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
May 11, 2016, Chicago – Three Adrian Dominican Sisters received special attention during the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), held in Chicago last month. Sister Romona Nowak, OP, was one of seven chaplains to receive advanced certification as an Advance Certified Hospice Palliative Chaplain. Read her story, published earlier on What’s Happening.
Sister Rosemary Abramovich, OP, marked 40 years as a member of the NACC and was formally recognized for her service as president from 1987 to 1989. Now on the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s General Council until July 2016, she has ministered as a Board-certified chaplain for 38 years. She ministered with the retired Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian from 1995 to 2010. Before taking office with the General Council in September 2013, she served as Director of Mission Services for ProMedica, a health-care system that encompasses Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan.
Sister Cyrilla Zarek, OP, was honored as an “NACC Grandmother” for her pioneering work as a chaplain and her long-time involvement in the organization as one of the first Sisters to join the organization in the 1970s and to become certified.
In a phone interview, Sister Cyrilla said she was surprised and embarrassed by the recognition. She brings a long history of involvement in pastoral ministry and the chaplaincy – as well as early and key involvement in the NACC.
While ministering at Infant Jesus of Prague School in Flossmoor, Illinois – as teacher and assistant principal – Sister Cyrilla took her first plunge into pastoral ministry. She worked on Saturdays as a nurse’s aide at Applewood Manor, a nearby nursing home. “I loved it,” she said. “I trained some of the students in my class to visit the residents.”
It was through this experience that she came to realize that she felt drawn to ministry with the elderly and that she was first invited by Dominican Father George Dougherty to come to Houston to earn her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Texas Medical Center.
After completing the CPE program in 1973, Sister Cyrilla began ministry in the Department of Pastoral Care and Education at Mercy Hospital in Chicago and ultimately became an adjunct professor at Catholic Theological Union.
“I got into the supervisory field through the back door,” Sister Cyrilla said. One CTU student asked for her supervision, and, by the end of the first year, she was supervising five students in their ministerial practicum. In addition, she was the supervisor for seminarians at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago and CPE supervisor for several students, including Adrian Dominican Sisters Rosemary Abramovich, Romona Nowak, and Thomas Leo Monahan.
Sister Cyrilla was also a pioneer at the NACC, both as one of the first women to join the organization and as the first woman to be hired full-time in the national office, originally located in Washington, DC. “I worked there for three years and had two bosses,” she said. When, in 1981, the NACC became a separate organization – no longer under the direct auspices of the U.S. Bishops – Sister Cyrilla helped the organization to move its headquarters to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Sister Cyrilla also served on the NACC’s original Certification Commission, along with Father Dick Tessmer. “There were no [professionally written] standards when we started out,” she recalled. “We were writing standards and determining what was needed for certification.”
In a reflection written for the NACC’s 40th anniversary in 2005, Sister Cyrilla expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the organization’s coordinator of education and on the Appeals Panel.
Feature photo: Sister Cyrilla Zarek, OP, at the National Association of Catholic Chaplains conference in Chicago. Photo by Jeanine Annunziato, Courtesy of NACC