What's Happening


collage of Centro Maria Poussepin activities

New York, New York, March 27, 2023 – In the midst of Women’s History Month, three Dominican Sisters spoke of their efforts to empower women in rural areas around the world. They spoke on March 14, 2023, during the 67th Session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), held March 6-17, 2023.

Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, as representative of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) at the United Nations, facilitated the webinar.


Sister Elsa Myriam Londoña, OP, spoke of her experiences of accompanying the people in rural Ecuador, coming into relationship with families and forming them into service to the Church and the world. “This is a methodology that we use in our work: perceive the reality as it is, embrace this reality, understand, and take action at the same time,” she said. 

In her ministry, she strives to form a group of Servers of the Word in each community to celebrate the sacraments, participate in pastoral care, and work together. One focus is the celebration of life at all stages and all seasons, she said. The biggest challenges Sister Elsa sees include taking care of the environment, organizing women, and training in human and social ventures. 

Sister Elsa spoke of the key role of women in protecting the planet. “The woman is the one who always takes care of the land,” she said. The women follow their ancestral practices of natural medicine, promoting food security in their communities, and taking up the struggle to maintain a healthy environment, she said.  

“The mission of consecrated women today begins with the understanding of our identity and the work within the Church – a lifestyle that has to be permeated by values – values that go through listening, through the relationship of care, through radicality, through tenacity to offer life,” Sister Elsa concluded. “These are the faces of the women we accompany – women working to organize themselves.”

Burkina Faso

Sister Nicole Kabore spoke of the many challenges and inequalities that women face daily in the rural areas of Burkina Faso, in West Africa. “One of the consequences of poverty is that women are treated poorly,” she explained. “She has to take care of the family. She’s responsible for feeding, healthcare, education, and all the responsibilities of the family,” including working outside the home if the family needs more money.

Because mothers and daughters are responsible for the household tasks, they rarely have the time to attend school – and priority is given to the education of boys, Sister Nicole said. Because of their lack of education, women are often treated poorly and, when they need to work, are relegated to menial work and work in the fields, she explained.

Sister Nicole also pointed to women in Burkina Faso who face particular difficulties: those who cannot have children and are blamed for this, even if they might not be the cause of infertility, and widows who have no support. A widow “loses all her privileges,” she explained. “Familial goods are confiscated by her husband’s family.” If the husband’s family tells her to marry one of his brothers and she refuses, she is often banished from the family.

A goal of the ministry in Burkina Faso is to teach women that they have rights, Sister Nicole said. “Women have the right to express themselves but this is the real challenge, especially in certain cultures,” she said. “Very few women have a voice in the nature of decisions that are made in regard to their community. We try to help them gain their voice.”


Sister Teresa, of the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation, focused her talk on the Marie Poussepin Center (MPC), a boarding school for girls that her Sisters operate in the town of Guaimaca, Honduras. The MPC gives girls the opportunity for education that they ordinarily would not have in a society in which education of girls ends after sixth grade.

“Their education [at the boarding school] is in God, faith, and studies,” Sister Teresa explained. “Education is integral. We try to teach them things that would give them many resources so they can do better in life,” such as culinary and sewing skills, agriculture practices, medicinal plants, work in the environment, technology, and appreciation of their own culture.   

“It’s beautiful to see what the girls know,” Sister Teresa said. “They don’t want to leave anybody in their family who can’t write. They’re helping to teach everybody, helping them to reach at least sixth grade.”

Sister Teresa said the boarding school has already come to a harvest. Many of its graduates go on to colleges and universities – some in the United States – and have chosen careers in areas such as nursing, agricultural engineering, business, psychology, and agronomy.

“The most beautiful part of this is that we work with a team of volunteers who put their talents and gifts at the service of others,” including many Dominican Volunteers, Sister Teresa said. She invited Sisters throughout the world who are looking for an opportunity to be of service to spend some months or years in service at the Marie Poussepin Center. “We would receive you with open arms,” she said.

In concluding the webinar, Sister Durstyne noted that a fourth Dominican Sister – Sister Monica from Pakistan – was unable to join the webinar because of technological issues. “We thank our sisters for their personal stories in working with women’s empowerment,” Sister Durstyne said. “Your work reminds us that no woman must be left behind. May we continue to raise the voice and the power of women through the help of one another and the power of God.”


Sister Mary Priniski, OP, rides a kayak with Achuar guide Celestino Antik on a river through a mango grove.

Amazon Basin, Ecuador, January 6, 2023 – Sisters Mary Priniski, OP, and Lorene Heck, OP, view their recent eco-tourism trip to the Amazon Rainforest Basin as more than an adventure, more than a visit to the site of an organization that received a grant from the Congregation’s Ministry Trust Fund, but as a mystery and connection to neighbors far away. Sister Lorene is Director of the Ministry Trust Fund, and Sister Mary is Chapter Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter.

They were among 11 people participating in an eco-tour sponsored by Maketai, an organization founded by Adrian Dominican Sister Judith Bisignano, OP, to support the vision of the Achuar people in their territory in the Amazon. Attending the tour with Sisters Lorene and Mary were Sandra Morse, Director of Maketai, Inc.; Celestino Antik, Achuan guide; and Julián Larrea, Ecuadorian guide. 

The tour began in Quito, Ecuador, and involved travel by plane into the Achuar Territory of the Amazon Rainforest, where the group remained for six days. There they explored the rainforest, and came to know the Achuar communities, their culture, and the importance of the rainforest as the “lungs” of Earth.

Ministry Trust projects

The two Adrian Dominican Sisters arrived in the Amazon Rainforest with a sense of connection. Sister Judy had encouraged them to participate in the tour to experience the rainforest and to see first-hand how the funds from the Ministry Trust grant were being spent. Grants from the Ministry Trust fund community organizations and projects in which Adrian Dominican Sisters are involved.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Ministry Trust grant to Maketai for fiscal year 2023 provides funding to train members of the Achuar community to work as eco-tourist guides. Sister Lorene explained the desire of indigenous groups such as the Achuar “to have small groups of people come to see the importance of the Amazon Rainforest.” The eco-tourists then become advocates of the rainforest and the indigenous peoples, she explained. A previous grant funded the reforestation of the Achuar territory with the purchase of 10,000 saplings to be planted in three Achuar communities.

Sisters Lorene Heck and Mary Priniski stand next to the seated Shaman Rafael Taish Accommodations in the Rainforest - raised cots with mosquito netting around them under a canopy with open sides

Sisters Lorene Heck, OP, left and Mary Priniski, OP, with Shaman Rafael Taish.

One type of sleeping accommodation that Sisters Mary and Lorene, and the other eco-tourists used in the Amazon Rainforest.


Eco-Tour in the Amazon

The Sisters’ experience of the eco-tour deepened their sense of connection. The tour included time for participants to experience the forest through hiking, swimming, fishing, and viewing birds and the other wildlife. “Sometimes being in the jungle was really quiet, and then you hear the crackling which could be branches or some animals,” Sister Lorene recalled. She was impressed by many aspects of the jungle: the animals, birds, dolphins, mango trees, and 700-year-old kapok trees.

Adding to the sense of adventure was the means of travel from village to village as tour members met the Achuar people. Because the Achuar Territory has no highways, travel from one of the 40 Achuar communities to another is by hiking or canoeing. “To get to those villages is a 6- to 7-hour trek through the jungle,” or a 3-hour ride in a canoe – sometimes motorized and made more sustainable by solar panels, Sister Lorene said.

“We met some really wonderful people along the way,” Sister Lorene said. “The Achuar people themselves were described to us as quiet and shy, but once they became comfortable, there was a great exchange, even when we don’t speak the same language.” 

The tourists learned much of the culture of the Achuar, meeting with people involved in local crafts: weaving, pottery, and bowls and jewelry made of seeds from the forest. The Achuar live off the land, Sister Mary said, and are not in a monetary economy. 
Sister Mary spoke to the importance of preserving the rainforest as well. “The purpose [of the tour] is to save the rainforest,” she said. “The reason for people to go is to learn that we depend on this part of the world. It’s about sustainability. It’s about how the people there want to preserve the forest” from threats such as oil companies, which have obtained grants to blocks of land within the Achuar territory.

Sisters Lorene Heck and Mary Priniski in canoes with their guides traveling along the Amazon River

Sister Lorene Heck, OP, foreground, and Sister Mary Priniski ride kayaks through the river in a mango grove Achuar with guide Celestino Antik.


Sister Mary sees a strong connection between the efforts of the Achuar people to preserve their land and the efforts of the Adrian Dominican Sisters and other organizations and individuals throughout the world to live more sustainably. 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters have a Sustainability Enactment – a focus on sustainability for the next six years – with a “real focus on our Motherhouse property,” Sister Mary said. “It’s a natural link to see that what we’re doing in Adrian is linked to what the Achuar people are trying to do in their home in Ecuador … In some ways, you look at [Ecuador] as the other side of the world, but it’s the same struggle.” 

The Adrian Dominican Congregation’s support of the projects of Achuar “broadens our concept of what sustainability is,” Sister Lorene agreed. “It’s more than the acreage we have in Michigan.”

Sister Lorene said the people in the distant land of the Amazon Rainforest now are more real to her. “They are my neighbors because I have met them.”

Both Sisters expressed gratitude for the opportunity to visit the Amazon Rainforest and to meet the people of the Achuar Territory. “I’m so grateful for the experience,” Sister Lorene said. “Words just can’t express how grateful I have become.”


Feature photo at top: Sister Mary Priniski, OP, rides a kayak with Achuar guide Celestino Antik on a river through a mango grove.



Search News Articles

Recent Posts

Read More »