February 23, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Racism and prejudice, on both the personal and systemic level, are difficult issues for many people to address in their own lives. But 10 Siena Heights University students – five men and five women, some African-American and some Caucasian – gave fellow students, faculty, and administrators, and Adrian Dominican Sisters, an enjoyable way to explore the issue.
In the presentation, “Culture Shock,” hosted at Siena Heights’ Rueckert Hall January 31, the student volunteers gave their appreciative and engaged audience an honest look at how they view others. The students – hypnotized by Dimondale, Michigan, expert Chuck King – acted out their unconscious views of other races, genders, and sexual orientation, and of those with physical disabilities.
The program was sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters; the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity at Siena Heights, whose goal is to eliminate prejudice in daily life; and the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, directed by Sharese Mathis.
Culture Shock has been presented since 2006 in almost 40 states, in large and small institutions. The program was started by students who moved from Detroit to Grand Valley State University where they dealt with their own “culture shock” in the predominantly white culture of the area.
The humorous evening revealed that the students, for the most part, felt accepted at Siena Heights. But it also helped members of both the Siena Heights and the Adrian Dominican campuses to explore their personal challenges in a diverse world.
The day after the event, students and Sisters gathered on two separate occasions to discuss what they had learned from Culture Shock.
“Experience is one thing, but reflecting on the experience and sharing it really helps us to grow,” said Sister Mary Priniski, OP, one of the organizers of the January 31 program.
Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP, said this emphasis on exploring racism and diversity began years ago when a group of Sisters discussed the topic during a Chapter meeting. Since then, diversity and racism became an initiative of the Adrian Crossroads Chapter, based in Adrian, Michigan. The issue also fits well with the Enactments approved by delegates to the 2016 General Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Hopes are for the discussions between students and Sisters to continue. Sister Marilyn noted that the issue of racism can be explored and discussed in a variety of ways by Sisters and concerned citizens throughout the country, and that it’s important to keep the discussion going in any way possible.
“Systemic racism – how do we get at that?” Sister Marilyn said. “Put me in a group of people, and if I’m willing to admit to it and speak about it, then that’s one way that we can begin to wear it down.”
Feature photo: Sisters Esther Kennedy, OP, (second from right) and Annette Sinagra, OP, take part in a discussion with Siena Heights University students the day after the “Culture Shock” presentation.
January 19, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates were among hundreds of other concerned citizens to gather for half an hour of prayer on January 15 for peace and unity prior to the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The simultaneous half-hour of prayer and holding of hands took place in some 22 states, as well as foreign countries such as Australia and Guam.
Adrian Dominicans witnessed in prayer and silence through “Circle the Cities with Love” in front of Madden Hall and Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan; the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Key West, Florida.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, said she first heard about “Circle the Cities with Love” through one of the Justice Promoters at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The initiative was first organized by the Congregation of St. Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio, at the time of the Democratic National Convention last summer and was resurrected in January to offer prayer for a peaceful inauguration.
Sister Kathy worked with Siena Heights University, The Sunnyside Peace and Justice Center, and the Lenawee County Interfaith Alliance to organize “Circle the Cities with Love” in Adrian. As a result, some 72 Sisters, Associates, and local residents gathered in front of Madden Hall and Siena Heights University to hold hands and pray in silence.
Sister Kathy said she felt moved to organize “Circle the Cities with Love” in Adrian because it sends a message consistent with that of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council in a letter they had written to Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates after the election:
“[The Enactments of General Chapter 2016] call us to be signs of [the] life-giving work of God in our midst, especially among those who might read the results of this election as a condemnation – our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Mexican neighbors, immigrants who have long called this country home, women victimized by sexual assault, people with disabilities. … This election calls on us to reach out to friends and neighbors, who responded to the message for change but do not endorse the ugly speech of the campaigns, in our common cause to improve the lives and well-being of all our people. Let us manifest our unshakable belief in the power of peace, non-violence, and the possibility of creating resilient communities.”
“I believe in the power of prayer,” Sister Kathy said. “We are Dominicans. We are preachers, and one of the ways that we preach is with our actions.” She added “Circle the Cities with Love” was a “preaching to our community – our Adrian-Lenawee County community. We have hope for the future and we believe in the goodness of people to come together and to stand up for peace and reconciliation.”
Sister Anne Beauvais, OP – one of five Adrian Dominican Sisters to participate in “Circle the Cities with Love” in Illinois – also saw her prayer and participation as a way to preach peace. “I was very proud to be there,” she said. “It felt like we were giving witness to something we believe in.”
Sister Anne saw a special relevance in the timing of the event. “With all the terrible rhetoric you see around us … we could pray that people will accept this and make the best of the situation,” she said. “It was a sign of unity, that we could get the best outcome possible.”
Along with some 50 to 60 people who stood in prayer in front of the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Anne said, the chapel was filled with Sisters who could not stand outside but who prayed in unity with the others.
Sister Patricia Erickson, OP, said she heard about “Circle the Cities with Love” from Sister Kathy and discovered that the event was being held near her, in Key West, Florida. The group consisted only of Sister Pat and the convener and her spouse who gathered in front of the Key West court house.
“Standing in silence heightened my sense of hearing … the myriad languages spoken by people passing in front of us, the roosters crowing, the bells on the bike Lorries, the children playing on the lawn in front of the court house,” Sister Pat said. “As I stood there, I looked at every person passing by, thinking what a wonderful world this would be if there was true peace and respect for everyone.”
Other women religious also took part in “Circle the Cities with Love.” Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, peace and justice director for the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, helped to organize “Circle the Cities with Love” for that community.
Feature photo: Some of the 72 participants in Adrian’s Circle the Cities with Love pray in silence in front of Madden Hall at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.