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Dominican Midwest Spring Assembly Focuses on 15th Century Doctrine of Discovery

By Sister Kathy Klingen

May 18, 2016, Chicago – Seventy Sisters in the Dominican Midwest Chapter came together April 30 at the Mercy Meeting Place in Chicago for the optional Spring Gathering to share personal stories from ministry with the American indigenous peoples; study the history of papal bulls that relegated Indians to the margins in the United States; and ask themselves, “What can we do?”

Sisters Sue Gardner, JoAnn Fleischaker, and Ellen Kennedy shared tangible artifacts, prayer, and stories of their experiences with the Indian tribes. Other Sisters in the Chapter have also ministered among tribes in the United States and Canada, notably Sister Joyce Rybarczyk, who served in Watersmeet, Michigan, for more than 40 years, and Sister Kathleen Walli, who lived and ministered with the Menomonee Indians in upper Michigan for 14 years. 

Artifacts from Sisters’ experiences of ministering with Native Americans. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman

The injustices to children in boarding schools, parents and their sacred prayers cannot be forgotten. With incredible knowledge and wisdom, Sister Anele Heiges spoke of the “Papal Bulls from 1452, 1453, and 1493, which authorized only Christian monarchies as sovereign, and encouraged them to vanquish and place in perpetual slavery/servitude any heathens, pagans and other non-Christians and bring them under Church dominion.  The papacy authorized military conquest to assist conversion to Christianity.”  

As of 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acknowledges many rights, yet is not explicit on sovereignty issues, Sister Anele said. Therefore, indigenous leaders want Pope Francis to rescind the Bulls that justify imperialism.  

Sister Kathy Nolan, Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Global Mission, Justice, and Peace, shared a petition being circulated by the Romero Institute, asking Pope Francis to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery.  

Sister Kathy Klingen, OP, Chapter Prioress, leads the assembly in a ritual. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman

“The Doctrine of Discovery, issued as three 15th-century papal bulls, continues to adversely dictate policy decisions directed towards indigenous peoples and their land,” Sister Kathy said. “This doctrine, created centuries ago, still acts as both the spiritual and legal endorsement of the exploitation and slaughters of Indigenous peoples, and the justification for imperialist economic ventures.”

A petition by the Romero Institute calls for the revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery. The petition reads, “We respectfully ask you, Pope Francis, to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, which vested moral and spiritual authority in Colonial powers to brutally and violently conquer Indigenous lands.”   

Article Submitted by Sister Kathy Klingen, OP

Feature photo: Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, shares her experiences of ministering with American Indians. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman


Siena Heights Bestows Honorary Doctorate on Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP

May 11, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, Director of Ecology for Dignity Health, a system of health-care providers in the Western states, received an honorary doctorate from Siena Heights University May 7 during the first of the university’s three commencement exercises. 

Sister Mary Ellen received the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, “in gratitude for [her] ability to meld the values of care for Earth with care for those who suffer and for [her] work to expand those values in our world,” said Sister Sharon Weber, OP, Vice President for Academic Affairs, in making the presentation.

A high school French teacher for 20 years, Sister Mary Ellen earned a master’s degree in ecology from the University of Illinois in 1995 and became the Director of Ecology at Dignity Health, headquartered in San Francisco, California. Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and St. Rose Dominican, based in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, are both sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and both part of Dignity Health.

In her work at Dominican Hospital and Dignity Health, Sister Mary Ellen “has developed and led strategic, system-wide and facility specific plans to ensure business operations support sustainability while reducing operating costs through efficient use of resources,” Sister Sharon said.   

Sister Mary Ellen poses with her sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Jim Ruppe, who came from Ohio to share the celebration with her.

Sister Mary Ellen has overseen special sustainability projects for the 39-hospital health care system. These projects included mercury elimination, energy retrofits, and joining the Climate Registry to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of Dignity Health hospitals. In addition, Sister Mary Ellen has helped the system to focus on safer chemicals and products, healthy food, leaner energy, and less waste. She has also been instrumental in the establishment of a 9,000 square foot organic garden on the property of Dominican Hospital. 

In addition, Sister Mary Ellen’s influence and connections and the size of Dignity Health have persuaded companies who want to do business with the health care system to “design products and processes that are less toxic, cause less waste, and area healthier for their patients, their families, and the communities they serve.”

Sister Mary Ellen said she accepted the honorary doctorate with a great sense of gratitude to Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights, and the entire Siena Heights community, as well as the Adrian Dominican Sisters and her family, friends, and colleagues. She expressed the feeling that “we’re all in this together” and that the miles between our institutions – health care and education – dissolve because our hearts and minds are connected.”

“This is a true honor because of what you, Siena Heights University, stand for: assisting people to become more competent, purposeful, and ethical through a teaching environment which respects the dignity of all,” Sister Mary Ellen said. “There’s so much that unites this university and our hospitals. One of the values we share is dignity. We see it as respecting the inherent value and worth of each and every person and helping them to lead healthy, meaningful lives.”

Sister Mary Ellen said she shares this recognition with Dignity Health and with the four member hospitals of Dignity Health [Dominican and the three campuses of St. Rose Dominican] sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

 

Feature photo: Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, right, turns to smile at Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights, during graduation ceremonies on May 7th. Photo Courtesy of Siena Heights University


 

 

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