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December 31, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The year 2019 has brought about numerous challenges and changes to the Adrian Dominican Congregation and to the world at large. As we take a break from the busy-ness of the year to celebrate Jesus’ birth among us and the beginning of another year, let us reflect on the top 10 events that the Adrian Dominican Sisters experienced in the past year.

From left: Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission gather in St. Catherine Chapel for the July 31-August 3, 2019, gathering. Sisters and Partners in Mission enjoy dancing during Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, the gathering in San Fernando, the Philippines, in October. 

1. Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap sa Hinaharap

More than 600 Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission gathered at the Motherhouse in Adrian July 31-August 3, 2019, to celebrate the past and the present and to look forward to a common future. The gathering in Adrian featured keynote speakers on issues of religious life, the Asian culture, and collaboration, as well as numerous opportunities for participants to pray together and come to know one another. A similar gathering took place in the University of the Assumption in San Fernando, the Philippines, hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter.

Members of the 2016-2022 General Council are: back row, from left, Sisters Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor, and Elise D. García, General Councilor. Front row, from left, are Sisters Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; and Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor.

2. General Council Statements

In response to current events, issues, and government actions, the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council issued statements bringing to light many faith-based responses. The General Council, together with other Michigan Catholic Sisters, issued an Earth Day statement supporting legislation that would ensure safe drinking water in the state (April 22, 2019). The General Council also issued a statement against the cruel treatment of children at the Mexico-U.S. border (June 25, 2019), and against mass shootings, racial hatred, and White Nationalism (August 6, 2019), and opposed U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement (November 8, 2019).

Top right: Sister Leizel Tedria, OP, left, is examined by Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter Prioress, Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, during the Ritual of First Profession. Bottom right: Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, professes final vows to Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress. With them are witnesses Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor.

3. Formation

Sister Leizel Tedria, OP, professed First Vows on February 23, 2019, to Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, during a Ritual of Profession at the Chancery of the Repository Chapel of Virgen de los Remedies at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines. Sister Leizel holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Our Lady of Fatima University in Pampanga and ministers at the Dominican School of Angeles City Foundation. 

Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, professed Final (Perpetual) Vows August 4, 2019, during Mass in St. Catherine Chapel in Adrian. A native of Cuba, Sister Marilín earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Barry University, Miami, Florida, where she met the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from St. Mary’s University and a graduate degree in school psychology from Trinity University, both in San Antonio, Texas, and ministers as a school psychologist for the Joliet, Illinois, School District.

Nancy Tuchman, PhD, keynote speaker at Growing Resiliency, explains the Planetary Boundaries graphic that shows the tipping points of various areas of the environment.

4. Resilient Communities

The Adrian Dominican Congregation has acted on its 2016 General Chapter Enactment to work with others to build resilient communities. In September, the Congregation hosted a symposium, “Growing Resiliency,” on building sustainable, resilient communities. Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, who ministers at Catholic Charities of Jackson, Lenawee, and Hillsdale Counties, collaborated with her agency and other organizations took steps toward creating a trauma-informed resilient community in Lenawee County, Michigan. 

Prioress Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, second from right, and Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, right, attend a ritual of the transfer of sponsorship of Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, from the Adrian Dominican Congregation to CommonSpirit Healthcare. 

5. Creation of CommonSpirit Health

The Adrian Dominican Sisters were involved in the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Healthcare Initiatives to create CommonSpirit Health, which serves 21 states with 142 hospitals and 700 care sites. The Adrian Dominican Sisters founded and sponsored Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada. During a February 1, 2019, ritual, the Congregation transferred sponsorship of these two hospitals to CommonSpirit Health and became a “Participating Member” of the healthcare system. 

Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, right, watches as students in the 2019 Environmental Leadership Experience work in the permaculture area at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.

6. Sustainability Efforts

The Congregation lived out its 2016 General Chapter Enactment on sustainability in a number of ways. In May, the Congregation hosted the first-ever River Raisin Water Festival to teach sixth-grade students from schools in Lenawee County about environmental matters, such as the preservation of the local River Raisin and its tributaries. In addition, the Congregation continued its Environmental Leadership Experience, during which students from Siena Heights University and Barry University gather at the Motherhouse, work on the permaculture site, and deepen their knowledge of environmental sustainability. Improvements on the sustainability of the Motherhouse Campus were discussed during an update given to the Sisters and Associates in September.

Left: From left, Sisters Basilia De la Cruz, OP, Maria Eneida Santiago, OP, and Nery (Luchy) Sori, OP, at the 25th anniversary celebration of Espirítu Santo School. Right: Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President of Siena Heights University, lights the traveling torch during the dedication of the Centennial Mall. With her, from left, are Sister Nancy Murray, OP, portraying St. Catherine of Siena; Mykayla Pinder, Student Government President; Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, General Councilor and Administrator; and Margaret Noe, Chair of the Board of Trustees. Photo Courtesy of Siena Heights University Marketing

7. Milestones

Organizations served by Adrian Dominican Sisters celebrated key milestone events in 2019. Two organizations in the Dominican Republic marked 25-year anniversaries. Sister Luisa Campos, OP, founded and continues to direct the Centro Antonio Montesino in Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital. Named after one of the earliest Dominicans in the New World who stood up for the rights of the indigenous people, the center forms local people in their knowledge of issues of justice, human rights, and civic education. Espirítu Santo, a school in the Jesuit system of schools, Fe y Alegría, has grown from a handful of students taught under a tree 25 years ago to a school of 1,500 students in preschool through 12th grade. 

Siena Heights University, founded in 1919 as St. Joseph College, began its Centennial Year in August with the dedication of its Centennial Mall. The 2019-2020 academic year includes 100 special events to mark the school’s 100 years. Siena Heights offers more than 50 majors with a liberal arts focus, eight campuses in Michigan, and an online program. 


The Barry University community applauds as Dr. Michael Allen, PhD, is inaugurated as the university’s seventh president. Photo Courtesy of Barry University Office of Communications

8. Barry University Welcomes New President

The Barry University community in Miami Shores, Florida, inaugurated its seventh President, Michael Allen, PhD, during its annual Founders Week in November. The first non-Adrian Dominican Sister and the first lay person to serve as President of Barry University, Dr. Allen served as administrator at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He succeeds Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP.

From left: Sister Elise García, OP, Father Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, OP, and Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

9. Religious and Dominican Life

During its August 2019 Assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona, members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious elected Adrian Dominican Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, as President-Elect. In the coming year, Sister Elise will serve as President of LCWR, which is comprised of the elected leaders of women religious congregations, representing 80 percent of 49,000 women religious in the United States. 

During its July 7-August 4 General Chapter in Vietnam, the Dominican Friars elected Father Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, OP, the first Asian and the first Filipino Master of the Dominican Order. Before his election, Father Gerard had served as Socius of the Master for Asia-Pacific and as Prior Provincial of the Philippines. Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Philippines, expressed their joy and optimism at his election. 

The Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) appointed Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, as the Dominican Representative at the United Nations. Her ministry entails connecting the Dominican family to the United Nations and attending sessions of UN working groups, particularly the working groups on homelessness and women and girls. 

INAI Gallery at Weber Retreat and Conference Center features an exhibit of art by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. At right is a series of paintings by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP.

10. Arts

Adrian Dominican Sisters have long preached through the arts, and in 2019 have been involved in the arts in numerous ways. In June and July, the Alfons Gallery in Milwaukee featured Sister Suzanne Schreiber’s photography exhibit, “Quiet Spaces,” and an exhibit of some of the 1,000 paintings of origami cranes created by Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, to raise awareness and funds for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Iraq, who had ministered for years to fellow refugees from the Nineveh Plains after the arrival of ISIS. 

The INAI Gallery, adjacent to Weber Center in Adrian, featured exhibits by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates during the summer gathering, Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap Sa Hinaharap. In addition, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates have been active in the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, serves as Secretary and Sister Joella Miller, OP, as Treasurer. Other Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates are active in the DIA, which is open to Dominicans in all areas of art, including visual arts, music, theater, design, poetry, dance, and art appreciation.

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December 31, 2019, Tijuana, Mexico – As a nurse practitioner, Sister Patricia Erickson, OP, sees special patients every Saturday: people seeking asylum in the United States, but staying in shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, while awaiting their asylum hearing. She is among many health care workers and other concerned individuals who volunteer their time with Refugee Health Alliance.

Saturdays find Sister Pat and other volunteers gathered at a coffee shop in a strip mall on the U.S. side of the border. Here, they organize themselves into two teams, making sure that each team has a group of medical providers, people to help set up and work in the clinics, and others who can serve as translators. Each group offers health care in three shelters that day – which can last from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or even later.

Sister Pat said that, in a sense, her Saturdays in Tijuana are all different because of the variety of people she sees and the illnesses or injuries being treated. “The typical part is that we go there and set up however we can,” she said. “Some shelters have a larger space for us, so we can set up tables and have people actually triage the migrants who need health care. In others, we just have to make room because it’s so crowded.”

Many migrants come with ailments such as colds or coughs, Sister Pat said, and others with chronic ailments such as diabetes or high blood pressure. “Other times they come with a complaint that they’ve had for years and never saw anybody about it, so we have to start from the beginning to see what the issue is and get them to a particular resource,” such as medications or X-rays. 

Treating the migrants’ ailments sometimes gives Sister Pat and the other volunteers the opportunity to hear the personal stories of their patients – but only if they care to share. “Many times they tell us about when they arrived at the Border Patrol and how they were treated,” and about their temporary stay in U.S. detention centers before being sent to Tijuana to await their asylum hearings. 

“Pretty much the stories about the Border Patrol and detention facilities are the same,” Sister Pat said. “[The migrants] are just not well treated at all. … The condition is the worst ever. It’s so cold in those facilities and they don’t have adequate care for what they need.”

Through her volunteer work at the Tijuana shelters since May 2019, Sister Pat has come to know some of her patients. “Especially in some of the larger shelters, I get to know the people because they have sometimes been there since October and might have to wait [for their hearings] until January, February, even March,” she explained. “I like seeing the same people over and over, even though it’s sad that they have to wait so long.”

Hope in a Difficult Situation

In spite of the long wait and the difficult conditions they endured before coming to the shelters, Sister Pat sees hope in the migrants. “I think they see hope in that at least they’ve made it this far alive – when you consider where they come from and the distance from the Central American countries, even from different parts of Mexico,” she said. “They do have an appointment at the border to ask for asylum or to ask for entry. They are pretty well cared for in the shelters – as well as they can be” by the non-profit and church groups and individuals who run the shelters. “I see hope in the people themselves because they’re looking for a better life for themselves and their children,” she said. “If they can do that, it gives me hope that eventually it might be better for them.”

Sister Pat expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve migrants through her work with Refugee Health Alliance – and with the opportunity during the week to serve at shelters for immigrants in San Diego, California. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long, long time and it materialized,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the support and love from the Sisters and Associates, who are really here with me, because I couldn’t do it alone.”

Working at the shelters in Tijuana can be difficult and even dangerous, Sister Pat said. But she added that people can be involved in helping immigrants and refugees in a number of ways. 

  • Make your voices heard, whether through sending emails or writing to people in Washington about the migrant situation or the immigrant situation in general. “The biggest way is to make our voices heard and say that this whole system we have is not right. It’s inhumane, but [we can] try to correct that and make it more humane,” Sister Pat said.

  • Give to organizations that serve migrants and immigrants, such as the Refugee Health Alliance.

  • If possible, volunteer at some of the shelters for immigrants on the U.S. side of the border, such as La Frontera Migrant Shelter in Laredo, Texas; Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas; and the McAllen Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

Read more about the work of Refugee Health Alliance in the December 18, 2019 issue of America Magazine.



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