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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 2, 2022, St. Louis, Missouri – Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP, PhD, has made a home for herself as Associate Professor of Theology and Preaching at the Dominican graduate school, Aquinas Institute of Theology. Her wide-ranging ministry involves teaching at the master’s and doctorate level; teaching deacon candidates from the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola, Florida; working with doctoral candidates on their thesis projects; serving as a reader for master’s level theses; and working on committees.
Sister Sara has been teaching at Aquinas for four years but experienced the college earlier as a master’s student. Since then, she earned her PhD at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, and taught for 20 years at Barry University in Miami – sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – before returning to Aquinas.
As Associate Professor of Theology, Sister Sara teaches a number of courses, including Foundations of Preaching, Ecclesiology, Christology, Theology of Preaching, and Core Homiletic Seminars. She also teaches one-credit courses for the Diaconate Program.
Much of Sister Sara’s time is spent in the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Preaching Program, directed by Father Gregory Heille, OP, DMin. The two work closely with the doctoral candidates, teaching the courses – often team-teaching – and dividing the thesis projects. They guide the doctoral students through the process of writing the proposal, defending it, and writing it.
The current 47 DMin students are unique and diverse. Many are seasoned ministers – Catholic priests and deacons, Protestant minsters, lay women, and lay ecclesial ministers, Sister Sara said. Because of their full-time ministries, the DMin students typically take online courses, often with a week in residence at Aquinas.
“Right now, we have 25 who are actively in course with us and a number that are at a different phase,” Sister Sara explained. DMin students at Aquinas are required to take two courses at a different institution on topics related to their thesis project, such as psychology, human development, racism or feminism, she said.
Sister Sara finds diversity not only in the programs she ministers in but in the types of courses she teaches. “When you’re teaching systematic theology, it’s a lot of theoretical research to prepare for the classes,” she explained. “When you’re teaching preaching, you are more involved in teaching effective homiletical practices and coaching students to learn by doing.”
Still, she added, preaching requires solid, practical theology. “Good theology does strengthen your preaching, but it has to be more than theology,” she said. “It’s knowing Scripture and theology but also knowing your audience and trying to connect the Gospel message to people’s lives.”
Through it all, Sister Sara brings her love for God, her students, the Dominican family, and learning. “I really enjoy the students,” she said. She finds joy in “working with committed ministers who want to know more about the faith so they can give it to others. I love working with preachers in making their preaching more effective and more alive and connected to people’s lives. …I love the process, both at the doctorate and the master’s level, and I really enjoy directing all these theses because I learn so much from them.”
Although her ministry is demanding and varied, Sister Sara leads a balanced life. She lives in an apartment building shared by six Sisters of Mercy, who form community with her. Every Sunday they have prayer and dinner together. Also, on Sundays, her day off, she typically spends a couple of hours at Forest Park in St. Louis.
Sister Sara was drawn to theology through her love for God. She fell in love with God before entering the Adrian Dominican Congregation. “I wanted to develop my relationship with God, and studying theology is part of that for me, but I’m also a teacher by temperament,” she said. She had served in other ministries – campus ministry, elementary education, and social work, as well as vocations ministry for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “But I knew that teaching really is what I enjoy doing and what I have the gifts and talents to do.”
She encouraged others who are considering a call to listen to their hearts. “Love what you do,” she said. “If you love what you do, you’ll do it well. It’ll nurture you and renew you.”
For her part, Sister Sara has found a good sense of community at Aquinas Institute. “There’s a good morale in terms of faculty and staff getting along well and working together,” she said. “If you enjoy learning, it’s fun to be part of a learning community and to support students in their educational development.” Through my ministry at Aquinas, I continue to challenge our Church to recognize the importance of the role of women in every aspect of Church life and ministry, including every dimension of the Church’s preaching ministry.
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.”