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Dominican Volunteer Danielle Porter Lives and Ministers with Adrian Dominican Sisters

November 24, 2020, Detroit – Dominican Volunteer Danielle Porter has been educated by Dominicans most of her life. 

“I grew up with the Dominicans,” Danielle said. A native of the western suburbs of Chicago, she attended St. Edmund Parish School, where Adrian Dominican Sisters once taught. From there, she attended Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, sponsored by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great. Most recently, she graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, sponsored by the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters.

This year, she’s continuing her Dominican education in a different way: through community life with Adrian Dominican Sisters Ginny King, OP, Janice Brown, OP, and Nancyann Turner, OP, at Gesu Parish in Detroit. She is rounding out her education with practical ministry at All Saints Literacy Center and Siena Literacy Center, two of the seven literacy centers sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

Danielle’s placement with Dominican Volunteers USA (DVUSA) is the result of a year of discernment during her senior year at Aquinas. “By the end of my junior year I knew I needed a little more time before applying for graduate school,” she said. During Mass, she prayed about her next steps after graduating. During Mass at a later date, she heard a presentation about DVUSA. “I spoke to two of the recruiters and by December 2019 I finished my application,” she said.

Danielle is one of six DVUSA volunteers for 2020-2021. Dominican Volunteers make a commitment to an 11-month experience in which they live in community with Dominican Sisters or Friars and are engaged in ministry. This year, Dominican Volunteers are serving in Racine, Wisconsin; Chicago; Blauvelt, New York; Houston, Texas; and Detroit.

Community life is “what I had expected,” said Danielle. “My mother used to tell me stories about how she was in the convent. My mom was in the convent around the same age that I am, which is really weird but inspiring, so I grew up with stories about how she lived with the nuns.” 

A native of Haiti, Danielle’s mother studied abroad in Belgium, where she entered a religious community and was a novice there when her grandfather asked her to come back home. 

Danielle said living with Sisters Ginny, Janice, and Nancyann “is like living with my family.” They pray together three times a week and formally eat together twice a week – though they eat together more often. Danielle takes her turns at cooking dinner and helps with the cleaning. “We do talk, and during the whole political cycle we were watching the news and praying to help boost our spirits,” Danielle said.

Her ministry at All Saints involves “very administrative, behind the scenes work,” such as writing thank-you notes to donors, Danielle explained. In addition, she is involved in two special projects at All Saints: the “five years-five goals” project for Giving Tuesday, in recognition of All Saints’ fifth anniversary, and a rearrangement of the space at the center to allow for greater accessibility for people who have disabilities and to create a “book nook” for all adult learners.

Since completing her tutor training, Danielle also has begun tutoring an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. As the daughter of two immigrants – her father is from Jamaica – Danielle said she especially enjoys tutoring an ESL student.

Danielle said her work at All Saints is also giving her the skills she will need when she formally enters the work force. “Even though I’m not getting paid, I’m still learning how to work alongside staff, meet deadlines, and do all the work that is essential for the workforce without being part of it as a 40-hour work week,” she said.

In her time as a Dominican Volunteer, Danielle has accumulated a number of special memories. One took place on Election Day, when, in the course of a lesson, Danielle taught her learner about homophones in the English language – words that sound the same but have different meanings.

“I was so excited,” she said. “I did tell her that her youngest child would actually have to learn homophones,” and that she would be equipped to help him to understand the concept.

At the conclusion of her year as a Dominican Volunteer, Danielle hopes to attend graduate school, most likely to study philosophy. She holds a bachelor’s degree with a double minor in philosophy and legal studies. “I’m an academic at heart, so I do enjoy learning and seeking knowledge,” she said. Graduate school “is what my heart is aiming for.”

Danielle also has a heart for her year as a Dominican Volunteer and encourages anyone who feels called to apply for this program to do so. “If you’re called to be [a volunteer], you should be one,” she said. “I’m almost finished with my first year and it’s very rewarding to know that you’re looking at the Catholic faith from a different perspective. In this program, you see it from behind the scenes with the Sisters in a community that values study and prayer.”

Danielle also urged prospective Dominican Volunteers to follow their passions. “Know your passion and go into a program that facilitates and nourishes those kinds of passions – whether or not you seek to be in religious life in the future or be single or have a family.” 

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