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December 3, 2021, Flint, Michigan – Sisters Carol Weber, OP, and Judy Blake, CSJ, received the C.S. Mott Citizen of the Year Award during the 2021 Art of Achievement Evening Awards Ceremony, held last month at the Capitol Theater in Flint. Co-founders and Co-directors of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, they were recognized for their years of service to struggling people in Flint.

The award is named for Charles Stewart Mott, founder of a major foundation that funds community organizations around the world – including the N.E.W. Life Center.

“It was a very humbling experience because there are a lot of deserving people who do a lot of work in Flint,” Sister Carol said in an interview. “People are so grateful for what we are able to do. It’s a ministry – a call from God. I’m only doing what I’m called to do.”

The ministry of Sisters Carol and Judy is extensive. The N.E.W. Life Center focuses on helping people in the North End of Flint, which is predominantly African American and low-income. Services include a food pantry, a literacy center, employment preparation, and specific job training in areas such as commercial sewing and lawn care.

During the onset of the Flint water crisis in 2014 – when lead was found in the city’s water – the Center played a key role in distributing clean water and in teaching mothers of young children the importance of good nutrition to help combat the effects of the lead. “We’re still having problems with water,” Sister Carol said, adding that the Center received the donation of a filtration system to supply clean water for cooking and drinking.

The Employment Preparation Program teaches participants “soft skills” needed to be dependable workers, as well as specific job skills. The program helps participants to “get a better handle on who they are, what their goals are, and what their life plan is,” Sister Carol explained. The Center also partners with employers who are willing to hire people who have served in prison, she added.

One of the job-training components deals with making pallets for a business that supplies them to General Motors. Another aspect of that program, Sister Carol said, is training workers to take apart wooden crates found in the landfill and giving them to Habitat for Humanity to sell in their ReStore. “We’re trying to teach our people the skill of production,” she said. “The job they will get after on-the-job training most likely will be in production.”

The women in the Center’s commercial sewing company continue making clothing for Stormy Kromer. But, as Christmas approaches, they’re also working on a special project: making personalized Christmas bags – filled with gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket – for almost 500 local children under the age of 10. The N.E.W. Life Center also assembles a family box for other members of the family, including clothing, personal items, and toilet paper. 

Sister Carol said two other Adrian Dominican Sisters have recently come to the N.E.W. Life Center to offer their gifts in special ministries. Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, is beginning a support program for pregnant women and for mothers of small children. Sister Patricia Magee, OP, is starting an after-school educational program for elementary school children from a local Catholic school.      

“We’re growing,” Sister Carol said. “People are investing in us. It’s a good time for us in Flint because people recognize what we are able to do. The people in Flint trust us.”

View a slide gallery of the award ceremony

 

Feature photo: This is one of more than 1,000 Christmas bags that St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center will be distributing to children in the Flint area. The bags contain gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket. To the right is Sister Carol Weber, OP.


December 2, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, has found a unique and comforting way to get through not only the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the adjustments to living at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse after years of ministering at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brighton, Michigan. During her daily prayer, she creates artwork in a journal to complement her reflection of the day.

“When I came here, I started the journal,” Sister Maryetta said. “Every day I have drawn and prayed. It has helped me unbelievably because I believe that my experience of the day, what I pick as my saying, and my prayer go hand-in-hand.” 

Sister Maryetta said her form of prayer has helped her to see God “in so many beautiful ways,” through the experience of her art and through the words that come to her. “One day the prayer was, ‘Note to self: Relax. Relax in the Lord. Relax in God’s love.’ To me, that’s prayer.” She said this form of prayer has helped her to build her relationship with God. “He’s my personal friend who I can talk to,” she said.

Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, holding a decorated journal while sitting on a couch
Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, shows one of the notebooks in which she creates her art during prayer.

Although she has no formal training in art, Sister Maryetta has been involved in it from a young age and throughout her years of ministry. “When I was a kid, we had to have constructive summers, so we learned to knit,” she recalled. Now, she knits prayer shawls for people in need of comfort. “That’s another form of prayer for me,” she said. “Around here, I can make a prayer shawl in a couple of days.” During her days of parish ministry, she also made prayer shawls with parishioners and gave them as gifts to people suffering from illness.

Through her years of parish ministry, Sister Maryetta has encouraged parishioners to be involved in art. She recalled leading a regional retreat for about 100 seniors. “I brought paints and chalk and crayons and said we’d do prayer a different way,” she said. “It was a beautiful afternoon. As they were leaving, one man said to me, ‘Why didn’t you come here 10 years ago?’”

Sister Maryetta has particularly given the gift of art during her 25 years of ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish. Every year for All Souls Day, she created a poster with photos of the parishioners who had died in the past year, with the caption, “Into Your hands, O Lord.” The poster had an impact on the parishioners. “You could see people pass the poster and bless one of the people in the poster,” remembering a friend who had died that year, she said. 

As she prepared to leave St. Mary Magdalen, Sister Maryetta hoped to create something to help the parishioners remember her. “In the middle of the night, I woke up and decided I’d make them a calendar,” she said. “We had 400 of these made,” with every month featuring one of her drawings. She hopes to make another calendar for 2022. 

Perhaps her greatest gift to the parishioners, however, is encouraging them to create their own art. “People are originally afraid to do art with prayer,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m not an artist.’ But you can do art in different ways,” such as drawing, journaling, and word association. 

Sister Maryetta also hopes to pass on her love for art to the Sisters at the Motherhouse by starting a prayer and art group. “Everyone I’ve done [art] with has always thanked me,” she said.

 

Feature photo: Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, displays a prayer shawl that she is making, one of the ways that she incorporates art into prayer.


 

 

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