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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 email@example.com; or visit https://springbankretreat.org.
February 6, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – For Sister Carleen Maly, OP, education and the Adrian Dominican Sisters go hand-in-hand – from being taught by them as an eighth-grader to her past 15 years of ministry as Director of Adrian Rea Literacy Center, located at the Motherhouse.
A native of Detroit, Sister Carleen moved with her family to nearby Clawson, Michigan, when she was going into the eighth grade. “I thought my life had ended,” she said, “but the move to Clawson was one of the most wonderful things that could have happened in my life because that was the first and only time I had Adrian Dominican Sisters [as teachers].” She was struck by the joy of the Sisters and by their obvious love of teaching.
During her high school years, Sister Carleen never forgot the Adrian Dominican Sisters at Guardian Angels School. She frequently stopped in to visit, especially to see Sister Patricia Marie O’Rourke, Principal.
Her thoughts again turned to the Adrian Dominican Sisters during a retreat in her senior year of high school. “It was during that weekend that I had time for prayer and talks about our life choices,” Sister Carleen recalled. “I really felt a strong urge in that time of prayer to follow through with talking with one of our Sisters about entering the Congregation.” After frequent talks with Sister Patricia Marie, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in September 1959 with two classmates from eighth grade: Kathleen Voss, OP, and the late Gail Singel, OP.
Much to her surprise, Sister Carleen had an early experience of teaching when, in December of her postulant year, she was assigned to teach a fifth- and sixth-grade class at Sacred Heart School in Caro, Michigan, for the second semester. With the help of the other Sisters at the school, Sister Carleen made it through the semester. She learned from this and later experiences that teaching junior high school student was a “good fit” for her.
After profession, Sister Carleen taught at schools in Michigan and in the Dominican Republic. She later returned to the Dominican Republic with four other Sisters to start Centro Educacional de Bonao in the remote area of Bonao. The school was founded by a Canadian mining company to teach the children of the company’s workers. “We had people from 15 countries represented in the school,” with a complete Spanish track and a complete English track, she recalled.
From there, Sister Carleen went on to serve in pastoral ministry at two parishes in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, and, in 1994, was elected to a six-year term as Chapter Prioress (Provincial) of the Florida Mission Chapter. Returning to Michigan to be closer to her mother, Sister Carleen worked with Sister Marie Damian Schoenlein, OP, Director of the Dominican Literacy Center in Detroit. After serving as Director of Vocation Outreach for three years, Sister Carleen was asked by Sister Marie Damian to help her start the Adrian Rea Literacy Center. Sister Marie Damian served as Director for one year and turned the ministry over to Sister Carleen.
As Director of Adrian Rea, Sister Carleen finds joy daily. “The joys are knowing that we are able to change people’s lives because we give them the gift of being able to read and write and speak in English,” she said. “In the course of our 15 years, we have tutored close to 1,500 learners with 1,200 tutors – all individualized tutoring,” Sister Carleen said. Currently, about 72 pairings come to Adrian Rea each week. About 90 percent of the learners are studying English as a second language.
Sister Carleen and the literacy center’s volunteer tutors work with many people who are at the lowest literacy rate. “They may have had some education in their country of origin,” she said. “A handful would have gone on to high school or college, but many reported that their highest was third grade in their country of origin.”
Sister Carleen also finds her own joy when seeing the tutors’ joy as they help their learners to meet personal goals: communicating with their children’s teachers and doctors, helping their children with homework, and finding a better job.
She feels especially blessed when the adult learners become citizens with the help of their tutors – and often with the help of the Congregation’s Immigration Assistance Office, directed by Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney.
“Our Congregation has committed to helping people through an onsite place where they can seek a consultation and information about their immigration status to see if there is an opportunity to apply for citizenship,” Sister Carleen explained. “What we do in partnership is ask that the tutors help the learners study the 100 questions involved in the citizenship test.”
Whatever the learners’ goals might be, Sister Carleen has committed to providing a safe place and a “welcoming environment” in which they can work toward those goals. “It’s difficult enough for adults who are embarrassed, especially for people whose first language is English,” she said. “We welcome everyone and I would say that that’s the atmosphere. It’s a relaxed atmosphere but a place of business, a place of learning.”