May 20, 2019, Chicago – During almost 30 years as Mother General of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Mother Mary Gerald Barry sent Sisters to teach in schools throughout the United States — 50 schools in Illinois alone — and encouraged the Sisters to pursue their own education.
Mother Gerald (1881-1961) was recognized for her education efforts on April 27, 2019, when she was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame during an awards gala at the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. She was one of nine to be inducted in 2019. Others were recognized in the areas of arts and humanities, business and industry, public service, religion, science, and sports, and as the “Hometown Hero.”
Established in 2010, the Irish American Hall of Fame seeks to “preserve the ‘story’ of the Irish in America.”
“Mother Gerald Barry was always concerned about education, including her own,” said Sister Kathleen Klingen, OP, who accepted the award on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “As early as age 4, back in County Clare [Ireland], she followed her brothers and sisters to school and got away with it.”
Sister Kathleen, Chapter Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter based in Chicago, recounted the many ways that Mother Gerald encouraged education. She built schools, including Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, and Barry College (now University) in Miami Shores – schools still sponsored by the Congregation. During Mother Gerald’s term of office, 1933 through 1961, students were educated by Adrian Dominican Sisters in 189 elementary and secondary schools in the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
“Mother Gerald insisted that Sisters be educated with at least one master’s degree and encouraged Sisters to continue to study,” Sister Kathleen said. “More than one master’s degree or a doctorate was always welcomed.” Mother Gerald also offered free tuition to Sisters from small or foreign groups at both Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, Michigan, and at Barry. “Consequently, Catholic Sisters are among the most highly educated women of American society,” Sister Kathleen said.
Also, she noted the April 29 Feast Day of Dominican St. Catherine of Siena, “a bold preacher, teacher, and woman of vision in the 14th century. We would do well to remember Mother Mary Gerald Barry as a visionary preacher, master of education who emulated the audacity of our sister Catherine in our own time.”
Finally, Sister Kathleen noted that Mother Gerald had sent Adrian Dominican Sisters to staff 50 schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Rockford, and the Diocese of Joliet. “If you have benefited from a good Catholic education, thank Mother Gerald and her confreres in other congregations of women.”
The full story of Mother Gerald’s ministry as Mother General can be found in To Fields Near and Far by the late Sister Nadine Foley, OP. The book can be ordered through the Weber Center Shop at 517-266-4035.
May 17, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Ashley LaVigne, Social Media Specialist for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Communications, received the 2019 Athena Young Professional Leadership Award in recognition of her involvement as person under 40 who has developed her leadership potential and mentored other women as well.
The award ceremony took place May 9, 2019, in Dominican Hall of Siena Heights University. Ashley was honored in front of her peers from the Offices of Communications and Development, members of the General Council, other Adrian Dominican Sisters, and community members she has come to know through her extensive involvement.
Amy Palmer, Director of Development for the Adrian Dominican Sisters and a long-time colleague and friend of Ashley, presented the award, noting Ashley’s involvement in the Lenawee County community since 2012. Ashley began as the Campaign and Volunteer Engagement Manager at Lenawee United Way, involved in fundraising, event planning, volunteer management, and marketing. She then served at Hospice of Lenawee as Donor Relations Manager. Ashley has worked with the Adrian Dominican Sisters as Social Media Specialist since 2015.
“When Ashley does something, she does it 100 percent,” said Amy, who also worked with Ashley at Lenawee United Way. She noted the many ways that Ashley has been involved in the community, not only as a professional working at non-profit organizations, but in her spare time.
Ashley became involved in the Kiwanis Club of Adrian, recently serving as president of the club. “While successfully juggling work, civic responsibilities, and home life, Ashley also showed them without a doubt that a young, female leader could do an outstanding job as president of the [Kiwanis] Club,” Amy said, quoting Ashley’s friend Rachael Carpenter.
In addition, Ashley became involved in the Adrian Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lenawee United Way Young Leaders Society and the Pillars Club, and enrolled in the Emerging Leaders program for professionals ages 22 to 35. The eight-month program offered monthly, day-long meetings that focused on leadership development in the morning and community development in the afternoon. After graduating from the program, Ashley served as facilitator for two years.
Amy concluded her introduction to Ashley by drawing on a quote from the great Dominican mystic and reformer, St. Catherine of Siena: “‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ May Ashley be an inspiration for all of us as we, too, be who God meant us to be. Ashley is certainly setting the world on fire and for that, we can all be grateful.”
In an interview, Ashley said a highlight of the award ceremony was “being surrounded by my family and friends and the community members who have influenced my life. What I hold dear to my heart are the people I’ve met throughout the past seven years, who I would have never met had I not been hired at United Way.”
Ashley said her key volunteer experience has been involvement with the Kiwanis Club, including the past four years on the leadership team. “One of my greatest challenges was when I served as President,” she said. “Being an introvert, it’s difficult to stand up at a podium in front of 60 people every week.” Another challenge was being “organized enough to lead the meetings and manage the expectations of 100 members. It was a tremendous learning experience, though.” Now Past-President, Ashley also serves Kiwanis as the public relations manager, on the Membership Committee, on the Club Board, and previously on the Community Impact Committee.
In the coming years, Ashley hopes to “continue serving Lenawee County in whatever capacity I’m able to, maintain the relationships that I’ve built, and continue to work hard for the organizations I love.”
Her advice to a young professional beginning a career in a new community? “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask questions. Find a mentor and join an organization that allows you to give back to the community. Be your authentic self.”
Also honored by Athena Lenawee were Londa Pickles, President of Gurdjian Insurance Group, Inc., in Adrian, recipient of the Athena Leadership Award; and County National Bank, recipient of the Athena Parthenon Leadership Award, for its commitment to developing the leadership and skills of women.
Athena Lenawee is a local chapter of Athena International. Inspired by the strength, courage, and wisdom of the Greek goddess, Athena International exists to “support, develop, and honor women leaders.”