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BVM Associate Reflections


Blanche King

I believe that the BVM core values and charism have always been a part of me. My mother was taught by BVMs and entered the community as a novice. Fortunately for me, she decided that becoming a BVM sister was not for her; yet she lived and raised her family with BVM values. Aunt Marion (Mary Janine Wolff, BVM), and the other sisters whom I met through her, reinforced these values.

I have early memories of Aunt Marion in her habit with other sisters in our home, and special one-on-one times with Aunt Marion. These BVM values were not named or identified, but the realization that they embody the charism of Mother Mary Frances Clarke became clear as I went through the associate discernment process with Aunt Marion.

Catholic social teaching and BVM core values go hand in hand in the way that I try to live my life. I am excited about being an associate and I am honored by the acceptance that I have received. When I think of the history of this community, I am in awe to think that a group of five women from Ireland would influence me this much. I have always been thankful for the gift of my faith and now, feel so blessed to have this community as a cherry on top. Thank you Aunt Marion, for your guidance.

Post date 8.25.2107

 

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Valerie Lozowicki

As I make my commitment as an associate, there are so many people here from the different circle of friends in my husband Ed’s and my life. Sometimes when you come to an event like this you may wonder, “Who are they and how are they connected?” So, if you don’t mind, when I name a circle in which we share relationship, would you stand to be recognized? (Some of you may be in more than one circle!)

 

  • Those with whom Ed and I share a connection through Santa Clara University
  • Those connected to the “Romani” of the Loyola-Chicago Junior Year Abroad in Rome
  • Those who share the practice of Centering Prayer
  • Those who’ve taken part in Just Faith
  • Those who are connected in any way to St. Mary’s Ecuador Program
  • My family members
  • The BVM associates
  • The BVM sisters

Did I miss anyone? If so, please stand up. Thank you.

To all of you—my dear husband, my dear son Pete and daughter Chris and grandson Camden (our son-in-law Paul is at home with our grandson, Dash, who is taking a well-deserved nap after his third birthday celebration yesterday), and to you, my wonderful friends—my heartfelt gratitude for your presence today. You are gifts who add joy, laughter and love to each moment we are together.

I would especially like to thank the BVM sisters and associates in the South Bay group who have not only been welcoming, but also embracing . . . you have been my cheerleaders along the way. Sister Marilyn, Sister Bette and Sister Dee, thank you for your encouragement and support. Moreover, a very special thank you to Sister Elizabeth, You have guided me through the process of discernment, checked in on me, and offered help at every turn. By the way, graphic design is definitely one of your callings!

I was told it is customary to say a few words about my journey toward association with the BVMs . . . and that it is always more interesting to hear one’s personal story . . . and to keep it short.

As all of you know by now, my relationship with God is the center of my life. Spirituality is my path, and that’s not to say that it is always a mountaintop experience. There is that marketplace in all our lives where we can lose attention with all that is going on around us. So keeping the balance between the mountaintop and marketplace seems to be the ideal. That is where God uses the circles of life that give us joy, hope, purpose and love that can renew us when we open to them. My family, friends, parish, visits to the sick, all play a part in the balancing act.
Some have asked, “What’s this BVM association about? Why are you doing this? Are you going to become a nun?”

By way of background ...
Mine is a relatively new friendship with the BVMs. In the early 2000s, I got to know Sister Elizabeth when she organized a meeting to talk about a new program called Just Faith (JF) that had a test run in the diocese during the prior year. I was included in the meeting, along with two others from St. Mary Parish—Bob Kutter, a BVM associate, and Jane Ferguson.

Thus began a long series of JF programs at St. Mary and the diocese, under Sister Elizabeth’s shepherding. My awareness of the BVM commitment to serving and advocating for the needs of the poor nationally and internationally grew in the persons of Sisters Elizabeth, Marilyn and Bette. Whether they led groups on immersion experiences to poor neighborhoods, facilitated meetings and retreats, or advocated for justice, I admired their firm resolve.

Then, Sister Marilyn and four of us from St. Mary, including Carol Thornton who is here today, were invited to Los Angeles to learn about the second JF program to be launched. We were welcomed overnight at the BVM convent, and I recall the warmth of community spirit, an after-dinner discussion of ministry journeys, and the inner peace of the sisters, despite some tough circumstances in the LA community where they served. My admiration continued to grow.

This past spring, Ed and I traveled to Ecuador. We visited Quito and the Center for Working Families, established by a Jesuit, Fr. Juan Halligan, and a BVM, Madre Miguel Conway, who were later joined by Madre Cindy Sullivan, BVM. We also went to Damien House in Guayaquil, established by another BVM, Sister Annie Credidio. We saw firsthand how the BVMs serve these international communities with the same resolve and spirit of joy in their work with the people.

Over this past year, during my associate discernment process, the South Bay group has companioned me, as I learned more about BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke and the charism and core values of the BVMs. Here are just a few things that attract me to the BVMs:

 

  • Living a life founded on the good news of the gospel
  • The spirituality of “contemplation and action” or “hands on
    spirituality” (familiar to all of us who were educated by Jesuits)
  • The core values of education, charity and justice (listed on the back of the program) and also
    familiar to many of us
  • The core value of freedom “to be open to God’s love, freedom to become who we are at the core of our being,” and freedom to use our gifts in the most suitable way for us to serve
  • Creating an intentional, mutually-supportive community of sisters and associates

In summary, it has taken me a few years to get here, but here I am — embracing all the goodness of my experiences and spiritual practices while expanding my circles to include the “New Beginning” of the BVM circle and its charism and values.

As John O’Donohoe wrote:

“Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.”

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Carol Gronewold

My brother Mike and I grew up in the small farming community of Carthage, Ill. My parents were raised in Tama and Marshalltown, Iowa. My father, Larry, was raised Catholic and my mother, Doris, joined the church when they married. She became the driving force in our Catholic education and even took us to daily Mass during Lent and Advent. Mass was celebrated in the small living room of the rectory where we knelt on the floor through the entire Mass. I attended public schools but did memorize the Baltimore Catechism as taught by the Benedictine Sisters who lived in Nauvoo.

My father was the driving force in my brother’s and my college education. He chose University of Notre Dame for my brother and Clarke College (now University) for me because his sister had attended Clarke. I enrolled at Clarke as a freshman and sophomore from 1958 to 1960. I am certain that my education at Clarke helped me to become the strong woman I am today.

I left Clarke with the knowledge that there were few limits in my future. Sister Mary Vera served as our class sponsor and listened to my decision to leave Clarke to marry my high school sweetheart who managed the family farm. I would guess that she did not agree with my future plans but did not discourage me. I include Sister Mary Vera as the first member of my Circle of Friends.

I taught elementary and middle school students for 17 years and served as a community college administrator for 12 years. I am the single mother of three sons and one daughter, eight grandchildren, and three and a half great-grandchildren. I serve on the local hospital board and volunteer in several organizations. Through my volunteer activities, I hope that I am answering Christ’s call and am continually looking for new paths to follow. I will be joining the Ecuador Immersion trip in April.

In the fall of 2013, I attended Mass for Benefactors in the Mount Carmel Motherhouse Chapel. Even though I had attended Clarke and many class reunions, I had never visited Mount Carmel. I experienced such peace and love at the Mass and found a brochure about BVM associates that encouraged me to contact Nancy McCarville.

A casual dinner conversation with Kate Keating, BVM (St. Wilma) left me with a hunger to investigate becoming a BVM associate. I then attended the April 2015 CARMA conference and the summer 2015 Associate Retreat. With Nancy’s encouragement, I decided to embark on the discernment journey. One year later, I was introduced to my companion, Karen Conover, BVM. We have met monthly via SKYPE as we studied the resource materials.

I have gained many beautiful friends on my journey. When my youngest son died suddenly last May, the prayers and cards from the BVM community helped me immeasurably. To know that cards with John’s name were on that little table by the altar in the chapel consoled me. I also belong to a spiritual study group which meets weekly as we study the lives of saints. Since John’s death, the prayers and support of the people in this group have greatly comforted me as I struggle with the depression I am experiencing.

I believe that I was sent on this journey of discernment to find freedom, a blessing of insight, and growth for my personal life and faith—to help prepare for the death of my son. Karen Conover’s guidance and concern at our monthly sessions have been a great comfort for me. I am including the following individuals to join me in my Circle of Friends: BVMs Karen Conover, Kate Keating and Kathleen O’Sullivan (Donall), Nancy McCarville, Linda Stoverink, and Bill and Alice Brennan.

 

“Lord, what is the life you are calling me to live?

Who is it that you are calling me to be?

There seems to be so many answers, yet I know

that you have laid a path for me,

Send your spirit to guide me as I discern your path.

Help me listen to your voice in the stillness of my heart

amid the many distractions and temptations of life.

Help me understand and see

the gifts and talents you have given me,

not as the world sees them but as you do.

Give me the strength to listen to you intently,

and to follow your path courageously.”

The Notre Dame Book of Prayer

 

“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”

—Native American Prayer

 

Post Date 4.10.17

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Cory Weinschenk

Good afternoon everyone. If you don’t know who I am, I am Corey Weinschenk and I am going to become an associate. I have worked here for about three years in the IT department and so most of the sisters know who I am.

It has been an interesting journey to this point. I started here knowing nothing about sisters. And now I consider them friends that I can share a lot with. Someone asked once, “What’s it like working with sisters?” The only thing I could come up with was imagine dealing with your grandma and just helping them with the stuff they need help with. And I think I got my point across to them.

It has just been wonderful. My experience prior to working here was meeting two sisters at Clarke University in Dubuque and that was a fantastic experience as well. What really got me to this point was my trip to Ecuador and that is reflected on the two little pictures sitting up on the altar, done by an Ecuadorian artist.

Grace Mendez, who I would help when she was here, asked, “You know, have you ever considered being an associate?” No! I hadn’t. She said, “OK, well, here’s the information . . .”   

There was a poster for the Ecuador trip hanging on her door, and I thought, that looks interesting; I think I’ll do that. Grace gave me the information about it and told me: “Go talk to Lou Anglin, BVM and she will help you.” So I talked to Lou and she answered my questions and then asked, “Have you ever thought about becoming an associate?” No. OK.

So I went on the trip to Ecuador, which was absolutely amazing, with a number of associates. And every night after we got done eating dinner, we would sit down and have a conversation. And every night, at least one person would say, “Have you considered becoming an associate?” And again, my answer was no.

That was until I got back from that trip and then last year I went to the summer associates and friends retreat. We were sitting downstairs during a kind of reflection time. As the microphone was coming around, all I could hear in my head was, “Have you become an associate? No. Have you become an associate? No.” So I decided to get on the microphone and say, “All right, here it is. I want to officially become an associate.”

So, I’ve loved my time with Julie O’Neill, BVM and all the other sisters and associates during this process. I’ve loved my time working in the IT Department, even if sometimes it can be stressful, but overall it has just been a wonderful experience. I plan on to giving my time to association just like I give my time to the sisters here.

So, here’s to the next step in this journey—thank you.

Post Date 12.21.16

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Suzanne (Suzie) Wright

Good Morning—it is a joy to be here and it is just lovely!

I love the fact that I first met Cory at an associates’ retreat where I had come to make the decision as to whether I wanted to be an associate. And it is Grace Mendez’s fault! Because I had not heard of associates before her.

I had grown up a little in the Catholic faith and then moved into a different family and was raised Baptist and continue to be a Baptist. And in fact reassured some of my Baptist friends this morning that this commitment ceremony doesn’t move me away from that. What it does is to fully realize the life God has given me and the spirituality that we all share together.

I first heard of association when Grace moved back to Iowa, when she herself was beginning her journey toward association. I wondered, “What’s that?” She told me about it and let me see her binder and I thought that sounded really cool. She said that I could do it too, but I reminded her, “Not Catholic.” And she said I didn’t have to be.

I thought about it and thought about it over the years, and I saw the love that she had for you, and the light that continues to shine in Grace. I thought, I need to be that kind of light and I need to have a circle of people that can share in that kind of love. I need a circle of people that understand that when I go out and I do something that the secular world thinks is crazy, you understand, that you just nod along and go, “Sure, of course you would do that.” I found that in Sister Frances Ann Schaeffer, BVM (Louis) and the circle of sisters that she created for me to grow with. I am just blessed with many abundances to have gotten to know them.  

I am eager to get to know more of you and to continue to live out my faith with you, and with my family, and with my friends who’ve come to join us today. I am humbled by a God who loves us this much and creates this circle of people to be together, and this circle of faith and the amazing things He will bring for us to get to do together. Thank you!

Post Date 12.21.16

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