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“Immigrant Families Under Fire—A Call to Compassion in the Heartland”
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Vowed Membership - Personal Stories Archive

Personal Stories

Sister Luann Brown, BVM Sister Luann Brown, BVM

In the early 1980s, when I was in college, I began to sense a stirring in my heart that called me to participate in the transformation of a world in need of God's salvific presence. Religious life seemed to be a viable and provocative option because it was a lifestyle which encouraged prayer, relationship, ministry, and response to critical social needs.

In my 22 years as a BVM, I have participated in the life-giving and fulfilling ministry of working with children with special needs in several places, including Ecuador. Living in community has been a joyous, supportive, and challenging endeavor from which I've learned much about myself and others. The BVM community continually encourages me to deepen my faith and respond to pressing contemporary justice issues.

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Sister Judy Callahan, BVM Sister Judy Callahan, BVM

I joined the BVMs to share my faith with others through teaching! I stayed because I am so enriched by the faith of others, particularly Hispanics. Living in Ecuador helped me discover my talent for learning Spanish, which opened the doors to sharing with and learning from Hispanics throughout Latin America and the U.S. 

Working in Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is challenging and spiritually enriching. The plight of the undocumented calls us to find new paths of advocacy and solidarity. Freeing others to enjoy God’s steadfast love happens when we walk in others’ shoes.

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Sister Karen Conover, BVM Sister Karen Conover, BVM

I had been interested in religious life for many years, so when I attended Catholic high school in Santa Barbara, California, it was obvious to me that this was a group I wanted to join! I found the BVMs to be excellent teachers, happy people, and women who really cared about each other.  

I’ve had a wonderful education, thanks to the BVMs, pursuing an MS in chemistry. I’ve lived in four states (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and California), ministered in secondary education in three high schools, as well as in parish liturgical music with voice and guitar, including in a California state prison. My horizons have expanded in ways I could not have dreamed when I entered the Congregation. The greatest gift is the “family” of BVMs and Associates who enrich my life.

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Sister Rose Mary Meyer, BVM Sister Rose Mary Meyer, BVM

Teaching with BVMs as a lay faculty member was both gift and surprise. These BVMs were professional, dedicated women who enjoyed being together and with others. Laughter often enriched conversation. I learned that Mt. Carmel was home to BVMs. Much to my surprise, I too chose Mt. Carmel as my home. Choosing to be a BVM was gift and surprise.

While engaging in a variety of justice-oriented ministries, I have developed friendships with professional peers from varied ethnic groups, religions, ages. I treasure diversity as an opportunity for growth.

As my spirituality deepens, I am challenged to live in communion not only with my dedicated BVM sisters, associates, family and friends but also with all species. Gift and surprise continue to nourish my life as a BVM.

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Sister Mary Frances Reis, BVM Sister Mary Frances Reis, BVM

My choice of the BVMs was based on the sisters I had come to know and admire. Surfing the net was not yet in existence, but dutifully I had piled up a number of brochures and made some contacts! 

In the end, I felt called to share the kind of life the BVMs witnessed: lots of love, joy, celebration, outreach to the poor, a strong value of education, simple living, an intriguing spiritual depth and a history that seemed full of adventure and challenges. As I look back on those inquiring days, I'd have to say that I got it all, and more, and that has made a difference in my life and ministry.

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Sister Bette Gambonini, BVM Sister Bette Gambonini, BVM

God called me to BVM life in a gentle breeze. No big whirlwind. No blast of trumpets. A gentle nudge by Sister Evangelista, BVM, one of my high school teachers, and my mother’s prayers led me to the Sisters of Charity, BVM.

For 47 years, ministering in California, New York, Chicago, Dubuque and traveling to Mexico and Guatemala broadened my life experiences far beyond my imagination. Marching for peace and immigrants’ rights and protesting at the School of Americas answered the call to “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God”. Living communally and sharing prayer deepened my relationship with God/Sophia/Ruah as a BVM today. 

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Sister Marcelia Maglinte, BVM Sister Marcelia Maglinte, BVM

When I was in fifth grade, I remember seeing the life of Frances Xavier Cabrini in the movies. It inspired me to become a sister and to join the Sisters of Charity, BVM, who taught me at St. Catherine’s on Kauai, Hawaii.

As a BVM I have lived in Iowa, Illinois, Montana and California, which has given me tremendous opportunities to teach children of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I have lived in wonderful places that were very different from my own island living, and I have loved them all!

After many years of fulltime teaching, I now do substitute teaching in the Catholic schools on the island of Maui and do volunteer work with the elderly. It gives me great joy to continue to share our core values of education and charity with the people of Maui.

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Sister Marilyn Wilson, BVM Sister Marilyn Wilson, BVM

In 1960, I chose to join the BVMs. whom I admired and deeply respected as my high school teachers. Their dedication as excellent women educators inspired me. Their fun-loving and very human approach to life with all its exigencies encouraged me. At the time there were few opportunities to give service and I wanted to be part of something that made a difference in others lives.

The spirit of responsible freedom witnessed in the BVMs helped me to grow personally and spiritually, gifted me with the skills to be an educator and challenged me to be a woman of justice and peace.

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Sister Gwen Farry, BVM Sister Gwen Farry, BVM

As a high school student at Holy Family, Glendale, California, I was introduced to many social justice projects through the BVMs, such as teaching Saturday religion classes to children who lived in boxcars and visiting patients at the county hospital. After joining the BVMs and becoming a teacher, I became aware of the disadvantages some of our students had compared with those in more affluent schools. 

Later in life, visiting women in a county jail in Portland, Oregon, and serving as a hospital chaplain increased my awareness of issues that are symptoms of unjust systems in our society. Eventually this has brought me to the 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago where we collaborate with others to address many of these issues.

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Sister Laurian McDonald, BVM Sister Laurian McDonald, BVM

As a child of ten years, I wanted to make children happy and help them to know and love God, as I was learning from my fifth grade teacher, Sister Magdalena, SNDdeN. Each week when I would climb into the back seat of the parish car and ride with a group of “catechists” to the East side of town to teach catechism to children from the barrio, I was excited and happy to teach them about the God Sister Magdalena loved and whom she wanted us to know and love. I consider these years of my childhood my first awareness of something I felt called to do, and looking back, I realize it was my initial call from the Lord.

As a BVM of 60 years, I have been invited to live the love and compassion of Jesus; wherever I have responded to his call, I have been his instrument in calling his children to be happy and to love him in each other. I try to live my life in the spirit of faithful gratitude to the Congregation for its loving support.

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Sister Eleanor Craggs, BVM Sister Eleanor Craggs, BVM

God’s love comes to us through othersthrough example, prayer and word. The example of my BVM teachers told me that here was a group of women who loved each other, their students and their teaching. In addition they exhibited a lot of happiness and good humor in their daily life. They spoke of prayer in such a way that I knew it was important to them.  

It was evident that they had a happy, satisfying relationship with God. I was drawn to be part of such a group, and that decision has brought me joy, love and hope.

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Sister Vicki Smurlo, BVM Sister Vicki Smurlo, BVM

As a teen, I attended three high schools. It was not until my junior year that I met the BVM Sisters. I appreciated their openness, friendliness, and their genuine interest in us. When I read the book Imitation of Christ that year I was drawn to be a Sister and asked to enter the BVMs shortly after high school.
 
My life as a BVM has been enriched by my sisters in community who encourage my spiritual growth, my commitment to be an "imitation of Christ" in the world. They also encourage my personal and professional development. I stand in awe at how God has blessed me as a BVM, and how God continues to challenge me to keep going and growing.

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Sister Sue Rink, BVM Sister Sue Rink, BVM

God chose me to be a BVM; I responded. I was taught by and respected sisters of three congregations, but it wasn’t until my senior year at Clarke College in Dubuque that I felt God’s nagging, and questioned whether I should be a BVM or pursue graduate studies and marriage.

It was not only my teachers’ expertise, but their charity that impressed me. As a science major, I spent hours in laboratories after classes. There I observed the BVMs helping students and each other. I saw them as companions to each otherchatting, laughing, dashing off to the chapel. I liked their priorities: love of God and love of neighbor. I have loved God’s choice for me!

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