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January 3, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – The year 2022 found the Adrian Dominican Sisters – like so many organizations in the United States – slowly easing pandemic-related restrictions. But it also brought tremendous change as the Sisters approved five Enactments and elected a new General Council to lead the Congregation for the next six years. The year also brought continued challenges as Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and other Partners in Mission strove to live out the Vision: Seek truth, make peace, reverence life. Below are the top 10 highlights of 2022, selected by Co-workers in the Office of Communications.
Delegates from the Adrian Dominican Sisters meet every six years to approve Enactments – the direction that the Congregation will take in the next six years – and elect a Prioress and General Council to lead the Sisters and Associates in living out those Enactments. Elected to the General Council were Sisters Elise D. García, OP, Prioress; Lorraine Réaume, OP, Vicaress; and Janice Brown, OP, Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, and Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilors.
The 2022 General Chapter affirmed an Enactment that continues a 2016 Enactment on diversity. This area was addressed in many ways in 2022. Kevin Hofmann was named the first Director of the Congregation’s Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion. His outreach included telling his personal story during a Lunch and Learn program at Weber Retreat and Conference Center and writing a weekly blog exploring equity and inclusion. In reparation for the Congregation’s role in racism and white supremacy, the Adrian Dominican Sisters established the Sister Jamie Phelps Endowed Scholarship at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, New Orleans, an endowment in support of the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University; and a scholarship at Siena Heights University for students of color. Barry University in Miami, a sponsored institution of the Congregation, received $1 million in endowment for the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative to prepare Hispanic pastors to lead congregations. INAI, an art gallery adjacent to Weber Center, hosted the Unraveling Racism art exhibit and an artist’s talk to tell of the experiences that the artists had in racism and white supremacy.
The 2022 Enactment on Sustainability calls on the Adrian Dominican Sisters to become a Laudato Si’ Action Platform Congregation, joining with Catholic organizations throughout the world to carry out the vision of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical. Brad Frank, of Adrian, Michigan, was hired to fill the role of Director of the Office of Sustainability with the election of the former director, Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, to the General Council. Along with an installation of a solar array, Motherhouse campus improvements in sustainability include a new permaculture sink to streamline the process of preparing produce for the Dominican Life Center kitchen and the purchase of an electric mower, the first electric vehicle purchased for the Motherhouse. But the Congregation was involved in sustainability efforts throughout the world. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative to the United Nations, traveled to Egypt for COP27, a United Nations conference in which national leaders were to make significant commitments to address global climate change. She also participated in a Dominican Sisters Conference-UN webinar on climate change efforts throughout the world. Father James Hug, SJ, priest chaplain at the Motherhouse, continued to write Catholic liturgical materials for the annual Season of Creation, held globally September 1 through October 4.
The Dominican family – in the United States and throughout the world – continued to grow and to become closer to one another in the past year. Sister Elisabeth Nguyen, OP – a Dominican Sister from Vietnam and an Adrian Dominican Associate for many years – transferred to the Adrian Dominican Congregation as a vowed member, while Sisters Leizel Tedria, OP, Meliza Arquillano, OP, and Marifi Lugtu, OP of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in the Philippines renewed their vows. Adrian Dominican Sisters took on leadership roles in the U.S. Dominican family, with Sister Katherine Frazier, OP, named Director of Dominican Youth Movement, and Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, named Executive Director of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC). Associates – women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to Congregations of Dominican Sisters – and other Partners in Mission also played key roles in the Dominican family. Adrian Dominican Associate Nancy Mason Bordley was named the first Director of the Office of the Dominican Charism, helping Associates and other partners in mission to live out the Dominican Charism. During the year, the Congregation celebrated the formal Ritual of Acceptance of four new Associates online in August and three new Associates in Henderson, Nevada, in November. This was the final Ritual of Acceptance presided over by Associate Mary Lach, who retired after 13 years as Director of Associate Life.
Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates lived out their commitment to justice and peace advocacy in a variety of ways in 2022. Sisters Marilyn Winter, OP, and Patricia McDonald, OP, members of the Lenawee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, were among four panelists in a human trafficking panel discussion on the continuing prevalence of human trafficking. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican representative to the United Nations, spoke out on her disappointment at the lack of progress in UN Nuclear Disarmament meetings. Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, was among many faith leaders to participate in the White House United We Stand Summit, calling on people in the United States to foster unity and to take a stand against hate-motivated violence. Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, a former member of the Congregation’s Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), took on the role of Portfolio Manager. She oversees the PAB’s community investments, low-interest loans to organizations that promote social, economic, and environmental justice in local communities.
As the United States reeled under numerous mass shootings and many called for stricter gun laws, Adrian Dominican Sister Judy Byron, OP, Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, took a different approach to stemming gun violence. She was involved in a campaign by faith-based investors to call on gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger to undertake a Human rights risk assessment to determine how their products contribute to gun violence. Sister Judy further discussed this approach during the After Buffalo, After Uvalde Webinar, focusing on recent incidents of gun violence. In the meantime, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters spoke out several times against the easy access to guns that makes gun violence a more common occurrence. (See more in item 8 below.)
2022 was a year of milestone celebrations for both individuals and organizations. During the year both Sister Mary Arnold Benedetto, OP, and Sister Mary Catharina Bereiter, OP, celebrated their 100th birthday. Sister Carol Coston, OP, founding director, attended the 50th anniversary of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. Closer to home, 25 Sisters marked their Diamond, Golden, and Silver Jubilees with Mass and dinner at the Motherhouse in June. Sisters marking their 80, 75, and 70 years in religious life were honored at local celebrations. Co-workers at Motherhouse marked a collective 445 years of service with Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The Leadership of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – often in conjunction with other Congregations of Catholic Sisters – voiced their concern in a number of issues and events in 2022. The Leadership Council – comprised of the General Council and the elected Chapter and Mission Prioresses in the Congregation – released a statement calling for the immediate passage of voting rights legislation. The General Council released a number of statements: in defense of the Gospel work of Catholic Charities USA; a call on Ash Wednesday for prayer and fasting for Ukraine; on the mass shooting in Buffalo, as well as support of the Black Sisters Conference and LCWR statements on the Buffalo shooting; and in response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The 2022-2028 General Council joined leaders of Catholic Sisters in Michigan in issuing a statement on the divisiveness of elections. The General Council also issued statements in response to the mass shooting in Colorado Springs and in observance of the UN International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Sponsored institutions of the Adrian Dominican Sisters were involved in a number of ways in furthering the Mission of the Congregation. Rosarian Academy of West Palm Beach, Florida, offered its inaugural Adrian Dominican Sisters Scholarship Awards to students on the basis of merit and need, as well as a focus on diversity. Regina Dominican High School, an all-girls school in Wilmette, Illinois, opened its Building Her Tomorrow campaign to redesign the campus for the benefit of the students. St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center in Flint, Michigan, hosted a summer camp to help elementary school students improve their academics and to enjoy some recreation. Barry University, in Miami, Florida, received $1.25 million to establish Sister O’Laughlin Scholarship, to be given as financial support for students who embody Sister Jeanne’s legacy of academic success and service to the community. Sister Peg Albert, OP, announced her retirement as President of Siena Heights University in Adrian at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. In addition, Siena Heights named its Science Hall after Sister Sharon R. Weber, OP, PhD, upon her retirement after more than 40 years of service as chemistry professor and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Both universities granted honorary degrees to recognize the dedication of its recipients: Siena Heights University to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016-2022 General Council, and Barry University to outgoing Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP.
Outreach, service, and advocacy for immigrants has long been a value of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. This year, Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, made plans with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to resettle Ukrainian refugees. Sister Lucy Vazquez, OP, a native of Cuba, wrote an opinion piece for Florida Today on refugee transfers by Texas, noting that this practice treats immigrants as political pawns. Members of the newly merged Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter – made up of the regions in the United States outside of Adrian – expanded on the previous Dominican Midwest Chapter Initiative on Immigration outreach. The new initiative includes not only Chicago-based programs, such as Court Watch in which volunteers attend immigration court to ensure justice for the immigrants and the weekly rosary at a detention center in the Chicago area, but also outreach to immigrants in Tacoma, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
November 18, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – Immigrants and asylum seekers in Tacoma, Washington, and in Tucson, Arizona who are released after being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can find places of welcome and hospitality. Programs that welcome people seeking a new place to call home are now supported by both Adrian Dominican Sister and Associate volunteers and the newly expanded initiative to minister to immigrants.
Sisters and Associates in the former Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter – based in Chicago – since 2013 have supported many efforts to serve immigrants through grants from the Congregation’s Ministry Trust. The Ministry Trust offers grants to community organizations in which individual Sisters minister or volunteer as well as broader ministries organized by Mission Chapters.
Now that the Dominican Midwest Chapter and three other U.S.-based Mission Chapters merged, the newly formed Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter has received funding from the Ministry Trust to expand existing programs to include Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest, based in Tacoma, Washington, and the Casa Alitas program for migrant families, based in Tucson, Arizona.
Sister Julie Flynn, OP, a member of the former Dominican Midwest Chapter, serves as the project director.
Sister Julie recalled the active involvement of Adrian Dominican Sisters in immigration outreach and advocacy even before 2013. “When we started out, almost every Sister in the Chicago area was involved,” either through prayer or through active service in support of immigrants, she said. Involvement included tutoring English as a Second Language (ESL) students at Aquinas Literacy Center, serving at the Bethany House of Hospitality for young women immigrants, ages 18 to 22, who have aged out of the housing system for unaccompanied child immigrants; and praying the rosary every Friday morning in front of the McHenry Detention Center.
The Ministry Trust grant to the Dominican Midwest Chapter provided rent to houses of hospitality such as Bethany House and recently expanded support to include the Chicago Immigrant Transit Assistance Program (CITA), a program of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI). Sister Julie said volunteers greet asylum seekers as they get off their buses from the detention center and help them to meet their immediate needs. Volunteers assisted more than 1,000 people through this program in the past year, she added.
Also supported by the grant is the Pastoral Migratoria, which provides printed materials to help immigrants and asylum seekers to apply for citizenship; the National Immigrant Justice Center, which provides legal assistance for immigrants; and the Holy Family Migrant Ministry in Adrian, Michigan.
Community housing has also been a major effort in the Chicago area, Sister Julie said. Through the ICDI’s Housing and Case Management program, asylum seekers are placed in independent, community-based housing and receive help from trained mentors, she explained.
Sister Julie has been involved in Court Watch, a program in which volunteers sit silently in Immigration Court for three-hour shifts. “I went every Monday morning and was present in the court room,” she said. Volunteers send their reports to the ICDI to give them a “sense of what was happening in the court room with immigrants: how many were released, how many went into detention, and how many were deported and for what reasons,” she explained.
“It definitely affects the court system if people are there,” Sister Julie said. “Americans care. [The system] better be just.” The presence of witnesses could spur a judge, for example, to ask for the lowest possible amount for a bond for an immigrant defendant.
She also found meaning in incidents such as the case of an 18-year-old woman who appeared in court and had a place to go outside of detention – housing provided by the ICDI. “She was saved from [returning to] detention because of that housing, Sister Julie added. “I’m glad our community invested money in it so we can help,” she said.
Along with her own weekly witness at the immigration court, Sister Julie trained other volunteers and explained the system to groups of students who came to the court. She said it gave her hope to meet other people who are concerned about the plight of immigrants and who care about others.
Before her recent move to Adrian, Sister Iva Gregory, OP, was active with Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AIMNW). The organization – largely volunteer – provides volunteer visitation to immigrants while they are in the 1,500-bed detention center in Tacoma. In addition, it offers a variety of services to immigrants once they are released: a welcome center; the Post-Detention Accompaniment Network, which offers services and support to immigrants; and the Hospitality House, which offers temporary housing for those in need.
Sister Iva said the welcome center is open from noon to 7:00 p.m., the hours when detainees are typically released. “There’s always someone to greet them and make them feel we’re a welcoming country,” she said. “We offer snacks and provide clothing – especially if they’re not prepared for cooler weather,” she said, adding that volunteers also take immigrants to the bus stop or airport to travel to their families.
Her ministry at AIDNW was a moving experience for Sister Iva, offering her the opportunity to meet immigrants from Latin America and, increasingly, from Africa. “Here were people who already suffered a lot in getting across the border and sent to a place [in the United States] that they didn’t know about,” she said. “Each person had a story that would tear your heart.”
Sister Iva was especially saddened by the stories of immigrants who had been detained twice – released from detention and again picked up by ICE agents. “I thought, how much suffering can we inflict on people?”
Her ministry with AIDNW was essential and inspirational work for Sister Iva. “I appreciated meeting the immigrants and hearing their stories, but I also loved meeting the volunteers and hearing their stories,” she said. “Each had special gifts and talents for the whole welcoming house. You quickly become a community.”
Sister Charlotte Anne Swift, OP, as a resident of Tucson, Arizona, has a special vantage point in her ministry to asylum seekers. “We live practically on the border, so we live with all the issues of people being picked up, even here in town, and families being split up,” she said.
Sister Charlotte volunteers at Casa Alitas, a program of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, the Diocese of Tucson. Typically, 200 to 250 go through the center every day once they’re released from detention, she said. “It’s a safe place to stay for awhile to get water, clothes, food, and medical provisions as needed.”
For the most part, Sister Charlotte said, people who come through Casa Alitas are seeking asylum from a dangerous situation in their home country. ICE provides them with documentation and an order for an asylum hearing. Legal aid workers make sure that they show up for their court date to discuss asylum, she explained.
The grant from the Ministry Trust provides the asylum seekers with travel bags containing food, water, toiletries, items for children and other items that can keep the asylum seekers going during flights or bus rides – often two to three days – to family members in the United States, Sister Charlotte explained.
“Living this close to the border, we live with the reality of this every single day,” Sister Charlotte said. “We can’t fix it or change anything too much, but I think about Mother Teresa. If you can’t change the system, you at least have to help the people in front of you. We need to work at both at the same time, but you can’t ignore the immediate needs of so many people from so many nations who have taken that terrible journey even to get here.”
Sisters Charlotte Anne Swift, OP, left, and Lois Paha, OP, right, present a check from the Adrian Dominican Sisters Ministry Trust to Marguerite Harmon, CEO of Casa Alitas.