March 4, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The City of Adrian and Lenawee County face a number of challenges. But given the community’s assets – such as caring people and about 800 nonprofit organizations – the community can face those challenges, particularly by building on collaboration already in place among service agencies.
That was the gist of an update by the Adrian Resilient Communities Committee, formed in response to the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities. The Enactment calls on the Adrian Dominican Congregation to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and integrity.”
The Congregation spent a year studying resilient communities and shared some of the findings during a public symposium in March 2018 and an educational forum in August 2018. Committees have been formed in Adrian and in the Congregation’s Dominican Midwest, Dominican West, Florida, and Great Lakes Mission Chapters to explore opportunities to build resilience in their regions.
Jennifer Hunter and Sister Sharon Weber, OP, Co-Chairs of the Adrian Resilient Communities Committee, focused their February 25 update on the results of the Committee’s year of research and next steps in collaborating with people of Lenawee County.
Jennifer, Campus Administrator, reported on the statistics that the committee had unearthed: Adrian’s population of 20,000 in a county of 98,000 residents; the median wage of Adrian households, almost $34,000, compared to a national average of $59,000; and a poverty rate of 27 percent compared to a national average of 14 percent.
Sister Sharon, Vice President for Academic Affairs for Siena Heights University in Adrian, spoke of lessons the committee learned from their own involvement in the local area, as well as from listening to Co-workers, local community members, and Sisters. One of the greatest assets of the area is the attitude of the people, she said. “This is a caring community, willing to help each other.”
But, Sister Sharon said, people in the community also identified a number of challenges: the lack of accessibility to mental health services, reliable public transportation, food security, jobs with living wages, services for youth, affordable and accessible day care, and affordable housing.
The Committee’s research also focused on effective approaches the Committee and the Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers in the area can take in working with the community to address the challenges. “It helps to start where you’re wanted,” Jennifer said. “Don’t call [people] into your board rooms to sit around your conference room tables or don’t call them into your house. You go to their churches or their park benches or their spaces where they feel the most comfortable, and they’re going to open up to you.”
Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County, which has worked with the people of Adrian through their East Side neighborhood revitalization program, proved the effectiveness of gaining the trust of the residents. “They learned that it takes years to build trust,” Jennifer said. The hardest lesson of all, she added, is to “give up control if you really want the residents to take charge of their future. Sit back and be a participant as opposed to leading that charge.”
Sister Sharon outlined next steps that the Committee planned for the coming year:
The goal, Sister Sharon said, is to build resilient communities that feature “sustainability, partnerships based on trust, equity and justice, spiritual wisdom, and healing.”
Serving on the Adrian Resilient Communities Committee are Sister Rosemary Abramovich, OP, Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, Joel Henricks, Ashley LaVigne, Brad McCullar, Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, Amy Palmer, and Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP. Associate Dee Joyner, Director of the Office of Resilient Communities, and Sara Stoddard, Finance Director, are members ex officio, and Kris Cooper, executive assistant, serves as the Committee’s secretary.
August 16, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – About 50 Adrian Dominican Associates, along with some Sisters, gathered in Adrian August 10-12, 2018, to study and discuss the Congregation’s General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities, reflect on Dominican spirituality, deepen relationships with one another, and to welcome three new Associates.
The gathering, Partners VI, is an annual event that signifies the partnership in Mission between the Associates and the Sisters.
Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor and liaison to Associate Life, welcomed the group, which included Associates from Michigan, the Dominican Republic, Florida, and California. She reflected on the meaning of St. Dominic’s dying wish to be buried at the feet of his Dominican brothers. “His request expresses the reality of his brothers’ fraternity as a place of holiness,” she said. “There’s the sense of that holiness among us tonight. It is the holy preaching that you’ll hear about tonight, all day tomorrow, and Sunday.”
Associate Trudy McSorley prepared the group for the work of the next day: study and discussion on the Congregation’s General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities. The Enactment calls on the Sisters and Associates to pledge their “lives, money and other resources to facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and integrity.”
Trudy noted that the Adrian Dominican leadership had designated 2018 as a year of study to learn more about resilient communities. As preparation for the work of the next day, Trudy showed a video with excerpts from a Resilient Communities Symposium, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and featuring a panel of thought leaders on five aspects of resilient communities: vision, economic empowerment, racial equity, environmental justice, and collaboration.
On the morning of August 11, Associate Dee Joyner, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Resilient Communities, led participants in further exploration of resilient communities and of the people who are relegated to the margins in local areas.
“People are very confused about what is a resilient community,” Dee said. “If you Google it online, you’ll find many references. Each group has a different take on what that means to them.” She invited participants to spend time as a group “unpacking” the meaning of the Congregation’s working definition of a resilient community: “one that has a long-range sustainable vision that emerges from the community through an inclusive, collaborative process that engages diverse grassroots leaders and person who have traditionally been marginalized; creates partnerships built on trust; seeks equity and justice; draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing; and reflects a concern for future generations, living within Earth’s regenerative capacity (i.e., ‘one-planet thinking’). These elements combine to promote the well-being and vitality of the community and its ability to address ongoing stressors from crises or disasters and sustain itself into the future.
Each local Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has been asked to set up a Resilient Communities committee, co-chaired by a Sister and an Associate, to ascertain geographical areas of need and to work with the people in that area to address the needs that the people themselves experience, Dee explained. Participants were also asked to discuss the ways in which they as individuals envisioned themselves becoming involved in local resilient communities.
Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Co-director of Vocations, began the afternoon session August 11 by suggesting ways that Associates can help Catholic young adults in their discernment for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. She suggested that the Associates invite other adults in their neighborhoods or parishes to a dessert gathering to raise their awareness of young adults that they know who might have a vocation – who might be active in their parish or in community service. “Young adults want their lives to make a difference,” she said. “They need to be accompanied and they need to be invited.”
Sister Patricia gave a presentation on Dominican spirituality. “Our spirituality is not about special ways of praying but finding a good attitude in the midst of all that is and all that happens,” she explained. “We rely on grace. There’s no other way we can sometimes get through life.”
She drew on Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Church issued at the time of Vatican II, to explain the Dominican charism. A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to a religious congregation for the benefit of the Church, she said. The Dominican charism is to preach the Word of God. “Our mission is to live the charism – a common gift, one that belongs to us as Sisters and Associates. It’s dynamic and unfolding and constantly being rediscovered.”
The evening included the Rite of Acceptance of three new Associates: Gladys Cruz, of Isleton, California; Judi Engel, of Columbus, Ohio; and Eileen Negus, of Adrian. Read more in the accompanying article. The Associates wrapped up Partners VI on Sunday morning before celebrating the Sunday Liturgy at St. Catherine Chapel.
Associates are women and men – married or single – at least 18 years of age and committed to sharing the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. While maintaining their independent lifestyles, Associates share in the Sisters’ mission and vision and participate in Congregational, spiritual, and social events with the Sisters.
For more information on becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at 517-266-3531 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a single Catholic woman interested in discerning vowed religious life with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, contact Vocation Co-Directors Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, at 517-266-3532, email@example.com or Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP, at 517-266-3537, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo (top): Stones brought in by Partners VI participants help create the environment for the opening prayer on August 11.