What's Happening


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)

September 2, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – More than 60 Adrian Dominican Associates, prospective Associates, and Sisters gathered virtually August 21, 2021, to explore the role of Associates as “Charism Carriers,” helping to promote the Dominican Charism into the future. The gathering drew Associates from throughout the United States and the Dominican Republic.

A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit to an individual, intended to be shared to benefit the entire community. The Dominican Charism includes preaching God’s Word, the truth, in the face of the heresies of our day.

Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to Associate Life, lights the Christ Candle to begin the Partners meeting.

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, facilitated the four-hour Zoom meeting. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to the Associates, welcomed participants.

As women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and to the Dominican Charism, Associates live independent lives and participate in ministries, prayer, and special events with the Sisters, other Associates, and Associates of Dominican Sisters of other Congregations.

Partners was an inclusive gathering. The work of interpreters Elizabeth McMeekin and Suzzet Gonzalez allowed Associates from the Dominican Republic to participate fully in the gathering. In addition, their interpretation enabled English-speaking participants to listen to a presentation by Spanish-speaking Associate Fabiola Reyes. In her video presentation, Fabiola highlighted some of the many ministries in which the more than 20 Associates in the Dominican Republic are engaged, including healthcare, education, and preaching on the radio and social media.

“Our faith sustains us,” said Fabiola, a dentist who frequently visits underserved areas of the Dominican Republic to offer dental care. “We hope that our service has a lasting impact.” 

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, facilitates the online Partners meeting.

Mary Lach gave an update on the programs of Associate Life, including three weekly gatherings on Zoom: discussions on the Dominican Charism, a book club, and reflection on the coming Sunday’s Gospel. Beginning in September, prospective Associates will participate in a monthly communal formation program via Zoom.

After gathering in virtual break-out rooms to share ways in which they have been “Charism Carriers” in the past year, Associates assembled to listen to a presentation by Sister Patricia Walter, OP, “Through a Looking Glass: Charism in Motion.”

In her presentation, Sister Pat – former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a theologian, and Formation Director – compared the looking glass of the Dominican Charism with that featured in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. “Alice discovers an alternative universe, recognizable but very different from what she knows,” Sister Pat said. “It’s very much topsy-turvy.” 

Sister Patricia Walter, OP, offers a presentation, “Through a Looking Glass: Charism in Motion.”

In the same way, Sister Pat said, Jesus and St. Dominic presented an “alternative universe” to the people of their times: a world marked by love, self-donation, and nonviolence. “To live in this counter-cultural world, we need the gift of Christian community and the Dominican family,” she said. “That’s one of the most important aspects of Dominican Association and vowed life.”

A looking glass also gives us a view of ourselves through the eyes of others, Sister Pat noted. “Through the looking glass of friends and community I come to a deeper understanding of my gifts and liabilities,” she said. “We do this for one another. It’s a way we seek truth and receive it.”

Sister Pat also reflected on charism. “Each of us with this vocation to the Dominican family … has a share in our common charism as preachers of the Gospel,” she said. “Charism is our guide or compass to the future.” To get to that future, we need to look at our charism and make decisions based on our identity as Dominicans and on the needs of our time, she said.

Sister Pat concluded her talk with a reflection on friendship – so central to the Dominican family because of Dominic’s ability to draw others to himself and to befriend them. St. Dominic always referred to himself as a brother, she said. “Dominic is the first among equals,” and Dominicans are “friends in mission.” 

After discussion of Sister Pat’s presentation in small groups and all together, participants listened to a number of updates on Associate Life:

  • Following recommendations of the Advisory Board, the General Council appointed two new members to the board. Janice Donner of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is a retired speech pathologist who served years ago as Representative of Associate Life. Kathleen Shannon Dorcy, of Seattle, had been an Associate with the Edmonds Dominican Sisters before their merger with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She has been involved in cancer research, including work with nurses in Uganda, and retired after teaching nursing at the University of Washington in Tacoma.

  • Sister Patty Harvat introduced Elizabeth Keith, who was named as consultant to the General Council’s work of establishing the Office of Dominican Charism. Its purpose is to invite women and men “to a shared expression of the Dominican Charism in our world,” reaching out to Associates, Co-workers at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, and Partners in Mission at sponsored institutions and legacy institutions, as well as other spiritual seekers. 

  • Associate Kathleen Woods updated participants on the Envision 2030 Committee, established in August 2020 to explore how Associate Life might look in 2030. The committee has explored the literature of Associates groups in other congregations of Dominican Sisters and has studied the results of a poll conducted among Adrian Dominican Associates. The group will gather in the Fall to draft a final report and continues to seek input from Associates. “Our goal is not one of actual implementation of action plans, but to suggest a direction for the future,” Kathy said. 

After the Partners gathering, Associates continued to celebrate with the acceptance of four new Associates: Laura Boor, Megan Meloche, Melinda Mullin, and Sheila Wathen. Mary Jo Alexander, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, was welcomed as an Associate the week before, on August 15, 2021.

If you are interested in exploring Associate Life, contact Mary Lach, Director, at mlach@adriandominicans.org.


Feature photo: Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, leads a reflection on the role of Associates as Charism Carriers.



Recent Posts

Read More »