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December 31, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – As has been said numerous times over the past nine months, 2020 has been an “unprecedented year” of chaos, challenges, and change as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and the United States faced systemic racism and a challenging presidential election. As we look forward to 2021 and a time of hope and restoration, here are the top 10 story themes for the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2020, chosen by the Communications Department.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council set protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus: closing the Motherhouse to visitors and guests from March and eventually through the spring of 2021, enacting a shelter-in-place protocol for Sisters living in the Dominican Life Center and a moratorium on commercial Congregational travel, encouraging Co-workers who can to work from home, and beginning a regimen of testing resident Sisters and Co-workers.
Throughout the year, Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers adapted to this new life, continuing to live out the Mission to serve the needs of the times. Congregational meetings are held via Zoom. Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers sew masks for Co-workers in the DLC. A group of Sisters and Associates begin art projects to memorialize life during the pandemic and meet monthly via Zoom to share their artwork and their reflections. St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center offers drive-through food distribution for families in Flint, and Congregation-sponsored schools and literacy centers juggle in-person learning and virtual class time, as well as graduations and other special events. Sisters and Associates in the United States, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines work on the front lines (see pages 2-5 of the 2019-2020 Annual Report).
Finally, as the year comes to an end, hospitals founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – begin the work of vaccinating their employees, beginning with those who work directly with COVID-19 patients.
Even before public outcry resulting from the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Adrian Dominican Sisters sought to root out racism and white privilege and to stand with people of color. A group of Sisters celebrate Black History Month with other people of faith in Lenawee County, Michigan, at a special Black History unity rally. The General Council issues several statements in opposition to racism and racist deeds (see Statements section), and takes part in a local Black Lives Matter march in Adrian on behalf of numerous Sisters who were sheltering in place and unable to attend. Four sponsored institutions involved in education – Barry University, Siena Heights University, Regina Dominican High School, and Rosarian Academy – issue statements opposed to the racist system in the United States and take action to address racism in their schools and local communities. Sisters and Associates also work within their parishes and other ministry sites to educate people and to acknowledge and root out racism.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council issues a number of statements:
on measures taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (March 13);
in response to the killing of George Floyd (May 27);
affirming the call of other organizations for a Day of Mourning and Lament for more than 100,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths (May 29);
affirming the National Black Sisters Conference statement on 21st Century Lynchings (June 3);
supporting the LCWR statement on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative for immigrants who came to the United States as children (June 22);
in gratitude for the Lenawee County Health Department’s statement encouraging compliance with protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (October 6);
writing a letter in support of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the alleged plot to kidnap her (October 9);
expressing joy at Pope Francis’ appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory as Cardinal (October 25); and
speaking on behalf of the plight of 545 migrant children still separated from their parents (October 28).
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, signs the Catholic Impact Investment Pledge, affirming the Congregation’s commitment to make investments “on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, and to promote human dignity, economic justice, and environmental stewardship.” The Adrian Dominican Congregation is one of 16 U.S.-based Congregations of Dominican Sisters to launch the Public Climate Solutions Fund initiative. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to seed the Climate Solutions Fund, attracting $130 million in capital investments. Mercy Housing Northwest – a collaborative effort of communities of women religious in the Northwest, including the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, now merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters – opens a new, 254-apartment affordable housing project. Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, hearing that the Center for Women in Transition wanted to buy the former Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, puts the organization in touch with the Mercy Partnership Fund in St. Louis. The Fund granted the Center a low-interest loan to purchase the novitiate. Socially responsible investing such as the instances above has been the ministry for more than 40 years of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board.
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), under the leadership of Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, joins a coalition to make affordable housing a national priority. Celebrating 110 years of service and advocacy, CCUSA joins with the Felician Sisters of North America work together to establish the Francis Fund for Eviction Prevention to help people on the brink of homelessness. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of the Office of Immigration Assistance, offers to help young “Dreamers” apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation offers numerous ways to be involved in social justice advocacy in areas such as immigration, the death penalty, nuclear disarmament, and climate change.
A number of Adrian Dominican Associates are welcomed through Rituals of Acceptance: Margaret Reyez on February 8, 2020, in St. Catherine Chapel and Teressa Conley, Holly Lyman, Natasha Mulroney, Donna Barnes Riggins, and Aimee Moran Yannis, in Henderson, Nevada, on March 2020; and Suzanne Sink in July 2020, at West Palm Beach, Florida. Welcomed through virtual Rituals of Acceptance were Associates Alison Altmeyer and Annemarie Kallenbach, July 29, 2020, and Diane Burgermeister and Noraleen Renauer, August 10, 2020. Associates look to the future during two virtual gatherings: Futuring Dominican Associate Life in August and Partners: Past, Present, and Future in November. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate.
Four women associated with the Adrian Dominican Sisters participate in NETWORK’s 2020 Nuns on the Bus virtual election campaign, encouraging voters to consider all aspects of a candidate’s stand, not just one issue. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations, was one of the “nuns on the bus” who spoke about the issues she considers. One of the site visits was to St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, founded by Sister Carol Weber, OP, and Sister Judy Blake, CSJ. In a dialogue on city versus rural issues in Michigan, Associate Joan Ebbitt and Co-worker Laura Negron-Terrones, Administrative Assistant for the Office of Immigration Assistance, spoke on the panel representing Adrian, Michigan. In a gesture of unity, Associate Deb Carter reaches out to opposing protesters on election day with a gesture of peace.
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, becomes President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and takes the time to reflect on both religious life and leadership. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, reflects on the greater global perspective she gained during her three years as one of two delegates for the North America Constellation of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). Adrian Dominican Sisters mark their Jubilee milestones of religious life in creative ways, and the Congregation honors 34 Jubilarians at a special Mass. To learn more about how Adrian Dominican Sisters experience religious life, read about the life stories of various Sisters and watch their videos. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Sister.
Weber Retreat and Conference Center, marking its 50th anniversary in 2020, offers virtual programs, workshops, and retreats. The Dominican Center: Spirituality for Mission, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, offers an internship program for spiritual directors, as well as spiritual programs for people of faith. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee holds a monthly series of virtual talks on different aspects of spirituality, including spiritual direction, St. Mary of Magdala as Patroness of the Dominican Order, and the spirit of Advent waiting during the pandemic. Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, an author in the areas of religious education and adult faith formation, writes books on First Communion activities for families and the spirituality of aging, as well as her annual booklet of Advent reflections.
The Congregation continues its sustainability work through its permaculture site and a windmill installed on the Motherhouse grounds (see the Annual Report, page 27). Sister Corinne Sanders, Director of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, give an update on the sustainability efforts of the Congregation, based on its relationship to Earth. Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers take the opportunity on the United Nations World Day of the Environment to reflect on creation and efforts to safeguard the environment. Father James Hug, SJ, Priest Chaplain, writes Catholic prayers, reflections, and other materials for the Season of Creation, an interfaith observance from September through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
September 24, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – People of faith often explore their relationships to God, to others, and to themselves. A recent program updating Sisters and Associates on the Adrian Dominican Sustainability and Permaculture programs gave them the opportunity to explore another key relationship: their personal relationship with Earth and the land.
Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, presented an end-of-summer update September 21, 2020, via broadcast and live stream.
Sister Corinne referred to the Congregation’s Sustainability Enactment, approved during the 2016 General Chapter: to “sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.” She helped viewers to explore the “many little things” they can do to live out that Enactment and to improve the environment in six areas:
Sister Corinne noted that the closure of the Motherhouse to visitors and the restrictions of the Sisters on the Motherhouse grounds have affected some practices. For example, because of the pandemic, the Food Services Department has begun serving the Sisters’ meals on paper products rather than reusable plates, and Sisters who go grocery shopping have not been allowed to use reusable bags. “Some of that is beyond our control and I think we’ll go back into balance,” she said.
The environment has also benefited from the Congregation’s moratorium on commercial travel – especially air travel – and the closure of some of Motherhouse buildings during the pandemic. Both of these actions have reduced the amount of energy used, Sister Corinne said.
In his Permaculture update, Jared took his audience on “a little stroll through our land,” describing his own activities and the natural activities of the land in the past few months.
At the beginning of the mitigation protocols in March, Jared was not working on the Motherhouse grounds. “When I was able to come back in April or May, I was struck by the fact that the things we set into motion were moving forward – it didn’t need any care,” he said. Crops planted earlier, such as asparagus and berry bushes, were coming up on their own. The rain gardens and pollinator gardens also flourished.
Jared has spent much of the spring and summer pruning and caring for fruit trees in the permaculture site’s edible orchard and experimenting with leaf litter to hold the moisture in the soil during the hot, dry summer.
Plans moving forward are to create a digital map of the shrubs in the edible food forest; to design a new layout for the Charlotte’s Web garden to make it more accessible and easier to maintain; and to engage in succession planning to ensure that something is always growing in the Permaculture garden.