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.
August 8, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, family members, friends, and colleagues of Sister Janet Capone, OP, gathered August 5-6, 2018, for two days of formal and informal services to honor the former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The special days included an August 5 wake and Vigil Service, during which participants shared their personal memories of Sister Janet, and the Funeral Mass and Rite of Committal on August 6. Participants also had the opportunity to share their memories after the formal Vigil Service on August 5, during the lunch that followed the Committal, and at various other informal gatherings.
Highlights of Sister Janet’s term as Prioress, from 1998 to 2004, included the merger of the Adrian Dominican Sisters with the Edmonds Dominican Sisters. In addition, she and the General Council oversaw the renovation of Holy Rosary Chapel, the construction of St. Catherine Chapel to replace the smaller Maria Chapel at the Dominican Life Center, and the renovation of Weber Retreat and Conference Center.
During the Vigil Service on the evening of August 5, Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, gave a eulogy, focusing on the life of Sister Janet. Read some of the details of her life here.
As a professed Adrian Dominican Sister, “Janet continued to grow as a woman of prayer, wisdom, and grace,” Sister Mary Ann said. Sister Janet’s mantra were the words she spoke to the Congregation at General Chapter 2004 toward the end of her term as Prioress of the Congregation. Drawing on the words of Lee Ann Womack in her song, “I Hope You Dance,” Sister Janet had told the Adrian Dominican Sisters, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
Sister Mary Ann used that theme throughout her eulogy in describing Sister Janet’s various ministries and the spirit with which she lived. In September 2017, Sister Janet began to experience health issues “but continued the dance of life as a valiant and courageous woman until her death,” Sister Mary Ann said. “So, Janet, you have graced us with your presence. You have blessed us in so many ways. Now you rejoice with your Beloved. Your spirit dances with the divine presence. You are clothed in majesty.”
Sister Maureen Comer, OP, who had served on the General Council when Sister Janet was Prioress, maintained a friendship with Sister Janet after their terms in office. Sister Maureen drew on Sister Janet’s favorite quote from Rumi: “Beyond the place of right judgment and wrong judgment, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
“One of the outstanding gifts of Janet was that she would invite people to meet in that field, where one is known and accepted, right or wrong, and here we are – blessed persons, each one of us, and especially blessed because Janet Ann Capone came into our lives,” Sister Maureen said.
She further described Sister Janet as “the consummate educator,” who successfully taught first-grade students to read. “She was a great teacher for those of us a lot older than first grade,” Sister Maureen said. “She helped many to know who we are, to accept who we are, to celebrate who we are.”
Carole Goguen, Sister Janet’s grand-niece, spoke for the family. “We call Boston home, and while Sister Janet was not always present physically, her presence was always with us – a faraway friend who always answered the phone when we needed her. She was always watching over us. She was observant. She was thoughtful. She was helpful. She was concise – and she was ours,” Carolyn said. “Today, as we honor our sister, our friend, our friend, our leader, we should take comfort in knowing that our everyday angel on Earth now has a better view, and we’ll continue to honor her memory.”
During the funeral on August 6, Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, offered a brief reflection on Sister Janet and the courage she showed throughout her life – particularly during their visit in January 2018, when Sister Janet had begun to realize that she would likely not recover from cancer. “She said to me, ‘Pat, I have placed myself within the heart of God. I know that it’s safe there.’ And that is one of Janet’s last gifts to us: her placing herself into God’s heart. It gives us permission to do the same.”
Sister Eunice Drazba, OP, who had ministered with Sister Janet at Emmaus Community in St. Louis, delivered a reflection, focusing in turn on each of the readings. The first reading, from Wisdom, described a valiant, faithful woman. “What gives this woman wisdom and makes her faithful?” Sister Eunice asked. “Being able to dance for joy and in sorrow, knowing her labors are worthwhile and pursuing them daily, and a step at a time.”
Psalm 111, the responsorial psalm, “leads us to giving thanks to God and celebrating the goodness present to us daily,” Sister Eunice said. “Janet lived these praises daily, starting each day putting two feet on the floor and showing up. This was one of her mottos: just show up. In showing up, we trust God to be with and lead us to our next move, decision, choice, plan.”
Describing the Beatitudes as “the blueprints of walking with Jesus,” Sister Eunice noted that Sister Janet “created and followed her blueprint that Jesus modeled.” She invited the assembly, in memory of Sister Janet, to reflect on their own lives as inspired by the readings and to “tweak or affirm our own blueprint for the life worth living.”
The formal farewell to Sister Janet concluded at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ cemetery, where Sister Janet was laid to rest in the circle of discipleship and friendship among other Adrian Dominican Sisters who have joined the Communion of Saints in Heaven.
Feature photo (top): Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, places into the hands of Sister Janet Capone, OP, vows she made as a Sister.
Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor, blesses Sister Janet during the Rite of Committal in the Congregation Cemetery.