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Sponsorship Conference Draws Nearly 100
from 13 Institutions

March 20, Adrian, Michigan – Nearly 100 Sisters and co-workers, representing the 13 sponsored institutions of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, came together March 15-17, 2012, to discuss the hows and whys of mentoring others in the Adrian Dominican Mission and Vision.

Conference participants came from Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida; St. Joseph Academy in Adrian, Michigan; Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois; Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida; Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan; Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California; and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nevada; and from six literacy centers: Adrian Rea in Adrian, Aquinas in Chicago, DePorres Place in West Palm Beach, Dominican and Siena in Detroit, and New Life in Flint, Michigan. Sisters who serve at the Motherhouse also participated.

The General Council welcomed participants to the opening ritual, the celebration of Compline in Holy Rosary Chapel, in the midst of an unseasonal thunderstorm, complete with tornado warnings. Each group was formally welcomed as Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP, lit a candle representing their institution. She noted that with this Compline – which means “completion,” – the group was completing the circle of a day filled for many with travel and transitions. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress, welcomed participants and spoke of the “circle of love that unites us.”

Sister Patricia Walter, OP, former Prioress of the Congregation, offered two presentations on the first full day, explaining the “whys” of passing on the Adrian Dominican charism to co-workers in the institutions and to the people served by them. She spent much of the morning discussing leadership, power, and authority. Leadership builds community so we can be effective and not waste energy or work at cross purposes, she said. Its purpose is to promote the common good.

Associate professor of systematic theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Sister Pat drew on the works of Jesuit psychologist Bernard J.F. Lonergan, Margaret Steinfels, and David Stagaman, of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, to discuss the role of power, authority, and tradition in communities and in the world.

Sister Pat also focused on the Messianic practice of Jesus: his economics of abundance and sharing with the poor; his use of power and leadership as service; his inclusivity, inviting everybody to the banquet of the Reign of God. In turn, she discussed the role of the Church as the manifestation of God’s reign on Earth, of Messianic practice, and the role of religious life as the “more of the Gospel,” the call to give one’s life for the sake of the Gospel.

Religious communities are formed to meet the needs of the time, and often change their focus as the needs change, Sister Pat said. For example, the Adrian Dominicans founded St. Joseph Academy, then a boarding school, in 1896 to meet the needs of farming families and families in distress. Beginning in the late 1980s, the Congregation founded six literacy centers to meet the needs of immigrants and of native English speakers who are functionally illiterate.

Sister Pat concluded her presentations on Friday with an exploration of the history and tradition of the Order of Preachers, known as the Dominicans, and of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in particular. She explored particular aspects of the Dominican charism: the ideal of truth and the focus on study that is useful for the soul of the neighbor; compassion, shown in the response of Dominicans throughout history; the common good; and government of the Order that is both democratic and collegial. She concluded her talk by distributing copies of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Commitments from General Chapter 2010 and encouraging participants to gather with others in their institutions to discuss ways to live out these Commitments.

Conference participants – a living sea of green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day – gathered on Saturday to listen to Patrick O’Neill, a Toronto, Ontario-based consultant in transformational change and leadership development, discuss the art of mentorship. Mr. O’Neill is working with the Leadership Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and the Pathways committees, to help the Congregation in its focus on sustaining the Mission.

All of us are leaders, because all of us influence others in some way, Mr. O’Neill began. The key is to influence others in positive ways. While society tends to choose leaders who are “massively gifted,” we also need to make sure that their character is developed as well. Mentorship is the “crucible” for preparing and sustaining leadership.

Mr. O’Neill emphasized the importance of both mentors and their protégés. Both have certain commitments to their relationship: mentors to transmit the skills and knowledge in the area of their expertise and to help the protégé develop character as well; honesty and fairness in knowing what improvements the protégé needs to develop, and the ability to provide feedback that doesn’t promote defensiveness on the part of the protégé. Mentorship requires a lot of love and must be done “full-heartedly,” Mr. O’Neill emphasized. “Mentors must be willing and able to connect with another and willing and able to make a deep commitment to the other,” he said.

Protégés, for their part, must be open to learning areas that are outside of their own expertise. “People who are mentored are open to something more” and ready to face the challenges that will make them grow, Mr. O’Neill said.  Protégés must also be rooted enough in their own giftedness, in their “sufficiency,” to receive negative feedback without being defensive. “The sum total of your giftedness” is much more than that of the areas that need to be improved, he said.

Mr. O’Neill also gave tips on how to give feedback, discussed the prime importance of trust in a mentor-protégé relationship, and gave participants ample time to discuss at their tables such matters as their own experiences with informal mentors and their ability to ask others for help.

The conference concluded with a Saturday Vigil Mass in Holy Rosary Chapel and a banquet in Siena Heights University’s Benincasa Dining Hall. Festivities during the banquet included a short sing-along of Irish songs and a trivia quiz contest in which participants demonstrated their knowledge of the positions of others in their institutions and the founding date of each institution.

Held every other year, the Sponsorship Conference is planned by the Sponsorship Commission, made up of representatives of each institution.