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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.
August 6, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Two women – Alison Altmeyer of Chicago and Annemarie Kallenbach of Adrian – were formally welcomed as new Adrian Dominican Associates July 29, 2020, during a Ritual of Acceptance on Zoom.
Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, welcomed more than 70 people who virtually witnessed the Ritual of Acceptance. “We join our hearts in relationship and we welcome Annemarie and Alison to Associate Life,” she said.
Mary noted the more than 800 years of Dominican teaching, tradition, and history that has been passed down to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. “As new Associates you are part of this legacy of Dominican charism,” Mary said. “We want you both to know how warmly we welcome you as you embrace the Dominican charism in your own life.”
Sister Sharon Spanbauer, OP, mentor of Annemarie, introduced her as a colleague and a fellow nurse practitioner who advocates for the rights and dignity of all people. “These past years she has felt a deepened calling for spirituality and has spent more time in reading, meditation, and prayer,” Sister Sharon said. “To join her journey with ours cannot be but enriching for all of us.”
Annemarie was born in Chicago in a large family, focused on faith and education, and attributed her choice to become an Associate to this “faith-filled” family. She and her husband Jeff – now grandparents – also raised their two daughters in the faith, she said.
After living for many years in Chicago, she and Jeff moved to Adrian, where he is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Siena Heights University. Annemarie is an adjunct professor in the Nursing Department. She had been an intensive care nurse and now, as nurse practitioner, includes Adrian Dominican Sisters among her patients.
Annemarie has been involved in outreach ministries such as Share the Warmth, a homeless shelter in Adrian. A talented artist in the media of ceramics, metal, and paper, she has gotten to know Adrian Dominican Sisters who are artists.
“I [was] looking for a spiritual enrichment group that will help keep me focused and nurtured … for a group to share my gifts but also to find a place of serenity and invigoration,” she said of her decision to become an Adrian Dominican Associate.
Sister Norine Burns, OP, introduced Alison Altmeyer as “no stranger to those of us who know her through Aquinas Literacy Center,” Sister Norine mentored Alison, noting that Alison first met the Adrian Dominican Sisters while teaching Spanish at Maria High School in Chicago, where Sister Noreen Burke, OP, served as teacher and counselor.
“It was then and there that the seeds for Associate Life were planted” in the heart of Alison, Sister Norine said. Alison went on to serve as Executive Director of Aquinas Literacy Center – sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – since 2004.
“She will be an asset to Associate Life,” Sister Norine said of Alison. “She has captured the Dominican spirit and possesses a clear sense of her call to live out the mission of Jesus.”
Alison said her ministry at Aquinas Literacy Center impels her “to joyfully live the Dominican charism..Becoming an Associate provides the opportunity to deepen my own spirituality and to strengthen my relationship with the Adrian Dominican Sisters,” she added. “Most importantly, every day, living the Gospel as an Adrian Dominican Associate invites a contemplative life, advocating for peace and justice in this world.”
A native of Des Plaines, Illinois, Alison is the youngest of three sisters. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and secondary education.
In January 2019, Alison married Peter Harley, whom she met at the literacy center in 2011. He is the coordinator of children’s faith formation at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. “Our Catholic faith is the center of our marriage,” Alison said.
Associates are women and men, at least 18 years of age – married, single, widowed, or divorced – who make a non-vowed commitment to partner with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. While maintaining their own lifestyle and remaining financially independent, they participate in various spiritual, social, and ministerial experiences with the Sisters and live out the Dominican charism, or spirit, in their daily lives.
If you feel called to be an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach at 517-266-3531 or email@example.com. If you are a single Catholic woman interested in vowed life as an Adrian Dominican Sister, contact Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, at 517-266-3532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.