October 18, 2016, Houston, Texas – Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, received the Faithful Citizen Award for her ministry with formerly incarcerated women at Angela House in Houston.
The Faithful Citizen Award is given annually to “people who are led by the Holy Spirit and who manifest the Incarnate Love of God for this world in their lives and actions as Catholics.” The award was bestowed October 5 at the Houston Country Club by the Center for Faith and Culture at the University of St. Thomas, founded in 1947 by the Basilian Fathers.
Celebrating with Sister Maureen at the awards ceremony were Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP, recently on the Congregation’s General Council; Sister Maureen’s brother and nephew from California; and members of the Angela House Board. About 300 people attended the award ceremony.
The women currently residing at Angela House made their presence known by creating cards featuring information about Angela House, their own art work, and quotes about their experience at Angela House. These were placed on the tables to deepen the guests’ understanding of the work of the agency.
Formerly in law enforcement, Sister Maureen founded Angela House in 2001 to provide a residential program to help formerly incarcerated women to take their place in society. Staff members and volunteers of Angela House provide a variety of services to help the women to make the transition: counseling, spiritual support, job training, help in finding work, and support in making healthy decisions.
Since it was founded, Angela House has ministered to 338 women, 76 percent of whom have remained out of the prison system and are “clean, sober, and contributing members of our society,” Sister Maureen explained in accepting the award.
“I was shocked, quite frankly,” at receiving the award, Sister Maureen said. “I was really humbled by it.” In her formal acceptance of the award, she gave credit to the “team of professionals and volunteers who work so hard to make a difference in the lives of the women we serve.”
In an interview, Sister Maureen noted, “Our women have made poor choices, but the challenge is to help them get beyond the poor choices and make a good life. We live in a culture that has a hard time forgiving people.” As a result, she said, many of the women who finish their sentence in prison are “saddled with a 25-year conviction” that gets in the way of their finding a job. “It’s a never-ending cycle of injustice and total lack of regard for people.”
Among the highlights of her year, Sister Maureen said, are the graduate lunches that occur four times each year, when an Angela House graduate returns to speak to the current residents. “It’s a delight to … see these women be so proud of themselves and so willing to tell their story.”
Read a related article on the website of the Center for Faith and Culture.
Feature photo: Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, accepts the Faithful Citizen Award, to the applause of Father Donald Nesti, CSSp. Photo by Gary Fountain, Courtesy of the Center for Faith and Culture
July 7, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – The new Prioress and General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters formally took office on July 2, 2016 during a special Liturgy, the Celebration of Leadership. The Congregation’s new leadership team is composed of Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Congregation; Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, and Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors. Elected during the Congregation’s General Chapter in February 2016, they will hold office through June 2022.
Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, the outgoing Prioress of the Congregation, welcomed an assembly of Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers, as well as special guests of the new General Council members and representatives of sponsored institutions and other Congregations of women religious.
Sister Attracta took the opportunity to explain the model of leadership practiced by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and many congregations of women religious in the United States. Unlike leadership in secular organizations, she explained, leadership in the Adrian Dominican Congregation “is not a climbing the ladder” of success. Rather, she said, it is a call by the Sisters of the community for a limited time – one six-year term, non-renewable. “We expect our leaders to have the capacity to call the Congregation to be who we say we are, to have great trust in the power of the Spirit and of the power when all of us, each one of us as an individual, knows that our contribution is vital to the whole.”
On behalf of the Congregation, Sister Attracta thanked the “five generous-hearted Sisters” for their willingness to serve, and promised the “unending love and prayer” of the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates.
The new General Council succeeds the 2010-2016 General Council. Along with Sister Attracta, they are Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; and Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP, and Sister Rosemary Abramovich, OP, General Councilors.
In the brief ritual, each member of the 2016-2022 Council in turn formally stated her willingness to accept the responsibility to serve as a General Councilor: to “carry forward the decisions and directives of General Chapter 2016 and to care for the ordinary governance of the Congregation.”
As Prioress, Sister Patricia Siemen holds the highest ordinary authority in the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She will be responsible for promoting the unity of the Congregation, as well as representing the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Church and civic affairs and chairing the General Council.
In her reflection on the Scriptural readings, Sister Patricia described the Beatitudes as Jesus’ “foundational teachings. It was a counter-cultural message then and indeed it remains so today.” But, she noted, the 2016 General Chapter Enactments – the documents that the 2016 General Chapter delegates approved in February – “mirror, in contemporary form, the work of the Beatitudes”: reaching out to those who suffer spiritual and material hunger; studying the reality of poverty and racism and their effects on people’s lives; working to “intensify our ecological sustainability practices and reduce our carbon footprint”; and “participating in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins of society.”
Sister Patricia is not new to Congregation leadership. She served as Chapter Prioress (“Major Superior”) of the Sisters in the Congregation’s Mid-Atlantic Mission Chapter from 1988 to 1992, when she was elected to serve as Vicaress/General Councilor until 1998.
An attorney, Sister Patricia founded and directed the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University’s School of Law to help develop a philosophy and practice of law that respects and protects the natural world in its own right. She has also served at Barry University, Miami Shores, as an adjunct faculty member and, since 2010, as a team member of Barry’s Office of Mission Engagement. From 2001 to 2004, she directed the Earth Ethics Institute at Miami Dade College, and, as a staff attorney with Florida Rural Legal Services, worked with immigrant farmworkers in Florida.
Sister Mary Margaret brings a wealth of education and leadership experience to her new position. After teaching for years at Catholic elementary schools in Ohio, California, Arizona, and Michigan, she served as principal of two schools in the Diocese of Lansing: St. Patrick School, Brighton, from 1978 to 1986, and St. Joseph Academy in Adrian from 1986 to 1993.
Sister Mary Margaret then taught at St. Anne’s High School in Modimong, South Africa, from 1993 to 1996. She served as the School and Curriculum Consultant for the Diocese of Toledo until 2001, when she returned to Africa to serve as National Coordinator for Literacy and Numeracy for the Catholic Institute of education. She has served since 2008 as President of Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, an all-girls college-preparation school sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. In her position as Vicaress, Sister Mary Margaret would take on the responsibilities of the Prioress should Sister Patricia Siemen become incapacitated or vacate the office.
Sister Frances’s earliest experiences of leadership included serving as principal of St. Thaddeus School in Chicago for five years. She also served the Archdiocese of Detroit as Director of the Department of Education, Associate Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Schools. For the past two years, she has served as the Director of the Congregation’s Ministry Trust Office, which provides grants to organizations in which Adrian Dominicans minister, lead as Board members, or volunteer. In addition, Sister Frances was elected Chapter Prioress (Provincial) of the Congregation’s Great Lakes Dominican Mission Chapter, based in Detroit.
Sister Patricia Harvat has spent much of her ministerial life serving overseas: from 1973 to 1981 serving in Head Start and in pastoral work in Puerto Rico and directing the Congregation’s Lay Ministry Program in the Dominican Republic from 1982 to 1989. She then returned to the United States to teach theology at Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Michigan, until 1993. She has also served as Director of Formation for the Adrian Dominican Congregation and as Director of Lay Ministry Formation for the Hispanic Ministry Office of the Diocese of Cleveland. Since 2008, she has served at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
In 2011, Sister Elise began her ministry to the Adrian Dominican Sisters as Director of Communications and Technology, overseeing many of the Congregation’s technology upgrades. After three years, Communications and Technology were separated into two departments and Sister Elise focused on Communications.
Before coming to Michigan, Sister Elise and Adrian Dominican Sister Carol Coston founded and directed Santuario Sisterfarm, an ecology center based in Boerne, Texas, and dedicated to cultivating biodiversity and cultural diversity. The organization also established Sor Juana Press, which published such titles as the Dominican Women on Earth series and Drawn by Love, the history of the Dominican Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of Mosul, Iraq. Sister Elise was founding editor of Sor Juana Press.
Sister Elise has served as Director of Communications and Development for St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas; Vice President for Membership and Media Communications for Common Cause in Washington, DC; and as consultant to numerous national and regional non-profit organizations.
Watch the video of the Celebration of Leadership below, and read a related article in the Daily Telegram.
Left: Participating in the Celebration of Leadership, beginning at the ambo and moving clockwise, are: Sisters Attracta Kelly, Tarianne DeYonker, Corinne Sanders, Rosemary Abramovich, Kathleen Schanz, Elise D. García, Patricia Harvat, Frances Nadolny, Mary Margaret Pachucki, and Patricia Siemen. Right: Sister Patricia Siemen blesses the Sisters on the balcony during the Sprinkling Rite.
Feature photo: Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, new Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, with Sister Attract Kelly, OP, former Prioress, during the Celebration of Leadership Liturgy. Photo by Lad Strayer