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January 5, 2020, Sylvania, Ohio – Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of Sustainability for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, was named Eco-Educator of 2020 by Science Alliance for Valuing the Environment (SAVE), an environmental organization based at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio. Lourdes University is sponsored by the Sylvania Franciscan Sisters.
Eco-Educator is one of five awards presented by SAVE to honor those who are involved in enhancing environmental sustainability.
“It’s nice to be honored, to be recognized for this work,” Sister Corinne said. “One of our hopes for the permaculture site [at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse] is that it’ll grow as an education site. It was nice to have that recognized and brought to attention.”
Permaculture is a system of land use that takes into account environmental sustainability, working with – and learning from – natural systems. Maintained by Sister Corinne and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, the permaculture site has already been used as a venue for educating others about the environment.
Beginning in 2017, students from Siena Heights University in Adrian and Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida – both sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – spent 10 days to two weeks each spring participating in the Environmental Leadership Experience (ELE). They learned about permaculture and other environmentally sustainable practices and gained first-hand experience from working at the permaculture site. The 2020 ELE program was canceled because of the pandemic.
“It’s one of the most exciting times we have each year,” Sister Corinne said. The students “have to apply to be accepted, so they’re very motivated, and they go back to their college campuses to implement various environmental practices. It’s a wonderful adventure. It’s part of our hope for the permaculture garden being an educational site.”
In a typical Fall semester, Jared teaches a class of Siena Heights students for one hour per week, giving them opportunities to work in the permaculture site and learn from the experience. “I’m under no illusion that they’ll want to become small-scale farmers,” he said. Typically, they graduate and enter other fields. “But they have some kind of literacy about what our farming system is like,” he added. “Having a society with more literacy [in agricultural practices] seems worthwhile to me.”
In the spring of 2019, sixth-grade students from an elementary school in Lenawee County, Michigan, came to the Motherhouse to participate in the River Raisin Water Festival. Hosted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and organized in collaboration with the River Raisin Institute, the River Raisin Watershed Council, and Lenawee Intermediate School District, the event focused on topics such as habitat restoration, marsh bird management, macroinvertebrates such as dragonflies and mayflies, and rain gardens.
Canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the River Raisin Water Festival is in the planning stages to be held virtually in May 2021. “The presenters have agreed to work virtually with the students,” Sister Corinne said. “Our hope is to distribute the recordings to other schools.”
Along with these formal educational opportunities, Sister Corinne said she and Jared are also open to offering tours for groups and to community education programs.
Sister Corinne said she became passionate about environmental sustainability through a process of awakening. “Our lifestyles have not been healthy for the planet, and I think once you realize that, everyone gets passionate about trying to reshape lifestyles and habits and getting into a right relationship with Earth,” she said. “I think it’s an awakening.”
Both Sister Corinne and Jared have hope for the future – for a time when human beings will be more respectful to Earth and develop more sustainable lifestyles. “Humans have the capacity to be successful when they put their hearts and minds into it,” Sister Corinne said. Healing the planet “is going to require a continued and strong commitment to lifestyle changes, but if you can get people to do that, I think we can make an impact.”
“We’ve got some rough sledding, for sure, but I don’t think that’s the same thing as saying it’s the end of the world,” Jared said. “In these periods of history where everything changes at once and all the certainties go up in the air, it’s a time to try new things, new ways for humans to live.” He gave the example of people who, after spending almost a year working from home, “might realize they don’t have to commute an hour to the office or want to spend more time with their kids.”
Sister Corinne hopes the permaculture site can be a place where people can come to learn more about the environment and about sustainable practices. “We’ve had a lot of different groups each year that have come for touring,” she said. “We’re open to community education programs. They have yet to be developed, but are part of the vision for the site.”
For information or to arrange for a tour, contact Sister Corinne at 517-266-3420.
Feature photo: Sister Carol Coston, OP, left, who was instrumental in the founding of the permaculture site at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse campus, poses with Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability.
December 31, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – As has been said numerous times over the past nine months, 2020 has been an “unprecedented year” of chaos, challenges, and change as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and the United States faced systemic racism and a challenging presidential election. As we look forward to 2021 and a time of hope and restoration, here are the top 10 story themes for the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2020, chosen by the Communications Department.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council set protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus: closing the Motherhouse to visitors and guests from March and eventually through the spring of 2021, enacting a shelter-in-place protocol for Sisters living in the Dominican Life Center and a moratorium on commercial Congregational travel, encouraging Co-workers who can to work from home, and beginning a regimen of testing resident Sisters and Co-workers.
Throughout the year, Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers adapted to this new life, continuing to live out the Mission to serve the needs of the times. Congregational meetings are held via Zoom. Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers sew masks for Co-workers in the DLC. A group of Sisters and Associates begin art projects to memorialize life during the pandemic and meet monthly via Zoom to share their artwork and their reflections. St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center offers drive-through food distribution for families in Flint, and Congregation-sponsored schools and literacy centers juggle in-person learning and virtual class time, as well as graduations and other special events. Sisters and Associates in the United States, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines work on the front lines (see pages 2-5 of the 2019-2020 Annual Report).
Finally, as the year comes to an end, hospitals founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – begin the work of vaccinating their employees, beginning with those who work directly with COVID-19 patients.
Even before public outcry resulting from the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Adrian Dominican Sisters sought to root out racism and white privilege and to stand with people of color. A group of Sisters celebrate Black History Month with other people of faith in Lenawee County, Michigan, at a special Black History unity rally. The General Council issues several statements in opposition to racism and racist deeds (see Statements section), and takes part in a local Black Lives Matter march in Adrian on behalf of numerous Sisters who were sheltering in place and unable to attend. Four sponsored institutions involved in education – Barry University, Siena Heights University, Regina Dominican High School, and Rosarian Academy – issue statements opposed to the racist system in the United States and take action to address racism in their schools and local communities. Sisters and Associates also work within their parishes and other ministry sites to educate people and to acknowledge and root out racism.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council issues a number of statements:
on measures taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (March 13);
in response to the killing of George Floyd (May 27);
affirming the call of other organizations for a Day of Mourning and Lament for more than 100,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths (May 29);
affirming the National Black Sisters Conference statement on 21st Century Lynchings (June 3);
supporting the LCWR statement on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative for immigrants who came to the United States as children (June 22);
in gratitude for the Lenawee County Health Department’s statement encouraging compliance with protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (October 6);
writing a letter in support of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the alleged plot to kidnap her (October 9);
expressing joy at Pope Francis’ appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory as Cardinal (October 25); and
speaking on behalf of the plight of 545 migrant children still separated from their parents (October 28).
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, signs the Catholic Impact Investment Pledge, affirming the Congregation’s commitment to make investments “on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, and to promote human dignity, economic justice, and environmental stewardship.” The Adrian Dominican Congregation is one of 16 U.S.-based Congregations of Dominican Sisters to launch the Public Climate Solutions Fund initiative. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to seed the Climate Solutions Fund, attracting $130 million in capital investments. Mercy Housing Northwest – a collaborative effort of communities of women religious in the Northwest, including the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, now merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters – opens a new, 254-apartment affordable housing project. Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, hearing that the Center for Women in Transition wanted to buy the former Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, puts the organization in touch with the Mercy Partnership Fund in St. Louis. The Fund granted the Center a low-interest loan to purchase the novitiate. Socially responsible investing such as the instances above has been the ministry for more than 40 years of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board.
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), under the leadership of Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, joins a coalition to make affordable housing a national priority. Celebrating 110 years of service and advocacy, CCUSA joins with the Felician Sisters of North America work together to establish the Francis Fund for Eviction Prevention to help people on the brink of homelessness. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of the Office of Immigration Assistance, offers to help young “Dreamers” apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation offers numerous ways to be involved in social justice advocacy in areas such as immigration, the death penalty, nuclear disarmament, and climate change.
A number of Adrian Dominican Associates are welcomed through Rituals of Acceptance: Margaret Reyez on February 8, 2020, in St. Catherine Chapel and Teressa Conley, Holly Lyman, Natasha Mulroney, Donna Barnes Riggins, and Aimee Moran Yannis, in Henderson, Nevada, on March 2020; and Suzanne Sink in July 2020, at West Palm Beach, Florida. Welcomed through virtual Rituals of Acceptance were Associates Alison Altmeyer and Annemarie Kallenbach, July 29, 2020, and Diane Burgermeister and Noraleen Renauer, August 10, 2020. Associates look to the future during two virtual gatherings: Futuring Dominican Associate Life in August and Partners: Past, Present, and Future in November. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate.
Four women associated with the Adrian Dominican Sisters participate in NETWORK’s 2020 Nuns on the Bus virtual election campaign, encouraging voters to consider all aspects of a candidate’s stand, not just one issue. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations, was one of the “nuns on the bus” who spoke about the issues she considers. One of the site visits was to St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, founded by Sister Carol Weber, OP, and Sister Judy Blake, CSJ. In a dialogue on city versus rural issues in Michigan, Associate Joan Ebbitt and Co-worker Laura Negron-Terrones, Administrative Assistant for the Office of Immigration Assistance, spoke on the panel representing Adrian, Michigan. In a gesture of unity, Associate Deb Carter reaches out to opposing protesters on election day with a gesture of peace.
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, becomes President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and takes the time to reflect on both religious life and leadership. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, reflects on the greater global perspective she gained during her three years as one of two delegates for the North America Constellation of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). Adrian Dominican Sisters mark their Jubilee milestones of religious life in creative ways, and the Congregation honors 34 Jubilarians at a special Mass. To learn more about how Adrian Dominican Sisters experience religious life, read about the life stories of various Sisters and watch their videos. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Sister.
Weber Retreat and Conference Center, marking its 50th anniversary in 2020, offers virtual programs, workshops, and retreats. The Dominican Center: Spirituality for Mission, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, offers an internship program for spiritual directors, as well as spiritual programs for people of faith. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee holds a monthly series of virtual talks on different aspects of spirituality, including spiritual direction, St. Mary of Magdala as Patroness of the Dominican Order, and the spirit of Advent waiting during the pandemic. Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, an author in the areas of religious education and adult faith formation, writes books on First Communion activities for families and the spirituality of aging, as well as her annual booklet of Advent reflections.
The Congregation continues its sustainability work through its permaculture site and a windmill installed on the Motherhouse grounds (see the Annual Report, page 27). Sister Corinne Sanders, Director of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, give an update on the sustainability efforts of the Congregation, based on its relationship to Earth. Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers take the opportunity on the United Nations World Day of the Environment to reflect on creation and efforts to safeguard the environment. Father James Hug, SJ, Priest Chaplain, writes Catholic prayers, reflections, and other materials for the Season of Creation, an interfaith observance from September through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.