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January 3, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – The year 2022 found the Adrian Dominican Sisters – like so many organizations in the United States – slowly easing pandemic-related restrictions. But it also brought tremendous change as the Sisters approved five Enactments and elected a new General Council to lead the Congregation for the next six years. The year also brought continued challenges as Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and other Partners in Mission strove to live out the Vision: Seek truth, make peace, reverence life. Below are the top 10 highlights of 2022, selected by Co-workers in the Office of Communications.
Delegates from the Adrian Dominican Sisters meet every six years to approve Enactments – the direction that the Congregation will take in the next six years – and elect a Prioress and General Council to lead the Sisters and Associates in living out those Enactments. Elected to the General Council were Sisters Elise D. García, OP, Prioress; Lorraine Réaume, OP, Vicaress; and Janice Brown, OP, Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, and Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilors.
The 2022 General Chapter affirmed an Enactment that continues a 2016 Enactment on diversity. This area was addressed in many ways in 2022. Kevin Hofmann was named the first Director of the Congregation’s Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion. His outreach included telling his personal story during a Lunch and Learn program at Weber Retreat and Conference Center and writing a weekly blog exploring equity and inclusion. In reparation for the Congregation’s role in racism and white supremacy, the Adrian Dominican Sisters established the Sister Jamie Phelps Endowed Scholarship at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, New Orleans, an endowment in support of the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University; and a scholarship at Siena Heights University for students of color. Barry University in Miami, a sponsored institution of the Congregation, received $1 million in endowment for the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative to prepare Hispanic pastors to lead congregations. INAI, an art gallery adjacent to Weber Center, hosted the Unraveling Racism art exhibit and an artist’s talk to tell of the experiences that the artists had in racism and white supremacy.
The 2022 Enactment on Sustainability calls on the Adrian Dominican Sisters to become a Laudato Si’ Action Platform Congregation, joining with Catholic organizations throughout the world to carry out the vision of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical. Brad Frank, of Adrian, Michigan, was hired to fill the role of Director of the Office of Sustainability with the election of the former director, Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, to the General Council. Along with an installation of a solar array, Motherhouse campus improvements in sustainability include a new permaculture sink to streamline the process of preparing produce for the Dominican Life Center kitchen and the purchase of an electric mower, the first electric vehicle purchased for the Motherhouse. But the Congregation was involved in sustainability efforts throughout the world. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative to the United Nations, traveled to Egypt for COP27, a United Nations conference in which national leaders were to make significant commitments to address global climate change. She also participated in a Dominican Sisters Conference-UN webinar on climate change efforts throughout the world. Father James Hug, SJ, priest chaplain at the Motherhouse, continued to write Catholic liturgical materials for the annual Season of Creation, held globally September 1 through October 4.
The Dominican family – in the United States and throughout the world – continued to grow and to become closer to one another in the past year. Sister Elisabeth Nguyen, OP – a Dominican Sister from Vietnam and an Adrian Dominican Associate for many years – transferred to the Adrian Dominican Congregation as a vowed member, while Sisters Leizel Tedria, OP, Meliza Arquillano, OP, and Marifi Lugtu, OP of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in the Philippines renewed their vows. Adrian Dominican Sisters took on leadership roles in the U.S. Dominican family, with Sister Katherine Frazier, OP, named Director of Dominican Youth Movement, and Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, named Executive Director of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC). Associates – women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to Congregations of Dominican Sisters – and other Partners in Mission also played key roles in the Dominican family. Adrian Dominican Associate Nancy Mason Bordley was named the first Director of the Office of the Dominican Charism, helping Associates and other partners in mission to live out the Dominican Charism. During the year, the Congregation celebrated the formal Ritual of Acceptance of four new Associates online in August and three new Associates in Henderson, Nevada, in November. This was the final Ritual of Acceptance presided over by Associate Mary Lach, who retired after 13 years as Director of Associate Life.
Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates lived out their commitment to justice and peace advocacy in a variety of ways in 2022. Sisters Marilyn Winter, OP, and Patricia McDonald, OP, members of the Lenawee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, were among four panelists in a human trafficking panel discussion on the continuing prevalence of human trafficking. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican representative to the United Nations, spoke out on her disappointment at the lack of progress in UN Nuclear Disarmament meetings. Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, was among many faith leaders to participate in the White House United We Stand Summit, calling on people in the United States to foster unity and to take a stand against hate-motivated violence. Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, a former member of the Congregation’s Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), took on the role of Portfolio Manager. She oversees the PAB’s community investments, low-interest loans to organizations that promote social, economic, and environmental justice in local communities.
As the United States reeled under numerous mass shootings and many called for stricter gun laws, Adrian Dominican Sister Judy Byron, OP, Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, took a different approach to stemming gun violence. She was involved in a campaign by faith-based investors to call on gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger to undertake a Human rights risk assessment to determine how their products contribute to gun violence. Sister Judy further discussed this approach during the After Buffalo, After Uvalde Webinar, focusing on recent incidents of gun violence. In the meantime, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters spoke out several times against the easy access to guns that makes gun violence a more common occurrence. (See more in item 8 below.)
2022 was a year of milestone celebrations for both individuals and organizations. During the year both Sister Mary Arnold Benedetto, OP, and Sister Mary Catharina Bereiter, OP, celebrated their 100th birthday. Sister Carol Coston, OP, founding director, attended the 50th anniversary of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. Closer to home, 25 Sisters marked their Diamond, Golden, and Silver Jubilees with Mass and dinner at the Motherhouse in June. Sisters marking their 80, 75, and 70 years in religious life were honored at local celebrations. Co-workers at Motherhouse marked a collective 445 years of service with Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The Leadership of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – often in conjunction with other Congregations of Catholic Sisters – voiced their concern in a number of issues and events in 2022. The Leadership Council – comprised of the General Council and the elected Chapter and Mission Prioresses in the Congregation – released a statement calling for the immediate passage of voting rights legislation. The General Council released a number of statements: in defense of the Gospel work of Catholic Charities USA; a call on Ash Wednesday for prayer and fasting for Ukraine; on the mass shooting in Buffalo, as well as support of the Black Sisters Conference and LCWR statements on the Buffalo shooting; and in response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The 2022-2028 General Council joined leaders of Catholic Sisters in Michigan in issuing a statement on the divisiveness of elections. The General Council also issued statements in response to the mass shooting in Colorado Springs and in observance of the UN International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Sponsored institutions of the Adrian Dominican Sisters were involved in a number of ways in furthering the Mission of the Congregation. Rosarian Academy of West Palm Beach, Florida, offered its inaugural Adrian Dominican Sisters Scholarship Awards to students on the basis of merit and need, as well as a focus on diversity. Regina Dominican High School, an all-girls school in Wilmette, Illinois, opened its Building Her Tomorrow campaign to redesign the campus for the benefit of the students. St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center in Flint, Michigan, hosted a summer camp to help elementary school students improve their academics and to enjoy some recreation. Barry University, in Miami, Florida, received $1.25 million to establish Sister O’Laughlin Scholarship, to be given as financial support for students who embody Sister Jeanne’s legacy of academic success and service to the community. Sister Peg Albert, OP, announced her retirement as President of Siena Heights University in Adrian at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. In addition, Siena Heights named its Science Hall after Sister Sharon R. Weber, OP, PhD, upon her retirement after more than 40 years of service as chemistry professor and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Both universities granted honorary degrees to recognize the dedication of its recipients: Siena Heights University to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016-2022 General Council, and Barry University to outgoing Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP.
Outreach, service, and advocacy for immigrants has long been a value of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. This year, Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, made plans with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to resettle Ukrainian refugees. Sister Lucy Vazquez, OP, a native of Cuba, wrote an opinion piece for Florida Today on refugee transfers by Texas, noting that this practice treats immigrants as political pawns. Members of the newly merged Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter – made up of the regions in the United States outside of Adrian – expanded on the previous Dominican Midwest Chapter Initiative on Immigration outreach. The new initiative includes not only Chicago-based programs, such as Court Watch in which volunteers attend immigration court to ensure justice for the immigrants and the weekly rosary at a detention center in the Chicago area, but also outreach to immigrants in Tacoma, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
October 10, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The new Prioress and General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters formally took office October 8, 2022, during a special liturgy, the Celebration of Leadership. The Congregation’s new leadership team is composed of Sister Elise D. García, OP, Prioress of the Congregation; Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; and Sisters Janice Brown, OP, Corinne Sanders, OP, and Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, General Councilors. They will hold office through June 30, 2028.
The new Prioress and General Council were elected during the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2022 General Chapter, held June 27, 2022, through July 2, 2022, in Chicago. Normally held at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse in February, the 2022 General Chapter was delayed until June in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, the outgoing Prioress, welcomed the assembly of Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, family members and friends, and representatives of the Congregation’s sponsored and legacy institutions and explained the significance of the ritual.
The Transfer of Leadership “is a significant moment in the life and history of the Congregation,” Sister Patricia explained. “It marks a new chapter … a tradition where the former leadership team serves and then returns to the circle of members, as the new leaders rightly mark their place.” She encouraged the Sisters, Associates, and partners in mission to “boldly, joyfully, and in great trust in God’s presence commit our love, our support, and gratitude to our new General Council as they lead us into a more richly diverse, expansive community.”
Preparing for the Transfer of Leadership Ritual are Father James Hug, SJ and Sister Judith Benkert, OP, and, clockwise from right, Sisters Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Frances Nadolny, OP, Patricia Harvat, OP, Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, Corinne Sanders, OP, Janice Brown, OP, Lorraine Réaume, OP, Elise García, OP, and Patricia Siemen, OP, at the ambo.
After reading a proclamation from the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Constitution, spelling out the role of leadership in the Congregation’s governance, Sister Patricia called forth her successor, Sister Elise, asking if she accepts “the responsibility as Prioress of the Congregation to carry forward the decisions and directions of the General Chapter 2022 and to care for the common life and ordinary governance of the Congregation.” Sister Elise declared her willingness.
In turn each member of the outgoing General Council – Sisters Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Frances Nadolny, OP, Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise García, OP – called forth her successor and formally questioned her about her own willingness to take on the responsibilities of General Councilor.
In her reflection on the readings, Sister Elise expressed her gratitude to the 2016-2022 General Council for the love they poured out during the past six years in a very difficult time, and for their predecessors since 1923, when the Adrian Dominican Sisters were established as a separate Dominican Congregation. She also acknowledged the contributions of “more than five dozen” General Councilors over the years; more than 3,000 women “who have given their lives in extraordinary service as Adrian Dominican Sisters,” and the many who led dedicated lives – before their mergers – as Edmonds Dominican Sisters, based in the Seattle area, and Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Dominican Congregation, based in Pampanga, the Philippines. The Congregation has also been blessed by the lives and gifts of Associates, Co-workers, Partners in Mission in sponsored institutions and legacy institutions, and bold spiritual seekers, she said.
“We make this transition of leadership at a hinge moment in the life of our Congregation and the life of our Earth community,” Sister Elise said. “Religious life is undergoing epochal change. It is a painful gift to be living through this now as we [complete] one form of religious life and give birth to another.” She noted the grief of burying 240 Sisters in the past six years, as well as the personal sorrows and losses carried individually by those involved in the Congregation.
Still, Sister Elise said, “we come to this table as a people of faith in God and in each other – in the goodness of life and its miraculous unfolding over billions of years to this moment, in the power of finding purpose and meaning in this brief sojourn.” She noted the “ever ancient, ever new” call of Jesus to love one another as he has loved each of us – a call illustrated in the Enactments of General Chapter 2022.
Jesus’ call to love one another “is nothing less than turning the world in a new direction,” Sister Elise said. “It is the gift of being alive at this transformative time when how we are and what we do makes all the difference. So, let us go forth into our new chapter.”
The joyful Liturgy concluded after Communion with profound expressions of thanks from the 2022-2028 General Council to the General Council of 2016-2022 for their creative and faithful leadership during difficult times.
Read more about the new General Council and about the 2022 General Chapter Enactments.
A recording of the Eucharistic Liturgy with the Celebration of Leadership is available below. Additional photos of the event are available for viewing on the Congregation's Facebook page.
Feature photo (top): Members of the 2022-2028 General Council are, from left, Sisters Janice Brown, OP, and Bibiana “Bless” Colasito, OP, General Councilors; Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Sister Elise García, OP, Prioress; and Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor.