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April 2, 2021, Detroit – In her work at Gianna House – which offers education and supportive programs to pregnant women and mothers of all ages – Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, has seen many success stories. Recently, one of those stories was highlighted publicly when Ariel Jewell, a young mother working toward self-sufficiency, received the Live your Dream Award and a $3,000 college scholarship from Soroptimist International-Grosse Pointe during a virtual award ceremony.
Soroptimist International offers educational programs on issues that affect women, such as human trafficking. In addition, the organization provides mentoring and a variety of programs to support girls and women as they strive to meet their educational and career goals.
“Ariel came to us in 2019 on her last pregnancy and started taking classes,” Sister Theresa recalled. Now the mother of three, Ariel left an abusive relationship and found herself without a stable home. “She told me that she wanted to improve herself, so she signed up at Davenport College for a pre-nursing program,” Sister Theresa said. Now a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Ariel worked three jobs as a home health aide and saved $10,000 to buy an old house.
Ariel’s efforts to be self-sufficient paid off as organizations such as Soroptimist gave her some needed support. Individuals and organizations donated funds to help Ariel fix up her house and she continues to work toward providing a stable home for her children.
Ariel is one example of the pregnant women and mothers of any age who seek support from Gianna House. “We’re super-interested in helping them to be good moms,” Sister Theresa said. “We offer them classes in parenting and personal growth, as well as life skills,” such as obtaining jobs.
In her ministry at Gianna House, Sister Theresa focuses on the outreach program. “It gives me a venue to do what I wanted to do – focus on women’s growth,” she said. Gianna House offers four classes a week, Monday through Thursday. Women who take the classes earn “baby bucks” that allow them to purchase baby supplies.
During the pandemic, Sister Theresa said, Gianna has begun to offer online courses through a program called Brightcourse, which streams more than 100 classes focusing on areas such as pregnancy, infancy, toddlers, and life skills. “They can use that any day, any time, and pick classes that they want,” she explained. “We’re trying to figure out how we can integrate this with my program. It’s much simpler than Zoom.”
Starting in April, Sister Theresa hopes to offer courses that mothers who aren’t comfortable with online classes can take over their smart phones. “We send them a number that would link them to a lesson [involving] a half-hour video.”
Gianna House offers more than classes, though. It also offers the women a sense of community. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the lock-down of Gianna House, Sister Theresa said, “the women used to love coming to Gianna House because it formed a support group for them. They were such a support group for each other.”
Sister Theresa said young mothers are always challenged, but this year has brought even greater problems. “Right now it’s harder with COVID because of the home schooling [the mothers] have to do.” She recalled a young woman who was pregnant, working on her own GED, and trying to home school her children. “These are the realities that they face,” she said.
But Sister Theresa also has many memories of women who overcame their challenges and obstacles and are now doing well in life. Alissa, a first-time mother, took sewing classes at Gianna House and, through those classes and her love for sewing, found a job as a seamstress. “I’m so excited that Gianna House showed me something I love to do, and a job came out of it based on my talking about the knowledge I knew from class.”
Monique, who attended classes at Gianna House since she became pregnant with her daughter, Serenity, spoke of the strong influence that Gianna House had on her life. “The classes they offer here are the classes I need to be a better me and to be as good a mom as I can be,” she said. “I also meet some other mothers here I can relate to. … Here we don’t judge each other no matter what. We build one another up. I can honestly say I am happy that Gianna House came into my life when it did.”
Feature photo: Monique, holding baby Serenity, is grateful for Gianna House and for the other mothers she has met during her classes there.
March 23, 2021, Chicago – Kathy Almaney, a former Adrian Dominican Sister who has continued her connection to the Congregation, formally became an Adrian Dominican Associate March 14, 2021, during a virtual Ritual of Acceptance attended by more than 80 Associates, Sisters, family members, and friends.
Associates are women and men, at least 18 years of age, who make a non-vowed commitment to partner with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. While maintaining their own lifestyle and remaining financially independent, they participate in various spiritual, social, and ministerial experiences with the Sisters and live out the Dominican charism, or spirit, in their daily lives.
“As a teacher, catechist, music minister, Human Resources expert; in her work with homelessness and in finance, chairing the [Adrian Dominican Sisters’] Camilla Madden Trust and co-chairing the Dominican Midwest Chapter’s Resilient Communities Committee, Kathy has already lived out the Dominican charism for years,” said Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life. “This afternoon Kathy makes a formal commitment to this charism, which she has enthusiastically embraced for most of her life.”
Sister Ellen Burkhardt, OP, who entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation with Kathy and mentored her in her formation as an Associate, spoke of the many ways that Kathy brought her “crowd” – those who entered the Congregation at the same time – together over the years.
“She offered us the idea that Adrian was where we first tasted the bread that we couldn’t forget, that it touched us in a way that we kept coming back,” Sister Ellen said. “As Kathy has so often called us together, we gather to witness and give thanks, to celebrate and affirm Kathy’s ongoing Dominican identity.”
In reflecting on her decision to become an Associate, Kathy spoke of her recent experience of serving on the Resilient Communities Committee for the Dominican Midwest Chapter, based in Chicago. In response to the Congregation’s 2016 Enactment to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins,” each geographic Chapter formed a committee to work with local organizations to build a resilient community, one in which the people work together to make sure their needs are met and are able to recover quickly from adverse situations.
“It was a wonderful experience to work with that committee,” Kathy said. “I think that sense of community really turned the page for me.”
Kathy also spoke of the community experience she felt as an Adrian Dominican Sister. “My six years left an indelible impression on me and stayed with me all my life – in my family and my work,” she said. “A community supports you and cares for you, but also challenges you to do your best.”
The ritual concluded with Kathy signing the Agreement of Association, which signifies her formal commitment to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. In response, members of the virtual gathering bestowed the Dominican Blessing on Kathy, asking for the blessings of the Holy Trinity on her.
If you feel called to be an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach at 517-266-3531 or email@example.com. If you are a single Catholic woman interested in vowed life as an Adrian Dominican Sister, contact Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Co-Director of Vocations, at 517-266-3532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo: Participants in Kathy Almaney’s Ritual of Acceptance into Associate Life extend their hands for the Dominican Blessing.