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June 18, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – On the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’, U.S. congregations of Dominican Sisters announced the launching of a strategic investment initiative in collaboration with Morgan Stanley to address climate change, especially as it affects marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by global warming. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to the initiative, seeding Climate Solutions Funds that have attracted more than $130,000,000 in capital investments.
“Dominicans have long been engaged in addressing issues related to poverty and Earth’s degradation,” said Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “Today we are extending these efforts to Wall Street by proactively investing in marketplace climate solutions that we hope will have a catalyzing impact for the common good of people and planet.”
Leaders of 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters, representing nearly 3,500 Catholic Sisters from Washington to New York and Texas to Michigan, are participating in this collaborative initiative in partnership with the Chicago office of Graystone Consulting Group, a women-led institutional consulting practice which is part of Morgan Stanley. The Sisters’ anchor investments in this initiative have attracted additional investors, providing a pool of more than $130 million for investment in climate solutions that integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water, sanitation, food security, energy, and related challenges facing economically impoverished communities.
“We are bringing these resources to the marketplace to help address our deep concern about the integrity of God’s creation and the people most impacted by climate change,” Sister Patricia said. “Although we initiated this effort well before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global pandemic has underscored the link between climate change and ecological degradation and the health and wellbeing of people, especially those most vulnerable.”
The initiative, five years in the making, has attracted numerous other investors. Séamus P. Finn, OMI, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing of the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, said, “The OIP Trust is excited by the opportunity to join the Dominican-Climate fund and was especially attracted by the insight and innovation that is at the core of the fund’s approach. The vision for the fund is grounded in the transformation of the current financial system and gives priority to people, planet and sustainability.”
Lisa Zuckerman, Vice President of Treasury and Strategic Investing for CommonSpirit Health, said, “CommonSpirit Health is a long-standing socially responsible investor, and we are grateful for opportunities with like-minded investors that align with our values and create healthier communities. We seek strong social returns as well as financial returns. With its focus on climate change, the Climate Impact Solutions Fund helps address a pressing global health issue,” she said, adding, “When we can meet our financial goals, we are able to spread our healing mission to more people.”
Sister Patricia noted, “We are delighted that this integrated approach to climate investing has attracted other investors and investment managers, helping to scale this kind of approach to climate finance globally.”
The unusual partnership between U.S. Catholic Sisters and a global Wall Street investment firm emerged from a commitment the Dominican Sisters made as a Conference in 2015 to “develop an appropriate strategy to promote investment in climate solutions.” The commitment, made prior to the Paris Climate Agreement, was the fruit of a yearlong faith-praxis cycle of study, contemplation and action developed by the Earth Council of northeast Dominican congregations that had engaged Dominicans throughout the United States.
A Sisters’ Climate Finance Taskforce was formed, reaching out to more than three dozen financial institutions in search of a manager that would develop financial products addressing climate change and integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “We found that manager in The Graystone Consulting Group of Morgan Stanley,” said Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a longtime corporate-responsibility advocate, who played a leading role on the taskforce and in forging the partnership. “This marks a new moment of collaboration in the world of finance. May this milestone spark a new movement of integrated climate solutions that are responsive to Pope Francis’ moral call to humanity in Laudato Si’ to care for God’s creation and God’s people,” she said.
Two years ago, on June 18, 2018, leaders of the 16 congregations gathered at the global headquarters of Morgan Stanley on Times Square to celebrate the inauguration of the initiative with their anchor commitments. The Sisters were hosted by officers from Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Graystone Consulting Institutional Consultants Kristina Van Liew and Linda Stephans.
“Partnering with Morgan Stanley’s Graystone Consulting, we seek to identify models for faith-based organizations and other institutions and individuals to proactively invest in climate solutions that will help our world shift to a renewables-based economy while assisting the neediest communities around the globe,” Sister Patricia said. “We want to do all we can to protect Earth, our common home, and help safeguard the future for young people today and for generations to come.”
Sister Patricia noted that their integrated approach to climate finance echoes the call Pope Francis issued in Laudato Si’ for “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature” (139). The initiative is aligned with efforts that Catholic Sisters around the world have undertaken for years to address issues related to poverty and ecological degradation. These include support for affordable housing and healthcare, education, microenterprise, community development, as well as clean water, land conservation, renewable energy, Earth literacy programs, wetlands restoration, and advocacy for climate agreements and programs serving people with low incomes, among others.
The 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters participating in this collaboration, and the congregational leaders giving voice to the statements are:
Adrian Dominican Sisters (Michigan) Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress
Amityville Dominican Sisters (New York) Peggy McVetty OP, Prioress
Blauvelt Dominican Sisters (New York) Michaela Connolly, OP, Prioress
Caldwell Dominican Sisters (New Jersey) Patrice Werner, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Hope (Ossining, New York) Catherine McDonnell, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Houston (Texas) Donna Pollard, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Peace (Columbus, Ohio) Patricia Twohill, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (Wisconsin) Toni Harris, OP, Prioress
Dominican Srs of St. Catherine of Siena (Saratoga, Calif.) Susan Snyder, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids (Michigan) Sandra Delgado, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sparkill (New York) Mary Murray, OP, President
Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic (New York) Antoinette Guztler, OP, President
Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters (Fremont, California) Cecilia Canales, OP, Prioress
San Rafael Dominican Sisters (California) Carla Kovack, OP, Prioress
Springfield Dominican Sisters (Illinois) Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, Prioress
Tacoma Dominican Sisters (Washington) Sharon Casey, OP, Past President
U.S. Catholic Sisters, including congregations of Dominican Sisters, are financially independent of the Roman Catholic Church. Their revenues come from the ministerial earnings of their Sisters, which are pooled along with donations in support of their mission, social security payments, and earnings on investment of these resources.
November 22, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – U.S. Dominican Friars, Sisters, Nuns, and Associates gathered at Weber Retreat and Conference Center in Adrian in October for a regional Dominican Preaching Colloquium. The gathering gave members of the Dominican family the opportunity to discuss their call to preach and ways to pass on the preaching mission to the next generation of Dominicans.
The Colloquium included a keynote address by Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp, Professor Emeritus at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a noted speaker and author. He spoke of “Evangelization in the Mission of Jesus and in our Mission as Church.”
Father Anthony noted that evangelization is not only proclamation of the Gospel but “it’s everything that Jesus does.” As disciples, he said, we are to be “co-missioned into the mission of Jesus, brought down to Earth 2,000 years ago, but needing to be embodied by us here in the 21st Century.” He noted that Jesus did not just proclaim the coming Kingdom of God through his words but primarily through his actions in four ways: encountering people one-on-one; table fellowship, eating with all people, even “tax-collectors and sinners;” foot-washing, offering humble service to all people; and boundary-crossing, cutting through barriers of exclusion and privilege which demean people.
Participants reflected on how they live out Jesus’ four ways of preaching the Good News of God’s love. Father Anthony reminded participants that all of the baptized have the “vocation of discipleship,” yet many parishioners do not have that understanding of their own call.
Finally, he noted that God – not the Church – is the subject of mission. “The mission has the Church,” and God managed well before the Church was established, he said. “The mission has the Dominicans – and before the Dominicans God was happy with the mission. The mission has you and the mission has me. I don’t have the mission – so I can die in peace because God is in charge.”
Ann M. Garrido, DMin, former Professor of Homiletics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, presented the results of 20 interviews she had conducted with 10 older Dominicans and 10 newer Dominicans. “Dominicans are all across the board in how they see preaching,” she said, noting that some see their ministry as the preaching while others confine preaching to proclamations from the pulpit.
She saw differences among Dominicans in many areas, and focused much of her time on equipping participants to hold “difficult conversations” with one another on issues in which they disagree. She urged them to still their own “inner voice” during conversations so that they could truly listen and find common ground.
During the Colloquium, participants had the opportunity to get to know one another through meals and social time, to pray together, and to attend Mass together.
Adrian Dominican Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP, one of the organizers, said that global colloquiums have been organized by the Dominican preaching institutes at Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Missouri; in Cologne, Germany; and in Manila, the Philippines. The first global preaching colloquium for Dominicans was in 2016 in St. Louis. The next was in Manila in 2017, and last year’s colloquium took place in Cologne. Dominicans who attended the global gatherings set in motion the regional gatherings this year in all three areas.
“We’re trying to collaborate as a Dominican family on our preaching mission and talk about the challenges,” Sister Sara said. Participants in each region focused on the particular issues that they face, she explained. “In the United States, there’s a lot of polarization in the Catholic Church and within the Dominican community. How do we think about the future of our preaching mission together as an Order without taking a look at the things that divide us, as well as what unites us? If we don’t have relationships with one another, it’s really hard to collaborate.”
Sister Sara said that Ann’s presentation on “difficult conversations” gave participants some effective tools, ways to “understand where the other party’s coming from and why they hold the position that they do, and to just be more able to talk to each other.”
Collaboration and group sharing was also at the heart of evening communal reflections organized by Sister Sara, in which participants gathered at tables, listened to the Word of God, contemplated in silence, and shared their reflections with one another. “For me, as a planner, I wanted us to experience this idea of communal preaching, where we actually come together as a community and sit in small circles and reflect on the Word together,” she said. “That’s very powerful. Not only are we enriched around the Gospel, around the Word, but we are also enriched by each other and what we’re sharing.”
Sister Sara noted the establishment of Preaching Promoters for each Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and their communal service to the Congregation as members of a Preaching Commission.
“I think our Congregation in the past 30 years has more and more identified [ourselves] as preachers – and you preach with your life,” she said. “We have certainly claimed that identity. I think we could do more. We could do a little bit more in terms of relating our justice work with the mission of Jesus.”
The next Global Preaching Colloquium will be in Manila, the Philippines, in 2020.