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December 16, 2020, Chicago – In a letter to the Chicago Sun Times, Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins echoed the gratitude of her classmate, now Cardinal Wilton Gregory, for the education and encouragement they received from their Adrian Dominican teachers at St. Carthage School in Chicago.
“It was the dedication and compassion of the Adrian Dominican Sisters that empowered us to reach beyond our experiences and environments,” she wrote. “They believed in the promise and possibility of their Black students and their faith in us was the wind beneath our dreams.”
Read Sen. Collins’ letter, “Grateful for a Catholic Education,” the second letter on the webpage (scroll past the "Proposed Tenant Ordinance..." letter).
Sisters Johneda (Lorraine) Pepin, OP, and Pilar Martin, OP, are shown with students at St. Carthage School in Chicago, circa 1956-60. Adrian Dominican Sisters Archive Photo
June 9, 2020, West Palm Beach, Florida – Sister Donna Baker, OP, long-time teacher and administrator at Rosarian Academy, received the prestigious Rose and Torch Award from the school during its virtual graduation ceremony.
The Rose and Torch Award is presented to an individual who has contributed exemplary service to Rosarian Academy. Through faith and commitment to the common good, the recipient rises above daily challenges and perseveres for the good of others.
In presenting the award, Linda Trethewey, Head of School, described Sister Donna as one who “dedicated her life to the Dominican tradition of preaching through prayer, study, common life, and ministry” and who strove to live out the Adrian Dominican Vision: “Seek truth; make peace; reverence life.”
Sister Donna ministered for 16 years at Rosarian Academy: first as English and religion teacher in grades 6 to 8; as coordinator of the school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society; committee chair for the school’s accreditation process; and facilitator for religious education and mission development. She then served in administration, as assistant principal, director of the middle school, and as principal of the middle school. It was a surprise diagnosis of bone cancer that abruptly ended her career at Rosarian Academy.
Sister Donna said she learned about receiving the award only a few minutes before it was presented, as she and Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, sat with her for the Zoom presentation. “She kept telling me I might want to look nice,” Sister Donna recalled, and finally told her about the award.
“I think my first reaction was shock,” Sister Donna said. “I never thought about it. I was speechless. It still hasn’t settled with me.” She added that the Rose and Torch Award is the most prestigious award granted by Rosarian Academy.
“I looked forward to every day” at Rosarian, Sister Donna said. “I looked forward to meeting the students in the morning, their activities, the camaraderie.” As an administrator, she said, she worked as part of a team with the other administrators.
Sister Donna said she especially loved watching the students’ participation in liturgies, plays, and other activities. She particularly enjoyed Field Day, when the students were divided into teams. “I enjoyed the competition and loved cheering for my team.”
But Sister Donna said she also faced challenges. “As a teacher, you want to do the best for each of the students, to meet each child where they were, and it was difficult,” she said. “I often felt there was more I could do.”
Along with classwork, Sister Donna focused on the kinds of people her students would become. “I often told them, ‘You are our future. Do your best and accomplish what you can,’” she said. “I also often told them to keep God in their lives – don’t ever stray too far away from God.”
Sister Donna was inspired to become an Adrian Dominican Sister and a teacher by Sister Rose Patrick Conroy, OP, her first-grade teacher at St. Agatha in Redford, Michigan. “She was a great influence on my life – in my vocation and my career,” Sister Donna said. “All I ever wanted to do was teach and become an Adrian Dominican Sister because of the influence of Sister Rose Patrick.”
Sister Donna has had a positive influence on her students, who were constantly reminded of Rosarian Academy’s mission statement to live the Gospel values.
Watch this video of Rosarian Academy’s virtual graduation. The Rose and Torch Award presentation can be found at about 15 minutes into the video.
The Rosarian Academy Class of 2020 stands six feet apart on the Oakley Gage Debbs Memorial Field in honor of their late classmate. Photo by David Scarola Photography