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Program Helps Students and Sisters Explore and Discuss Racism and Diversity

February 23, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Racism and prejudice, on both the personal and systemic level, are difficult issues for many people to address in their own lives. But 10 Siena Heights University students – five men and five women, some African-American and some Caucasian – gave fellow students, faculty, and administrators, and Adrian Dominican Sisters, an enjoyable way to explore the issue. 

Chuck King, hypnotist, gives a presentation to the audience before hypnotizing 10 volunteer Siena Heights University students.

In the presentation, “Culture Shock,” hosted at Siena Heights’ Rueckert Hall January 31, the student volunteers gave their appreciative and engaged audience an honest look at how they view others. The students – hypnotized by Dimondale, Michigan, expert Chuck King – acted out their unconscious views of other races, genders, and sexual orientation, and of those with physical disabilities. 

The program was sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters; the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity at Siena Heights, whose goal is to eliminate prejudice in daily life; and the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, directed by Sharese Mathis.

Culture Shock has been presented since 2006 in almost 40 states, in large and small institutions. The program was started by students who moved from Detroit to Grand Valley State University where they dealt with their own “culture shock” in the predominantly white culture of the area.

The humorous evening revealed that the students, for the most part, felt accepted at Siena Heights. But it also helped members of both the Siena Heights and the Adrian Dominican campuses to explore their personal challenges in a diverse world. 

The day after the event, students and Sisters gathered on two separate occasions to discuss what they had learned from Culture Shock. 

“Experience is one thing, but reflecting on the experience and sharing it really helps us to grow,” said Sister Mary Priniski, OP, one of the organizers of the January 31 program. 

Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP, said this emphasis on exploring racism and diversity began years ago when a group of Sisters discussed the topic during a Chapter meeting. Since then, diversity and racism became an initiative of the Adrian Crossroads Chapter, based in Adrian, Michigan. The issue also fits well with the Enactments approved by delegates to the 2016 General Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Hopes are for the discussions between students and Sisters to continue. Sister Marilyn noted that the issue of racism can be explored and discussed in a variety of ways by Sisters and concerned citizens throughout the country, and that it’s important to keep the discussion going in any way possible.

“Systemic racism – how do we get at that?” Sister Marilyn said. “Put me in a group of people, and if I’m willing to admit to it and speak about it, then that’s one way that we can begin to wear it down.”

Feature photo: Sisters Esther Kennedy, OP, (second from right) and Annette Sinagra, OP, take part in a discussion with Siena Heights University students the day after the “Culture Shock” presentation.

Circles of Prayer Offer Time for Contemplation and Deepening of Relationship with God

October 7, 2015, Adrian, Michigan – In more than 10 towns in southern Michigan, 15 groups gather monthly for an hour of shared contemplation and the opportunity to deepen their relationships with God and each other. They are participating in Circles of Prayer, informal gatherings of six to 10 people committed to deepening their prayer life.

Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP, devised the idea of Circles of Prayer in response to the hunger for a “meaningful relationship with God” that she has found in so many people with whom she has ministered. “When I speak to them of the need for quiet and silence and prayer, the inevitable response is, ‘Oh, how I wish that could be part of my life!’” Sister Marilyn said. “For many, finding time for quiet seems an impossible reality. But don’t we all owe ourselves the quiet to listen to our God knocking on the door of our heart?”

Sister Marilyn was part of a group of Sisters and lay who were called together people to discuss this call in light of that spiritual hunger, and in response to a call by Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, to open the doors of the Motherhouse campus to people seeking a place for prayer. “We thought that this might be a wonderful idea to offer anyone who wishes the opportunity to form a Circle of Prayer,” Sister Marilyn said.

The structure of these Circles of Prayer is simple: a group of six to 10 people gather every month to pray together for an hour. The hour can begin with silence, music to quiet the group, and a simple setting – such as a table with a cloth and a candle – to enhance the prayerful atmosphere. Scripture, a poem, other inspirational writing, or art can be used for reflection, which would be followed by a lengthy period of silence.  Participants then have the opportunity to share their reflections if they desire. This is followed by a second time of silence to allow participants to hold what they have heard in reverence. 

“The purpose is simply to develop [participants’] personal relationship with God through deep, contemplative consciousness and to strengthen this relationship with those with whom they are praying,” Sister Marilyn explained. She added that the Circles of Prayer are not designed to be Bible studies, catechetical instructions, or social times. The normal setting is in private homes, where food is not served.

Circles of Prayer are currently being formed in the Michigan cities of Adrian, Ann Arbor, Brighton, Davisburg, Davison, Fenton, Grand Blanc, Jackson, Owosso, Pinckney, Swartz Creek, and Ypsilanti and in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

For information on joining a Circle of Prayer or forming your own, contact Sister Marilyn at mbarnett@adriandominicans.org.



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