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September 8, 2021, New Orleans, Louisiana – While many Americans watched the furor and aftermath of Hurricane Ida from their television sets or computers, Sister Judith Zynda, OP, experienced it firsthand – from the home in New Orleans that she shares with Dominican Sister of Peace Jeanne Moore, OP. But Sisters Judy and Jeanne experienced not only the fury of Ida but the care and concern of neighbors and the people they encountered in the aftermath. 

Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans and areas of Louisiana on August 29, 2021, and went on to wreak havoc on the Northwestern part of the United States. Sister Judy shared her experience in an email to Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates and during a September 3, 2021, telephone interview.

Sister Judith Zynda, OP

Sisters Judy and Jeanne decided to ride out the storm after hearing earlier predictions that Ida would be relatively mild. At the last minute, however, forecasts changed: Ida was predicted as a Category 4 hurricane, edging on a Category 5. In the end, Sister Judy said, Ida was probably a Category 3 edging 4.

“The winds started about 8 Sunday morning, and the worst was overnight [into Monday],” Sister Judy recalled. “I woke up at 4 in the morning and what woke me up was the silence. [Ida] was moving so slowly that it had a lot of chance to do a lot of damage because it sat on us.” She said the winds were high, but their house was sturdy and on high ground, only sustaining damage to the roof, a leak through one of the ceiling receptacles in the kitchen, and several downed branches. Areas to the west of New Orleans suffered worse damage, she added.

Although they lost power – and it isn’t expected to be restored for two to three weeks – Sisters Judy and Jeanne at first did fairly well at home. With their gas stove and water heater, they were able to cook and take hot showers. They worked for two days, clearing the yard and emptying the refrigerator and the freezer. 

In the end, however, the heat became too much. “If the temperature had been 20 degrees lower, it would have been okay,” Sister Judy said. But the heat index reached 108. “People can get by, but they have to be able to take the heat.”

At the invitation of a friend, Sisters Judy and Jeanne left their home to stay at Sacred Heart Monastery, the home of the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama. They share one of the monastery’s three guest houses – an 11-bedroom house normally used by retreatants – with three other Dominican Sisters of Peace. Four Sisters of Notre Dame share a second guest house. She said they will stay there as long as they need to – at least until their power is restored. “Once they tell us it’s safe to go home, we’ll go home,” she said. 

Although she feels she is still in some form of shock from the experience of the hurricane, Sister Judy is inspired by the care and concern shown by the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery. “We could not have asked for a better place to come,” she said. “The Sisters seem to know that we kind of need to be left alone to process things,” but they also invited their guests to Mass and opened their laundry to them. “It’s total hospitality.” 

Sister Judy also feels that hospitality and kindness from the people in the surrounding community – from the people she encountered when she was running some errands in town. One woman at the pharmacy told her that they took in 1,200 people from New Orleans at the time of Katrina. “All you have to say is you’re from New Orleans and they can’t do enough for you,” Sister Judy said.

That same sense of concern and care for people in need was evident during their drive to Cullman, Sister Judy said. “The parade of linemen coming down I-59 was so moving,” she recalled. “We saw trucks with generators and trucks with telephone poles; 25,000 electrical workers are on their way to New Orleans.” Each time they passed a truck with electrical workers, she said a prayer for them. “I think God wants us to know that community and watching out for one another is really important,” she said. “God took care of us.”

Asked what people could do to help and support those affected by Hurricane Ida, Sister Judy said, “First of all, pray for everybody.” She also suggested donating to organizations that offer relief efforts for those affected by the hurricane:

  • Catholic Charities USA, headed by Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, OP, is the official domestic relief agency of the U.S. Catholic Church.

  • The Hurricane Ida Relief Recovery Fund, was established by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to aid in the area’s recovery.

  • The Saint Bernard Project offers relief services and community resiliency training in communities throughout the nation and beyond. Originally established in New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina, the organization started a response fund for those affected by Hurricane Ida.

A native of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Sister Judy first ministered in New Orleans in 2011 as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Saint Bernard Project and was moved by the experience of the people trying to rebuild their homes and their lives. She currently ministers on the pastoral team for Christopher Homes, a senior housing ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. After her personal experience of Hurricane Ida, Sister Judy said she feels a kinship with the people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  

Feature photo: Hurricane Ida is pictured as a category 2 storm from the International Space Station as it orbited 263 miles above the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA JohnsonCC BY-NC-NC 2.0)

August 25, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Five women were welcomed as Adrian Dominican Associates during Rituals of Acceptance via Zoom over two weekends in August. 

As Associates, they make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation, living out their unique vocation as Dominican women and men. While maintaining their own lifestyle and remaining financially independent, Associates participate in various spiritual, social, and ministerial experiences with the Sisters, with one another, and with Associates of other congregations of Dominican Sisters.

Associate Mary Jo Alexander

Mary Jo Alexander, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, became an Associate on August 15, 2021, during a ritual attended by some of the 78 Sisters with whom she had entered the Congregation, as well as other Associates, Sisters, and friends. Noting that she was attracted to the Adrian Dominican Sisters by her teachers at Bishop Hoban High School in Cleveland, Mary Jo said, “The Adrians have always been my North Star. This ritual … signifies a commitment I began in 1966 [and] the emotional and faithful connection I’ve always had.”

“Mary Jo is particularly drawn to those most in need,” Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, said during Mary Jo’s introduction. “Deep grooves were carved in her caring heart when she spent a year teaching in Puerto Rico. The resilience, strength, and deep faith of the people found a home in her heart.” Mary Jo continued to make a difference as teacher of troubled children, advocate for human trafficking victims, and devoted mother and grandmother, Sister Mary Jane added.

Sister Ellen Burkhardt, OP, Mary Jo’s mentor, spoke of the energy and passion Mary Jo exerts in everything she does. “Mary Jo is an all-in person,” she said. “I don’t think she’s ever done anything half-heartedly.” At the same time, she said, Mary Jo is contemplative and “pays attention to and seeks out this beckoning silence.”

Four other women formally became Associates on August 22, 2021. Each became acquainted with the Adrian Dominican Congregation through unique ways: family, the pandemic, the Internet, and professional work.

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life

Laura Boor – daughter of Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, and wife of Associate Jacob Boor – was involved in Associate Life long before becoming an Associate herself. She frequently attended Associate events, playing the flute during Rituals of Acceptance or other prayer services and creating PowerPoint presentations for her mother’s programs. 

Jacob, Laura, and their son Julian live in Clinton Township, Michigan, with Laura’s parents, Mary and Thierry Lach.

Laura teaches music and flute at her studio and in local high schools, is a marching band instructor, plays the piccolo and flute in ensembles, and transposes music. “Most of all, Laura mentors students and walks beside them as they negotiate life,” Jacob said, adding she is also active in various parish ministries. “We often share together about the Dominican Charism and pray together too,” he said. “It is with a sense of pride and awe that we welcome Laura into Associate Life.”

“I want to be part of the Adrian Dominican family because I hope to continue to grow spiritually as a person,” Laura said. “I believe in what you preach and I love the community between the Sisters and Associates.”

Megan Meloche, of Fraser, Michigan, came to know the Adrian Dominican Sisters during the pandemic lockdown, when she and her husband Dan watched the live stream Sunday Liturgies from the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. 

The Meloches began to spend Sundays with Laura and Jacob, sharing dinner and their faith. “Our families shared the same concern about global warming, systemic racism, and other issues,” Dan explained while introducing Megan. The couple is awaiting the adoption of a child.

A convert to Catholicism, Megan is a life-long learner who excels in both music and language. She majored in Japanese studies, spent time in Japan, and now uses her skills as an engineering analyst for Nissan. 

“I seek to join the Adrian Dominican Associates because my growing spirituality seeks truth,” Megan said. “In an age of misinformation, the truth can be hard to find. I want to use that knowledge to aid whoever I can. I want to see each of them thrive.”

Mary Lach was mentor to both Laura and Megan.

Associate Melinda Mullin

Melinda Mullin, of northern California, met the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates on the Internet and learned more about Sisters from the 2012 documentary, Band of Sisters. “When I watched the documentary of the Sisters, I realized I wanted to be around people who do what they do,” Melinda said. “The social justice issues they were tackling were issues I wanted to help with.” She contacted Mary Lach and began the process of discernment.

Associate Connie Brady, Melinda’s mentor, spoke of Melinda’s dedication to her family and her eagerness to be part of Associate Life. “Melinda is a mother, caregiver, daughter and sister, and now I’m really proud to say she’s my friend,” Connie said. “She’s passionate about care for the planet. She’s even a beekeeper.”

Connie emphasized Melinda’s eagerness to learn more about Associate Life. “She jumped in with both feet,” participating in some of the Associates’ weekly Zoom meetings and writing profiles of Associates for a new series of Associate Life newsletter articles, Charism Carriers Connections.

“I’m so happy to be part of the Associates,” Melinda said. “I feel like I have found the family I didn’t know I was missing.”

Associate Sheila Wathen

Sheila Wathen was connected to the Dominican family long before she decided to become an Associate. A resident of Adrian for 20 years, she worked on the websites of both St. Joseph Academy and the Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Education Institute (ADMTEI), also helping the ADMTEI in 2014 with its reaccreditation with the American Montessori Society. 

“I especially gained deeper understanding of the [Dominican] Charism in my work with the late Sister Pat Brady as a technology consultant for the Dominican Association of Secondary Schools,” Sheila explained. “Through that position I was able to meet Dominican Sisters from several other congregations, as well as students and staff members from other Dominican schools. This gave me a much broader vision of how the same Dominican Charism was lived out.”
Sheila has served as Assistant Communications Director for the Adrian Dominican Sisters since 2015. She became intrigued by Associate Life and thought she might join some time in the future. During the past two years, she learned more about how Sisters and Associates were living out the General Chapter 2016 Enactments, experienced political and social turmoil in the United States, and began a deeper spiritual journey. “I was struggling with how to channel my strong feelings about justice, love, truth, nonviolence, and what it meant to be a Catholic Christian; suddenly it made more sense to [become an Associate] now,” she said.

“Sheila has been grounded in the Dominican Charism for years,” said Sister Barbara Kelley, OP, her mentor, who works with her in the Communications Office. “But more important is the way that she lives it out. She is extremely kind and patient, a natural teacher. She’s dedicated to her job, the Dominican family, her own family, the good of humanity, and all of God’s creation.” 

After each new Associate was introduced and declared her reason for becoming an Associate, they were invited to light a special candle given to them, put on their Associate logos, and sign their documents of association.

For information on becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at mlach@adriandominicans.org.

Feature photo: From left, Dan and Megan Meloche and Laura and Jacob Boor participate in the virtual Ritual of Acceptance on August 22, 2021.



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