June 28, 2019, Detroit – Members of Dominican High School’s Class of 1979 learned well a value that their Adrian Dominican teachers sought to instill in them: generosity to people who are in need.
They showed that generosity recently during an informal gathering with Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, when they paid tribute to her and other Adrian Dominican teachers. They presented a check for about $12,000 for Gianna House, a residence for pregnant teens and for teen mothers and their newborns – and a supportive center for all pregnant women. Sister Theresa is co-director.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters founded Dominican High School, an all-girls school in Detroit, in 1940. The school was closed in 2005.
“In our junior year, the Adrian Dominicans taught us the importance of serving those in need by encouraging us to create a mission project to raise money for an organization that improved the lives of others,” Lisa Gigliotti, Vice President of the Class of 1979, explained in an email. Lisa organized the efforts of her class to forgo a formal 40-year reunion and instead to “signify this milestone by giving back to the beautiful women who served us then and continue to serve others. We wanted to honor our 40th reunion by engaging in a second mission project, this time to support Gianna House and our most enthusiastic biology teacher, Sister Theresa Mayrand’s commitment to provide a safe residence and resources for pregnant women.”
They chose to donate to Gianna House “in honor of the enthusiasm and love that Sister Theresa taught us, alongside other amazing women, such as Sister Joan Weitz, Sister Peggy White, Sister Peggy Manners and Sister Karen Leitz,” Lisa explained.
Lisa said members of the class reached out to 50 to 60 of their classmates to raise the funds. “My thought was that if other alum or persons touched by the Adrian Dominicans might see a mention of a mission-oriented reunion, they might be inclined to make a reunion or tribute to the Adrian Dominicans or their causes.”
Grace Niedbala McKeel, President of the Class of 1979, said that her class’s 40th anniversary gave her the opportunity to reflect on the teachers and classmates who had influenced her life. “Sister Suzanne Schreiber always inspired me with her art and photography and hunger for social justice,” she wrote in an email. “Any hearing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus brings Sister Mary Alice Naour to mind. When I think of Sister Peggy Manners I also picture Sister Karen Lietz right alongside her – what a team!”
Another classmate, Laurie Bliss, wrote about the influence of her Adrian Dominican teachers. “Sister Joan Weitz was someone who gave me the right balance of discipline, structure, and acceptance so that I felt safe and could focus on education and fun. Sister Joan helped give me the foundation to take on life’s ups and downs, to keep smiling, to try to make a positive difference in all I do. … Sister Joan showed me what grace and humility look like.”
Sister Theresa, for her part, said she enjoyed the two-hour visit at Gianna House and a pizza dinner with seven members of the Class of 1979. “I hadn’t seen them in 40 years,” she said. “It was nice.”
Sister Theresa, a science teacher at Dominican High School, said the students especially enjoyed her course on the physiology of women, which had been developed by a colleague and augmented by Sister Theresa. The popular course, which included guest speakers such as midwives, helped the students to understand women’s health and sexuality.
“I was so proud to hear how much they appreciated Dominican High School,” Sister Theresa said. “The way they talked about us teaching them to be their own women and learning to think for themselves made me very proud of Dominican High School.”
Feature photo: Gathered in front of Gianna House are, from left, Mary (Chisholm) Jordan, Cindy (Seguin) Yamamoto, Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, Lisa Gigliotti, and Moira Sheehan. The women with Sister Theresa are all members of the Dominican High School Class of 1979.