November 4, 2019 – Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, is building on her years of experience in justice and peace advocacy, collaboration with the Dominican family, and global travel as she embarks on a new ministry: United Nations Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Dominican Representative. She succeeds Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, a Dominican Sister of Amityville, who was recently elected International Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International (DSI).
Sister Durstyne is accountable to the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC), an organization of U.S. Dominican Sisters, and is a member of the DSC Executive Committee.
“I’m excited. I hope I represent the Dominicans at the UN well,” Sister Durstyne said from New York, where she began her three-year term in late October. Already, she is keeping up a hectic pace: attending a meeting in Rome earlier in October with the Dominican International Justice Promoters; settling into her new home in New Jersey, not far from the Caldwell Dominican Sisters Motherhouse; attending a UN side event on the environment; and attending an all-morning orientation on ministry at the UN offered by Religious at the United Nations (RUN).
Sister Durstyne’s principle job will involve attending sessions of UN working groups, particularly the working groups on homelessness and women and girls. “Homelessness is not necessarily a UN effort at this point, but what they’re trying to do is shift from homelessness as the fault of homeless people to the idea that having a home is a human right,” she explained. “They’re trying to change the language around homelessness and advocate more,” both at the UN in New York and in Geneva, where human rights issues are discussed.
Much of Sister Durstyne’s ministry involves connecting the Dominican family to the United Nations. “I’d like to communicate with the Dominican Sisters in the United States about what’s happening in the United Nations and how they might be able to assist me at their level,” she said. She would also like to know which issues the Dominican Sisters are working on with their justice promoters and how she can help them.
In addition, Sister Durstyne would like to work directly with special groups of Dominicans. She sees the Women and Girls Working Group as a connector to the Commission on the Status of Women and hopes that continental coordinators at the DSI can identify the names of two women from their continent who can attend the 64th session of the Commission, which will meet at the UN March 9-20, 2020.
In response to the UN’s concern about reaching out to youth, Sister Durstyne also hopes to get Dominican youth more involved, particularly members of the Dominican Young Adults and the International Dominican Youth Movement. She also encourages Dominican colleges and universities in the United States to establish UN Clubs so that students can learn more about the United Nations.
Sister Durstyne was encouraged to respond in the Spring of 2019 to an announcement that Sister Margaret Mayce’s position as Dominican Representative to the United Nations was opening. “People sent me the application,” she recalled. “Some of our Sisters and Sisters from other congregations encouraged me to reply.” After her third interview, she learned that she had been chosen for the position. “I felt very honored and blessed that they chose me,” she said.
Sister Durstyne said that her experiences prepared her for her new ministry. “I’ve had so many opportunities as a religious,” she said. For the past three years, she has served as Justice Coordinator for the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, both based in Milwaukee. Before that, she was Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, coordinating the justice and peace efforts of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. She also served as North American Justice Promoter with DSI and has been part of delegations to Iraq to visit the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq.
“The various opportunities that I’ve had as a Dominican have really prepared me for this ministry, and that’s the feedback I get from so many people,” Sister Durstyne said. “My working with Dominican Sisters International has given me a more global perspective. My hope is to become more familiar with the UN and its structure and to connect the Dominican family even more to the UN.”
Submitted by Barbara Kelley, OP