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By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Outreach Program Director, Gianna House
September 15, 2020, Detroit – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, struggles with job loss and worries about obtaining vital necessities were real and far-reaching. Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Center in Eastpointe, whose mission is to provide support and resources to mothers in need, looked at creative ways to continue to serve these women during this unprecedented time.
Gianna House opened a residence for pregnant teens ages 13 through 17 just over a year ago. While we did not accept new residents during the first, uncertain months of the pandemic, we continued to provide loving support to our resident teen and celebrated the August birth of her beautiful, healthy son. Teens may come any time during their pregnancy and remain up to a year after birthing to continue their academic education and gain parenting and life skills.
In addition, for the past five years, Gianna House has been a resource for underserved mothers of any age through a vibrant Outreach Program. In looking for ways to continue to help while our center was quarantining, our Outreach Program was expanded to include online learning opportunities for community mothers to continue to attend our classes. Mothers who take classes receive “baby bucks,” which they can use to purchase items from our closets, such as diapers, wipes, and clothing – all donated to Gianna House throughout the year.
Starting in May, modified classes were led virtually by our volunteer facilitators. As each class is completed, mothers email reflections on what they learned in class and what they need to purchase for their babies. Each Monday they pick up their items at designated times from the Gianna House porch.
“I found Gianna House very soon after COVID hit my community,” said Carmen, a mother from Macomb County, Michigan. “I was newly pregnant and very nervous. I had recently lost my stable job and money has been very tight with the conditions of the world shutdown. I was home, which made it very easy to conduct classes online and to earn diapers and other baby supplies for my son. I’m very happy GH is here to help women and families like me. They are a true blessing.”
Myleka, the single mom of five children, ages 2 to 12, from Wayne County, Michigan, also describes Gianna House as a blessing because of its online courses. “Not only did Gianna House bless us mentally but they have also helped by blessing us with the necessities that we need for our little ones,” she said. “Being able to reach out for help at a time like this and receive it was a real blessing. I would like to thank Gianna House and all of their sponsors for helping me and my family. Thank you for thinking about moms and families like mine during this pandemic!”
Finding teachers with the capability to conduct online classes was a bit challenging, but networking with established groups such as CARE of Southeast Michigan, Ascension Health System’s Southeast Michigan Community Health, and Community Housing Network, Inc., has been a great help. It works both ways – they provide great classes and we refer moms to their programs.
“As part of our national mission at Ascension, our goal is to serve the most vulnerable populations,” said Neefesha Marion, LLMSW, of Ascension Infant Mortality Program’s Jubilee Parenting Support Group. “It has been a great experience working with Gianna House, providing women and families parenting education.”
CARE’s Early Learning and Parent Education Director, Tonia Pauli, thanked Gianna House for its “unwavering support of the moms in our community. Through our state’s COVID-19 closures, Gianna House has collaborated with us to continue to provide workshops and education.”
Gianna House is now accepting applications for new residents, using safety procedures to ensure the continued health of all staff and residents. For more information please call 586-445-0440 or visit www.giannahouse.org.
September 14, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – For the past three years, Adrian Dominican Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, has played a special role in a canonical network of Catholic Sisters throughout the world. Her term as delegate for the United States, North America Constellation 3 of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) has given her a greater sense of global needs and responses – and a profound appreciation of the commitment of Catholic Sisters throughout the world.
“The greatest takeaway is that there is an extraordinary organization in Rome that represents the interests of congregations globally,” Sister Patricia said. The congregations of women religious around the world “differ very much from one another, but I found a commonality in mission, to live religious life authentically, to be in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable, and to share the charism of religious life globally with each other.”
As a delegate, Sister Patricia had opportunities to meet with Sisters from other nations – and from throughout the United States. For the past three years, she has served in leadership at the regional and global level with the other U.S. delegate, Sister Constance Phelps, SCL, Community Director of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas. Both were elected in 2017 and completed their term in August 2020.
The UISG offers an opportunity every third year for the Major Superiors of all member women’s congregations throughout the world to gather. The most recent general assembly was May 6-10, 2019, in Rome. About 820 Major Superiors from 80 communities attended that meeting under the theme “Sowers of Prophetic Hope.” As a delegate, Sister Patricia helped to plan the event.
The plenary gatherings offer the opportunity to “learn the story of women religious from other cultures and other countries and a chance to support each other and to be formed,” Sister Patricia said. “It is a forum for women religious to meet and share on issues of religious life.”
The United States Constellation is one of 37 constellations in the UISG structure, each based on regions of continents and each represented by one or two delegates. The U.S. Constellation represents 143 congregations of women religious. Membership in the UISG is made up of the Major Superior – in the case of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the Prioress – of each member congregation.
“The delegates form an international council,” Sister Patricia explained. “We are available to advise or be consulted by the UISG office in Rome in matters regarding religious life.” The UISG has its own board, which consults with the office on a regular basis, she said.
Sister Patricia attended the November 2017 international delegates meeting in Manila, the Philippines, which drew about 46 delegates to discuss and learn about interculturation. “It’s becoming a global institute for leadership on canonical issues and formation,” Sister Patricia said. The meeting also serves as a “forum for women religious to meet and share on issues of religious life.”
“I have learned from Sister delegates the common commitment to meeting the needs of the people of God, wherever they are,” Sister Patricia said. “I have learned the incredible resiliency and joy that Sisters from other countries exhibit, and their commitment to the Sisters and to the people they serve. I benefitted tremendously from [interacting with] people from different cultural and racial backgrounds and identities.”
The delegates also convene an annual meeting of all Superiors General in their own Constellation. Members of the U.S. Constellation usually gather the day after the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) assembly, Sister Patricia explained.
Sister Patricia and Sister Constance worked together on the agenda for this year’s August 15 gathering of the United States Constellation, highlighting care for Earth and updating members on the work of the UISG.
The Zoom call technology was arranged by the Communications and Technology Departments of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Brad McCullar, Director of Technology, and Sheila Wathen, Assistant Director of Communications, did “yeo-people’s work in getting this organized,” Sister Patricia said. She also gave credit to her assistant, Mary Weeber, and Sister Constance’s assistant, Pamela Logan, for the “behind-the-scenes organizing.”
During their service together as delegates, Sisters Patricia and Constance strove to increase the connection and conversations between the UISG and the LCWR. “LCWR’s mission is to attend to the needs of the elected leadership in the U.S., but there are so many common commitments [between the two groups] – to the environment, anti-human trafficking, protection of girls and women,” Sister Patricia said. “When we can build those connections globally, it enhances the work that we can do locally.”
Just as the Adrian Dominican Congregation served the needs of the Constellation, Sister Patricia said that her service as delegate benefitted the Congregation tremendously. Serving as a delegate “gave me a wider global view,” she said. “Congregational leadership isn’t only about the Congregation because we live in a wider world.”
Feature photo: Sisters Constance Phelps, SCL, left, and Patricia Siemen, OP, delegates for the U.S. Constellation, stand outside the retreat house during the UISG international delegates meeting in Manila in November 2017.