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BVM Stories

Sister-Student Relationships Foster BVM Legacy

Students at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, looked forward to spending an hour each week with “their” BVM sister during the past spring semester. Not only did they learn more of the history of the religious sisters who founded their university, but they made lifelong friends and were inspired to a greater awareness of life, purpose and spirituality.

After several meetings with sisters the students conducted video interviews that will be preserved in the BVM archives. You can view a snippet of each of these interviews as sisters share how they were “Open to the Call.”  


Spring Semester 2016

Rebekah Harvey and Jane Rogers, BVM (Jananne)

Rebekah Harvey is a junior majoring in psychology and physical therapy. She hopes to use her degree to help those with disabilities. She enjoyed her participation in several “Busy Person” retreats offered by BVM sisters. She found the oral history project “a profound experience,” saying, “From the very first time I met Sister Jane Rogers, I knew we were a great fit for this project. There was a joy that Jane expressed while talking that I now strive to have for myself. She is a beautiful woman of God both inside and out and I am forever grateful for this project which brought us together.” Read Rebekah's reflection.

Jane Rogers, BVM (Jananne) grew up in the small town of Monticello, Iowa, and felt called to the BVMs because of her love of teaching. Later, she served as pastoral minister, formation director, and in hospital ministry. Jane has also traveled to Israel, Turkey, Greece and Egypt and spent three months helping the Native American community in Browning, Mont. She currently offers grief counseling for families who have lost loved ones. After completing this project, Jane shares, “I am eternally grateful for all the gifts I have from the community . . . I always knew I had their support and I am so grateful. I couldn't do it otherwise.”




Vanessa Ulloa and Judy Callahan, BVM (Eugene Mary)

Vanessa Ulloa is a junior majoring in social work and psychology. She has always felt drawn to religious life. Vanessa is passionate about cooking and hopes to work with children in the future. After meeting with Judy, Vanessa says, “I had no idea what to expect going into the project, but as I have finished I can say that I have gained a greater understanding of true spirituality and a lifelong friend.” Read Vanessa's reflection.

Judy Callahan, BVM (Eugene Mary) is “actively” retired at Mount Carmel in Dubuque. She has a passion for Hispanic ministry and served in Ecuador for five years. She is a translator for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Reflecting on her life, Judy says, “I have come to a greater awareness and appreciation of what community is. We say that ‘wherever one BVM is, there we all are.’”




Stephanie Knipper and Joan Newhart, BVM (Joan Michael)

Stephanie Knipper is a sophomore majoring in art who grew up in the small town of Worthington, Iowa. What drew her to this project was a desire to understand more about Clarke's founding sisters, the BVMs. Read Stephanie's reflection.

Joan Newhart, BVM (Joan Michael) is retired and lives at Mount Carmel. Over the course of her 67 years as a BVM, Joan has served as a beloved science and computer teacher in the Chicago area. Looking back on her ministry, Joan says, “It's just incredible to know that where I am, everybody else is with me. It's a very warm and comforting feeling and it gives us a lot of strength.”




Ellie Northrup and Marie Corr, BVM (Dona)

Ellie Northrup is a sophomore majoring in math and biology. She is actively involved with soccer and the music program, and hopes to work as a strategist in a hospital setting after graduation. Reflecting on the project, she says, “From this experience, I got to know a woman beautifully touched by God and understand how God and the BVM sisters have allowed her to lead a strong, purposeful and fulfilling life.” Read Ellie's reflection.

Marie Corr, BVM (Dona) is retired and lives at Mount Carmel. Sixty-two years ago, she boarded a train from Missoula, Mont., and never looked back! She was an elementary school teacher and served in parish and hospital ministry. Marie says, “Religious life has been a rich way of life. I was able to do something with my own life personally and know that I was always being supported.”



National Catholic Sisters Week Oral History Project

Since the early days of the Sisters of Charity, BVM there have been countless stories of the BVMs’ lives, mission and spirituality. Trailblazers in society, they have paved the way for the future.

To preserve these stories, the BVM congregation partnered with Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa, and St. Catherine University (St. Kate), St. Paul, Minn., in the fall of 2015 to participate in a semester-long oral history project in which four BVMs visited weekly with four Clarke University students to reflect on their lives.


Fall Semester 2015

BVM Sister Kaitlyn Timm and Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester)

Kaitlyn Timm is a physical therapy graduate student. She is active in campus ministry as a social justice intern. When she is not studying or working as an intern she may be exercising, going to church, spending time with family and friends, or working as a physical therapy tech or respite care provider. Kaitlyn says she gained a new perspective from this project. “Sister Carolyn made me realize, even though she did not directly say it, that there are different ways to pray. I have found that it works for me to find a few times during my day where I can really open my heart and listen to God's calling and discern what I should do in the future.” Read Kaitlyn's reflections.

Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) is an educator, administrator and activist who has served on many boards, commissions and committees. She has held key university administrative positions and has even been the mayor of Dubuque! Most recently she was director of the Roberta Kuhn Center at Mount Carmel. Looking back to when she first considered religious life, Carolyn reflects, “To be quite honest, I think that religious life appealed to me because it did have that notion of adventure, somewhat of the unknown.”



BVM Sister Rachel Ehlers and LaDonna Manternach, BVM

Rachel Ehlers graduated as a biology major and is a physical therapy graduate student. She worked as an intern in the campus ministry office and as teaching assistant for sophomore anatomy and physiology. The oral history project provided an opportunity to focus her education around an integration of faith and reason through her science courses and her personal journey with the Lord. Rachel reflects, “Our meetings have become one of my favorite parts of my week. We have wonderful conversations on life, philosophies and faith and I'm so honored to be receiving such a wealth of wisdom from Sister LaDonna.” Read Rachel's reflections.

LaDonna Manternach, BVM grew up on a farm south of Cascade, Iowa, as the second oldest of eight children. LaDonna first met the BVMs as a student at Clarke. Initially, she thought the BVM sisters were “too wild” for her, but spent many weekends with the sisters and enjoyed her BVM professors. LaDonna has ministered as a teacher on the elementary and college levels, with an emphasis on music. She finds the experience of being a BVM sister empowering. “I felt they were calling me beyond who I knew in myself to be. I think it was calling me out of my comfort zone and I was ready for that.”



BVM Sister Bree Moore and Paulette Skiba, BVM

Bree Moore graduated with a major in athletic training. One of eight children, she grew up on a farm in Zwingle, Iowa. Bree enjoys reading and spending time with friends and family. Because she enjoys cooking, she is also a runner! Bree was not well acquainted with religious life before she started this project. She says, “I am so thankful for having been given the opportunity to participate in this project. I have met some spectacular people, especially Sister Paulette, and I intend to continue meeting long after the completion of this project.” Read Bree's reflections.

Paulette Skiba, BVM, is a religious studies professor at Clarke University. The majority of her childhood was spent with her parents and two siblings in Arlington Heights, Ill. Paulette began to discern her call to religious life while attending Mundelein College in Chicago, where she participated in volunteer opportunities with the sisters. After college, Paulette continued her discernment while working with preschoolers at the Working Boys’ Center, a BVM mission in Quito, Ecuador. She returned to the Center multiple times to continue the mission of service to others. Of her vocation, Paulette shares, “I didn't want to just do this for one year or two years, I wanted it to be my life.”




Rosalyn Gravrok and Janita Curoe, BVM

Rosalyn Gravrok is a sophomore studying biology and psychology. She is passionate about learning as much as she can from any experience she encounters. She also enjoys traveling and outdoor activities. Touched by Janita's reflections during this project, Rosalyn says, “What struck me most was Sister Janita's modesty about the great works she did during her career in education and her overall outlook on life. Whenever I had asked a question about any troubles that she might have faced during her life, Sister Janita truly could not come up with a single one. She just kept saying that she felt as if she had led a charmed and wonderful life.” Read Rosalyn's reflections.

Janita Curoe, BVM, is the middle sibling of five children. Janita dedicated her life to teaching elementary school. After becoming a novice at the young age of 17, she started teaching when she was 20 and continued for over 60 years! Janita taught at a number of schools, primarily in the Midwest and South. Reflecting on her ministry as a BVM, Janita says, “My whole life was a blessing, that's the truth—I've had a wonderful life.”