Sr. Marcella Connolly (1928-2016), a much-loved Sinsinawa Dominican, is described as a woman with a mission and a vision to spread God’s love. Each year during their annual Caritas & Veritas event, Dominican Volunteers USA (DVUSA) honors an individual who embodies her vibrant spirit with an award in her name.

Saturday, April 26, dozens of friends and supporters gathered virtually to witness our very own Sr. Kathi Sleziak OP accept the 2021 Marcella Connolly Award. The Zoom chat box quickly filled with congratulations and affirmations for Sr. Kathi and with enthusiastic support for her selection as this year’s award-winner.

“Kathi is one of several foundresses that put their wisdom together to create a national Dominican volunteer program that is now DVUSA,” DVUSA shared in its announcement. “Over the years, Kathi has dedicated many hours serving on the Board of Trustees. Most recently, stepping down as Board President in 2019. Kathi has not only been vital in the formation of DVUSA, but also has lived with volunteers and helped in developing meaningful ministry opportunities. Kathi is very passionate about the Dominican Charism and sharing it with young folks!

“Sr. Kathi is a dedicated and creative Dominican Sister. From her earliest days in the classroom, she has helped people reach their ultimate. She has been able to assist people of all ages to grow in their own self-image as children of God by providing many people with opportunities for enrichment and service.

“As one of the founders of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, she was instrumental in giving children living in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Grand Rapids, opportunities to participate in music, dance, theatre and much more. She made it possible for children, youth and adults to realize their dreams. Her sense of justice, love of God and love of neighbor compelled her to give children in an underserved area opportunities they would likely never have had.

Sr. Colleen Nolan OP (Sinsinawa) who Co-directed the Apostolic Volunteer program in 1999-2000, and Sr. Kathi Sleziak OP who in 2000 helped that program become a model for the new national collaboration that is today Dominican Volunteers USA!

“From Kathi’s need to find persons who could provide the services needed at the new arts and humanities center came about what is DVUSA. Kathi turned to the Dominican family and consulted with Sr. Peggy Ryan, Dominican sister from Sinsinawa who was co-directing a volunteer program for her congregation. Together they dreamt of one organization of volunteers for all Dominican congregations that would foster community, service, prayer and study. As one of the founding board members, she was instrumental in developing the mission and purpose of DVUSA – an organization of service with the purpose of bringing about systemic change.

Sr. Kathi continues to use her many gifts of creativity, curiosity, collaboration, organization, and many other gifts, as she currently serves as the executive assistant to the leadership team of her congregation. She continues to use all the gifts God has given her in the service of God’s people.”

“Please join the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids in congratulating our Sister on this well-deserved honor. “Sr. Kathi, we thank you for the ways you inspire and encourage all those around you. She is dedicated and creative in using the gifts God has given her in the service of God’s people,” remarked Grand Rapids Dominican Prioress Sr. Sandra Delgado in reflecting on Sr. Kathi’s award.

 

Shout Outs from Sr. Kathi’s Fan Club

“Sr. Kathi is a tireless advocate for the mission of DVUSA. Having been drawn to the charism as a young adult herself, she knows how empowering it is to share the mission of preaching with the laity, particularly the young. She constantly shares the “good news” of DVUSA and believes anyone who hears of our story will want to support us! Her faithfulness in recruitment of volunteers, sites and communities, her fundraising and friend-raising, and her commitment to making DVUSA run with efficiency and integrity have made us a far better program. But most importantly, Kathi has been a force since the beginning, giving time, talent and energy (really, blood, sweat and tears) to establish and grow DVUSA. She believes that DVs, rooted in our mission, are called to serve those who have been marginalized and to contribute towards systemic change and a more just future. Thank you for your leadership, your inspiration, your dedication, your joyful spirit.” ~ Shannon Green, Former DVUSA Executive Director

 

“Sr. Kathi Sleziak has contributed so much wisdom, accompaniment, and organization to DVUSA over the last two decades. Sr. Kathi was the Board of Trustee President when I was hired. She not only offered wisdom and guidance to an under qualified/developed director, she would often make the 3 hour drive from Grand Rapids to Chicago to meet with me in-person which was a powerful enfleshed example of the unspoken 5th pillar of Dominican life- hospitality. She also has welcomed the staff to the GR Motherhouse to help continue to steep us in Dominican charism, history, and tradition… Kathi’s leadership has taught me the importance of collaboration, courage, organization, accompaniment, accountability, and relationship!” ~ DVUSA Executive Director, Megan Rupp

 

Andrea (seated, second row) was a Dominican Volunteer 2012-2013. She lived in community at Benincasa with Sisters Diane Zerfas, Joan Thomas, Lucianne Siers, Mary Ann Barrett, Kathi Sleziak, Ann Walters, and St. Martin DePorres. Andrea ministered with the Aquinas College Campus Ministry Team as well as the Grand Rapids Dominicans Vocation Team.

“Sr. Kathi is the kind of person who goes out of her way to make everyone feel accepted and valued. As a 22 year old moving into a community of six sisters, there was a lot to adjust to. Sr. Kathi always went out of her way to help me feel like a member of the community. Her passion for the Dominicans and the mission “to be of service wherever you are” is apparent in all that she does. Sr. Kathi taught me to embrace the importance of kindness over achievement. Her love and passion for her faith and community always came through so naturally in our work together on vocations and campus ministry. I’m so grateful to Sr. Kathi and the Grand Rapids Dominicans for taking me in as one of their own for my volunteer year. May we all follow Sr. Kathi’s example by living out our own calling to “set the world on fire”.~ Andrea Koueiter,(’12 – ’13 DV) reflecting on her time as a Dominican Volunteer with Sr. Kathi and how Sr. Kathi’s presence in community enriched her DV journey.