The launch of the Leviticus Fund back in 1983 blended two crucial values for many religious communities: a shared commitment to social justice and an opportunity to collaborate as investors in building for the future.
The Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor and the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh were two of Leviticus’ 27 founding member organizations, and their decision to join the nascent fund was an extension of work they were already doing in the City of Newburgh, in New York’s Hudson Valley region. At the time, Newburgh was plagued by a reputation for urban decline and high incidents of crime. Yet its residents and government administration were leading efforts to reclaim the city’s streets. The two Dominican congregations teamed up with two other religious groups to support that effort by creating the Newburgh Ministry as a hospitality house.
The decisions by the sisters to plant even deeper roots in a community that many were fleeing, and to also invest in a new loan fund, were considered risky undertakings at the time. But being risk tolerant was – and still is – a characteristic of Dominican sisters.
“My understanding of the history of Leviticus is that women religious wanted to come together to invest in something for the future,” said Sr. Margaret Anderson. “It was our desire to collaborate with other religious.”
“The Newburgh Ministry looks very different today, but it was originally set-up as a place for people to come together to share their personal stories,” added Sr. Margaret. “It was a time when our sisters were leaving the classroom and moving into other ministries outside of education. There was a risk, but we are a congregation known for taking risks.”
That spirit of risk-taking and collaboration continued for the two congregations for many years, and in 1995 became even more pronounced with the decision to join with a third Dominican community to create a new congregation called the Dominican Sisters of Hope. The Dominican Sisters of Hope remain as active members in the Leviticus Fund, and have added additional investments over the years as funds have become available.
“We have had excellent advisors over the years who guided us on how and where to invest our money, and we have been very fortunate, said Sr. Margaret, who is Council Secretary for the Dominican Sisters of Hope. “As Leviticus has grown, we have seen the ways that people’s lives have been changed because of the money that has been invested. As a congregation we have always been committed to looking at systemic change, and Leviticus promotes systemic change. It’s not just handing something out but creating something that will change a person’s life.”