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BVM Associate Reflections

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



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



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



Kathleen Gibson

I have always been intrigued by the concept of faith in my life. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

As I look back on my life, I know God has always been a part of it. Baptismal waters made me a child of God. As I received Christ in the Eucharist, I heard God’s call but it was not time.

In 1955 I graduated from Our Lady of Peace HS in St. Paul, Minn. Again, I heard God’s call. This time it was loud and clear . . . I would go to Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, where I would become a postulant, a novice, then a professed sister. Attending Clarke University in Dubuque and Mundelein College in Chicago, I received an excellent education from the BVM sisters. It gave me the skills to teach elementary school for 13 years. God’s grace was there for me.

Once again I heard God’s call. In 1967, I made the difficult choice to leave the BVM congregation, feeling the call to be a wife and mother. While teaching in a public school, I was introduced to Fred Gibson. We married and had a daughter, Annie, and a son, John.

As the years went by, I returned to Mount Carmel on several occasions to celebrate with my BVM sisters. Our “set” led by Florence Heflin, BVM (Floretta) has stayed connected for all of these years.

Again I heard God’s call. This time it was to become a BVM associate. God’s grace was there for me.

I joined a BVM cluster in St. Paul which has a marvelous and gracious group of women. Five BVMs and eight associates welcomed and encouraged me as I went down the lovely associate path.

Mary Frances Clarke smiles on me as I continue her mission of bringing Christ to those I encounter on a daily basis. As an associate, I am encouraged to live lovingly as I strive to advocate for justice. Because I am free, I am able to do this. I know she is at my side as I join the BVM community as an associate. Thank you, Mary Frances Clarke.



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