October 23, 2015, Miami, Florida – Sister Joan Leo Kehn, OP, co-director of religious education at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Plantation, Florida, will receive the Lifetime Catechetical Leadership Award from the Archdiocese of Miami. The award presentation will take place after the 8:00 a.m. Mass opening the archdiocese’s Catechetical Conference, held October 24 at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Lifetime Catechetical Leadership Award “recognizes Catechetical Leaders who exemplify the call to share the Faith in the spirit of Catechesi Tradendae” (On Catechesis of our Time), a 1979 encyclical by St. John Paul II.
“This award is presented to you in appreciation and recognition of the outstanding ministry, faithful service, joyful commitment and visionary leadership you have shared in the Catechetical Ministry of the Archdiocese of Miami,” Peter J. Duchrám, Director of the Office of Catechesis, in a letter to Sister Joan.
At all of her ministry sites, Sister Joan said, she has been involved in teaching religious education to public school students – as well as teaching religion daily in Catholic schools. She has ministered at St. Gregory for 23 years, serving as director of religious education from 2004 to 2006. She is currently in her fifth or sixth year as co-director with director Antonio Vomvolakis, a former seminarian.
“In the religious education program, we have over 400 students – 100 more than any other year I’ve been here,” Sister Joan said. “It’s a big increase this year. It happens because the other schools closed down their registration. We never close ours down.”
Sister Joan has a lifetime of fond memories of her catechetical ministry – including a very recent memory. On the second day of this school year, the children were told that a visitor would be walking through the halls. They lined the walls to wait for the visitor and saw one of the associate pastors carrying the monstrance in procession with school administrators. “The students got on their knees when they saw the Blessed Sacrament,” she recalled. “They realized it was really Jesus.”
Even after many years in catechetical ministry, Sister Joan still takes great delight in teaching the faith to young students. The children – especially those who had never had religion before – are “full of questions and have such open minds and eat up every word you say,” she said. “That is what encourages me to go on.” In many homes, she said, the religious education children come home from class and pass on the faith to their parents.
Sister Joan also recently celebrated her 60-year Jubilee at St. Gregory Church during a special Jubilee Mass, attended by 13 Adrian Dominican Sisters. The highlight of the Mass was renewing her vows to Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter. In addition, the Adrian Dominican Sisters in attendance sang the traditional Dominican Blessing to the assembly.
A native of Toledo, Sister Joan attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and Notre Dame High School in her home town. Attracted by the Sisters’ joy, prayerful lives, teaching, and friendliness, she entered the Congregation on June 25, 1955, two weeks after her high school graduation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian and a master’s degree in elementary education from DePaul University in Chicago.
Before coming to St. Gregory, Sister Joan taught in three schools in Chicago and two others in Florida: St. Helen in Vero Beach and St. Ann in West Palm Beach.
October 21, 2015, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Associate Deborah J. Carter received the Honorary Alumni Award October 16 in recognition of her 33-year career at Siena Heights University and her “unwavering commitment to meeting the educational needs of returning adult students.” She was one of four to receive an award at a special awards ceremony in St. Dominic Chapel on the first day of the University’s Homecoming weekend.
The Honorary Alumni Award recognizes “non-alumni who demonstrate exceptional commitment to and support for the mission and spirit of the University” and those who are “inspirational role models who have made a significant difference for Siena Heights by sharing themselves through generous and sustained gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure,” according to the program.
Deb began her career at Siena Heights in 1982 as an academic advisor at the college’s center at Lake Michigan College. As director of the center, she established the first partnership with community colleges. Deb was named Dean of Off-Campus Academic Affairs and, in 2000, became Dean of the College for Professional Studies (CPS). Her work as CPS Dean involved the coordination of seven degree-completion centers in Michigan, as well as the theological studies program offered in partnership with the Diocese of Lansing and the University’s distance learning program. She retired in September 2015.
In her humorous but affectionate introduction, Mary Weeber, Class of 1983, described Deb as the “head cheerleader of Siena Heights University. …She inhales school spirit and exhales CPS pride.” Mary – former professor at Siena Heights University and assistant for Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation – also spoke of Deb’s enthusiasm, eagerness to help students to find “their best life path,” and ability to organize events such as book signings and retirement parties to bring faculty and staff together. She further described Deb as a woman who “took her job very seriously … participated fully in the life of the University” and truly believes in the mission of Siena Heights University.
In accepting the Honorary Alumni Award, Deb spoke of the joy that she has found in her service at Siena Heights. “It has been my absolute pleasure to meet and work with some of the most creative, funny, dedicated, caring, and talented people – faculty, staff and students – I’ve ever met,” she said.
Deb also spoke of the benefits of the off-campus programs at Siena Heights. “The degree completion programs have made a huge difference in the lives of thousands of students in communities across Michigan and now, thanks to our nationally ranked online program, in communities across the United States as well.”
Deb shared two stories to illustrate the impact that Siena Heights students have on the world: an adult student who was able to complete her degree in community service through a grant – and who went on to become a candidate for a PhD in Psychology and the community reintegration coordinator for a local branch of Goodwill Industries, and a criminal justice student who used the skills that he learned in class to diffuse a potentially violent situation.
“These are just two of the graduates of Siena Heights University who can and do make a difference,” Deb concluded. “They live purpose-filled lives of meaning…one kind act at a time…moment by moment…one person at a time…choosing to be in service as much as in charge.”
The other award recipients were:
- Lois Hueneman Chazaus ’49, of Portland, Maine, recipient of the Saint Dominic Award for her dedication as an artist; developer of an art therapy program for mentally ill patients; and arts and crafts and art teacher in various places. After moving to Maine, she served for 20 years as docent at the Portland Museum of Art and has been active in her parish as an RCIA team leader; discussion leader; and theology teacher.
- Jacqueline M. Battalora ’88, of Evanston, Illinois, received the Sister Ann Joachim Award for her commitment to social justice, from her arrival at Siena Heights to the present. She has maintained this commitment through her career, which has included stints as a lawyer, coffee house owner, police officer in Chicago, and sociologist. She has written Birth of a White Nation: The Invention of White People and its Relevance Today and conducts workshops on white privilege and how to overcome it.
- Michael T. Donovan ’75, of Oak Park, Illinois, received the Outstanding Alumni Award for his full-time volunteer work with the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation on Chicago’s South side. His work includes ministry at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, mentoring of those released from prison, and ministry to prisoners who were tried as adults when they were teen-agers. He began this work after taking early retirement in 2004 from 29 years of service with the IRS.
Mr. Donovan spoke about his current volunteer ministry during the Sunday Brunch, which closed a full weekend of Homecoming activities.