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March 15, 2022, Miami, Florida – Barry University played an important role in the life of Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP. She graduated from Barry College in 1962 and returned to spend most of her ministry there.
She served as Chief Student Life Officer from 1969 to 1978, was the founding Dean of the School of Professional and Career Education (PACE) from 1982 to 1986, and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs. She returned in 2004 to begin her 15-year tenure as President of Barry University.
Now, after her 2019 retirement from the presidency, Sister Linda is again serving the institution she has loved for so many years. As Founding Director of the Adrian Dominican Institute for Mission and Leadership (ADIML), her role is to help the Barry community understand and appreciate the heritage of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – Barry’s founders and sponsors – and Barry’s identity as a Catholic institution. She also works to instill a sense of the University’s Mission and Core Commitments and to foster an informed and committed lay leadership among Barry University’s faculty and staff.
The Barry University Board of Trustees created the Institute in June 2019 in honor of Sister Linda and her five predecessors, all Adrian Dominican Sisters: Mother M. Gerald Barry, OP (1940-1961); Mother M. Genevieve Weber, OP (1962-1963); Sister Dorothy Browne, OP (1963-1974); Sister M. Trinita Flood, OP (1974-1981); and Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, OP (1981-2004).
“With the engagement of Barry’s committed faculty, staff, administrators, and students, I trust that we will diligently ensure continuous infusion of Barry’s Mission and Core Commitments – Knowledge and Truth, Inclusive Community, Social Justice, and Collaborative Service – into all aspects of the University’s life,” Sister Linda said.
While she will work toward very idealistic goals, Sister Linda’s initial responsibilities were very practical and down-to-Earth: to create the Institute’s physical space with the help of the University’s interior designer/decorator and a team of staff members. The goal, Sister Linda said, was to “ensure that the space would be warm and welcoming, that it would include the necessary physical and technological resources to support individual and collective study and dialogue.”
Sister Linda’s plans for the ministry were changed with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. She arrived at the Institute in January 2020 to set up her office and to take part in the official ribbon-cutting and blessing in late February. The next week – March 2-6, 2020 – was Spring Break.
“Within a week of returning, on March 13, the University closed completely,” Sister Linda recalled. “We all started working from home on the 16th and classes went virtual a week later. So, my hopes to showcase the new space, host in-person gatherings, conversations, and study groups went the way of COVID.”
Now that the Barry community is open to in-person gatherings, Sister Linda welcomes various groups into the Institute’s space. “There is no typical day,” she said. “I welcome each day as it comes.”
Sister Linda’s days are indeed varied. She met with members of the women’s volleyball team to discuss women in leadership, her life as a Barry undergraduate and ministerial experiences, and met with the new Dean of the Andreas School of Business. She participates in the orientation of new faculty and staff members, speaking about the Adrian Dominican Congregation and its influence on Barry University’s Mission and Core Commitments.
On the first Friday of nearly every month, Sister Linda participates in a virtual coffee hour planned by Adrian Dominican Associates from Barry University. Because of the Institute’s location, Sister Linda is in daily contact with staff and students in the Office of Mission Engagement. “I am happy to support their student-focused mission integration and initiatives,” she said.
Sister Linda said her long history with Barry University well equips her to respond to written requests for information on the founding of the University and to serve as a resource for the Office of Alumni Affairs as it plans special events. “Most recently, I contacted women who graduated in 1971 and 1972, when I was Dean of Students, to ascertain their willingness to attend a Barry-sponsored event to commemorate their Golden Anniversary.”
Her years of involvement with Barry University also allow Sister Linda to serve as a connector within the University and in the local community. “Because I know the Barry community and Miami, I am also a resource for making connections to people and organizations,” she said. “I know to whom I can share information about resources or opportunities for financial assistance to further Barry’s impact.”
With all of her activities, Sister Linda still has her eye on the ultimate purpose of the Institute. “Whatever we do, as individuals or as an educational community, to foster and endow Mission education and integration has the potential to transform the University and ourselves,” she said. “Doing so will help ensure that Barry’s identity as a Catholic, Dominican university perdures, even amid a flowing stream of challenges to our well-being.”
March 27, 2020, San Rafael, California – At Dominican University of California, professional faculty members are not the only people who teach students and influence their lives. Sister Mary Soher, OP, as Director of Campus Ministry, and student leaders help the entire university community to understand the ideals of the Dominican Order, reach out to people in need, and become involved in social justice issues.
“I work with our student leaders to help our university community embrace and embody the Dominican ideals of study, reflection, community, and service,” Sister Mary said. “I’m learning how to advise and empower them so that they continue to grow as leaders in developing a variety of skills, amidst all their other responsibilities. I’m learning how to best support them and then together offering quality programming to their peers and to the university.”
An Adrian Dominican Sister, she is in her fourth year of service at Dominican University of California, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael.
Sister Mary and her team of students work to make members of the campus community aware of issues such as homelessness and hunger; coordinate Sunday liturgies, labyrinth walks, retreats, and a variety of activities; and support students in their challenges.
An ongoing project of Sister Mary and the student leaders is the Penguin Pantry, initiated in September 2018 that once a week offers students with a selection of produce, starches, protein, juices, and snacks from the SF-Marin Food Bank. “It’s totally run by students for the students and it’s become an opportunity for internships and capstone projects,” Sister Mary said. The students are now working with the food pantry’s government affairs manager, becoming involved in advocacy work.
Student leaders are also active in making their fellow students aware of the issue of homelessness. Sister Mary said, the student leaders recently collaborated with a local group that provides outreach to homeless youth to offer the students the opportunity to participate in a solidarity sleep-out.
“We sleep on the plaza using cardboard boxes and sleeping bags for protection,” she explained. The students do have some comforts – the availability of rest rooms and the knowledge that they can go back to their homes if they get too cold. Despite these advantages, Sister Mary said, the experience is one of solidarity with people who are homeless. “It’s being willing to experience for a night what other people have no choice but to experience,” she said.
Sister Mary also led an Alternative Spring Break that brought 10 students to the San Diego-Tijuana border to learn about immigration issues. During the March 7-14, 2020, trip, the students spent three days on each side of the border, learning about the issues and hearing from people who minister to immigrants – as well as from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Sister Mary’s ministry also involves supporting the students in their challenges. She pointed to financial insecurity as a major issue for many students. “There’s a lot of pressure that I think they put on themselves because many are first-generation in their family to go to college,” she explained. “They feel they have to be perfect.” Many also feel pressured by the idea of repaying student loans and feel the responsibility to be present to their family members at home.
Her work with the students is enhanced by the University community itself, which offers a supportive environment to the students, helping them deal with self-doubts and pressures. “The University is really trying to build a support system to help each student,” she said.
Sister Mary has learned a great deal from her ministry at Dominican University of California, such as developing her listening skills. In addition, she said, she has benefited from her service on the Board of Trustees of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. “I’m looking at higher education from the perspective of a board member and a member of the Congregation that founded it,” she said. “I see higher education from both ends,” both as a staff member and as a board member who must be concerned about the “hands-on experience of the daily operations of a university.”
Sister Mary said her years of serving in campus ministry have taught her to be present to the students in various activities. “I really believe in the ministry of presence – going to the sport events, the theater events, the academic presentations and being visible so that if a student needs someone to talk to they find me approachable,” she said. “Students come to college, some knowing exactly what they want to do and some not having a clue, and to be one other person to help reflect back to them what’s going on in their life is a humbling and an exciting ministry.”
July 30, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – Four years ago, Sister Sharon Spanbauer, OP, Nurse Practitioner, made a significant move – not in miles but in patients. She changed her ministry from treating retired Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Dominican Life Center (DLC) in Adrian to treating students in their late teens and early 20s at the neighboring Siena Heights University.
But whether treating retired Sisters with often complex medical conditions or young students with headaches or colds, Sister Sharon remains the caring nurse who focuses on healing her patients holistically. “Each person to whom I minister is the face of God,” she said.
Sister Sharon has been the Director of Health Services at Siena Heights University since 2015. During the school year, she runs a free, one-woman health clinic for the students, faculty, and staff members. “I’m here Monday to Friday, no appointment needed,” she said. “They come in and I assess them in the exam room and diagnose, and a lot of times I can treat them here with over-the-counter medications.” If a patient has a more complicated or a chronic illness, she said, she gives them “stop-gap care” and recommends that they have a primary health care provider in town.
Sister Sharon also gives TB tests for nursing students who must be tested before they begin clinical rotations, free flu shots, speaks to classes about health issues, and serves on Siena Heights University committees.
Sister Sharon said the most common complaints of her young patients are respiratory problems like colds or gastro-intestinal illnesses, but she has seen a wide variety of illnesses, including some cancer patients. She diagnosed one student with lymphoma. She also has surprising cases – such as the young man who had accidentally cut off the tip of his finger on the razor blade in his personal items kit. “I told him it would grow back and it did,” Sister Sharon recalled. “The human body is amazing.”
On a busy day, Sister Sharon said, she might see 10 patients. This gives her enough time to be thorough in her examinations. “I believe in examining and listening and really asking good questions, trying to understand who they are, what they’re studying, what their home life is like,” she said.
In addition, Sister Sharon gives her patients a listening ear, compassion, and healing, along with “a lot of information, some guidance, a lot of teaching,” she said. “Nobody comes here and sees me without coming out with some teaching. It’s the teacher in me.”
Sister Sharon enjoys her work with the students and finds them to be “very kind and thoughtful.” She added that she is “proud to work for a university that works so diligently to provide an education to those who might not otherwise have one. And I love the students. It’s just a joy, working with them and being able to use my skills in a really satisfying way.”
Sister Sharon said she also loved her ministry – from 2001 to 2014 – as a Nurse Practitioner with the Sisters at the Dominican Life Center. Typically, she said, the Sisters had “multiple diagnoses, multiple medications were far more complex, and required a level of rigor in my care of them,” she said. The clinic at Siena Heights University “is more relaxed – most of [the illnesses] are handled very simply.”
Like most Sisters, Sister Sharon began as a teacher. “I loved teaching and I loved my students, but I always wondered what in their life was happening that I knew nothing about,” she said. She yearned for a one-on-one ministry. In her search, Sister Sharon considered becoming a physician or a physical therapist, then decided to become a nurse practitioner after recalling her experience, while a novice, as a nursing assistant for the Sisters in the infirmary.
In 1989, Sister Sharon left her ministry as a chemistry teacher at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, Michigan, to earn her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Wayne State University through its “second career, second degree” program. “Anyone with a degree could get a degree in nursing in 14 months, paid for by Henry Ford Hospital,” she recalled. She completed her clinicals at Henry Ford and worked at that hospital as a registered nurse for three years, from 1990 to 1993. The requirement was two years. She then served as home health care nurse until 1995.
Sister Sharon earned her Nurse Practitioner degree from Michigan State University and went on to minister at Dillon Family Medicine, a large, busy clinic in Dillon, South Carolina, sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Sister Sharon has been pleased with her choice to minister as a nurse practitioner. “I’ve been so fortunate,” she said. “When I went to the DLC I got to shape my role because I was the first nurse practitioner in Adrian. Nobody could figure out what I was.” She helped the hospital and the local physicians to understand that nurse practitioners had the training and certification to write orders, order lab tests, and receive reports about their patients.
She said she would recommend nursing and serving as a nurse practitioner to anybody who is considering it. “I think nursing is the perfect profession for many people – male and female,” Sister Sharon said. “You can do clinical work, research, work in a doctor’s office, in a school, in a prison system – it’s endless what you can do with your specific gift. You can find your place in nursing. If you feel called to help others, nursing is a natural choice.”