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Sister Patty, a while women with gray hair wearing glasses, a burgundy sweater, and a pink scarf, stands at the podium while a Black woman with short black hair and glasses wearing a gray sweater stands next to her holding a plaque

January 22, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, received the Community Service Award on January 15, 2024, during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Adrian. The event took place in the Tobias Center of Adrian College.

In her nomination, Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, noted that Sister Patricia has been an active member of the Adrian Human Rights Commission and “instrumental in creating a number of programs and events to engage the Adrian community in exploring the issues and promoting cultural diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

Sister Patricia was involved in much of that work as a General Councilor for the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 2016 to 2022, charged with leading the committee that addressed the Congregation’s 2016 Enactment on Diversity and Relationships. In turn, a Congregational committee – Toward Communion: Ending Racism, Embracing Diversity – worked with both Sisters and Adrian Dominican Associates to help them become more aware of racism. 

“Sister Patricia’s dedication and passion … helped create a space where people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, can feel safe and are reverenced,” Sister Kathleen wrote.

“I am deeply grateful and truly honored and humbled to receive this award,” Sister Patricia said. “I accept it in the name of all the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates.” After learning she would receive the award, she said, “My head was filled with the wonderful people who mentored and accompanied me these years in working with the city of Adrian and with our Sisters and Associates.”

In particular, Sister Patricia paid tribute to a small group of local people of color who met with her beginning in 2016 to help her in her work focusing on undoing racism and embracing diversity. “They became not only my mentors [and] colleagues, but became my friends,” she said. “They not only taught me a wealth of knowledge, but they touched my spirit of what it meant to be strangers no longer.”

The group included Andre’a Benard of Christ Temple Ministries International in Adrian; Jeanette Henagan, President of the Lenawee County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Idali Feliciano of the Adrian Human Relations Commission; Rudy Flores, an advocate for migrants; and Dionardo Pizana, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist for the Michigan State University Extension.  

In an interview, Sister Patricia said she wasn’t sure where to begin when leading the Congregation in living out the Enactment on Diversity and Relationships. “I reached out to people of color,” she said. The group met every two to three months. “We didn’t have a structure or an agenda,” she said. “We’d get together and start talking. We got to know one another … and then discussed how to educate the people in Adrian. We started to bridge the gap between people of color and people not of color understanding one another.”

Dionardo and Sisters from Pax Christi worked closely with the committee to discuss their experiences of race. “Members of the Toward Communion group came closer to one another,” Sister Patricia recalled. “We understood one another at a depth greater than ‘how are you?’ … It was respectful. We got to be seen.” 

In turn, the Toward Communion committee worked with Sisters and Associates to help them understand people from other ethnic groups and cultures. Kevin Hofmann, Director of the the Congregation’s Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion, continues the work that Sister Patricia started with Sisters and Associates. 

Before her election to the General Council, Sister Patricia served eight years as the Director of Lay Ministry Formation for the Hispanic Ministry Office of the Diocese of Cleveland. There, she worked with people from 23 Hispanic countries with distinct cultures. The people shared and celebrated their diverse cultures during an annual Faith and Culture celebration. 

“I learned the joy of diverse populations coming together and celebrating together,” Sister Patricia recalled. “There wasn’t one culture that was better than another. The Salvadorans were as respected as the Mexicans. The Guatemalans were as respected as the Venezuelans. They all had their distinctive food and language.” 

Sister Patricia also experienced the joys and benefits of diversity in her earlier ministries in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. One fond memory is professing her final vows in Puerto Rico among all the people she worked with and another is the work she did with children and their families in the Head Start program. Sister Patricia also spent time in the Dominican Republic visiting different parts of the island to teach theology to the youth workers.

Read more coverage of the Martin Luther King Celebration in the Daily Telegram, a newspaper in Adrian, Michigan.


Feature photo at top: Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, accepts the 2024 Community Service Award during the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Adrian College’s Tobias Center. Eugenia McClain, right, presented the award. Photo by Anna Marie Anzalone, used with permission.

January 2, 2024, Seattle, Washington – Sister Judy Byron, OP, long-time Board member, was the first recipient of the Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) Founding Communities Award presented during the organization’s Gala, Power of Home, held in Seattle.

The gala raised nearly $400,000 to support its Mercy Scholars Program to expand education to families in the affordable housing properties in the Seattle area. The event included a panel of people impacted by MHNW’s programs, including a recent college graduate who had lived in an MHNW home since age 2.

Recently, Sister Judy explained in an interview, MHNW had been “very cognizant” of the five local communities of Sisters who founded the organization in the 1990s: the Edmonds Dominican Sisters (who merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2003), the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Sisters of Providence, the Tacoma Dominican Sisters, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

Mercy Housing Northwest “decided to give annually a founder’s award to someone or to a group that’s been involved with it,” Sister Judy explained. “They decided to begin with me. I was honored and humbled.” Besides serving on the board, Sister Judy has helped facilitate grants to the organization. The grants include the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Resilient Communities Initiative, which focuses on at-home, after-school programs for school-age children living in the housing units.

In her brief acceptance speech, Sister Judy said, she spoke of the history of MHNW. “The five communities, when we looked at the needs of our day in the early 1990s, were concerned about the families that were homeless, so we decided to develop affordable housing for families with small children. That was very ambitious for communities whose main ministries were healthcare and education.”

The Sisters in the five communities looked for organizations already involved in affordable housing and discovered Mercy Housing, Inc., founded in 1982 by Sister Timothy O’Roark, a Sister of Mercy of Omaha. “We affiliated with them and became one of their centers.” The other centers are Mercy Housing California, Lakefront, Mountain Plains, and Southeast.

In its 32 years, MHNW has established 55 housing properties throughout Washington and Idaho, providing homes for 5,000 families. However, the efforts of MHNW go beyond affordable housing. “We aren’t just giving people an apartment to live in,” Sister Judy said. “We’re giving them a home and helping them build a community where they can thrive.”

MHNW offers optional residential services to families who want to participate in them: onsite educational programs and after-school programs for children, financial literacy programs, healthy food and exercise programs, job training, and help with citizenship and English language skills for immigrants.

The 32 years of MHNW affordable housing and resident services have produced stories of thousands of positively affected people. Sister Judy said one of her favorite stories is of a young woman who left a domestic violence shelter with her two children. She attended classes at a junior college and had a part-time job. “She said how important the after-school program was to her,” Sister Judy recalled. “When she got home, she knew that the kids had done their homework and had had a snack. She could focus on fixing dinner.” The woman eventually graduated, got a job, and moved out of the property – and then served as a member of the MHNW Board.

The work of MHNW has affected not only the families living in the housing community, but also people involved in its ministry. “Over the years, the people we’ve been able to attract to work with us have made it the success it is,” Sister Judy said. “The people who work with us share the mission as much as we do. They are really committed.” Many groups and individuals deserve the award, she said. “I’m happy to be the beginning, but there are many who will follow me.”



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