June 18, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – On the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’, U.S. congregations of Dominican Sisters announced the launching of a strategic investment initiative in collaboration with Morgan Stanley to address climate change, especially as it affects marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by global warming. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to the initiative, seeding Climate Solutions Funds that have attracted more than $130,000,000 in capital investments.
“Dominicans have long been engaged in addressing issues related to poverty and Earth’s degradation,” said Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “Today we are extending these efforts to Wall Street by proactively investing in marketplace climate solutions that we hope will have a catalyzing impact for the common good of people and planet.”
Leaders of 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters, representing nearly 3,500 Catholic Sisters from Washington to New York and Texas to Michigan, are participating in this collaborative initiative in partnership with the Chicago office of Graystone Consulting Group, a women-led institutional consulting practice which is part of Morgan Stanley. The Sisters’ anchor investments in this initiative have attracted additional investors, providing a pool of more than $130 million for investment in climate solutions that integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water, sanitation, food security, energy, and related challenges facing economically impoverished communities.
“We are bringing these resources to the marketplace to help address our deep concern about the integrity of God’s creation and the people most impacted by climate change,” Sister Patricia said. “Although we initiated this effort well before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global pandemic has underscored the link between climate change and ecological degradation and the health and wellbeing of people, especially those most vulnerable.”
The initiative, five years in the making, has attracted numerous other investors. Séamus P. Finn, OMI, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing of the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, said, “The OIP Trust is excited by the opportunity to join the Dominican-Climate fund and was especially attracted by the insight and innovation that is at the core of the fund’s approach. The vision for the fund is grounded in the transformation of the current financial system and gives priority to people, planet and sustainability.”
Lisa Zuckerman, Vice President of Treasury and Strategic Investing for CommonSpirit Health, said, “CommonSpirit Health is a long-standing socially responsible investor, and we are grateful for opportunities with like-minded investors that align with our values and create healthier communities. We seek strong social returns as well as financial returns. With its focus on climate change, the Climate Impact Solutions Fund helps address a pressing global health issue,” she said, adding, “When we can meet our financial goals, we are able to spread our healing mission to more people.”
Sister Patricia noted, “We are delighted that this integrated approach to climate investing has attracted other investors and investment managers, helping to scale this kind of approach to climate finance globally.”
The unusual partnership between U.S. Catholic Sisters and a global Wall Street investment firm emerged from a commitment the Dominican Sisters made as a Conference in 2015 to “develop an appropriate strategy to promote investment in climate solutions.” The commitment, made prior to the Paris Climate Agreement, was the fruit of a yearlong faith-praxis cycle of study, contemplation and action developed by the Earth Council of northeast Dominican congregations that had engaged Dominicans throughout the United States.
A Sisters’ Climate Finance Taskforce was formed, reaching out to more than three dozen financial institutions in search of a manager that would develop financial products addressing climate change and integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “We found that manager in The Graystone Consulting Group of Morgan Stanley,” said Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a longtime corporate-responsibility advocate, who played a leading role on the taskforce and in forging the partnership. “This marks a new moment of collaboration in the world of finance. May this milestone spark a new movement of integrated climate solutions that are responsive to Pope Francis’ moral call to humanity in Laudato Si’ to care for God’s creation and God’s people,” she said.
Two years ago, on June 18, 2018, leaders of the 16 congregations gathered at the global headquarters of Morgan Stanley on Times Square to celebrate the inauguration of the initiative with their anchor commitments. The Sisters were hosted by officers from Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Graystone Consulting Institutional Consultants Kristina Van Liew and Linda Stephans.
“Partnering with Morgan Stanley’s Graystone Consulting, we seek to identify models for faith-based organizations and other institutions and individuals to proactively invest in climate solutions that will help our world shift to a renewables-based economy while assisting the neediest communities around the globe,” Sister Patricia said. “We want to do all we can to protect Earth, our common home, and help safeguard the future for young people today and for generations to come.”
Sister Patricia noted that their integrated approach to climate finance echoes the call Pope Francis issued in Laudato Si’ for “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature” (139). The initiative is aligned with efforts that Catholic Sisters around the world have undertaken for years to address issues related to poverty and ecological degradation. These include support for affordable housing and healthcare, education, microenterprise, community development, as well as clean water, land conservation, renewable energy, Earth literacy programs, wetlands restoration, and advocacy for climate agreements and programs serving people with low incomes, among others.
The 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters participating in this collaboration, and the congregational leaders giving voice to the statements are:
Adrian Dominican Sisters (Michigan) Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress
Amityville Dominican Sisters (New York) Peggy McVetty OP, Prioress
Blauvelt Dominican Sisters (New York) Michaela Connolly, OP, Prioress
Caldwell Dominican Sisters (New Jersey) Patrice Werner, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Hope (Ossining, New York) Catherine McDonnell, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Houston (Texas) Donna Pollard, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Peace (Columbus, Ohio) Patricia Twohill, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (Wisconsin) Toni Harris, OP, Prioress
Dominican Srs of St. Catherine of Siena (Saratoga, Calif.) Susan Snyder, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids (Michigan) Sandra Delgado, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sparkill (New York) Mary Murray, OP, President
Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic (New York) Antoinette Guztler, OP, President
Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters (Fremont, California) Cecilia Canales, OP, Prioress
San Rafael Dominican Sisters (California) Carla Kovack, OP, Prioress
Springfield Dominican Sisters (Illinois) Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, Prioress
Tacoma Dominican Sisters (Washington) Sharon Casey, OP, Past President
U.S. Catholic Sisters, including congregations of Dominican Sisters, are financially independent of the Roman Catholic Church. Their revenues come from the ministerial earnings of their Sisters, which are pooled along with donations in support of their mission, social security payments, and earnings on investment of these resources.
July 7, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – At a time when many worry about the future of religious life, Sister Katherine Frazier, an Adrian Dominican novice, gave an encouraging vision of a new group of women who are responding to God’s call and facing their future as Sisters with courage and hope.
Sister Katherine, who is at the Adrian Motherhouse for the summer, took the opportunity July 6 to speak to those on campus about her recent experience at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) in St. Louis, Missouri. “The [canonical novitiate] year was definitely a confirmation that this is the community where I belong,” she told the Sisters.
Sister Katherine shared the experience with two novices from the Dominican Sisters of Peace: Sisters Ana González and Margaret Uche, as well as two Co-directors, Sisters Joye Gros, OP, a Dominican Sister of Peace, and Megan McElroy, OP, a Dominican Sister of Grand Rapids.
The CDN was established more than 25 years ago to give novices of U.S. Congregations of Dominican Sisters a rich novitiate experience and a sense of the larger Dominican family. Currently, 17 Congregations participate.
Sister Katherine recounted the novices’ busy weekly schedule: Morning and Evening Prayer together every day, worship at the local parish of their choice on Sundays, and ministry for four hours on Mondays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the novices attended classes at Aquinas Institute of Theology and at the novitiate, including a specific course on vowed life and Foundations of Preaching. Wednesdays brought them together with novices from a variety of women’s and men’s communities for prayer and workshops. Each week concluded with a day of reflection on Fridays and some free time on Saturdays to catch up on cleaning and other chores.
Throughout the year, the novices also took turns cooking meals for one another and met weekly with their director as they continued discernment for vowed life. In addition, they hosted panels of Dominicans who spoke about their own experiences living out the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Sister Katherine spent her ministry time at the Mary Ryder Home, which provides housing for older women who, for various reasons – including addictions, mental issues, and developmental disabilities – are unable to live on their own. “I helped them with various activities, such as games, and accompanied them on shopping trips,” Sister Katherine said, adding that one of the difficulties of the novitiate year was the limited time she could spend in ministry. “It was hard to be there for just four hours and to know that the needs were so much greater than I was able to provide for,” she said.
The novitiate year also included key experiences that deepened Sister Katherine’s understanding of Dominican life and of the Dominican family: a trip to a motherhouse in Kentucky, which was the first U.S. foundation of Dominican Sisters; the Dominican Preaching Colloquium, sponsored by Aquinas Institute to celebrate the Order’s 800-year Jubilee; and a road trip that involved visits to several communities of Dominican Sisters in the East.
During facilitated house meetings, Sister Katherine said, the novices engaged in discussions of difficult topics, such as the future of religious life, given the smaller numbers of women entering. “I think the biggest fear is the fear of the unknown, not being entirely sure what the future will look like,” she said. Yet, “each of us felt called to be in the novitiate. Each of us felt called to be in the place where we were. I think there was also a sense that the future is a call to trust.”
Sister Katherine’s own vision of the future includes greater collaboration among Dominican Congregations and an outward perspective. “The future will involve an outward focus … always looking outwards to the needs of the world around us.”
Sister Katherine’s second year as a novice will focus on study at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and community life with local Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Watch the video of Sister Katherine’s presentation.
At the novitiate in St. Louis are, from left, Sister Joye Gros, OP, Co-director; Sisters Ana González and Margaret Uche, novices from the Dominican Sisters of Peace; Sister Katherine Frazier; and Sister Megan McElroy, OP, Co-director.