June 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Rain gardens, berms and swales, Permaculture, eco-systems, zero waste, watersheds, bio-regions, planting guilds – this is the language of a two-week summer program for selected Barry University and Siena Heights University students as they explore and experience the environment and learn to work with and for nature.
Now in its second year, the Environmental Leadership Experience brought a disparate group of students to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse May 13-27, 2018. Through team work, hands-on work, talks, meditation, and tours of local sustainability efforts, the students learn about eco-systems and the principles and practices of Permaculture, a system of learning from and working with the systems of nature in designing and implementing agriculture.
The program is coordinated by Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Sustainability Office; Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist for the Adrian Dominican Sisters; and Sister Carol Coston, OP, founding Director of Permaculture. Both Siena Heights and Barry Universities collaborate in the program. Speakers included Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Congregation and former Director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence; and staff members from local sustainability sites that students visited.
Participants spent much of their time outdoors, working in the permaculture area of the Motherhouse. Service projects included installing deer fencing around the community garden; conducting a waste audit of the Motherhouse; planting an edible forest garden; and building a vermiculture system, in which worms are used to compost organic waste. In a blog, students described their experience and what they’d learned.
A key experience for Pa Sheikh Ngom, a Barry University international business major from Gambia in West Africa, came toward the end of the experience. “We saw everything we talked about [earlier in the experience] come together.” After spending their time drawing sketches of a garden, the students had the opportunity to plant trees and shrubs.
But along with specific skills needed to work in agriculture and to be good stewards of the environment, the students learned to think in a new way about the environment and about life.
“As humans we impose so much on our surroundings – but nature was already there,” said Ashley Ferguson, a Master’s of Social Work candidate at Barry University. “Now I understand that you can look to nature to learn how to build.” She hopes to use some of what she learned in the program to enhance her own garden.
The daily practice of meditation and opportunities to speak to the Sisters also gave the students inspiration and a new perspective. Matthew Mohammed, a business and mathematics major at Barry, said the experience “motivated and inspired me to want to travel more. [The Sisters] showed me that there’s more to life than the simple problems we go through every day.” Matthew said he also learned to appreciate the beauty around him – whether the buildings in Miami or the natural surroundings in Michigan.
The students – most of whom had never met one another before the Environmental Leadership Experience – came to see themselves as part of a team.
“Through this experience, we have developed a deeper understanding of what the term ‘sustainability’ truly means, and learned that simple changes, big and small, can be quite effective at making a difference,” wrote Stephanie Bingham, Associate Professor of Marine Biology at Barry University, in her blog entry. “In the process, we have also built strong alliances in our quest for creating a more sustainable future for ourselves and those who come after us. … We leave this experience inspired to do our small parts in raising the level of consciousness surrounding more sustainable and ecologically responsible approaches.”
April 25, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Five people became Associates of the Adrian Dominican Sisters during two Rituals of Association held in recent weeks. Associates are women and men – single or married – who are at least 18 years old and who make a non-vowed commitment to share in the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
The Ritual of Acceptance traditionally involves music, the presentation of the new Associates and their statements on why they want to be known as Adrian Dominican Associates, the signing of the agreement of association, and the presentation of the Associate Logo.
The Ritual of Acceptance in the Dominican Republic took place March 11 at the Convento Santa Catalina, the Congregation’s new formation house. Presiders at the ceremony included Sister Rosa Monique Peña, OP, who ministers in vocation work in the Dominican Republic; Sister Carol Gross, OP, mentor of Rosario Guerra and Mayra Méndez; Mary Morros, Associate and sponsor of Luchy Mejía; and Fabiola Reyes, Associate and member of the Associate Life Advisory Board.
The Ritual of Acceptance in Miami took place at the Cor Jesu Chapel of Barry University during the 11:00 a.m. Mass on April 8. Mentors for the two new Associates were Sisters Mary Fran Fleischaker, OP, Myra Jackson, OP, Evelyn Piche, OP, and Mary Tindel, OP.
Following are profiles of the new Associates.
Rosario Guerra came to know Adrian Dominicans at Colegio Santo Domingo, where she earned a certificate as an executive secretary. She has worked El Salvador and the United States and says she feels that she has been a Dominican since her early school days.
A hospital volunteer, Rosario serves women who come for mammograms, especially the first-timers who are often afraid and nervous. She also organizes retreats and serves in other ministries at the university Parish of the Anunciación.
After the death of her husband, Rosario raised their two daughters and one son. She enjoys visiting them and her grandchildren in the United States and in Chile.
Lizbeth James earned a Master’s of Social Work at Barry University and is now the Coordinator of Service Learning in the Center for Community Services Initiatives at Barry. She hopes to “further develop a life of reflection and action, rooted in the Gospel and in accord with the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Mission, Vision, and the Enactments.”
“I have worked at Barry University for over 13 years and have always felt grateful for working at a place that fits well with my values,” she said. “The Dominican charism has called to me particularly in this past year, as I have explored the intersection of faith and justice.”
Luz Altagracia Mejía Medrano, known as Luchy, was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She was taught by Adrian Dominicans in Colegio Santo Domingo from fifth grade through her training to become a bilingual secretary.
After working as a secretary for 22 years in the Agriculture Department, Luchy retired and then became pharmacy manager at the Dr. Heriberto Pieter Institute of Oncology. With another generous volunteer she co-founded the Dominican Association of Healthcare Volunteers in 1973 during her short time working at the pharmacy. She later served in the cancer institute for 26 years.
Luchy believes she still carries the foundation of the Adrian Dominican charism. As an Associate, she wants to continue to offer her dedication and service to all who are in need.
Mayra Méndez, a mother and a grandmother, came to know Adrian Dominicans about two years ago. She attended the inauguration of the new Dominican convent in Santo Domingo and answered a general invitation to become an Associate. In addition to her Associate formations studies, she takes theology classes taught by Sister Rosa Monique Peña, OP.
Born in San Juan de la Maguana, Mayra has spent most of her life in Santo Domingo. She is a parishioner at Santísima Trinidad, a lawyer, and lover of literature – particularly poetry. She volunteers with the Servants of Mary, visiting the sick, especially in poor areas. For several years, she has cared for an elderly couple, but also has a special interest in poor children.
John Musulin, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, is the Media Center Manager at Barry University, where his ministry is to provide a “transformative, Catholic educational experience.” He is also the advisor for to the student newspaper, The Buccaneer, and to the Film and TV Club. He is joining Associate Life for fellowship, knowledge, and spiritual enrichment.
“The Adrian Dominican Sisters, with their long history of service to humanity, are an inspiration to me,” he said. “I believe whole-heartedly in the Dominican charism and I aspire to live my life in support of the Adrian Dominican Vision: to seek truth, make peace, and reverence life.”
Those interested in becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate should contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at 517-266-3531 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Single Catholic women interested in life as a vowed Adrian Dominican Sister should contact Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP, at 517-266-3537, 866-774-0005 or email@example.com.