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July 10, 2018, Peshawbestown, Michigan – When parishioners of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, gathered on June 30, they had much to celebrate – and many blessings that made up for the extreme heat of the day. The parish was celebrating its 160th anniversary – 160 years since the Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga, the “Snowshoe Priest,” approved the purchase of the land and building the parish church. This was also the 150th anniversary of Bishop Baraga’s death.

During the celebration, Sister Susan Gardner, OP, Pastoral Administrator of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, especially remembers the moment when Penny Concannon, a Native American, smudged the people in the entrance procession – including Bishop Steven J. Raica, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, and herself. 

Sister Susan Gardner, OP, Pastoral Administrator at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, addresses the assembly.

Sister Sue, now in her fifth year of ministry in the parish, treasured the Native American elements to the Mass: drumming by the Spirit Lake Drummers, the smudging of people and the altar, and the prayer to the four directions. But also important to Sister Sue and her parishioners was the strong connection to Bishop Baraga.

A native of Slovenia, Frederic Baraga left his home country in 1830 to serve as missionary in the Great Lakes area of the United States. He ministered to the Native peoples of the area, traveling from one church to another to offer the sacraments, thus earning the affectionate title, “Snowshoe Priest.” In 1853, he was ordained as the first Bishop of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Sister Sue noted Bishop Baraga’s efforts to reach out to the Native people by learning their language. He had written songs in the Native Odawa language and written an Odawa-English dictionary and a catechism in Odawa. In recognition of his language skills, the choir at St. Kateri Tekakwitha sang in its original language one of the three songs that Bishop Baraga had written in Odawa. 

Pope Benedict XVI declared Bishop Baraga Venerable on May 10, 2012. His next step toward canonization is to be beatified, which requires a miracle attributed to him.

As pastoral administrator of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Sister Sue takes on most of the responsibilities of an ordained pastor but relies on Father Emmanuel Tizhe, the Sacramental Minister, to offer the sacraments. 

Father Emmanuel Tizhe, front and Bishop Steven J. Raica

Father Emmanuel Tizhe, front, and Bishop Steven J. Raica bless the assembly.

“At one time this was a totally Native parish,” Sister Sue explained. “Now we have some Native and some non-Native [parishioners].” She added that years ago, several Native parishioners left when they were wrongly told that they had to choose between Catholicism and following Native American spirituality. Many have since returned, she added. “We try to engage Native spirituality as much as we can in hopes that more will come back.”

Sister Sue said the first challenge in her ministry is being patient. “You have to gain the trust of the Native American people – which took a few months – and keep a balance between the two communities,” she said. “The non-Native parishioners love the Native American rituals and are very supportive of the Native community.”

She especially treasures Thursday nights, when anybody is welcome to come for dinner. “A lot of Native Americans come who do not come for Sunday Mass,” Sister Sue explained. “I get to talk to a broader group of Native Americans. I get to hear their stories of growing up here. It’s a whole different atmosphere, getting to know the Native American people and the non-Native.”

The Spirit Lake Drummers enhance the music and the Native American spirituality during the anniversary Mass.

Sister Sue has felt drawn to the Native American peoples since fourth grade when, during a visit to her aunt, she stopped at a drug store in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She saw a Native American man standing by the drug store, observing everything around him. When she came out of the drug store, he was still there. “I saw a little smile in his eyes,” Sister Sue recalled. Since then, she said, she attended every Native American experience that she could.

Sister Sue had the opportunity to serve the Native American population when she responded to the call of Sister Donna Markham, OP, then Prioress of the Congregation, to minister to the people of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada. She stayed in that ministry for six years and, after she returned to the United States, responded to a call to serve at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. “God has led me in the right way,” she said. “When one ministry was closing, another opened up.” 

The parish is named after St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), the “Lily of the Mohawks,” who was converted to Christianity by Jesuit missionaries. She chose a life of virginity dedicated to Jesus and spent the last five years of her life in the Jesuit mission south of Montreal. Her baptismal name, Kateri, is in honor of the great Dominican saint, St. Catherine of Siena.


Feature photo at top: Penny Concannon smudges Bishop Steven J. Raica of Gaylord, Michigan, during a special Mass celebrating the 160th Anniversary of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish.


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December 30, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – As we near the countdown to another calendar year, let us take some time to review the 10 most memorable events for the Adrian Dominican Congregation in 2016.


General Chapter 2016

After nearly two years of contemplative and collaborative study and preparation, about 200 delegates to the second session of the 2016 General Chapter gathered at the Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan, February 18-26, to set the direction of the Congregation for the next six years. After input and much work together, four Enactments were approved and a Prioress and General Council were elected to lead the Congregation in living out those Enactments. 


St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center Responds to Flint’s Water Crisis

When the water of Flint, Michigan, was found to be contaminated with lead co-workers at St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center found ways to offer special services to the troubled community. The Center – founded by Sister Carol Weber, OP, and Sister Judy Blake, CSJ – responded in a variety of ways, from serving as a water distribution center to offering support and nutrition classes to mothers of young children. Sister Carol also found hope and support from a community meeting, called and attended by President Barack Obama. 


Adrian Dominicans Stand in Solidarity with Those Seeking Justice

Throughout the year, groups of Adrian Dominicans participated in various events in solidarity with people who are seeking justice. A group of Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, joined a protest with 3,000 indigenous peoples from their country. Participants set up camp at the University of the Philippines to raise awareness of their efforts to reclaim self-determination and liberation. Six Adrian Dominican Sisters and one Dominican Volunteer traveled to Nogales, Arizona, to join in the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch’s first-ever Convergence at the Border, which called attention to increased militarization of U.S. borders. Three Adrian Dominican Sisters were part of a contingent of U.S. Dominican Sisters who spent a weekend in solidarity with Native Americans who were encamped at Standing Rock in protest the Dakota Access Pipeline being constructed on sacred tribal land.


Dominicans around the World Celebrate 800th Jubilee

For Dominicans throughout the world, 2016 was a year-long Jubilee of the founding of the Order of Preachers by St. Dominic. Among the many celebrations taking place during this year was “Living our Legacy: A Dominican Conference in Celebration of 800 Years of Preaching,” attended by three Adrian Dominican Sisters. 


Reflective Garden Brings Joy to Retired Sisters

Thanks to the generosity of numerous donors, the Dominican Life Center Reflective Garden was built in the summer and dedicated in August. The garden was designed with the special needs of memory-loss Sisters in mind to give them a safe and beautiful place to enjoy nature.


Adrian Dominicans Dedicate Formation House in Dominican Republic

The Adrian Dominican Sisters renovated a 100-year-old house in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and dedicated it as a House of Formation. The house is open to women in the Dominican Republic who are discerning a call to the Adrian Dominican Sisters, women who are in formation, and for those who seek a place for spiritual growth and renewal. Read more


Siena Heights University Opens St. Joseph Academy Building to Education Students

After receiving the old St. Joseph Academy building from the Adrian Dominican Congregation, Siena Heights University renovated the first floor and dedicated it to the Department of Education. In gratitude for the gift of the building, the faculty and students in the Education Department hosted an open house for Adrian Dominicans to showcase the new facilities. 


St. Rose Dominican Hospitals Plans Four New Neighborhood Hospitals

Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican Hospitals announced plans to build four new neighborhood hospitals in the Las Vegas area to increase access to health care in these areas. The first of the four is scheduled to be dedicated in the first quarter of 2017.


Associate Life Creates Advisory Board

An Advisory Board was created for Associate Life, the organization that coordinates Adrian Dominican Associates, as a way to respond to the specific Dominican charism of Associates. Made up of five Associates, the Director of Associate Life, the Formation Director, and the General Council liaison to Associate Life, the Advisory Board first met in the Spring of 2016 and reported on its accomplishments and goals during an August gathering of Associates


Adrian Dominican Sisters Present on Global Stage

In the past year, three Adrian Dominican Sisters have taken part in global events. Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, was part of the U.S. delegation to the canonization in Rome of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Sister Mary Priniski, OP, participated in the Global Seminar on Sustainable Development and the Future of Work in the Context of the Jubilee of Mercy, in Rome in early May. Sister Cheryl Liske, OP, attended the third World Meeting of Popular Movements, held in Rome in November to help advise Pope Francis on how to address the challenges faced by poor people and Earth.



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