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October 27, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Two Adrian Dominican Sisters were recognized during Siena Heights University’s Homecoming Weekend, October 13-15, 2017.

The weekend officially opened with an alumni reception and art exhibit, featuring the paintings of Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP. On exhibit in the Klemm Gallery at Siena Heights University were the majority of the 1,000 cranes painted by Sister Barbara as a fundraiser for the ministries of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, of Iraq. The Sisters, along with thousands of other Christians and other minorities from the Nineveh Plains, were forced to flee their villages three years ago under the threat of ISIS. Since then, the Sisters have ministered to their fellow refugees through their presence and through clinics and schools that they built.

The 6 inches by 6 inches paintings of origami cranes are given to those who donate at least $100 to the 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project. Donors also have the option of choosing the paintings of cranes by Sister Janet Wright, OP, and Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP, who has taken photos of cranes and of people with origami cranes. During the reception, Sister Barbara told the story of her 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project. 

Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, with some of the 1,000 cranes she painted

Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, with some of the 1,000 cranes she painted to raise funds for the ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Iraq. The cranes are exhibited at Siena Heights University’s Klemm Gallery through Friday, November 3.

Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, received the Saint Dominic Award during the October 14 Alumni Awards Ceremony in the university’s Rueckert Auditorium. Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights University, welcomed guests to witness the presentation of four alumni awards. “Listen to the stories of what an impact these people have had on the world,” Sister Peg encouraged her guests. “There’s a ripple effect. You do something positive in our world and it affects somebody, and they do something positive, and they do something positive. It’s the best change agent in the world.”

Sister Patricia received the Saint Dominic Award in recognition of her “commitment to Christian education in family, school, or community,” and as somebody who “embodies the Dominican philosophy and the spirit of Siena Heights University.” Sister Marilee Ewing, OP, presented the award.

Known as an “outstanding teacher” after years of ministering in Catholic schools in Michigan and Ohio, Sister Patricia reached a turning point when a number of new students came from the Appalachian region of Kentucky and Tennessee. “Pat realized that to truly understand her students, she must begin by understanding their values,” Sister Noreen Burke, OP, wrote in her nomination form. “So she spent her summers in the mountains of Kentucky, living among the people, learning from them.”

After earning her Master’s in Social Work (MSW), Sister Patricia served at Mercy Grace Home in Chicago and then, for 11 years, as director and therapist for Catholic Charities of Lenawee County. She was elected Chapter Prioress of the Dominican Midwest Chapter, based in Chicago, in 1998. She is now Co-Chapter Prioress of Holy Rosary Chapter, based at the Motherhouse in Adrian.

In accepting the award, Sister Patricia focused on two major influences in her life: St. Dominic and Siena Heights University. She noted that the founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) reached out to especially to the most vulnerable people of his time. “Driven by his deep love for the Gospel, [St. Dominic de Guzmán] was compelled to be God’s own compassion and mercy to others,” Sister Patricia said.

Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, right, receives the St. Dominic Award from Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights University, center. Also pictured is Katie Hatch ’07, President of the Alumni Association.

Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, right, receives the St. Dominic Award from Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights University, center. Also pictured is Katie Hatch ’07, President of the Alumni Association.

Siena Heights University influenced Sister Patricia from her early years of study at the college. “My teachers here at Siena encouraged the importance of making connections and seeing relationships in the content rather than just memorizing facts,” she recalled. “What I have learned from my Siena Heights education is that it’s all about relationship, all about making connections.”

Other events during the Homecoming Weekend included a luncheon for alumni; men’s and women’s soccer games; a matinee performance of Sunday in the Park with George; a football game against St. Francis-Indiana; Mass; brunch; and a “State of the University” presentation by Siena Heights administrators.



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September 28, 2017, Ann Arbor, Michigan – Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, completed an artistic journey of accompaniment September 24 when she finished painting her 1,000th image of an origami crane. 

But the accompaniment of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Iraq continues for Sister Barbara and for the Dominican Family. The Iraqi Sisters continue to live as internally displaced refugees with tens of thousands of other residents who fled their homes in the Nineveh Plains in August 2014 after the arrival of ISIS. Donations to Sister Barbara Cervenka’s 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project help to fund the Iraqi Sisters’ ministry within the refugee community. 

An artist, Sister Barbara made a New Year’s Resolution in January 2015 to paint every day. It was the plight of the Dominican Sisters and the other refugees that gave direction to her resolution. 

“I thought keeping that resolution would be easier if I painted some small things,” Sister Barbara explained.  “One day I picked up an origami crane and painted that. When I did the second, I remembered the [legend of the] thousand cranes. I had been thinking about the situation in Iraq and wondering what I could do for it when the idea came to me.”

The Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 origami cranes for peace and health was popularized after World War II. Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who had been exposed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the age of 2, contracted leukemia 10 years later. She began the process of folding 1,000 cranes for her recovery and for world peace, but lost her battle with cancer. Since then, the tradition of 1,000 cranes has been associated with efforts for world peace.

Sister Barbara’s 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project gives people their choice of a crane painting for a donation of $100. Since its launch in August 2015, the project has raised more than $40,000 to help the Dominican Sisters with their ministry to the refugees.

The project has shaped Sister Barbara’s daily life since January 15, 2015, when the first crane was painted. Since then, Sister Barbara has gone into the basement of her home after dinner every day to paint a crane. She has also taken the project with her on vacation and during other times of travel. “It’s a discipline, but it’s also a pleasure,” Sister Barbara said.

Her involvement in the project “has made me much more conscious of the situation of people all over the world who have been displaced,” she said. “I’m much more in tune to the news and more aware of the people who have been displaced by hurricanes and other disasters.”

Sister Barbara said the project has also helped to build a community of people who are concerned about the plight of the Iraqi refugees and other suffering people. Sisters Suzanne Schreiber, OP, and Janet Wright, OP – also Adrian Dominican artists – have participated in the project. Sister Suzanne photographed live cranes as well as people with the origami cranes, and Sister Janet has painted living cranes. Their artwork is also available to purchase from the 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project.

Part of the challenge has been to paint 1,000 distinctive cranes, using the same origami crane model but with different still life settings and lighting each time, Sister Barbara said. “Every day I just go down and paint. There’s certainly a lot of repetition and continuity, but every day I’m a little different,” she said, explaining that that fact leads her paintings to be slightly different from one day to the next. 

Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, with the 1,000th crane, completed on September 24. She began her 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project in January 2015 to support the work of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq, who fled their home from ISIS in August 2014.

Sister Barbara is gratified by the number of people who have made donations of $100 to help the refugees. “It’s not because they want a painting of a crane, but because they really are aware, too, of the terrible situation that so many people are facing,” she said. “That’s creating a little community of awareness.” 

But Sister Barbara admits that the almost three-year journey hasn’t always been easy. “The challenge was just the sheer number,” she said. “I never realized how much 1,000 is until I got into the middle and realized how many more cranes I had to paint.” But, with the interest and encouragement of others, she was able to keep up with the discipline. “That’s why I feel it was more like a community project than just mine,” she said. Being part of this effort has been a privilege, she added.

Many of the crane paintings are still available for selection and adoption with a donation to the 1,000 Cranes for Iraq project. Framing is available for an additional $35. The entire collection can be viewed at www.1000cranesforiraq.org/donate.

An exhibit of available cranes will be featured at the Klemm Gallery of Siena Heights University from Monday, October 9, 2017, through Friday, November 3, 2017. Gallery hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4:00 p.m. Sunday. A reception with Sister Barbara at the Klemm Gallery is from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday, October 13, 2017. 

In the meantime, Sister Barbara helps to keep up the good habit she developed of painting every day. “I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I’d like to keep painting,” she said. “This has motivated me to go down into the studio every day. I’d like to keep up that momentum.”  




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