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.
May 24, 2018, Hinckley, Ohio – A township in north-central Ohio seems a long way from Mosul, Iraq, or from the refugee camps in northern Iraq. But these distant areas were recently connected by a Japanese girl who folded paper cranes, a Dominican artist and art teacher who painted paper cranes, an elementary school art teacher, and a class of compassionate and innovative fifth-grade students.
This connection can now be seen in three small paintings of folded paper cranes displayed in the library of Hinckley Elementary School in Hinckley, Ohio. The cranes were brought to the school through the innovation of a fifth-grade art class that raised more than their goal of 1,000 quarters – a total of nearly $364 – from their classmates as a donation to support the work of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Mosul, Iraq.
Katie Hatch Massaro, the art teacher at Hinckley Elementary School in Hinckley, Ohio, has for 10 years been teaching her students the story of 1,000 paper cranes folded by Sadako Saski, a 12-year-old Japanese girl who was exposed to the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and died of leukemia 10 years later. The heart-wrenching story of this young girl inspired Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, to create 1,000 small paintings of paper cranes, which can be adopted for a donation of $100. The donations have helped the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who fled Mosul with hundreds of thousands of their neighbors on August 6, 2014, with the arrival of ISIS warriors. During their time in a refugee camp in northern Iraq, the Sisters opened schools and clinics to serve the needs of their fellow refugees.
Many of the Sisters and other refugees have since returned to their homes after ISIS was expelled, but now face the challenges of rebuilding their homes and churches that were destroyed.
“I’ve been teaching about paper cranes for 10 years,” said Katie, a student of Sister Barbara’s and a 2007 graduate of Siena Heights University. She teaches her fifth-grade classes the story of Sadako and how to fold the paper cranes. In recent years, she has followed this lesson up with the story of Sister Barbara’s project. “We talked about what it meant to be a refugee,” she said. They understood that the Sisters and neighbors were forced out of their homes, and that the donations would help the people.
Katie didn’t initiate the idea of the class making a donation for a crane in support of the refugees. “I wanted the kids to be self-motivated” and to come up with the idea on their own, she said.
Her wait came to an end this semester when a student suggested making a donation for one of the paintings, Katie recalled. Students discussed the idea during lunch and a small group approached her. “I worked with them through the whole process,” she said, by encouraging them to find a way that they could raise the money on their own. Students decided to collect 1,000 quarters from among their fifth-grade classmates.
“The kids assigned jobs to everyone in the class and even built their own website,” Katie recalled. They created a presentation for the principal, James Carpenter, and the Parent-Teacher Organization to secure permission and garner support for the project. Just two weeks after they presented the project to their classmates, they had exceeded their goal. Because they wanted to add framing to their order, they intended to order two cranes, but the PTO suggested they order three – and offered to supplement the money that the students had raised.
The process did not end there, Katie added. The class took a vote to choose the cranes paintings they wanted, choosing green cranes to match the school’s color.
The students later reflected on the impact that the project had on them. “It was tough and challenging, but it was worth it,” one student said. Others spoke of the impact they hoped the project will have on the Sisters in Iraq and the people they serve. “It was a good opportunity to help people and inspire other students once we’ve left Hinckley Elementary School,” one student said. Another made the connection to the story of the 1,000 cranes folded in Japan and to Sister Barbara. “The inspiration chain goes from Sadako to her classmates to the 1,000 Crane Project for Iraq to us at Hinckley Elementary,” the student said. “We hope it keeps going!”
Katie is very proud of her fifth-grade class, which will graduate at the end of May from Hinckley Elementary School and move on to middle school. “I’ve always seen leadership and initiative in a lot of them,” she said. “It was a privilege to be able to walk them through this process and watch them stretch their wings for the first time.” Noting that she had taught art to that class since they were in kindergarten, she added, “It’s an honor to see them come as kindergartners and leave so grown up, young teenagers.”
Katie hopes all of her students benefit from their study of art. “I want them to leave me knowing that art can make a difference, that art is part of our culture. It’s part of our identity,” she said. “I want them to have an appreciation for art.”
Fifth-grade students from Hinckley Elementary School, Hinckley, Ohio, pose with the three cranes that they ordered with their donation to the 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project. Photo Courtesy of Hinckley Elementary School