ruth AnnWe need to nourish our prayer life by praying with scripture, (Lectio Divina), other spiritual reading, taking a walk in nature and appreciating the beauty of God's creation. Being open to other forms of prayer besides the ones we grew up with will enlighten our lives and our spirits. There is no end to growing in our relationship with God. God's invitation is before us every day to come to know Him and ourselves better.

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Sr. Suzanne - Community of AnawimOn the Road with Sr. Suzanne

September, 2014

Students and adults have come and gone for the summer. They have journeyed to the mountain and “caught a glimpse of all that they could be” (from the theme song: We’ve Been to the Mountain). Our summer brought with it ….


moments of insight:
“I realized a simple ‘hello’ could lead to a great conversation”
moments of challenge:
“I learned so much about myself and never thought I was good at caring for the elderly.”
moments of joy:
“I felt so accepted in the group and gained more friends than I could have hoped for.”
and moments of God:
“I discovered God all around me, actually experiencing God in my life this week, from the beautiful stars to the smile on the face of the person I helped.”

Read More ...

White Coat Reflections

August, 2014


On August 22, we celebrated the Feast Day of the Queenship of Mary. The Gospel reading at Mass was the passage of the Annunciation, where the angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what such a greeting this might be. The passage goes on to describe the interaction between the angel and Mary. She is told she will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she is to call Jesus, and that he would be great and called the Son of the Most High. Mary asks the angel how this will occur and then after the explanation, she replies, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” The story is familiar to us and, because of that, it can lose some of the wonder and mystery. From Mary’s “yes”, the lives of all people were changed - - God’s love came to earth in the person of Jesus and brought about the salvation of all. One person’s “yes” to God’s call impacted all of creation! Read More ...


From the Desk of Sr. Ruth Ann
August, 2014


In a resplendent cloud the Holy Spirit appeared, The Father's voice was heard:
This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him."
Matthew 17:5


As we enter into the Eighteenth week in Ordinary Time we find something not ordinary, but extraordinary taking place right in the middle of the week - The Transfiguration of the Lord! We, too, like Peter may have wanted to build tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah in an attempt to hold onto this most divine and glorious experience and stay there forever. We, too, have had moments of God's glory in our own lives, which many times have proved to be our touch stone, our source that keeps us going through the tough times in our lives. Read More ...

"A Great Treasure"
July, 2014

In this past Sunday’s Gospel we heard Jesus tell us, “The Kingdom of Heaven is a great treasure!” He tells of people who lose a valuable item and go in search of it. I asked myself, “What have I lost in the past that made me search and search and search?” I lost my ring, the outward symbol of my covenant promise I made to God at my final profession of vows as a Sister! It was not the ring that was so valuable, but what it represented. The ring gave witness to my commitment to God.

The Kingdom of God is a great treasure! What do you value? What would you spend time and money and prayer in search of? What does the Kingdom of God mean for you? What do you most value? Take time to reflect and speak with God about it!!


On the Road with Sr. Suzanne

July, 2014

"Traveling to the Mountain"

To dwell within these mountains is to experience
        -in their heights, God’s majesty
        -in their weight, God’s strength
        -in their hollows, God’s embrace
        -in their waters, God’s cleansing
        -in their haze, God’s mystery
In these mountains we truly find a holy place

Excerpt from “At Home In the Web of Life”
Summer is a time of year to travel to the mountains of Frenchville, Clearfield County, PA, for more than 200 youth and adults leaders. Read More ...


White Coat Reflections

July, 2014


This past Sunday we heard in the Gospel reading, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest….” In these past few weeks, we have encountered at the free clinic so many who are burdened and in need of “rest” and care. We are seeing more and more patients with serious medical problems who are finding themselves literally desparate for medical care - - patients with recent strokes, those with clotting disorders causing blood clots in their legs and lungs, those with a new diagnosis of cancer, some with recent heart attacks… Read More ...

From the Desk of Sr. Ruth Ann

July, 2014



"Father of all nations and ages, we recall the day when our country claimed its place among the family of nations; for what has been achieved we give you thanks, for the work that still remains we ask your help, and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever." Read More ...


Reflection on the Sacred Heart

of Jesus & Immaculate Heart of Mary

June, 2014


We celebrate this Friday and Saturday the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When I think of the heart I think of love, I think of life, I think of closeness, I think of compassion, and I think of mercy. I had the privilege of growing up in a Catholic home. In the living room on one wall hung a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the other wall the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was my privilege in May to bring flowers and put them in front of the picture of Mary and in June (the month of roses) I brought roses and put in front of the picture of the Sacred Heart. I was just a little tyke, we lived on a farm and there were always lots of flowers. As a 4-5-6yr old, I had a great imagination and felt sure that Jesus and Mary smiled at me in appreciation of my gesture of love. Read More ...

Sister Therese
June, 2014


“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.
Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble of heart.
Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Matthew 11 vs. 28-30


Read More ...


From the Desk of Sr. Ruth Ann
April, 2014


Journeying through Lent

Be near, O Lord, to those who plead before you, and look kindly on those who place their hope in your mercy, that, cleansed from the stain of their sins, they may persevere in holy living and be made full heirs of your promise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Read More ...


White Coat Reflections

by Sr. Karen Willenbring MD
March, 2014


The Suffering and Death of Christ


During Lent, we pray with one of the pivotal moments that underlie our faith – the suffering and death of Jesus - - In Psalm 22, Jesus’ true experience is described accurately, as we see echoed in Matthew 27. Jesus is in the height of his suffering – crucified on the cross and being mocked and jeered by the very people who had sung his praises earlier on in the week. What could have gone so wrong – from the celebration of his entry into Jerusalem, now to his agony in the garden, his capture, beatings, carrying of the cross, and then being nailed to the cross? The suffering in all of this is hard for us to really look at and we often like to move right on to the rest of the story – the joy of the resurrection. None of us certainly likes suffering and we do everything we can to avoid it. But at this time in Lent, let’s spend some time sinking in to this mystery. The suffering of Jesus – what does this mean for us? Read More ...


The Joy of the Gospel
February, 2014


Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, not only challenges us but shows us by his own example what it looks like to be on fire for the Gospel. We are challenged daily to live with the energy and zeal of putting flesh and bones on the Good News revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Read More ...

Reflection on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – February 2nd


In obedience to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary come to the temple 40 days after the birth of their son Jesus to make the customary gift of two turtle doves in thanksgiving – they are greeted by Simeon the Prophet and Anna (who living in the temple and most likely knew Mary all of Mary’s life). Simeon in prayer had been promised that his eyes would see the Messiah and Anna knew through her prayer of the suffering, Mary would need to embrace in being the Mother of the Savior. Mary is told her own heart will be pierced with many sorrows. Read More ...


Archive - 2013 Reflections


November 2014 Newsletter

Anawim Community - PO Box 129 - Frenchville, PA 16836 - 814.263.4518 -