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The Horror of More than 13,750 Children Killed in Gaza is at the Heart of the Congregation’s Call for an End to War, Increased Humanitarian Aid,  
and the Return of Hostages

May 3, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – On behalf of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, the Leadership Council signed on to an open letter from U.S. Catholics initiated by Pax Christi USA. The letter expresses “our anguish over the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine.” The Adrian Dominican Leadership Council also calls for an end to the war, more humanitarian aid to those suffering from the war, and the release of all hostages.

We are horrified, anguished, and deeply pained by the continuing war in the Holy Land resulting in the slaughter of innocent children, women, and men in Gaza under the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We join other US Catholic leaders in calling for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and adherence to international law by all parties.”

We are witnessing:

  • The horror of more than 13,750 children killed since the assault on Gaza began, nearly half of the 34,000 Palestinians estimated to have died. 
  • The recent airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian aid workers on clearly marked vehicles run by the World Central Kitchen, bringing the number of humanitarian aid workers killed in Gaza to at least 224, according to the United Nations. 
  • The inadequate supply of food, water, medicine, resulting in death by starvation of 28 children, and other women and men, with the UN World Food Program warning that famine is “imminent” if humanitarian aid is not increased “exponentially.” 
  • The shutdown of two-thirds of Gaza’s hospitals and nearly 80% of its healthcare facilities, with insufficient medications and staffing leaving untold numbers without medical care and many undergoing surgeries, including cesarean sections, without anesthesia. 
  • 180 children born each day in Gaza where a mother struggles to obtain two cups of water daily when she needs 16 cups a day to nurse her baby.  

Our awareness and understanding of these catastrophic events are compromised by the unprecedented number of journalists in Gaza who have died. Although identified as “PRESS,” 100 Palestinian journalists have been killed covering the war during the past five months.

We are women of faith – women of the same Abrahamic faith as the Muslim women and girls under assault in Gaza; women of the same Abrahamic faith as the Jewish women and girls under assault in Israel on October 7. As women of faith, we join the international call and the call of US Catholic leaders for a permanent ceasefire, a return of all hostages, and unblocked road access for delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid. 

We call on President Biden and Congress to stop supplying Israel with US weapons. It is unconscionable that our bombs and artillery are raining death and destruction on Palestinian children, their mothers and fathers. This military support runs counter to the moral call for a permanent ceasefire and all attempts to bring in desperately needed humanitarian aid.

We join Pope Francis who recently said, “Every day, in my heart, I carry the pain and suffering of the populations in Palestine and in Israel due to the ongoing hostilities.” He called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and throughout the region, “so that the hostages may be freed and return to their anxiously awaiting loved ones, and so that the civilian population may have safe access to necessary and urgent humanitarian aid.” 

Pope Francis said, “Enough, please. Let us all say: Enough, please! Stop the war!” 

We say, Amen.

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Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Leadership Council are Sisters Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, General Councilor; Peggy Coyne, OP, Chapter Prioress; Judy Friedel, OP, Chapter Prioress; Elise D. García, OP, Prioress; Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Mission Prioress; Maria Yolanda "Yollie" Manapsal, OP, Chapter Prioress; Frances Nadolny, OP, General Councilor; Mary Priniski, OP, Chapter Prioress; Lorraine Réaume, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor; Mary Soher, OP, Mission Prioress; and Sharon Spanbauer, OP, Mission Prioress.

Associate Sharon Pikula, center, stands with a large donation of shoes brought to the Welcome Center in Phoenix by a donor from San Francisco.

April 19, 2024, Phoenix, Arizona – In a place where many people might see hopelessness, Adrian Dominican Associate Sharon Pikula saw a heart-warming scene where people help one another and find joy and comfort in small matters. 

Sharon volunteered for a week at a welcome center for immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona, working with other volunteers to give immigrants who pass through the center time for respite and recovery. Typically, the immigrants come from a detention center run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or from other nonprofit organizations located near the border, she explained. 

The welcome center where Sharon served was established in a former elementary school building by various local nonprofit organizations, under the umbrella of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Sharon explained. The center has space for up to 400 people to sleep, but its primary aim is to offer temporary space for immigrants to “stabilize their situation – rest, get a new set of clothes, get a shower, [and enjoy] three meals a day,” she explained. The ultimate goal is to prepare them for journeys to the homes of their sponsors, family members or friends who reside in the United States. Typically, 175 to 300 immigrants pass through the welcome center each week, Sharon said. 

During her week at the IRC Welcome Center, Sharon worked three-hour shifts packed with activity: coordinating showers, preparing used clothing, working in the clothing room, serving meals, and offering any other service needed by the immigrants. Often after her shift, she and other volunteers shopped at local thrift stores for clothing, toiletries, and other necessary items to stock the shelves of the IRC Welcome Center. 

Sharon described the work as heart-wrenching. “Other than the clothes on [their backs] and maybe a backpack, that’s all they’ve got,” she said. Yet, during the orientation, the volunteers were told not to question the immigrants about their experiences to avoid re-traumatizing them. “Their recommendation was to give them as much autonomy as possible and not to throw questions at them,” Sharon said. “I tried to be as helpful as I could, but I did not push any questions … and just helped them get whatever they needed.”

During off-hours, Sharon stayed at the nearby house of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The experience was “very holistic in terms of being of service but also having space for yourself to take in what you were experiencing – time for prayer and reflection,” she said. She also spent part of her evenings gaining some insight into the plight of the immigrants by reading Solito, the memoir of Javier Zamora, who, in 1990, at the age of 9, traveled by himself from his native El Salvador to be reunited with his parents in the United States. 

Still, Sharon witnessed joy and hope. “One of the things you learn is that you may find yourself in some really tough situations, but you still see the humanity of people in terms of helping each other out,” she said. She gave the example of a man from Africa who, on watching Sharon clean off the tables before preparing a meal, stepped in to help her with this task. She also recalled the generosity of a man from San Francisco who traveled to Phoenix with a carload of donated shoes for the immigrants. “They were gone within a day,” she said.

Sharon also applauded the generosity of activists who advocate for the welfare of immigrants, even if they don’t necessarily work with “day-to-day direct service,” and spoke highly of the support she felt from Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates who prayed for her and for the immigrants she served. “I really, full-heartedly believe that prayer support is deeply needed across the spectrum, whether you’re in direct service or the activist or whatever role,” she said. “We need that praying presence.” 

Sharon said volunteering at the IRC Welcome Center was part of her search to serve others. “As I’m moving into retirement, I want to do some service,” she said. She heard about the center from a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in her parish, who had served at the center. Feeling that Phoenix was not too far from her home in Washington State, Sharon applied to volunteer at the welcome center. “I’m hoping in the later part of the year to return there,” she said. “It’s a very tender and vulnerable place.”

Sharon has some advice for anyone who would like to volunteer at a welcome center for immigrants. “Be open to the experience,” she said. “If you have some prayer or spiritual practices, make sure you’re doing them regularly. Watch for the simple things. It’s not the grandiose stuff – it’s paying attention to the simple needs of the people and allowing them to be as autonomous as possible and giving them space.”

Listen to Sharon’s Holy Week reflection on her experience at the welcome center.



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