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December 28, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – As we continue the Season of Christmas and head toward New Year, we also take time to look back at the past year and remember the highlights. For the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, 2018 was a year of many challenges, triumphs, and sorrows. Below are the highlights of the year as found in the “What’s Happening” news section of our website and chosen members of the Communications Department.
Corporate Responsibility – accountability to gun manufacturers and dealers
Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates were involved in the national efforts to halt gun violence in the United States. While many Sisters and Associates participated in marches against gun violence, people of faith in corporate responsibility organizations took a different approach. Sister Judy Byron, OP, helped to organize religious communities in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to buy stock in gun manufacturers and dealers. Through shareholder resolutions, they scored a victory in persuading American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Smith and Wesson, and Sturm Ruger to be more transparent and to work toward gun safety.
Action on Behalf of Dreamers and Immigrants
As policies on immigrants were debated or enacted, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates advocated on the immigrants’ behalf. Actions included participation in a February 26 call-in to urge Congress to enact legislation to extend the option for Dreamers to defer deportation; took part in the Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers; and submitted comments to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services against a proposed policy that would make it harder for immigrants to become citizens. Toward the end of the year, Sisters volunteered at hospitality centers in Texas, working with immigrants who had been released from detention and were on their way to sponsored homes in the United States.
Farewell to Former Prioresses
The Congregation mourned the loss of two women who had served as Prioress of the Congregation: Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP (1968 to 1978), who died on April 17, 2018, and Sister Janet Capone, OP (1998-2004), who died on July 29, 20018.
Sisters and Associates represented the Congregation at a number of major justice advocacy events throughout the year, including Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice; the Walk for Life in the Philippines, protesting the extra-judicial killings of accused drug dealers and users; Encounter at the Border, the annual action of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch; and the Parliament of World Religions. Individual Sisters and Associates continued to be involved in justice ministry in a number of ways. Sister Lois Paha, OP, led a delegation of 50 Hispanic parishioners from the Diocese of Tucson to the Fifth National Encuentro, focusing on ways that the Catholic Church can be more responsive to the needs of Hispanic Catholics. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, spent days on NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus in the days before the election, helping voters throughout the United States to understand issues of economic justice.
Looking to the Future
In August, Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States, and invited Sisters from other U.S. Dominican Congregations, all 65 and under, gathered in Adrian to deepen their relationships and to look ahead to the future. A highlight of the gathering was the First Profession of Vows of Sister Katherine Frazier, OP. Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, was named to serve the core team of Giving Voice, an organization for Catholic Sisters 50 and younger. The Congregation welcomed several new Associates – lay women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to live out the mission and vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – from Florida and the Dominican Republic in April; from Adrian during Partners VI, the annual summer gathering of Associates in August; and from Chicago in October.
The Congregation collaborated with and hosted other members of the national and worldwide Dominican family: Friars, contemplative nuns, apostolic Sisters, Laity, Associates, and members of established Dominican organizations. Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, along with Gloria Escalona, of the Dominican Laity, formed a delegation of U.S. Dominican women to visit the Dominican Sisters of the St. Catherine of Siena Congregation of Iraq after they returned to their demolished and damaged homes and convents on the Nineveh Plain. Sister Margarita Ruiz, OP, collaborated with other women religious to write a history of women religious in the Dominican Republic. The Adrian Dominican Sisters hosted the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference and the annual gathering of the Dominican Institute for the Arts.
General Council Statements
The General Council of the Congregation issued statements on a number of issues, including offshore drilling, President Donald Trump’s rollback of pollution controls, the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Martin Luther King Day, and the separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Proclaiming 2018 to be a year of study on the meaning of resilient communities, the Congregation hosted two public forums on the subject: a symposium in March, featuring talks by five national thought leaders on various aspects of resiliency and an educational forum in August, in which three Adrian Dominican Sisters shared their own stories of forming resilient communities. Mission Chapters have formed their own Resilient Communities Committees to determine where in their region they will work with local people to make their community resilient.
In the spring, two workshops in Michigan helped participants to engage in the difficult conversation about diversity and racism. Sister Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN, and Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, of Pax Christi USA, led a public workshop, “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Race, Power, and Privilege.” The Great Lakes Mission Chapter, based in Detroit, focused its Spring Assembly on Racism and White Privilege. A unique program, Reverse Mass Mob, brought parishioners from Detroit to a suburban parish to begin their conversations on racism.
In response to the General Chapter Enactment on Sustainability, administrators at the Motherhouse Campus developed a sustainability plan, which includes changes in the heating and cooling system and reduction in the use of electricity at the Motherhouse. Students from Barry and Siena Heights Universities, both sponsored by the Congregation, came together at the Permaculture Gardens in Adrian site in May to learn about sustainability practices and apply them on their own campuses. Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist, introduced honeybees to the Permaculture site. The 2018 issue of Voices in Mission and Ministry details sustainability practices throughout the Congregation.
December 6, 2018, McAllen, Texas – In a situation that many might assume is desperate and hopeless, five Adrian Dominican Sisters found hope, gratitude, and resilience among immigrants whom they volunteered to serve at hospitality centers in McAllen and El Paso, Texas.
The Sisters were responding to the call by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) to serve immigrants passing through the hospitality centers before joining their sponsoring family or friend. Sisters Patricia Erickson, OP, Mary Kastens, OP, and Nancy Murray, OP, served for 20 days at the McAllen Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, while Sisters Judith Benkert, OP, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, served at various times at Annunciation House, a hospitality center in El Paso, Texas.
From left: Sisters Maurine, Judith, Patricia, Mary, and Nancy
The two hospitality centers serve immigrants – mostly from the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua – released from detention centers and heading to the homes of family members or friends who are sponsoring them. The hospitality centers offer the immigrants food, clothing, showers, shelter, and a ride to the bus station or airport from which they will travel to their sponsored home in the United States. The immigrants – sometimes as many as 300 in one day – stay at the hospitality center until they have money to travel to their sponsored home.
Typically, the Sisters in McAllen worked from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with a break for lunch, and spent the night in the Pilgrim House at the San Juan Shrine, about a 20-minute drive from the hospitality house. Sister Judith typically worked the 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. shift and stayed in a hotel.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters were among numerous other volunteers – other women religious, high school and college students, and concerned local residents – who took the time to offer the immigrants whatever services they needed.
“We didn’t have any specific duties per se,” said Sister Pat, a nurse practitioner. “Sometimes I would be in the coat and sweater room, helping people get the coats and sweaters they needed, or in the dining room, giving out tortillas and soup, or helping people in the clinic.”
At the same time, the Sisters and other volunteers served wherever and however they were needed. “There were no job descriptions or outlines of tasks to be done,” Sister Nancy said. “You can’t always analyze but you have to get things done. You have to set the table before you sort the clothes, and in between other tasks when you could get the towels washed.”
Sister Judith said a particular challenge for her was encouraging the sponsors – who often needed help making airplane reservations for the incoming immigrants – to seek help from a local friend or family member. Many had never used the Internet or made reservations and were not fluent in English, she said.
The Sisters were impressed by the patient and grateful attitude of the immigrants. “They always came with shoes that didn’t have laces,” Sister Judith said. “Laces and belts were taken away from them,” out of fear on the part of the detention center personnel that the immigrants would “do something drastic” with them.
“The highlights for me were the people who came through,” Sister Mary said. “They were very patient, gracious, grateful for anything you would do for them. It was special to see the fathers who came through with their children and how patient they were with their children – and how concerned.” Because all of the immigrants who came to the hospitality centers had a sponsor, they were filled with hope, she added. Those who had no one to sponsor them were often deported.
In spite of busy days and exhaustion, the Sisters learned much from their experiences with the immigrants. “I would put this as probably one of the greatest religious experiences of my life,” Sister Mary said. “My whole life has revolved around upper-middle class existence. … Here were people with one bag that held all their belongings. There was such a beauty from these people.”
Sister Judith said she learns from people in situations such as immigration or jail. “What matters in life is being together and having only what you need,” she said. “I’m always learning how to simplify my life, accept things that are important, and let go of other things that don’t matter.”
The Sisters also have suggestions for anyone who might consider volunteering at the hospitality centers. “It’s a great experience,” Sister Pat said. “Go without any expectations and be open to whatever comes your way. … You’re just there to be with people and to do whatever you can to help.”