December 28, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – As we continue the Season of Christmas and head toward New Year, we also take time to look back at the past year and remember the highlights. For the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, 2018 was a year of many challenges, triumphs, and sorrows. Below are the highlights of the year as found in the “What’s Happening” news section of our website and chosen members of the Communications Department.
Corporate Responsibility – accountability to gun manufacturers and dealers
Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates were involved in the national efforts to halt gun violence in the United States. While many Sisters and Associates participated in marches against gun violence, people of faith in corporate responsibility organizations took a different approach. Sister Judy Byron, OP, helped to organize religious communities in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to buy stock in gun manufacturers and dealers. Through shareholder resolutions, they scored a victory in persuading American Outdoor Brands, the parent company of Smith and Wesson, and Sturm Ruger to be more transparent and to work toward gun safety.
Action on Behalf of Dreamers and Immigrants
As policies on immigrants were debated or enacted, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates advocated on the immigrants’ behalf. Actions included participation in a February 26 call-in to urge Congress to enact legislation to extend the option for Dreamers to defer deportation; took part in the Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers; and submitted comments to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services against a proposed policy that would make it harder for immigrants to become citizens. Toward the end of the year, Sisters volunteered at hospitality centers in Texas, working with immigrants who had been released from detention and were on their way to sponsored homes in the United States.
Farewell to Former Prioresses
The Congregation mourned the loss of two women who had served as Prioress of the Congregation: Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP (1968 to 1978), who died on April 17, 2018, and Sister Janet Capone, OP (1998-2004), who died on July 29, 20018.
Sisters and Associates represented the Congregation at a number of major justice advocacy events throughout the year, including Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice; the Walk for Life in the Philippines, protesting the extra-judicial killings of accused drug dealers and users; Encounter at the Border, the annual action of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch; and the Parliament of World Religions. Individual Sisters and Associates continued to be involved in justice ministry in a number of ways. Sister Lois Paha, OP, led a delegation of 50 Hispanic parishioners from the Diocese of Tucson to the Fifth National Encuentro, focusing on ways that the Catholic Church can be more responsive to the needs of Hispanic Catholics. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, spent days on NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus in the days before the election, helping voters throughout the United States to understand issues of economic justice.
Looking to the Future
In August, Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States, and invited Sisters from other U.S. Dominican Congregations, all 65 and under, gathered in Adrian to deepen their relationships and to look ahead to the future. A highlight of the gathering was the First Profession of Vows of Sister Katherine Frazier, OP. Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, was named to serve the core team of Giving Voice, an organization for Catholic Sisters 50 and younger. The Congregation welcomed several new Associates – lay women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to live out the mission and vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – from Florida and the Dominican Republic in April; from Adrian during Partners VI, the annual summer gathering of Associates in August; and from Chicago in October.
The Congregation collaborated with and hosted other members of the national and worldwide Dominican family: Friars, contemplative nuns, apostolic Sisters, Laity, Associates, and members of established Dominican organizations. Sisters Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, along with Gloria Escalona, of the Dominican Laity, formed a delegation of U.S. Dominican women to visit the Dominican Sisters of the St. Catherine of Siena Congregation of Iraq after they returned to their demolished and damaged homes and convents on the Nineveh Plain. Sister Margarita Ruiz, OP, collaborated with other women religious to write a history of women religious in the Dominican Republic. The Adrian Dominican Sisters hosted the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference and the annual gathering of the Dominican Institute for the Arts.
General Council Statements
The General Council of the Congregation issued statements on a number of issues, including offshore drilling, President Donald Trump’s rollback of pollution controls, the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Martin Luther King Day, and the separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Proclaiming 2018 to be a year of study on the meaning of resilient communities, the Congregation hosted two public forums on the subject: a symposium in March, featuring talks by five national thought leaders on various aspects of resiliency and an educational forum in August, in which three Adrian Dominican Sisters shared their own stories of forming resilient communities. Mission Chapters have formed their own Resilient Communities Committees to determine where in their region they will work with local people to make their community resilient.
In the spring, two workshops in Michigan helped participants to engage in the difficult conversation about diversity and racism. Sister Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN, and Sister Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, of Pax Christi USA, led a public workshop, “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Race, Power, and Privilege.” The Great Lakes Mission Chapter, based in Detroit, focused its Spring Assembly on Racism and White Privilege. A unique program, Reverse Mass Mob, brought parishioners from Detroit to a suburban parish to begin their conversations on racism.
In response to the General Chapter Enactment on Sustainability, administrators at the Motherhouse Campus developed a sustainability plan, which includes changes in the heating and cooling system and reduction in the use of electricity at the Motherhouse. Students from Barry and Siena Heights Universities, both sponsored by the Congregation, came together at the Permaculture Gardens in Adrian site in May to learn about sustainability practices and apply them on their own campuses. Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist, introduced honeybees to the Permaculture site. The 2018 issue of Voices in Mission and Ministry details sustainability practices throughout the Congregation.
May 2, 2018, Detroit – More than 100 Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and special guests continued their study of racism and white privilege during a workshop April 28 that focused on the social effects of institutional racism.
The group gathered at Samaritan Center in Detroit for the Great Lakes Dominican Mission Chapter’s extraordinary Spring Assembly, “Continuing the Conversation on Institutional Racism and White Privilege.” The event was organized by the Leaven Mission Group to continue the discussion on racism begun at the Fall Assembly in November 2017.
The workshop focused largely on the social effects – especially on people of color – of institutional racism, which in many ways sets up the system to give advantages in almost every area of life to white people over people of color. The emphasis was on institutional racism rather than the prejudice of individuals against people of other races.
In her keynote address, long-time community activist Maureen Taylor noted her intention to make the connection between racism and poverty. “Poverty is the cruelest form of violence, and I don’t care what your face looks like,” she said. “I’ve seen veterans have their water cut off. [But] color always matters in America because it has been the most successful tool to allow people to be mistreated.”
Ms. Taylor, Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization since 1993, stressed the need for advocates of various issues – rights for women, African Americans, Hispanics, and people with same-sex attraction, for example – to work together for economic rights for all people.
The fight for equality “cannot be from the top down,” Ms. Taylor said. “We have to be the ones [who struggle] from the bottom up. There are certain things we have to insist on. Everybody need to have something to eat, water, and homes. We have to bring these rules from the bottom up.”
A panel of activists spoke about particular issues related to institutional racism. “I grew up in a time when there were two separate educational systems,” said Sharon Mills, a member of the Escalating Economic Inequality Taskforce and a tutor at Siena Literacy Center in Detroit. “The great divide was color."
Ms. Mills, who grew up in an African American section of Dayton, noted the substandard education she received in her first three years in public school – before her parents pulled her out and sent her to a nearby white school. “There were not enough textbooks for children to take home,” she recalled. “Both the elementary school and the high school were in disrepair. The playground was always muddy and littered.” She noted that children who are educated in substandard school systems might come to believe that they, themselves, are “substandard.”
Ms. Mills noted that today – when separate education for African Americans and white people is not legally permitted – the separation continues because of the way public schools are funded – by local property taxes. “Local districts in rich areas can afford more for their public schools,” she said. “The system is rigged and it’s rigged against people in poor districts where property taxes are low. … The implications of this are grim for black and brown children in high-poverty areas.”
Ms. Mills described this system as self-perpetuating: the housing situation “disproportionally keeps families of color in poorer districts,” where they receive “inadequate and unequal education.” This leads to low-paying jobs or unemployment, which leads to poorer housing situations – and inadequate education.
“If we are truly interested in equity and social justice, the funding formulas for public school districts must be changed,” Ms. Mills asserted. “I urge you today to consider this and advocate for reform on this issue. Time is running out and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
Kim Redigan, a teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, focused on the water shut-offs in Detroit – and her own experience of growing up in a poor area and being considered “white trash.” White people in poverty “were collateral damage,” she said. “The powers that be don’t mind throwing poor white people under the bus to keep black people off the bus.”
As a member of the Meta Peace Team, formerly the Michigan Peace Team, Ms. Redigan said she had spent time in Palestine. “When I was in Palestine, what I came to understand is water is used as a weapon – globally. Here in Detroit water is used as a weapon. People lose their water and then their homes.”
She tied the plight of the people in Detroit to institutional racism. “The issue is not that people don’t get along personally,” she said, adding the issue is institutional, with disparities in education, housing, water, and other areas. She encouraged people do to their own internal work – to get past their denial of racism – but also to become active in addressing institutional racism. “We need to lean into our Catholic social teaching at this moment,” she added. “It brings us some good guidance” in the areas of social justice.
Rev. Barry Randolph, an entrepreneur and Episcopalian priest, spoke of the various ministries in his parish, Church of the Messiah, that respond to the needs of the local community. The church manages 213 units of affordable housing; provides free Internet to low-income families and individuals; and maintains services such as an employment office, a computer lab, an urban farm, and a bicycle repair shop. In addition, Rev. Randolph and his congregation have created businesses to employ the people in the local community.
“If you have an asset that you can use to help people, use that,” he said. “Stop asking God to do what you can do. We don’t have to ask God to lift people out of poverty. We’re not waiting on God. God is waiting on us. Anybody here who’s a child of God, if you believe a virgin had a baby, you can eradicate [racism and poverty].”
In a wrap-up session after an afternoon of small group discussions, panelists continued with motivational talk. Asked how to move from complacency to action, Ms. Taylor said, “Find your niche and work it until it turns – and keep working it.”
“You’ve all done wonderful things all along,” Rev. Randolph said. “Keep going. Take courage. Keep going. …You can make a difference in whatever state you’re in.”
Feature photo: Michelle Baines, Music Director for Corpus Christi Parish in Detroit, leads her choir and the assembly in singing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Singing along in the background, from left, are Sisters Adrienne Schaffer, OP, Susan Van Baalen, OP, Virginia (Ginny) King, OP, and Ellen Schmitz, OP.