March 19, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Trust, awareness of the interconnection of people and all of creation, collaboration, equality, listening, and patience are among the keys to forming and maintaining resilient communities.
Those were some common threads of five national thought leaders who gave presentations March 12 to a full house in the Weber Center Auditorium. Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and community members from the Adrian area gathered to explore this topic of increasing interest in the world today.
The five speakers were: Nick Tilsen, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation; Janie Barrera, founding President and CEO of LiftFund, the largest nonprofit micro- and small-business lender in the United States; Rev. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation and head of the Ferguson Commission; Ahmina Maxey, U.S. and Canada Regional Coordinator with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA); and Michael Rozyne, founder and “evangelist” of Red Tomato, a regional food hub based in Plainville, Massachusetts.
Resilient communities have been an important focus for the Adrian Dominican Sisters as a way to live out one of the four Enactments from its 2016 General Chapter: “We pledge our lives, money, and other resources to facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and creativity.” The event was organized by the newly formed Resilient Communities Office, directed by Dee Joyner, an Adrian Dominican Associate.
In their individual talks and in a concluding panel discussion facilitated by Jim Hauden of Root, Inc., the five thought leaders provided key findings and advice for the Adrian Dominican Sisters and others seeking to build resilient communities.
Be inclusive, involving in discussions and decision-making everybody who will be affected by the decision. Rev. Starsky Wilson, in his talk on “Resilience through a Racial Equity Lens,” spoke of diversity in decision-making, “bringing people with a unique perspective to the decision-making table.” In this sense of inclusion, he said, all participants share power and focus on an outcome that benefits everyone.
In her talk on “Environmental Justice and the New Economy,” Ahmina Maxey noted what happens when people who are affected are left out of the decision-making process. She cited a study that showed that toxic waste is more likely to be placed near communities of people of color or people in poverty.
Be collaborative. “The future is impossible to predict,” said Michael Rozyne. “Our own experience is not enough,” he added. Those who organize resilient communities need to learn from and work with other people and organizations that have expertise to share. He gave the example of his own work with the United Farm Workers and Costco. He brought the two groups together, focusing on improving the working conditions of the farm workers with increased pay from Costco.
Janie Barrera noted that she works closely with the economic development departments and chambers of commerce in cities to get the word out about their products. “We don’t have a big marketing department,” she said, so LiftFund relies on these local organizations to spread the word about its services. She added that LiftFund also forms “solid partnerships” with the people who receive their loans, using the money that their clients pay back to offer loans to others in turn.
Engage in an open dialogue. “Listen before you speak – but speak indeed,” Rev. Wilson advised. He gave an example from his experience as head of the Ferguson Commission, which studied the issues involved in the shooting by police of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, Missouri. In the middle of a community meeting, he said, the people were angry with the Commission. “We had to get away from the table and listen,” he said.
Michael Rozyne spoke of the need to find common ground in dialogues, particularly in deeper, core values. “We just need to see the difference between core values and surface values,” focusing on those deeper, core values, he said.
Engage in “one-planet thinking.” Nick Tilsen noted that everything is connected – people, all of creation, and the planet. “In every development decision we make, we make sure [it’s] good for the people and planet and gives prosperity for all people.” Because everything is interconnected, he said, all that is affected by a decision needs to be taken into account.
Build a relationship of trust. “Partnerships move at the speed of trust,” Nick said. “We’re partners for change, and if we’re going to knock down walls, we have to knock down the walls between us, too.” Michael noted that trust was the “common thread” in all of the day’s discussions on resilient communities, whether the communities involved waste management in Boston or “on the ground social work.”
Educate those who need it. To build resilient communities, people who are less advantaged may need to be educated and nurtured to play their full role. Ahmina recalled working with Destiny Watford and a group of high school students in the Baltimore, Maryland, area as they fought against an incinerator that was to be built in their neighborhood. “They reached out to us and we gave them some training,” she said. The students did research, discovered that the incinerator would emit mercury and lead, and appealed to their school board. Because of their efforts, the incinerator was never built.
Be patient. During the panel discussion, the presenters urged patience to the Sisters and others who are seeking to organize a resilient community. Many noted the mistakes they had made in trying to move too quickly. Janie Barrera urged the Sisters to “take this on in phases. It’s a big task to take on and you want to go full steam ahead.”
In her closing remarks, Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Congregation, thanked the presenters and those who organized the symposium. “We came together with the hope that we would learn more insights and elements and hear about what it means to participate with others in building a resilient community,” she said. “Each of you has shared such an incredible journey and story. We are so grateful to you, our new brothers and sisters.”
The Congregation’s Resilient Communities Committee – and the resilient community committees for local areas of Sisters and Associates – will glean the information and ideas to use in their work.
Left: Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, facilitated an afternoon break-out session with speaker Michael Rozyne. Right: Participants, packed in the Weber Center Auditorium, discuss the presentation by Nick Tilsen.
March 14, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Motherhouse campus in Adrian and throughout the United States reached out to their local communities during National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW), March 8-14, to share their lives and ministries, giving people a glimpse of what their vocation means to them.
Begun in 2014 as part of National Women’s History Month, NCSW was founded by the National Catholic Sisters Project to shine a spotlight on Catholic Sisters in the U.S.
Members of the General Council – Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress; Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator; and Sisters Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors – gave a presentation on the Congregation’s history, background, ministries, and Enactments to the Adrian Area Chamber of Commerce on March 8. The presentation was repeated March 9 at a special breakfast at the Motherhouse prepared for local community and non-profit leaders.
“We really delight in the opportunity to share with you a glimpse of our life and what happens on this side of the campus,” Sister Patricia Siemen said, noting that many of the guests were familiar with life on the other side of campus – Siena Heights University.
Sister Pat situated the Adrian Dominican Sisters among the 47,000 Catholic Sisters; the 300 Congregations of Catholic Sisters, the 4,000 Dominican Sisters, and the 19 Congregations of active Dominican Sisters across the United States. Sister Pat also spoke of the history and spirituality of the Dominican Order and of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. In addition, the other members of the General Council each spoke on one of the 2016 Enactments, focuses that the Congregation chose for the next six years after General Chapter 2016. In each description of the Enactments – Spiritual Longings, Sustainability, Resilient Communities, and Diversity – the General Councilors invited members of the local community to participate and to collaborate with the Sisters.
Also on March 9, about 16 Sisters and Co-workers from the Motherhouse spent part of the day with members of the Hope Community Center, an organization for developmentally disabled adults. The Sisters and Co-workers presented the members with cards created by retied Sisters and spent time talking to the members and leading activities such as basketball, games, coloring, and karaoke. Hope Community Center is also the recipient for the six months of 2018 of funds raised through ADS Gives, a Co-worker initiated charitable fund.
Other Sisters living and ministering in Adrian spoke at 10 different service club meetings between March 6 and 14.
Sister Mary Jones, OP, Director of Mission Education and Heritage Development at Siena Heights University in Adrian, organized the annual “speed date a Sister” event. During lunch on March 13, students, faculty, and staff members of Siena Heights spent time with a few of the dozen Adrian Dominican Sisters who came to the University. The event gives members of the Siena Heights community the opportunity to learn more about the lives of the Sisters.
Sisters throughout the United States also reached out to their communities during the week. National Catholic Sisters Week came early to Plantation, Florida, where, on February 27, Sister Joan Leo Kehn, OP, and St. Gregory the Great School hosted 900 sixth-grade students from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Miami. The day of retreat introduced the students to possible Church vocations, including religious life and the priesthood.
Women and men religious of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, gathered on March 4 for an afternoon reflection by Father John D’Mello on Pope Francis’ January 2017 message, Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.
Aquinas Literacy Center in Chicago – one of seven literacy centers sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – hosted a special “Dine and Discuss” evening on March 14. The evening included dinner, followed by a presentation on “The History and Impact of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in the McKinley Park Community.” Sisters Claudia Hinds, OP, and Rosemary Brennan, OP, opened Aquinas Literacy Center in the basement of the convent at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in 1996. Adrian Dominican Sisters still serve on the Board and as tutors.
Adrian Dominican Sisters also hosted special NCSW events for their parishes and other communities. Sister Carol Johannes, OP, for example, facilitated a reflection on the great Dominican mystic, St. Catherine of Siena, for a women’s spirituality group at St. Mary’s Student Parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters offer numerous ways for people of good will to partner with them: as vowed Sisters; non-vowed Associates; as Co-workers at the Motherhouse and sponsored institutions; as donors; and through retreats and spiritual programs offered at Weber Retreat & Conference Center.