March 17, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Sister Patty Harvat, OP, accompanied students from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, New Orleans, on their recent Alternative Spring Break to the Dominican Republic. Sister Maurine and the late Sister Renee Richie, OP, had founded a school, Centro Espíritu Santo, in the Dominican Republic and watched the school grow and thrive. Sister Maurine reflects on her experience of returning to the school.
By Maurine Barzantni, OP
When I was recently asked about my most important experience during my recent trip to Centro Espíritu Santo in the Dominican Republic, it took me more than a minute to think of which of the many remarkable learnings was most important. I finally said that it was hearing that more than a dozen of our former students are teachers or teacher’s aides in our school.
Our journey with the people has been such a joyous part of the Adrian Dominican story in the Dominican Republic. Parada San José, formerly known as Cruce de Arroyo Hondo, remains a very poor community, but it is rich in faith and hope. The families believe that anything is possible. Why wouldn’t they, when they have watched their community change from a desolate collection of houses without electricity, water, or school to a thriving place with an excellent school?
It took 25 years for the transformation, which was brought about by cooperation among the families, government, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and the Jesuit-sponsored network of schools called Fe y Alegría. The school is well-known as an Adrian Dominican School, and graduates from the Colegio Santo Domingo take pride in it. Six Adrian Dominican Associates from the community are involved in the school and take pride in their connection to the Sisters.
Three of our Sisters minister at Centro Espíritu Santo: Sister Basilia De la Cruz, OP, as the director; Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, as chair of the Counseling Department; and Sister Neri (Luchy) Sori, OP, as a high school teacher.
These three women are highly respected. As I walked around the community, I heard so many comments about how blessed the families feel to have the Sisters serve in the school. Together, the Sisters and the faculty have weathered storms of change within the educational system of the Dominican Republic.
Just over two years ago, the Dominican Republic decreed that all schools must offer a full day of school, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Because of high enrollment and lack of space in the school facilities, Centro Espíritu Santo had offered only half days of school. Some students attended in the morning and others in the afternoon.
To offer a full day of school for all of the students, Centro Espíritu Santo needed double the classrooms and employ twice as many faculty members to serve the 1,350 students. Somehow, the school community met this goal, resulting in a beautiful, clean, and large campus filled with students receiving a good education. According to the Provincial Office of Education, the number of our graduates who go on to the university is remarkably high.
I witnessed the strength of Adrian Dominican education – and I am so proud of it!
Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP — back row, fourth from right — with faculty members of Centro Espíritu Santo
Feature photo at top: Sister Maurine Barzantni, center, with Sisters Eneida Santiago, OP, and Basilia De la Cruz, OP.