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When you discover that Patricia (Patty) Gillis co-founded Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ), you won’t be the least bit surprised that she most resonates with the General Chapter Enactment that calls upon Sisters and Associates to “sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.”
Patty and Janet Stankowski, OP, co-founded VEJ in 2002. This interfaith group has consistently worked in the areas of education and advocacy, focusing mostly on climate change and environmental health. Since 2011, VEJ staff members have worked to establish Hope House, an environmental justice center in the northwest Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor. The group also works in coalition with many other gardening and environmental justice groups in Detroit.
“In my work as a faith-based environmentalist, I try to make the connections between all forms of life, sharing ecosystems that have evolved together in God’s grand design called evolution,” Patty writes. “Hopefully, the greater awareness of the gift and interconnectedness of Life will lead to more reverence for all forms of Life.”
Patty began her association with the Adrian Dominican Sisters some 45 years ago, when she started working with the Sisters in various ministries. She began attending meetings of a mission group, Wedge, in the late 1980s and celebrated her commitment as an Associate in 1993.
After Wedge dissolved, Patty affiliated with the Leaven Mission Group of the Great Lakes Dominican Chapter. Through this affiliation, Patty said, she “shares in the life of a community of women who respond with integrity to the signs of the times.” Patty also attends Chapter and Jubilee gatherings and regularly joins a contemplative prayer group with two Sisters. An accomplished instructor, she has designed and is willing to present educational programs.
For Patty, Associate Life was a way of formalizing the relationships that she had with many of the Sisters. She is grateful for the mentoring and support she received from the Sisters in her role as a lay pastoral minister. As an Associate, she hopes to give something back to the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
She recognizes the challenges of the Adrian Dominican vision to “seek truth, make peace, reverence life.” She noted, “Given the current political climate, it is very difficult to accomplish all three at once, because seeking truth through dialogue is often not peaceful or reverent. I pray to the Holy Spirit for opportunities to speak when it will make a difference. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but a sense that God is working in all things, so that keeps me going.”
Living on two acres of wooded land in Southfield, Michigan, just outside the west side of Detroit, Patty is a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. The parish is staffed by the Capuchins, who started Earthworks, one of the largest urban gardens in Detroit.
Patty’s educational credentials are impressive. She holds an undergraduate degree in sociology from Madonna University, Livonia, Michigan; a master’s degree in religious studies from University of Detroit-Mercy; and a master’s in social work (MSW) with a concentration in community organizing and administration from Wayne State University, Detroit.
For more than 25 years, she was a lay pastoral minister in Detroit. She also taught sociology part-time for 20 years and is currently teaching at Schoolcraft College. In addition, she is the board chairperson at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit.
One notable highlight was her sabbatical year internship at Michaela Farm with the Oldenburg, Indiana, Franciscans where she studied organic agriculture and eco-spirituality.
“Throughout my life, I have been blessed with good friends, a supportive network of six siblings and their spouses, meaningful work, wonderful mentors and supportive faith communities,” Patty wrote. “The biggest joy in my life right now is my daughter’s marriage in 2014 to a good man, and the birth of their child, my grandson, in 2015!”
If you are a faithful or occasional reader of materials from the Adrian Dominican Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), you may recognize Dee Joyner. As chair of the PAB, she writes, “I am so honored to have the opportunity to serve this important ministry for the Sisters.”
Dee first met the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2004 when she joined the Board of Trustees of Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican graduate school in St. Louis. At that time, four Adrian Dominican Sisters ministered in St. Louis: Sisters Joan Delaplane, OP, Maribeth Howell, OP, Pat Walter, OP, and Peggy Coyne, OP. In 2008, Sister Pat told Dee the Sisters were interested in developing a group of Associates in St. Louis and invited Dee to join. She became one of the first St. Louis Associates.
“Through my affiliation with Aquinas (I was also taking classes at that time), I developed a deep appreciation for the Dominican charism and was eager to have a closer relationship with the Sisters,” Dee said. “I loved the idea of meeting with the Sisters and other Associates to share our faith life and prayer as well as continuing to deepen my understanding of what it means to be Dominican and how I could put that to practice in the way I live my life.”
Dee’s commitment as an Associate is sustained by monthly meetings in which Associates share their faith and prayer life with one another. Sister Joan joins the group via Skype and keeps them connected with events in the Congregation. As a Sojourner group – made up primarily of Associates – the St. Louis Associates do not meet regularly as a Mission Group; rather they have a retreat twice a year, led in person by Sister Joan. Some members attend Chapter Assemblies and report back on outcomes. Dee continues to be engaged with the Associates through the annual Partners gathering of Associates.
Dee is active in the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at her parish, where she serves as a Eucharistic minister and member of the Finance Council. She continues her service on the Aquinas Institute Board of Trustees and is on the board of SSM Health, a Catholic health care system.
When asked how she lives out the Adrian Dominican Vision, to “seek truth, make peace, reverence life,” Dee replied candidly.
“I find that I am a better person and show up best for others if I can slow down, be more reflective, receive the Eucharist more often, and seek a deeper relationship with God that inevitably leads me to a more peaceful inner space,” she said. “Slowing down and being reflective are not easy for me, yet I find in this phase of my life they are more essential than they have ever been. When I am in that more peaceful inner space I am more open to listening to different views as I seek truth; I am able to cast a shadow of peace to others; and I am able to relate most especially to those in my life who need my support and presence as they struggle with their own life issues.
Dee is a widow who lives close to her daughter, Dawn; Dee’s brother and family; and many cousins. Her late husband, Orville, had four children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild, who are also important to her. Dee’s extended family also includes the daughters and a grandson of her best friend, who died of breast cancer.
Dee once served as director of talent development at a regional bank. Although she “retired” last year, she now works part-time for the bank, facilitating culture workshops and helping business units with change management processes.
She made a daring post-retirement decision by gifting herself with spending one month at a Spanish language immersion school in Costa Rica. She continues Spanish lessons online and plans to return to the school for a refresher in 2017. Dee also likes to scuba dive, walk in the country, travel with her daughter and “attempt” to play golf.