April 12, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – Ashley Stegg, a Co-worker who works in the Finance Office at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, recently won a victory for her daughter and other children facing special needs. After three years of persistent effort on her part, the Meijer grocery and department store in Adrian now has a special cart on hand for children who would otherwise outgrow the seat in a typical grocery cart.
Thanks to this new development, Ashley can now take Sophie, her five-year-old daughter, to the grocery store – without having to worry about pushing a grocery cart and a wheelchair at the same time. “As a parent of a child with special needs, you have to make [grocery shopping] an event,” Ashley explained. “I can bring her out into the community, because that’s what she really likes.”
For more information about the cart and how she persuaded Meijer to provide it for her and other families, watch the local coverage by WTOL in Toledo.
Sophie is one of only about 300 people in the world who suffer from Mowat-Wilson Syndrome. Developmentally, Ashley explained, Sophie will always be at a low age-range. At the age of five, she still cannot walk or talk, but Ashley believes that she will eventually develop these skills. “We have to let her set the pace,” she explained.
Mowat-Wilson Syndrome can also cause serious physical problems. Sophie has already undergone open-heart surgery, heart cauterizations, and intestinal surgery, but she still faces the problem of unpredictable seizures. “Once everything else is corrected, if you can get the seizures under control, kids and adults [with Mowat-Wilson Syndrome] usually lead pretty healthy lives.”
While raising Sophie entails challenges and worries, Ashley said that Sophie also brings blessings to her and her husband. “She changes the hearts of everybody she comes into contact with,” Ashley explained. “You can’t be around her and feel that she is not truly a child of God. She’s happy 95 percent of the time, an there’s this innocence that she’ll always have, that nobody can take away.” Sophie also loves people, shares laughter, and enjoys clapping and kicking balls.
Ashley encourages others who come into contact with Sophie not to be afraid to ask questions. “Let your kid come up to me and say, ‘Why does your daughter have braces on her feet?’ because it’s going to make us a more compassionate people, and I think that’s what we need.”
Ashley also believes that her daughter will help to make the world a better place. “Sophie’s going to change the world one heart at a time,” she said. “It’s already happening and she just turned five.”
April 11, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – In a ritual that resonated with the joy of Easter and new life, Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, professed her first vows with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Liturgy – attended by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates and Sister Marilín’s family members and friends – took place April 10 in St. Catherine Chapel at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, Director of Formation, welcomed Sisters and special guests from Adrian and Detroit, and from as far away as Chicago, Minnesota, and the Dominican Republic, as well as family members who attended or who were to watch via live stream.
A member of the Adrian Dominican Congregation from 1988 to 1995, Sister Marilín entered the discernment process for Readmission on August 8, 2015, the Feast of St. Dominic. A native of the province of La Habana in Cuba and an only child, she immigrated to the United States at the age of six with her parents, Nancy and Ricardo Llanes.
Sister Marilín grew up in the Miami area and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Barry University, sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She also holds a master’s degree in counseling from St. Mary’s University and a graduate degree in school psychology from Trinity University, both in San Antonio, Texas. After serving as a school psychologist in the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, since 2004, she now brings that ministry to the Joliet, Illinois, School District.
After the readings, Sister Elise García, OP, offered a reflection on the call to follow Jesus – a call not only to Sister Marilín but to all who have “chosen to follow the way of Jesus through a vowed commitment to religious life.” Those in religious life are called to live a “communal way of the early disciples” and to live so that others may have the abundant life followed by Jesus. “It is a continuous self-emptying and dispossession,” she said. She held up as an example the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, who are “living that dispossession in ways that we can hardly imagine”: as refugees, living in a community of refugees in Northern Iraq and striving to spread the good news of the Resurrection in a worn-out community.
Sister Elise, communications director for the Adrian Dominican Congregation, noted the “ever-more radical and counter-cultural response” of religious life today in a world filled with violence, hatred, “economic hardship and environmental devastation.” Those who choose religious life today, she said, are “responding with a clear-eyed awareness” of the greater global challenges in the world and the smaller numbers in religious life.
Sister Elise noted that impact that Sister Marilín had had on her when they first met 25 years ago. “Marilín’s generous sharing of her vocation was one of the guiding lights that illuminated my path,” she said. “How wondrous that today, in the slow work of God from all eternity, our paths should come together again at this joyful moment!”
During the Rite of Profession, Sister Attracta formally questioned Sister Marilín on her willingness to “unite [herself] more closely to God by a bond of religious profession,” live a life of charity, and “center [her] ministerial activity in contemplation.” Sister Marilín then stated her intent to “enter into a deeper commitment with my loving God and my dear Adrian Dominican Sisters” and invited the Holy Spirit to “create in me a clear, open, strong, full, and joy-filled heart.”
After lying prostrate during the singing of the Litany of Dominican Saints, Sister Marilín professed her vow, promising obedience to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Dominic, and Sister Attracta and her lawful successors, “according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitution of the Sisters of St. Dominic of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary.” The Rite continued with the presentation of the Congregation logo to Sister Marilín and the signing of the profession documents by Sister Marilín, Sister Attracta, and Sister Marilín’s two witnesses: Sisters Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, and Rosa Monique Peṅa, OP.
“I am delighted to affirm your profession as a Dominican Sister of Adrian,” Sister Attracta said. “The profession by which you vow your future to God is a confirmation of the acceptance of a call received in faith. It strengthens your attachment to God as the first and most important in your life. Our entire Congregation is truly blessed to share faith and life with you.”
Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, First Vows