December 31, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The year 2019 has brought about numerous challenges and changes to the Adrian Dominican Congregation and to the world at large. As we take a break from the busy-ness of the year to celebrate Jesus’ birth among us and the beginning of another year, let us reflect on the top 10 events that the Adrian Dominican Sisters experienced in the past year.
From left: Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission gather in St. Catherine Chapel for the July 31-August 3, 2019, gathering. Sisters and Partners in Mission enjoy dancing during Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, the gathering in San Fernando, the Philippines, in October.
More than 600 Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission gathered at the Motherhouse in Adrian July 31-August 3, 2019, to celebrate the past and the present and to look forward to a common future. The gathering in Adrian featured keynote speakers on issues of religious life, the Asian culture, and collaboration, as well as numerous opportunities for participants to pray together and come to know one another. A similar gathering took place in the University of the Assumption in San Fernando, the Philippines, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter.
Members of the 2016-2022 General Council are: back row, from left, Sisters Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor, and Elise D. García, General Councilor. Front row, from left, are Sisters Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; and Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor.
In response to current events, issues, and government actions, the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council issued statements bringing to light many faith-based responses. The General Council, together with other Michigan Catholic Sisters, issued an Earth Day statement supporting legislation that would ensure safe drinking water in the state (April 22, 2019). The General Council also issued a statement against the cruel treatment of children at the Mexico-U.S. border (June 25, 2019), and against mass shootings, racial hatred, and White Nationalism (August 6, 2019), and opposed U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement (November 8, 2019).
Top right: Sister Leizel Tedria, OP, left, is examined by Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter Prioress, Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, during the Ritual of First Profession. Bottom right: Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, professes final vows to Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress. With them are witnesses Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor.
Sister Leizel Tedria, OP, professed First Vows on February 23, 2019, to Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, during a Ritual of Profession at the Chancery of the Repository Chapel of Virgen de los Remedies at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines. Sister Leizel holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Our Lady of Fatima University in Pampanga and ministers at the Dominican School of Angeles City Foundation.
Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, professed Final (Perpetual) Vows August 4, 2019, during Mass in St. Catherine Chapel in Adrian. A native of Cuba, Sister Marilín earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Barry University, Miami, Florida, where she met the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from St. Mary’s University and a graduate degree in school psychology from Trinity University, both in San Antonio, Texas, and ministers as a school psychologist for the Joliet, Illinois, School District.
Nancy Tuchman, PhD, keynote speaker at Growing Resiliency, explains the Planetary Boundaries graphic that shows the tipping points of various areas of the environment.
The Adrian Dominican Congregation has acted on its 2016 General Chapter Enactment to work with others to build resilient communities. In September, the Congregation hosted a symposium, “Growing Resiliency,” on building sustainable, resilient communities. Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, who ministers at Catholic Charities of Jackson, Lenawee, and Hillsdale Counties, collaborated with her agency and other organizations took steps toward creating a trauma-informed resilient community in Lenawee County, Michigan.
Prioress Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, second from right, and Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, right, attend a ritual of the transfer of sponsorship of Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, from the Adrian Dominican Congregation to CommonSpirit Healthcare.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters were involved in the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Healthcare Initiatives to create CommonSpirit Health, which serves 21 states with 142 hospitals and 700 care sites. The Adrian Dominican Sisters founded and sponsored Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada. During a February 1, 2019, ritual, the Congregation transferred sponsorship of these two hospitals to CommonSpirit Health and became a “Participating Member” of the healthcare system.
Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, right, watches as students in the 2019 Environmental Leadership Experience work in the permaculture area at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.
The Congregation lived out its 2016 General Chapter Enactment on sustainability in a number of ways. In May, the Congregation hosted the first-ever River Raisin Water Festival to teach sixth-grade students from schools in Lenawee County about environmental matters, such as the preservation of the local River Raisin and its tributaries. In addition, the Congregation continued its Environmental Leadership Experience, during which students from Siena Heights University and Barry University gather at the Motherhouse, work on the permaculture site, and deepen their knowledge of environmental sustainability. Improvements on the sustainability of the Motherhouse Campus were discussed during an update given to the Sisters and Associates in September.
Left: From left, Sisters Basilia De la Cruz, OP, Maria Eneida Santiago, OP, and Nery (Luchy) Sori, OP, at the 25th anniversary celebration of Espirítu Santo School. Right: Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President of Siena Heights University, lights the traveling torch during the dedication of the Centennial Mall. With her, from left, are Sister Nancy Murray, OP, portraying St. Catherine of Siena; Mykayla Pinder, Student Government President; Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, General Councilor and Administrator; and Margaret Noe, Chair of the Board of Trustees. Photo Courtesy of Siena Heights University Marketing
Organizations served by Adrian Dominican Sisters celebrated key milestone events in 2019. Two organizations in the Dominican Republic marked 25-year anniversaries. Sister Luisa Campos, OP, founded and continues to direct the Centro Antonio Montesino in Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital. Named after one of the earliest Dominicans in the New World who stood up for the rights of the indigenous people, the center forms local people in their knowledge of issues of justice, human rights, and civic education. Espirítu Santo, a school in the Jesuit system of schools, Fe y Alegría, has grown from a handful of students taught under a tree 25 years ago to a school of 1,500 students in preschool through 12th grade.
Siena Heights University, founded in 1919 as St. Joseph College, began its Centennial Year in August with the dedication of its Centennial Mall. The 2019-2020 academic year includes 100 special events to mark the school’s 100 years. Siena Heights offers more than 50 majors with a liberal arts focus, eight campuses in Michigan, and an online program.
The Barry University community applauds as Dr. Michael Allen, PhD, is inaugurated as the university’s seventh president. Photo Courtesy of Barry University Office of Communications
The Barry University community in Miami Shores, Florida, inaugurated its seventh President, Michael Allen, PhD, during its annual Founders Week in November. The first non-Adrian Dominican Sister and the first lay person to serve as President of Barry University, Dr. Allen served as administrator at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He succeeds Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP.
From left: Sister Elise García, OP, Father Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, OP, and Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP
During its August 2019 Assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona, members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious elected Adrian Dominican Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, as President-Elect. In the coming year, Sister Elise will serve as President of LCWR, which is comprised of the elected leaders of women religious congregations, representing 80 percent of 49,000 women religious in the United States.
During its July 7-August 4 General Chapter in Vietnam, the Dominican Friars elected Father Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, OP, the first Asian and the first Filipino Master of the Dominican Order. Before his election, Father Gerard had served as Socius of the Master for Asia-Pacific and as Prior Provincial of the Philippines. Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Philippines, expressed their joy and optimism at his election.
The Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) appointed Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, as the Dominican Representative at the United Nations. Her ministry entails connecting the Dominican family to the United Nations and attending sessions of UN working groups, particularly the working groups on homelessness and women and girls.
INAI Gallery at Weber Retreat and Conference Center features an exhibit of art by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. At right is a series of paintings by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP.
Adrian Dominican Sisters have long preached through the arts, and in 2019 have been involved in the arts in numerous ways. In June and July, the Alfons Gallery in Milwaukee featured Sister Suzanne Schreiber’s photography exhibit, “Quiet Spaces,” and an exhibit of some of the 1,000 paintings of origami cranes created by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, to raise awareness and funds for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Iraq, who had ministered for years to fellow refugees from the Nineveh Plains after the arrival of ISIS.
The INAI Gallery, adjacent to Weber Center in Adrian, featured exhibits by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates during the summer gathering, Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap Sa Hinaharap. In addition, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates have been active in the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, serves as Secretary and Sister Joella Miller, OP, as Treasurer. Other Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates are active in the DIA, which is open to Dominicans in all areas of art, including visual arts, music, theater, design, poetry, dance, and art appreciation.
December 19, 2019, Vatican City – Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, System Vice President of Environmental Sustainability for CommonSpirit Health, was one of 70 leaders to participate in the 2019 Laudato Si’ Challenge.
The event, which was December 3-5, 2019, in Rome, takes its inspiration from the 2015 encyclical by Pope Francis on the environmental dangers the world is facing and the devastation that climate change is causing to all, especially vulnerable people. The challenge is sponsored by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson of Ghana, Prefect of the Holy See Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The 2019 Challenge “seeks to address forced displacement by empowering one million families by 2021 – supporting the vision of the [United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals,” Sister Mary Ellen explained. “What the participants of the challenge are trying to do is help people stay in their homes and to find ways to empower them if they are forced to migrate."
Sister Mary Ellen was invited to the conference by Eric Harr, Co-Founder and CEO of The Laudato Si’ Challenge, because of her long-time involvement in environmental sustainability, first with Dignity Health and now with CommonSpirit Health.
Sister Mary Ellen explained that the event brings together leaders from the public, private, and faith sectors to make specific commitments to empower one million vulnerable families facing forced migration to “be the protagonists in their own solutions” by 2021 – supporting the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals “as a human dignity narrative, that leaves no one behind.”
About 20 organizations made commitments during the Challenge, she said. Commitments included opening schools in Jordan for the children of Syrian refugees and providing migrants and refugees with simple but livable homes made from 3D printing. The Challenge provides an opportunity for organizations to make specific commitments with partners.
Sister Mary Ellen said she was invited to the event, in part, to give a presentation on the sustainability efforts of CommonSpirit Health. Along with helping people to deal with the effects of climate change, she said, “we are moving upstream to mitigate its effects. This includes reducing our own climate footprint, empowering our health care leaders to speak out about the connection between our health and climate change, and working to ensure that not only are our buildings strong and resilient in the face of extreme weather events, but that our communities and the populations we serve are strong and resilient as well.
She also announced CommonSpirit Health’s own commitment “to expand our Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention Response Program to an additional 10 to 15 families in the next one to three years,” she said. CommonSpirit’s program trains doctors, nurses, and staff members to recognize the signs of human traffickers and their victims and to make sure that the victims receive “trauma-informed care” in a safe environment.
Human trafficking incidents tend to increase during disasters caused by climate change and environmental degradation, Sister Mary Ellen said. Climate change can also result in conflict, poverty, droughts, and forced migration – all of which make people more vulnerable to human trafficking, she said.
CommonSpirit hopes to add another component to the program, Sister Mary Ellen said. “We want to expand our community-based, community-owned program focused on preventing vulnerable populations from being victims in the first place,” she said. Ideally, the program would draw people from law enforcement, health care, and schools, as well as local politicians and concerned citizens and survivors, who would work together to address an area of concern to the community: human trafficking, domestic abuse, or child abuse, she said.
While organizations have already been working on helping people who are displaced, Sister Mary Ellen believes that the 2019 Challenge’s connection to Pope Francis and to Cardinal Turkson brings these efforts to a new level. Cardinal Turkson will send out a challenge to the Catholic community including parishes, schools, universities, and hospitals to become involved in these efforts.
Sister Mary Ellen said attending the Laudato Si’ Challenge and watching the development of partnerships brings her hope. “If we work together, our communities will be healthier and more resilient,” she said. “We’re going to be a much stronger community because of the relationships we’ve built up, more respectful of one another. Everyone will be at the table so everyone’s voice will be heard.”