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From left, Arturo Polizzi, President and CEO of ProMedica, presents the Ebeid Healthy Neighborhood Partner of the Year Award to Jennifer Hunter, Chief Operating Officer of the Motherhouse, and Sister Sharon Weber, OP. Jennifer and Sister Sharon were Co-Chairs of the Adrian Resilient Community Committee. Photo Courtesy of ProMedica

November 9, 2023, Toledo, Ohio – The Adrian Dominican Congregation received the Ebeid Healthy Neighborhood Partner of the Year Award from the ProMedica Foundation to recognize the partnership between the two organizations in the Congregation’s Resilient Communities Initiative in Adrian. 

The Ebeid Healthy Neighborhood Partner of the Year Award was one of eight 2023 Emerald Awards presented during the ProMedica Foundation’s Philanthropy Recognition Reception, held October 25, 2023, at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Toledo. Representing the Adrian Dominican Sisters were members of the 2016-2022 and current General Council and members of the Adrian Resilient Community Committee.

The award recognized the Congregation’s partnership with ProMedica through the Adrian Resilient Community Initiative, Growing Up Resilient: The East Adrian Resilience Collaborative, one of six regional initiatives established in response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016 General Chapter Enactment on Resilient Communities. Resilient community initiatives were also established in the Mining barangay of the Province of Pampanga, Philippines; Sección San José in the Peravia Province of the Dominican Republic; the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago; Flint, Michigan; and Seattle.  

The Adrian initiative includes the establishment of the Adrian Dominican Sisters Youth Learning Center and computer lab, to be housed in ProMedica’s Ebeid Neighborhood Center, which will be established in East Adrian. The program will be temporarily housed in the former Comstock school building until a permanent facility can be built on Adrian’s East Side. In addition, the Adrian-based initiative involves a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Lenawee to provide mentorship in literacy and social and emotional learning for the youth in Adrian’s East Side. 

Accepting the award on behalf of the Congregation were Jennifer Hunter, Chief Operating Officer of the Motherhouse Campus, and Sister Sharon Weber, OP, Co-Chairs of the Adrian Resilient Community Committee.

“The award represents a recognition that both groups [ProMedica and the Adrian Dominican Sisters] are willing to work together with the people to enhance their future opportunities,” Sister Sharon said. “We both saw the needs and are working together to see them through.” 

Sister Sharon noted that ProMedica’s concern is with health indicators. “That has to do not just with healthcare per se, but whether they have jobs and the skills they need,” she said. “The ProMedica people we’re working with have a real heart for this project.”

Jennifer said it was nice that the Congregation was recognized for its commitment to building resilience in the Adrian community. In accepting the award, she said she “spoke to the fact that we were honored to be selected and were excited that ProMedica had come into this process with us at a pivotal point in our work of building resilience. We’re excited about the partnership and making a difference for the people on the East Side of Adrian.”

Jennifer and Sister Sharon worked for about five years with the Adrian Resilient Communities Committee. “The group worked hard to learn and understand the needs of the city of Adrian and the youth on the East Side,” Sister Sharon said. The committee was also tasked with finding collaborators to partner with in establishing resiliency for the youth.

Serving on the committee were Sisters Rosemary Abramovich, OP, Pam Millenbach, OP, and Kathleen Schanz, OP; Associate Dee Joyner; Co-workers Ashley Concord, Kris Cooper, Joel Henricks, Brad McCullar, and Sara Stoddard; and the late Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP. 

“The first year was really a building block to get the people in place,” Jennifer explained. “We never wanted to duplicate efforts. We wanted to see collaboration among the organizations already serving the community.” Now, much of the work is being done by staff members hired through the initiative, who meet monthly with Jennifer and Sister Sharon to provide updates and receive input.

Jennifer said she was excited “for the real work to start, for the community to see the fruits of our labors, and for the space to be open and available for the community to see,” especially about the opening of the new space. 

“My hopes are that, together, we can make a better future for the people of Adrian, especially the people who live on the East Side,” Sister Sharon said.

Watch a video on the partnership between the Adrian Dominican Sisters and ProMedica, including interviews with Sister Sharon and Jennifer.

Sacred Fire Keeper Kenneth Johnson builds the Sacred Fire that burned outside of Weber Retreat and Conference Center until the end of the all-day Indigenous Peoples Day Teach-in.

October 31, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – While many people throughout the United States were observing Columbus Day on October 9, Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and friends were celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day – and exploring the cultures of Native Americans, the injustices, and ways of reconciliation with the dominant U.S. culture.

The event was planned by a committee of The People of the Four Winds of Lenawee County, a local Native American organization, as well as Adrian Dominican Sisters, Co-workers, family members, and friends. 

The day-long event began with the lighting of the Sacred Fire outside of Weber Retreat and Conference Center, the site of the teach-in, by Firekeeper Kenneth Johnson. The fire remained lit throughout the event.

Elder Joseph Brave-Heart, a full-blooded descendant of the Oglala Lakota Nation, opened the morning session by speaking of his own experiences and those of his people with the arrival of Europeans and the need for healing and reconciliation of all people. “It is my personal hope that we establish a balanced and cohesive relationship or association, that we may honor the Creator,” he said.

Elder Joseph recalled an address by Pope John Paul II to Indigenous People in the United States. “The early encounters between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance that it profoundly influences your collective life even today,” he quoted the pope. “The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of life and your traditional societies must be acknowledged.” 

After reviewing several past hurts – such as the boarding schools in which the U.S. and Canadian governments tried to force Indigenous children into abandoning their cultures and ways of life and adapting to the dominant culture – Elder Joseph encouraged a spirit of reconciliation between descendants of Indigenous peoples and Europeans. Historically, the “fickle nature” of human beings has led us to forget the words of Jesus: “Love others as I have loved you,” Elder Joseph said. “It is only through true empathetic love, understanding, and humility that we may all heal and go forth as the children of God – or the Creator.” 

Sister Susan Gardner, OP, Director of the Native American Apostolate for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, spoke about the Doctrine of Discovery, predominantly made up of three 15th-century papal bulls, letters written by popes.  

Inter Caetera, the bull most often associated with the Doctrine of Discovery, was written by Pope Alexander VI to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The bull stated that any land not inhabited by Christians “could be claimed and exploited by Christian rulers,” Sister Susan explained. “The presiding theory of the time was that indigenous people, because they were non-Christian, were not human, and therefore the land was empty” and could be claimed by Christian settlers, she said. Christians who claimed the land were also encouraged to convert the indigenous people to Christianity but had the authority to enslave and exploit them.

Sister Susan said the Doctrine of Discovery has been used over the centuries – and even in recent times – to settle court cases. For example, the 1823 U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh involved a land dispute between Johnson, who bought the property from a Native American, and McIntosh, who bought adjoining and overlapping land from a white person. Justice John Marshall granted the land to McIntosh. 

“The decision allowed our government to legally ignore or invalidate any Native claims to property,” Sister Susan said. “It’s still used by courts to decide property rights cases brought by Native Americans in the United States against non-Natives.” The ruling “stands as a monumental violation of the natural rights of humankind, as well as the most fundamental human rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Sister Susan said.  

Pope Francis rescinded the Doctrine of Discovery in March 2023. A joint statement by the Vatican Dicasteries of Culture and Education said the concepts in the Doctrine of Discovery are not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church. “In no uncertain terms, the Church’s magisterium upholds the respect due to every human being,” the statement reads. “The Catholic Church therefore repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of the indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘doctrine of discovery.’”

Participants concluded the morning by attending one of two break-out sessions. Some chose to participate in a Talking Circle, a sacred way of listening for Native Americans and a private experience for those who attend. 

From left, Sisters JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, Marilyn Francoeur, OP, Janice Holkup, OP, and Mary Rae Waller, OP, offer a panel discussion on their experience as either a Native American or a minister with Native Americans.

Others attended a presentation by a panel of Adrian Dominican Sisters: Sister Marilyn Francoeur, OP, a native of Adrian and a member of the Citizens Band of the Pottawatomie Nation; Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP, whose father was of Cherokee descent and who learned about the meanings and principles of Native life during a summer with her grandmother; Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, who ministered for 21 years among the Cheyenne/Arapaho Tribe in Oklahoma as part of a collaborative Dominican ministry; and Sister Janice Holkup, OP, who for three years directed a summer school work-study program for children, funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
View a recording of the morning session.

McKell Johnson demonstrates her
skill as a fancy Shaw Dancer.

The afternoon session allowed participants to watch and – when invited – participate in traditional native dancing led by McKell Johnson, a Shaw Dancer and leader of the People of the Four Winds.
View a recording of the afternoon session.




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