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Adrian Dominicans
Sister Attracta Kelly honored for immigrant advocacy

Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, received the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for Advocacy during a special luncheon Nov. 20 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was recognized for her 11 years of service as director and staff attorney of the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project of the North Carolina Center for Justice.

The Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards are given annually to “unsung heroes” of North Carolina in memory and tribute to the founding board member, president, and lifetime trustee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The annual awards recognize residents of North Carolina whose “vision, determination, resourcefulness, and strength of character have caused them to make a positive difference in the state.” Recipients are honored in the categories of advocacy, personal service, and race relations.

In her acceptance speech, Sister Attracta described the award as “an acknowledgement of the thousands of immigrants who have been forced because of war, because of violence, because of their families being bought and sold… to leave their homeland.” She thanked the Board members who chose her for the award at a time when immigrants are “so maligned and mistreated” and praised the dedicated work of her former staff at the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project.

Born in Ireland, Sister Attracta learned from her parents at an early age the importance of caring about others and working to bring about justice. Not long after arriving in the United States at the age of 18 to visit a cousin, a Dominican sister, Sister Attracta entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation. Her early ministries included teaching in Florida; serving as a principal in Montgomery, Alabama and in St. Bernard Parish (Precinct), Louisiana; and working as a community organizer for a low-income, African American community in Tennessee.

During her 1986 to 1992 term of office on the Congregation’s General Council, or leadership team, the congregation agreed to provide temporary housing for refugees of the civil war in Guatemala and El Salvador as they sought asylum in Canada. This experienced prompted Sister Attracta, after she left office, to earn her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.

Sister Attracta served as an intern with CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, in Washington, D.C. She worked for Jesuit Refugee Services in Ireland from 1997 to 1999, when she returned to the United States and began her work with the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project. Her work there inspired her peers in immigration law. The North Carolina Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association established a scholarship to the national convention in her name.

Sister Attracta was elected prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in February, 2010, and took office on July 3. She will serve a six-year term.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters are a congregation of Catholic women religious in the Dominican Order. The Motherhouse is located in Adrian, Michigan. The congregation has more than 900 sisters and associates in 32 states and five countries, who minister in such areas as health, education, pastoral care, and peace and justice issues. The Adrian Dominican Vision is to “Seek Truth, Make Peace, Reverence Life.” To learn more, visit www.adriandominicans.org.