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May 20, 2019, Chicago – During almost 30 years as Mother General of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Mother Mary Gerald Barry sent Sisters to teach in schools throughout the United States — 50 schools in Illinois alone — and encouraged the Sisters to pursue their own education.
Mother Gerald (1881-1961) was recognized for her education efforts on April 27, 2019, when she was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame during an awards gala at the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. She was one of nine to be inducted in 2019. Others were recognized in the areas of arts and humanities, business and industry, public service, religion, science, and sports, and as the “Hometown Hero.”
Established in 2010, the Irish American Hall of Fame seeks to “preserve the ‘story’ of the Irish in America.”
“Mother Gerald Barry was always concerned about education, including her own,” said Sister Kathleen Klingen, OP, who accepted the award on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “As early as age 4, back in County Clare [Ireland], she followed her brothers and sisters to school and got away with it.”
Sister Kathleen, Chapter Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter based in Chicago, recounted the many ways that Mother Gerald encouraged education. She built schools, including Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, and Barry College (now University) in Miami Shores – schools still sponsored by the Congregation. During Mother Gerald’s term of office, 1933 through 1961, students were educated by Adrian Dominican Sisters in 189 elementary and secondary schools in the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
“Mother Gerald insisted that Sisters be educated with at least one master’s degree and encouraged Sisters to continue to study,” Sister Kathleen said. “More than one master’s degree or a doctorate was always welcomed.” Mother Gerald also offered free tuition to Sisters from small or foreign groups at both Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, Michigan, and at Barry. “Consequently, Catholic Sisters are among the most highly educated women of American society,” Sister Kathleen said.
Also, she noted the April 29 Feast Day of Dominican St. Catherine of Siena, “a bold preacher, teacher, and woman of vision in the 14th century. We would do well to remember Mother Mary Gerald Barry as a visionary preacher, master of education who emulated the audacity of our sister Catherine in our own time.”
Finally, Sister Kathleen noted that Mother Gerald had sent Adrian Dominican Sisters to staff 50 schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Rockford, and the Diocese of Joliet. “If you have benefited from a good Catholic education, thank Mother Gerald and her confreres in other congregations of women.”
The full story of Mother Gerald’s ministry as Mother General can be found in To Fields Near and Far by the late Sister Nadine Foley, OP. The book can be ordered through the Weber Center Shop at 517-266-4035.
April 4, 2019, Chicago – Every month, passersby at the corner of Belmont and Milwaukee in Chicago can observe a stirring sight: a group of Catholic women and men, vowed religious and lay people, standing on the corner with signs bearing witness to the dignity of immigrants and calling for a just immigration policy.
Many of the participants are members of Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants (SBI), a nonprofit Catholic organization that advocates for immigrants in the United States. SBI members, along with other advocates gather for this public witness for an hour before the organization’s monthly meeting.
The monthly demonstration “is to raise awareness about immigration and immigrants,” explained Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, a member of SBI. “The mission is to have a collective voice seeking justice for immigrants. We respond to the Gospel mandate to uphold the dignity of each person.”
Sister JoAnn is among many Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter, based in Chicago, who participate in the public witness and in various other events to call for a just and compassionate immigration policy.
“We support anything that has to do with immigration,” Sister JoAnn said. Several Sisters and lay people gather at 7:15 a.m. every Friday outside of a detention facility in Broadview, north of Chicago, to pray the rosary and offer assurance and presence to immigrants who are being deported from there. The group is often joined by visiting college students who come to Chicago from other parts of the country.
Sister JoAnn and several other Adrian Dominican Sisters have also been involved in one-on-one English as a Second Language tutoring of immigrants at Aquinas Literacy Center in Chicago, one of seven literacy centers sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The literacy centers typically offer tutoring to adult learners who are native English speakers, as well as to those for whom English is a second language.
Sister JoAnn moved to Chicago about four years ago, after ministering at Las Casas, a Dominican ministry based in Oklahoma that seeks justice in the lives of Native Americans. Two years before her move, she transferred to the Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter and learned about the Chapter’s immigration initiative.
As an activist for immigrants and compassionate immigration reform, Sister JoAnn said her biggest challenge is “listening to the news about what’s happening at the border,” and particularly the government’s response to immigration. “The reform of our immigration policy just does not get to the table,” she said. “It needs compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform, and it just is not coming. This gets discouraging, but you try to educate and build up awareness so people will call their legislators” on behalf of immigrants.
Sister JoAnn is encouraged by her personal encounters with Dreamers – young adult immigrants who came to the United States as children with undocumented parents – as well as with people facing deportation and dedicated immigration advocates. “The people pushing for [immigration reform] are great people, and that’s encouraging – but when you listen to the news, that’s the part that hurts your heart,” she said. “But we keep on keeping on.”
Feature photo (top): From left, Sisters Cathy Fedewa, CSFN, Jean Keeley, OP, and Benita Coffey, OSB, give public witness in Chicago on behalf of immigrants.