Sidelights

Sisters gather in New York

Dominican Sisters Launch
Climate Solutions Funds


On the fifth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, congregations of Dominican Sisters in the United States announced the launching of a strategic investment initiative in collaboration with Morgan Stanley to address climate change, especially as it affects marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by global warming. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to the initiative, seeding Climate Solutions Funds that have attracted more than $130 million in capital investments.

“Dominicans have long been engaged in addressing issues related to poverty and Earth’s degradation,” the Sisters said in a joint statement released June 18. “Today we are extending these efforts to Wall Street by proactively investing in marketplace climate solutions that we hope will have a catalyzing impact for the common good of people and planet.”

Leaders of 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters, representing nearly 3,500 Catholic Sisters from Washington to New York and Texas to Michigan, are participating in this collaborative initiative in partnership with the Chicago office of Graystone Consulting Group, a women-led institutional consulting practice which is part of Morgan Stanley. The Sisters’ anchor investments in this initiative have attracted additional investors, providing a pool of more than $130 million for investment in climate solutions that integrate the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals on water, sanitation, food security, energy, and related challenges facing economically impoverished communities.

“In light of the encouragement of Pope Francis through his encyclical, Laudato Si’, the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa are grateful to be a part of this endeavor,” said Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa Toni Harris, OP. “We recognize that Native Peoples first cared for the land currently entrusted to us at Sinsinawa. We intend to continue our participation in efforts to preserve Earth for future generations.”

Our Congregation, like most congregations of religious women, invest within the financial markets. All of the 16 congregations, encompassing 3,500 Sisters, involved in this Climate Investment Fund rely on these investments along with Social Security and contributions to remain financially stable. This is especially true as we are challenged with Sisters retiring and the loss of their stipends/salaries as they age out of income-producing jobs. This is not to build wealth, but rather to create income to pay not only for the expenses of our ministries, but for the daily expenses of our Sisters as they age and to provide the needed care as health issues arise. The money that we have earmarked for this Climate Investment Fund is not money that we have given away; rather, it’s money that we have earmarked to be invested in a way that honors our commitment to protecting the climate and those most affected by climate change and as another expression of our mission in the world in these times. Note that these investments are market rate—not donations or no-interest loans. The monies that have been in savings and current donations are used for ongoing needs with any monies in reserve and are professionally managed. Each congregation has an investment advisory committee and investment professionals managing their investments. The elected leadership teams made commitments after intense review by their investment advisory committees and professionals.

“We are bringing these resources to the marketplace to help address our deep concern about the integrity of God’s creation and the people most impacted by climate change,” the Sisters said. “Although we initiated this effort well before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global pandemic has underscored the link between climate change and ecological degradation and the health and well-being of people, especially those most vulnerable.”

The initiative, five years in the making, has attracted numerous other investors. Séamus P. Finn, OMI, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing of the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, said, “The OIP Trust is excited by the opportunity to join the Dominican climate fund and was especially attracted by the insight and innovation that is at the core of the fund’s approach. The vision for the fund is grounded in the transformation of the current financial system and gives priority to the people, planet, and sustainability.”

Lisa Zuckerman, vice president of treasury and strategic investing for CommonSpirit Health, said, “CommonSpirit Health is a long-standing socially responsible investor, and we are grateful for opportunities with like-minded investors that align with our values and create healthier communities. We seek strong social returns as well as financial returns. With its focus on climate change, the Climate Impact Solutions Fund helps address a pressing global health issue,” she said, adding, “When we can meet our financial goals, we are able to spread our healing mission to more people.”

The Sisters noted, “We are delighted that this integrated approach to climate investing has attracted other investors and investment managers, helping to scale this kind of approach to climate finance globally.”

The unusual partnership between US Catholic Sisters and a global Wall Street investment firm emerged from a commitment the Dominican Sisters made as a conference in 2015 to “develop an appropriate strategy to promote investment in climate solutions.” The commitment, made prior to the Paris Climate Agreement, was the fruit of a yearlong faith-praxis cycle of study, contemplation, and action developed by the Earth Council of northeast Dominican congregations that had engaged Dominicans throughout the United States.

A Sisters’ Climate Finance Task Force was formed, reaching out to more than three dozen financial institutions in search of a manager that would develop financial products addressing climate change and integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “We found that manager in the Graystone Consulting Group of Morgan Stanley,” said Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a longtime corporate-responsibility advocate, who played a leading role on the task force and in forging the partnership. “This marks a new moment of collaboration in the world of finance. May this milestone spark a new movement of integrated climate solutions that are responsive to Pope Francis’ moral call to humanity in Laudato Si’ to care for God’s creation and God’s people,” she said.

Two years ago, on June 18, 2018, leaders of the 16 congregations gathered at the global headquarters of Morgan Stanley on Times Square (pictured on p. 21) to celebrate the inauguration of the initiative with their anchor commitments. The Sisters were hosted by officers from Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Graystone Consulting Institutional Consultants.

“Partnering with Morgan Stanley’s Graystone Consulting, we seek to identify models for faith-based organizations and other institutions and individuals to proactively invest in climate solutions that will help our world shift to a renewables-based economy while assisting the neediest communities around the globe,” the Sisters said. “We want to do all we can to protect Earth, our common home, and help safeguard the future for generations to come.”

The Sisters note that their integrated approach to climate finance echoes the call Pope Francis issued in Laudato Si’ for “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature” (139). The initiative is aligned with efforts that Catholic Sisters around the world have undertaken for years to address issues related to poverty and ecological degradation. These include support for affordable housing and health care, education, microenterprise, community development, clean water, land conservation, renewable energy, Earth literacy programs, wetlands restoration, and advocacy for climate agreements.

The 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters participating in this collaboration, and the congregational leaders giving voice to the statements include
Adrian Dominican Sisters (MI) Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress
Amityville Dominican Sisters (NY) Peggy McVetty OP, President
Blauvelt Dominican Sisters (NY) Michaela Connolly, OP, Prioress
Caldwell Dominican Sisters (NJ) Patrice Werner, OP, Prioress
Dominicans of Hope (Newburgh, NY) Catherine McDonnell, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Houston (TX) Donna Pollard, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Peace (Columbus, OH) Patricia Twohill, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena (Saratoga, CA) Susan Snyder, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters, Grand Rapids (MI) Sandra Delgado, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (WI) Toni Harris, OP, Prioress
Dominican Sisters of Sparkill (NY) Mary Murray, OP, President
Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic (NY) Antoinette Guztler, OP, President
Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters (Fremont, CA) Cecilia Canales, OP, Prioress
San Rafael Dominican Sisters (CA) Carla Kovack, OP, Prioress
Springfield Dominican Sisters (IL) Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, Prioress
Tacoma Dominican Sisters (WA) Sharon Casey, OP, Past President

US Catholic Sisters, including congregations of Dominican Sisters, are financially independent of the Roman Catholic Church. Their revenues come from the ministerial earnings of their Sisters, which are pooled along with donations in support of their mission, social security payments, and earnings on investment of these resources.

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