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August 9, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Six women were formally welcomed as Adrian Dominican Associates on the evening of August 5 during Partners V, the fifth annual gathering of Associates. 

Associates are women and men – at least 18 years of age – who share in the vision and mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters through a non-vowed commitment.

Mary  Lach, Director of Associate Life, presides over the Ritual of Acceptance.

Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, presided over the Ritual of Acceptance, in St. Catherine Chapel at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. Deb Carter, Associate and member of the Associate Life Board, served as Ritual Leader, introducing each mentor, who in turn introduced the Associate she had worked with.

Laurie Susie, of Arizona, was born in Iowa and served in fundraising and development for non-profit organizations. She met the Adrian Dominican Sisters while serving at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nevada. In introducing her, Sister Carol Fleming, OP, her mentor, described her as compassionate, contemplative, and collaborative. “It’s been a joy to share her zeal,” she said. 

Laurie said she decided to become an Associate “after years of discernment and prayer, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement and support of Sister Carol Fleming. I believe it is the right time to make a commitment to further the mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.” Laurie said she feels called to the “healing mission of Jesus” and to work with people who are sick, underserved, and disenfranchised. “I hope to receive the gift of giving back to those who are less fortunate.”

Rev. Cathy Johnson, a Presbyterian minister, is a pastoral chaplain at the Dominican Life Center, the residence of the retired Adrian Dominican Sisters. Cathy has ministered in three parishes in Michigan and two in Iowa, serving as a bereavement counselor, minister of visitation, and assistant pastor. 

“We are really blessed that she is sharing her pastoral ministry with us,” said Sister Joan Delaplane, OP, speaking on behalf of Cathy’s mentor, Sister Carol Coston, OP. 

Cathy lives in Adrian, Michigan, close to her parents and to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. Her family includes two adult daughters, Ruthann and Rachel.

“Two years ago I began my ministry as a chaplain with the Sisters, and within two months … I knew that I had met kindred spirits,” Cathy said. “In these times in which we live, I believe there is great value in journeying with others who share similar values.”

Joan Ebbitt was born and raised in Adrian, met the Sisters at school and was in the Congregation as a vowed member for 10 years. 

A social worker, Joan specializes in addiction treatment and has given talks and workshops to religious leaders. She began an addiction treatment center as a joint venture with Parkside Medical Services at Baylor Medical in Dallas, Texas, where she  Marilyn, who has been Joan’s partner for 28 years. They were married in 2015. 

In 2005, Joan started Companions in the Crossthreads, a group for former Sisters who wished to renew their connection to the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Joan also is a spiritual director who often offers spiritual direction and workshops at the Weber Retreat and Conference Center. 

Joan especially thanked the late Sister Ruth Steiner, OP, and Sisters Rosemary Ferguson, OP, and Esther Kennedy “and all who encouraged and challenged me to become my authentic self, and who always claimed me as sister, even after I left vowed life.” 

Sherry Goff, a native of Adrian, attended Siena Heights College and completed her degree in sociology at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. While in North Carolina, she worked at the Mental Health Association, which provides services to adults who suffer with severe and persistent mental illness. 

After spending a year in Costa Rica as missionaries, Sherry and her husband, Stan, returned to Adrian, Michigan. Sherry has worked with Goodwill as the assistant to the Executive Director and in Human Resources. Sherry and Stan have three children and seven grandchildren. 

Truly McSorley, Associate and Sherry’s mentor, said Sherry is a “lifelong learner. She absorbed every bit of Dominican life and history that she could read.” Sherry, for her part, spoke of her own feeling of connection with the Congregation. “I want to live the mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, to be with others who freely give and receive Jesus’ love. I’d like to help co-create justice and peace in our world.”

Barbara Lawrence, born in Mount Clemens, Michigan, studied at Siena Heights University and served as the university’s first Director of Human Resources. Since 2015, she has been a part-time receptionist at Weber Center, and is a catechist at her parish. 

Blessed with two children, two grandchildren, and one grandchild on the way, Barbara also cares for foster children.

Barbara expressed gratitude to her mentor, Sister Norma Dell, OP, to Sister Marge Mehigan, OP, whom she worked with at Siena Heights University and who “taught me to take the Dominican Mission Statement off the wall and make it live for our Co-workers. She said she is also grateful to Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, a social worker at Catholic Charities who worked with Barbara when she was fostering six girls. “I wouldn’t have made it without Pam’s wisdom and support and without her kind invitation to bring children here for Liturgy so that they could be blessed by you Dominicans.”

Mary Sweet Rooney entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in 1954 with Sister Esther Kennedy, OP, who served as her mentor. While studying at Notre Dame University in the 1970s, she met and fell in love with Patrick Rooney, a Dominican priest. They married after Mary was released from her vows and Patrick was laicized. 

“I never stopped being a Dominican,” Mary said. “It was important to both of us to nurture and challenge one another in living the Dominican charism.” 

Living in South Bend, she served as Director of Ministries to Children and Families at a parish, was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Indiana and University of Notre Dame, and was a Chaplain and then Director of Pastoral and Social Service at Memorial Hospital of South Bend. Now retired, Mary volunteers with the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

After her husband’s death, Mary said, she “realized that it’s not quite possible to be a Dominican alone, so I chose to become an Associate – which for me is coming home.”

After the six new Associates were introduced and declared their willingness to be “named and known as an Adrian Dominican Associate,” Mary Lach introduced Cheryl Boyce, who had studied with the five new Associates from Michigan. Cheryl became an Associate in May 2017.

Feature photo (above): Mary  Rooney receives the Associate logo from her mentor, Sister Esther Kennedy, OP.

Top: The new Associates and their mentors sign the Agreement of Association. Bottom: The newest Adrian Dominican Associates are, from left, Cheryl Boyce, who joined in May, Barbara Lawrence, Laurie Susie, Rev. Cathy Johnson, Joan Ebbitt, Mary Rooney, and Sherry Goff.

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January 22, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters on the Motherhouse campus have experienced Christian unity in a number of ways: through parish work and their involvement in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE); through the Charismatic Renewal movement; through lessons they’ve learned from their parents; and even on a sick bed, when chaplains of other Christian denominations ministered to one of the Sisters.

These personal experiences came to light January 20 during the first of four events by which the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse Campus is participating in the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, 2016. A series of prayers and conversations around Christian unity has been organized by the Motherhouse Departments of Spiritual Life and Pastoral Care.

For more than 100 years, Christians around the world have set aside an octave of prayer that one day we can fulfill Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, that “all may be one.” This year’s theme, “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Works of God,” is taken from 1Peter 2:9. The week is organized jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Father Jim Hug, SJ, prays the opening prayer for the January 19 Prayer and Conversation on Christian Unity.

Father James Hug, SJ, of the Spiritual Life Department, introduced the first session – focused on conversations on how the Sisters experience Christian unity in their personal lives – by providing background on the event. The local series of events, he said, is based on an event that took place on Reformation Sunday in October 2014, when Father Jim posted on a door of St. Catherine Chapel both Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and the Joint Statement of Agreement between the Reformed Churches in the U.S. and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The statement, called “The Bread of Life,” affirms that “baptism establishes the bond of unity existing among all who are part of Christ’s Body, and is therefore the sacramental basis for our efforts to move toward visible unity.”

During the conversation, many Sisters noted that their childhood experience and understanding of other Christian denominations. Sister Betty Jenkins, OP, who had family members who were not Catholic, said she had been told in catechism that only Catholics could go to Heaven. A talk with her mother – and her own experience with Girl Scouts from other Christian traditions – helped her to understand that that statement is not true. Those experiences “put some kind of groundedness in me, that the Catholics were not the only ones who were saved, and I appreciated that.” Other Sisters noted that, even while growing up in a strong Catholic culture, they had never been told that only Catholics were saved.

Sister Jeanne Burns, OP, spoke of her ecumenical experience during her year of CPE at a Methodist Hospital associated with the Mayo Clinic – and of working with the other participants, two Methodist ministers and two Lutheran ministers. “It was a year of wonderful learning and understanding” of people of Christian traditions, she said.

Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP, also spoke of her interfaith experience as a hospital chaplain with colleagues of other Christian denominations. “I learned beauty and the sincerity and the courage and the integrity of those men and women in other denominations, and it was a very humbling experience for me,” she said. “I learned from them what holiness is about [in traditions other than my own]. To hear them talk about the interior life was just amazing to me.”

Two chaplains in the Pastoral Care Department – both ordained ministers – spoke of their own ecumenical experience in working with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Rev. Cathy Johnson recalled attending an intentional discernment retreat and conference for Presbyterian pastors and discovering her own four passions for ministry: “spirituality, sustainability – especially as it pertains to the environment – creativity, and hospitality.” While serving as an interim pastor at a vibrant parish community in Michigan, she felt God’s call to seek out a ministry that meets those four passions. She eventually found these passions in serving as a chaplain for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

Rev. Diane Christopherson spoke of her early grounding in ecumenical connections. “I was formed from my earliest childhood in ecumenical circles, meeting, as a child and youth, with children and youth of different religious backgrounds, different Christian congregations,” she said. She continued that connection as an adult, working with colleagues from other Christian denominations. In coming to serve in Adrian, she said, she found common ground with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “What particularly came before my mind’s eye before I came here was what a gift it would be to serve among women who felt a call to God from a very young age, just like I did. We’re kind of counter-cultural people.”

The prayer and conversations series continued on January 21 with a focus on the experience of unity in mission, and on January 22 with a focus on the future. The series will conclude during Mass next week, when the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes January 25 with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Feature photo: Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP, lights the candle at the beginning of the January 19 session, while Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP, looks on.



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