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October 13, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters launched the fourth volume of the Congregation’s history, Seeds of Change: A History of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1962-1986, on October 7, 2021, during a program that outlined the four-year process and celebrated the publication of the book.
The book covers years of significant change in the Congregation, marked by the Sisters’ three-year Chapter of Renewal beginning in 1962 and their response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for women religious to return to their roots and to relate to the world.
Previous volumes of Adrian Dominican history are Amid the Alien Corn, written by Sister Mary Philip Ryan, OP, covering the earliest years of the Congregation; Seeds Scattered and Grown, 1924-1933, by Sister Nadine Foley, OP; and To Fields Near and Far, 1933-1961, by Sister Nadine and Associate Arlene Bachanov.
Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Congregation, welcomed participants attending in person and via live stream and gave background to the process of writing and producing the book. “It definitely ‘takes a village’ to accomplish such a significant task as writing and publishing a book such as this,” she said.
Early in her term as Prioress, she saw the importance of “capturing the history of our renewal years while we had Sisters who lived through that period of our lives.” In the late fall of 2016, she invited Sister Mary Louise Putrow, OP, to author the book. Beginning in January 2017, Sister Mary Lou was assisted by an Editorial Advisory Board, chaired by Sister Anneliese Sinnott, OP, and made up of now deceased Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP, and Sisters Maribeth Howell, OP, Janet Schaeffler, OP, Patricia Siemen, and General Councilor Elise García, OP.
Sister Patricia also acknowledged the early work of the late Rose Celeste O’Connell, OP, and of Arlene Bachanov, Editorial Assistant; Marie Joy Finfera, OP, Secretary of the Congregation; Lisa Schell and Beverly Bobola, OP, of the Archive; and Angie Kessler and Ashley Duke, of Communications.
An experienced researcher and writer, Sister Mary Lou said the process for Seeds of Change was unique. “This was corporate biography,” she said. “It was our story. The primary topic was who we were and who we came to be in a period of 25 years.” It was a period marked by a number of changes in the way the Sisters lived out their vocation.
Sister Mary Lou summarized the years covered by Seeds of Change in this way: “The most all-encompassing change which generated all the others was our relationship with the world, the world many of us had renounced at our reception; it was the world with all its joys and sufferings we were now told to embrace.”
Arlene, a Co-worker in the History Office, spoke of her experience interviewing Sisters and editing Sister Mary Lou’s work. “I learned what it was like to be in the Deep South in the 1960s and to be in south Florida when the Cuban exodus was occurring, and to be in Detroit at the time of the riots,” she said. The interviews were “a real cross-section of the Congregation over those 25 years or so, and certainly pointed to the diversity of thought and experience that was enfolded into the Renewal years and their aftermath.”
On a personal note, Arlene said that her experience of working on the book and learning about the Congregation’s history has been “invaluable” to the work she does every day as a writer in the History Office. “I want you to know that helping tell your story, in whatever way I can do that, is not only my mission in the world, but it’s the great privilege of my life,” she said.
Sister Janet Wright, OP, spoke of her inspiration as she painted the picture that was used on the book cover. “The book cover illustration is always intended to signify, support, and somewhat reveal the work of the author(s),” she explained. “It was done out of love and respect for our Sisters and in gratitude to Mary Lou, Arlene, the Advisory Board, Sister Pat, and our archivists for the honor of participating in this work.”
Seeds of Change is available for purchase ($15) from the Weber Center Shop, 517-266-4035 or email@example.com.
August 23, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sister Elise García, OP, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), opened the organization’s August 11-13, 2021, annual assembly – held virtually this year – with a presidential address that outlined the history of racism in the United States and noted the complicity in racism of the Catholic Church, as well as among women religious.
“We, as Americans, have cheated ourselves of the full truth of our history, ignoring or eliding the painful stories that inextricably interweave and form the full fabric of our lives as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Euro Americans, and Latinx Americans,” Sister Elise said in her Presidential Address, Creating Space for the Future: Cutting Deeper Grooves of Transforming Love into Evolution.
The issues of systemic racism and white privilege became especially clear in May 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and the killing of other African Americans by white police officers.
Sister Elise challenged the women religious to do the work of identifying racism and white supremacy, “acting to dismantle them in our personal lives, institutes, Conference, and ministries.” She encouraged all Christians to follow Jesus and to take on the way of the cross, a “giving over of oneself to the radical love and solidarity that Jesus lived, extending ourselves as kin to all who are marginalized, excluded, disinherited.”
Finally, Sister Else spoke of the inspiration of African American slaves, whose mysticism and faith were described by Dr. Shawn Copeland in her book, Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Spiritual Experience. “Dr. Copeland has gleaned insights into what she calls the ‘dark and hidden wisdom’ of the enslaved by drawing on their narratives, their stories, and their spirituals.”
Sister Elise’s address was followed by a ritual asking forgiveness for the way in which women religious participated in racism and white privilege. Sister Elise was joined by Sisters Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect; Jayne Helmlinger, CSJ, Past President; and Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director.
During the prayer, each woman formally delivered an apology. “Before God and all who have been grievously harmed through the generations by our complicity as women religious in the enslavement of children, women and men, I – on behalf of our Conference and members – acknowledge these sinful acts by our congregations, offer a profound apology, and pray for forgiveness.”
Read Dan Stockman’s article about the opening of the LCWR Assembly in the National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report.
Feature photo: Sisters Elise García, OP, left, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect, take part in a ritual marking the sorrow of women religious for their complicity in racism.