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Sister Lois Paha, OP, visits a church during an October 2013 pilgrimage. Preparing liturgy is one of her responsibilities as Director of Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Tucson. Photo Courtesy of Sister Lois Paha
October 19, 2023, Tucson, Arizona – Sister Lois Paha, OP, has been called a pioneer, always ready to try new work. That seems fitting for a Chicago native who has ministered for nearly 40 years in the Southwest. Those years have involved parish ministry, adult faith formation, formation of deacons and lay ecclesial ministers, and liturgical ministry.
Sister Lois Paha, OP, (middle row, third from right) with other members of the Diocese of Tucson’s Common Formation Team. Photo Courtesy of Sister Lois Paha, OP
Sister Lois has spent 18 years in ministry as Director of Pastoral Services at the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona. She began ministering in the diocese in 2005 as Director of Formation. In 2008, Bishop Gerald. F. Kicanas combined several pastoral offices and asked Sister Lois to oversee them as Director of Pastoral Services. “We had seven employees and five offices until COVID, when we had to close offices,” Sister Lois said.
Currently, Sister Lois directs the Common Formation Program for permanent deacon and lay ecclesial minister candidates; oversees diocesan liturgies; supports parishes in their liturgical ministries; serves on the Executive Committee for the current bishop, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger; and responds to other needs that might serve the pastoral ministry of the diocese.
Her formation work has been one of the highlights of her ministry at the Diocese of Tucson. Through the Common Formation Program, she has been involved in the ordination of 101 permanent deacons and the certification of 75 lay ecclesial ministers. “Those ministers are still involved in the diocese in some way,” she said. “In doing the formation programs, I was always conscious that what they learn and what they carry out is going to touch many more lives. Seeing people grow in their faith, their spiritual life, and discovering their gifts for ministry have always been the highlight for me.” She is now in the midst of the four-year formation of her fifth cohort, scheduled to be completed in 2026.
In her focus on liturgy, Sister Lois works with Bishop Weisenburger on diocesan liturgies such as the Chrism Mass, involving the blessing of the oils, usually on the morning of Holy Thursday; the Red Mass for Catholic lawyers; the special Mass for Catholic doctors; and other Masses in which the bishop is involved. “Liturgy planning is my strength,” Sister Lois said, explaining that it involves everything from working with the bishop on the planning document to creating the worship aid and securing ministers for the liturgy.
“My ministry is really event-driven, so no day is really typical,” Sister Lois explained. “My day begins with a review of the emails and issues that are on the table. Depending on the events at hand, the day can be a short one or a long one.” For example, the formation program involves 12 hours of in-person instruction on the weekends and preparation of the materials beforehand.
Sister Lois occasionally travels around the expansive diocese, which stretches from Yuma, Arizona, to California and as far south as the Mexican border. These trips are usually to lead a workshop on liturgy at one of the diocese’s 78 parishes or to lay ministers in rural parishes on how to conduct Communion services in the absence of a priest.
Sister Lois’s ministries have not been what she expected when, in 1970, she earned a bachelor of science degree from Siena Heights College (University). “I thought I wanted to be a math and science teacher, and those were my strengths during the elementary teaching years,” she noted.
However, when she worked with junior high students who were being formed in their faith through the perspective of Vatican II, she noticed that their parents were still focused on the 100 questions from the Baltimore Catechism that they had memorized as children. “I wanted to find a way to teach adults,” she said. “Without Vatican II, that wouldn’t have been an invitation.”
Sister Lois served in Initial Formation for the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 1978 to 1980. During that time, she earned her Master of Arts in Teaching Religion from St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont, in 1980. “It was designed for high school religion teachers but had all the basic current theology I needed to feel confident in parish work.”
Sister Lois served five years at St. Augustine Parish in Phoenix, Arizona. Those years “taught me almost everything I needed to know when I got into diocesan work,” she said. “Flexibility, survival, creativity: all those skills for ministry surfaced as needed.” These skills prepared her for her 16 years as full-time Director of Liturgy for the Diocese of Austin, Texas.
At the end of her time in Austin, Sister Lois was looking for a new “pioneer job.” She began a Doctorate in Ministry in the Supervision Program at the Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas, where Adrian Dominican Sister Sarah Sharkey, OP, taught.
After attending classes in June and January for four years, Sister Lois worked on her doctoral project: a curriculum of 24 clock hours – eight three-hour sessions – on topics that wives of permanent deacon candidates would need to accept their new role as the spouse of an ordained minister.
By now, Sister Lois was ministering in the Diocese of Tucson. “I actually used the sessions as practice” in the Common Formation Program and implemented the curriculum in the studies of the Classes of 2017 and 2021, she said. “As I look back on it, one thing did lead to another and prepared me for the next step.”
Sister Lois’s years of ministry have given her a broader perspective of the Church. “Working in diocesan ministry for 30 years has kept me in touch with at least the U.S. Church,” she said. “My work in the diocese has continued to keep me open to the great diversity of our Church. In the Diocese of Tucson, you don’t just live it one way.”
Through her work overseeing the diocesan process to prepare for the Catholic Church’s global Synod on Synodality, Sister Lois confirmed that the people of the Diocese of Tucson experience “different areas, different communities, different prayer interests, and devotional life. The biggest thing is we’re a big Church, and there’s a lot of diversity out there.”
July 7, 2023, Kingstree, South Carolina – For 36 years, Sister Trina McCormick, OP, has had a profound, often transformational, effect on countless women religious and other spiritual seekers through the sabbatical programs she organized at Springbank Retreat: for Eco-Spirituality and the Arts.
She recently stepped down from the position of Executive Director and bears the title of Founding Director, granted by the board. In May, she was honored by family members, friends, staff, and board members, who feted her with an afternoon of tributes, gratitude, and music to celebrate Sister Trina and her ministry.
“It’s been a very good 36 years,” Sister Trina said. “I felt so honored and so appreciated, and it made me grateful for the privilege of being here and serving here. It tapped into all of my talents.”
Reflecting on her years at Springbank, Sister Trina noted that she has always kept the center’s Dominican roots. The center was given to Dominican Friars and established in 1961 and, in the 1970s, was involved in outreach to the local community, especially to the African American community. It closed in 1978 but reopened with the arrival of Adrian Dominican Sister Betty Condon, OP, and a group of Dominican Friars and Sisters.
Sister Trina and the late Sister Ursula Ording, OP (1934-2013), were living out their own dream of running a retreat center in Cohasset, Massachusetts, when their Chapter Prioress, Sister Ellen Robertson, OP, told them of the need for help at Springbank. “I didn’t want to leave Massachusetts, but we decided to look,” Sister Trina recalled. They began their new ministry at Springbank in 1986.
Sister Trina’s first role was to establish Springbank as a center for spirituality and the arts. “It was very important to me that it be a place of awareness of what’s happening to the planet and for people also to realize the vastness of the universe and the planet, and what brought us to today … It took 13.7 billion years for it to come into being.”
Sister Trina also served as Springbank’s Aesthetics Director, “designing the grounds and buildings, creating the schedule, creating the brochures,” and blazing trails in the woods. In addition, she taught painting and – after Sister Ursula’s death – took on teaching pottery and leading yoga and breathing practices. “My creative work was Springbank – Springbank was my canvas and my palette. [It] offers 80 acres of quiet beauty and warm hospitality.”
But while transforming the grounds of Springbank was important to Sister Trina, she was especially gratified by the transformation that took place in the Sisters who attended the sabbatical program over the years. “After the one-, two-, or three-month program, you see visible changes in women’s health and well-being,” she said. “People who are so worn out and tired from leadership [change] with movement, dance, and doing beautiful pottery.” A quote from one of the participants speaks to this transformation: “I came a broken sparrow and I’m leaving a soaring eagle.”
The sabbatical program includes a variety of speakers – in person or via Zoom – on topics such as the new cosmology, the relationship between art and spirituality, and dreams. In addition, participants have the opportunity to practice various forms of art, such as pottery, painting, and weaving and to participate in short retreats or times of reflection. Many of these programs are offered simultaneously to people from outside the sabbatical program.
Over the years, Sister Trina hired many of the Sisters who participated in the sabbatical program, since their time at Springbank allowed her to get to know them. Among them is Sister Anita, the current Executive Director. Sister Anita, who came from India, served for six years on the leadership team for her community, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), also known as the Loreto Sisters.
While Sister Trina sees her years at Springbank as a blessed time, she also spoke of some of the challenges she faced. “Probably the greatest challenge is the financial one, because you can’t charge [guests] what it takes to run this place – people wouldn’t be able to afford it,” she said. “You need to get grants and [send out] a bi-annual funding letter.”
She has also been challenged by hurricanes and ice storms. A 2016 hurricane was particularly devastating, breaking through a dam and flooding the wetlands. Through a grant from the Adrian Dominican Sisters Ministry Trust and from the Wheaton Franciscans, Springbank will begin the process of reclaiming the wetlands sanctuary and adding a gazebo.
Her years ministering at Springbank have taught Sister Trina never to lose heart or hope. She said she has also learned much from the speakers who were featured over the years. “I’ve learned that nothing beautiful ever hurries,” she said. “You can’t hurry it. You just nurture it along.”
“Things seem to come when we need it,” Sister Trina added. “I’ve always felt protected and guided by the Spirit, even when we’re going through these difficult times, and I’ve come to a place where I consult the Spirit at every moment.”
For information about the Sabbatical Program or programs offered to the public, call 843-382-9777 or 843-372-6311; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit https://springbankretreat.org.
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 Gross, OP, shortly after she began her 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 Gross, OP, with an assistant at Hope for 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 Gross, OP, with members of the spiritual direction team in Haina, Dominican Republic.
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.”