July 3, 2018, Detroit – About 16 years after coming to the United States on sabbatical, Sister Emmy Chelagat Choge, OP, a native of Kenya, became a U.S. citizen during a formal naturalization ceremony. Accompanied by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, Sister Emmy joined new citizens from throughout the world in taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America and in receiving the certificate of her citizenship.
Sister Emmy, in a telephone interview, recalled the afternoon of June 18, 2018, when she and people from diverse nations filled a room in the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit, waiting for the judge. “He was a very pleasant judge and made us feel welcome,” she recalled. “He started off by congratulating us and talking about the history of the United States. He just assured us that this is a land of immigrants.”
Sister Emmy was very touched on taking the Oath of Allegiance. “There were a lot of different accents,” she said. “It was as diverse as it could be.” She was also moved when the judge walked around the courtroom, presented each new citizen with a certificate of citizenship, and congratulated him or her.
“I pray that I can be a good citizen,” Sister Emmy said. She is particularly looking forward to voting for the first time in a U.S. election and has already filled out forms to receive registration material. “This country has made me feel at home,” Sister Emmy said. “I feel that I have been empowered, and I have felt the greatness of this country. I feel safe I feel empowered.”
At the same time, Sister Emmy feels a special responsibility to advocate for the immigrants who have not been made to feel welcome, those who have been separated from their families or placed in detention for entering without formal papers. “I want my voice to be heard,” she said. “I don’t think that anyone leaves their country, their family, their everything, just for nothing. I really feel for the people who are at the border. I was rejoicing in getting my citizenship, but my heart was aware that somebody else was suffering.”
Sister Emmy now holds a dual citizenship, and will be able to travel to and from her native country easily. “It’s a blessing to have dual citizenship,” she said. “I don’t feel that I’ve abandoned my homeland.”
Sister Emmy’s road to citizenship came 16 years ago, when, as a member of the Assumption Sisters of El Doret, Kenya, she attended classes at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, on a sabbatical. She knew Adrian Dominican Sisters Joan Mary, OP; Kathleen McGrail, OP; and Joanne Peters, OP, who had been in Africa during her formation. While on sabbatical, she also visited with Sister Cathy Olds, OP, who was also in Spokane.
At the invitation of Sister Kathleen, then on the General Council, Sister Emmy visited Adrian at Christmas 2003. With a scholarship offered by Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, OP, Sister Emmy attended Barry University to earn her Master’s of Science in Nursing degree. After her graduation, Sister Emmy sought a transfer to the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She entered the formal transfer process in 2009 and reaffirmed her vows as an Adrian Dominican Sister in January 2012.
As Sister Emmy journeyed from one religious congregation to another, she undertook a parallel journey to U.S. citizenship. “I first came [to the United States] with a student visa, and when I came to Adrian I had a religious worker visa and then applied for a green card.” When, after five years with a green card, she became eligible to apply for citizenship in November 2017, Sister Emmy went through the process, having her fingerprints taken in March and setting the date for her interview and citizenship test on May 24.
While completing her Master’s of Science Degree in Hospice and Palliative Care from Madonna University, Sister Emmy took on the added challenge of studying for the 100-question citizenship test. She noted the support of Adrian Dominican Sisters in this effort. Sister Carleen Maly, OP, director of Adrian Rea Literacy Center, gave Sister Emmy a CD of the citizenship material, which Sister Emmy listened to during her travels. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney, quizzed Sister Emmy on the questions.
In the end, Sister Emmy noted, she was only asked eight of the possible 100 questions on U.S. government, history, and the Constitution.
Sister Emmy said the process for gaining her citizenship ran smoothly. “We heard people talking about having a lot of problems,” she said. “I didn’t have any problem at all. Maybe that was because the Adrian Dominicans counseled me to get the religious visa and after that the green card.”
Still, Sister Emmy has faced some personal challenges along the way. “Although I have felt welcome in the Congregation, there have been times when cultural aspects have come in the way, and at times people have wondered why I could not go back to Kenya because ‘people there need you more than we do here.’ So, I have met a few obstacles here and there, but these have only made me feel stronger.” With that strength, she hopes to use her citizenship and her right to vote to advocate for other immigrants.
“I truly, truly feel myself blessed and I don’t take anything for granted,” Sister Emmy said. “I wrote a letter to the General Council and I would like to thank the community for sponsoring me. I just feel that I am truly blessed.”
Feature photo: Sister Emmy Choge, OP, new U.S. citizen, proudly holds the American flag. With her, clockwise from bottom left, are Sister Virginia King, OP; Associate Carol Hofer; Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP; Sister Kitty Kelly, OSU, sister of Sister Attracta; Sister Nancyann Turner, OP; Sister Catherine DeClercq, OP; Sister Attracta Kelly, OP; and Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, Chapter Prioress. Photo by Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP
June 14, 2018, Miami, Florida – Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD, President of Barry University, has announced her retirement effective June 30, 2019. Sister Linda, who graduated magna cum laude from Barry College for Women in 1962, is the first alumna to become the university’s President, a position she has held since July 2004.
“For the remainder of my tenure as your president, you can rely on me to serve you – our students, faculty, and staff – and our alumni, benefactors, and community partners, energetically and enthusiastically, remaining faithful to and focused on Barry’s Catholic, Dominican identity, its empowering Mission and Core Commitments,” Sister Linda wrote in a letter to the university’s faculty and staff. “As an Adrian Dominican Sister and a very proud Barry alumna, I shall always be grateful for your faithfulness to mission, commitment to demonstrate and expect rigor and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service, and your devotion to our wondrously diverse student body.”
John Bussel, Chair of Barry University’s Board of Trustees, credits Sister Linda with strengthening the university in numerous ways, including leading Barry successfully through the most turbulent of changes ever in higher education. Her management and operational skills have turned a large, disparate organization into a highly effective institution, he said. “Sister Linda is a guiding light to the Barry community, and she personifies the Adrian Dominican charism to seek truth, make peace, and reverence life.”
During Sister Linda’s 14-year tenure, in spite of challenges such as economic volatility, changing demographics, and nontraditional competitors, Barry has experienced program growth, diversification, institutional re-organization, and new and hybrid learning modalities. A revised Mission Statement now includes Core Commitments that shape student living, learning, leadership, and community engagement initiatives.
Since 2004, the total assets of Barry increased by more than $87 million, 69 percent. In addition, Barry has received local, state, federal, foundation, and individual grant and gifts close to $40 million, supporting basic science research, the renovation of teaching and laboratory spaces, construction of new buildings, scholarships, program development, and nine mission-focused centers and institutes. These include the Center for Human Rights and Social Justice and the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, originally directed by Patricia Siemen, OP, now Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Provisionally credited at the start of Sister Linda’s presidency, the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law received full accreditation in the Fall of 2006. Currently enrolling over 700 students, the Orlando campus has been expanded with five new buildings. The main campus at Miami Shores also grew with the addition of two residence halls, an office and classroom building for the School of Podiatric Medicine, and the Rene Sylvester Tower on Interstate 95.
Sister Linda has also overseen the expansion of learning opportunities at Barry University. New Extended Learning programs provide students with additional opportunities to earn degrees at various Florida sites through distance education modalities. Barry accommodates the shifting demographic trends, enabling working adults to earn master’s and doctoral degrees.
In the last 14 years, Barry University has become a minority majority institution, with no single group having a majority. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal named Barry University one of the most diverse universities in the United States and recognized it for creating the most multicultural learning environment.
A native of New York, Sister Linda moved to the Miami/Dade County area with her family in 1958. After graduating from Barry in 1962, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She earned a master’s degree from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian and a PhD from Michigan State University in 1980.
Sister Linda served at Barry as the chief student life officer from 1969 to 1978 and as founding dean of the School of Professional and Career Education (PACE) and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1981 to 1986. In 1986, she was elected to the General Council, serving under Sister Nadine Foley, OP, the Prioress, until their term was completed in 1992. She was President of Gwynedd-Mercy College (now University) in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, from 1993 to 2002.
Her retirement in 2019 will not mean the end of ministry for Sister Linda; after a sabbatical, she will discern her ministerial options.