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September 6, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Congregation formally welcomed four new Associates August 28, 2022, during a Ritual of Acceptance held via Zoom.
Associates are women and men at least 18 years of age who feel called to the Dominican Charism (spirit) and who make a non-vowed commitment to associate themselves with the Adrian Dominican Sisters and with other Associates. While maintaining their independent lifestyle, they are invited to share in the Sisters’ mission, ministries, and spiritual and social activities.
Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, welcomed about 78 participants: the new Associates, their mentors, Associates, Sisters, family members, and friends.
During her reflection, Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to Associate Life, noted that the ritual takes place during a time of transition. The 2016-2022 General Council is preparing for the formal transfer of leadership on October 8, 2022, to the General Council elected in June at the 2022 General Chapter. The Ritual of Acceptance also takes place as Associate Life is being enfolded into the new Office of Dominican Charism, which will also encourage the charism among Co-workers at the Motherhouse and sponsored institutions, benefactors, and other Partners in Mission.
“We’re all setting out on a new journey with an extended view of our Dominican Charism,” Sister Patricia said. “It’s an important time to be part of our being together.”
Mary led the Ritual of Acceptance, calling on the mentors to introduce the prospective Associates and asking the Associates of their reason for answering the call to become an Associate.
Jane Bertsch, a native of Missouri, moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where she was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters at Cardinal Newman High School. She was an Adrian Dominican Sister for 11 years, but never lost a connection to the Congregation. She has served in religious education, as Director of Training and Organizational Development for the Detroit Public Transportation Department, and as Executive Director of Guest Relations for the Detroit Medical Center. Since her retirement, she has served in literacy training and hospice care.
“Although I left the community 12 years ago, my contact has remained strong,” she said. “I have always considered this group to be a source of inspiration and support.” Through Cross Threads, a group of former Adrian Dominican Sisters, Jane learned about Associate Life.
Jane “embodies the Dominican foundational elements or threads woven together,” said Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP, one of Jane’s two mentors. “As a seeker with an inquiring mind, study is her natural way into prayer and contemplation. Always open to new insights, Jane seeks to go deeper.”
Associate Judith Engel, Jane’s other mentor, affirmed Jane’s inquisitive mind, noting her own delight in reconnecting with Jane. “Jane always was and always will be a Dominican called to give a sense of truth in her life,” she said.
Patricia “Patty” Driscoll-Shaw, of Huntley, Illinois, is also a former Adrian Dominican Sister. Sister Esther Kennedy, OP, her mentor, described Patty’s 32 years of ministry as an Adrian Dominican Sister, serving as nurse and as a healthcare advocate for the people in need in Peru, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras. In her love for mission work, Patty discerned becoming a Maryknoll associate and, while ministering in Guatemala, met another Maryknoll missionary, Dan Driscoll, whom she married.
Noting Patty and Dan’s continued solidarity “with all the people suffering in the world,” Sister Esther spoke of the couple’s work in marriage preparation and in other areas with African American people in Chicago. Sister Esther noted that Patty, now suffering from health problems, is “actually living now a really wonderful ministry of presence, responding to the call with greater awareness and responsiveness to your circumstances.”
Patty said she was impressed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters from the time she was about 6 years old and walked seven blocks to school every day. “I loved walking behind the Sisters and carrying their books and hearing them laugh,” she said. She noted the Sisters’ “lightness and yet a depth for issues and people and things that need depth. … All that laughter unites us to our mission – the depth to bring us to various ministries in the mission but always with the presence of God.”
Danoushka Capponi, now residing in Miami, Florida, met the Adrian Dominicans through her involvement at Barry University. Born in Cannes, France, she moved to Belgium at the age of 7. She met her husband – who died 24 years ago – while attending the College of New Rochelle in New York. Her son Michael founded Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), a nonprofit organization that brings aid to any area suffering from natural disasters or conflict. He serves as President and Director of Global Operations for the USA, Caribbean, and South America and the European regions. Danoushka serves as Director of Educational Programs.
Danoushka spoke of her spiritual life as a young girl and her desire to be foolish in the eyes of the world and wise in God’s eyes. “The whole Holy Trinity got to work on me,” she said. “God the Father whose loving presence has been warming my heart; the Son who spoke to me in Galilee and gave me a specific roadmap to mission; and the Holy Spirit who guided me to Barry.” Danoushka thanked Mary Lach for her influence as well. “I will proudly proclaim the Dominican Charism of truth,” she said.
Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker, OP, her mentor, came to know Danoushka through her involvement at Barry University. “One of the things that impresses me most about Danoushka is her deep involvement in international connections with social justice and charity,” Sister Mary Frances said.
James Mallare, a licensed public health practitioner, is a doctoral candidate at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he met the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP, a member of James’s dissertation committee, invited him to Adrian to help her with a study on retired Adrian Dominican Sisters. While in Adrian, he became acquainted with the Dominican Charism.
Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, his mentor, noted that he was born in Windsor, Ontario, and in 2013 moved to Detroit to become a U.S. citizen. His connection to the Adrian Dominican Sisters grew as the Sisters prayed for him when he faced health problems, she said.
“In his third year, James experienced a tugging of the Spirit to explore a new form of spiritual life,” Sister Carol Jean said. “I have found James to be thoughtful. With [his] previous Franciscan formation and his recent embrace of our Dominican charism, there’s this dynamic going on in him as he attempts to integrate them.”
James noted that his call to Associate Life was “not a straight path. Nothing in our life is. When I first met the Adrian Dominican Sisters, it was then that I knew how Elizabeth must have felt during her visitation with Mary – each Adrian Dominican carrying Christ within herself, and me, excited but scared.”
The Ritual of Acceptance continued with each new Associate lighting a candle that had been given to them as a symbol of the light of Christ. Mary asked the new Associates and their mentors to sign a document formally recognizing their commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation and invited the Associates to put on their Associate logo.
Candidates for Associate Life undergo a period of formation, during which they study Dominican history and spirituality and come to know the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. For information about joining Associate Life, contact Mary Lach, Director, 517-266-3531, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Associate Nancy Mason Bordley, Director of the Office of Dominican Charism, 517-266-3534 or email@example.com.
September 2, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – More than 60 Adrian Dominican Associates, prospective Associates, and Sisters gathered virtually August 21, 2021, to explore the role of Associates as “Charism Carriers,” helping to promote the Dominican Charism into the future. The gathering drew Associates from throughout the United States and the Dominican Republic.
A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit to an individual, intended to be shared to benefit the entire community. The Dominican Charism includes preaching God’s Word, the truth, in the face of the heresies of our day.
Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, facilitated the four-hour Zoom meeting. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to the Associates, welcomed participants.
As women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and to the Dominican Charism, Associates live independent lives and participate in ministries, prayer, and special events with the Sisters, other Associates, and Associates of Dominican Sisters of other Congregations.
Partners was an inclusive gathering. The work of interpreters Elizabeth McMeekin and Suzzet Gonzalez allowed Associates from the Dominican Republic to participate fully in the gathering. In addition, their interpretation enabled English-speaking participants to listen to a presentation by Spanish-speaking Associate Fabiola Reyes. In her video presentation, Fabiola highlighted some of the many ministries in which the more than 20 Associates in the Dominican Republic are engaged, including healthcare, education, and preaching on the radio and social media.
“Our faith sustains us,” said Fabiola, a dentist who frequently visits underserved areas of the Dominican Republic to offer dental care. “We hope that our service has a lasting impact.”
Mary Lach gave an update on the programs of Associate Life, including three weekly gatherings on Zoom: discussions on the Dominican Charism, a book club, and reflection on the coming Sunday’s Gospel. Beginning in September, prospective Associates will participate in a monthly communal formation program via Zoom.
After gathering in virtual break-out rooms to share ways in which they have been “Charism Carriers” in the past year, Associates assembled to listen to a presentation by Sister Patricia Walter, OP, “Through a Looking Glass: Charism in Motion.”
In her presentation, Sister Pat – former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a theologian, and Formation Director – compared the looking glass of the Dominican Charism with that featured in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. “Alice discovers an alternative universe, recognizable but very different from what she knows,” Sister Pat said. “It’s very much topsy-turvy.”
In the same way, Sister Pat said, Jesus and St. Dominic presented an “alternative universe” to the people of their times: a world marked by love, self-donation, and nonviolence. “To live in this counter-cultural world, we need the gift of Christian community and the Dominican family,” she said. “That’s one of the most important aspects of Dominican Association and vowed life.”
A looking glass also gives us a view of ourselves through the eyes of others, Sister Pat noted. “Through the looking glass of friends and community I come to a deeper understanding of my gifts and liabilities,” she said. “We do this for one another. It’s a way we seek truth and receive it.”
Sister Pat also reflected on charism. “Each of us with this vocation to the Dominican family … has a share in our common charism as preachers of the Gospel,” she said. “Charism is our guide or compass to the future.” To get to that future, we need to look at our charism and make decisions based on our identity as Dominicans and on the needs of our time, she said.
Sister Pat concluded her talk with a reflection on friendship – so central to the Dominican family because of Dominic’s ability to draw others to himself and to befriend them. St. Dominic always referred to himself as a brother, she said. “Dominic is the first among equals,” and Dominicans are “friends in mission.”
After discussion of Sister Pat’s presentation in small groups and all together, participants listened to a number of updates on Associate Life:
Following recommendations of the Advisory Board, the General Council appointed two new members to the board. Janice Donner of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is a retired speech pathologist who served years ago as Representative of Associate Life. Kathleen Shannon Dorcy, of Seattle, had been an Associate with the Edmonds Dominican Sisters before their merger with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She has been involved in cancer research, including work with nurses in Uganda, and retired after teaching nursing at the University of Washington in Tacoma.
Sister Patty Harvat introduced Elizabeth Keith, who was named as consultant to the General Council’s work of establishing the Office of Dominican Charism. Its purpose is to invite women and men “to a shared expression of the Dominican Charism in our world,” reaching out to Associates, Co-workers at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, and Partners in Mission at sponsored institutions and legacy institutions, as well as other spiritual seekers.
Associate Kathleen Woods updated participants on the Envision 2030 Committee, established in August 2020 to explore how Associate Life might look in 2030. The committee has explored the literature of Associates groups in other congregations of Dominican Sisters and has studied the results of a poll conducted among Adrian Dominican Associates. The group will gather in the Fall to draft a final report and continues to seek input from Associates. “Our goal is not one of actual implementation of action plans, but to suggest a direction for the future,” Kathy said.
After the Partners gathering, Associates continued to celebrate with the acceptance of four new Associates: Laura Boor, Megan Meloche, Melinda Mullin, and Sheila Wathen. Mary Jo Alexander, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, was welcomed as an Associate the week before, on August 15, 2021.
If you are interested in exploring Associate Life, contact Mary Lach, Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo: Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, leads a reflection on the role of Associates as Charism Carriers.