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March 17, 2017, Adrian, Michigan Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Sister Patty Harvat, OP, accompanied students from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, New Orleans, on their recent Alternative Spring Break to the Dominican Republic. Sister Maurine and the late Sister Renee Richie, OP, had founded a school, Centro Espíritu Santo, in the Dominican Republic and watched the school grow and thrive. Sister Maurine reflects on her experience of returning to the school.

By Maurine Barzantni, OP

When I was recently asked about my most important experience during my recent trip to Centro Espíritu Santo in the Dominican Republic, it took me more than a minute to think of which of the many remarkable learnings was most important. I finally said that it was hearing that more than a dozen of our former students are teachers or teacher’s aides in our school. 

Our journey with the people has been such a joyous part of the Adrian Dominican story in the Dominican Republic. Parada San José, formerly known as Cruce de Arroyo Hondo, remains a very poor community, but it is rich in faith and hope. The families believe that anything is possible. Why wouldn’t they, when they have watched their community change from a desolate collection of houses without electricity, water, or school to a thriving place with an excellent school? 

It took 25 years for the transformation, which was brought about by cooperation among the families, government, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and the Jesuit-sponsored network of schools called Fe y Alegría. The school is well-known as an Adrian Dominican School, and graduates from the Colegio Santo Domingo take pride in it. Six Adrian Dominican Associates from the community are involved in the school and take pride in their connection to the Sisters.

Three of our Sisters minister at Centro Espíritu Santo: Sister Basilia De la Cruz, OP, as the director; Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, as chair of the Counseling Department; and Sister Neri (Luchy) Sori, OP, as a high school teacher. 

These three women are highly respected. As I walked around the community, I heard so many comments about how blessed the families feel to have the Sisters serve in the school. Together, the Sisters and the faculty have weathered storms of change within the educational system of the Dominican Republic.

Just over two years ago, the Dominican Republic decreed that all schools must offer a full day of school, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Because of high enrollment and lack of space in the school facilities, Centro Espíritu Santo had offered only half days of school. Some students attended in the morning and others in the afternoon. 

To offer a full day of school for all of the students, Centro Espíritu Santo needed double the classrooms and employ twice as many faculty members to serve the 1,350 students. Somehow, the school community met this goal, resulting in a beautiful, clean, and large campus filled with students receiving a good education. According to the Provincial Office of Education, the number of our graduates who go on to the university is remarkably high.

I witnessed the strength of Adrian Dominican education – and I am so proud of it! 

Sister Maurine Barzantni OP with faculty members of Centro Espiritu Santo

Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP — back row, fourth from right — with faculty members of Centro Espíritu Santo

Feature photo at top: Sister Maurine Barzantni, center, with Sisters Eneida Santiago, OP, and Basilia De la Cruz, OP.

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By Sister Mary Soher, OP

July 21, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – “The Dominican story is only kept alive by live Dominicans.” These words by Dominican scholar Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, could be heard echoing from Adrian, Michigan, the gathering site of the 18th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. Students from 23 high schools – including two from Australia – gathered at Siena Heights University June 24-29, 2016, to discover and deepen the preacher within. 

Sister Patricia “Patty” Harvat, OP, until recently an administrator at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, addresses the high school preachers during the opening session of the conference.

Using the 800th Jubilee Celebration of the Order as a theme, conference attendees met Saints Dominic, Catherine of Siena (Sister Nancy Murray, OP), Martin de Porres, and Rose de Lima (Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP); learned about the interfaith mission of the Order; and connected with Dominican family members, including Associates, Laity, Volunteers, and Young Adults, in addition to the Sisters and the friars. 

As proof of the intercultural nature of the gathering, a rosary procession was prayed in five languages – German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, and Arabic – with a rosary shared by the nuns of Mary the Queen Monastery in Fatima. 

Students learned about the signs of the times by studying such social justice issues as human trafficking, domestic violence, and becoming aware of the need for respect for elders and hearing an update on the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. The students also lived out what they heard through a special service day that led to encounters with children, seniors, people suffering from economic poverty, and those regaining their homes. They also had the opportunity to improve the local land through permaculture techniques. 

During the conference, Dominican Sisters of Adrian prayed for specific students and met with them during a special ice cream social before the students hit the dance floor. Adrian Dominican Sisters also helped the students in their final day of the conference. Among the presenters teaching the students to pray through the arts were Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Moving in the Spirit; Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, liturgical reaching; Sister Sue Schreiber, OP, water colors; Sister Maria Browne, OP, Morovian stars; Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, origami peace cranes; and Sister Luchy Sori, OP, liturgical movements.

And what is Jubilee without a cake? The final night of the conference concluded with a banquet, complete with a cake fit for an 800-year celebration. “The Dominican tradition is something that should be celebrated,” one student commented. “To survive 800 years in a society where most things can’t even last 10 days is worth appreciating!”

Liturgical dancers encircle the altar as Father Dennis Woerter, OP, of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, presides over the closing liturgy.

The following morning, at the commissioning ceremony that took place during liturgy with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the high school groups shared how they plan to continue to live the Dominican charism within their school communities in the coming academic year. 

“Before this conference, I knew I was a preacher, but I didn’t know how to be a preacher,” said Emma Bonnet of Mount St. Dominic Academy, Caldwell, New Jersey. 

“This conference was not only faith-furthering but also life-changing,” proclaimed Kate Gartrell, of St. Agnes Academy, Houston, Texas. “I now know in my heart what it means to be Dominican.”

Songiemar Garcia Curbelo, from Colegio San Antonio, Isabela, Puerto Rico, stated, “It’s a spiritual awakening, when you least expect it!”

The Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference is a program of the newly formed Dominican Youth Movement USA, the umbrella organization that connects today’s youth and young adults to the Dominican tradition of preaching and the participant’s own call to preach.

A big thank you to all the communities of Sisters and Friars who collaborated for another incredible week of sharing our charism with these young adults.



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