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Adrian Dominican Sisters Share Stories of Experience in Resilient Communities

August 28, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Neighbors in an abandoned area of Detroit, people evicted from their ancestral lands and living in a “squatters’ community” in a desert area of the Dominican Republic, and the homeless population in the State of Washington. People in these situations were able to overcome their desperate circumstances, form community, and improve their lives with the help of individual Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

| VIEW A VIDEO RECORDING OF THE PRESENTATION AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE |

Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, lights the Christ Fire at the beginning of Resiliency in our Midst.

The Sisters who ministered with the people to form these communities shared what they learned during an educational forum that was designed to help others in the Congregation to help create resiliency in their own communities. One of four Enactments of General Chapter 2016 commits the Congregation to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins, valuing their faith, wisdom, and integrity.” 

Although resilient communities can be defined in a number of ways, the Adrian Dominican Sisters have adopted this working definition: “one that has a long-range sustainable vision that emerges from the community through an inclusive, collaborative process that engages diverse grassroots leaders and persons who have traditionally been marginalized; creates partnerships built on trust; seeks equity and justice; draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing; and reflects a concern for future generations, living within Earth’s regenerative capacity (i.e., ‘one-planet thinking’). These elements combine to promote the well-being and vitality of the community and its ability to address ongoing stressors from crises or disasters and sustain itself into the future.”

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Leadership Council designated 2018 as a year of study about resilient communities. Resiliency in our Midst, held on August 22 at Weber Retreat & Conference Center, brought forward the personal experiences of Sisters Janet Stankowski, OP; Maurine Barzantni, OP; and Judy Byron, OP. 

While the ministries they spoke of differ, the three Sisters also spoke of ways that they specifically fit the Congregation’s working definition of resilient communities. Many of these communities fit a number of aspects of the definition, but below are highlights. 

“… engages diverse grassroots leaders and persons who have traditionally been marginalized.”

Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP

In their ministry, Sisters Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Renee Richie, OP, waked with and fostered the leadership abilities of the local women living with their families in a cluster of houses – essentially a “squatter’s community” at the crossroads of Cruce de Arroyo Honda in the Dominican Republic. “We told them we couldn’t lead the meetings because our Spanish wasn’t good,” Sister Maurine said. They role-played with the women so that they could manage an upcoming meeting – and helped them to build up their confidence. “About a dozen women emerged as leaders.” 

Once the women came to understand that God did not want them to be poor, they worked together to meet the community needs that they themselves identified. Working as committees, they brought to their community prefabricated latrines; medical services, such as weekly consultations by two doctors, a pharmacy, and a medical lab; and Fe y Alegria Espiritu Santo, a school that began with 127 first-grade students ages 6 to 16. Because of earlier lack of educational opportunities, many of the students began first grade at an older age. The school now boasts a K-12 program with 1,500 students and professional teachers who graduated from their school. 

“Draws on spiritual wisdom and is healing …” 

Sister Janet Stankowski, OP

Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, and Associate Patricia Gillis founded Voices for Earth Justice as an interfaith community “praying, learning, and taking action together for Earth justice.” The community was developed to address the environmental injustice plaguing the people of Detroit. In 2011, they purchased five lots with two buildings in the Brightmoor area of Detroit and built Hope House as a “gathering place and resource for neighbors and visitors,” especially around the area of environmental justice. 

Voices for Earth Justice offers a number of workshops and retreats and leads the community in actions such as climate marches and lobbying with legislators, but remains focused on spirituality. “Prayer was and is our focus – to bring people together to pray for peace for all creation,” Sister Janet said. “We believe a spiritual transformation was needed to make the pollution and destruction stop.”

“Creates partnerships built on trust …” 

Sister Judy Byron, OP

Sister Judy Byron, OP, serves on the Board of Directors of Mercy Housing Northwest, an organization founded in 1992 through a collaboration of five communities of women religious in the Seattle area – including the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, now merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters – and Mercy Housing, Inc. The goal was to create stable, permanent, affordable housing for groups that could otherwise be homeless, including low-income families, seniors, and immigrants and refugees. 

Today, Mercy Housing Northwest manages about 54 properties, residential complexes in the State of Washington that offer services such wellness and after-school programs. Many of those complexes were developed through partnerships. For example, Emerald City Commons – a 60-unit complex in Seattle – was developed through collaboration with an evangelical church, which had owned the property and wanted to build housing on it. Mercy Housing Northwest partnered with them to develop the complex, Sister Judy said. She explained that Mercy Housing Northwest also collaborates with government organizations, foundations, and other social service and non-profit agencies to develop housing for people in need. 

The models described by Sisters Janet, Maurine, and Judy can serve as inspiration for the various Resilient Communities Committees in the Congregation’s Mission Chapters explore areas in their geographic region where they can work with local residents to create resilient communities.

Feature photo (top): Sister Christa Marsik, OP, poses a question to one of the three panelists speaking during the Resiliency in our Midst educational forum.


From left, Sisters Janet Stankowski, OP, and Judy Byron, OP, listen to Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, during a panel presentation. Associate Dee Joyner, Director of Resilient Communities, listens from the podium. 






Despite Many Changes, PAB Continues Mission of Socially Responsible Investing

March 5, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) continues its 43-year-old mission of socially responsible investing with a new structure and staff. The changes were outlined in a recent presentation to Adrian Dominican Sisters living on the Motherhouse campus.

Much of the presentation focused on the new structure of the PAB, which was put into place after the December 2016 retirement of Lura Mack, long-time Executive Director of the PAB. Most recently, Dee Joyner, Chair of the PAB at the time, was asked to serve as director of the Congregation’s new Office of Resilient Communities. This office was established to help the Congregation live out its 2016 General Chapter Enactment to “facilitate and participate in creating resilient communities with people who are relegated to the margins.” Dee, an Adrian Dominican Associate, had served as Vice President of Commerce Bank and Economic Developer of St. Louis County, Missouri. While she is no longer the Chair, her new position involves overseeing the PAB.

The PAB is now headed by Co-chairs Rosemary Martin, former Chair of the Community Investment Committee, and Kathy Woods, former Chair of the Corporate Responsibility Committee. The two committees – now working as one streamlined Board – represent the dual functions of the PAB. 

In introducing the two new Co-chairs, Dee noted the “wealth of experience” they bring to their new role on the PAB. Kathy, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, was one of the founding members of the PAB, with extensive experience in not-for-profit organizations, particularly hospital work and counseling. Rosemary, an Adrian Dominican Associate from North Carolina, also has been involved in the non-profit world. She founded and directed an international adopting agency, placing more than 2,000 children from other countries into loving homes in the United States. She now works for an accreditation company for service organizations.

In both corporate responsibility and community investments, the PAB collaborates with other communities of women religious. Pat Zerega, senior director of shareholder advocacies for Mercy Investments, works with the PAB in the area of corporate responsibility. The PAB also collaborates with other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in working with corporations to help them to be more socially responsible in their actions and policies. 

Since the retirement of Lura Mack, who did much of the work with community investments, the PAB sought the help of an organization that could help in that area. Members of the PAB unanimously chose the Religious Communities Investment Fund (RCIF), founded and directed by Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP.

Kris Cooper, Office Manager, has served the PAB on the staff since 2013. Other members of the PAB are Sister Patricia Leonard, OP, Associate Director of St. Ann Place, a homeless hygiene center in West Palm Beach, Florida; Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, school psychologist in Joliet, Illinois; Lloyd Van Bylevelt, an Adrian Dominican Associate who serves at the Peace Education Foundation in Miami; Marcy Brown, Vice President in Commercial Treasury Management at First Federal Bank in Adrian; and Margaret Weber, who works for the Basilian Fathers in Toronto in the area of socially responsible investment. Sister Elise García, OP, is the General Council liaison to the PAB. Pat Zerega and Adrian Dominican Sisters Judy Byron, OP, and Corinne Florek, OP, serve as consultants.


The Solar and Energy Loan Fund: Helping Homes, Communities and the Environment

September 11, 2017, Fort Pierce, Florida – Patricia Henderson of Fort Pierce, Florida, needed her roof replaced due to major leaks that developed after hurricane Matthew. Patricia could not obtain the funding she needed at an affordable rate, so she went to the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) to finance this necessary repair.

SELF is a nonprofit, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certified statewide in Florida by the U.S. Treasury Department. Its mission is to help rebuild and empower underserved communities by providing access to affordable financing for sustainable home improvement projects that support energy-efficiency, renewable energy, wind-hazard mitigation, and water conservation. SELF is one of the many loan funds supported by the Portfolio Advisory Board of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

  

LEFT: A manager for Gary Marzo Roofing stands with Patricia Henderson as her home gets a new roof. RIGHT: Lesha Westberry (in the purple shirt, second from left in the middle row) has 16 adopted children that she and her husband care for. Lesha and her husband were in need of a new air conditioner as the one their old unit was barely cooling their home. With the help of SELF, the family was able to finance a new unit that could efficiently cool the home.


SELF’s lending programs focus on homeowners in low- and moderate-income census tracts, with special programs for veterans, women, and people with disabilities. SELF provides access to favorable financing to underbanked communities, people with poor credit, and individuals classified as “ALICE” — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Additionally, SELF is an approved field partner with KIVA.org, which provides clients with access to microloans through KIVA’s worldwide crowdfunding platform. This innovative program is specifically intended to promote clean energy and green jobs and to alleviate poverty. 

SELF’s lending standards are less stringent than traditional banks and offer below-market-rate financing options. This enables clients to complete needed home improvement projects, reduce average household energy consumption by 23 percent; lower operating costs (i.e., energy and insurance bills); enhance comfort and livability; improve air quality and health benefits; bolster wind resilience; safeguard the most significant family asset, the home; and increase equity and market value. In the process, SELF fosters the clean-energy economy and creates green jobs for local contractors.

To date, SELF has financed more than $5 million in micro-loans, with each loan typically around $10,000. This has enabled 626 Florida families to complete sustainable home improvement projects, with 70 percent of the lending activity in low- or moderate-income communities and 40 percent for women.

To learn more about SELF, view the video below or visit them at cleanenergyloanprogram.org.

 

 


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Portfolio Advisory Board,  Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: