What's Happening


Associate Sharon Pikula, center, stands with a large donation of shoes brought to the Welcome Center in Phoenix by a donor from San Francisco.

April 19, 2024, Phoenix, Arizona – In a place where many people might see hopelessness, Adrian Dominican Associate Sharon Pikula saw a heart-warming scene where people help one another and find joy and comfort in small matters. 

Sharon volunteered for a week at a welcome center for immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona, working with other volunteers to give immigrants who pass through the center time for respite and recovery. Typically, the immigrants come from a detention center run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or from other nonprofit organizations located near the border, she explained. 

The welcome center where Sharon served was established in a former elementary school building by various local nonprofit organizations, under the umbrella of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Sharon explained. The center has space for up to 400 people to sleep, but its primary aim is to offer temporary space for immigrants to “stabilize their situation – rest, get a new set of clothes, get a shower, [and enjoy] three meals a day,” she explained. The ultimate goal is to prepare them for journeys to the homes of their sponsors, family members or friends who reside in the United States. Typically, 175 to 300 immigrants pass through the welcome center each week, Sharon said. 

During her week at the IRC Welcome Center, Sharon worked three-hour shifts packed with activity: coordinating showers, preparing used clothing, working in the clothing room, serving meals, and offering any other service needed by the immigrants. Often after her shift, she and other volunteers shopped at local thrift stores for clothing, toiletries, and other necessary items to stock the shelves of the IRC Welcome Center. 

Sharon described the work as heart-wrenching. “Other than the clothes on [their backs] and maybe a backpack, that’s all they’ve got,” she said. Yet, during the orientation, the volunteers were told not to question the immigrants about their experiences to avoid re-traumatizing them. “Their recommendation was to give them as much autonomy as possible and not to throw questions at them,” Sharon said. “I tried to be as helpful as I could, but I did not push any questions … and just helped them get whatever they needed.”

During off-hours, Sharon stayed at the nearby house of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The experience was “very holistic in terms of being of service but also having space for yourself to take in what you were experiencing – time for prayer and reflection,” she said. She also spent part of her evenings gaining some insight into the plight of the immigrants by reading Solito, the memoir of Javier Zamora, who, in 1990, at the age of 9, traveled by himself from his native El Salvador to be reunited with his parents in the United States. 

Still, Sharon witnessed joy and hope. “One of the things you learn is that you may find yourself in some really tough situations, but you still see the humanity of people in terms of helping each other out,” she said. She gave the example of a man from Africa who, on watching Sharon clean off the tables before preparing a meal, stepped in to help her with this task. She also recalled the generosity of a man from San Francisco who traveled to Phoenix with a carload of donated shoes for the immigrants. “They were gone within a day,” she said.

Sharon also applauded the generosity of activists who advocate for the welfare of immigrants, even if they don’t necessarily work with “day-to-day direct service,” and spoke highly of the support she felt from Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates who prayed for her and for the immigrants she served. “I really, full-heartedly believe that prayer support is deeply needed across the spectrum, whether you’re in direct service or the activist or whatever role,” she said. “We need that praying presence.” 

Sharon said volunteering at the IRC Welcome Center was part of her search to serve others. “As I’m moving into retirement, I want to do some service,” she said. She heard about the center from a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in her parish, who had served at the center. Feeling that Phoenix was not too far from her home in Washington State, Sharon applied to volunteer at the welcome center. “I’m hoping in the later part of the year to return there,” she said. “It’s a very tender and vulnerable place.”

Sharon has some advice for anyone who would like to volunteer at a welcome center for immigrants. “Be open to the experience,” she said. “If you have some prayer or spiritual practices, make sure you’re doing them regularly. Watch for the simple things. It’s not the grandiose stuff – it’s paying attention to the simple needs of the people and allowing them to be as autonomous as possible and giving them space.”

Listen to Sharon’s Holy Week reflection on her experience at the welcome center.

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.


1. Diversity and Racism

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.


2. COVID-19 Pandemic

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. 


3. Sustainability

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. 


4. General Council Statements

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.


5. Associates

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. 


6. Immigration 

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.


7. History

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.


8. Poverty 

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. 


9. Resilient Communities 

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. 


10. Socially Responsible Investing 

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.



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