School Founded by Adrian Sisters Makes
the Impossible Become Possible

– by Sister Elise D. García

More than a dozen young men and women turned out on May 2 to participate in a woodworking "business incubator" the first such program to be offered in El Cruce de Arroyo Hondo, an impoverished community an hour's drive west of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Open to individuals at least 16 years of age and possessing an eighth-grade education, the program teaches business management and technical woodworking skills so that graduates can eventually open and run their own small carpentry shops.

The first participants in the
woodworking business incubator

The new offering is the result of months of planning by Adrian Dominican Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Caldwell Dominican Sister Pat Stringer, OP and the latest in a series of educational and health programs that have been established in El Cruce since 1994, when Sister Maurine and Adrian Dominican Sister Renee Richie, OP, initiated the Dominican ministry in the rural village. In 1999, the ministry became an inter-congregational collaboration when Sister Pat arrived, adding the presence of Caldwell Dominicans to the El Cruce mission.
On the feast of St. Catherine, the villagers of El Cruce honored the original founding Dominicans by naming their new park, Parque Hnas. Dominicas de Adrian, Marina y Renee. Touched by the recognition, Sister Maurine (also known as "Marina") noted, "We arrived at a magic moment, when the impossible became possible."

Sister Maurine and El Cruce members in
the park honoring Adrian Dominicans

Dominican Sisters continue to help make the impossible possible in El Cruce. During the past 12 years, the then-poorest community in the whole diocese so marginalized it had no school for its children and no water or electricity has galvanized itself. Walking hand-in-hand with the people, the Dominican Sisters have helped the community establish a low-cost pharmacy and a medical lab to address critical health issues; a school that is now attended by nearly 1,300 children; a computer lab powered by solar energy; a school library; a pump to transport water from wells located four miles away; a business incubator; a medical clinic attended every afternoon by a physician; and a series of health clinics offered by visiting practitioners from the capital and the U.S., providing well-baby training, dental services, physicals, and skin-disease treatment.

In recent years, students in campus ministry programs at Siena Heights University and Barry University have also become involved, offering El Cruce students English camps and other educational opportunities, while gaining life-changing immersion experiences.

This year, the school begun 12 years ago with a single first-grade class, will graduate the first class of eighth graders who will go on to high school in El Cruce. Sisters Maurine and Pat have obtained the initial financial support needed to construct an adjoining high school, starting with a class for ninth graders that will open this fall. Assuming funding becomes available (and the impossible becomes possible), each successive year a new class will be added until all children in El Cruce are able to obtain an education, beginning with pre-school and ending with graduation from high school.