March 28, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Even during their Spring Break from the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) and from formal studies at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, two Dominican novices did not take a break from learning. Sister Rolande Kahindo Pendeza, a Maryknoll novice, and Sister Phuong Vu, a novice of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, spent their break visiting Dominican Motherhouses in Columbus, Ohio; Springfield, Illinois; Adrian, Michigan; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Sisters Rolande and Phuong are nearing the end of their canonical year at the CDN, a St. Louis-based novitiate program for novices from 15 U.S. Congregations of Dominican Sisters, including the Adrian Dominican Congregation. The novices are spending the year studying Dominican life and vowed life; taking courses at Aquinas Institute of Theology; meeting weekly for input and prayer with novices from other religious communities in the area; ministering as tutors at a local Catholic school; discerning their call with their novice directors; and taking time every Friday for a day of reflection and contemplation.
In addition, the novices and the two Co-directors of the CDN, Sister Cathy Arnold, OP, Dominican Sister of Peace, and Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, Dominican Sister of Adrian, experience community life: praying together, sharing cooking and cleaning responsibilities, and spending free time with each other.
During their visit to Adrian, the novices took the time to speak about their experiences in the novitiate, what they are learning about the Dominican family and tradition, and their hopes for the future. They bring their own experiences and national cultures to enrich the novitiate and the Dominican family.
Sister Phuong, the oldest of five siblings – three sisters and two brothers – was born in Vietnam and came with her family in 1989 to Chicago, to live near her aunt, who sponsored them. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and moved to Dallas, Texas, to work for telecommunications companies. She entered the Dominican Sisters of Peace in February 2016.
“I was attracted to the Dominicans because of the focus on study,” Sister Phuong said. “As Dominicans, we share the same charism: to preach, to contemplate, and to share the fruits of contemplation.”
Born the second of eight children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sister Rolande earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Tangaza College, a Constituency of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She met the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic while teaching in Dodoma, Tanzania, and entered that congregation in 2017. She is the first novice at the CDN from Maryknoll, the “first United States based Congregation of women religious founded … for foreign mission work.”
Both novices have come to appreciate the diversity of their novitiate community. “What attracted me to Maryknoll is their charism of mission, of having a missionary spirit, of crossing borders and living with people of different cultures,” Sister Rolande said. As a novice in a diverse community, “I’m understanding more – I’m living what I aspire to live, meeting people who are not from my culture. For me, that’s the missionary spirit which I’m living.”
Sister Rolande now understands community as a place where “I come with my own values and others have their own, and we bring them together to create harmony in the community. Mission is always for others, not just for myself – so for me to be well-grounded, I have to study and to share with others what I study or read or contemplate.”
Sister Phuong said she has “a lot of experience with culture and diversity, but this novitiate is helping me to live interculturally, helping me to go deeper. I should learn the culture [of others] and go to the deeper level. It’s not like you live at the surface. You have to live underneath.”
The novices’ visit to the Dominican Motherhouses also taught them that, while the congregations of Dominican Sisters have differences, they also have a commonality as part of the larger Dominican family. “I’m learning again how we are one family,” Sister Rolande said. She said she and Sister Phuong have been welcomed to all of the motherhouses as family. “This is our home,” she said. “I’m really experiencing one family by visiting these houses.”
The novices spoke enthusiastically of their Catholic school ministry and of the time they have to study, contemplate, and discern their call, but they also acknowledged challenges that they face. Sister Rolande, said her first experience of winter this year was a challenge. “So many things are different – weather, people, food,” she said. Another challenge for her is “adjusting to other people’s preferences, because they may not be mine.”
Sister Phuong said she is challenged by the requirement of speaking and studying in English, which is not her first language. “I take a lot of time” to read and study in English, she said. “We’re busy, with a lot of reading and preaching,” and with the effort to balance time for study, preaching, prayer, and other pursuits.
With the challenges and new experiences, Sisters Phuong and Rolande believe that their year at the CDN is helping them to prepare for the future – a future they face with hope and joy.
Sister Rolande said her meetings with her spiritual director and novice director in particular have helped her face her challenges. The canonical novitiate year is “a time to discern my call to mission as a Maryknoll Sister,” she said. “It makes me more excited about it.” If all goes well, she will take her first vows this year. “After vows, I will go and share with others the gifts which God has given me, especially meeting those who are on the margins, because that’s what I feel is my call.”
Sister Phuong will spend the year after her novitiate experience in active, apostolic ministry before she takes her first vows. “Next year, I hope to apply what I learned from the novitiate and then take my vows,” she said. “I hope to bring my gifts and share them with others in need.”
If you’re a single Catholic woman who feels drawn to religious life – or if you know of someone who is – you can learn more about life as an Adrian Dominican Sister by contacting the Co-Directors of Vocations: Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, at 517-266-3532, firstname.lastname@example.org and or Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP, at 517-266-3537, email@example.com or visit our website.
Feature photo: Sisters Rolande Kahindo Pendeza, a Maryknoll novice, left, and Phuong Vu, a novice from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, visit the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse during their Spring Break.
December 28, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – As we continue the Season of Christmas and head toward New Year, we also take time to look back at the past year and remember the highlights. For the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, 2018 was a year of many challenges, triumphs, and sorrows. Below are the highlights of the year as found in the “What’s Happening” news section of our website and chosen members of the Communications Department.
Corporate Responsibility – accountability to gun manufacturers and dealers
Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates were involved in the national efforts to halt gun violence in the United States. While many Sisters and Associates participated in marches against gun violence, people of faith in corporate responsibility organizations took a different approach. Sister Judy Byron, OP, helped to organize religious communities in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to buy stock in gun manufacturers and dealers. Through shareholder resolutions, they scored a victory in persuading American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Smith and Wesson, and Sturm Ruger to be more transparent and to work toward gun safety.
Action on Behalf of Dreamers and Immigrants
As policies on immigrants were debated or enacted, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates advocated on the immigrants’ behalf. Actions included participation in a February 26 call-in to urge Congress to enact legislation to extend the option for Dreamers to defer deportation; took part in the Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers; and submitted comments to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services against a proposed policy that would make it harder for immigrants to become citizens. Toward the end of the year, Sisters volunteered at hospitality centers in Texas, working with immigrants who had been released from detention and were on their way to sponsored homes in the United States.
Farewell to Former Prioresses
The Congregation mourned the loss of two women who had served as Prioress of the Congregation: Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP (1968 to 1978), who died on April 17, 2018, and Sister Janet Capone, OP (1998-2004), who died on July 29, 20018.
Sisters and Associates represented the Congregation at a number of major justice advocacy events throughout the year, including Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice; the Walk for Life in the Philippines, protesting the extra-judicial killings of accused drug dealers and users; Encounter at the Border, the annual action of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch; and the Parliament of World Religions. Individual Sisters and Associates continued to be involved in justice ministry in a number of ways. Sister Lois Paha, OP, led a delegation of 50 Hispanic parishioners from the Diocese of Tucson to the Fifth National Encuentro, focusing on ways that the Catholic Church can be more responsive to the needs of Hispanic Catholics. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, spent days on NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus in the days before the election, helping voters throughout the United States to understand issues of economic justice.
Looking to the Future
In August, Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States, and invited Sisters from other U.S. Dominican Congregations, all 65 and under, gathered in Adrian to deepen their relationships and to look ahead to the future. A highlight of the gathering was the First Profession of Vows of Sister Katherine Frazier, OP. Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, was named to serve the core team of Giving Voice, an organization for Catholic Sisters 50 and younger. The Congregation welcomed several new Associates – lay women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to live out the mission and vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – from Florida and the Dominican Republic in April; from Adrian during Partners VI, the annual summer gathering of Associates in August; and from Chicago in October.
The Congregation collaborated with and hosted other members of the national and worldwide Dominican family: Friars, contemplative nuns, apostolic Sisters, Laity, Associates, and members of established Dominican organizations. Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, along with Gloria Escalona, of the Dominican Laity, formed a delegation of U.S. Dominican women to visit the Dominican Sisters of the St. Catherine of Siena Congregation of Iraq after they returned to their demolished and damaged homes and convents on the Nineveh Plain. Sister Margarita Ruiz, OP, collaborated with other women religious to write a history of women religious in the Dominican Republic. The Adrian Dominican Sisters hosted the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference and the annual gathering of the Dominican Institute for the Arts.
General Council Statements
The General Council of the Congregation issued statements on a number of issues, including offshore drilling, President Donald Trump’s rollback of pollution controls, the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Martin Luther King Day, and the separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Proclaiming 2018 to be a year of study on the meaning of resilient communities, the Congregation hosted two public forums on the subject: a symposium in March, featuring talks by five national thought leaders on various aspects of resiliency and an educational forum in August, in which three Adrian Dominican Sisters shared their own stories of forming resilient communities. Mission Chapters have formed their own Resilient Communities Committees to determine where in their region they will work with local people to make their community resilient.
In the spring, two workshops in Michigan helped participants to engage in the difficult conversation about diversity and racism. Sister Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN, and Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, of Pax Christi USA, led a public workshop, “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Race, Power, and Privilege.” The Great Lakes Mission Chapter, based in Detroit, focused its Spring Assembly on Racism and White Privilege. A unique program, Reverse Mass Mob, brought parishioners from Detroit to a suburban parish to begin their conversations on racism.
In response to the General Chapter Enactment on Sustainability, administrators at the Motherhouse Campus developed a sustainability plan, which includes changes in the heating and cooling system and reduction in the use of electricity at the Motherhouse. Students from Barry and Siena Heights Universities, both sponsored by the Congregation, came together at the Permaculture Gardens in Adrian site in May to learn about sustainability practices and apply them on their own campuses. Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist, introduced honeybees to the Permaculture site. The 2018 issue of Voices in Mission and Ministry details sustainability practices throughout the Congregation.