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August 9, 2021, Chicago – The governance structure of the Adrian Dominican Sisters took a historic turn on August 8, 2021, the Feast of St. Dominic, when Sisters Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Mary Priniski, OP, and Mary Soher, OP, formally began their four-year term as the Leadership Team of the new Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter. The brief ritual was live streamed from Chicago. This is a milestone in the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ process of forming a new Mission Chapter from four U.S.-based Chapters – Dominican Midwest, Dominican West, Florida, and Great Lakes Dominican.
The three women were selected during the Chapter’s Selection Assembly, held virtually June 18-19, 2021. Other Sisters who were willing to serve as leaders were Sisters Judith Benkert, OP, Barbara Matievich, OP, and Nancy Murray, OP.
Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, selected as Mission Prioress, is a native of Detroit. She entered the Congregation in September 1966 and served as an elementary school teacher and a parish religious education director. In 1981, she responded to a call to open a mission in Appalachia, where she ministered as paralegal in Castlewood, Virginia.
Sister Mary Jane focused her mission on people with HIV/AIDS from 1988 to 2008: as paralegal at Atlanta Legal Aid and at Living Room, a nonprofit housing program she established in 1995 for people with AIDS, and, from 2000 to 2008, in South Africa, ministering in the HIV/AIDS Unit of the Catholic Institute of Education. She went on to minister at the Diocesan Education Office in Manzini, Swaziland.
Returning to Detroit, Sister Mary Jane served for a year as Development Officer for Covenant Community Care, a faith-based healthcare organization.
Sister Mary Jane brings to her new ministry experience as Chapter Prioress of Adrian Crossroads Mission Chapter: assisting the Chapter Prioress in 2012-2014 and serving an elected term of office until 2020. Since then, she said, she spent “months of contemplative prayer in hermitage-like solitude and months serving at the border with unaccompanied minors in Texas and families seeking asylum in Texas and Arizona.”
Working as part of a team has been important to her, Sister Mary Jane said. “I find [it] fosters relationships, supports one another, sparks creativity, shares decision-making and the workload, expands vision and ideas and works to each one’s strength.”
Her hope is that the Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter “will be a real source of unity and oneness, that we come closer together at this point in our life as a Congregation – in spirit, in heart, in mission. Love is really the force. It draws us to one another and it draws us to mission.”
Sister Mary Priniski, selected as Chapter Prioress, also brings experience as the Chapter Prioress of the Mid-Atlantic Mission Chapter from 2009 until 2014.
A native of Escanaba, Michigan, Sister Mary entered in 1968. Her first ministry – and her first experience of teamwork – was in a parish, focusing on youth ministry and liturgy. “I learned that we each had gifts to bring to the table and we needed to rely on one another to minister well,” she recalled.
In 1979, she moved to South Carolina to serve at Interfaith Worker Justice, organizing church and community support for worker rights and civil rights. She began working in 1992 for Glenmary Home Missioners, a community of Catholic priests and brothers who bring a Catholic presence to those who live in U.S. counties where the Church is not otherwise effectively present. After nine years working again for worker rights, she was elected Chapter Prioress of the Mid-Atlantic Mission Chapter.
Sister Mary said she has experienced creative teamwork in her most recent ministry, as Executive Director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. “I have helped build a team that has enabled creativity in ways not known at the Center before,” she said.
“I find us at a challenging and exciting time in our Congregation,” Sister Mary said. “The relationships that we have and will build … feed my soul.”
Sister Mary Soher, selected as Mission Prioress, is a native of San Francisco and the oldest of three children. With a bachelor’s degree in communications from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, she worked for a television station in Texas for five years before moving to Los Angeles to work for a satellite and video conferencing company. It was there that she met the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She entered in 1996.
Sister Mary has ministered at Barry University in communications, served with the Congregation’s Formation Team, and co-directed the National Catholic Sisters Initiative which, in 2014, initiated National Catholic Sisters Week. Most recently, she served as Director of Campus Ministry for the Dominican University of California, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael.
Sister Mary has also used her experience and training as director of the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference and has been involved in Dominican college preaching conferences and Dominican Young Adults USA.
“I have a deep love for our Dominican charism and cherish collaborating with other Dominican congregations,” she said, adding that she also thrives in team ministry. “I value the sharing of ideas, balancing responsibilities, and clear communication among team members,” she said.
“I’m excited to look at a Chapter that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Caribbean,” Sister Mary said. “It’s going to be an interesting perspective to see how we are in mission in ways that are similar but also unique.”
“I’m not out to change the world but to walk with our Sisters in these next four years,” Sister Mary added. “I have so appreciated the women who have been my Chapter Prioresses since I entered, and I hope that I can offer that same kind of encouragement, support, and yes, even challenge in a way that continues our Dominican sisterhood.”
Feature photo: From left - Sisters Mary Jane Lubinski, OP; Sister Mary Soher, OP; Sister Mary Priniski, OP
August 7, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters on the Motherhouse campus for weeks waited with great anticipation the arrival of 20 guest workers to the campus. On the morning of July 31, 2021, the workers arrived, strolling out of the trailer of Munchers on Hooves: a herd of 20 goats.
No kidding – goats at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse?
The goats are part of a long line of non-human Co-workers serving in the Congregation’s permaculture site. The area has also been the home of thousands of worms who, through the practice of vermiculture, have helped compost organic materials. More recently, two hives of bees have made their home at the Motherhouse, serving as pollinators. The goats, in turn, immediately went to work, grazing on the vegetation in a designated, fenced-in area of the permaculture site.
While their arrival has brought about great anticipation and excitement since Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, announced it to the campus community in a July 15, 2021, email, the goats have come on campus for a serious purpose: to keep invasive species of plants in check and to help manage the landscape.
Goats are a natural for the permaculture site. Permaculture is a system of land use that cooperates with natural systems rather than dominating them, with a focus on sustainability and ecological health.
In recent years, goats have become more popular for land restoration work, Jared explained. Garrett and Gina Fickle, owners of Munchers on Hooves, have rented their goats to people in residential areas, construction sites, and rural land for about six years.
The goats were set to work at the Motherhouse, grazing in three designated areas, each fenced off in turn by Garrett, Gina, and other employees of Munchers on Hooves. They were remained at the Motherhouse for five days to complete their tasks.
“When I started working here and seeing what the permaculture site is doing, it seemed obvious that one of the things the field could benefit from was having large grazers,” Jared said. He sees the goats as part of an overall strategy to rid the site of invasive plant species, particularly the Bradford Pear tree; teasel, a flowering plant; and Canadian thistles.
Invasive species – those that are natural to other areas but introduced into new areas – can exploit the ecosystem and hurt the native species. “An invasive species is placed outside of the ecological place in which it was evolved, so it doesn’t have anything that will naturally function to keep it in check,” Jared explained. By dominating the ecosystem and reducing the number of native plants, invasive plants also damage the pollinators and insects that depend on the native plants and reduce species diversity.
Goats are a more natural solution to invasive plants than chemical herbicides. “The idea is that with repeated disturbance – things like mowing and grazing by large animals – you’re preventing the invasive species from sending out seeds and taking over the area,” Jared explained. The goats are coming late enough in the season that it would be hard for the invasive plants to come back in the summer. The goats will slow their spread, he added.
“Using these grazers in combination with mowing and burning when appropriate is a super important way to get a handle on what’s going on and form higher quality plant communities,” Jared said. “The move toward using biological means rather than chemical or mechanical means is a good thing. It’s partnering with what goats want to do anyway. If we could get closer to our goals on the land, that’s a real win-win.”
The situation is certainly a “win” for the goats, who spend their time grazing on land that provides a variety of plants – and for the Sisters and Co-workers, who have enjoyed watching the goats from a distance. The hope is that the Munchers on Hooves goats will make several return visits in years to come, helping to create a diverse and healthy permaculture site on the Motherhouse property.
Feature photo: Goats exit the Munchers on Hooves trailer to begin work at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Permaculture Gardens.