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September 9, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – Like many other Adrian Dominican Sisters, Sister Carol Gross, OP, started out as a classroom teacher and, over the years, branched out to other ministries: religious education, parish ministry, pastoral ministry, and spiritual direction. But she also branched out geographically: from her native Ohio to Michigan and, for the last 31 years, to the Dominican Republic. She retired and returned to the Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan, in June 2022 – with many stories to tell of her various ministries in the Dominican Republic. 

Sister Carol holding an infant
Sister Carol Gross, OP, shortly after she began her ministry in the Dominican Republic.

Ministry in the Dominican Republic

Sister Carol began this change in ministry after seven years of ministry at a parish. “I was approaching burnout and was thinking of a sabbatical to learn Spanish,” she recalled. In 1990-1991, she went to the Dominican Republic for her Spanish studies. “I was there 13 weeks and I fell in love with the Dominican people – their joy, their resiliency, their inventiveness and spontaneity,” she recalled. 

She returned to the United States and received permission to return to the Dominican Republic for ministry. She began slowly, becoming involved with pastoral ministry and religious education at Seccion San Jose. “I worked mostly in [nearby] Villa Fundación and did some ministry in other villages.”

Sister Carol speaking with a woman in a clinic
Sister Carol Gross, OP, with an assistant at Hope for Haina.

Ministry in Haina

Most of Sister Carol’s time in the Dominican Republic was spent in Haina, not far from the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo. “Haina is a very dense poor area,” with a population of about 15,000 people when Sister Carol ministered there from 1996 to 2012. Today, she said, the population is closer to 20,000 to 25,000. 

Sister Carol was involved in the lives of the people of Haina, first in one of the Christian communities of the local parish. The parish of about 15,000 people was divided into local communities – first 30 and later 35. “Each community had its own council, catechism, and adult formation group,” she recalled. She ministered in one of those communities, which ultimately divided into two.

During her first years there, a priest celebrated Mass in her community on the first Tuesday and the fourth Friday of each month. On Sundays, the community gathered for Liturgy of the Word. “Starting out, we did most of the planning, but by the time we finished, 17 or 18 people were [leading] the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday,” Sister Carol explained. “I would [prepare] a guide for the prayers and a guide for the homily,” which mostly consisted of questions and dialogues by members of the community. 

Sister Carol was also involved in parish-wide ministry, working with the parish catechetical team. In 2005, the parish started Hope for Haina, a medical clinic, which began in the church sacristy. 

The clinic includes a general practitioner, a pediatrician, and a dentist and next year will include a psychologist to work with adolescent mothers, Sister Carol said. The clinic also offers a special program for insulin-dependent diabetics and an ultrasound – and will soon add an electrocardiogram. “We’re able to provide some medicines and we have a very small but important nutrition program,” she said. 

The clinic was supported by grants, including $5,000 from St. Owen Parish in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and $5,000 from the Conrad Hilton Foundation, she said. In addition, the Adrian Dominican Congregation has helped to sponsor Hope for Haina through Ministry Trust grants given to community organizations in which Adrian Dominican Sisters are involved, and through mission appeals given by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates to participating parishes throughout the United States. Hope for Haina has also received grants from Dignity Health – now CommonSpirit Health – the healthcare systems to which the Congregation’s hospitals have belonged. Sister Carol continues to work with grants for the clinic.

Sister Carol with a group of people posing
Sister Carol Gross, OP, with members of the spiritual direction team in Haina, Dominican Republic.

Spiritual Direction

Sister Carol sitting in a chapel with a nun
Sister Carol Gross, left, works with one of 12 contemplative nuns participating in a four-week course, Introduction to Spiritual Companioning, in the Dominican Republic in 2017.

In 2012, Sister Carol moved her focus to ministry in the areas of San Juan Bautista, Villa Fundación, and Santo Domingo. “I did a lot of pastoral work, a lot of catechesis, a certain amount of administration, and spiritual direction,” she said. “The last seven years has been mostly spiritual direction, the formation of spiritual directors, and the clinic.”

Sister Carol began her involvement in spiritual direction in 2002, when she and Sisters Ana Feliz, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, took a spiritual companioning course sponsored by the Conference of Religious of the Dominican Republic (CONDOR). 

Sister Carol went on to teach the course, at first mostly to women religious. “We’ve had lots of religious, but lately it’s been lots of lay people, mostly women,” Sister Carol said. The program also offers workshops for priests – six classes over six weeks, she said. At one point, she and her spiritual direction team offered a four-week course, Introduction to Spiritual Companioning, to 12 cloistered nuns from six monasteries and traditions.

Sister Carol also taught spiritual direction in the master’s program offered by the Catholic University of Santo Domingo. “When the pandemic came along, they asked me to teach the course online,” she recalled. “I never saw [the students] in person until they had a good-bye party for me.” She will teach a new course for supervisors of spiritual direction students.



As Sister Carol reflects on her time in the Dominican Republic, she said she has learned much. “I learned that you don’t have to have a lot to be happy,” she said. “You don’t have to be super-educated to be happy. You can live and love and give.” She was impressed by the message of young man as he directed a Liturgy of the Word: “A poor person is one who has nothing to give.” 

Sister Carol has seen that generous act of giving among people who are materially poor – but also among those who have money, including graduates of the Santo Domingo Colegio where Adrian Dominican Sisters once taught. “They’re super-generous with their time and with what they have,” she said. “They always have something to give and could not be outdone in generosity.”

Sister Carol is also impressed and inspired by the Adrian Dominican Associates in the Dominican Republic. “They range from people who have practically nothing to people who are very, very comfortable,” but they all have something to give and are generous with their time. 

She is also grateful for the support of the Congregation as she ministered in the Dominican Republic. “I’ve had wonderful opportunities, [but] I never had anything that paid” monetarily, she said. Still, she added, “I got paid a lot because I was paid with a lot of joy.” 

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October 29, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – In 26 years of mission work in three countries, Sister Maurine Barzantni has experienced a variety of cultures, languages, and life situations. But in all of those situations, she found people who struggled for a better life for their children and who showed incredible generosity and hospitality to visitors.

Sister Maurine’s service in the missions began in 1990 in the Dominican Republic, where she and the late Sister Renee Richie, OP, worked for 10 years with the people of Sección San José de Arroyo Hondo. The Sisters worked with the people of this small barrio, or village, listening to their needs and helping them to fulfill those needs. 

Celebrating the 25th anniversary in September 2019 of Fe y Alegría Espiritu Santo School in the Dominican Republic are, from left, Sisters Basilia De la Cruz, OP; Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress; Maria Eneida Santiago, OP; Neri (Luchy) Sori, OP; and Maurine Barzantni, OP.

During that time, the people were able to establish a health clinic, pharmacy, and school. Espiritu Santo School, part of Fe y Alegría, a Jesuit system of schools, grew from a few children learning under a tree to a school of 1,500 students from kindergarten through high school. Espiritu Santo recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. 

“I think of my experience in the Dominican Republic as a community organizing venture, and out of that community organizing came health services and then the school,” Sister Maurine said. “We never dreamt of starting a school. It came out of the development of the community.” 

After leaving the Dominican Republic in 2010, Sisters Maurine and Renee – along with Sisters Kathryn Cliatt, OP, and Christa Marsik, OP – began their ministry at St. Clare Girls’ Centre in Meru, Kenya. The orphanage takes in girls who have been orphaned and those who seek safety from dangers such as being sold as child brides.

“The community made a commitment of four Sisters for three years to be grandmothers to 250 orphaned girls,” Sister Maurine said. Each of the Sisters also offered her own focus. Sister Maurine offered the girls the opportunity to do painting and drawing. “It started out being just an invitation, but the teachers asked that it be part of the curriculum,” she said.

From 2013 to 2016, Sisters Maurine and Renee were invited to serve in Northern British Columbia, Canada, to offer their presence to indigenous people, members of the Carrier Nation, on four reservations. They served as pastoral assistants to Father Fran Salmon, OMI, Pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Fort St. James. 

Sister Maurine speaks with a woman from the First Nation community in Northern British Columbia, circa 2015.

“The Carrier Nation not only survived, but had a vibrant community because they worked together,” Sister Maurine recalled. “They didn’t lose their traditional values and traditional way of life. They taught their children how to fish, hunt, trap, and prepare food for the winter season. They preserved their Carrier language and all that kept them united as a community.”

Sister Maurine said she has seen a similar spirit wherever she has ministered. “People who struggle for survival have incredible skills for living together, building solidarity in a community, because they need each other to survive,” she said. “People who struggle for survival also have a deep trust in the presence of the Divine.”

Sister Maurine also recalled the “generous hospitality” that she found in every place where she ministered. She gave the example of the Dominican Republic, where the small community was often visited by high school, college, and medical groups. “The people who had nothing, living in small, small houses without any conveniences, would welcome the visitors with big smiles and would say to us, ‘How is it that they would want to visit us?’ They felt that the presence of visitors was a gift to them.”

She acknowledged the challenges inherent in missionary work – differences in language and “accustoming oneself to a whole different environment.” Still, Sister Maurine said she loved every place she served. “Just the welcoming by the people and the appreciation and willingness of the people to really work for and struggle for a better life for their children” brought her joy, she said.

Her involvement in missionary work always came through an invitation, Sister Maurine said. “Invitation is the strongest vehicle for a calling,” she said. “We call it a vocation in the religious community, but a vocation is a calling. From my earliest years, I was always drawn to the poorest communities,” even in the U.S. cities, she said.

Sister Maurine has advice for anyone who is interested in serving in the missions. “Just say ‘yes’ and be very patient with yourself. Be present. Don’t try to do anything. The people will tell you what they need and sometimes you can help them achieve those goals – and sometimes you can’t. Even if you can’t, your presence is still valuable.”

Feature photo (top): From left, Sisters Kathryn Cliatt, OP, Maurine Barzantni, OP, the late Renee Richie, OP, and Christa Marsik, OP, at their home in Meru, Kenya, circa 2010.

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October 24, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Rose Ann Schlitt has spent 50 of her 65 years of religious life as a missioner, serving in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and in six other countries: the Dominican Republic, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Italy, and the Philippines. 

A native of Vero Beach, Florida, Sister Rose Ann entered the Congregation in 1954 after being taught by Adrian Dominican Sisters in elementary and high school. “I felt called to that way of life,” she said. But she said she didn’t enter the Congregation planning to be a missioner, “not even thinking to be a teacher.”

Sister Rose Ann’s first assignment took her to Puerto Rico to teach in Guayama. She was then sent to teach in San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic. After teaching for two years in the United States – in Georgia and Florida – Sister Rose Ann returned to the Dominican Republic in 1966 to teach at Colegio Santo Domingo, sponsored by the Congregation and again in Santo Domingo and Haina in subsequent years.

Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, teaches sewing skills in Managua, Nicaragua, circa 1980.

From then on, Sister Rose Ann continued to serve in foreign lands: Peru from 1969 to 1978 and in Nicaragua, interspersed with ministries in Congregational leadership: on the General Council from 1982 to 1986 and as Chapter Prioress of the Rosa de Lima Mission Chapter, which included the Congregation’s Sisters serving overseas. In subsequent years, she served in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 2003 to 2005; Santa Sabina, Rome, to coordinate the mission work of Dominican Volunteers International, 2005 to 2010; and in San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines, to accompany the Sisters of the Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of Remedies as they prepared for their merger with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Her work as a missioner included education and pastoral ministry, as well as less formal roles. “I was living among the people and helping them to accomplish what they needed to accomplish,” she said. “I’ve taught women income-generating skills that they needed to support their families.” In Nicaragua, this involved helping the women to develop a sewing cooperative. 

She has also helped people to build their own faith through Basic Christian Communities, which she coordinated in Peru. “We interpreted Scripture together,” she recalled. “We looked at our reality and response together. That model was a real joy for me.” 

Sister Rose Ann clarified that, over the years, she has come to see herself as a missioner rather than a missionary. “Missionary has been updated to be more inclusive of all kinds of presence” rather than the traditional role of missionaries as evangelists. “I have learned to be with the people in very different ways for the purpose of befriending them, of living among them, of forming solidarity – forming a “we” – and not necessarily doing what I knew how to do, but what they needed me to do,” Sister Rose Ann said. 

Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, right, and her friend Eufrasia Gamboa, at Pueblo Joven Mariscal Castilla, Callao, Peru, circa 1974

Being a missioner “is very different from one who goes as an expert and teaches from expertise,” Sister Rose Ann explained. “It’s going out of your own poverty really, but open to what is there, who is there.” 

Sister Rose Ann said being a missioner has been “a call within a call. Within the call to be in religious life and mission, the second call came to be in mission more closely with the poor and live as they lived – coming down from status, letting go of recognition. It was like going down the ladder to be free, to be with others.”

“You come as a stranger and a foreigner and you have to get beyond that and reach out in a human and friendly way,” she explained. “You have to befriend them, and then anything can happen.” Missioners also have to learn the language of the people and let go of a sense of control. 

Another challenge, Sister Rose Ann said, is adjusting to a new culture and customs, even to different foods. “There are some cultural differences that you don’t understand right away, or maybe you never understand,” she said. The key is to be open and suspend judgment.

Finally, Sister Rose Ann said, missioners face the challenge of leaving the people they have come to love. “It’s always a challenge to love people and then leave, but that’s a part of it, because if you love enough you don’t just stay,” she said. 

Sister Rose Ann found joy in the people she came to know in her missions, but also in her work with Dominican Volunteers International. “That was a real joy, to be at Santa Sabina [in Rome], to live in an inter-Dominican community of Sisters and to prepare lay people from different parts of the world – to help them prepare, look at their objectives, look at missionary attitudes, and help them prepare for their service.”

In working with the Dominican Volunteers, Sister Rose Ann looked for certain qualities that point to those who are well matched to life as a missioner. She looked for “someone who knows it’s not going to be about them – a certain simplicity and sensitivity to the other.” She saw a good disposition in most volunteers. “None of them really were sent and thought they were going to be the experts,” she said. “All of them felt they had a lot to learn.”

Sister Rose Ann also offers this wise counsel on serving in the missions, attributed to Lao Tsu, a Chinese philosopher who founded the school of Taoism in the sixth century before Christ:

“Go to the people, live with them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know, build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.’”

Feature photo (top): Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, introduces herself to neighbors in Barrio Acahualinca, Managua, Nicaragua Circa 1979.



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