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Sisters and Native Guests Celebrate Unity on Indigenous Peoples Day

October 11, 2018 Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and their special guests – Native Americans from the local area – celebrated unity and “oneness of heart” between indigenous peoples and the descendants of predominantly European immigrants on October 8 during a Liturgy marking Indigenous Peoples Day.

With this Liturgy, the Adrian Dominican Sisters and their guests joined 55 cities and five states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

“Columbus Day represents the violent history of the colonization of the Western Hemisphere,” explained Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation and a member of the planning committee. It is more fitting, she said, to recognize the indigenous peoples “who were here first and persevered and continue to share so much of their knowledge, culture, and understanding of our relationship to Earth and land.”

The liturgy reflected a spirit of joy and unity. After a welcome by Sister Susan Gardner, OP, Director of the Native American Apostolate for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, the names of six Adrian Dominican Sisters with Native blood and more than 50 Sisters and one Associate who have ministered with Native Americans in the United States and First Nations people in Canada were read.

- View a recording of the liturgy at the end of this article -

The liturgy also incorporated key elements of Native American spirituality. To the beat of Native American drums, Native guests and the Sisters who ministered with Native Americans and First Nations people processed into St. Catherine Chapel, following the cross carried by Sister Kathleen and the Eagle Staff – which can be carried only by combat veterans – carried by Art Robertson. Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP – a chaplain with the retired Sisters at the Dominican Life Center who has some Cherokee blood and who has ministered with Native Americans – prepared to smudge the Sisters and Native people in the procession. Similar to incense, smudging is a ritual that brings blessing and healing.


Left: Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP, prepares to smudge the assembly, an act of blessing and healing. Right: Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, accepts the smudging from Sister Mary Rae Waller.

The readings focused on right relationships among people. The first reading, read by Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, was an excerpt from an 1805 address by Chief Red Jacket of the Seneca Nation, imploring the white settlers of New York to respect the Native religions.  

Noting the challenge of the readings for people to “live in right relationship” with one another, Sister Mary Rae said that people have been slow to learn that lesson but that there are signs that people are beginning to listen. She spoke of manifestations of “deeper communities of the spirit” among descendants of European immigrants and Native American people.

“This manifestation overcomes the historical, racial inaccuracy embedded deeply in the fabric of American legal life and implicitly imposed within spiritual formation and human potential,” Sister Mary Rae said. These inaccuracies and prejudices were enshrined in the Doctrine of Discovery, principles of law articulated in the late 15th century but still used as precedent today that gave Christian European settlers the “right” to conquer lands in the Americas held by non-Christian natives.

But Sister Mary Rae focused on the transformation of understanding of many Americans. Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel from John read during the liturgy – that “all might be one” – is being answered today in part by Sisters who have ministered with Native American peoples.

Sister Mary Rae noted the “open-hearted” ministry of the Sisters who walked with their Native brothers and sisters and who were accepted in turn. “Sisters have been adopted, invested in, become part of the tribal community in which they were,” she said. “Where this transition and this transformation takes place is in the heart. You don’t have to wear beads. You don’t have to wear feathers. It’s in the way you live and breathe.”

Noting the unity of all as brothers and sisters, Sister Mary Rae added, “Some of us have been gifted as members of this community to be able to minister in this time and in these places that have been pushed aside and neglected, to be a sign of hope.”

The Native American spirit continued to be manifested throughout the liturgy. During the prayer of consecration – and particularly when the bread and wine were transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus – the drums continued beating, adding a unique sense of reverence to the prayer.

At the close of the liturgy, Sister Susan and Sister Marilee Ewing, OP – members of the planning committee along with Sisters Kathleen and Mary Rae – were presented with Native blankets in appreciation for their efforts to bring the communities together in worship.

In turn, Father James Hug, SJ, presider, thanked the Native guests for enhancing the celebration of the Eucharist. “You have truly helped us pray today in a deeper and more reverent way, and we thank you,” he said.

As the assembly processed from St. Catherine Chapel to the sound of drums, the joy of the experience continued as Sisters and guests spontaneously began a joyful circle dance around the chapel.

Participants at an afternoon session by Sister Susan, however, were reminded that the people of the United States and Canada still have a long way to go in accepting their Native sisters and brothers. Sister Sue spoke on the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery and of the boarding schools in the United States and Canada that attempted to force Native children to conform to the mainstream culture.

Indigenous Peoples Day Mass

Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, proclaims the words that Seneca Tribe Chief Red Jacket delivered at a 19th century council to discern the value of choosing one faith over another.

Indigenous Peoples Day Mass

From left, Sisters Suzanne Schreiber, OP, Esther Kennedy, OP, and Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, participate in a spontaneous, joyful circle dance around St. Catherine Chapel at the close of the Liturgy.

Feature photo at top: Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, and Art Robertson lead the procession out of St. Catherine Chapel at the end of the October 8 Indigenous Peoples Day Mass, followed by, from left, Sister Mary Rae Waller, OP; Father James Hug, SJ; and Sister Marilyn Winter, OP. Mr. Robertson carries the Eagle Staff, which can only be carried by a combat veteran.

Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Shares Blog about Traveling with Nuns on the Bus

Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Justice Coordinator for the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, both based in Milwaukee, will be riding for the first several days on NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus 2018 route, “On the Road to Mar-a-Lago.” Held for the past few years in the months before a national election, Nuns on the Bus is a program of Town Hall Meetings for Justice, visits to legislators, rallies, and site visits at local social service or justice advocacy agencies. This year’s goal is to “tell the truth about the Republican Tax Law and hold elected officials accountable for their votes.” The tour began October 7 with a pre-launch reception in Los Angeles and a kick-off rally the next morning in Santa Monica, California. Read Sister Durstyne’s daily blog of her experiences with Nuns on the Bus.

The Journey Ends with a Sense of Community

October 11, 2018

By Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

We began our day at the Human Services Campus, a 13-acre oasis on the edge of Phoenix. It is a place of hope for the hopeless and homeless – a city unto itself with complete wrap-around services. It is an awe-inspiring campus.

Services include a dental clinic with state-of-the-art equipment; a documentation service to secure birth certificates and other documents required to secure certain services; a 400-bed shelter for men and women; a post office; a job employment center; and an outdoor space where people can relax while preparing for their next appointment. The center also serves breakfast and lunch. The staff is dedicated to helping the clients to become whole again and to secure a better future for themselves.

The morning was so rich, we couldn’t stop talking about this innovative approach to serving the needs of this population.

We drove for two hours to meet with C.J. Karamargin, of the Tucson office of U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona). The meeting was pleasant but challenging as we tried to learn the reasoning of Rep. McSally’s votes on health insurance, which have jeopardized many of her constituents. We tried to determine how the tax policy has impacted the citizens of Tucson in other ways, but C.J. focused on increased construction of housing and increased job opportunities. We didn’t have time to ask him if these were affordable housing units or if the wages had been increased as well. 

Feeling somewhat dissatisfied, as he did, we found a small rally near our bus. There, we met with people from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who told us that they had visited Rep. McSally’s office more than 172 times. When they heard that the Nuns on the Bus were coming, they quickly rallied activists to come and support us as we were supporting them. They even brought a cooler of cold drinks for us to take on our journey. 

I am not from a union family, as my father owned his own bar in a little town with few employees. But my love for unions has grown since I met the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas and now the people of ACLU, who are working tirelessly for the benefit of their families now and into the future. It has been eye opening for me to learn what unions do and, most of all, the incredible community they create among themselves. 

This ideal of community is one of the most important messages of the Nuns on the Bus.  We are trying to communicate the message of “We the People” to whomever we meet. We cannot be a country of only individuals looking after our individual needs. We need to understand the significance of community. “We the People” together is what is going to make a difference. “We vote, we win” is my new slogan, thanks to these union workers.

After supper, we moved on to our last Town Hall in Tucson. The energy was unbelievable. More than 300 people came to experience the message of the Nuns on the Bus. The visual image of the impact of this tax policy helped them to understand the astronomical $1.9 trillion tax deficit, as well as the ways in which the wealthiest 1 percent of the population has benefited and continues to benefit under this new tax policy passed by the House.

The night ended with several conversations and the commitment by the participants to work for policy change in our country. Many signed the pledge cards and the bus. 

This was the last event of the first week of the Nuns on the Bus. I can’t put into exact words what the experience was like, but it was powerful. It was a time of community in all aspects, from prayer together first thing in the morning, to meals, rides, conversations, and sharing the message of hope for the country. Many of us did not know one another, but we became an incredible team of women with a stronger commitment to our pursuit for justice. 

The Nuns on the Bus picked up in Denver, Colorado, on Sunday, October 14, and will continue through several states to bring the message of hope that “We the People” can overcome this desperate time.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I am so privileged to have been a part of the Nuns on the Bus. Let us continue to pray for the women who will continue on to Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on November 2.

View more blogs and video of the 2018 Nuns on the Bus tour.

Town Hall Discussions on Issues and Solutions

October 10, 2018 

By Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

Today started out in the most unique fashion. At 9:30 a.m., we met up with hundreds of workers at the Culinary Workers Union headquarters for a pep rally unlike one I’ve ever experienced. The members all wore red T-shirts with symbols of their particular work and the slogan, “We Vote, We Win.” They also wore red hats, representing Local 226. The energy in the room was contagious. Teams of five sat at about 50 tables, folding, stuffing and preparing their work to go canvassing in the city. 

We Sisters, 10 in all, were assigned a team and began folding paper as well. I observed that our team was made up of people of different ages, all working together for the sake of the future for their families. This work was done with such joy and enthusiasm.

As we completed our work, we gathered into an assembly. The cheers and clapping began with great spirit and camaraderie – a form of community. Then our team captain led us to the grounds for a rally. A great variety of speakers focused on working for reasonable revenue for responsible programs: Sue Chinn, Organizer; Nohemi Torres, Organizing Director; Guadalupe Mariel, Deputy Political Organizer; Ra’Shanda Wesley; Maria Clara Balicanta; and Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, which organizes Nuns on the Bus.  

Then it was time to drive with my team and canvass the neighborhood. We walked door-to-door, ringing bells and knocking on doors. Most people did not answer; however, their dogs did. We did engage a couple of people in conversation on the issues and the candidates we are supporting.

At noon, we were on the bus again for a long drive to Phoenix, Arizona, where we met the people waiting for us at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. What a stunning setting for our enactment of the tax policy of 2017! The church sanctuary was a series of glass window walls looking toward the mountains in the background.

We began with a wonderful poem by the pastor as a way to introduce the Nuns on the Bus. Before we came into the sanctuary, the pastor informed us that his church had just received 104 immigrants who had been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that day. His church community will house the people and help them to get to their families somewhere in the United States. We were all inspired by their outreach and saddened for the overall treatment of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

This town hall featured some incredible conversation after our enactment of the tax policy. We heard stories of how the tax cuts have impacted health care insurance. A man stated that he is no longer eligible for Affordable Health Care and so he pays $1,200 a month for insurance. People noted that they are being denied medical coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

Another gentleman reported that the lack of housing is having a terrible impact in Flagstaff, where he lives. The university is expanding and taking out affordable housing as private corporations take on the oversight of all the available housing. The corporations are pushing residents out of their three-bedroom apartments so that students can live in them at a higher cost. The tax cuts have assisted developers, who receive tax-write-offs and refunds for keeping their housing vacant instead of renting their housing.

In general, the tax cuts have decreased the sense of community connections; people are feeling isolated from one another and craving connections with other like-minded folks.

The people are deeply concerned that education is becoming privatized. Some 75 percent of the corporations in Arizona pay only $50 in tax. The lower tax base impacts education. They are also concerned about voter suppression as the number of polling places has decreased from 200 to 73. Voter roster changes have been noted. The homeless people are being kicked out of the parks.

We then flipped the conversation to identify some solutions to the issues. Many of the people belong to groups like Indivisible and the Desert Progressives, groups that have developed a voter guide for the upcoming election.

Neighbors are beginning to reach out to neighbors. One woman – who had brought her teenage son to experience Catholic Advocacy – said that for four months she has been going out to 550 homes in her neighborhood to say hello and to get to know her neighbors.  She has been doing this for four months. She brings little gifts, such as seeds and fruit, and even taking neighbors to doctor’s appointments and shopping as needed. She believes that forming community among her neighbors is a first step to bring about tax policy change. “We need to teach big math like you did tonight,” she said. “We need not be afraid to ask for substantive information from our political appointees.”

The night ended on a high note as participants signed the Nuns on the Bus pledge cards and then signed the bus. 

We are now preparing for the evening and our last stop tomorrow at the Phoenix Human Services Center and then onto Tucson to lobby and hold another Town Hall for Justice.

Encounter with the Culinary Arts Union

October 9, 2018 

By Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

We began our day, October 9, in Southern California, gathered in a contemplative circle with local Sisters of St. Joseph. Our reflection centered on transformation. After breakfast we met with U.S. Representative Lou Correrá (D-46), of Santa Ana, California. He presented a citation to the Nuns on the Bus for their work and promised to work with us for the good of all.

At the Irvine, California, office of U.S. Representative Mimi Walters (R-45), we held a rally focused on the realities of struggling mothers and those who work on behalf of the vulnerable. All passionately spoke of the need for continued housing and care for those who desire a new life.

We packed into the bus again, eating our lunch as we traveled to Las Vegas. There, we met with members of the Culinary Workers Union – the largest corporation in Nevada, with more than 50,000 members from 173 countries. The experience was very moving. There is nothing like hearing from those who have learned the skill and art of negotiating their own future with their employers. The union has been successful in obtaining their contracts, winning by staggering percentages.

We quickly drove to Elizabeth Seaton Parish where we were greeted by Father Bede Wevita, the pastor. After a quick taco and fruit salad at the parish, we began our visual enactment of the Tax Cut and Jobs Policy of 2017, which gives more tax cuts to corporations. Through Nuns on the Bus, NETWORK hopes to spread the message that “the effects of this tax law will hurt families on the economic margins, and other vulnerable communities most.”

I was thrilled that two of my Adrian Dominican Sisters who minister in Henderson were able to join in the evening. Thank you, Sister Vicki Dalesandro and Sister Judy Nelson, for making the time to come say hello and experience the Nuns on the Bus. Your presence and support were so welcome.

We ended the night tired but grateful for those we met on the road, for their courage to share their stories with us, putting flesh on the realities of daily living and the struggle to move forward in hope. We will continue to share your stories as we go across the country, advocating for economic change and for reasonable revenue for responsive programs.

Visits and Meetings in Southern California

Monday, October 8, 2018

By Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP 

We began our day Monday, October 8, with a half hour of prayer and contemplation, reflecting on the Gospel of Luke and the question, “Who is my neighbor?” This was our theme all day. Who is my neighbor?  How is my neighbor being impacted by this 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Acts?

We were met in Santa Monica by a beautiful crowd walking along the Pacific Ocean and those who purposefully came to hear our speakers of the day, including U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Leader, and a new group called “the Littlest Lobbyists,” who advocate for children with complex medical needs. The speakers for the latter were a mother and her young daughter, now 11, who was born with a heart issue and, at the age of three months, had the first of 18 heart surgeries.

The presentations were powerful and very moving. Nancy Pelosi was impassioned by this tax cut policy that has only benefited the 1 percent wealthiest people in this country. The mother from Littlest Lobbyists voiced her concern that health insurance companies can now eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions like those her daughter has.

After our time along the ocean, we headed to our first site visit, Homeboy Industries, founded in Los Angeles in 1992 by Father Gregory Boyle, SJ. Homeboy Industries offers a number of services to at-risk men and women who had been incarcerated or involved in gangs. These services include social enterprises – including a bakery – which serve as job-training sites.

Christina, the head baker and mother of four boys, shared her difficult story of being shot once and stabbed twice. She had nothing and couldn’t get out of her difficult life situation. Through her new life at Homeboy, she is on another track. What an incredible spirit.

Although she used to give her children expensive gifts with money she’d made from her previous activities, she recently gave one son a Dallas Cowboys shirt and hat for his birthday. “I’m just glad you are who you are today,” he said in response. “This is the best birthday gift you could have given me.”

A Homeboy Industries client works with dough for the bakery, one of the agency’s social enterprises that help train people for employment.

                                        A representative of Homeboy Industries speaks about his experiences while Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice lobby, listens in the background.

We also met Janet, formerly incarcerated and now a caseworker at Homeboy, and her husband of one year, who spent 25 years in prison. They are a remarkable couple, committed to a new way of being in the world thanks to the intervention of Father Greg Boyle, who visits jails and prisons to invite the prisoners to come to Homeboy once they are released. It’s up to the individual to come see him, and the rest is a miracle of transformation and hope.

We stopped for a meal before we shared what we learned about the consequences of the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act during a Townhall for Justice at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. What a gift to be with this community of faith! Afterwards we gave the people large pens to sign the bus and write their messages to the world. The bus is now a sign that we are all on the bus, on a journey to justice.

Pre-Launch of Nuns on the Bus

Sunday, October 7, 2018, Feast of the Holy Rosary 

By Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, prepares to board the bus.

I began the day with early rising to prepare to fly to Los Angeles to meet up with the rest of my companions on the Nuns of the Bus journey. Sister Reg McKillip, OP, and I boarded the plane together from Milwaukee to LAX. We are both excited and a little anxious about this opportunity. We are not experts on the tax policies but we are learning.

We arrived and hopped on a shuttle to the hotel, where we were greeted by the NETWORK staff and advance team: Abbey, Colleen, Meg, Melissa, Catherine, Mike and Kelly. What a wonderful team, assisting us to get to the bus and to our first stop for orientation with Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK.

Ten of us Sisters are participating from all over the country – Pennsylvania; New York; Wisconsin; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Illinois; and California. We represent diverse charisms. Our orientation consisted of do’s and don’ts, as well as an enactment of our presentation tomorrow on The Tax bill.

Today was about getting on the right time zone and meeting one another. I only knew three of the women on the bus. The orientation was to deepen our knowledge of the tax policy. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

After a day of travel, meeting one another, adjusting to the time, and enjoying a lovely Middle Eastern dinner, it’s time to rest and prepare for our task these next four days.

Nuns on the Bus participants board the special bus for the 2018 route.

Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, is Justice Coordinator for the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, both based in Milwaukee, and former Director of the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for her own Congregation, the Adrian Dominican Sisters.




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