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Reflections

U.S. Dominican Sisters and Morgan Stanley Launch Climate Solutions Funds

U.S. Dominican Sisters and Morgan Stanley Launch Climate Solutions Funds

Integrating UN Sustainable Development Goals on the Fifth Anniversary of Laudato Si’

Five years ago, an unusual partnership between U.S. Catholic Sisters and a global Wall Street investment firm emerged from a commitment the Dominican Sisters made at a 2015 Conference to “develop an appropriate strategy to promote investment in climate solutions.” June 18, 2020, marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’ (the second encyclical of Pope Francis which focuses on care for our common home), and so it is appropriate that the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael join fifteen other U.S. congregations of Dominican Sisters in announcing the launch 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. Preaching with their pocketbook, so to speak, the Sisters collectively committed $46,650,000 to the initiative, seeding Climate Solutions Funds that have attracted more than $130,000,000 in capital investments.

Dominicans around the world have long been engaged in addressing issues related to poverty and Earth’s degradation, and by extending these efforts to Wall Street by proactively investing in marketplace climate solutions that hopefully will have a catalyzing impact for the common good of people and planet, is inspiring. Prioress of the San Rafael congregation, Sr. Carla Kovack, OP, has been an avid proponent of this idea since its inception. “I believe using the resources with which we have been blessed can be translated into real moments of preaching. These funds have a significant impact on how businesses can be both profitable and good for the earth.”

The commitment to seek such a partnership between congregations of women religious and Wall Street, made prior to the Paris Climate Agreement, was the fruit of a yearlong faith-praxis cycle of study, contemplation, and action (a cherished Dominican process) developed by the Earth Council of northeast Dominican congregations that had engaged Dominicans throughout the United States. A Sisters’ Climate Finance Taskforce 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.

Although this effort was initiated well before the outbreak of COVID-19, the global pandemic has underscored the link between climate change and ecological degradation and the health and wellbeing of people, especially those most vulnerable. “Every day, and especially during a pandemic, we are called to respond to the question ‘what is the earth asking of us?’ I believe we can make a significant difference in terms of the climate crisis and related climate social justice issues by pooling our resources and investments. We preach by the way we live, and we hope this approach to healing our earth will inspire others to consider how they might examine their resources and put them to work for the care of God’s creation,” shared Sr. Carla Kovack.

Leaders of sixteen congregations of Dominican Sisters across the country, representing nearly 3,500 Catholic Sisters from Washington to New York, Texas to Michigan, and a few right here in the Bay Area, 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 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water, sanitation, food security, energy, and related challenges facing economically impoverished communities.

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 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.”

It was two years ago, on June 18, 2018, that leaders of the sixteen congregations gathered at the global headquarters of Morgan Stanley on Times Square 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 Kristina Van Liew and Linda Stephans.

For Morgan Stanley
Photos by Danny Ghitis

San Rafael’s Sr. Pat Farrell, OP (pictured on the left), who served as Executive Director for the Dominican Sisters Conference through the course of this project’s development, is thrilled to see this collaborative project come to pass. “I was honored and privileged to stand with representatives from the participating congregations under the flashing Time Square Morgan Stanley marquis bearing the name “Dominican Sisters” two years ago. And today, as this fund is officially launched and publicly announced, I am excited and delighted to celebrate a significant moment of collaboration in climate solutions. As women religious, our sum is certainly greater than our parts, and it is truly gratifying to see the work of all our partners come to fruition.”

The participating 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 healthcare, education, microenterprise, community development, as well as clean water, land conservation, renewable energy, Earth literacy programs, wetlands restoration, and advocacy for climate agreements and programs serving people with low incomes, among others.

The 16 congregations of Dominican Sisters participating in this collaboration, and the congregational leaders giving voice to the statements are:

Adrian Dominican Sisters (Michigan)                                          Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress

Amityville Dominican Sisters (New York)                                     Peggy McVetty OP, Prioress

Blauvelt Dominican Sisters (New York)                                       Michaela Connolly, OP, Prioress

Caldwell Dominican Sisters (New Jersey)                                   Patrice Werner, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters of Hope (Ossining, New York)                        Catherine McDonnell, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters of Houston (Texas)                                        Donna Pollard, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters of Peace (Columbus, Ohio)                            Patricia Twohill, Prioress

Dominican Srs of St. Catherine of Siena (Saratoga, Calif.)           Susan Snyder, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids (Michigan)                            Sandra Delgado, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters of San Rafael (California)                       Carla Kovack, OP, Prioress

Dominican Sisters of Sparkill (New York)                                       Mary Murray, OP, President

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic (New York)                               Antoinette Guztler, OP, President

Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters (Fremont, California)           Cecilia Canales, OP, Prioress

Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Wisconsin)                                   Toni Harris, OP, Prioress

Springfield Dominican Sisters (Illinois)                                        Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, Prioress

Tacoma Dominican Sisters (Washington)                                    Sharon Casey, OP, Past President

 

The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael are a community of Catholic Sisters. Founded in California in 1850, they are members of the international Order of Preachers which was founded by St. Dominic in the 13th century. They have dedicated their lives to preaching the Good News of truth, love, and justice and are faithful in their commitment to respond with compassion and commitment to the critical issues of the times.

U.S. 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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