Equity and Inclusion


In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters begin by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

Our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters are collaborating on a Black Catholic Project that begins on January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This project seeks to provide information on prominent Blacks and Black Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

rss

Click here to return to the latest update


Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin

Drawing of Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin in habit

Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin:
Woman of Color, Pioneer of U.S. Religious Life

Theresa was the first U.S.-born African-American woman to become a religious. The child of unwed parents of mixed racial lineage, she still received an education far superior to most women of her time, thanks to the kindness of her adoptive family, the Duchemins. Her upbringing in their Haitian refugee community enabled Theresa to attend a school established for the children by Elizabeth Lange and Magdalen Baras, also of Haitian origin.

In 1829 these women formed the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first congregation of African-American women in the United States. At age 19, Theresa was one of the founding members. While serving as General Superior of the congregation, Theresa came into contact with Rev. Louis Gillet who was seeking women religious to teach in the new state of Michigan.

Theresa agreed to help Gillet found a new congregation in Monroe, Michigan: the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. After a decade of successful ministry and growth in Monroe, a dispute over the congregation arose in 1859 between the bishops of Philadelphia and Detroit. The bishop of Detroit blamed Theresa, deposed her as General Superior, and sent her to a Pennsylvania foundation, which then became a separate branch of the IHM congregation.

Theresa struggled for years to reunite the two congregations. In an effort to remove herself as an obstacle to reunion, Theresa spent 18 years in exile with the Grey Nuns of Ottawa. During this time, the bishops of Detroit and Philadelphia forbade the IHM sisters to communicate with Theresa. Writings from both bishops indicate scorn for mixed race people and their male dominance over women’s congregations. In 1885, Theresa was allowed to return to the IHM community in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where she lived her last seven years.

What happened to Theresa is representative of the experience of thousands of women in the past. Vilified and banished for her assertiveness, for her lack of social respectability, and for her determination to remain faithful to what she believed was a God-given mandate, she saw her intentions and her community co-opted by men who thought they knew better than she what the community should be about. All this happened in the 1800s. Yet in some ways, the story and the situation are still occurring in our 21st century.

 

Resources

Our Founders page of IHM Sisters' (Monroe, MI) website - ihmsisters.org/who-we-are/history-and-archives/our-founders

History section of IHM Sisters' (Scranton, PA) website - www.sistersofihm.org/who-we-are/ihm-history/theresa-maxis.html

Pilgrim: Let Your Heart be Bold by Margaret Gannon (Scranton, PA: Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 2018).

Paths of Daring, Deeds of Hope: Letters by and about Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin edited by Margaret Gannon (Scranton, PA: Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 1992).

"Dangerous Memory: Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin and the Michigan Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary" in Building Sisterhood: A Feminist History of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Marita Constance Supan (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997).

"Sharing a Co-Founder, IHM and Oblate Sisters Work on 20-Year Reconciliation," Global Sisters Report article by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, September 3, 2015.

 

Reflection Questions

Read the poem "Christ in the Margins" by Edwina Gately (from her book, Christ in the Margins). In this poem, Edwina Gately has effectively described founders of present-day congregations.

Racism, sexism and clericalism challenged Theresa Maxis' intense call to serve God. How do we handle the tensions between church authority and congregational discernment? How do we resolve this?

Theresa Maxis had every reason to feel betrayed by church leaders and even some of her sisters. How do we rise above criticism, betrayal, and hypocrisy and stay focused on the mission?

Theresa was a true pioneer, daring to travel to new frontiers for the sake of mission. How are we breaking new ground today?

 

Prayer

Gracious God, may the heritage we have received from our foremothers be like water flowing from a source that seeps into every part of us, touching every part of our lives, giving us life. In turn, may we become life-givers to everyone we meet.

May we burn with zeal for the call of our charism. In the spirit of our founders may we be active in our preaching so as to feed the hungry, heal the sick, make peace and challenge racism.

May we remember the spirit and courage of Theresa Maxis and Catherine of Siena as we model their service, their identification with the poor, and their commitment to the mission of Jesus.

Let us treasure always the perseverance and great faith of Theresa Maxis and all women leaders of the church.

Amen

 

your Comment will be showing after administrator's approval







b i u quote


Save Comment
Showing 0 Comment


People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

 

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series

News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois

 

Recent Posts

  • Saint Martín de Porres Velázquez Posted 3 weeks ago
    Saint Martín de Porres Velázquez Martín was a mystic and prophet, an apostle of friendship, a healer, a pioneer social worker, a lover of God and all creation. He was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579. His father was a noble Spanish man, Juan de Porres. His mother, Ana ...
  • Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin Posted last month
    Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin: Woman of Color, Pioneer of U.S. Religious Life Theresa was the first U.S.-born African-American woman to become a religious. The child of unwed parents of mixed racial lineage, she still received an education far superior to most women of her time, thanks to the kindness of her ...
  • Our Lady of Stono and the Stono Rebellion Posted 3 months ago
    Our Lady of Stono and the Stono Rebellion The Stono Rebellion began on September 9, 1739, and is relatively unknown despite it being the largest uprising of enslaved people in the British colony of South Carolina. Some historians call it the most important revolt in North American history. Its story ...
  • 'Mother' Mary Ann Wright Posted 4 months ago
    Mother Mary Ann Wright (1941-2009) Oakland Wiki says Mary Ann Wright was “a humanitarian activist” who lived and worked in Oakland, California, and fed East Bay residents for nearly three decades. To those she served, she was simply “Mother Wright.” Born into an African-American Catholic family in New Orleans, Mother Wright ...
  • Anne Marie Becraft (1805-1833) Posted 5 months ago
    Anne Marie Becraft (1805-1833) Anne Marie Becraft had an extraordinary journey in Black History and in the Catholic Church. She was born in 1805 and lived her short life in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. She was a free Black woman who devoted her life to education and faith. She ...
  • Hazel M. Johnson (1935-2011) Posted 6 months ago
    Hazel M. Johnson Hazel Johnson, a woman whose Catholic faith led her to a place that many feared to go, speaking truth to power, still challenges and inspires many in the environmental justice movement ten years after her death.    Here’s an account of her early life, according to a story by ...
  • Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA Posted 7 months ago
    Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA Servant of God “We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love.”  These would be the ...
  • Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP (1784-1882) Posted 8 months ago
    Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP Who among us today has the courage to "battle the odds," even in our own church, to do the work God calls us to? Elizabeth Lange is a noble role model for all the obstacles we face! Elizabeth Clarisse Lange was born about 1784 in Santiago, ...
  • Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) Posted 9 months ago
    Venerable Pierre Toussaint Pierre Toussaint was born into slavery in Haiti on a plantation owned by Pierre Berard. He spent his early life working as a house boy, and his grandmother taught him to read and write. When Pierre Toussaint was 20 years old, he, his sister, his aunt, and ...
  • Servant of God Julia Greeley Posted 10 months ago
    Servant of God Julia Greeley Julia Greeley was born into slavery on a Missouri farm sometime in the 1840s. As a slave, she was physically abused and became permanently lame. She lost an eye in a beating given to her mother. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Julia was brought to Colorado by ...
Read More »