ADRIAN - Against a backdrop of world turmoil, an international group of activists convened in a small hollow of peace yesterday afternoon.
The North American Dominican Promoters for Justice, Peace, and Care of Creation began their five-day conference Saturday at the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. About 40 friars, sisters, and laity attended talks on the top issues of the day and worked to formulate a Call to Action.
The document is "the tool by which we on a corporate level try to respond to global issues," said Sister Durstyne Farnan of Adrian, co-promoter for justice and peace in North America.
The Dominicans meet to revisit and rewrite their Call to Action every three years.
"It will take us that long to do things to actually work on the issue," said Sister Durstyne.
This year is a special one for the Dominicans. The order is observing its 800th birthday, as well as 10 years of having a representative at the United Nations in Geneva.
The current representative is the Rev. Philippe LeBlanc of Toronto, who also attended the conference.
"What we do is raise human-rights violations in [countries] where our people are involved with the struggle for justice," he said. There is a Dominican presence in 110 countries, he added.
In the past, the Dominicans have been active in speaking out at the United Nations against the war in Iraq and against the death penalty.
Another hot topic was immigration. Though it has not been an issue often raised by the Dominicans at the United Nations in the past, it will likely feature prominently in the revised Call to Action.
"It's not only an issue for our order, it's an issue for all U.S. Catholics," Sister Durstyne said, referring to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' decision in 2004 to make immigration reform a major priority in the church. "We just can't let it go."
To educate the justice promoters before discussing the new Call to Action, the group attended a series of lectures yesterday on immigration.
"A lot of the things that we hear are not really true, and it's important for us to give out the correct information," said Sister Pat DeMarco of New York, coordinator of the Dominicans' immigration committee.
Sister Attracta Kelly, who works as an immigration lawyer in North Carolina, also spoke on the actions the United States has taken to protect its southern border and the limited avenues open to immigrants trying to gain legal resident status.
"Building a wall is not going to get the system to work," she said. "We need to try to get congresspeople to realize that it is a moral issue and not something they can keep letting go. The way people are treated here is as if they had no rights."
One conference attendee, Father Dennis Woerter, is moving from one mainly Hispanic congregation in Denver to another in Chicago.
"Whether or not they're documented, I don't care," he said. "The services we offer don't require any kind of documents."
"Everyone by the very fact that they are human has a right to his or her dignity, has a right to our care and concern," Sister Pat said.
Whatever the issue, there is no doubt that the world will be hearing from the Dominicans.
"We take a local issue and put it in front of the international community," Father Philippe said. "Things that come from our meeting here in Adrian could go on to Geneva in the highest body in the world."
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