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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.
August 25, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Five women were welcomed as Adrian Dominican Associates during Rituals of Acceptance via Zoom over two weekends in August.
As Associates, they make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation, living out their unique vocation as Dominican women and men. While maintaining their own lifestyle and remaining financially independent, Associates participate in various spiritual, social, and ministerial experiences with the Sisters, with one another, and with Associates of other congregations of Dominican Sisters.
Mary Jo Alexander, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, became an Associate on August 15, 2021, during a ritual attended by some of the 78 Sisters with whom she had entered the Congregation, as well as other Associates, Sisters, and friends. Noting that she was attracted to the Adrian Dominican Sisters by her teachers at Bishop Hoban High School in Cleveland, Mary Jo said, “The Adrians have always been my North Star. This ritual … signifies a commitment I began in 1966 [and] the emotional and faithful connection I’ve always had.”
“Mary Jo is particularly drawn to those most in need,” Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, said during Mary Jo’s introduction. “Deep grooves were carved in her caring heart when she spent a year teaching in Puerto Rico. The resilience, strength, and deep faith of the people found a home in her heart.” Mary Jo continued to make a difference as teacher of troubled children, advocate for human trafficking victims, and devoted mother and grandmother, Sister Mary Jane added.
Sister Ellen Burkhardt, OP, Mary Jo’s mentor, spoke of the energy and passion Mary Jo exerts in everything she does. “Mary Jo is an all-in person,” she said. “I don’t think she’s ever done anything half-heartedly.” At the same time, she said, Mary Jo is contemplative and “pays attention to and seeks out this beckoning silence.”
Four other women formally became Associates on August 22, 2021. Each became acquainted with the Adrian Dominican Congregation through unique ways: family, the pandemic, the Internet, and professional work.
Laura Boor – daughter of Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, and wife of Associate Jacob Boor – was involved in Associate Life long before becoming an Associate herself. She frequently attended Associate events, playing the flute during Rituals of Acceptance or other prayer services and creating PowerPoint presentations for her mother’s programs.
Jacob, Laura, and their son Julian live in Clinton Township, Michigan, with Laura’s parents, Mary and Thierry Lach.
Laura teaches music and flute at her studio and in local high schools, is a marching band instructor, plays the piccolo and flute in ensembles, and transposes music. “Most of all, Laura mentors students and walks beside them as they negotiate life,” Jacob said, adding she is also active in various parish ministries. “We often share together about the Dominican Charism and pray together too,” he said. “It is with a sense of pride and awe that we welcome Laura into Associate Life.”
“I want to be part of the Adrian Dominican family because I hope to continue to grow spiritually as a person,” Laura said. “I believe in what you preach and I love the community between the Sisters and Associates.”
Megan Meloche, of Fraser, Michigan, came to know the Adrian Dominican Sisters during the pandemic lockdown, when she and her husband Dan watched the live stream Sunday Liturgies from the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.
The Meloches began to spend Sundays with Laura and Jacob, sharing dinner and their faith. “Our families shared the same concern about global warming, systemic racism, and other issues,” Dan explained while introducing Megan. The couple is awaiting the adoption of a child.
A convert to Catholicism, Megan is a life-long learner who excels in both music and language. She majored in Japanese studies, spent time in Japan, and now uses her skills as an engineering analyst for Nissan.
“I seek to join the Adrian Dominican Associates because my growing spirituality seeks truth,” Megan said. “In an age of misinformation, the truth can be hard to find. I want to use that knowledge to aid whoever I can. I want to see each of them thrive.”
Mary Lach was mentor to both Laura and Megan.
Melinda Mullin, of northern California, met the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates on the Internet and learned more about Sisters from the 2012 documentary, Band of Sisters. “When I watched the documentary of the Sisters, I realized I wanted to be around people who do what they do,” Melinda said. “The social justice issues they were tackling were issues I wanted to help with.” She contacted Mary Lach and began the process of discernment.
Associate Connie Brady, Melinda’s mentor, spoke of Melinda’s dedication to her family and her eagerness to be part of Associate Life. “Melinda is a mother, caregiver, daughter and sister, and now I’m really proud to say she’s my friend,” Connie said. “She’s passionate about care for the planet. She’s even a beekeeper.”
Connie emphasized Melinda’s eagerness to learn more about Associate Life. “She jumped in with both feet,” participating in some of the Associates’ weekly Zoom meetings and writing profiles of Associates for a new series of Associate Life newsletter articles, Charism Carriers Connections.
“I’m so happy to be part of the Associates,” Melinda said. “I feel like I have found the family I didn’t know I was missing.”
Sheila Wathen was connected to the Dominican family long before she decided to become an Associate. A resident of Adrian for 20 years, she worked on the websites of both St. Joseph Academy and the Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Education Institute (ADMTEI), also helping the ADMTEI in 2014 with its reaccreditation with the American Montessori Society.
“I especially gained deeper understanding of the [Dominican] Charism in my work with the late Sister Pat Brady as a technology consultant for the Dominican Association of Secondary Schools,” Sheila explained. “Through that position I was able to meet Dominican Sisters from several other congregations, as well as students and staff members from other Dominican schools. This gave me a much broader vision of how the same Dominican Charism was lived out.”
Sheila has served as Assistant Communications Director for the Adrian Dominican Sisters since 2015. She became intrigued by Associate Life and thought she might join some time in the future. During the past two years, she learned more about how Sisters and Associates were living out the General Chapter 2016 Enactments, experienced political and social turmoil in the United States, and began a deeper spiritual journey. “I was struggling with how to channel my strong feelings about justice, love, truth, nonviolence, and what it meant to be a Catholic Christian; suddenly it made more sense to [become an Associate] now,” she said.
“Sheila has been grounded in the Dominican Charism for years,” said Sister Barbara Kelley, OP, her mentor, who works with her in the Communications Office. “But more important is the way that she lives it out. She is extremely kind and patient, a natural teacher. She’s dedicated to her job, the Dominican family, her own family, the good of humanity, and all of God’s creation.”
After each new Associate was introduced and declared her reason for becoming an Associate, they were invited to light a special candle given to them, put on their Associate logos, and sign their documents of association.
For information on becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at email@example.com.
Feature photo: From left, Dan and Megan Meloche and Laura and Jacob Boor participate in the virtual Ritual of Acceptance on August 22, 2021.