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Madonna University News | December 2016

Pen Pal

Pen pal activity unites Madonna and elementary school students

December 15, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. — Madonna University students and elementary school students in southwest Detroit are friends on paper as well as real life.

For the past three years, groups of Madonna students in the University 1010 (UNV1010) course, have been writing to elementary school students in southwest Detroit as part of the service-learning hours required for the course. In return, the grade schoolers get to practice their writing skills, learn more about the possibility of attending college, and spend time with their pen pal during several in-person visits.

Nicole Nagy, director of Madonna University’s First-Year Experience program, said the pen pal initiative has grown in the past few years from one class section of Madonna students corresponding with students in one elementary classroom, to multiple Madonna classes writing to children in a number of elementary schools. Altogether, there are about 400 students in second through fifth grade who write to Madonna students over the course of fall semester, with each pair of pen pals writing two or three times and each Madonna student writing to several younger students.

Madonna students and elementary school students visited each other’s schools over the course of the semester. At Madonna, they played holiday-themed word games, explored campus, and got to know each other a bit better. “Our Madonna students are excited to hang out with their pen pals,” said Nagy.

While the students may not know what to write at first, Nagy says she’s noticed letters get more personal and friendly as the semester progresses. For many of the elementary students, English isn’t their first language, and they all enjoy talking about their favorite sport or Pokemon character, or the upcoming holidays.

In addition to gaining practice in reading and writing, the elementary students’ teachers agreed that the program had many benefits. Some of the elementary students had good questions for the college students. According to Thomas Cieslik, who teaches fourth-grade math, they discussed things they might not have known about previously, such as taking night classes. “College is part of the conversation,” he said.

Kaity Nicastri, a social worker and community school site coordinator who works with elementary schools through the nonprofit Southwest Solutions, said it’s good for children to see young adults attending college; often, the only college grads they know are their teachers and older people. “They don’t meet college students or grads that often,” she said.

The pen pal activity is a fun service-learning project for the Madonna students, and serving others is a major focus of the mission of Madonna University. “Living our mission is the reason students take part in service-learning projects in their UNV1010 class,” Nagy said. “We are creating a love for service during their first semester, so they want to continue to do it.”

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National Solar Power Project

Felician Sisters Launch National Solar Power Project

December 14, 2016

BEAVER FALLS, Pa.– The Felician Sisters of North America’s recent solar installation of 1,032 solar panels in Livonia, Michigan will independently power two Felician-sponsored ministries in Livonia—Madonna University and the Montessori Center of Our Lady. The installations are part of the Felician Sisters of North America’s nationwide solar power project that will see a series of such solar installations take place in the coming months at six Felician Sisters’ sites across the country.

A ground-mounted array, consisting of 600 solar panels situated on the Felician Sisters’ campus adjacent to Newburgh Road, is expected to generate nearly 98 percent of the electric power at the Montessori Center of Our Lady.

The top of the Franciscan Center at Madonna University features a roof array of 432 solar panels, directly supplying to the University a portion of the campus’s total electric power. Madonna University plans to incorporate the solar array into the University's larger sustainability program, offering students first-hand insight into the practical application of sustainable solutions.

The Felician Sisters’ nationwide initiative includes additional solar installations at Felician convents and Felician-sponsored ministries in Buffalo, New York; Lodi, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Coraopolis, Pennsylvania; and the Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania-based Provincial House of the Felician Sisters, the administrative and canonical center for the nearly 600 Felician Sisters across North America.

Total power generation from all combined sites will produce an estimated 3.3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the first year of operation. The nationwide project is expected to avoid more than 110 million pounds of CO2 emissions over its 35-year operating life—the equivalent CO2 emissions from burning more than 3 million pounds of coal every year for 35 years.

Care for the earth, a cornerstone of the Felician Sisters’ core values and central to the centuries-old Felician Franciscan tradition, propelled this project more than two years in the making.

“The Felician Sisters serve as prophetic witness to a world in need of healing—the poor and marginalized of our society as well as the very earth which sustains us,” said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, CSSF, provincial minister, Our Lady of Hope Province. “Our Holy Father depicts an increasingly impoverished environment in his encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home saying,  ‘… the earth herself burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of the poor … We have forgotten that we are ourselves dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.’”

Sister Christopher noted, “Our solar project is a highly visible witness of our commitment to be responsible stewards of creation. This project not only embodies Catholic social teaching, it also embodies our moral obligation to care for the earth now as well as for our common future.”

Felician Provincial Sustainability Coordinator Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, CSSF, added that the Sisters have historically been committed to environmental justice and are actively making an effort to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels by integrating new sources of sustainable energy. She cited currently existing projects such as the Sisters’ installation of solar panels for water heating in convents in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New Mexico, the creation of a LEED-certified convent and high school in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the installation of geo-thermal heating in Buffalo, New York, and the preservation of green space on their properties.

“This solar power project represents the next chapter in our ongoing efforts to care for and repair the earth,” Sister Jean said. “The vast scope of this project represents a new level of commitment by the Sisters, enabling us to sustainably generate a significant amount of electricity. An initiative that helps protect the environment, it is also a wonderful opportunity to educate the larger community about renewable energy.”

Reverend Charles Morris, Madonna University associate professor of religious studies and Sustainability Task Force chair, concurred saying, “By using renewable energy we not only are strengthening our relationship with the Earth, we also are educating our neighbors. Through this unprecedented solar power installation, we are demonstrating how natural resources such as the sun with which God has blessed us, are in turn blessing others—now and for generations to come.”

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