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November 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – About 100 Catholic Sisters from most of the 19 religious communities serving in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, gathered October 20 at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. The annual event, coordinated by the diocesan Office of Consecrated Life, offers the women religious the opportunity to get to know each other through a program of prayer, lunch, conversation, talks, and Mass.

Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, welcomed the Sisters to the Motherhouse. She expressed the hope that the participants would “continue our conversations and go a bit deeper with each other on our lives together, because regardless of the congregation or community that we are members of, we are clearly Sisters to each other and Sisters in our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus.”

Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Rita Wenzlick, OP

Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Rita Wenzlick, OP, Delegate for Consecrated Life for the diocese, also welcomed participants. Inspired by a talk by noted speaker and author Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, on the application of the Rule of St. Benedict to modern life, Sister Rita undertook a similar study of the Rule of St. Augustine, adopted by St. Dominic.

Sister Rita discussed five points about the Rule of St. Augustine and how Sisters can live them out today.

  • While the Rule of St. Augustine calls on Sisters to “dwell peacefully in the convent and to be of one heart and one mind in God,” Sister Rita said, many Sisters today live alone or in smaller groups. Still, they can “be of one heart and one mind” by faithfully living out their community’s vision or directional statements, she added.

  • The Rule of St. Augustine noted that “everything was held in common, and distribution was made to everyone according to his need,” Sister Rita said. Today, she said, Sisters “struggle to develop a strong sense of communal and personal inner authority” to balance their own needs daily with those of their community. Sisters today must discern “where we will minister, to whom we will minister, and what is needed for us to feel fulfilled in our ministry,” she said.

  • While the Rule of St. Augustine calls on Sisters to travel and remain together at all times, many Sisters today live and travel alone, Sister Rita said. “We can be very uncomfortable in many kinds of circumstances because we’re there alone,” she said. She encouraged Sisters to be open to living and ministering with Sisters of other communities, without compromising on their community’s identity.

  • The Rule of St. Augustine suggests that religious gauge their spiritual progress by their concern for the common good. Sister Rita noted that Sisters today live out that call through their ministry to those in need. “We always have to be reminded that it is for the promotion of the well-being of all – not for ourselves, but for all,” she said.

  • In his rule, St. Augustine calls for religious to “observe all these points with care, as lovers of spiritual beauty.” Sister Rita spoke of her own daily prayer “for the grace, wisdom, and serenity to do what the Rule of St. Augustine would expect me to do in 2018.”
Adrian Dominican Sister Marietta Churches, OP, speaks about the gathering’s theme, “Celebrating You.”

After lunch, Adrian Dominican Sister Marietta Churches, OP, focused on the theme of the gathering, “Celebrating You.” Noting that Sisters often focus on their failures or short-comings, she encouraged the Sisters instead to focus on their gifts from God. “We are wonderful women – we are W-squared,” she said. 

“I love being a woman religious,” Sister Marietta said. “To me it is exciting. It is challenging. It is vibrant. It is awesome. It is scary.” Many are concerned about the future of religious life, which is dwindling in numbers. “And yet, I do feel a sense that God is in our midst,” Sister Marietta said. “If I can be assured of that, that’s all I want. And I’m going to walk humbly and walk faithfully with my God.”

Noting that she had never ministered in far places such as Africa or the Philippines, Sister Marietta said that she had been privileged in 1994 to help with the foundation of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brighton, Michigan. 

She encouraged the Sisters to discern where they might be called in the Church. “I just think that we can make a dynamic impact on the Church,” she said. She encouraged the Sisters to affirm one another rather than to find fault in small matters. “You’re chosen, wanted, and blessed,” she told the Sisters. 

Sister Marietta concluded by leading Sisters in an exercise in which they quietly wrote down their own gifts from God and discussed their gifts with the others at their table.

Bishop of Lansing Earl Boyea delivers his homily during the closing Liturgy in Holy Rosary Chapel.

The gathering closed with Mass in Holy Rosary Chapel, celebrated by Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing. “It’s a great joy to be here with you today,” he told the Sisters. “I’m so appreciative of your many gifts.”

Single Catholic women who feel called to religious life should contact the Vocations Office in her home diocese or the religious community to which they feel a call. Dawn Hausmann, Director of Consecrated Religious Vocations for the Diocese of Lansing, can be reached at 517-342-2506. 

Those interested in vowed life as an Adrian Dominican Sister should contact one of the Co-directors of Vocations: Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, 517-266-3532, tdeyonker@adriandominicans.org; and Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP, 517-266-3537, mfahlman@adriandominicans.org.

Feature photo (top): Sisters serving in the Diocese of Lansing work on a project to identify their gifts during the annual gathering of Sisters.

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August 31, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – When students begin the academic year at Dominican high schools, some will have much to say about the Dominican heritage. More than 100 students representing 19 schools left the 20th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference in Adrian with a greater understanding of the Order of Preachers – and with specific action plans for expanding their classmates’ awareness of the Dominican family and spirituality.

Students process with the Word of God prior to the Gospel proclamation during the Sending Forth Mass.

The 2018 conference was in late June at Siena Heights University in Adrian included many events and activities that made tangible the spirit of the Dominican order. 

“The conference is a wonderful place to learn how you can involve yourselves and your schools more in the Dominican faith,” said Lucia Wileman, a student at Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois. 

Her classmate, Abby Homer, added, “I can’t wait to bring this knowledge back to my school.” Rosary High School is sponsored by the Springfield Dominican Sisters.

Sister Mary Soher, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister and Director of the Conference called the event a wonderful success, thanks to the quality of the presenters, welcoming hospitality at the Siena Heights University and Adrian Dominican Motherhouse campuses.

Along with Adrian Dominican Sisters, sponsoring Dominican congregations and provinces were Dominican Sisters of Amityville, New York; Caldwell, New Jersey; Houston, Texas; Mission San Jose, California; Peace in Columbus, Ohio; Racine, Wisconsin; Sinsinawa, Wisconsin; Sparkill, New York; Springfield, Illinois;  and the Friars from the Province of St. Albert the Great.

The young preachers first learned about some of the better-known Dominican saints from Patrick Spedale, campus minister at St. Pius X  High School in Houston, Texas, who portrayed St. Dominic; Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Adrian, as St. Catherine of Siena, a 13th Century mystic, reformer, and Doctor of the Church; and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Adrian, as St. Antonio Montesinos, noted for speaking out on behalf of the indigenous people of Hispaniola who were exploited by the Spanish conquistadors. Brother Joseph Kilikevice, OP, of the St. Albert the Great Province, spoke on the interfaith mission of the Order.

Sister Therese Mary Foote, OP, enjoys a social with students from Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin.

Throughout the conference, students learned various ways to preach the Word of God, in addition to the more traditional preaching at the pulpit. “Dominican life isn’t just about words,” noted Madison Schomer, a student of Rosary High School. “Your actions are really the game changers.”

During the session on Preaching the Signs of the Times, the students learned about various social justice issues, including immigration, interconnectedness of life on Earth, women’s pay equity, and justice issues.

Representatives of various branches of the Dominican family were on hand to introduce the students to the diversity of Dominicans – Associates, Dominican Laity, Friars, Sisters, and Nuns. 

Students also had the opportunity to spend time with Adrian Dominican Sisters and meet their Sister prayer partners during a social.

A part of one day of the conference was spent in preaching through action as participants served local charities.

Finally, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP, Amityville, former President of the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA), gave a keynote address on Preaching through the Arts. Participants experienced preaching through specific arts during breakout sessions that included liturgical dance, preaching, and visual arts.

Sister Mary Soher, OP, offers a reflection during the closing Mass.

During the closing banquet, Sister Mary recalled the history of the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. Sister Gina Fleming, OP, Amityville, who started the National College Preaching in Action Conference in 2002 for Dominican colleges and universities, received the Sister Pat Brady Award for her involvement in spreading the Dominican charism to young people.

During the closing Commissioning Mass, Dominican high school students took their place as young Dominicans, preparing to deepen the Dominican heritage in their classmates back home through specific action plans. 

“You opened your hearts and minds to the presentations and to each other,” Sister Mary told the young Dominican preachers. “You took seriously the invitation to contemplate and then act. You generously shared your gift of yourself to every person around you. … Each of you opened yourself to the grace of God. And that’s all that God asks.”

The fruits of the conference and of the young preachers’ learning will be seen in the coming school year, as the students enact their plans to deepen the Dominican heritage at their high schools.

Feature photo (top): Students from a Dominican high school present an action plan for bringing the Dominican spirit to the school this year.

Clockwise from left: Students practice their preaching skills during a Liturgical Preaching workshop presented by Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP. High school preachers participate in a rosary procession through Holy Rosary Chapel. Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, demonstrates the art of folding paper cranes.



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