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May 30, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Eight students from Barry University in Miami and one from Siena Heights University in Adrian began their summer with an intense week of learning outside of the classroom: as participants of the Environmental Leadership Experience. (ELE).
“It’s a new experience,” said Barry University sophomore Sierra Johnson, a marketing and graphic design major. “Being born in Miami and being the youngest of three, I never really had a chance to go out or experience the world.” She and her colleagues explored this new world together during the week of May 7-13, 2023, accompanied by two faculty members from Barry University.
Participants came together to “learn about sustainable agricultural ecosystems,” explained Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor and former Director of the Office of Sustainability. “Through the lens of environmental stewardship, the program [offers] hands-on activities on the Adrian Campus and Permaculture Gardens.”
Begun in 2017, ELE made a comeback this summer after years of absence enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ELE is a collaborative effort of the universities and the Motherhouse Office of Sustainability.
Activities included a tour of the Motherhouse grounds and the Permaculture Garden and work in the Reflective Garden at the Dominican Life Center. But the students spent a major portion of their time building a two-basin rain garden next to the parking lot of Weber Retreat and Conference Center. Along with serving as a pathway to the labyrinth and Cosmic Walk behind Weber Center, the garden was built “as a means of mitigating the degradation caused by rainwater and snow melt coming from the higher ground,” Sister Corinne explained.
The students rounded out their experience with a tour of the Detroit River, a visit to nearby Hidden Lake Gardens, dinner at a nearby restaurant, and a presentation to the Sisters of their experience at the Motherhouse.
For Anita Zavodska, Professor of Biology at Barry University, the experience in Adrian was a renewal of an enjoyable time in 2019. This year’s experience is “just as wonderful” as in 2019, she said. “We have another wonderful group of students who are really willing to get their hands dirty and work and make a difference,” she said. “It’s like coming home.”
For the students, ELE was not only a new experience of planting seeds in the Motherhouse grounds, but of planting them in their own hearts as well.
“I’ve always wanted to work for the environment,” said Lily Hernandez, a Barry student majoring in biology. As a member of Barry’s Green Team, she hopes to incorporate what she learned through ELE into work at Barry. Yet, as she considers a career as a doctor, she hopes to go beyond her time in college. “Everybody could use [this experience] and be a little more sustainable, whatever you’re going into – being more sustainable, loving Earth,” she said.
Benny Rubinsztejn, a history major at Barry University and a native of Brazil, hopes to begin a second career after 25 years as a stockbroker.
ELE “is like a highway that works both ways, because students learn something new and bring it home,” Benny said. He sees ELE as important not only because of the environmental impact but also because of the impact on human society, at a time of great division and polarity. When people work together on a project such as the rain garden, he said, “you can build some bridges to [other] people so they respect each other. That’s the most important thing right now.”
Both Lily and Sierra were inspired not only by their work through ELE but also by the different vegetation and wildlife they experienced in Michigan. “This week in Michigan continuously reminds us of how important it is to take a moment to appreciate all that we have and all that God has given us,” Sierra wrote in a blog organized by the ELE students.
Read the students’ entries in the blog, and watch a video of the experience below.
March 3, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – The elected leaders of five congregations of Catholic Sisters in Michigan wrote the following letter of support to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and State Representative Samantha Steckloff in response to a recent antisemitic threat to the two political leaders.
Dear Attorney General Nessel and Representative Steckloff,
We are alarmed and deeply concerned by public reports that antisemitism is on the rise in the State of Michigan and that you both were personally subjected to an antisemitic threat by a heavily armed Michigander. No elected leader in a democracy should ever face the threat of armed assault as you and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have encountered. The harmful repercussions of such violence are even more impactful when the threats are grounded in hatred of a leader’s religion, race, gender, ethnicity or sexuality.
As Catholic Sisters steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and as elected leaders of congregations of women religious who have served people of all faith traditions in Michigan for nearly two centuries, we write to express our support and prayers for you and your families – and for all our Jewish sisters and brothers facing such hate-filled violence. We thank you, Attorney General Nessel, for fully engaging our State’s Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit in threats of violence against elected officials and call on federal authorities to take vigorous action against such hate crimes.
We pray that all Michiganders will join us in decrying antisemitism and in upholding the fundamental values of civil discourse in our democracy, respect for each other’s faith traditions, and love of neighbor.
Adrian Dominican Sisters (Adrian, Mich.) – Leadership Council: Elise D. García, OP, Janice Brown, OP, Bibiana Colasito, OP, Lorraine Réaume, OP, Corinne Sanders, OP,
Peggy Coyne, OP, Judy Friedel, OP, Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Mary Priniski, OP, Mary Soher, OP, Sharon Spanbauer, OP
Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Leadership Team: Sandra Delgado, OP, Joan Williams, OP, Maureen Geary, OP, Megan McElroy, OP
Marist Sisters (Roseville, Mich.) – Leader: Linda Sevcik, SM
Servants of Jesus (Detroit, Mich.) – Congregational Leader: Paula Cooney, IHM
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Monroe, Mich.) – Leadership Team: Margaret Chapman, IHM, Marianne Gaynor, IHM, Jane Herb, IHM, Patricia McCluskey, IHM, Ellen Rinke, IHM