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August 9, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Six women were formally welcomed as Adrian Dominican Associates on the evening of August 5 during Partners V, the fifth annual gathering of Associates. 

Associates are women and men – at least 18 years of age – who share in the vision and mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters through a non-vowed commitment.

Mary  Lach, Director of Associate Life, presides over the Ritual of Acceptance.

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, presided over the Ritual of Acceptance, in St. Catherine Chapel at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. Deb Carter, Associate and member of the Associate Life Board, served as Ritual Leader, introducing each mentor, who in turn introduced the Associate she had worked with.

Laurie Susie, of Arizona, was born in Iowa and served in fundraising and development for non-profit organizations. She met the Adrian Dominican Sisters while serving at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nevada. In introducing her, Sister Carol Fleming, OP, her mentor, described her as compassionate, contemplative, and collaborative. “It’s been a joy to share her zeal,” she said. 

Laurie said she decided to become an Associate “after years of discernment and prayer, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement and support of Sister Carol Fleming. I believe it is the right time to make a commitment to further the mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.” Laurie said she feels called to the “healing mission of Jesus” and to work with people who are sick, underserved, and disenfranchised. “I hope to receive the gift of giving back to those who are less fortunate.”

Rev. Cathy Johnson, a Presbyterian minister, is a pastoral chaplain at the Dominican Life Center, the residence of the retired Adrian Dominican Sisters. Cathy has ministered in three parishes in Michigan and two in Iowa, serving as a bereavement counselor, minister of visitation, and assistant pastor. 

“We are really blessed that she is sharing her pastoral ministry with us,” said Sister Joan Delaplane, OP, speaking on behalf of Cathy’s mentor, Sister Carol Coston, OP. 

Cathy lives in Adrian, Michigan, close to her parents and to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. Her family includes two adult daughters, Ruthann and Rachel.

“Two years ago I began my ministry as a chaplain with the Sisters, and within two months … I knew that I had met kindred spirits,” Cathy said. “In these times in which we live, I believe there is great value in journeying with others who share similar values.”

Joan Ebbitt was born and raised in Adrian, met the Sisters at school and was in the Congregation as a vowed member for 10 years. 

A social worker, Joan specializes in addiction treatment and has given talks and workshops to religious leaders. She began an addiction treatment center as a joint venture with Parkside Medical Services at Baylor Medical in Dallas, Texas, where she  Marilyn, who has been Joan’s partner for 28 years. They were married in 2015. 

In 2005, Joan started Companions in the Crossthreads, a group for former Sisters who wished to renew their connection to the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Joan also is a spiritual director who often offers spiritual direction and workshops at the Weber Retreat and Conference Center. 

Joan especially thanked the late Sister Ruth Steiner, OP, and Sisters Rosemary Ferguson, OP, and Esther Kennedy “and all who encouraged and challenged me to become my authentic self, and who always claimed me as sister, even after I left vowed life.” 

Sherry Goff, a native of Adrian, attended Siena Heights College and completed her degree in sociology at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. While in North Carolina, she worked at the Mental Health Association, which provides services to adults who suffer with severe and persistent mental illness. 

After spending a year in Costa Rica as missionaries, Sherry and her husband, Stan, returned to Adrian, Michigan. Sherry has worked with Goodwill as the assistant to the Executive Director and in Human Resources. Sherry and Stan have three children and seven grandchildren. 

Truly McSorley, Associate and Sherry’s mentor, said Sherry is a “lifelong learner. She absorbed every bit of Dominican life and history that she could read.” Sherry, for her part, spoke of her own feeling of connection with the Congregation. “I want to live the mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, to be with others who freely give and receive Jesus’ love. I’d like to help co-create justice and peace in our world.”

Barbara Lawrence, born in Mount Clemens, Michigan, studied at Siena Heights University and served as the university’s first Director of Human Resources. Since 2015, she has been a part-time receptionist at Weber Center, and is a catechist at her parish. 

Blessed with two children, two grandchildren, and one grandchild on the way, Barbara also cares for foster children.

Barbara expressed gratitude to her mentor, Sister Norma Dell, OP, to Sister Marge Mehigan, OP, whom she worked with at Siena Heights University and who “taught me to take the Dominican Mission Statement off the wall and make it live for our Co-workers. She said she is also grateful to Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, a social worker at Catholic Charities who worked with Barbara when she was fostering six girls. “I wouldn’t have made it without Pam’s wisdom and support and without her kind invitation to bring children here for Liturgy so that they could be blessed by you Dominicans.”

Mary Sweet Rooney entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in 1954 with Sister Esther Kennedy, OP, who served as her mentor. While studying at Notre Dame University in the 1970s, she met and fell in love with Patrick Rooney, a Dominican priest. They married after Mary was released from her vows and Patrick was laicized. 

“I never stopped being a Dominican,” Mary said. “It was important to both of us to nurture and challenge one another in living the Dominican charism.” 

Living in South Bend, she served as Director of Ministries to Children and Families at a parish, was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Indiana and University of Notre Dame, and was a Chaplain and then Director of Pastoral and Social Service at Memorial Hospital of South Bend. Now retired, Mary volunteers with the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

After her husband’s death, Mary said, she “realized that it’s not quite possible to be a Dominican alone, so I chose to become an Associate – which for me is coming home.”

After the six new Associates were introduced and declared their willingness to be “named and known as an Adrian Dominican Associate,” Mary Lach introduced Cheryl Boyce, who had studied with the five new Associates from Michigan. Cheryl became an Associate in May 2017.

Feature photo (above): Mary  Rooney receives the Associate logo from her mentor, Sister Esther Kennedy, OP.

Top: The new Associates and their mentors sign the Agreement of Association. Bottom: The newest Adrian Dominican Associates are, from left, Cheryl Boyce, who joined in May, Barbara Lawrence, Laurie Susie, Rev. Cathy Johnson, Joan Ebbitt, Mary Rooney, and Sherry Goff.

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June 1, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – May was a busy month for Associate Life as nine new Associates were welcomed, one in Michigan and eight in Florida. Associates are women and men, at least 18 years of age – married, single, widowed, or divorced – who make a non-vowed commitment to partner with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Cheryl Boyce, right, expresses her desire to become an Adrian Dominican Associate while her mentor, Sister Mary Ann Dixon, listens.

The Ritual of Acceptance for Cheryl Boyce was May 12 in Holy Rosary Chapel at the Motherhouse with her mentor Sister Mary Ann Dixon, OP.

Cheryl and her husband live in Byron, Michigan, and have two daughters – one of whom died tragically at age 13 – and two grandchildren. Cheryl attended the University of Michigan, Oakland University, and Saginaw Valley University to prepare for a career in special education. Now retired, her career included working with Sister Mary Ann for 10 years in religious education at St. Mel Parish in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. 

“I am ready to take on the third act of my life,” Cheryl said during the ritual. She added she hopes to be active with the Associates and to begin to use gifts that have been dormant.

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, also presided at two Rituals of Acceptance in Florida on May 21: at St. Ann’s Church in West Palm Beach and St. Joan of Arc Church in Boca Raton. 

The new Associates accepted in West Palm Beach are Brigitte Valbuena, Glenaan Robbins, and Sylvia Raftery.

Brigitte received Catholic education during law school, where she concentrated on human rights. Active in her church, she served as a leader and director in youth ministry. When she and her family moved to the United States, Brigitte met Sister Margaret Exworthy, OP, while learning English at the DePorres Literacy Center. Sister Margaret is her mentor. Brigitte is a paralegal for the State of Florida, working to end human trafficking.  

The new West Palm Beach Associates are, from left, Brigitte Valbuena, Glenaan Robbins, and Sylvia Raftery.

“As I woman of this century, I feel that no woman should be left behind and be subject to abuse or inequality,” Brigitte said. “We must bond together to make sure that our rights be heard and respected, always keeping Jesus and the Gospel as our role models.” 

Glenaan, a jewelry designer, sent her two sons and daughter – now young adults – to Rosarian Academy, where she served on the board, co-chaired the auction, and was active in other events. A daily Mass attendant, she serves as a Eucharistic Minister, lector, sacristan, and pro-life activist. 

Glenaan sought out Associate Life to strengthen her spiritual life, maintain her relationships with Sisters, and develop new relationships with Associates. Her mentor is Joseph Eilese Hukle, OP. “I recognize my spirituality as a journey of learning and growth, firmly grounded in my love of Christ,” Glenaan said.

Sylvia became acquainted with Adrian Dominican Sisters at St. Ann’s School in West Palm Beach. In 1954, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation and loved the prayer life, teaching, and being with the Sisters.  

Sylvia decided to live in the secular world, and, in 1978, she met and married Dave, who had two young children. Unfortunately, this marriage did not survive and she divorced in 1980. Her experience led to her current ministry of assisting those who are seeking annulments. 

Mentored by her friend Margarita Ruiz, OP, Sylvia has participated in Associate Life events, including Partners IV, last year’s Associate Life weekend in Adrian. “I hope to receive friendship, shared prayer life, meaningful conversations about the mission of Jesus in the world today,” Sylvia said. 

Shown at the signing of the Agreement of Association in Boca Ratan are, from left, Sister Carmen Álvarez, OP; Belinda Mussenden; Brian Herbert; Maria Lucretia Figueira; Maria Alejandra Feo; Sandra Castro, bending down; and Sister Frances Madigan, OP, standing behind the group.

The new Associates from Boca Raton are Brian Herbert, Maria Alejandra Feo, Sandra Castro, Belinda Mussenden, and Maria Lucrecia Figueira. They were mentored by Sisters Carmen Àlvarez, OP, and Frances Madigan, OP.

Brian and his wife Diana Castro, already an Associate, have three children and are both involved in their parish, St. Joan of Arc. An architect, Brian designed the parish center where the reception for the new Associates was held. He is the president and partner owner of his own company and has received numerous awards.

“The Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has made a strong impression on me and I believe we have been called to utilize our abilities and to share our faith and life with one another, our families and our community,” Brian said. “As an Associate I understand I am committing myself to a lifelong mission promoting spiritual communication and encouraging others into the Adrian Dominican mission and values.” 

Maria, originally from Venezuela, had a wonderful childhood, and her family instilled in her strong spiritual values. Three years ago, she made the difficult decision to immigrate to Florida with her husband Pablo and their three young daughters. Maria works with her husband, an architect, and she is studying international business management and communications.  

“Like many immigrants, we had what we believed was a perfect life in our home country, but had to leave and start a new one,” Maria said. “It was God’s will that put Sister Frances and Sister Carmen in my path to show me His plans for me: that I grow in spirituality, through study and prayer so that I learn to live the Dominican Charism and use that gift to integrate in my relationship with any community that God decides to take me into.” 

Sandra was born in Colombia in1975, is the sister of Associate Diana Castro, and is a single mother. She holds a real estate license and master’s degree in industrial engineering and is the president of her own company. Active in her parish, Sandra is the president of the Santa Ana Circle, a group of 53 women who engage in ministry and charity at St. Joan of Arc Parish. She will be on the board of the Council of Catholic Women.

Sandra has been studying Dominican spirituality for the past three years with a group led by Sisters Frances and Carmen. Her spirituality consists of prayer and thoughtful, contemplative reading. In joining Associate Life, Sandra wishes to commit herself to “lifelong learning and to grow holistically as a mother and a leader.” She has a strong desire to serve others and to be “the best version of herself.”

Belinda, born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, is the youngest of three daughters. Belinda was sent to Puerto Rico and cared for by her grandmother as her parents were working to move back there. From her grandmother, she learned much about God and prayer. She now lives in Boca Raton with her husband of 20 years and their 17-year-old son. Belinda taught at St. Joan of Arc School, and serves as a lector and Eucharistic minister at the parish.

In joining Associate Life, Belinda shared that she has a clear path on her “journey to seek truth, make peace and reverence life.” She identifies with the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ mission to seek peace and justice and to preach the Gospel. Her formation as an Associate “has made my faith stronger,” she said. “I have learned how to make choices in faith and to act on them.” 

Maria was born in Venezuela and raised with a strong faith and a determination to serve others. She was educated in Catholic school and is a certified public accountant. She, her husband, and their two daughters, ages 23 and 13, now live in Boca Raton. 

“We are very committed to the formation of our daughters, teaching them moral values and principles, teaching them how to be involved with the church, to have God present in their lives, and to be conscious about the environment,” Maria said. 

“Besides bringing a positive attitude, motivation, and enthusiasm [to Associate Life], I will contribute with new ideas on how to create awareness to save the environment and help those in need,” Maria said.



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