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December 22, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – While many people looked forward to 2021 and an end to the chaos brought about in 2020, this year has seen more than its fair share of chaos and challenges: from the continuing struggles with the pandemic and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol early in the year to the fall and struggles of Afghanistan and increasing violence and division. Still, 2021 was also marked by bright spots as people throughout the world struggled to bring goodness to the world.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters also faced a challenging year. Here are the top 10 themes of the Sisters and Associates for the past year, as chosen by the Communications Department.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates addressed racism and worked toward diversity and inclusion in a number of ways throughout the year. During Lent, they underwent a study and reflection on Reckoning with Racism, the a study of racism in the Congregation’s history. The Adrian Dominican Sisters were among several congregations of women religious to conduct an audit of their past racist practices – in response to a challenge at a Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) gathering. Sister Elise García, focused on racism in her LCWR Presidential Address and led the LCWR officers in a ritual of asking forgiveness for racist practices.
Barry University opened the Arthur Lee McDuffie Center for Racial Justice to provide a safe space for dialogue on racial issues, to promote unity, and to allow for frank confrontation of the history of racial terror. CommonSpirit Health – the health system that includes Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas – collaborated with Morehouse School of Medicine to train more Black physicians.
Vaccines were the top of everyone’s mind at the beginning of the year. Volunteer physicians and nurses from Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz gave the COVID-19 vaccine to local agriculture workers and teachers. Three nursing students at Siena Heights University gained practical experience and served the local community when they administered the Moderna vaccine during a clinic at the Lenawee County Fair Grounds. Centro Latino of Shelbyville, a rural Kentucky center directed by Sister Patricia Reno, OP, offered vaccine clinics to the people it serves.
In other news, Sister Nancy Murray, OP, worked with Catholic Extension to procure grants for Sisters working on the front lines with people in need. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, delivered the Presidential Address to professionals, volunteers, and partners of Catholic Charities USA on the various ways they responded to the needs of the people during the pandemic.
Even with challenges brought about by the pandemic, the Adrian Dominican Congregation moved forward with efforts to make the Motherhouse Campus more sustainable. Co-workers in Facilities and Grounds and the Office of Sustainability oversaw projects including the restoration of the storm water retention pond; installation of a solar array in the north field; and the construction of a carport in the Regina parking lot, including solar panels and charging stations for electric vehicles. Power generated by the solar array and the solar panels on the carport will account for about a quarter of the annual power usage at the Motherhouse Campus.
The Permaculture Area hired 20 guest workers – goats from the local Munchers on Hooves – to graze in designated areas, ridding the site of invasive species of plants helping to manage the landscape.
The Congregation continued to be part of the dialogue about mitigating the impacts of climate change. Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, served on a panel of Catholic leaders who engaged in a dialogue with U.S. Representative Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) during a webinar on climate action.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council issued a variety of statements in response to events that affected the lives of others, especially those who are marginalized. In their statements, they called for the removal of President Trump from office after the January 6 insurrection, an end to violence against Asian-Americans, and an end to deportation flights for Haitians seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. They also wrote in support of the elevation of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., to Cardinal and for a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
The General Council also signed onto letters issued by other organizations or coalitions. These included a letter with leaders of Michigan communities of Sisters calling for the removal of Ron Weiser as Chair of the Republican Party because of demeaning and threatening remarks he made about the top three women in the Michigan government; an interfaith letter to President Biden, calling on him to restore access to Affordable Care Act benefits to DACA residents, those who had come as children to the United States with their families; and a statement issued by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious expressing concern over the insurrection.
Associates – men and women who feel called to the Dominican Charism, or spirit, and who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation – remained active and engaged throughout the year. They began to gather through weekly Zoom sessions to discuss the Dominican Charism; read, study, and discuss books together; and share reflections on the Gospel for the upcoming week. Zoom meetings also brought Adrian Dominican Associates together with Associates from other U.S. congregations of Dominican Sisters. Associate Life also began planning for the future by forming a 2030 Envisioning Committee, through the help of Elizabeth Keith, consultant for the newly established Office of Dominican Charism.
The number of Associates also continued to grow. The following new Associates were welcomed during virtual Rituals of Acceptance: Kathy Almaney, March 2021, and Mary Jo Alexander, Laura Boor, Megan Meloche, Melinda Mullen, and Sheila Wathen, August 2021.
Advocacy for immigrants and for a just U.S. immigration policy has always been a major focus for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and director of the Congregation’s Office of Immigration Assistance, works with immigrants who are seeking citizenship, residency, or protection from possible deportation. The Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation offers numerous opportunities to advocate on behalf of refugees and immigrants.
This year, many Sisters have continued to be actively involved in volunteering to help immigrants. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, as President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, visited Catholic Charities agencies serving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Adrian Dominican Sisters Katherine Frazier, OP, Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Nancy Murray, OP, and Mary Soher, OP, volunteered at shelters for immigrants at the border. Through live stream and Zoom, concerned people throughout the country have the opportunity to participate in the weekly Friday morning Rosary at Broadview Detention Center in Chicago, praying for immigrants who face deportation that day. The sessions are held at 7:15 a.m. Central Time.
The past year also gave Adrian Dominican Sister the opportunity to stroll through history. Congregation launched its fourth history book, Seeds of Change, covering the years of renewal from 1962 to 1986. The book launch gave the author – Sister Mary Lou Putrow, OP – and others involved in the writing and production of the book the opportunity to reflect on these pivotal years of history, which many Sisters have lived through.
Sisters Teresita Ruiz, OP, and Margarita Ruiz, OP, celebrated the role of their father, Humberto Ruiz Castillo, in the history of their native country, the Dominican Republic. The Catholic chapel at the Palacio Nacional – designed by their father, an architect – was renovated and dedicated.
Congregation Archivist Lisa Schell was elected as Vice President and President-Elect of Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious and hosted the virtual Dominican Archivists Summit.
Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County blessed a house built through Faith Build, funded in part by a grant from the Congregation’s Ministry Trust Fund. The Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in Pampanga, the Philippines, continued their Christmas 2020 gift-giving to the poor in January 2021. They were involved in the distribution of 1,600 “bags of blessing” to families identified by Caritas Kalookan, in the Diocese of Kalookan. Sisters Carol Weber, OP, and Judy Blake, CSJ, were recognized for their years of service to the people on the north end of Flint, Michigan through St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center.
Catholic Charities USA and the Felician Sisters teamed up to start the Francis Fund for Eviction Prevention. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, at the invitation of President Biden, attended the signing of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act on the White House lawn.
Siena Heights University’s annual food drive for a local food pantry was more successful than expected this year. Barry University took several steps to address hunger: opening a food pantry to provide for students who would otherwise experience food insecurity and organizing volunteers to prepare more than 40,000 food packs for the people of Haiti.
In response to the 2016 Resilient Communities Enactment, the Leadership Council approved an investment in collaboration with Mercy Housing Northwest: “The Power of Home: Affordable Housing as a Platform for Education Equity and Community Resilience.” The program offers comprehensive after-school programs at eight of Mercy Housing Northwest’s properties to help children succeed in school and in life.
Sister Corinne Florek was named Godmother of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in recognition of her decades of service in economic justice and community investment. Through the years, Sister Corinne helped to shape the practice of community development, in which the Adrian Dominican Sisters and other religious congregations invest in or make low-income loans to nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of local communities and people with low incomes.
Faith-based shareholders worked with three fossil fuel companies to develop clean energy. Sister Judy Byron, OP, representing the Adrian Dominican Sisters, was the primary filer – with 14 other faith-based organizations as co-filers – of shareholder resolution that Smith & Wesson adopt a comprehensive human rights policy in light of rising gun violence in the United States.
Both Sisters Corinne and Judy are consultants for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board.
November 18, 2020, Saint Joseph, Michigan – On Election Day 2020, capping a national presidential campaign fraught with division, Adrian Dominican Associate Deb Carter reached out in reconciliation to people proclaiming an opposing political view. Deb, a social justice advocate, gave flowers to people who support President Donald Trump.
Deb was one of the first members of a group that stood in front of Rep. Fred Upton’s office in St. Joseph, Michigan, nearly every Tuesday since before President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The group has advocated for causes ranging from the rights of immigrants to gun safety.
The group has grown over the years and, fairly recently, supporters of President Trump began showing up, Deb said. Because of COVID-19, Deb’s group of protesters moved to a different corner to be socially distanced.
Although she had felt the division between the two groups, Deb said she experienced a “paradigm shift” after reading an article about the counter-protests in the October 31, 2020, issue of the Herald-Palladium, the newspaper for the Benton Harbor, Michigan, area. In that article, she said, she read about Chad, the first supporter of President Trump to protest at the corner, and Patrick, a member of her own group who spent time talking with Chad. Patrick, she found out, had sought out Chad and the two were having conversations about their beliefs.
“I thought about that for two days,” Deb said. “We’ve got to reach out and have a conversation. The country is splitting in half and there’s been terrible divisiveness. I thought Patrick was being verbally bullied by Chad, but that’s not what happened. The two of them were engaged in conversation.”
Deb emailed the article to members of her Mission Group, Kaleidoscope – comprised of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates – and was inspired by Sister Cheryl Liske’s suggestion to bring doughnuts for both sides to cut through the division. On Election Day, Deb said, she considered bringing doughnuts but realized that gesture could be risky during a pandemic.
“Then I got the idea of flowers, a universal symbol of peace,” Deb said. She cited a famous photograph of a flower placed in the gun of a National Guard member by a peace protestor. She brought enough flowers for her own group and the people on the other corner. Some refused, but others took the offering.
Deb hopes to go a step further once conditions are safer – to take time to meet with the protesters who support Trump to find common ground. “The article did prompt me to think that I need to reach out to Chad to suggest that right now is not the best time because of COVID-19, but at some time in the future I would like to sit down and talk to him.”
Deb said she has been inspired by her Mission Group and by the support that they have given her as she speaks out, advocating for social justice. Another Mission Group member, Associate Barbara Lawrence, made about 70 masks featuring the word “vote.” Deb sold them to other members of her group and their family members.
Mission Groups are a basic component of the government of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Deb said her group has fully lived out one of its purposes, outlined in the Adrian Dominican Constitution: to “support and challenge one another for the quality of life and ministry.”
“My Association [with the Adrian Dominican Congregation] all these years has made me a better person and has made me realize that I can extend myself even further,” Deb said. “If I decide that I see something that’s wrong, I just can’t sit by and be silent.”
Feature photo: Associate Deb Carter, right, offers flowers to a supporter of President Trump on Election Day as a gesture of reconciliation.