October 19, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Many think of the influence of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, as they strive daily to live out the Congregation’s Mission and Vision. But another group has also had a profoundly positive impact on the world: former Adrian Dominican Sisters. They may have left vowed life, but many continue to live out the Dominican spirituality and charism.
For the past 12 years, many former Adrian Dominican Sisters have renewed their connection to the Congregation and to each other through Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads, an organization of former Sisters founded by Associate Joan Ebbitt. The group has been meeting twice a year to discuss books or articles on spiritual themes, to pray together, and to renew the connection to the Congregation. Recent meetings have focused on the themes of loss and aging.
Joan had the idea of starting a group of former Adrian Dominican Sisters during a conversation about her longings to reconnect with the Congregation with then-Prioress Sister Donna Markham, OP. Sister Donna gave Joan addresses of 650 former Sisters, to whom Joan wrote, describing her own need for connection and encouraging them to contact her if they were interested in getting together.
“Through all these years, I have missed belonging to a community of women who challenge each other, support one another in difficult times, laugh together and cry with one another,” Joan wrote in the letter. “I have missed listening to new ideas, sharing edgy and tense moments that often unveil passionate beliefs and questions, and experiencing the abundance of hope that I believe is apparent when I spend time with Adrian Dominicans.”
More than 70 people responded to the letter, Joan recalled. “The first coming together was really a sharing of our stories and what had happened in the ensuring years since people had left the community.”
The women who gathered at the first meeting quickly felt comfortable with one another. “There was a strong thread holding us to our Dominican roots. So we started to refer to ourselves as crossing the threads with our Dominican roots and our Dominican Sisters who are still vowed members of the community.”
Joan and her companions named themselves Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads after reading the book Dominican Spirituality by Eric Borgman, with an Appendix by theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, in which Schillebeeckx noted the beauty that new threads bring to tapestries.
Joan describes the meetings as a time of heart-sharing. “It was sharing our spirituality, our sense of God, our connection with one another. It was mutual sharing from the very start.”
Kathy Hagemann Almaney joined the Congregation after being taught by Adrian Dominicans at Queen of Angels School in Chicago. “I felt the Adrian Dominicans had a joyfulness, a sense of life that I didn’t see in the other orders,” she explained. She left the Congregation after six years because of her desire for marriage and family life.
But her time as an Adrian Dominican Sister affected her throughout her life. In her human resources work, Kathy said she felt she could be a positive influence. “I really felt I had an opportunity to take what had been given to me [in the Congregation] and put it into practice.”
Now retired, Kathy serves on two boards for Christian Brothers, is active with Catholic Charities in Chicago, and chairs the Congregation’s Camilla Madden Charitable Trust, ensuring that retired Sisters have the funds they need to sustain them in retirement.
“There has never been a time when I haven’t felt close to Adrian, when I haven’t felt I could come back and feel welcome,” she said. “I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the way the Adrians have influenced my life and the decisions I’ve made.”
Martina Frugé O’Sullivan, who grew up in the Detroit inner-city parish of St. Teresa, said she entered the Congregation but left a few months later. Still, she said, she has been very much influenced by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She served for 23 years at Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz, California, sponsored by the Congregation, first as Director of Behavioral Health and then as Director of Community Engagement. “I was involved with the Adrian Dominican Sisters all through that ministry,” she recalled. “They’ve been a part of my life.”
Currently Martina serves as Vice President of the Board for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Monterey, California; on the Catholic Charities USA Board; and on the Development Committee for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Active in efforts against human trafficking, Martina noted that commitment to social justice has been a strong component of Adrian Dominican life.
Mary Jo Gras Alexander, a graduate of Hoban Dominican High School near Cleveland, was “extremely impressed” by the Adrian Dominican Sisters who taught her. After entering the Congregation and leaving, she studied psychology at the University of Detroit. Before attending graduate school, she taught for a year in Puerto Rico, where she was mentored by Sister Rosa Monique Peña, OP. She returned to the United States, where she taught in Catholic schools and was later involved in special education. She has also worked against human trafficking.
“The theology made all the difference in the world, and the Dominican spirit touched us all,” she said.
Betty Deutsch Harken never had Adrian Dominican Sisters in school, but was very much influenced by her aunt, the late Sister Cathryn Deutsch, OP. Betty entered the Congregation, stayed for four years, and later got married and worked for a railroad for 26 years. “I did not work in the Adrian Dominican realm, but I always carried what I am because of my years in the community,” she said. “I was certainly formed by that.”
After her children were grown, Betty moved to California, close to Sister Cathryn, and is now involved in the Ethics Committee at Dominican Hospital. “When we left the Dominican order, we did not leave Adrian behind,” Betty said. “We have continued with what we learned here and have brought it to the world.”
Adrian Dominican Sisters have been very supportive of Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads, Joan noted. Through the years, each General Council has named a liaison to the group. Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, is the current liaison and has attended two of the gatherings. Other Sisters have also attended out of friendship and a sense of connection.
The Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads membership includes 130 people: former Sisters, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, and people who are simply interested in making a spiritual connection with Dominican life.
“We’re open to people seeking to be connected to Dominican roots,” Joan explained. “They’re welcome to join us, as long as they have that desire to be connected to the Dominicans, specifically Adrian Dominicans.” Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads now meets on the third Saturday of May and September. Those interested in attending should contact Joan at email@example.com.
Joan noted that similar groups of former Sisters have gathered in Florida and Chicago.
Feature photo: Attending the September 16 gathering of Companions in the Dominican Crossthreads are: standing, from left, Sherry Goff, Carol Fowler, Carol Stokes-Measel, Joan Ebbitt, and Connie Meyer, and seated from left: Mary Sweet Rooney, Joyce Kamowski Hempen, and Paula Zimmer.
October 19, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – For the past year, an experimental program at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus coordinated fundraising efforts for three local organizations, while calling forth the creativity and generosity of Co-workers and Sisters on campus.
The newly formed ADSGives Committee led the campus in raising $2,242.34 for The Salvation Army in Adrian; $3,232 for Catherine Cobb, a domestic violence shelter for women and children; and $4,179.42 for Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County.
ADSGives is an adaptation of the campus’ longtime involvement in fundraising efforts for the local United Way. The total raised was comparable to previous United Way campaigns.
At the recommendation of the ADSGives Committee, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters approved the continuation of ADSGives and two changes for the coming year: Co-workers will be able to donate to ADSGives through payroll deduction, and the committee will concentrate fundraising efforts on two organizations. The recipients have not yet been selected, but Co-workers and Sisters will be part of the decision-making process by recommending local nonprofit agencies to support.
For the remainder of 2017, the committee has taken on two special projects: a Thanksgiving canned food drive for Associated Charities of Lenawee County and the traditional collection of hats, mittens, and scarves for children in Adrian.
Erin Dress, Director of Human Resources and Committee Co-chair with Gina Ku, Mailroom Office Assistant, said Co-workers are interested in ways they can be partners in Mission with the Sisters. “Because the Committee tied the fundraising efforts for local organizations to the Enactments of General Chapter 2016, they offered concrete ways for the Co-workers to see how their lives could make a difference,” Erin said. “We have made a direct connection between the treasures and talents of the Co-workers and the needs of the people of Lenawee County.”
Along with generosity, the fundraising efforts called on the creativity and sense of community of the Co-workers and Sisters on campus. Events included the ever-popular Jeans Day in which Co-workers purchased the privilege to wear jeans to work on Fridays, raffle drawings, a lemonade and cookie sale, and a socks and underwear drive for people living at Catherine Cobb.
A recent effort for Habitat for Humanity perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of ADSGives. In late August and early September, the Committee invited Sisters and Co-workers on the Motherhouse and Siena Heights University campuses to buy a rose that would be delivered to someone on either campus. With the help of a local business sponsor and at-cost purchasing from the florist, the $3 donation for each delivery went directly to Habitat for Humanity. The 650 roses purchased – far exceeding the committee’s goal of 300 – brought great joy to the recipients and benefited clients of Habitat for Humanity. Every Sister and many Co-workers on campus ended up receiving a rose that day.
“The energy on campus that day was reflective of the Dominican charism and the Dominican spirit of the Co-workers,” Erin said. “I’m constantly in awe of the generosity on campus, not only of the Sisters but of the Co-workers.”
In addition, Co-workers and Sisters have responded to fundraising drives and collections that have met immediate needs. Most recently, they donated $2,030 and 13 gift cards to a health camp for local migrant workers. In addition, for more than 25 years, Co-workers and Sisters have donated hats, mittens, and scarves around Christmas to help children from low-income families stay warm during the winter.
Co-workers at the Motherhouse have also gotten into the habit of saving and bringing in small items that can be used to benefit others. For example, they have brought in plastic lids of all sizes, which are melted down to create benches for school playgrounds. They have collected plastic grocery bags, which are used to create mats for people who are homeless.
The various charitable outreach programs have helped to foster a spirit of giving and of empathy among Co-workers, Gina said. “Some of the Co-workers might have been in those shoes before: of not knowing where that next meal will come from or that next $50 to put into the gas tank.” Even for Co-workers who have not been in that situation, the plight of the people they are serving “hits home,” Gina said.
Gina said she receives a special benefit from serving on the committee. “I’m in the action,” she said. “I’m able to give suggestions and help with activities, giving back to the community. You can’t necessarily do that on a daily basis with your work life and your family life, but being on the committee, I can do something – whether donating or choosing which organizations we give to.”
Feature photo: Members of the ADSGives committee present a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County. Also pictured are representatives from Flowers & Such and RE/MAX Main Street Realty who assisted in the rose sale.