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By Sister Ann Kelly, OP

December 30, 2015, Chicago – A recent visit to St. Rita Parish, where I once served, has brought back painful memories of the closing of the convent in 1995 – and hope through the transformation of the property on which it stood.

Façades from St. Rita Convent crushed Sister Ann Kelly’s car back in 1995.

In 1995, I was visiting my brother in Arkansas and had left my car parked next to St. Rita of Cascia Convent in Chicago, where I was ministering. While in Arkansas, I received a call from Sister Lila Watt, who lived in St. Rita Convent with Sisters Margaret Denis Knight, Mary Geralda Trauscht, Armella Trauscht, and me. She told me that several pieces of façade from the convent had fallen on my car.

I did not realize the extent of the damage until I returned home, to find my car completely destroyed. The local firemen had told the Sisters that they would have to leave the convent in several months and that it had to be torn down because of its condition.

During those months, we, the Sisters and the Augustinian priests who served in the parish, had to move everything out of the convent. The priests dismantled the chapel, while we dismantled all of the convent rooms. On a cold November morning, Sister Lila and I prayed for one last time in the convent chapel before locking the doors forever.

This statue of St. Augustine overlooks a grape arbor path in the new community garden.

Recently, I saw the good that came from the sadness of closing the convent.  Father Joseph Stobba, OSB, who had been our pastor several years ago and is missioned again at St. Rita Parish, invited me to come and see the convent area. Sister Mary Kay Gagliano, who had served at St. Rita’s in the 1960s, came with me. After we had prayed with the priests missioned there and enjoying dinner together, Father Stobba took us to see a community garden that had been planted where the convent once stood.

The community garden is a beautiful tribute to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and the Augustinian priests and brothers who have served the parish. As we stood in the garden, I realized that we were standing in the community room area, which had been right below the chapel. It was a moving experience.

The people of St. Rita now take care of this beautiful garden, which includes a statue of St. Augustine overlooking a new grape arbor path. Thank you to Father Tony Pizzo, OSA, current pastor of St. Rita’s Parish, and to his Augustinian priests and brothers for their years of dedication.

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November 30, 2015, Paris, France – A delegation of four U.S. Dominican Sisters – including Adrian Dominican Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, and Elise D. García, OP – are in Paris, representing approximately 4,000 to 5,000 US Dominican Sisters, to urge adoption of a legally binding agreement to address climate change at the 21st gathering of the Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change. 

Also in the delegation, commissioned by the US Dominican Sisters Conference, are Amityville Dominican Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Dominican Representative to the United Nations, and Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, OP, Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment. 

The four Sisters join Dominicans from other parts of the world, as well as religious from other congregations and thousands of men and women from around the globe who have gathered to make the voice of the people heard on climate justice. Pope Francis recently highlighted what’s at stake, saying it would be “catastrophic” if the international community failed to reach an agreement. 

Hundreds of “side events” are being held around Paris by non-governmental organizations focused on presenting real climate solutions that would result in the “transformational” change that Pope Francis says is needed. One of these events, the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature, will showcase a model for adjudicating cases under a legal framework that recognizes the rights of nature, offering a real and present solution to the root problem behind climate change and other human-induced ecological disasters. Under current law, nature is treated as private property to be destroyed for profit. It is a legal framework that is proving deadly to people and planet, requiring a transformation of our international and domestic legal systems toward a jurisprudence that recognizes rights of nature.

Sister Pat Siemen, JD, founding director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence of Barry University School of Law, is one of the planners of the Tribunal, which the Dominican Sisters will be attending on December 4 and 5, at the Maison des Métallos in Paris. 

Sister Elise, Director of Communications for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, will be writing stories about the Tribunal and other side events that she and the Sisters will be attending for the Global Sisters Report, the National Catholic Reporter’s online series of articles on the work of Catholic women religious. Read Sister Elise's first article.

To stay updated on the Tribunal and other events in Paris during COP21, you may also follow the Sisters on Twitter – Sister Pat: @EarthJurist  or @EarthNun and Sister Elise: @elisegarciaop.

Feature photo: Sister Pat Siemen, Amityville Dominican Sister Margaret Mayce, and Sister Elise Garcia at the Place de la Nation prior to a "human chain" event calling peacefully on COP21 leaders to "hear us" on climate justice.



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