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Mary Francis Clarke Photograph
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About BVMs

"As Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary we are women who have been touched by God's steadfast love. In response to that love, we are moved to commit ourselves to a vowed life of faithfulness to the Lord, faithfulness to one another in community, faithfulness to God's people, especially the poor."(BVM Directory #1)

BVMs have lived their dreams since 1833. Open to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, five young women in Ireland left their homeland to educate Irish immigrant children in the United States. In Philadelphia they encountered rejection and poverty, but their lives of love and courageous commitment drew other young women to join them.

These sisters' pioneering spirit, sensitivity to God's call and the needs of the time were tested ten years later. Bishop Matthias Loras of the Iowa Territory invited them to the frontier where teachers were desperately needed.

Gradually, the community expanded into a cross-country education network. Currently BVMs serve in more than 20 states in the U.S. as well as in Ecuador, Guatemala and Ghana.

Today BVMs live out our core values of education, justice, charity and freedom in many ministries:

  • Educate at all levels: preschool through college, adult education, religious education
  • Minister as hospital, hospice and prison chaplains, and with those suffering from addictions and AIDS
  • Serve as parish ministers, spiritual/retreat directors, theologians, counselors and therapists
  • Take leadership roles in justice and peace organizations, environmental initiatives, housing programs, shelters for women and the homeless

BVMs also have Associate members, lay women and men who commit themselves to a mutual and supportive relationship with the BVMs in order to foster the BVM mission of being freed and helping others to enjoy freedom in God's steadfast love.

For more information about joining the BVMs, contact: Vowed Membership: Lou Anglin, BVM or Kathy Carr, BVM at newmember@bvmcong.org Associate Membership: Ann Chaput, BVM at achaput@bvmcong.org

Blog

Welcome!

To give you a more personal insight into who we are as BVMs, several members of our community will share reflections on spirituality, our daily life, and our charism as BVM Sisters. We invite you to share your comments, your reflections and your questions.

 

Easter: New Life, Renewed Hope!
2013/04/01 by Kathy Carr, BVM

In the northern hemisphere as we celebrate Easter we rejoice in seemingly dead branches turning green and singing birds finding their way home.  We rejoice in new life and renewed hope as we recall an empty tomb and unexpected encounters!


At this time in our church’s history we also experience renewed hope in our new Pope, the bishop of Rome, Francis I.  In a very genuine way, Francis returns to the roots of the Gospel message –Love, Justice, Simplicity—and asks each of us to be a sign of hope in our world.  In his homily at his Mass of Installation, Francis reminds us that we are each called to “open our arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”


 In the midst of the darkness of our world, how do we open up a horizon of hope, let the light of hope break through the heavy clouds ? 


As we reflect on the lives of St. Francis of Assisi, of Mary Frances Clarke, of Francis I, may we be emboldened to be the hope of the risen Christ for our broken world.

Bringing Women to the Peacemaking Table
2013/03/20 by Mary Ellen Madden

In early March, BVM Sister Mary Martens and I joined nearly 6,000 people who traveled to New York for the United Nations’ 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). As members of the Loretto Community’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) at the UN, the BVMs have the opportunity to take part in these commissions which draw people from every part of the world. The theme this year was the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.


Mary and I began our time in New York by attending a day-long meeting that featured panels on trafficking, best practices to prevent violence against women, engaging men and boys in violence prevention, and the role of communications and social media in eradicating violence.


The day began with a challenging and invigorating address from Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and leader of UN Women. Ms. Bachelet emphasized what would come to be a running theme throughout the CSW: women and girls must be at the policy table in order for real change to take place. No effective policy can be created unless women and girls are brought into the conversations, not as a formality, but as the collective foundation upon which new standards and policies are built.


Over the next several days, we attended several NGO-hosted workshops (some sponsored by the Loretto Center) about how violence experienced by women and girls is aggravated by poverty, lack of economic equality, environmental destruction, military culture, HIV/AIDS, gang violence and the media.


In a workshop on confronting military sexual violence, a panelist said, “We see what is behind our eyes, and what is behind our eyes is patriarchy.” I carried this statement with me throughout the week, and it kept coming to the surface as I listened to testimony from women and girls from around the world. The patriarchal mindset that crosses all cultures is what propels the power-over dynamic that allows women and girls to be stripped of opportunity, stripped of their land, beaten, trafficked, raped and killed.


This sentiment that patriarchy is so embedded in us that it is the lens through which we see and engage the world is a challenging one. Even while I become increasingly aware of the effects of patriarchy, in both my own life and in our work here at 8th Day, there is no denying that elements of it are still engrained in me. This reality is a hard and humbling pill to swallow. Throughout the CSW, I was reminded so many times that, in our work for a more peaceful and just world, our first task is to turn inward to shift our own mindsets and paradigms.


As I witnessed in so many women at the CSW, an internal shift is what spurred them into motion to begin organizing their communities. I heard women from Congo, Honduras, El Salvador, India and Japan tell the story of how they began grassroots movements to resist the violence being done to them, their families and their land. Each of them had reached a point where they were able to reach inward to find the strength to say “no more.”


These women, who have survived for generations at the bottom of a patriarchal paradigm in the most economically impoverished parts of our world, are leading some of the fiercest and most transformative movements to unravel the violence and oppression that poisons our world. Their resources are few, but they are effecting the on-the-ground systemic change that the world needs desperately if we are to see the eradication of violence against women, if we are to begin to know peace. The international community would be well-served if these women were included in visioning a road toward peace.

Reflection: 5th Sunday of Lent
2013/03/15 by Ann Chaput, BVM

How can I combine the great celebration of St. Patrick’s Day—shamrocks, “wearin’ o’ the green,” Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, green beer, parades and all the lore of the “Emerald Isle” with the 5th Sunday of Lent?

 

In fact, wasn’t it the 5th Sunday that used to be called “Passion Sunday,” when statues and crucifixes in our churches were covered in purple? The purple was to help us focus on the celebration of the great paschal mysteries into which we were being led as Lent came closer to the holiest days (Holy Week).  And green . . . well, spring and lore and celebrations of even the remotest or “adopted” heritage of Irish roots!

 

But then there’s the gospel of this Sunday—the one we know so well: the story of the woman whom the crowd was stoning, as was required by Jewish Law, because she was caught in adultery. Jesus appears, and says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And, no surprise! No one can throw the stones they already have in hand.

 

I’ve often found myself “armed” with harsh thoughts, if not words, wanting, even if I don’t, to throw them at others. There’s this urge to get back at others, isn’t there? Or to catch others doing what we’re not supposed to be doing. And yet, how often I’ve done what I shouldn’t but have not been caught . . . Jesus gets to me with those words. How can I cast a stone at another when I am a sinner myself?

 

And then, just what did Jesus write in the sand? What was it that no one could voice or speak about, but only walk away?

 

Jesus sees in this woman, in this sinner, in each of us, someone he gives another chance to: a chance to change, to live differently, to sin no more, “. . . from now on do not sin anymore.”

 

So, on this feast of St. Patrick who found himself in a land not his own but which would later claim him, let’s celebrate the call to build a new life this Lenten season, to turn away from sin to the new life of Easter, to a real “wearin’ o’ the green” of new life!

 

4th Sunday of Lent: Waiting for Kudos
2013/03/11 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

As I age, the Parable of the Prodigal Son has become more and more of an indictment on how I live and relate to people.   Over time, I have settled quite neatly into the elder son’s role and, yet, it is one that I despise.  Who wants to be the rigid, emotionally needy and angry whiner?  Next stop:  Phariseeville.

Jesus makes it clear in this story, as he did throughout his ministry, that God loves the outcast and all those who are on the margins, whether by choice or pushed there by the judgment-crazed, righteous fringe of family, society, and religion.   His way was love over legalism.  And I am in perfect agreement.  In theory.

But for those of us afflicted with the elder bro virus, this parable gives that familiar, slighted feeling.  Heaven forbid that we should get our own parable.  We always play the heavy. And we work so hard that we don’t even know the meaning of play. Yes, such a thankless role to be the good oneWe could go for hours but we usually lose our audiences early on; then we drone on about no one listening to us.  It is such an injustice that we bear all the heavy responsibilities; receive no praise; and we never complain.

We are an insufferable lot.  But it goes deeper. We have no compunction in making others suffer, too. We are an unkind tribe and we became that way because we were hurt at some point in our lives by those who cherish law over compassion; punishment over forgiveness; hell over heaven. And we have passed on this corrosive human condition without thought or guilt because by the time we reach this stage, we are in the 99%. Victims all.

Jesus was firm but fair in his depiction of the bitter, unbending brother, which probably further infuriated the gang that was having fits about his scandalous outreach to the sinner caste. However, my heart tells me that there was one Pharisee in that crowd who was overcome with anguish and remorse at the conclusion of the narrative. It was at that point that Jesus walked over to console him.  “My son,” he said to him. “You will now be with me always.  Everything I have is yours.  Celebrate and rejoice because you have come to life again; what you lost has now been found.”

May we, too, cast off the forbidding elder voice, oppressing us from inner and outer dominion, and follow the way of the All-Embracing Prodigal One, freeing us to find ourselves anew and enabling us to see that what we had considered flawed and broken in us and others may be the only true course to love and joy without boundaries. 

Women's History Month
2013/03/08 by Ann Chaput, BVM

Women's History Month: Who is your "Woman of the Month"?


During this Women's History Month, the WOMAN whose influence continues to touch my life is Mary Frances Clarke, foundress of the Sisters of Charity, BVM. "Foundress" hardly captures who M. F. Clarke ever intended to be. With her "circle of friends," she lived in community, founded a school, crossed the sea to America from her home in Ireland, sewed with the others to support themselves, and answered ever new calls from Philadelphia to Iowa to Chicago to California—calls to mission and ministry.


From her home on the prairie, in a simple room, she wrote letters to her sisters . . . to us today!


"My Dear Sister," I can hear her/read her saying, as she reminds me of "the holy will of God," and that "as long as you work unitedly," I am encouraged in ministry to "go on."


In the long delivery days of snail mail, I wonder if Mary Frances Clarke would have enjoyed the speed of email as she herself excused herself so frequently, "in haste."


Always "ever affectionate," I invite those who, with me, call Mary Frances Clarke mentor, advocate, example, sister, woman of faith, to discover that charism that is ours as BVMs!

Third Sunday of Lenten
2013/03/01 by Ann Chaput, BVM

What voice do you hear from burning bushes and fig trees?


Remember those Lenten resolutions? Oh yeah, I was going to . . . I started to, but then . . . . or I never even made them . . . Sound familiar? Me, too!


Lent comes and ashes mark the beginning of the journey, the opportunity to come closer to God, but life is just too busy, too distracting, too . . .


Maybe Moses thought that, too, as in his older years he tended the flocks and had settled into his own ways. Then he took time (or was curious enough) to walk over to a puzzling bush which burned but didn’t turn to ashes. And then, he heard a voice call his name.


Moses recognized the voice, removed his sandals on the “holy ground” and so his journey of listening and trying to find excuses not to follow the Lord began again. Sound familiar?


The gospel continues the call to truth in our daily living: “If you do not repent . . . if you do not repent . . .” and finally, the parable of the fig tree. Are we, too, saying, “Leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.”


Three weeks of Lent have passed. The time is now. In truth, what needs cultivation, what needs to be fertilized in our lives? Maybe we will “bear fruit” and the bush will burn a little brighter in the lives of others if we begin to listen and look again into our own lives this Lent.

February 25, 2013 -- Final Blessing
2013/02/25 by Michael McGillicuddy

As a conclusion to their sojourn at the WBC on the last evening the volunteers gathered for their nightly prayer and reflection session.  Part of the prayer session was to be a blessing by Madre Miguel, BVM and Padre Juan, SJ. 

Panel One

Normally at this time of year I could be working with disabled children in The Works of Holy Brother Pedro in Antigua, Guatemala.  I have included a prayer that is found on the wall of that building.  By substituting companion for patient for example, I believe that the prayer echoes CMT also. Translation of Un Minuto is on the next blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panel Two

Translation of "One Minute"
2013/02/25 by Michael McGillicuddy

English Translation of writing on the panels in previous blog

One minute is sufficient for a smile: a smile for you, for another, for life. One minute is sufficient to see the road, admire a flower, sense the fragrance of a flower, feel the dampness of grass, perceive the transparency of water. It requires only a minute to assess the immensity of infinity, although we cannot understand it.  It takes hardly a minute to listen to the song of the birds, to hear the silence, to begin to sing. It is within one minute in which one says the ´yes´ or ´no´ that totally changes one´s life. One minute for a handshake to win a new friend. One minute to feel the responsibilities that weigh on one´s shoulders, the sadness of defeat, the bitterness of uncertainty, the chill of loneliness, the anxiety of waiting, the imprint of disappointment, the joy of victory...In one minute one can love, ask to share, forgive, believe, overcome, be...In one simple minute one can save a life. Only a single minute to encourage or discourage someone. One minute in order to begin the reconstruction of a home or of a life...

A Day at Otovalo
2013/02/25 by Brenda and John Lis and Carol Garrett

ShoppingToday involved a bus trip north of Quito. The first destination was Cotacachi Cayapas - a nature reserve with a crater lake created on top of an active volcano. Quite a beautiful site nestled in the Andes mountains. Along the road, we saw many rose plantations which are a major source of regional revenue.

Next we traveled to Otavalo and their market. Here we had a mission to purchase Ecuadorian products to sell at Working Boy Center (WBC) fund raisers in the United States. We purchased blankets and scarves that were made of llama and alpaca yarn producing very soft and warm clothing.

Shopping 2We bought crafts for the WBC fund raiser at a shop operated by Jose and Marlene. These are vendors that are friends of Madre Cindy and provide great value to the WBC visitors. The group then explored the market looking for other items to purchase for family and friends.

We returned to the center just in time for dinner. After dinner we reflected upon the day's events. Some of consciences were mulling over the event of a bus full of privileged Americans with thousands of dollars descending upon a local market. How does this help? The fairness of life?

God Bless

February 22, 2013 -- Visiting Damien House in Guayaquil
2013/02/25 by Barbara Rudnicki

Five of our travelers, Francis, John, Brenda, Evelyn, and Barbara, made a  day trip to Guayaquil today.
We were the first group to fly out of the new airport.
We were greeted by Sr. Annie Credidio, BVM who gave us an incredible tour of Damien House which provides medical and social support to those affected by Hansen's disease (leprosy). We were touched by the hospitality and stories of the residents..... also, by the dedication of Sr. Annie who has been an advocate since 1994 for those who are otherwise forgotten and shunned by society.

In the afternoon we were greeted by BVM associates Patricia McTeague and Sonia Rendon who gave us a tour of Nuevo Mundo (New World) school. Nuevo Mundo was started 35 years ago based on a vision and dream of Patricia and Sonia.  It has developed into a state-of-the-art school where children of the wealthy families attend in the  morning and children who live in poverty attend in the afternoon (without tuition). Patricia shared touching stories of her 35 year journey.
One can only imagine the impact that Nuevo Mundo has had over the years on hundreds of children who would otherwise have been destined tot a life of poverty. Wow... how is that for breaking the cycle of violence for future generations.


On the left Sister Annie Credidio at Damien House and Barbara Rudnicki


Annie and Patients


St. Mary's Parishioners with Damien Residents


Standing from left in blue blouse -- Brenda Lis, John Lis, also in blue-Barbara Rudnicki,   and the last two standing on the right -- Evelyn Lane and Francis DeCarvalho.                   The others are residents of Damien House


Guayaquil Visit to Damien House

LA Religious Ed Congress
2013/02/25 by Ann Chaput, BVM


BVM Sisters and Associates particpate in the 2013 LAREC.

I don't know when I've last had the experience of Church as diverse, theologically informed, spirit-filled, united as I've had these last days at the LA Religious Ed Congress (LAREC). The largest Catholic gathering of its kind, the massive planning and organizational effort I was a part of for the first time this year is well known to many who have participated for years.

But, as someone new to the experience, I can say that the high point was the pervading grace of faithfulness and unity. Was this what the first apostles experienced in that upper cenacle room, when the church was "born"?

The theme of this year's Congress was "Enter the Mystery." But there was no "mystery" to the prayerfulness, the genuine warmth and welcome of Catholics from all over the country and beyond gathered to renew themselves not just catechetically but at the heart of the mystery of what our Faith and (May I say our church.) are about?

I don't think it a coincidence that this immersion into the "mystery" is part of the Lenten journey of the nearly 50,000 of us who were part of this year's days which just preceded but far "outperformed" the Oscars which followed the next day!

February 21, 2013 - Reflection on the Volunteer Trip
2013/02/22 by Carol and Francis DeCarvalho

What a great group we have!


Today we visited the Colonial part of old Quito and many historical sites, churches, and the Basilica.  We were blessed to visit the church called the Compania where the Working Boys Center first started.  Madre Miguel, BVM and Padre Juan, SJ gave a tour with sharing of their memories of the founding days.

We as Associates & friends of the BVMS have journeyed on our visit to Ecuador and we have experienced many new ideas, sights, and a culture that is different from our own.  We have witnessed poverty and seen resilience. We have struggled with the poverty in our society caused by apathy, unjust social structure, and a society of over consumption.  We have wrestled with many questions:

Given this experience at the Working Boys Center, how am I going to act on social justice issues when I return home?

What firewall need I construct before slipping back into comfortable patterns?
How can I be more generous with my time in my local community?
What are ways to grow in my spiritual life? 

How can I challenge myself to contiue to step out of my comfort zone to serve others?
How can we serve with humility without imposing our own will (especially American value set) on others?

How can I strike a balance between contemplation and prayer versus action? What is the roll of community in my life?

How can I continue to share these experiences with my spouse and others? What are the most important things I will take away with me from my journey with regard to spiritual growth and commitment to service.

As you can see, our experiences here have given us much to think about. It will take some time to digest all of this as we continue on our spiritual journey.

 

February 20, 2013 -- Volunteer Task
2013/02/22 by Brenda and John Lis and Carol Garrett

After the tour we headed back to the WBC for lunch.  Work duties followed with one group working in the large bodega(warehouse) sorting greeting cards, one group to the small bodega to sort donated clothes and the other to the art center to make posters.

Finished the day with our group session to discuss the days events and prayer.
All our love to our family and friends.
God Bless

 

 

February 20, 2013 -- Calderon, Ecuador
2013/02/22 by Brenda and John Lis and Carol Garrett

Hola from Quito.  

Today was our trip to Calderon and the Middle of the Earth.  To get to Calderon, we traveled on the Pan-American Highway by bus.  As you may know, The  Pan-American Highway extends from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina.  Calderon is known for their bread dough.  Madre Cindy took us to a shop that is frequented by WBC visitors.  The shop makes Christmas ornaments and figurine items out of dough, ceramic, and wood.  We had fun purchasing individual items for ourselves as well as items to be sold at St. Mary's WBC fund raisers.

From there we continued on to En La Mitad Del Mundo, the museum at the middle of the world. The museum tour guide discussed the indigenous Amazon people in Ecuador and their history.  She also discussed the native plants and animals.  We were shown a 160 year old shrunken head and it was explained to us how it was done.  

The earth's equator runs through the Amazon region and its highest point is in Ecuador.  This point is called La Mitad del Mundo which is the middle of the world.  Here the tour guide demonstrated  several examples of the phenomenon of standing on the equator.

 

Left to Right: Madre Cindy, Barbara Rudnicki, Carol Garrett, Brenda Lis, Eveyln Lane, Michael McGillicuddy, Francis DeCarvalho, Maria Entis, Tom, Glen Entis, and Carol DeCarvalho

 

 

 

 

For the second Sunday of Lent: On a Clear Day
2013/02/21 by by Associate Kathryn Linhardt

The title of a sermon on the Transfiguration I heard in 1992—On a clear day, you can see forever—flashed across my mind last week as I watched a video stream of a meteor blasting across a brilliant blue sky in Siberia, a startling vision captured on endless cell phone cameras seemingly positioned for just such an extraterrestrial event. Astronomers had confidently forecast the safe passage of Asteroid #2012 DA14 on that very day, orbiting a mere 17,000 miles from Earth, but they had failed to predict this daring space invader, which crashed with the force of 500 kilotons of energy, jarring us all out of complacency. On a clear day, you may encounter a 10,000-ton fragment from forever, letting you know there is another world out there, with after-shocks sure to follow.


The Transfiguration is just such a phenomenal mystery. Jesus goes up a mountain to pray with three disciples when, suddenly, he becomes dazzlingly radiant, flanked by iconic prophets, and hidden in the crystalline cloud of God. Then the vision fades away and only unspoken questions hang suspended in the mountain air. The disciples had thought they had Jesus pegged and now they were the ones taken down more than a peg or two. The intensity of the apparition had literally blinded them, toppling them over and sending them tumbling down in breathless, speechless retreat from the metamorphosis they had just witnessed. 


The gospel of the Transfiguration makes it clear that we see through a glass darkly in our small sector of the universe and are out of our element and thrown off-course when the inexplicable occurs. Jesus doesn’t ask his friends who they think he is in this dramatic scene; he shows them in blinding lucidity. Yet they will continue to struggle to recognize and acknowledge his divine persona.  Likewise, the recent fireball over Siberia, outshining the sun as it burst from the cosmos on the Russian Orthodox holy day, the great feast of The Meeting of the Lord, was a resounding jolt to our observational skills and equilibrium.


All of which brings me round to that long-ago sermon in a San Diego parish. It was based on a lightweight show tune of the ’60s but the priest unexpectedly opened new vistas with the theme, eloquently talking about those peak days in our lives when everything is crystal clear and you feel like you can see forever. His beautiful imagery has helped me see, over the years, that the Transfiguration revealed the forever—the kingdom of heaven—clearly in our midst, and that Jesus was light years beyond the limited grasp of his followers; yet absolutely within reach because of his love. And there I have remained, unable to risk further shock waves by actually following up on the questions that remain in virtual suspension. At least the apostles eventually lived up to their name, which means “one who is sent,” and took their mission to heart and far afield. I am still at a standstill, asking myself: What would it take to decode the truth implanted in the here and now? What alteration of perception must take place for me to truly see Christ in the people in my life? And when will I understand that the provinces of the known and the unknown are one and the same?


I have no answers but I am beginning to see beyond myself and that has opened up a panoramic view. True humility, as revealed by Jesus, is the starting point to a marked shift in consciousness and a new trajectory of love. This is a quantum leap into the unknown, discovering a new world evolving within the old.  But inexplicably, I am moving forward with every expectation that someday, like a bolt out of the blue, I, too, will be joyfully stunned, head over heels, by the Eternal Love that was always there if only I had been able to detect its celestial radiance in the vast darkness within me. On that clear day . . .

February 19, 2013 -- WBC
2013/02/20 by Evelyn Lane -- Quito Volunteer

And gather the little children. Preschool at the Working Boys Center


Preschool

February 19, 2013 -- Visiting Vocational Shops
2013/02/20 by Evelyn Lane -- Quito Volunteer

 

Woodworking Shop

Mechanic Shop

February 19, 2013 -- WBC Center One
2013/02/20 by Evelyn Lane -- Quito Volunteer

We started off the day by taking an all morning tour of the Center for Working Boys.


It was amazing to see the development of the center from 40 years ago that was started by two people that are still here in their efforts to eliminate poverty among working boys and their families.


Sister Cindy showed us around the large center. The main thrusts are family and education. We visited the training in wood shop...making furniture such as dining room sets and cribs. Welding, automotive, machine shops, paint shops, and fabricating shops were viewed.


A bakery and cooking school were for the boys and girls. The girls are trained in cosmetology, sewing, marketing and crafts to sell. Reading, English and math are requirements for everyone. Adults can receive training at night.


 


Bakery

February 18, 2013 - Visiting a Home
2013/02/19 by Maria and Glen Entis -- Quito Volunteers

In the afternoon - after mass, the dance performance, and a delicious lunch - we drove out of town to the barrios to visit three different homes of Working Boys Center families. It was an impressive visit - the homes were so simple by US standards, yet each family was so proud of what they had accomplished in managing to put a roof over their heads. Each host received us graciously, invited us to walk through and photograph their home, and answered questions about how much they earned, how much they paid for the house, water, electricity and food, and how long they had to commute to work and school.

 

Picutured below Left to Right: resident of the home, Padre Juan, Madre Miguel,     Michael McGillicuddy,BVM Associates and organizers of Quito trip Carol DeCarvalho    and Francis DeCarvalho

 

Home

 

The homes are simple, small brick structures with tin roofs. This one was probably 500 square feet max, and housed a family of six. Everything was basic - for example, laundry was done by hand on a roughly surfaced concrete table outside the front door. Yet, the laundry had been done, and was carefully hung for drying in the main room (which was also where several of the children slept at night). In the picture, from left to right: one of the sons of the house (partial, extreme right), the mother, Padre John, Madre Miguel, Mike McGillicuddy, Carol DeCarvalho, Francis DeCarvalho.

 

February 18, 2013 - Making Educational Choices
2013/02/19 by Maria and Glen Entis -- Quito Volunteers

The last home we visited was home to eight people. The oldest daughter of the house gave us the tour - her parents were both at work. She stays home. At 18, she has finished her education, and she has a child of her own, the toddler being held here by her young uncle. So, she stays home to take care of her child, her younger siblings, and the ducks, chickens, pigs, and dogs wandering around loose around the property.


It was a poignant study in contrasts. This family moved to the Quito area from the south several years ago, but the older stayed back to finish high school. Her younger siblings are enrolled in the Working Boys Center and are learning a trade and earning a future for themselves. Presumably the road will be rockier for an 18 single mother without a trade who does not and currently cannot work outside the home.

 

 

 

 

 

February 18, 2013 Glen Entis and Dancer
2013/02/19 by Maria Entis -- Quito Volunteer

After the first dance performance from the 4 and 5 year olds, we were told that now we get to see the "little ones" in action. Again an amazing and elaborate performance, this time by kids who were mostly 3 years old. After their performance, the dancers came over to our group, one at a time, and one by one singled us out so that we each received a gift of a hand decorated Working Boys Center candle and a hug. Here's Glenn Entis with the young performer who so memorably and touchingly welcomed him to the center (she was a good dancer, too!)

Glen and Child

 

February 18, 2013 - The Working Boys Center Dance Troupe
2013/02/19 by Maria and Glen Entis -- Quito Volunteers

The pre-schoolers from the downtown center treated us to a special performance of native Ecuadorian dances. It was amazing to see what an elaborate series of dances these kids could remember and perform - each dance lasted several minutes and included complicated group moves with the sashes of their beautiful costumes. These kids were mostly 5 years old -a few younger, a few older.

Children Dancing

 

February 17, 2013 Quito
2013/02/18 by Photo Patrick McCrystal

Patrick McCrystal and Clare McCrystal are parishioners from St. Mary's Los Gatos. Patrick is  a teacher at Bellarmine High School in San Jose and came with students to Quito. All are at a "minga" -- helping to build a house for a family from the Working Boys Center.

 Quito Minga 

Packing Party at St. Mary's
2013/02/15 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

On Ash Wednesday some of the volunteers traveling to Quito this Sunday met at St. Mary's Parish Hall to pack new socks and underwear that the 8th grade class had collected.  These clothes will be taken to the Working Boys Center. On the way home the empty suitcases will be filled with Ecuadorian crafts that will be sold in December at St. Mary's annual soup supper.

Here are some of the packers. 

 

Lane and Rudnicki Evelyn & Marilyn
Evelyn Lane and Barbara Rudnicki Marilyn Wilson, BVM Evelyn Lane, and in the background Carol De Carvalho, Brenda and John Lis.

 

The Packers
Carol DeCarvalho, Evelyn Lane, Elizabeth
Avalos, BVM Brenda Lis and John Lis

Reflections of a one day WBC experience
2013/02/15 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

 

Last year, 2012, my husband and I had planned to stop in Quito to visit the Boy's Center on the way to the Galapagos.  When we contacted Sr Cindy, she immediately asked us to join the volunteer group from St Mary's on a tour of the surrounding areas, including Otovalo , volcanic lake formation, and other cities.  As we arrived at the center, we walked over to the bakery and purchased some of the most delicious breakfast pastries----I later discovered that this is one of the businesses that came about in training the students for employment .  It was so professional and such a high quality that it could have been in any big city of the world.    Since we were embarking on an all day bus trip, Sr Cindy also asked that we stay for dinner to see the center in action.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to have such a loving first day of our vacation---from visiting and appreciating the beauty of all of the sites, the compassion with which everyone shared their mission, the warmth that we met as we began puchasing all the beautiful fabric items to bring back to St Mary's from the market .  The final part of the day began with a small reflection and sharing before dinner----Dinner was a lovingly prepared rustic meal full of fresh vegetables and goodness, with one of the best soups I have had.  

Though My husband and I were only there for one day, we will remember it forever....and hope that we can plan to do the full immersion trip in the future.  In the meanwhile we pray and support their mission with all of our hearts.
May God continue to bless all of your efforts and all of your volunteers!
Donna and Fulvio Spagna

 

Happy Valentine's Day
2013/02/14 by Lou Anglin

Denny, a gentle giant of a man who worked with us here at Mt. Carmel for over thirty years, died suddenly over the weekend. He had just retired in January and was looking forward to slowing down a bit, relaxing, and spending more time watching John Wayne movies and the Cubs. He was a simple man. He worked hard. He was reliable. He was dedicated to giving things his best shot. He was a good friend to many and was never in too big of a hurry that he couldn’t stop to chat. He loved his wife, Mary Ann.

This might be an unusual reflection for Valentine’s Day but it seems appropriate to remember Denny on a day that’s about love. He wouldn’t want a big fuss made or for anyone to get overly sentimental. He was more about just doing what needed to be done. If a person can be measured by the number of lives he touched with every day kindnesses then he was a big man. He will be greatly missed by many. 

Pictures from St. Mary's Blessing of Volunteers to Quito
2013/02/13 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

On February 10, 2013 parishioners from St. Mary's who are going to the Working Boys Center to Volunteer from February 16, 2013 -- February 26, 2013 gathered for a blessing during liturgy.  Here are some of the attendees:

 

 

Carol De CBlessing of Volunteers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the picture to the left from left to right are Carol De Carvalho -- Leading the delegation in April, Jill Montanari, Carol Thornton, and Bette Gambonini, BVM past volunteers.

Lent - Why Ashes?
2013/02/13 by Ann Chaput, BVM

It’s that time again . . . a time we might associate with “giving up” something. Maybe it was candy or your favorite television show when you were a child. Maybe you and your family tried to go to Mass more often. Or are you old enough to remember fasting, no eating in between meals, and having only one substantial meal a day? If you attended Catholic school, perhaps you made the Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoons.


Whatever the practice we might remember, whatever we might still plan to do, it is the reason we took on some form of penance that was meant to change our hearts, to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (words that were used as the ashes were traced in the form of a cross on our foreheads).


It is interesting, however, that the prophet Joel reminds us, “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.” The readings of Ash Wednesday call us to what Lent is about: reconciliation.


The traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These practices are intended to build habits for a faithful life, a life lived closer to the Savior who suffers, dies and rises at Easter. It is the springtime (what the word Lent means) of nature and of our lives of faith. It’s time to rebuild our baptismal relationship with Jesus whose name we bear as Christians.


Will the Lenten mark of ashes signify your oneness with Christ whose death on the cross reconciles us with God? Will your 40-day journey this Lent lead you to the new life in the risen Christ at Easter? 

New BVM Associates and Friends Volunteer Delegation Headed to Working Boys Center
2013/02/11 by Elizabeth Avalos

On Sunday, February 10, 2013, in Los Gatos, California, at St. Mary’s evening liturgy 12 parishioners were given a blessing by the assembly in preparation for their trip to the Working Boys Center.

 

Those going to Quito, Ecuador from February 17, 2013, to February 26, 2013, are Tom Albanese, Carol De Carvalho, Francis De Carvalho, Carol Garrett, Evelyn Lane, Brenda Lis, John Lis, Clare McCrystal-Maloney, Fiona McCrystal-Maloney, Anne Maloney, Patrick McCrystal, and Barbara Rudnicki are those going from St. Mary’s Parish in Los Gatos.  Joining them in Ecuador will be Michael McGillicuddy from St. Gertrude’s in Chicago, Bryan and Lynn West, from Olympia, Washington, and Maria and Glen Entis from Vancouver Canada.

For the past five years there has been a delegation from St. Mary’s going to the Working Boys Center to join a delegation from the midwest led by Lou Anglin, BVM. This year Carol De Carvalho and Francis De Carvalho, BVM Associates will be leading the delegation.

We ask for your prayers for these volunteers and for the 16 students from Bellarmine High School, a Jesuit School in San Jose, who will be volunteering at the WBC from February 16, 2013, to February 26, 2013. The high school group is being coordinated by Anne Maloney and Patrick McCrystal, teachers at Bellarmine and parishioners at St. Mary's

There will be daily updates on the blog regarding their activities.  Keep checking.

 

Weekly Peace Vigil
2013/02/08 by Gwen Farry, BVM

Sept.11, 2001. It was a Tuesday morning—about 9 a.m. EDT. Don’t we all remember where we were, how we felt, and how we wanted to respond to the tragedy of that day?

 

A group of Chicago peace activists gathered at 8th Day Center for Justice to reflect and plan a response. The group decided to have a peace vigil at the Federal Plaza each Tuesday during the hour that the twin towers were attacked.

 

The purpose of the vigil would be to demand a response to the attacks that would not be “in kind,” but rather, would promote a peaceful, just resolution. Besides distributing leaflets, the vigil participants would hold signs such as: “War? We can do better” or “Peace in heart, family, community, nation, world” or “War is not the answer”—and my favorite, a quote of Pablo Casals: “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing, but should love stop at the border?” 

 

For about 10 years the peace vigil met weekly at the Federal Plaza, except for a few times when the weather prohibited a gathering. When Occupy Chicago set up camp by the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve Bank, we decided to join them on Tuesday mornings to emphasize the connection between the economic downturn and our perpetual wars.

 

Occupy has moved on, but we remain. BVMs have been participants in the vigil since the beginning, when Mary Ellen McDonagh, BVM was on staff at 8th Day. Today, BVM-taught Dan McGuire (Help of Christians) joins BVMs Joellen McCarthy, Nancy McCarthy, Carol Cook and Gwen Farry, and other faithful friends each Tuesday morning. At the end of the hour we all gather in a circle and end the vigil singing: “Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet. Peace above us, peace within us, let all around us be peace.”

 

A People in Darkness
2013/02/01 by by Associate Kathryn Linhardt

There have been Christmases in the past when I have been more than ready to toss out the tree—and all the holiday rigmarole with it—by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 25. But after the darkest December that I can recall, a holiday season nearly extinguished by an outpouring of national mourning for the children of Newtown, Conn., I have found myself in the unlikely state of continuing to honor Christmas and will do so until it traditionally ends on Feb. 2.


I have always loved Christmas too much. My problem being the “too much.” I have tried to do all and be all for all, seemingly powerless to resist the momentum of the annual Yuletide express. This past December was proceeding in classic high gear when my husband and I went down to Manhattan for our annual holiday weekend. In the festive milieu of Fifth Avenue, only moments after meeting our daughters, we learned about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And, finally, my mindless rushing around came to an abrupt halt.


It was then I vowed to take a personal 40-day El Camino from Christmas to Candelmas, seeking the way to a deeper meaning and a more transcendent joy in both the liturgical and secular celebrations of Christmas. I began this inner journey by mediating on the Advent theme of darkness and light. The scripture, read so many times before, elicited unexpected feelings of immediacy and intimacy. These reflections led to what are now daily visits to a window offering a vast expanse of sky arching over downtown Albany.  At night, I feel like a latter day Magi, swept up by the starlit sky; up before daybreak, I search the eastern horizon for first light. O! Radiant dawn.


Next, I lingered over all the aspects of Christmas most dear to me, allowing this rare immersion into the season to truly season me. I once again delighted in the holiday stories that we had read to the kids and I finally read some books that I had collected over the years but, predictably, had never opened due to time constraints. This was followed by going back to family scrapbooks and photo albums, learning more about holiday customs in other countries, and asking friends to relate their Christmas traditions. Finally, I just spent time reminiscing about our family Christmases, my own childhood celebrations, and trying to conjecture how my parents and grandparents observed Christmas long ago because, sadly, they all passed away without sharing these vital memories.


Now, with renewed hope and a clearer vision from revisiting old territory and exploring new realms, I am anticipating one final Christmas celebration on Candlemas, which is also the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I am not letting this last chance to fully honor the birth of Christ to go uncelebrated so I will mark the occasion in a myriad of small but positive ways. I plan to get a jump on spring cleaning, plant some flower bulbs for indoor forcing, bake the last official batches of holiday cookies to share with others, light candles around my home and give votives to friends, and contribute to national and global peace initiatives. Most importantly, I will try to be a source of God’s infinite compassion, which in its ultimate expression is but the tender, unceasing love and forgiveness of a child. (In memory of Dec. 14, 2012)


 

Davenport Volunteer Day
2013/01/23 by Kathleen Gould

Click to see photos from the day.

On Jan. 18, the Volunteer/ Outreach team hosted a volunteer opportunity with the Humility Sisters at Café on Vine in Davenport, Iowa.

Café on Vine is a soup kitchen that serves the hungry of Davenport. Work starts early at the soup kitchen to prepare food for the 80–150 people who use its services. The Humility Sisters do not run the soup kitchen, but they are neighbors and often share volunteers. Since we had scheduled the opportunity during the work week, we did not have a big group of volunteers. I was a little nervous, wondering whether we would have enough people to get all the work done. I felt that the sister who supervised us may have been a little nervous as well. 

Once we began to prepare the meal, our tension lessened. In proper BVM spirit, we hit the ground running and took care of what was needed. Though few in number, we got the job done with time to spare! 

Throughout the day, I was touched by the people who came in for a warm meal—people who appeared to be from all walks of life. I couldn’t help but wonder about the people I encountered. It was a good reminder that we never know what goes on in a person’s life and how easily circumstances can change. 

There was one rule at the soup kitchen: no questions asked. This served to protect the people who needed its services. They could come into a welcoming environment for a warm meal and not feel judged. It also allowed us to be silently present and open to everyone. Sister C. Jean Hayen, BVM, commented on the power of eye contact and how she felt connected to the people through that simple exchange. 

Overall, it was a day of hard work and silent presence. We ended with prayer and reflection, thankful for the work of our hands and for each other. 

 

Freedom at Mt. Carmel
2013/01/16 by Kathleen Gould, Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator

This week I have had the great pleasure of spending time with the BVMs at Mount Carmel. As Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator for the BVMs, I spend a lot of my time working outside of the BVM home base in Dubuque, but am always happy when I get the opportunity to spend a few days at Mount Carmel. In trying to better understand BVM way of life, I have been doing a lot of reading about Mary Frances Clarke and the Core Values, but I have to say that the best way to truly understand what it means to be a BVM is to spend time with the sisters at Mount Carmel. These women have dedicated their whole lives living out the Core Values of freedom, education, justice and charity; many joining the congregation when they were only 18 years old.

Even though many BVMs who live at Mount Carmel are no longer able to get out into the community like they used to, they still find a way to reach out and make a difference. I joined them in two activities this week, the “diaper project” and “Knit Wits.” Through the diaper project, sisters recycle old t-shirts by turning them into diapers, and the Knit Wits make hats by weaving yarn. These hand-made goods are sent near and far to people in need—from Dubuque, Iowa and Chicago, all the way to Madagascar, Japan and Haiti. I sat next to Sister Gracia, who had recently celebrated her 80th year as a sister. At 98 years old, she was still passionate about reaching out to people in need and described her home at Mount Carmel as like “living in paradise.”

As my week in Dubuque comes to an end, I can’t help but feel happy about the time I spent making hats and diapers with the sisters. Despite our very different life stages, we are all passionate about the same thing; reaching out to others and making a difference in our community. The BVM Core Value of freedom allows us to truly embrace the person God has created us to be. I am grateful for the example of this great freedom that the sisters of Mount Carmel continue to live out. 

 

Homecoming
2013/01/12 by Lou Anglin, BVM

No one is exactly sure how our Homecoming tradition has come to be or how long we’ve been doing it. For years sisters under temporary vows in the community gathered at the Motherhouse between Christmas and New Years to be together to welcome in the New Year. It has been part retreat, reflection, play, and celebration.


All of us now are past the initial stages of community life and those of us who can continue to come together. It is a sacred time for us to stop in the middle of our busy lives and reflect on the year that is ending, to rest and relax together, and to consider how we want to be in the New Year. Our time together includes a New Year’s Eve prayer and party with sisters in the area and also a midnight walk to the cemetery to welcome in the New Year in the presence of our BVM saints.


 


 

Epiphany
2013/01/04 by Ann Chaput, BVM Associate Coordinator

 20 + C + M + B + 13  is an inscription traditionally put over the front door on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th.  The numerals are those of the New Year; the four crosses represent the four seasons of the year; and the letters are the initials of the legendary names of the Magi or 3 Kings:  Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar. 

Epiphany is the last major celebration of the Christmas season and the fulfillment of Advent.  It is the “12th day of Christmas.”  Trees may have been taken down, lights and decorations already put away, but just as it seems that the season has lost all its luster, a STAR shines and Kings arrive at the Bethlehem stable.

“What Child is This?” that shepherds and angels, and now kings come to worship!?? 

The challenge of this new year is to keep Christmas throughout the year.  Christ is born as He lives among us and through us!  What “resolution” will show that you bear the Christ Child to the world through your life?  Gold, frankincense, myrrh were not packed by Mary and Joseph to take home to Nazareth…they must have been given away.  So, we, too, must give ourselves away to others in new ways in this new year.  That is the real gift giving of Christmas! 

Happy “Little Christmas”!  The Christmas celebration continues one more week to next Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, but stays within each of us throughout this new year 2013! Bless your home, mark your door as one open to others as is the door of your heart!

 

Christmas Season
2012/12/26 by Lou Anglin, BVM

 

 

The people who walk in darkness
have seen a great light.;
upon those who dwelt
in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
                                                Isaiah 9:1

We had a blizzard here in Iowa last week that brought our busy life to a screeching halt as highways were closed, schools canceled, even stores were empty on the busy last days of the Christmas shopping season. It was perfect timing (though I’m sure quite inconvenient for some). Our country was still reeling from the tragic events the week before in Connecticut. The winter solstice was upon us. The Mayan calendar hoopla was all over the news. The blizzard brought an opportunity to take time to look for the light and to recognize it for what it was—God breaking forth again and again in our world.

 

Besides the beautiful Christmas liturgies of the last couple of days we also had two prayer services. One was dedicated to the events in Newtown and the other, Birth 2012, to pray with millions of people around the world who honor a paradigm shift toward global unity.  Both of these experiences were tender times of being with in prayer—to name the gloom of the land but to also point to the light that surrounds it.

 

As we celebrate the Christmas Season we know our world needs God’s light more than ever. In the form of a vulnerable baby born in poverty we are reminded that it’s the light that love brings to our world that matters. We can be surrounded by what appears to be darkness only to be shown that just a little bit of light—a candle in a dark room, a star at midnight, people reaching out in love to grieving parents, a phone call made to a lonely person—can make such a profound difference. May we all remember to continue to look for the light that love brings in our world and where it appears to be absent to be the light that is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Week of Advent
2012/12/21 by Ann Chaput, BVM Associate Coordinator

The clock is ticking on finishing ALL you still have to do before Christmas:  wrap packages, bake cookies and special treats, write and address your Christmas cards, prepare the food for dinner or to bring to the family gathering…all of what has been a part of your Advent is now coming to a close as Christmas is nearly here.  Even this year’s Church year rushes us with only 48 hours, the final 48 hours, before Christmas.  The 4th week of Advent is cut short…. 

In the midst of it all the preparations, which is really what Advent has been about, we’ve all paused to consider our “guest list” or those we will see for Christmas who aren’t part of our daily lives:  those who come in from out of town, the in-laws, the new boyfriends or girlfriends, the one who is “coming along” with a family member because he/she has no other place to go.  And, I’ll wager that in that “guest mix” there is someone you don’t know how to deal with or you are concerned, even anxious about seeing. How will you greet him or her?  Will it be awkward after all this time or because of a situation or past disagreement or even relationship?

The Gospel for this 4th Sunday in Advent presents a model for greeting visitors at Christmas.  You will recognize it…it’s the beautiful story in Luke (Luke 1:39-45) of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  As you listen to that gospel, watch the encounter….Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice after Mary has entered the house of Zechariah(Elizabeth’s husband).   And then, there is a movement within Elizabeth, the infant leaped in her womb, before she speaks, filled with the Holy Spirit.  

But Elizabeth doesn’t just speak, she cried out in a loud voice.  And, of course, we recognize her words, the ones we pray as part of the Hail Mary. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb

Can you imagine what that greeting must have meant to Mary, who was confused, even embarrassed by her pregnancy before marriage? What would her cousin say to her/about her?  How would she greet her when she came to visit? There’s a message for us in this gospel story.  Consider those you haven’t seen for a while, those you are anxious about being with this Christmas season, maybe those you have been thinking you should visit.  Something happened within Elizabeth before she spoke.  God happened!  God prompted her through the son Elizabeth was carrying (whom we know will be John the Baptist).  She was filled with the Holy Spirit just as we are, if we just listen to the greeting of the other and let God work through us. And, in the end, Elizabeth (and let’s imagine she might have been anxious about Mary’s visit, too) is  humbled.  And how does this happen to me....? 

Let it happen, listen to the greeting, be stirred to meet all that God holds for you in the gift of His Son in others, begun long before Christmas and told here as  just one of so many tales of God’s meeting and greeting in this Sunday’s gospel visit of Mary to Elizabeth. Let Mary be our example of courage and extending ourselves to those we have not seen for a while, those whom we’ve heard things about, whom we used to be close to, those who are family “in name only” as well as family and friends we enjoy being with. 

Let this SHORT last week – 48 hours – of Advent be a travel time to visiting and greeting the Christ of Christmas! Joyeux Noel…Feliz Navidad…Blessed and Merry (Mary) Christmas!

 

Third Week of Advent
2012/12/14 by Ann Chaput, BVM Associate Coordinator

Things change this week; rose-colored vestments are worn at liturgy and a rose colored candle is lit on the Advent Wreath this 3rd week of Advent. And, the “word of the week” (3-letter word) is JOY! The prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah  3:114-18a) proclaims the reason to be glad, to exult…”the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” And the Philippians hear the same message from St. Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always…The Lord is near.”  (Philippians 4:4-7)

Sure, it’s Gaudete Sunday which marks more than halfway through the four week Advent season.  But it isn’t until we hear the Gospel that we can realize why this Good News is really so filled with joy!   Look at who comes to John the Baptist:  those with no cloak, those without food, tax collectors, soldiers in an occupied land…To them, to us who are “filled with expectation…asking in our hearts”, “What should we do…one mightier than I is coming!”  (Luke 3:10-18)

Like the people who came to the Baptist, we, too, come to be baptized with the Spirit of Christmas soon to be celebrated once again.  ReJOYce!

 

BVMs annual celebration on the feast of the Immaculate Conception/December 8th
2012/12/12 by Ann Chaput, BVM Associate Coordinator

This past weekend BVMs and BVM Associates throughout the country gathered for sharing, prayer, and renewal of vows/promises. In Chicago, 27 BVMs and Associates gathered at the McHugh Apartments for Advent Prayer and Sharing which concluded with renewal of BVM vows and Associate promises.

Joan Mirabal and Nannie Allen renewed their Associate promises in Dallas. In California, BVMs and Associates in the Bay Area gathered to celebrate the Commitment Ceremony of new Associate Barbara Harper from San Jose, CA.

We prayed during the commitment: “Barbara, we share your joy and support you as you respond to this vocation to deepen your prayer life  and to continue to live the Gospel message of Jesus as a BVM Associate.”

 Associates gathered with BVMs at the Mt. Carmel Motherhouse in Dubuque for Mass and renewal of promises followed by dinner shared with the Sisters in the Caritas Dining room. Distance didn’t prevent associates in Stevens Point, WI, Phoenix, AZ, Indianapolis, IN, and Fort Collins, CO from renewing their promises on the feast of the Immaculate Conception through the wonders of technology.

With all BVMs and Associates, we join in prayer:

“O Lord Jesus, keep me ever faithful to the Spirit of Mary Frances Clarke. According to the wisdom of your own heart—humble, courageous, patient, loving, obedient. A person of simplicity and prayer, steadfast against injustice and violence. And sensitive always to your ways of compassion and to the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Give me, dear Lord Jesus, the necessary strength and creativity to make me your hands in the world today. Amen.”

   (Prayer of Mary Frances Clarke adapted for Associates) 

 

Second Week of Advent
2012/12/07 by Ann Chaput, BVM Associate Coordinator

It’s not the liturgical color of purple which stands against the red and green, glitter of gold and silver that has begun to surround us with Christmas preparations! The promise of Advent is richer and deeper. We are told to put on the “cloak of justice from God…”  Mitres, reserved for the office of bishop, are now worn by all God’s people,

“For God will show all the earth your splendor:  you will be named by God forever.”   (Baruch 5:1-9)

 What is it that requires such clothing, such regal dress?  Just what is it to which we are invited? Remember the PROMISE of last week’s readings?  We are invited to prepare for its fulfillment! 

In these weeks of preparation, we are prayed for, prayed for by those who share in the fulfillment of the Promise in eternity, by those who share in the journey towards the fulfillment of the Promise in our faith communities, by saints and apostles, holy men and women, and St. Paul as he tells the Christian community at Philippi and us, that there is “joy in my every prayer for all of you…that your love may increase …to discern what is of value….”  (Philippians 1:4-6,8-11) 

The well-known prophet of Advent, John the Baptist, leads the prophets and heralds through whom God has spoken for thousands of years.  John personifies the Advent message in the Gospel this week.  His “baptism of repentance” looms from the river in the words of the prophet Isaiah, as the “voice of one crying out in the desert…’Prepare the way of the Lord…’”  (Luke 3:-6) 

Have you chosen what you will wear for Christmas as the celebration nears?  Will it be the clothes worn only on the day, purchased or pulled out, but then put away?  Perhaps it’s time to consider just how we receive the GIFT of GOD’s LOVE in Jesus.  There’s more than splendor in that! Let’s choose a cloak, a mitre, a heart clean and new, ready to celebrate and live the GIFT we have received, THE gift of Christmas, the PROMISE fulfilled!

 

Morning of Service: Well of Mercy Women's Shelter
2012/12/03 by Kathleen Gould, Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator

On Dec. 1, the BVM Outreach/Volunteer department had our first service morning. Fifteen volunteers consisting of BVM sisters, associates, and friends arrived at the Well of Mercy Women’s Shelter on the north side of Chicago. The mission of the shelter is,” To provide a communal home environment that exists to support single pregnant women who choose life for their babies. The mothers, empowered by faith and with support and guidance, will be on their way to build solid futures for their families.”  Mary Zeien, the foundress and director of the shelter, used her life savings to create this ministry only a year and half ago.

 After everyone gathered together, we began our morning with a prayer adapted from the first section of the Gifts of Service document. We used the image of our outstretched hands and reflected on the work our hands were about to do, the people we would touch, and the gift of the BVM charisms.

After the prayer, we broke up into five groups to tackle the different projects that needed to be done that morning; organizing the kitchen and the nursery, cleaning out two rooms to get them ready for new mothers, and winterizing the outdoor patio. We worked hard for two hours cleaning, and praying for the women and children who live in the shelter.

As we gathered together again in the dining room, we were tired and reflective. Praying together, we started thinking on the morning’s happenings. BVM Margaret Haas shared her wonder and concern for the future of the children who would play with the toys that she helped to organize. Associate Dolores Coruthers talked about meeting one of the residents and visiting about what delivering her baby in a few days might be like. Dolores said she might even be at the hospital that day with her. Associate Joanne Yerkes prayed for the woman whose bedroom she cleaned, especially as she packed her photos; there was a sacredness she experienced in sharing the special moments of the woman’s life.

The morning concluded with lunch while Mary shared her story and the subsequent founding of the Well of Mercy Women’s Shelter. Mary explained that they did not call the Well of Mercy a shelter among themselves, but rather, a home where they live in community and support one another.  Mary has a fiery spirit filled with God’s love which she shared through her story and her generous hospitality. As I headed home, I felt very happy with the work we had done and the people we encountered. The morning had been a success, and I look forward to the other opportunities that are planned through the BVM Outreach/Volunteer ministry.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and to especially thank Mary Zeien for her warm hospitality and openness to the volunteers. 

 

First Week of Advent
2012/11/30 by Ann T. Chaput, BVM

Advent celebrates God's multiple comings into our lives. 

The first Advent leads to the historic birth, the "Word made flesh" in Bethlehem. 

God comes to us now as we are baptized into the life of Christ through the sacraments and as God beckons to us through the poor, lonely, abandoned, marginalized.

And there is the third coming, beyond our present and the immediate.  This Advent journey leads to the Lord's final coming in glory, the journey to eternal life.

As we sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," the gospels of Luke begin this new church year.  Signs will accompany the coming of the "Son of Man."  (Luke 21:25-28;34-36)

On this first Sunday of Advent, Jeremiah the prophet reminds us that the PROMISE will be fulfilled.  (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

As we listen, pray, ponder, and prepare, with the Thessalonians let us listen to Paul,

"May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another...to strengthen your hearts... in holiness before our God...at the coming of our Lord Jesus...."  (1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2)

Open House Celebration
2012/11/27 by by Kathleen Gould, Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator

We celebrated the 179th birthday of the BVM community on Thursday, November 1st with a wonderful open house centering on our new Outreach/Volunteer ministry. Associates and BVM’s in the Chicago area gathered at St. Gertrude’s Ministry Center to see the new office, learn about some of the volunteer and outreach opportunities coming up, and celebrating the BVM community’s birthday with fellowship and Mass. The open house was from 4:00-7:00. It was a wonderful night of conversation and sharing, Father Dominic Grassi, the Pastor at St. Gertrude’s, blessed the new BVM Outreach/Volunteer Office. All who attended were excited about the service opportunities coming up. Here are a few save the dates to put on your calendar.

 

December 1st, 2012: Well of Mercy Women’s Shelter, 6339 N Fairfield, Chicago, 8:30-12:00: Come join us for a day of service followed by reflection and prayer.

 

February 2, 2013: Holy Family Parish, 1080 Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, 10:00-12:00:

 

Sister Marion Murphy, BVM will share her ministry and make us aware of hunger in Chicago. Reflection and prayer will conclude the morning.

 

March 16th, 2013: St. Gertrude’s Ministry Center, 6214 N. Glenwood Ave, Chicago1:00-3:00: Sister Rose Mary Meyer, BVM discusses Project IRENE advocacy, followed by sharing and prayer.

 

April 1-10th, 2013: Quito, Ecuador. Join us for our immersion trip to Ecuador.

 

Keep an eye out for more opportunities to join us in outreach and service, sharing the charism of the BVM community. Contact Kathleen Gould, Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator, for details concerning these opportunities at kgould@bvmcong.org.

 

Future Shock, 2012
2012/11/20 by Kathy Linhardt, BVM Associate

Sandy put the East Coast through the shredder last month and, as we head towards the coldest, darkest time of the year, the losses are mounting, the misery is intensifying, and people’s lives remain tattered and in ruins. 

On October 29, the world watched in dread as the massive hurricane raced northward, swamping densely populated areas, battering beach towns, and quelling all defenses in its relentless path to New York City. The worst case scenario had become reality. As I viewed the harrowing images on television, I was deeply worried about the safety of my daughter, who has lived in New York since 2000. Thankfully, Kelley and her husband made it through another unthinkable event there, and have persevered through the post-storm challenges, fully cognizant of their blessings.

In the aftermath of the havoc and destruction, I have wrestled with so many issues on my once peaceful walks in autumnal upstate New York.  I recall what was once connected and what is now detached; what was once whole and is now broken, and fail to see anything constructive in this wrenching divide. I struggle with a concept like normalcy, let alone the quick expectation of a return to normalcy.  And the questions keep coming.  Why did Sandy have to make landfall at Atlantic City, where one-third of the residents were already mired in poverty?  Why all the fire-ravaged homes in Breezy Point or the mass devastation on Staten Island?  Hadn’t these people suffered enough already?  Frustrated and sad, I kick aside a pile of leaves like so much storm debris.

Inevitably, I turn homeward without answers.  But, over time, I have come to the conclusion that I just can’t sink back into apathy and amnesia as the news focus swings away from this natural disaster and normalcy returns.  I know that this hurricane was a global catastrophe, a planetary wake-up call, and it set the record straight on climate change. So, I have resolved that the only positive legacy for me will be an uncompromising commitment to become more environmentally aware and pro-active, and a renewed solidarity with those who are frail, who have suffered, and who are without hope.  It is time to put my resources, intelligence, and compassion to work in a redemptive way.

Time is such a thin thread of indefinite length but it is all we have to hold on to save humanity and a planet.  And there is no time to waste.  Even as I write this blog, the water level of the Atlantic Ocean, buoyed by melting ice in the Arctic Circle, is rising – unquestionably rising -- along the Eastern seaboard.   

Presente: The Journey toward Solidarity
2012/10/31 by Mary Ellen Madden, 8th Day Center for Justice

SOA Watch

 

Jump to Bottom

Yesterday, almost 400 people across the Americas are fasting to close the School of the Americas, including three of us here at 8th Day.  Each November, I revisit how I got involved in the movement, why I stay part of the movement, and how I want to recommit myself to it.  This year, though, this brief fast is giving me an opportunity to sit with and hold the movement in a new way.  Today, as I hold in my heart the millions who have felt the devastation of the School of the Americas, I’m also sitting with a question: How have I evolved because of this movement?

 

On Monday night, as I was anticipating yesterday's fast, I realized that it has been seven years since I first stood at the gates of Fort Benning.  Before taking that very first overnight bus ride, I’d say my understanding of social justice issues was relatively broad, but sort of simple.  Fair trade, worker’s rights, immigration, war, poverty – these were all things I knew I cared about, all things we worked on in our student group on campus.  But from the stage at the gates of Fort Benning, it was really the first time I was being pushed to consider how all issues of injustice are interconnected; how our foreign military and trade policies fuel poverty, force people to migrate, and devastate the world community in a slew of other ways.

 

A few years later, I heard Roy Bourgeois  speak at the vigil about how our fight for justice must also address the oppression of women within the Catholic Church.  Naively, until then, the lens through which I viewed society, recognizing it rampant with patriarchy and violence against women, was not attuned to the same phenomenon in the Church.  From then on, concern for women’s issues in the Church weaved their way into my worldview. 

 

Last year, the meaning of the movement deepened within me at the Vigil for two reasons.  As staff for the BVMs at 8th Day, it was my first year as part of the national organizing team.  And, three months earlier, I lost my aunt to cancer.  During the solemn funeral procession, where we remember those who have died at the hands of SOA graduates, the impact of the latter coursed through me.  My family and I were grieving the most significant loss of my life.  For years before that, I had been outraged at the senseless torture, killing, and loss inflicted upon the people of Latin America because of the SOA.  I thought I knew the meaning held by that funeral procession year after year.  As I chanted ‘presente’ last year, though, I felt connection that I’d never felt before.  Though pain and grief has many faces, when we come to know it intimately, we can honor it more fully in others. 

 

I moved toward the gates of Fort Benning last year with a deeper reverence, a deeper ache, and a deeper outrage.  This year, I’ll move toward the gates knowing a little better what solidarity looks like.

 

Heaven in Just Under a Mile
2012/06/22 by Kathy Linhardt, BVM Asssociate

 I am always searching for signs of God’s presence on my walks around downtown Albany.  As I traverse the city’s diverse neighborhoods, the urban street life speaks to me in a myriad of ways; and, occasionally, in small, untranslatable epiphanies that lead me onward.  I’m not sure what these moments mean; I just know they have meaning.

 “Hey, Raisin Bran!” shouts a man in passing. It takes me a second to recognize a former guest at the emergency feeding program where I have served breakfast for eight years.  I am amused that he has remembered a brief conversation we had a year ago about healthy cereals, and I give him a “Hey” back.

A few blocks later, I leave the relative safety of my Center Square neighborhood behind and enter the poverty, decay and crime-ridden streets of Arbor Hill.  Yet, despite the relentless terrain of blight and despair, I am reassured to see people conversing on stoop; small signs of stability and vitality.   As I head to Central Avenue, once Albany’s premier shopping street but now a mix of rundown stores and cafes catering primarily to this neighborhood, it occurs to me that Arbor Hill residents walk regularly through Center Square but my neighbors and I rarely venture into their environs.   I resolve to begin making an effort to “cross borders,” walking a few extra blocks to buy a cup of coffee and food items from these struggling businesses, and deciding to contact a local community center about how our two neighborhoods – one middle-class and the other impoverished -- can find ways to start bridging a city’s societal divide.

As I walk near the New York State Capitol, I am wondering if I can truly make any viable contribution in easing the entrenched and intractable problems of Albany.  Nevertheless, I feel the stirrings of new directions, connections and possibilities and have the upbeat feeling that, “Someone up there is watching over me.” Just then, a large sign catches my eye and I look over my shoulder to a second-floor shop.  It is a poster of a video camera aimed right at me.  I laugh.  God resorting to divine comedy to let me know I am under providential care.

 Finally, I cross the threshold of Washington Park, Albany’s green oasis.  I follow in the wake of rowdy but skillful skateboarders, who are using a massive Civil War monument as a launch pad to careen down the main path, briefly causing a stir as they weave in and out of people who exemplify the rich global mix of the city.   I continue onward, eventually joining some kids on the banks of the park’s lake.  We peer deeply into the dark waters and wait.  They’re trolling for the rare fish catch.  I’m searching for the even more elusive sighting, the turtles that enchant me.  In the end, we all have nothing to show for our efforts.  Just hope in the company of dreamers.  But that’s good enough for me.

8th Day Center for Justice
2012/05/30 by Mary Ellen Madden

The Gospel Call to Nonviolence: Resisting the War & Poverty Agendas of NATO & G8

 

On Sunday, May 20, thousands gathered to say no to NATO and yes to peace at a rally and march that the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8) has been planning since June 2011.  In partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams, 8th Day Center for Justice trained about 100 peace guides for the event. 

 

Since August, 8th Day staff have been analyzing the implications of NATO and G8 on the world community in preparation for the groups’ summits in Chicago.   As we moved from reflection to action, we dialogued with coalition partners about how to join together to live into our shared missions to be critical alternative voices to these oppressive bodies that are literally ruling the world.  In addition to the peace guide trainings for the events, 8th Day staff collaborated with American Friends Service Corps and several other coalitions to conduct nonviolence trainings for anyone who might attend the rally and march.

 

In the midst of these preparations, in March President Obama announced that the G8 would gather, not in Chicago, but at Camp David.  “How would this change CANG8’s planning?” we initially asked ourselves.  Almost immediately, we realized not much  would change at all, considering the most economically powerful in the world are also the most militaristically powerful; nearly every country that is part of the G8 are also part of NATO.  (Camp David was apparently the site for the bachelor party, since the same folks hopped on planes to Chicago two days later.)  Especially considering the worldwide economic crisis we find ourselves in is deeply rooted in NATO’s military spending, the message would remain the same – we will not stand for the war and poverty agendas that are set in motion by a few, but affect the entire world.

 

On Sunday morning, we prepared to rally and march by celebrating Mass with Pax Christi just south of Buckingham Fountain on Chicago’s lakefront.  The communal celebration grounded us as we declared our resistance to NATO/G8 as a response to the Gospel call to love and nonviolence.

 

In the hours that followed, we bore witness to voices of renowned civil rights activists boomed from the stage; we listened to the soundtrack of our resistance from Rebel Diaz and Tom Morello; we wept as veterans renounced and apologized for the wars they served in.  One veteran, before symbolically returning his service medals to NATO leaders, declared, “I dedicate these medals to the children of Iraq and Afghanistan.  May they forgive us for what we’ve done; may we begin to heal; and may we begin to live in peace for all eternity.”

 

The BVMs’ mission “freed by love, acting for justice” repeated over and over in my head as we called on NATO/G8 to reexamine their agendas that have left the world community devastated by violence and economic ruin.  The conversion that takes place when we are freed by love is what I hope may come of our outcry to NATO leaders on May 20.  May a conversion of heart – a conversion from war to nonviolence, from invasion to self-determination, from power to mutuality – lead us to a place where world leaders begin truly acting for justice.

 

8th Day Center for Justice
2012/05/11 by Mary Ellen Madden

 


 


The SOA Watch Movement: Resistance Based in Lived Experience


Last month I traveled to D.C. with my coworkers Liz and Kathleen for the School of the Americas Watch April Days of Action.  It was my first time at the April Days after attending the November Vigil for the past several years.  It was also my first SOAW event since traveling to Ecuador.


As we conferenced and strategized about the movement, the reality of our country’s foreign policy regarding Latin America grew even starker for me as I remembered the Ecuadorians I had met just weeks before.  It seems that if the leaders in Washington witnessed the lived experience of the poor of Latin America, they wouldn’t perpetuate such repressive and violent systems.  But the truth is they do know about the plight of the poor in Latin America, yet they ignore it because they have not taken it on as part of their own truth, their own responsibility.  This is the problem we have, in Washington and in all situations of power-over politics; the lived experience of those most acutely impacted is swept aside and rarely serves as the basis for policy.  These blocks are what keep the waters of peace and justice from flowing throughout the one human family that we are.


On the other hand, the SOA Watch movement negates this blatant disregard of people’s lived experience, and instead honors it and lifts it up to serve as the framework for the movement.  Every November, those lives, those names that are sung as prayer with presente as amen are what began this movement and what continue to guide it.  Honoring lived experiences is why the movement has grown to include not just resistance against military policies, but all policies that keep the poor in poverty.  Just because Ecuador no longer sends troops to the School of the Americas does not mean that the poor of Ecuador no longer suffer from the top-down foreign policy we inflict upon developing countries.


And so, as we rallied and marched on Capitol Hill, I held with me the stories I heard and the people I met in Ecuador, calling for a conversion of heart and mind for our country’s leaders so violence and repression will end.  Only when we hold the lived experience of the poor in the highest regard, and formulate our policies around them, will we truly see justice flow like a river.

Holy Thursday
2012/04/05 by Lou Anglin, BVM

 

 

I find that it’s often hard to know how to feel during Holy Week. It’s so full of such meaningful scripture passages that evoke so many feelings- love, suffering, sacrifice, freedom, hope—and that’s just on Palm Sunday. The rest of the week just adds fuel to the fire. It helps when I remember that I will never have it all figured out, never understand all the meaning, that it all is more than I can ask or imagine.

 

The Holy Thursday liturgy for example is so rich. There have been hundreds if not thousands of books written on the theology of these three readings. I’ve been inspired and challenged by reflections and homilies on becoming free from those things that enslave, the outpouring of abundant love through the story of Jesus sharing his very self, and how to “do this in memory of me” as loving servant and in solidarity with others when Jesus washes the feet of his friends.  

 

Having recently come back from our mission trip to Ecuador the meaning of our time spent there is still something “more than I can ask or imagine”. Some of the meaning of Holy Thursday helps here, too. I’m reminded of the simple welcome of an Ecuadorian woman sharing her home with us and wonder if I’m not more than a little conditioned to have things to be just so before I open up to others. I consider our BVM sisters in Ecuador and wonder if I could ever sacrifice comfort and security to commit to be with those who don’t have what I’ve grown accustomed to having. I think about the leaders at Yachay Wasi, an indigenous school in Quito, and continue to be inspired by their focus on living in right relationship with people and creation.

 

I’m quite sure I will never ‘get’ all of Holy Thursday. I’m equally sure I will not understand completely how deeply our trips to Ecuador have changed me. The reality of so much love is awesome. I hope to continue to listen and be changed by the stories told during these Holy Days.

Blessing the Bread,
the Cup

Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
its infinite grace.

Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love that drenches,
that makes us anew.

Let us gather
around these gifts
simply given
and deeply blessed.

And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world

                                              by Jan Richardson www.paintedprayerbook.org

 

Treasured Cuttings
2012/04/03 by Kathy Linhardt, BVM Associate

  I was delighted when a friend recently presented me with three, lush pussy willow branches.  I have always cherished them as a harbinger of spring and envisioned arranging them as a dramatic backdrop to a seasonal bouquet.  However, my friend instructed me to re-cut them, place them in water to develop their roots, and then plant them in my yard.  Privately, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to that route, but all that changed when she told me their history.


            The original branches were purchased in the early 1960’s for a social event at her mother’s office in Chicago.  When they unexpectedly started to leaf out, they were no longer considered desirable and were tossed in the garbage.  But her mother secretly rescued the lot and planted them in her yard. The result was a pussy willow bush that has flourished for a half-century and which has contributed many offspring over the years, including the large and long-lived specimen in my friend’s yard in Albany.


            Knowing the story behind these branches captured my heart because I, too, have had enduring relationships with plants, who were originally unloved.  I promised my friend a cutting of my crown of thorns plant, which I have had for over 30 years.  My massive plant originated from a little branch I snipped off a tangled, gnarled plant that had been placed at a window in my Boston office and neglected for a quarter-century thereafter.  The progeny of the ancient one was one of the few plants I moved from New England to the Midwest in 1982 and the only one that accompanied us to upstate New York in 2003.  By then, it was almost six feet tall and I had to severely prune its formidable branches so it could be safely transported in our car.  But I could not leave it behind.


Today, as it does every Lent, my crown of thorns plant is wildly blooming – tiny scarlet blossoms amid vivid green foliage – but it is not alone.  It is on a shelf next to an orphaned gardenia, which was passed on by a friend who was displeased by its lack of beauty, and just above my latest legacy, a large Christmas cactus I rescued from an elderly neighbor’s garbage last summer.  When it started to bloom abundantly in November, I offered to give it back to her.  But she just laughed, saying she had kept it for over a dozen years and was tired of tending to its needs.  Oh, the joyful privilege of caring for these free-will offerings; these living traditions!  My cactus is now blooming again, laden with delicate fuchsia flowers, and it seems content just to be alive.  Just to be treasured.                                                           

Time for the Resurrection
2012/03/30 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Let us keep announcing the Resurrection,  That Good News is at times difficult to proclaim as one listens to the daily retelling of the Trayvon Martin death, or the deliberation at the Supreme Court of the Constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Law, or the deaths in Afghanistan, Syria, or Palestine.


Yet as we approach this Holy Week the many deaths, struggles, challenges, facing the global community is a broader reflection of that week leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus.  The highs and lows of that week remind us of the positive steps forward to insure the common good and the falling back to ‘what’s in it for me?” attitude.


What we have to set our sights on is the Resurrection at the end of the struggle, challenge and chaos that confront us in our daily living.  We have to remain true to the women who stood beside the cross when all seemed lost.  Who cared for the body of Jesus at his death. Who faithfully came back to the tomb on the Sunday morning and were met with the news of the Resurrection.


How do you journey through these challenging days?  How do you celebrate the Resurrection Story?

 

Ecuador...
2012/03/20 by Jill Montanari

 


We are alive and well in Quito!  
Sunday morning, Helen  and Andy Byrnes accompanied Padre Juan and Madre Miguel to mass outside Quito.    The rest of our group left early to work on a Minga.We took public transit, then  were chauffeured in the back of a pick up truck (standing) to our work site  We  shoveled dirt, moved rocks, & tamped down dirt for the foundation.  Then  they mixed cement by hand, and we helped shovel it into wheelbarrows and carry  buckets of cement. By the time we left the floors for two rooms and the  perimeter were completed!!!
The family served us a delicious meal at a  neighbor's house.  

We went back to CMT, showered and left for El Mitad  del Mundo where
we learned about the Ecuadorian culture, history and the  equator's special force fields. Linda was able to balance an egg on the head of  a nail!  

Monday we all had our different jobs to do around the center in  the morning. In the afternoon we went to Calderon, which is known for its bread  dough artisan crafts, and we all shopped for our last minute gifts.  

Before dinner we had our last group Reflection, with a nice glass of  wine. We talked about how special the Working Boys Center is, the wonderful  people we have met on our travels here, and what we can do to help the work of  the WBC.

I am so thankful to Padre Halligan, Madre Cindy and Madre  Miguel for their devoted ministry of the WBC and their love and graciousness to  all. Also many thanks to our fearless leader, Lou Anglin.


Sent from  Jill's iPhone.

 


 

Ecuador...
2012/03/18 by Mary Ellen Madden

When we arrived in Guayaquil at 9am on Friday morning, I had no idea the impact this city, its people, and the BVM presence here would have on me.  We were greeted at the airport by Annie Credidio, BVM and picked up Pat McTeague on our way to Duran.  We visited the Nuevo Mundo clinic and day cares that serve Duran, a city steeped deeply in poverty.  Without these services, the people of Duran would have no where for their children to go during the day, and no where to obtain medical care.  The children danced and sang for us as we gringos tried to pick up the verses to join in.


After Duran, we returned toured Nuevo Mundo School that was started by BVMs and Associates over 40 years ago.  The school provides an education to both poor children from Duran who attend for free and privileged students from Guayaquil who pay tuition that supports those from Duran.  The school was founded on the principle that education is the only way out of poverty, but with the intention that students become leaders where ever they are.  The impact that Nuevo Mundo gradutes have had span from Duran to across the world community.  The BVM charism comes alive at Nuevo Mundo, a place where the two feet of justice - service and systemic change - is lived into fully.


After Nuevo Mundo, we traveled to Damien House Foundation, a hospital for Ecuadorians living with Hansen's Disease, also known as leprosy.  We were greeted at the door by Leon, a patient whose smile and spirit shows no indication that he is living with Hansen's.  He welcomed us into Damien House and into his arms, telling us how ecstatic he, and all the patients, were that we were visiting.  Leon's joy was so contagious that I began to feel it welling up in me.  I expected Damien House to be an emotional experience; I didn't expect tears to begin from a place of joy, but they did because of Leon.  


My tears began then and lasted throughout our visit, and they turned from joy to pain back to joy again as we listened to the patients' stories.  Men told us how they had been turned away by multiple doctors who wouldn't treat them because of the false perception that they would infect other patients.  We listened to men tell us how the symptoms in their hands drove them to cut off their own fingers with razor blades and machetes.  In the same breath, they would look up at Annie Credidio, who has run the hospital for the past 15 years, and say, "But then God sent us this angel, and she saved my life."  And she has - for these men and for every person who has stepped through the doorway of Damien House - because she treats them with the dignity and love others have denied them.


We moved to the women's wing where, again, we were greeted so graciously with hugs, kisses, and crafts the women made for us.  As they introduced themselves and told us a bit about their stories, again, they attributed their well-being to Annie and the community she has fostered at Damien.  The spirit of solidarity and love within those humble walls is one of the most remarkable things I have witnessed.  People enter the doors of Damien when they have hit rock-bottom, and, through community, their bodies and souls are healed and renewed.  


It is appropriate that we are on the Lenten journey during this time in Ecuador, as we witness the cross each day in the poverty and injustices.  Our time in Guayaquil, especially at Damien House, magnified that witness, as we heard stories of people living with a disease that they contracted because of their poverty.  However, the beauty and grace that were shared with us in that space also call our attention to resurrection.  Annie and all at Damien House remind us that this resurrection can only take place in the presence of love, dignity, and the steadfast fight for justice.

Ecuador--the adventure continues
2012/03/17 by Lou Anglin

This will be brief--the four of us that had the great privilege of going to


visit Nuevo Mundo and Damien House in Guayaquil on Friday for a trip that


we thought would get us back by 6:00 the same day just now returned to


the Working Boys Center now (Saturday night)--safe and sound, but wanting to stay away


from the Guayaquil airport for a while due to spending waaaay too much time there!


There was an accident at the Quito airport that delayed our flight for a day...will share


more later. But for now we're off to find a toothbrush, a shower, and a bed! 

Volunteers in Quito
2012/03/17 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM for Jill Montanari

Volunteers in Quito
2012/03/17 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM for Jill Montanari

On their way to Otovalo
2012/03/16 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM for Jill Montanari

 

Ecuador day 3
2012/03/15 by Linda Brekken

We spent an incredible day driving through the Andes.  Breathtaking views, and some fun adventures.  We drove to the Cotachi Lake which is a volcano that still bubbles up through the lake.  We took a boat ride around the islands and enjoyed the stunning views.  In the afternoon, we did some of the shopping for the St. Mary's Ecuadorian Soup Supper and craft sale.  The market at Otovallo is incredible. The hand made crafts and weavings sold by the indigenous people are beautiful.  We made a nice contribution to the local economy!  Donna and Fulvio Spagna from St. Mary's joined us for the day.


Our reflections this evening were focused on our appreciation for the beauty of the country and the warmth of the Ecuadoran people.  

Ecuador Day 2
2012/03/14 by Shannon O´Connell

Today the group went to the Yachay Way school to see what it was like over  there. As soon as we walked through the door each child's face lit up. They had  been waiting for us to come over because they had prepared some dances and prose  readings for us. It was pretty awesome. This was something that I have never  really had an opportunity to experience, and I absolutely loved it. They were  all so happy that we were there that at the end of one of the dances they came  and grabbed us to join along with them. How can you say no to children like  that? Even though we weren't as good as dancers as they were, they still had a  blast skipping around and laughing with us. 


While we were on our way to the school, we were told that there is  some discrimination in Ecuador towards Afro-Ecuadorian people as well as the  indigenous people. Some of the indigenous people refuse to speak, or even learn  their own language because of the issues that others have with them here. It  always bothers me when I hear about a culture that is just completely put down,  especially in their own land. Nevertheless, they still seemed to be pretty happy  people.

After we left the school, we went to one of the Working Boys Center's sites  and got to have a tour there. It still astounds me that there is so much going  on here to help the families and children in Ecuador. The group split up after  the tour, and I got to help bake some bread for dinner tonight with half of our  group. The student that was in the bake class was there helping us figure out  how big the rolls should be and whatnot, and even though we could only  understand so much of each other, because of the language difference, she was  really nice and joked around with us. The people that are going to school there  and working there have such sweet spirits and always greet us with a smile and a  "Buenas Dias!" Personally, I always feel welcomed when I walk into a room or  when someone is walking past. 

It's only been the second full day that we are here, and I feel like  everyone is finally over being exhausted and really starting to enjoy the people  and the culture here. I know I am. 


Ecuador
2012/03/13 by Lou Anglin

Dear Friends of the BVM blog,


For the next week or so we´ll be periodically reflecting on our service trip ot


Ecuador. The eight of us rendezvoused in Miami yesterday-4 from the Midwest and 4 from Cañifornia. We arrived safely in Quito around 7:30 last night--just in time to freshen up for a late dinner. The Working Boys Center is extremely welcoming to volunteers and right now there are the 18 year long volunteers along with a group from Fordham and another college from upstate New York. So with us it´s a FULL HOUSE! 


We had a wee bit of a late start today (9:00) with orientation by Madres Miguel and Cindy and Padre John. It´s quite a feat to explain the philosophy of the Working Bys Center:Family of Families because the idea of working children is not one that sits well with many. But once you understand the idea that the center needs to support the working children because their families depend on their income and then understand the center´s focus on education so the whole family can learn to support themselves and end the cycle of poverty--well it just makes sense. 


We attended liturgy with the children at the center, enjoyed a substantial noon meal, had a little rest, and then we ventured up the mountatin to be welcomed into some of the homes of the families who are the center. We respectfully enter one room, cement floor, no indoor water where 5 people live and come to a deeper understanding of what the cener is doing. The next home we visited had several rooms with 9 people living in them--but could only stand in awe when realizing that the family would have to leave their home waaay before the light of day in order to make the rugged walk, long bus trip, and then some more walking to get to the center for breakfast before the family members with went to work or school. 


Tomorrow promises new adventures in this beautiful country. My hope for all of us is that we continue to walk with eyes open to see what God wants us to see, to hear what God wants us to hear, and be who God needs us to be--while we´re here and probably more importantly after we leave. 

Third Week of Lent
2012/03/13 by Kathy Carr, BVM

In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent (John 2:13-25) John says of Jesus:  “he knew all people and needed no one to testify about human nature, for he himself knew what was within the human person.”


 Jesus knows us…knows our nature, who we are, what we think and feel and desire.  He knows our foibles and our weaknesses…AND he knows our strengths and our giftedness.  He knows the ways we are most likely to fail in loving others, in forgiving, in reaching out.  He also knows how we long to be a better person and to grow in our ability to walk this earth as he did—bringing peace, love, mercy, justice, nonviolence.


 Frequently during Lent we return to the refrain of Psalm 51:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new spirit within me.”


 A good question to ask ourselves throughout Lent:  How do I want God to create a clean heart, a new spirit, in me?

8th Day Center
2012/03/03 by Mary Ellen Madden


At 8th Day, we’re preparing for the NATO and G8 summits that will convene in Chicago in late May.  Many questions arise as we anticipate how we might join together with the voices of many other activists throughout the city looking to hold NATO and G8 accountable for the violence and economic ruin that is rampant across the globe.  What is the best way to communicate a clear, unified message of ‘no more; not in our name’ to these mammoth bodies of economic and military power? 


The questions that have emerged in my reflection as we prepare for May continue to come back to nonviolence.  Thus far, the only media narrative surrounding these summits is the warning that counter protesters are going to wreak havoc and violence on the city of Chicago.  The only way to disarm the media of their false narrative, to shift their focus to the true violence-instigators, is draw attention to the fact that the the counter-summit events and marches, planned by Coalition Against NATO & G8 (CANG8), will be rooted in a spirit of nonviolence.  I find myself asking what nonviolence means to the movement; what does it mean in my own life and work? 


 


As is the case with many large social movements, some within CANG8 see nonviolence as a lifestyle while others see it simply as an effective strategy to be used this May.  Though I find myself ever slipping up on the journey of living nonviolently, it can be hard to think outside the framework of nonviolence as a way of being, especially since it is engrained so deeply in 8th Day’s mission.  The idea of using it as strategy versus walking a path of nonviolence as a lifestyle continues to turn my mind and heart inward to discern what nonviolence means for me and my worldview, and to define nonviolence more explicitly for myself. 


 


Through this personal reflection and from dialogue with others, I’ve discovered that nonviolence primarily calls me to communication, collaboration, and mutuality.  Entering into community with those working for a more just world is tantamount to assuring that everyone within the movement holds the same beliefs.  Only after surrendering ourselves to community can we enter into authentic dialogue about our differences.  Only when we meet each other in a spirit of openness and understanding can creativity flower.  And, in that surrender and dialogue, we gain clarity of our own identity and the collective vision we have for the world.


 

Blessed are the Pure of Heart
2012/03/02 by Kathy Linhardt

           Lancaster Street in Albany has two group homes for the mentally ill in its three-block stretch of Victorian era buildings and one facility is just steps from our row house.  My husband, Bob, and I are well acquainted with the dozen or so men and women who live there and enjoy having them as neighbors.  It is a diverse group with some residents being very social and outgoing while others are depressed and withdrawn.  Some are creatures of habit, like the two guys who go out for coffee at 6 am each morning; but others are less stable and more delusional, exhibiting unpredictable behavior.  What they have in common with each other, as well as with us, is they must persevere through their inner turmoil in whatever way they can.


            Mark is a particular favorite of my husband.  He is a middle-aged African-American man who obsessively wanders the streets of downtown Albany, arguing loudly with himself or possibly with a person from his past who still haunts him.  Undoubtedly, Mark has suffered greatly and is trying to find deliverance in his ceaseless labyrinth walks.  But no matter how lost Mark appears to be in his solitary wrangling, he will always pause, slip back into the present, and pleasantly greet Bob, inquiring how he is doing.  At the same time, Mark will totally ignore me.  I don’t know if he dislikes all women but, after eight years, I fear it is only me.  I think Mark can see clearly to the very depth of my soul and finds me lacking in authentic, incorruptible goodness.  And, believe me, this perceived deficiency with the accompanying silence makes me feel like I am being rejected by all that embodies irreproachable innocence.  Having flunked consistently on Lancaster St., I know I should be more than a little worried about the final judgment to come.


             In the meantime, Mark is my truth-teller and saving grace as I, too, try to achieve some sort of salvation on my daily beat.  And, one day, I hope to meet Mark and give him a moment’s pause, a moment’s peace, in his internal storm.  One day, be pure enough of heart to be worthy of his hello.                                                                   

The Week of February 26, 2012 -- Lenten Reflection
2012/02/26 by Dan Abben

The kingdom of God is at hand. This line, from the Gospel for the first week of Lent, serves as a source of hope amid our Lenten journey. While the Church officially observes 40 days of Lent, all too often it feels like the Lenten spirit is overflowing its official boundaries, spilling well beyond Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. There are pockets of the world filled with helplessness and desperation—tension in Afghanistan, strife in Syria, a looming legal battle over the Affordable Healthcare Act. Yet, amid this darkness, we remain a people of hopeful, albeit often anxious, expectation: The kingdom of God is at hand. Feeling this conviction in our very bones, we choose to perform acts of service, charity, and justice. Each time we do, we bring God’s kingdom a little closer. We help dry up the flood of despair that seems to be drowning all too many.


For reflection: How is my Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving helping bring God’s kingdom a little closer? 

Ash Wednesday
2012/02/24 by Lou Anglin, BVM

Ash Wednesday—really?

Maybe it’s the fact that here in the Midwest winter really didn’t happen this year (yet anyway.) So for it to be Ash Wednesday is really hard to believe. What if we just didn’t ‘do’ Lent this year? It’s kind of a drag anyway—all that doom and gloom and giving up. I really like fish and there is no better comfort food than grilled cheese and tomato soup in my book. So why do I ‘do’ Lent?

There is something that appeals to me about Lent (other than the grilled cheese, etc). For me it’s something akin to cleaning my room. I don’t necessarily like to clean my room. It’s not something I do very often. But I feel better after the piles have been gone through and I can use my desk again. I feel less scattered when stuff I really don’t need has been given or thrown away. I like it when I can see the shine on the wood of my bookcase when the dust is gone. I feel freer when I’m clearer on what things I need and what I don’t. This re-ordering of my room helps me to appreciate my room for what it is—a place to rest, create, and store the essentials.

In Jan Richardson’s blog http://paintedprayerbook.com/2009/02/22/the-artful-ashes/ she writes about crossing over the threshold into a season that’s all about working through the chaos to discover what is essential. “The ashes that lead us into this season remind us where we have come from. They beckon us to consider what is most basic to us, what is elemental, what survives after all that is extraneous is burned away. With its images of ashes and wilderness, Lent challenges us to reflect on what we have filled our lives with, and to see if there are habits, practices, possessions, and ways of being that have accumulated, encroached, invaded, layer upon layer, becoming a pattern of chaos that threatens to insulate us and dull us to the presence of God.”

Perhaps a bit like cleaning the room of your heart?

So some questions that I’m going to sit with these Lenten days are    
~What is the state of my heart? What has taken up residence there over the past weeks, months, years?
~Are there habits and ways of being that I’m invested in, so attached to, that it has become difficult to discern new directions in which God might be inviting me to move? Are those things keeping me from seeing the poor and vulnerable—and knowing my responsibility to help?
~ What are the most basic, elemental, crucial things in my life, and how might God be challenging me to see them more clearly?

During Lent this site will contain blogs from people participating in a service trip to Ecuador (March 12-21st) where the essentials of life not always easily attained. Other entries will be sisters and associate’s personal reflections on their Lenten journey and how we are working towards being people of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We hope you will join us.

It is All Taken Care of
2012/01/25 by Kathy Linhardt,

I was feeling overwhelmed by personal concerns and the suffering of friends.  It was an avalanche of bad news to start off the year. Then, it came to me:  It is all taken of.  And I immediately felt an amazing peace. 

            Faith can be elusive. It seems to come and go; rushing in when needed and then receding from consciousness when not.  This intangibility is probably intensified by my yo-yo relationship with it, being complacent during smooth, upward swings and then grasping for it when things are headed downward in a twisting, floundering mess.  But it is a learning process.   And I am making some headway in moving beyond my limited understanding to a more authentic experience of faith.  I try to accept things as they are now and dwell less on wishful thinking.  I make fewer predictions and less demands, calling instead upon a steadfast –and steadying -- source of inner strength while I let go of all expectations, dreams, and mirages. I don’t want to miss the emergent good, the abiding love, in the present reality.

            But how can I even consider all will be well when calamities erupt and evils like poverty, prejudice, crazed politicians and war abound?  I’m not sure.  My faith journey is still hesitant; my spiritual quest incomplete; and I can’t crack the code. But, in the face of insurmountable injustice, and with the odds stacked sky-high, I can only do as Martin Luther King, Jr. did:  If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means keep moving forward. If there is a plan, I think this is it. Moving forward and climbing up the mountain of malady, and helping those reduced to crawling along the way, is a personal witness that justice and mercy will prevail. The kingdom of God is a work in progress, led by groundbreaking, unstoppable, ascending pioneers, who let us know the view is great; the path is true; keep on task.

My sudden revelation of faith, in the midst of awful news, actually came out of my solidarity with the Sisters of Charity, BVM.  You are my back-up network, my push forward.  I am a member of a faith community that is constant in its compassion and timeless in its tradition of prayer, support, and the open embrace of what is to come.  Just knowing that I have such love holding me up, as well as all those I hold dear, has put me in the place that BVM President, Mary Ann Zollman, BVM recently described as “grace-filled spaciousness.”

Being connected to the BVMs has made me delve deeper and seek higher in my daily life.  BVMs have a history of leading by example, quietly taking care of the duties at hand, while moving steadily upward over steep terrain. BVMs witness to the Creator of a universe outside of our realm of comprehension and of an infinite spirit of cosmic expansiveness that extends beyond our understanding.  And BVMs do so simply by following the One who does not forget the sparrow, who cherishes the wild lilies, and who lifts us up and carries us with a love that is absolute, unceasing, and, ultimately, restorative.  It is all taken care of.

 

Martin Luther King Day Reflection
2012/01/18 by Helen Gourlay, BVM

Fr. Jim Groppi is synonymous with the civil rights movement of the ’60s in Milwaukee.


Yesterday at an event in Milwaukee in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jim was honored for his work.  Jim’s wife Margaret accepted the award and addressed those assembled.


As BVMs and Associates we have been challenged to look at prophetic ministry as described by Walter Bruggemann in his book The Prophetic Imagination.  Bruggemann calls us to “hope in God, not in situations.”  Jim Groppi was a person of hope in the difficult days of the ’60s.  I share a little about his life.


Jim grew up in South Milwaukee and was the 11th of 12 children.  His activist work began when he was in the seminary; he was ordained in 1959.  Many of us remember hearing about his organization of marches in Milwaukee to bring about a fair housing ordinance which eventually came to be, largely through Jim’s leadership. He organized over 200 marches.  He also worked on behalf of desegregation of public schools and participated in the march on Selma as well as in other national events.


Jim eventually became disenchanted with the priesthood and left.  He married Margaret Rozga, a university English professor, and together they had three children, now grown.  One of them was at yesterday’s service.  At some point Jim became a bus driver, a job which he also had held when he was in the seminary to help pay expenses.  He died in 1985 of a brain tumor at the age of 55.  I'm so happy he was honored on Monday.


In 1963, MK King said “Birmingham was probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the U.S.”  In 2011, Milwaukee earned that “dubious distinction.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 15, 2012).   Obviously, the work of Jim Groppi is not finished here yet, nor is the work of Dr. King.


(To anyone wishing to learn more about Jim Groppi and the civil right movement in Milwaukee, I highly recommend The Selma of the North, Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee by Patrick D. Jones, published in 2010).


Our country and church stand on the prophetic shoulders of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jim Groppi plus innumerable others, including those in our BVM congregation and beyond.  As we held hands Monday and sang “We Shall Overcome” I felt as a people we had come a long way in “walking hand in hand” over the past 40-some years, but realize we still have a long, long way to go.

8th Day Center
2012/01/12 by Mary Ellen Madden

“And our motto on this island is salaam”

 

 

 

 

 

Since January 4, Witness Against Torture has been fasting, organizing, and witnessing in Washington, D.C., as have several people across the country.

 

“Courage, brother, you do not stand alone;
we will walk with you and sing your courage home.”

 

Yesterday we sang these lines over and over as we marched and formed a human chain in front of Chicago’s federal building, calling for closure to the prison at Guantanamo Bay and an end to torture and indefinite detention everywhere.  January 11, 2012, is the 10th anniversary of Guantanamo and still 171 men remain detained without trial; 89 of them have been cleared for release. 

As we transitioned from Courage to a litany of names of the men who remain at Guantanamo, following each name with “…is a human being!”, some from the group knelt before the doors of the federal building and surrounded themselves with these same names, creating a memorial.  People knelt before the names, paying their respects for the inhumane torture and detention that is being carried out in our name, by our country, under a president who promised ‘change’ and the closing of Guantanamo to us in 2008.

As we marched, sang, and memorialized, I couldn’t help but reflect on torture and indefinite detention in the context of Epiphany.  The distance we are, as a country, from the spirit of Epiphany, the spirit of the birth of justice and truth, overwhelmed me.  I thought of the few poems I’ve read by Guantanamo detainees in the past.  One of them reads:

 

Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?

But we are content, on the side of justice and right,
worshiping the almighty.

And our motto on this island is salaam.

I am overwhelmed by the desperation of torture and indefinite detention, but am also awe-struck by the spirit of nonviolence and peace maintained by these men in the face of being stripped of their dignity.  In this spirit, I find hope in humanity, hope that maybe some day our own country’s leaders will embody this spirit of nonviolence.  I find hope in communities like Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture who have committed their work to bringing justice to these men and all who are tortured.  Through community and solidarity, may we never lose sight of our struggle toward Epiphany, toward giving birth to truth and justice.

 

An Epiphany on the Feast of the Epiphany
2012/01/09 by Kathy Linhardt, 1/07/12

  It is the first week of January and I’m already at a stand still.  I welcome the annual quest for personal transformation and self-enlightenment but by day’s end on January 1st, I had tacked on enough resolutions to my 2012 reformation mandate that I was already in abandonment mode.  Consequently, I have decided to leave behind the marching orders and am initiating a slow dance to metamorphosis. 


   My first step needs to be an honest and searching self-examination.  But even a cursory appraisal is overwhelming.  As a 58-year old American woman, I have accumulated an opaque and nearly impenetrable layer of artifice over time.  It will take patience and perseverance to reveal my fundamental self.  But, for once, I feel up to the challenge.


    Where will this venture lead?  I hope meditation and prayer will guide me to the deepest part of me.  When my daughters were infants, I would look into their clear eyes and ask them, “Where do you come from?” I believe this secret home and its encoded message still exists in all of us.  And I need to discover this opening to truth, this source of self-understanding, this untouched core of goodness.


    I keep reflecting on the directive that we must enter through the narrow gate because the wide and easy path leads to destruction.  But what if Jesus’ real message was less of a cautionary tale and more about finding peace?  I think he was pointing to an inward journey and leading the way: “There is a path to your authentic being and you must seek it with all the love that is within you. Then the gate will swing open and you will enter the place you will recognize as home.  Once there, you will know yourself as you truly are and as one who is forever cherished.”


   I am seeking so much more than I thought I wanted just six days ago.  I realize now that I am searching for my very soul.  And when I cross the threshold to this inner passage, I expect that it will lead to revelations beyond my present grasp.  But, for now, I am still in the far country and all I can do is dance my way home.                  

New Year 2012
2012/01/02 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

The second day of a new year and already the calendar is filling up with upcoming activities.

One begins to wonder when will the rushing from one thing to the next stop and the quiet time begin?

Why do we run around trying to accomplish this and complete that?

New Year’s Resolutions just seem to compound the whirlwind of activities.

Maybe in the midst of this new year frenzy it might be best to just slow down, take a deep breath, and look at the horizon and contemplate the beauty that God has given to us.

Our tasks will still be there in a minute or two, but at least for now during this quiet moment all can be suspended and one can breathe in God’s stillness and silence.

In so doing the activities can be refocused and we can enter into them with a clearer purpose.

When was the last time in your busy day that you just stopped to breathe in some quiet?

Have a Happy New Year.

Christmas Day Reflection
2011/12/22 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

For four weeks we have read about Advent patience. About curtailing our consumerism. About remembering the Prophets and their call to justice. About standing in solidarity with the marginalized, such as Occupy Wall Street, about those killed in civil wars or military atrocities by SOA graduates. 


We were reminded that our BVM charism calls us to be free and to free others. 


Now the days of Advent are behind us.  The exhortations have been uttered and we stand amidst the Christmas days. 


We are now called to rejoice, our Saviour is born, the Saviour who will bring justice, harmony, the promise of a new world grounded on love. 


But we look around and there is little justice for those oppressed economically in our country and globally, harmony in our country shines very faintly—check out the political sound bites and the increase in violence in our urban centers—and finally the horizon for this new world is barely visible.


We could be totally discouraged or we could embrace this moment and promise that we will continue to live the life that Jesus lived.  Our lives will be a witness to Jesus¹ birth, teachings, and death. Jesus life was not a waste, but a beginning for us here at this moment in time. 


It is now that we rejoice at the birth. And others will know our joy by the works of justice that we perform.  Works of justice that will help to transform this world and bring the promise of salvation to fruition.


What activity did you engage in today that witnessed to your joy at the birth of Christ?

Third Week of Advent
2011/12/12 by Assoicate Dan Abben

Deck the halls . . .


If you have strolled in your malls or downtown shopping areas you have seen the many  stores that have been 'celebrating' Christmas since October. The hold-outs, such as Macy's, were willing to wait‹until Thanksgiving.


The ubiquitous, yet out-of-place sights and sounds of Christmas can preclude us from fully entering into the Advent season, which, traditionally, is thought to be a time to pause and reflect, to prepare our minds and hearts to celebrate the birth of the Savior on Christmas morning. This Sunday's Scripture readings, however, remind us that Advent is also a season of joy:


My soul rejoices in my God.


At first it may appear that waiting and rejoicing are dichotomous realities.


In fact, they go together quite well. We are able to wait in hope for the future because we joyfully remember all that God has done for us in the past. Taking time to revel in our previous experiences of God's grace gives us the ability to stand strong in our hope that God will continue to self-reveal love and compassion now and into the future. Thus, it is through rejoicing in the past and living mindfully in the present that we remember that the Incarnation was not a one-time event, and we open our hearts to the hope that we will continue to experience God¹s Incarnation throughout our lives. 

8th Day
2011/12/06 by Mary Ellen Madden

The month began in Milwaukee at the Call to Action Conference and it ended in Fort Benning, GA, at the School of the Americas Watch Vigil & Protest.  Two different parts of the country, two different focuses of injustice, but the interrelated nature of the issues shone through clearly, especially this year in light of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. 

 

At Call to Action, feminist theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, delivered a keynote address connecting the Occupy Movement with issues of exclusion within the Church, reiterating that the common thread is always solidarity.  Without solidarity, we are like travelers without a compass.  Walking with and living in solidarity with those on the margins is what enables us to work for justice in a manner that honors and respects the lived experience of those facing injustice.  We work for equality within our faith community because of our solidarity with folks who are pushed to the margins by the hierarchical institution of the Church.  The Occupy Movement, similarly, is rooted in the importance of using our bodies and our voices to stand together in solidarity with those most devastated by the economic reality in our country and our world.

 

 This year’s theme at Call to Action was Living the Gospel of Love.  Appropriately, I recently discovered this video that discusses the Occupy Movement as a “Revolution of Love”.  The video’s producer, Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, says of the Occupy Movement, “What we want is the more beautiful world that our hearts tell us is possible, a sacred world, a world that works for everybody.”  As I heard these words, I couldn’t help but relate them to each movement that both the BVMs and 8th Day Center for Justice are a part of.

 

 I think this reality was felt, as it is year after year, as we rallied, protested, and vigiled to call for a closing to the School of the Americas.  Eight BVMs made the journey to Georgia this year to join their voices with about 5000 others.  While this was my fifth year at the vigil, it was my first as part of the 8th Day and BVM communities.  As part of the SOA Watch coordinating team this year, I not only gained more appreciation for the movement, but I feel like new life has been breathed into my energy for it.  Viewing this justice movement through the charism of being “freed by love”, left my feet feeling more grounded, my voice more emboldened, as we called for a close to the school. 

 

 At this annual gathering that calls to mind unimaginable atrocity and despair, in a movement that has had few victories in its 22-year history, a feeling of hopelessness might easily move in.  But as we processed, as we honored each person who has been killed at the hands of those trained by the School of the Americas, solidarity remained our compass; we traveled the route of the procession holding with us the knowledge that a more sacred and just world, free of violence and oppression, is possible.  This year, as I walked in that solemn procession, I was moved to reflect on the act of ‘walking with’ that we are called to if we are to live more deeply in solidarity with those who are not yet free from violence and oppression.

 

 These movements for change in our Church, our foreign policy, and our economic structures are struggles for justice that require great patience.  As we move into the waiting of Advent, may we reflect on the importance of steadfast patience in these movements; may we trust that this patience will be fostered in community as we journey together with solidarity as our compass.

 

Second Week of Advent
2011/12/05

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.


Amid a period of ongoing oppression, God raised up a prophet to proclaim a message of hope to the Chosen People. In our own day, as the wage gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, as children suffer abuse at the hands of trusted adults, and as the institutional Church preaches a message of exclusion rather than warmly welcoming everyone to the table, we stand firm on our belief that God continues to proclaim a message of comfort and hope for all people. As Jesus’ followers, we have the opportunity to cooperate in God’s ongoing revelation by modeling hope for those around us. By doing so, we follow in the example of Mary Frances Clarke, whose hope was evident in her trust of God and love for her sisters.


Who in your life models hope for others? What are you doing to preach a message of comfort?

First Week of Advent
2011/11/26 by Kathy Carr, BVM

This week we begin again the deeply rich liturgical season of Advent…a time of waiting, hoping, preparing and pondering the mystery of the incarnation, of God-become-human, Emmanuel.

It is a season that calls us to be more reflective and contemplative…to ponder the meaning of God’s presence with us, of our call to bring God’s “kindom” to earth; to bring compassion, justice and peace to our troubled world.  This is a season which challenges us to grow spiritually, not just wait in sentimental fashion to remember the birth of the baby Jesus.  We are called to live out our adult faith which often must challenge the values of our contemporary society.

One of the things that bothers me every year, and even more so this year, is the great emphasis on “buying!”  Our consumerism seems to get more “out of hand” each year.

This year I was deeply disturbed by the number of stores that were open all day on Thanksgiving!  It just seems so wrong to deprive workers of one day of the year to “give thanks” with family and friends.  We seem to be putting more and more emphasis on what we have rather than who we are.

What would happen if every Christian chose to spend as much time and energy developing and sharing his/her spiritual gifts with others this Advent?  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this Sunday, he tells us we can do it!  “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift”…God’s grace is with us and God seeks us out in the messiness and busyness of our lives.  God’s light, love and life are available to us…we just need to be open to God’s presence with us…in the beauty of creation, in the compassion of those who serve the poor, in the prophets of our day calling us to live just and simple lives.

I was talking with a friend about this the other day, and she said her former pastor always made one suggestion to the parishioners each Advent:  to consider NOT shopping on the Sundays of Advent and perhaps spend some time in reading/pondering the Advent scriptures.

As we begin this Advent season, what would you like to do to grow spiritually…?

Fragments
2011/11/15 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

 


          I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fragments and how they define my life.  In retrospect, my guiding principles seem to be based upon a mysterious mishmash of significant moments and words, lots of words, spoken to me or calling out to me in music, poetry, prose or biblical verse.  I have completely internalized these life-changing events and life-shaping lines but when I try to convey them to others, I can neither nail down the substance or the delivery; somehow, personalizing and “re-creating” the fragments into something altogether new.


             But I seem to gravitate towards fragments, being the perpetual collector of rocks and shells, the photographer with way too many albums, and the diner who opts for appetizers over entrees.  Is this a personal quirk or a telling lack of development on my part?  Or, this the ultimate writing on the wall – fragmentation as a way of life from birth to death?


             And the questions continue:  Is a predilection to the small, coupled with an inability to see the larger picture, an innate flaw of the human condition?  To paraphrase yet another key snippet, is it our lot in life to see through a glass darkly now and turn away from those who ardently tell us that there is more, much more, out there?  We, little ones, fixated on grasping at glints, tend to have trouble with the Teilhard de Chardins and their blazing insights into cosmic truths.


            And then there’s Jesus, teaching us the most rudimentary truths in the simplest, most direct communication, and we’re still having difficulty understanding him or his message 2,000 years later.  What could be simpler than the Sermon on the Mount…except to follow it? The Beatitudes are the foundation of my faith, yet I betray them repeatedly.  But, Jesus, the merciful, keeps at it.  ‘Can’t see it or do it now, then let’s go with what you know:  leftovers.


            After feeding the multitudes, and providing spiritual sustenance for the ages, Jesus gets down to basics, commissioning a core of followers to pack up the picnic.  Off I go on this simple mission but I’m still at it.  Still gathering in the scraps; still trying to see holiness and wholeness in the broken, the discarded, the forgotten; and still so little to offer back.  Not to worry.  Jesus knows my basket of fragments is more than enough to feed both body and soul, connecting me to profound truths spiraling eons beyond my comprehension, and holding us together until the light of day fully dawns in all its immensity, beauty and simplicity.


8th Day Center
2011/10/14 by Mary Ellen Madden

Greetings!
My name is Mary Ellen Madden and I am the new BVM representative at 8th Day Center for Justice here in Chicago.  As the first lay staff representing the BVMs, I am honored to be on board and deeply humbled by the legacy that has been laid before
me by the seven BVM's who have served at 8th Day since its founding in 1974.  As you may know, 8th Day is a coalition of religious congregations that acts as a critical alternative voice to oppressive systems with the intent of changing those systems.

 I felt drawn to 8th Day and the BVMs because my concern for justice is rooted in both my Catholic identity and my worldview that all creation and humanity are interrelated.  8th Day and the BVMs approach justice work in a manner that resonates deeply with my own vision of the world we must create for true peace and justice to be realized.

 I see the BVM blog as a platform to communicate my work at the Center with the greater BVM community, and I hope we will enter into dialogue together to reflect upon and analyze the many injustices facing our world today.  Right now, the main areas I intend to focus on are women in the Church, immigration, and School of the Americas Watch.  I am also a member of a group at 8th Day that analyzes structures of institutional power; that group will be focusing on the G8/NATO Summits taking place here in Chicago in May, so some of that analysis may also find its way to the blog this year.  
I am excited to embark on this journey with the BVM and 8th Day Center communities, and I look forward to our upcoming conversations!

In Peace,
Mary Ellen Madden

 

Bringing Home Hospitality
2011/09/01 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

            A few months ago, in a burst of enthusiasm, I ordered two books on the topic of hospitality.  I placed them on my reference shelf and there they have languished ever since.  I guess I would rather give and receive hospitality than read about it.


            Authentic hospitality is a rare gift and, in gratitude for the times I have been given it, I have tried to sustain others with its healing grace.  Influenced by the example of Dorothy Day, I have been working & volunteering in soup kitchens for nearly 25 years.  And I entertain frequently on the home front, including hosting a monthly neighborhood dinner.  Still, giving hospitality doesn’t come easily for me, or for most Americans.  Its minimal requirements of time, attention, and caring are all weak points in our make-up, which are further exasperated by our frenetic lifestyle.


            My family, and our large group of American and international guests, were awed by the hospitality we experienced at the establishment we stayed at during my daughter’s wedding in Ireland.  Our engaging innkeeper amazed us with the countless ways he extended himself in offering sincere, considerate and generous service, and delighted us simply by being a genuine, welcoming, responsive host who took time to get to know us, care for us and cultivate bonds.  John demonstrated the true meaning of hands-on hospitality -- from the zillion pots of Irish tea and French press coffee he produced for the caffeine-deprived, to fixing our rental car’s flat tire, to putting on a fabulous wedding reception, to the final surprise of serving us breakfast at 4:30 am before we drove three hours to Shannon Airport – and it is a legacy that will keep on giving us comfort and inspiration for a life-time.


            On this cool August morning, I know that autumn is coming and with it the traditional time of re-connecting with family and friends, and building community.   I really should grab those books, but, instead, I’ll simply tend to the guests around my dining room table and at the soup kitchen in a wholehearted, loving way.  Practice may make for perfection but I’m aiming for something that is more within my reach, my touch, my comfort zone.  Hospitality calls for -- and calls forth – compassion and that’s the place I want to call home.


 

Raindrops on Donuts
2011/08/30 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

            As I walked to the hospital, I tried to stay completely in the present, mindful of the ephemeral moment, and finding peace in the rain-drenched, two-mile journey.  So, I soaked up the scenery along with the precipitation but, all too soon, I was in an elevator en route to the radiology department.

            My appointment had been scheduled there after I went to my internist for a routine ailment and was subsequently informed of a potentially life-threatening condition. After an hour of angst in the waiting room, the ultrasound itself took a mere five minutes, and the technician laughed when I said I was heading over to Dunkin’ Donuts whatever the outcome.

             And it was the most delicious chocolate donut ever because I did not have an abdominal aneurysm.  But after the chocolate euphoria, as I walked home in the continuing deluge, I was aware that my fleeting medical episode was both a temporary reprieve and an opportunity for lasting change.  Inevitably, there would be a grim, unyielding prognosis in my future and this false alarm had actually been a blessing, presenting me with a clear initiative to transform my life while time allowed. 

            Yet, only a few days have passed since this compelling experience and I am already teetering on the verge of amnesia.  Blissfully back to taking things for granted; being much too busy; and opting for the easy and superficial over the more rigorous and meaningful.  It is definitely time for me to establish a set of guidelines to help keep me centered and committed before I permanently slip back into a stupor.  Here, are some early ground rules, and your creative and clarifying input would be appreciated as well:

 -Stay in the present, grounded in reality and truth, yet open and receptive to spiritual signs along the way.  

-Soften up to avoid a hardened heart.

  -Don’t hesitate to go overboard on gratitude & generosity.

 - Dedicate more time to do what I enjoy but also for sampling the new with the same zest.

 -Meditate, recollect, and pray in order to cultivate a healing spirit of faith, forgiveness and inner peace.

-Let go of assumptions, expectations, judgments, and other limitations.

-Concentrate on family, friends, and those in need in the community.

 -Surprise others with caring acts and do so anonymously when possible.

 -Focus on fostering hope in myself and then in others.

-Take risks to do what is right and just and compassionate.

-Simplify.

 -Revere this rare, sublime existence on this fragile planet.

-Cherish chocolate donuts…..always.

 

                                                           

 

Antidote to an Ailing & Angry Time
2011/08/25 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

    During this summer of extreme temperatures, inflamed politicians, and a potentially combustible US economy, I have been seeking refuge in my garden.  Just yesterday, after the worst week on Wall St. since the 2008 debacle, I was rooting out my mint patch to make space for another herb garden and mucking around in the rain to clear two other small areas for a fall display of asters and mums.  Nothing makes me happier, or more oblivious to current events, than dreaming up a new garden design and planting an abundance of beauty in my urban backyard.


            Creative endeavors are a source of illumination and solace in our present twilight zone, a tempestuous time that is growing more feverish and dark by the moment.  As things get seemingly more out of control, we need to seek peace in the little things we do well and that keep us emotionally and physically healthy. Without a respite at hand, we will be unable to focus on current policy-making on vital issues ranging from climate change to proposed budget cuts to vulnerable social programs, and lack the fortitude to get involved and act on our beliefs at this critical time.


A troubled world needs our utmost attention but we also need to tend to our inner gardens.  What are you doing to restore your equilibrium, strengthen your resolve, and feel blissfully in the moment during summer, 2011?


 

Behold the Becoming
2011/08/09 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is to be commended for gifting us with another superb publication in its annual series, which serves as a prayer topic and resource guide spanning from the Visitation, 5/31, to the feast of Mary Magdalene on 7/22. This year’s compilation, entitled Behold, I am Doing Something New, focused on the “something new” that may be evolving now or in the not-too-distant future for women religious.  But it also was a meditative leap into the future for the lay reader as well.


            I was so swept away by the 2011 edition that I was compelled to mine the pages, scissors in hand, for powerful insights from the LCWR writers and the myriad of biblical, theological and philosophical selections.  Then, I mixed up the mountain of fragments and re-assembled them collage-style in a journal that I use for artistic expression and spiritual enrichment.  Six pages later, at the heart of what I consider my personal prayer book, I now have a launch pad into a new consciousness.


            Discerning what shape and direction our lives will take is still a major, re-occurring theme for my friends in their 50’s and 60’s, and for me.  The search for a new and abiding relevance at our age is rather surprising because I assumed we would have “settled” in so many ways and been solid and rather stolid founts of wisdom by now.  Instead, the quest continues and the hazy frontier where we’re bound is out there…..somewhere.


            The message of Behold is that the emergent new is already germinating in and around us if we are but receptive to the unfolding creation.  So, the “aha” moments, those tantalizing but elusive hints of enlightenment, are within reach, if we can see with eyes of hope and faith, catching those gleaming kernels of truth and beauty when the time is right for our understanding to take wing. 


             Those of us who often fail to see what is right in front of them may feel we’re not going to catch this next wave at all.  But this mysterious urge for personal and collective re-generation is beckoning us from deep within.  It is an implicit prophetic call, urging us to pay attention to what undoubtedly we’re already thinking about, loving, aspiring to attain, and maybe even tripping over at this very moment.


            And, by the by, has anyone heard from Mary Frances Clarke of late?  In a flash of soothing and motherly mysticism, did she gently fan you with her apron, put the kettle on, listen intently to your inquiries and needs, and then open the door for you to a refreshed vision of the world?   If so, please let us know if you both laughed at the revelation waiting right on your doorstep and if you’re already joyfully setting off on mission and could use some help from those of us poised on the threshold of the here, now and ever-becoming.

City Girl Talks Coffee and Hope
2011/08/03 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate

      I am a morning person, and I like nothing better than to begin my day, watching my street in downtown Albany come alive at dawn.  From my window in a Victorian era brownstone, coffee cup in hand, I see an urban mosaic taking shape and changing by the moment.  Here, in  Center Square, an awakening city comes together.  But my neighborhood, only a few blocks from the magnificent New York State Capitol, is both an appealing metropolitan gathering place as well as a quarter-mile conduit between blighted and impoverished sections of the city.   And, at 6 am, I observe once again the wake-up call of a city of great resiliency but ebbing resources.   


            Inevitably, as I begin my second cup of coffee, I’m offering a prayer for the fleeting souls passing by.  After eight years here, I’m acquainted with many in the early-morning crowd and I know their lives are difficult in this economically-depressed upstate city.  For those at the corner of Lancaster & Lark Sts., and at similar crossroads across our nation, the cards are stacked against them and our elected officials no longer feel obligated to help them achieve egalitarian parity.  These cynical politicians have turned a blind eye to the people and the vital intersection that I watch over with tenderness.  But off-the-grid to D.C. or not, we still carry on.


            Sighing, I allow myself a half-cup more, and then I, too, will be out the door to where the opulent 19th century meets the downtrodden 21st .  And, as usual, my daily ritual has offered more questions than answers.  I only know that it is imperative that I stay focused on doing what I can to bring positive change to my enduring but ever-tenuous neighborhood.  But, this morning, as President Obama prepared to sign on the debt ceiling bill, I was taking in the diverse, eclectic and spirited street life of an extraordinary – albeit forgotten -- American city, and I felt the stirrings of hope within.  


Take a moment, coffee cup in hand, to look out on your window of the world and feel free to dream up ideas on what we, as a nation, can do – in gestures small and large -- to save our cities and the precious people who live in them.


 

Beyond the Beyond on Clogher Strand
2011/07/31 by Kathryn Linhardt, BVM Associate, Albany, NY

   I’m starting off a stint of posting here this month by sharing an experience that has been in uppermost in my thoughts of late.  I keep going back in my mind to Clogher Strand, a spectacular beach in the west of Ireland where my daughter, Kelley, was married on the afternoon of May 20th.  Before the wedding began on that dramatic threshold of the Atlantic Ocean, guests made lighthearted comments about the coming of The Rapture, which was predicted to occur at midnight.  But the timing of the prophecy was to be more immediate for I was on the verge of being caught up and inwardly swept away then and there on the Dingle Peninsula.


          The simple ceremony started with local musicians singing in Gaelic, lulling me into a meditative state.  I recalled the Irish belief that the seashore is the place where wisdom is revealed and the backdrop of the magnificent Blaskets reminded me that islands represented a bridge between heaven and earth for my ancestors.    As I watched the hands of my daughter and those of her anam cara, her soul mate, being gently intertwined together in a green satin knot, crystalline waves rose and fell around them.  I was moved by the joining of two lives in a glorious immersion of sunlight, wind and water as their love was being woven together in a Celtic design.  The recitation of the marital vows ensued and I felt deeply connected to our living and deceased loved ones and to those that would follow after us.  Suddenly, I knew that they were all there. For one translucent moment, on that most western rim of Europe where ancient peaks meet waves upon waves from beyond the beyond, I saw the ocean shimmering, sheep grazing, hikers striding upward in fields of wild fuchsia, and Kelley kissing her husband.  And I knew I was in heaven.


     I keep returning to Clogher Strand because I am trying to translate this vision of an intimate eternity into a new way of living, somehow fusing the heart and soul of what I experienced on the coast of Ireland into everyday life in Albany. So far, the only by-product of this mystical event has been an enhanced understanding of the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins, which extraordinary as this is, I’m hoping it is just the beginning of the learning curve! I would be grateful for the relating of any personal epiphanies (difficult though they are to put down into words) and how these revelations have empowered you to transform reality and transcend end times to help bring alive the kingdom of heaven in the here and now. –

Celebration of Feast of St. Peter and Paul
2011/07/05 by Maureen Tabari

Photo of indigenous celebration on the way back from Otovalo.  Madre


Miguel explained they were celebrating the feast of St. Peter and


Paul, as well as the pagan Solstice celebration, which the Ecuadorians


commingle on this day.  Everyone in town was dancing and singing,


wearing costumes.  It was quite the celebration and just beautiful.




Feast of St Peter        

Statistics versus Action
2011/06/09 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Are you overwhelmed with statistics? Do you just close your ears when some one starts giving you percentages of number of unemployed today versus 10 years ago? I tend to turn off, but the personal stories behind the statistics are what do grab me. The stories of families trying to make ends meet by each parent working two or three jobs. The stories of young men riding their bicycles from home to work because they do not have enough money to spare for bus transportation. The story of two to three families sharing a two bedroom apartment to make ends meet. It is those stories that make me take notice and then the statistics that NETWORK (Catholic Lobby in Washington, DC) publishes make me stop and listen.
Did You Know
The wealthiest 1% of our population own more than 90% of us combined.
The wealthiest 10% of our population own more than ¾ of the nation’s wealth.
But my next question is what can I do about it?  Well check out NETWORKs’ new campaign as a possibility. http://www.networklobby.org/campaign/mind-the-gap

 

Gifts and Crosses
2011/06/08 by Mary Christine Athans, BVM

Reflection: Are our gifts and our crosses related?  Two verses from Matthew 10 seem radically different but upon further reflection, offered me a new insight.  In the New American Bible we read: 

“The gift you have received, give as a gift.” (Matt 10:8)                                            

Later in that same chapter we read:

"…whoever does not take up [her] cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 8:38)  

In meditating on these two passages I reflected:

Sometimes –

our gifts are other people’s  crosses.

Sometimes –

other people’s gifts  are our crosses,

Sometimes –

our own gifts are our own crosses.

Sometimes –

our gift is the  Cross.

May we find God’s love in all of the gifts we receive including our crosses.

 

Please share with us your reflections:
In what way has one of your gifts sometimes been a cross?
Is there any time in your life when a cross turned out to be a gift? --
Or a gift became a cross?

Water and Balance -- Your Thoughts
2011/06/03 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

One of the pictures at the Women and Spirit Exhibit is that of Eileen Fuchs, BVM and her students who are working on a filtering system for water that can be used to assist women as they walk many miles to get water for the daily needs of their families.
Then today I was reading an excerpt from the Archbishop of Constantinople given at the Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance, Symposium, held in New Orleans, October 2009. “And let us remember that our responsibility grows alongside our privileges;... Our successes or failures, personal and collective, determine the lives of billions.  Our decisions, personal and collective, determine the future of the planet.”


Sister Eileen's project with her students and the Archbishop's words led me to ask...       So what individual decisions have we made today that are helping to bring our planet back into balance? What do you do to preserve water on a daily basis? Let us know what you are doing.

Memorable Moments -- Women and Spirit
2011/06/01 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Have you seen the Women and Spirit Exhibit?  Were you one of the 40,000 visitors to the exhibit in Dubuque, Iowa or did you catch it in Washington, DC or Cincinnati?
I was in Dubuque during April and one of my must do activities was to visit the exhibit. We did not have much time, but it was enough to get the flavor of the exhibit. I was so impressed with the families coming to view it.  Young children who had never had nuns in school finding out about the varied contributions of women religious to American society.
 If you have not seen it yet, it will be in Los Angeles, then South Bend, then Sacramento.
If you saw the exhibit, what is one thing that stands out for you?
If you have not seen the exhibit go to: http://womenandspirit.org
Upcoming Schedule

June 19, 2011 - August 14, 2011(Mount St. Mary's College (Los Angeles, California)(
September 2, 2011 - December 31, 2011(Center for History in association with the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College (South Bend, Indiana)(
January 24, 2012 - June 3, 2012(The California Museum of History, Women & the Arts (Sacramento, California)

 

A Mother Reflects on Dubuque Service Experience
2011/04/18 by Pat Kubik

Ironically the most rewarding part of the weekend Service Experience had little to do with the service we performed at the shelter homes.


 


My daughter invited me, for the first time, to come and spend this weekend with her in service.  She attends Clarke and works part-time in the Caritas Center at Mt. Carmel as a nurse’s aide in the Alzheimer’s unit.  During a short interval between our service work, my daughter took me to meet the Sisters she works with in the center.  These “ladies,” as she calls them with respect, may not all have known her at this moment, but she talked to them gently and introduced me to them.  She was so kind to them that my heart burst with pride.  I don’t always get to see this side of her! 


 


This memory will remain long after the service we did is forgotten.


 

Student Reflects on Dubuque Service Experience
2011/04/17 by Brittany Gosse, Clarke Student

The BVM service weekend allowed me to fuel my passion of serving by


being with others who desire to change the world, impact lives, learn


about/challenge themselves and share love with those in need. 


 


I experienced joy, hope, love and much more from those I served and the people I served with.  I was reminded that one smile can change your entire day, and by keeping your heart and mind open, love will continually enter and leave—two things I try to live by daily.


 


I met people who have forever changed my life and pray to have impacted the life of another.  I continued to live out the mission of my home church (Immanuel Lutheran in Independence, IA):  “Be an open door through which the world meets Jesus.” 


I recommend this service experience to anyone who lives, breathes, loves.

Dubuque Service Project
2011/04/14 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

 

 

Associate Mary Ann Krems and Nancy McCarthy, BVM wash doll house at Lantern

 

Associate

Cleaning Windows and Painting Bathrooms
2011/04/14 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Sara McAlpin Does Windows and Flo Heflin paints. These BVMs volunteered for the Dubuque Service Project in April


         

Dubuque Service Project
2011/04/14 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Evening Gathering for Prayer and OrientationMary Ann Zollmann, BVM meets Volunteers in Dubuque                                        

Mary Ann Zollmann

                                                                       Evening  Prayer and Orientation    

Learnings from Dubuque Service Experience
2011/04/11 by Sara McAlpin, BVM

A piece from the concluding prayer of the BVM Dubuque Service Weekend (4/8-10) stated:  “We walk with our hands empty seeking to be filled with your presence.  We go full of poverty to be enriched.” 

 

This was clearly an apt expression of how we participants entered into, and came out of, the experience(s) we had at several local centers for those with extreme needs of various kinds.  As is so often the case, much more significant than any service we gave, were the new insights and realizations we gained.  Fresh awareness could be expressed in a long list of ways. A short list for me includes:  In order to follow Jesus, it’s important to have the experience of realizing that Jesus loves everyone.  Sharing an experience with others in community deepens its impact. Dedicated people give an enormous amount of love and care daily to people who tend to be dismissed by much of society.  Seeing realities through a lens different from my typically narrow and limited one, leads to countless new discoveries. 

 

Stretching myself around the new discoveries can help me, I hope, to have a wider and more welcoming presence.  My hands may still feel empty, but I am definitely enriched by my weekend experience(s).  

 

                 

 

Reflection on Dubuque Service Experience
2011/04/11 by Norm Freund, BVM Associate

On the BVM Service Weekend I was deeply moved by the combination of prayer, reflection, and community along with service actions undertaken. It was a joy to see the community of action that developed among all of us! Perhaps most moving of all, was the service done at Hills and Dales. It taught me the value of letting go of tangible results and just being with someone in need. I also learned on the weekend that it is a lot easier to take a window out than put it back in!




Spring Cleaning For Theresa Shelter and Maria House
2011/04/09 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

The difficultes of volunteering
2011/04/09 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM

Oops we can't close the window. Sometimes helping out has its draw backs.


Dubuque Service Experience
2011/04/09 by Kathy Carr, BVM

Last evening 28 kindred spirits met to embark on the Dubuque Service Experience sponsored by the Initial Membership and Associate teams.  The group is quite diverse: BVMs and lay Associates, Clarke students, Mt. Carmel personnel,  and friends of all the aforementioned – all united by the common bond of doing service in the context of a faith community. We spent Friday evening sharing a meal and prayer, and learning about the places where we would work on Saturday.         


            Saturday morning we divided into groups and went to help at three local non-profits:  Teresa Shelter and Maria House -- a women’s shelter and transitional living  house, both established by the Dubuque area  women religious; and the Presentation Lantern Center, an educational center where immigrants from many countries learn how to speak English.  In all three places we had memorable experiences ranging from the profound to the humorous…windows that were opened to clean and then couldn’t be shut, painting the wrong bathroom, hearing the moving story of a Russian immigrant, recognizing the shelter’s need for basic cleaning supplies and a decent vacuum—and filling the need by the end of the morning.


            Six of our participants had lunch with the folks at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, after serving the meal to all who came from the Dubuque community seeking a hot meal.


The rest of us ate and chatted with the sisters in the BVM dining room.  Then all of us proceeded to our afternoon activity, which was to work with the residents of Hills and Dales, a residential center for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities.


All of us were deeply moved by our experiences with these residents, and by the care and respect given them by their caretakers.


Tonight we are reflecting on our day and tomorrow we will share our insights within the context of prayer as our little community gathers to conclude this weekend, which has been transformative for all of us. 


 In the coming days we will share some of our reflections.  Please join us as we continue this spiritual journey.

The Dubuque Volunteer Project
2011/04/09 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM -

Participants volunteered at Maria's House, Theresa's Shelter, The Lantern, and Hills and Dales.  Friday evening began with prayer and orientation.


Restaurant and Coffee Shop Entrance
2011/04/07 by Elizabeth Avalos, BVM -- For Dick Volpe

The front of the WBC with the WBC stores on the ground floor and the residence for volunteers on the second floor

 

Front

The Classroom area of the WBC. The Volunteers being shown the Valores ( Values ) of the WBC

Viewing Valores

 

Though the Mountains may fall ...
2011/04/01 by Joan Newhart, BVM

 “Though the Mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust” IS 54:10  

 

So many mountains have been falling: the joblessness, the Middle East unrest, the disasters of tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, the headlines of murdering pirates, the email requests for prayers for serious surgery, for families in tumult. 

 

 

Lenten readings suggest that my own hills may quietly be turning to dust:

proclaim a fast, be reconciled to God
Tell my people their wickedness,
Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;

 

But the readings do continue:

My love for you will never leave you.

In order to proclaim a fast for myself, and acknowledge that we have done evil, I do need the reassurance that “my covenant of peace with you will never be forsaken.”

As we prayed the other day: in place of greed, generosity; in place of competition, cooperation; let us live together in love and compassion.