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old sepia-toned photo of the front of Visitation Convent in Detroit

January 23, 2024, Detroit – In December 2023, two Adrian Dominican Sisters were among a crowd of people witnessing a very special place for low-income, single-parent families for years to come. The former Visitation convent, which served as a home and ministry site for Adrian Dominican Sisters, was rededicated as the Fox Family Center to house families in need.

Sisters Josephine “Jo” Gaugier, OP, and Maria Goretti Browne, OP, were invited by the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council to represent the Congregation at the dedication ceremony on December 14, 2023. Sister Maria Goretti lived in the convent from 1970 to about 1974 while she taught social studies at De Porres High School. Sister Jo ministered in the convent from 1972 to 1978 as a pastoral team member.

“It was very exciting for me to see that this [new] use fits into our initiatives,” Sister Jo said, adding that it was Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) that brought the Fox Family Center into being. The Fox Family Center – expected to invite residents in January – is “the kind of thing that we’d stand side-by-side with [CCSS] to care for that population, mostly African American, some Hispanic, to help them have a place to live, a place to study and look for jobs.”

Sister Maria Goretti said she was “very proud that [CCSS] chose a Catholic convent and acknowledged [its] Catholic roots.” She noted a continuing connection between the Adrian Dominican Sisters and those who developed the Fox Family Center. The Fox family was a significant donor to the Center, and a family member graduated from Dominican High School, founded and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

The former convent has a rich history of service to the Detroit community. Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries purchased it from Archbishop Adam Maida of Detroit and, from 1990 to 2021, used it for Genesis II, a program that allowed children to live with their mothers who were following up on substance abuse treatment. CCSS bought the building and land in March 2020. 

Beginning in 1920, Visitation Convent housed about 30 Sisters at a time. The Sisters who lived there staffed several Catholic schools and engaged in other ministries. During the rededication ceremony, Adrian Dominican Sisters were recognized for their steady presence in the Detroit area during and after the uprising in the 1960s. “They gave us an ovation,” Sister Jo recalled. 

While neither Sister Jo nor Sister Maria Goretti were at Visitation during the uprising, they recalled their presence with the people of Detroit in later years. “Both of us came after [the uprising] and moved into Visitation Parish and convent to work among the people and to teach,” Sister Jo said. She recalled that she and former Sister Judi Engel, now an Associate, mentored the women who served as catechists during summer school Bible study sessions.  

Sister Maria Goretti recalled her recent experience of touring at the Fox Family Center. “It was strange being in the dining room of the convent and the chapel – and going upstairs and finding my old bedroom,” she said. 

While they have fond memories of their lives at Visitation, both Sisters Maria Goretti and Jo are happy for the new use of the former convent and the bright future it promises to the residents. “Remodeling was still going on, even during the dedication,” Sister Jo said. “They painted all the ceilings and walls and reconfigured the first floor.” 

The Fox Family Center will accommodate 75 people with 29 bedrooms, one for each family, with an average of three people per room; a gathering room with Wi-Fi; a large dining room and kitchen with meals prepared and served by staff members; a library; space for programming; offices; an enclosed porch; and 10 washers and dryers. In addition, the landscaped yard will include a three-slide playscape for the children and two carports supporting solar arrays to help offset the Center’s electric bill by an estimated $8,500 per year.

The Fox Family Center will also bring a benefit to other residents of the neighborhood. Sister Jo said that when the Center was being developed, CCSS asked people in the area what they needed. Along with a center for families, they asked for a grocery store, which will be built nearby. The grocery store will be especially beneficial in a food desert, “where children grow up thinking a gas station is a grocery store,” Sister Jo said.

For more information about the Fox Family Center, watch or read an interview by Kim DuGiulio, reporter for Detroit Channel 4, with Faith Fowler, Director of Cass Community Social Services. 

a person using a sitting on the ground with a homemade tent, a motorcycle covered with belonging, and a clothes line of laundry behind them.

CANCELED AS OF 10/17/23 - CONTACT WEBER CENTER FOR DETAILS. September 25, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – How do Scriptures call us to relate to people most needing compassion? Sister Maribeth Howell, OP, PhD, STD, addresses that question in a workshop, The Poor, the Widow, the Orphan, and the Stranger in your Land, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, October 21, 2023, at Weber Retreat and Conference Center and via live stream.

In the workshop, Sister Maribeth explores our call to relate to people in need by examining texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly Exodus, Deuteronomy, and several books of the prophets; New Testament writings; and church teachings.

An Adrian Dominican Sister, Sister Maribeth is a Congregation’s Vocations Team member and a spiritual director. She taught at Aquinas Institute of Theology and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis and St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio. She holds a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada, and a PhD and Doctorate of Sacred Theology in Hebrew Scriptures from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

The cost is $45, including lunch, for those who are attending in person, and $35 for those participating via live stream. Registration is required. To register, visit www.webercenter.org and click “programs,” call 517-266-4000, or email webercenter@adriandominicans.org. Limited scholarships are available.

Weber Center is on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse, Adrian, Michigan. Traveling east on Siena Heights Drive, pass the Adrian Rea Literacy Center and turn left just before the solar panel-covered parking lot. Follow the signs to Weber Center. For information, call the Weber Center at 517-266-4000.



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