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For more information on any of these news articles contact Angie Connolly, Director of Communications, at 563.588.2351 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Dubuque’s got Sisters!’ Offers an Inside Look at Religious Life
For those interested in exploring the possibilities of religious life, four Dubuque area communities of religious sisters offer an invitation to join them for a two-day retreat from April 22 at 5 p.m. to April 23 at 6 p.m. Local transportation is provided and there is no fee to attend.
“Each spring we offer an opportunity to learn more about religious life and how sisters live their vocations in our contemporary world,” says Sister Kathy Carr, BVM, who ministers as initial membership coordinator for the Sisters of Charity, BVM. “We visit the four motherhouses during a 24-hour period, getting acquainted with each of the congregations as we interact with sisters, share meals, and experience various forms of prayer.”
Participants learn about living a vowed life in community, reaching out in ministry to serve others, and developing meaningful relationships both within and beyond the religious community. “We share serious discussions as well as laugh and have fun together,” adds Sister Kathy.
She notes that the retreats are well received by participants. Emily, a University of Northern Iowa student, shares, “I loved every minute I spent with the sisters because your energy and enthusiasm for life is so contagious, loving and warm.” Hilary, a college graduate from Chicago, adds, “What impressed me most about the weekend was that all of you seemed to respect each other as mature women and extended that same freedom to us as participants.”
“Dubuque’s Got Sisters!” is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque Franciscan Sisters, and Sinsinawa (Wis.) Dominican Sisters.
To view a PDF click here.
To register or for more details contact:
Sr. Ginny Heldorfer, OSF
BVMs Benefit from 2016 Birdies for Charity®
It’s that time of year again! The Sisters of Charity, BVM will once again be part of the Birdies for Charity® Program, in conjunction with the 2016 John Deere Classic PGA Golf Tournament, held Aug. 8–14 in Silvis, Ill.
As one of the participating charities in the Classic, BVM sisters are supported in many ways from the Birdies proceeds. Last year, Birdies funds provided new carpeting in the Marian Hall Chapel at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, providing secure footing for our elderly sisters who attend liturgy each day.
This year’s proceeds will be used to replace the current lighting on the Mount Carmel campus with LED lighting, enhancing the safety of our buildings for sisters, staff and guests, and helping us to care for our common home as Pope Francis has encouraged us to do.
You can help support our retired sisters by making a one-time donation or “Chip in for Charity” by pledging one cent or more per birdie made at the Classic! Guess the number of birdies that will actually be made during the tournament for a chance to receive great prizes.
The BVM sisters receive every donation made on their behalf and the tournament provides a matching bonus of at least 5 percent!
Thank you for your past support and we hope you’ll consider partnering with us this year!
Interested in Exploring Religious Life?
Join BVMs and other area Catholic sisters for an inside look at religious life! “Dubuque's Got Sisters!” extends an invitation to those interested in exploring a call to become a religious sister. Dubuque area sisters will accompany participants for two days of shared experiences through prayer, dining and storytelling.
The Dubuque's Got Sisters! event begins at Sinsinawa Mound in Wisconsin on Friday, March 17, at 5 p.m., and ends Saturday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. Participants will explore the following questions with a group of peers: What is my purpose in life? How can I share my gifts with others? The group will also volunteer at Opening Doors Teresa Shelter in Dubuque on Saturday.
“While spending time with the sisters, I was amazed at how much life and joy they have,” says Emily, a student from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. “I think there is a stereotype about religious life that it is perpetually quiet and serious. That was not the case at all! I loved every minute I spend with the sisters because their energy and enthusiasm for life is so contagious, loving, and warm.”
Don’t miss this opportunity for service, reflection and sharing!
There is no fee to attend.
To register or for more information, contact:
Dubuque's Got Sisters! is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque Franciscan Sisters, Cistercian Nuns, and Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Wis).
Catholic Sisters who live and work in your community invite you to learn more about their work by visiting them online at www.facebook.com/catholicsisters.
Post date 2.20.17
Annual Report - BVM Perspective
We cannot thank you enough for your generous support and friendship. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those they serve, are truly blessed that you have partnered with them in mission. It is with sincere gratitude that we present this accounting of the Office of Development for Sept. 1, 2014–Aug. 31, 2015.
BVMs Join Coalition Against Human Trafficking to Host Presentation
“Am I a Human Trafficker?”
Chris Cox , campaign manager of The Human Thread, will explore this question in a presentation at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27, at Clarke University’s Jansen Music Hall, 1550 Clarke Dr., Dubuque, Iowa. Hosted by the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in the Tri-State Area, the event is free and open to the public.
Long committed to faith-based advocacy and the work of justice, Cox will reflect with others on where our clothing comes from and how living in right relationship with our brothers and sisters on distant continents helps us to lead more joyful, faith-filled lives.
Coalition member Diane Rapozo, BVM (Malia) shares, “The Human Thread seeks to raise consciousness and empower people to advocate for the plight of garment workers worldwide. We are grateful to have Chris Cox come to the Dubuque area to speak. The BVM community has graciously provided Chris with hospitality.”
After 16 years of working in multicultural, low-income parishes in the United States and Latin America, Cox began to manage The Human Thread campaign last year, an outgrowth in part from the Bangladesh clothing factory fire which killed more than 1,100 people and injured 2,000 more. The workers were paid $50 per month.
BVM Irene Lukefahr, another member of the Coalition, says, “Sometimes I wonder about the working conditions and wages of those who labor to make most of the clothes I wear. Many of our BVM sisters and staff signed some of the 8,000 postcards from The Human Thread organization, sent to retailers Kohl’s and Macy’s, urging them to develop an apparel brand that pays a just wage. Hopefully, this one small effort on our part will help make a difference for those victims of labor trafficking.”
Cox will offer analysis and suggestions about how consumer choices impact the lives of so many who are often invisible to us and outline some decisions that can help us stand in solidarity with some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
The Coalition Against Human Trafficking in the Tri-State Area is a faith-based network that began at the request of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), encouraging all religious community members and associates to work together against human trafficking through education and advocacy.
For more information contact:
Joy Peterson, PBVM
608-748-4411, ext. 164
Post date 2.13.17
BVMs Join Sisters to Promote Care of Earth
BVMs and other Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi Valley joined together in issuing a call to action to care for the environment—through legislation to reduce carbon emissions, developing clean energy policies, and providing financial assistance to developing countries.
More than 20 billboards with the message “Standing with Pope Francis; Caring for our Common Home” have been placed in Iowa from January through early February in advance of the caucuses to remind delegates, potential presidential candidates, and voters of this critical issue. Billboards are also placed in Illinois and Wisconsin.
In Dubuque, Iowa, about 50 sisters, associates and friends carrying placards with the billboard message gathered at 8th and White Streets for a prayer service on Jan. 27, where one of the billboards is displayed. Watch the video at: https://youtu.be/6broFbs0heY
Prayer services were also held by the sisters in Davenport, Iowa, on Jan. 27, and will be held at the other billboard sites listed below on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.
Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth Committee (CSHE) initiated the plan for the billboards and prayer services. Made up of representatives from the sponsoring women religious communities, CSHE urges others to heed the cry of Earth and of those who suffer from the effects of climate change, just as Pope Francis called us to take action to care for our Common Home in his recent encyclical, Laudata Sí.
CSHE Committee Member Carol Marie Baum, BVM (Joseph Louis) says: “It is our belief that we can make the difference with a change of heart and the realization that as ONE PLANET, ONE FAMILY we are capable of making the choices that can change the trajectory of the future.”
Catholic Sisters in collaboration on the billboard campaign are: Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis.; Benedictine Sisters of Rock Island, Ill.; Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community; Notre Dame Sisters of the Central Province; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, LaCrosse, Wis.; Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; Sisters United News (SUN); and Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Sisters, and Visitation Sisters, all of Dubuque, Iowa.
The Sisters’ “Care for our Common Home” message and image was first shared in September 2015 during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, when ads were placed in USA Today and local diocesan papers.
Des Moines, Iowa
808 42nd St.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
242 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE
BVMs Attend Commission on Status of Women at the U.N.
The 60th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations included BVMs Sara McAlpin (Philip Mary) and Mary Martens (Loras) among the 56 delegates attached to the Loretto Community non-governmental organization (NGO) that BVMs help support. Sara and Mary participated March 13–17 with approximately 4,100 representatives, mostly women, who came from every part of the “global village.”
Sally Dunne, Loretto co-member and NGO representative, welcomed the high school and college students with a pizza party in the hotel. The students had an orientation to the CSW event the next day, while Sara and Mary attended Consultation Day for the “civil society” input.
During the days following, conference participants chose sessions of interest from among a variety of presentations by knowledgeable speakers. The titles alone were suggestive of values held dear by BVMs and associates:
o Women’s Leadership in Community-led Development
o Strategies to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls
o Empowering the Excluded and Marginalized
o Women’s Leadership and Peacebuilding through Muslim and Jewish Sacred Texts
o Art, Poetry, Film as Tools for Women’s Resilience, Empowerment, Bonding
o Empowering Women Refugees for Successful Integration into U.S. Society through Quality Education
o Human Trafficking and the Interplay Between Systemic Oppression and the Individual Life Course
The meeting concluded March 25 with U.N. member states committing to “gender-responsive” actions with stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing. The agreed conclusions urge this comprehensive approach by all member states through implementation of 17 sustainable development goals. With women and girls becoming fully engaged with men and boys as agents of change and allies, the goal is elimination of all gender-based discrimination by 2030.
Mary added a retrospective, “I was enriched through my encounters with international women (and men) of strength and purpose. There was a Woman of Distinction awardee, the keynoter from Nepal who spoke on “Mother Sister Daughter: The Violence They Face.” Others were involved with NGOs like Working Group on Food and Hunger at the U.N., or members of professions like the International Sociological Association, or a group like the Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans. Whatever their affiliation, all are working toward sustainable development goals in a peaceful world wherein the human rights and dignity of every person are respected.”
Sara reflected, “For my first experience at this CSW event, I was fortunate to have Mary as an extremely knowledgeable guide through a very full week. Numerous, vibrant sessions gave a new and challenging meaning to the word “global” for me. I was struck more than once by the reality that because my individual world is very small, it takes ongoing effort to avoid becoming narrow and limited. Modest perspectives were inevitably expanded at this international gathering by the variety of countries represented, cultures revealed, issues discussed, successes and failures explored.
“Both individual worlds and the global world were linked in certain desires expressed repeatedly in various presentations: what women (and all marginalized people) want is to have their voices heard; gender equality and empowerment are essential for equitable decision-making; education is fundamental; inclusivity must replace marginalization. These and other goals were firmly supported by a common belief: change is possible. Witnessing so many people dedicating their gifts and efforts to these concerns gives rise to another belief: There is hope!”
—Mary Martens, BVM
and Sara McAlpin, BVM
Centenarian Sister Commemorates Special Day at Mount Carmel
Marilyn Thomas, BVM celebrated her 100th birthday on April 17, 2016, joined by family and friends for a celebratory liturgy and dinner at Mount Carmel.
President Teri Hadro, in her “Welcome” at the birthday liturgy, reflected: “In a prayer attributed to our foundress, Mary Frances Clarke, BVMs ask to ‘be a fit instrument’ in God’s hands. Marilyn, could there be a better metaphor for your life as a BVM?”
A talented musician, Marilyn taught music at Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport, Iowa, for 11 years. She served as secretary for the BVM Mother General, BVM provincials, and at least two Clarke University presidents, while also teaching music and French to novices. And if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Marilyn also maintained accounts and employee payroll duties at the Mount Carmel complex for many years.
Responding to all who rejoiced with and remembered her, Marilyn said: “Thank you for the many ways you made my 100th birthday celebration so meaningful. Your many cards, enrollments, candy, special greetings and promise of prayers are very much appreciated. Whoever thought I would live to be 100. It came so fast! God bless you all.”
Friends and family of the Sisters of Charity, BVM gathered on Sunday, May 22, for the annual Memorial Mass at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa. Nearly 100 guests traveled from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin to attend.
“Today we remember BVMs who hold a special place in our lives and hearts,” President Teri Hadro reflected in her greeting, noting the names of 22 BVMs who have died since last year’s Memorial Mass. “We remember that Sister often was the one to bring God to our consciousness,” she shared. “When Sister believed in us, encouraged us, laughed at our jokes, cried with our pain, rejoiced in our successes, it wasn’t hard to imagine that maybe God was doing that too and we came to understand that we should offer similar expressions of love to others.”
Gathering with BVMs for the commemorative liturgy, dinner, and visit to the cemetery enabled guests to honor and share memories of their special sisters, coming together as a circle of friends and members of the larger church community.
For many, it was their first time attending the Memorial Mass as they came to pay tribute to a sister. The warm, sunny day kept golf cart drivers busy shuttling guests and BVMs to the cemetery, where many left mementos at the graves and had their pictures taken in remembrance of their visit.
“The Memorial Mass continues to be a special event for both our sisters and many family and friends that attend,” said Andy Schroeder, development director for the Sisters of Charity, BVM. “The sisters we lost this year are sadly missed but fondly remembered. We were blessed to have this day together to share stories about our loved ones.”
Carolyn Farrell, BVM Receives Distinguished Alumni Award
Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the Scholastic Achievement Ceremony April 19 at Dowling Catholic HS, West Des Moines, Iowa.
Carolyn is a graduate of St. Joseph Academy, established by the Sisters of Charity, BVM in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1884. Dowling HS for boys was founded in 1918 in Des Moines. By 1970, the BVM sisters agreed to share in the development of a new co-educational high school in West Des Moines, and Dowling Catholic HS/St. Joseph Educational Center opened in the fall of 1972.
Carolyn notes that her fondest memory of St. Joseph Academy was working on the school newspaper: “It was learning in action how a group functioned together to achieve a common goal with Sister Donatus as our guiding light. I think that was my unconscious realization of leadership’s value through facilitation.”
After teaching elementary and junior high school and serving as principal, Carolyn ministered in a variety of administrative positions. Within the BVM congregation she served as the first coordinator of the Women’s Office and as regional representative. She was director, Continuing Education, Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa; interim president, Mundelein College, Chicago; associate vice president, Loyola University Chicago; and director, Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, Chicago.
The first woman to be elected to the Dubuque City Council, Carolyn was also the first “nun” to serve as mayor of Dubuque. She was a member of numerous boards and committees related to the BVM congregation, her ministries, and her civic involvement. She last served as director of the Roberta Kuhn Center, Mount Carmel, Dubuque, where she was instrumental in fostering enrichment activities for older adults in the area communities. She continues to serve on Clarke University’s Board of Trustees.
As she addressed students who received academic awards at the ceremony, Carolyn stressed the importance of education, one of the BVM core values. “The BVMs taught us by word and example that as young women we could be all that we could be,” she shares. “Be grateful for the opportunity your education offered you as you continue your life journey.”
BVMs Join in Welcoming Refugees
The Sisters of Charity, BVM are one of 10 communities of Midwest Catholic Sisters who are calling on citizens, President Barack Obama, and federal, state and local politicians to work together to welcome refugees.
The sisters have launched a public awareness campaign to remind potential candidates and voters to remember this critical issue when they head to the polls in November.
Billboards urging communities to welcome refugees have been placed in the Quad Cities, Des Moines, Dubuque and Clinton, Iowa; Kieler and Madison, Wis.; and Omaha, Neb. Prayer services near some of the billboard sites have been scheduled and postcards are available to be sent to federal, state and local government officials nationwide.
In Dubuque, BVMs gathered with other area sisters on June 20 at Dubuque Auto Plaza, site of one of the billboards, for a prayer service. The event was organized by Mira Mosle, BVM, who spoke to local KCRG news. See the interview at: http://bit.ly/28Mjx3L
Pictures from the Dubuque prayer service and other related events can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/catholicsisters/
The billboards feature the message based on the words of Jesus and taken from the Gospel of Matthew: “I was a stranger a refugee and you welcomed me.” They will remain posted through June and July. The postcards read: “As a person of faith, I am writing to ask you to speak out against fear-mongering and inflammatory rhetoric about refugees. I oppose any legislation that would block the resettlement of refugees of any nationality or religion in the United States of America.”
BVMs have worked with refugees for many years as part of their ministry and continue to do so today whenever possible. They also offer financial assistance for refugees through their congregational ministry grants, providing education, shelter and settlement support where needed.
St. Regina Wagner, BVM recalls the year 1975, when Vietnamese families arrived at St. Mary Parish in Lincoln, Neb. “This began a whole new ministry for me . . . as mentor, help and support for families in finding doctors, adequate and safe places to live, transporting them to English classes, finding fair and suitable jobs, advising them with money matters and countless other services.”
Diane Rapozo, BVM (Malia) says, “When the Hmong people arrived in Wausau, Wis., from Vietnam [in the 1980s], they chose St. Anne Parish for their community . . . being their representative was a very rich experience for me.”
Mary Martens, BVM (Loras) recently tutored a local college student living at Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque, whose family emigrated from Indonesia. Working with the student on writing and speech assignments, Mary says, “She’s bright and actually taught herself English at age 12; she’s determined and disciplined.”
Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie), who was pastoral minister at the time of the infamous workplace immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, shares, “Currently my direct contact with refugees is limited; however my advocacy for their rights and concern for their dignity and freedom is very much alive!”
The Sisters of Charity, BVM and the Midwest Catholic Sisters invite you to join them in becoming refugee welcoming communities! To download postcards to send to your political representatives, go to: http://bit.ly/1TJJzkA
The following congregations of Catholic Sisters are coordinating this public awareness campaign: the Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation, Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of the Visitation, all in Dubuque; Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; Sisters of St. Benedict, Rock Island, Ill.; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, Wis.; and Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Community, Omaha, Neb. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/catholicsisters.
Great Give Day: Thank You From the BVM Sisters!
On May 3, 2016, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary participated in the third annual nationwide Great Give Day—a 24-hour online giving event!
We continue to receive gifts and are happy to share that over $28,000 has been given by nearly 200 donors to date. Your generous donations will help to preserve the beauty of the sisters’ home at Mount Carmel by providing resources to treat some of the oak trees infected by oak wilt. The Mount Carmel property is a reminder of God’s creation, given to both the sisters and the Dubuque community to enjoy.
Last year, your gifts helped our sisters at Mount Carmel by providing new paint to brighten their bedroom walls and warm their hearts! Your gifts also enabled the purchase of material for our sisters' mission projects that include making diapers for third world countries, creating heart pillows for cardiac surgery patients at the University of Iowa Hospital, and knitting winter hats for needy children in the United States.
Thank you for supporting the BVM Sisters!
The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque sponsored this event for its endowed nonprofit partners as part of a nationwide day of giving.
BVM Honored with Human Rights Award
Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie) was honored with the Human Rights Award presented by Church Women United, Inc., at the 2016 May Friendship Day held at Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque, Iowa. This year’s service theme was “Finding Grace at the Table.” The featured program focused on “I was an immigrant/refugee and you welcomed me.”
In her own words, Mary replayed poignant scenes of confusion and fear during the workplace immigration raid at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, eight years ago. Serving as pastoral administrator at St. Bridget Parish in Postville, Mary was instrumental in offering support, comfort, help and hope to the workers and their families.
“I accept this honor in the name of all seekers of justice . . . and of all of my friends in Postville who were affected by the devastating immigration raid on May 12, 2008,” Mary shared. “May this award honor all those who suffer because of our current day injustices.”
BVM First Vice President Mira Mosle and Mary Martens, BVM (Loras) spoke at the event, emphasizing that “justice continues to be the aim of BVMs” as they live the call to “Welcome the Stranger.”
BVM Lynn Winsor Named Golf Coach of the Year
The Arizona Sports Awards, presented by Arby’s, has named Lynn Winsor, BVM and Tui Selvaratnam ‘Girls Golf Coaches of the Year.’ At Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Lynn and co-coach Tui led their golf program to its 34th championship since 1980.
Lynn has coached the girls golf program at since 1974 and has received numerous accolades, along with the girls’ golf team, in her 43 years of coaching at Xavier. “It’s that tradition of excellence that has followed us,” says Lynn. “We call it the Xavier golf experience.” Read the article at: http://bit.ly/2gxmzbB
Lynn is also featured in Prep Golf, Golf Digest, on Nov. 7, as the ‘coaching nun’ inducted into the Arizona Women’s Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2000, who does not play golf! Read the article at: http://bit.ly/2fvTYV7
Post date 12.13.16
Congratulations to BVM Golden Jubilarians!
Mary Ann Cronin, BVM and Susan Coler, BVM celebrated their golden jubilees with an Evening Prayer of Jubilee and Gratitude on April 12 in the Mount Carmel Motherhouse Chapel, followed by a reception. Read more about these sisters at http://www.bvmcong.org/whatsnew_jubs.cfm
BVM Honored as Paul Harris Fellow
‘Madre’ Cindy Sullivan, BVM is the recipient of an International Humanitarian Service award as a Paul Harris Fellow, presented by the Rotary Club of Petwawa, Canada. Five award recipients were recognized on Nov. 12 in Petawawa. Rotarian Norm Edwards accepted the award on Cindy’s behalf and she will receive her pin, certificate and medal at a later date.
As volunteer director of the Working Boys’ Center in Quito, Ecuador, Cindy says, “Norm brought a group of Rotarians to the Center some years ago and they are great benefactors.” She adds, “I am humbled and honored by this award which really belongs to our whole team here in Quito and our team at the Center for Working Families. It also is an award for all BVMs.”
Faye Reid, of the Petawawa Rotary Club, notes that “the symbolism in this recognition is to say thank you for making a difference in your community and in the lives of less fortunate people in the world . . . the Rotary Club of Petawawa, Canada recognizes these efforts and has made a contribution to the Rotary Foundation in your name.”
This fellowship was named after Paul Harris, who founded Rotary in 1905. The Rotary Foundation contributes to helping make the world a better place in which to live through education, food, potable water, shelter and much more.
Post date 12.14.16
BVMs Join Area Sisters in ‘Pray it Forward’ Campaign
The BVMs and other Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, along with the Archdiocese of Dubuque, celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week 2016 with a new social justice campaign called “Pray it Forward.”
The “Pray it Forward” campaign—funded by a grant from National Catholic Sisters Week—will feature six one-minute videos with Catholic sisters holding signs that illustrate social justice issues such as human trafficking, violence, and poor environmental practices. The videos ask viewers to join sisters in raising awareness of and praying for resolution of the issues.
Beginning March 6 and continuing each day throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, a new “Pray It Forward” video and message will be posted at www.facebook.com/catholicsisters. All are encouraged to share the “Pray It Forward” posts on their own social media accounts to ensure that these important messages reach many others.
To promote the event, the Archdiocese of Dubuque will distribute over 10,000 “Pray It Forward” prayer cards to students in all grades k-12 throughout the Archdiocese. Schools in which BVMs minister will also join in the campaign.
Links to the prayer cards, prayer and posters are provided below.
The Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley represent 12 congregations of women religious whose collective mission is to spread the Gospel message in the 21st century. They include the Sisters of St. Francis-Clinton, Sisters of the Presentation, Sinsinawa Dominicans, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Sisters of Mercy-West Midwest Community, Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of St. Francis-Dubuque, Sisters of the Visitation, Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey and the Carmelite Nuns.
‘Motherhouse Road Trip’ Features Two BVMs in Dubuque, Iowa
A Nun’s Life Ministry took to the road to visit the Sisters of Charity, BVM at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa, on Tuesday, March 1.
The podcast was live-streamed (audio and video) over the internet as two BVM sisters, Lou Anglin and Paulette Skiba, joined the hosts, Sister Julie Vieira and Sister Maxine Kollasch, to discuss the traditions of religious life including discernment, prayer and spirituality. A live chat room provided online listeners the ability to interact with each other and the sisters during the podcast.
Lou Anglin, BVM became acquainted with the BVMs while a student at Clarke University in Dubuque. “The BVMs really created that sense of community,” she says. “I saw them as very capable, human women . . . I felt at home to be myself.” Asked when she finally discerned that she was called to join the BVMs, Lou shares: “I just felt I couldn’t not do this. I think God is telling us often, encouraging us to follow our hearts and to listen.”
Lou taught middle school in Iowa, Alabama and St. Louis, where she lived for nearly 20 years. She served in an all-girls high school as religion teacher, campus minister, and freshmen basketball coach. During that time, she completed a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University Chicago. She recently concluded her ministry on the congregation’s Initial Membership Team.
“The world opened up for me because of the people my life has become entangled with,” shares Paulette Skiba, BVM. “I didn’t want this to be one year, two years—I wanted it to be a life commitment.” She adds, “You don’t need to come with the skills in community . . . you grow into them.” Her first ministry was teaching third grade in Chicago. After completing a doctorate in systematic theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Paulette joined the faculty at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where she has taught in the religious studies department for more than 20 years and serves as department chair.
Sisters Julie and Maxine, who are Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Mich., founded A Nun’s Life in 2006 as an internet-based ministry promoting the belief that each person is called by God to a vocation that enriches the individual and the world.
DAVA Receives Mustard Seed Award
The Dubuque Area Vocational Association (DAVA) was honored with the Mustard Seed Award at the 15th Biennial Convocation of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), held in Overland Park, Kan., Oct. 27–31. The award recognizes those making a significant impact on vocation ministry through small, local initiatives that have grown to include other groups.
“Lou and I were blessed to work with a wonderful group of men and women in DAVA for the past nine years,” says Kathy Carr, BVM who, together with current BVM First Vice President Lou Anglin, served as Initial Membership Coordinators.
“Our collaboration with the other 11 congregations was truly supportive of our own efforts. We all encouraged each other and there was great respect for the charism and traditions of each congregation. One of the common responses DAVA would receive from program participants was how inspiring it was to see the congregations working together so enthusiastically. While the “fruits” of vocation work are often invisible, it is an honor to have our efforts recognized with this award from the National Religious Vocation Conference.”
Post date 12.13.16
BVMs Appointed to Dual Leadership Positions at Xavier College Preparatory
Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix has announced that longtime Principal Mary Joan Fitzgerald, BVM (John Raymond) will become the school’s president, and Vice Principal of Academics and Campus Minister Joan Nuckols, BVM will become its new principal. Both positions are effective July 1, and exemplify an emerging administration model of dual leadership structure offering shared authority and responsibilities to better serve Catholic high schools, students, families and communities.
As principal since 1974, Mary Joan Fitzgerald has built a tradition of excellence at Xavier, winning numerous awards for academic excellence and innovation. Joan Nuckols joined Xavier in 1974 as history teacher. Prior to her current position, she served as department chair of social studies and theology and continues to teach Advanced Placement European history. She holds two master’s degrees, one in European history and one in education administration.
The school has been staffed by the Sisters of Charity, BVM since 1943, when they established the Catholic high school for girls known as Xavier College Preparatory.
For BVM Volunteers, Lent Signifies Service
BVM sisters and associates gathered with other volunteers at St. Patrick Parish in Dubuque, Iowa, on Ash Wednesday to prepare and serve a meal to those in need.
“It was an opportunity to meet and interact with over 90 guests—men and women of all ages plus some young children,” says Mary Martens, BVM (Loras). “The workers who serve this parish meal on a weekly basis provide a welcoming environment in which all can enjoy fellowship and food.”
BVM Associate Marilyn Heinz has been the driving force behind the meal for over three decades. “Marilyn and her parish crew do this every week and get donations from different churches in Dubuque,” says Associate Grace Mendez. “She knows what people will and won't eat and has recipes in her head for serving over 100 people!”
Donard Collins, BVM adds, “Marilyn has everything organized down to the last detail: I crushed potato chips for the tuna casserole! I had a few minutes to visit with the guests that came in early out of the cold, and it was a wonderful way to begin Lent.”
Serving the community meal has a deeper meaning for many of the volunteers. “Being with the dinner guests at St. Patrick reminds me that we are all a part of a world that needs one another,” shares Jean Gordon, BVM (James Miriam).
“It was a joy to help serve the meal with the sisters,” says Associate Jeanne Harrington. “There are so many needs in the world—and the BVMs are so responsive to them. Marilyn has been so amazing in her commitment to feeding folks each week and that, too, is an inspiration!”
BVM Diane Rapozo (Malia) takes it further. “Serving a meal at St. Patrick Parish gave me a chance to have conversations with a few of the people. It made me realize I must go further than serving a meal,” she shares. “I need to contact elected officials to see what we can do to break the unjust economic system.”
BVM Celebrates 100th!
Relatives, friends and former students joined Ann Regina on Sunday, Sept. 4, at Mount Carmel for a celebratory liturgy followed by dinner. BVM President Teri Hadro, in her welcome, noted: “Two of the lovely things about Ann Regina are her wonderful laugh and that she doesn’t take herself too seriously . . . she is a woman of many talents and within her 100 years accomplished much that is noteworthy.”
But more than that, this was a celebration of the woman Ann Regina is and the relationships she nurtured. Teri spoke warmly of Ann Regina’s “walking hug” of encouragement for others, now replaced by a “rolling hug” accompanied by her unfailing, effusive response to greetings from others.
When asked how it felt to be 100 years old, Ann Regina responded to another sister, “Honey, I don’t know how it feels. I just try to take each day as it comes!” She added that she was overwhelmed and grateful to everyone who helped celebrate her 100th birthday.
BVM Sisters and Associates Resolve to Work for Justice
The Sisters of Charity, BVM can trace their support of farmworkers to 1970s’ California, where Carol Frances Jegen, BVM was active with the farm workers and became a personal friend to Cesar Chavez. For 40 years, BVMs have been a member organization of the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM). Since 2011, BVM Mary Martens (Loras) has represented the BVMs in NFWM and advocated for farmworker issues.
Ann DeNicolo, BVM (Ann Thomas), currently serving the farmworker community of Arcadia, Fla., invited associates and sisters to spend several days learning about her ministry. From Jan. 13–17, Associates Virginia Piecuch, Kimberly Emery and Nancy McCarville joined BVMs Colleen McGinnity (Rose Maureen), Sharon Rezmer, Joyce Rohlik and Carol Cook (Conrad Ann), who has longstanding ties to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The group looked forward to “A renewed understanding of the work of the farmworkers and the advocacy of CIW for fair food.”
At the CIW headquarters, coalition staff shared a story of unfair wages and horrific working conditions for migrant workers until 1993, when a group of six organized and protested. Goals were to eliminate abuse, guarantee better wages, and improve conditions in the fields.
Remarkable success has been realized as 14 major corporations (including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and WalMart) have come to the table to negotiate, leaving two holdouts: Publix supermarkets and Wendy’s. Workers are now guaranteed the minimum wage, rest breaks, toilet facilities, and no tolerance for sexual abuse of women at work. A major victory was achieved as corporations agreed to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes. CIW hopes to win the same concession for strawberries.
A visit was arranged to the Casa Santa Maria soup kitchen and to the Guadalupe Church where the initial group of six first met to plan their protest strategy.
The DeSoto Cares Drop-in Center for the Homeless was developed and staffed by volunteers with a budget under $9,000. The Center provides hot showers, laundry and mailboxes—with computers and job training slated for the future.
At the Arcadia Center for the Needy, “James” welcomed the group with his wide smile and vivacious personality. Formerly living in the woods and eating from dumpsters, this volunteer has taken charge of the facility, rising each day to prepare a hot breakfast for the homeless who line up at 4:15 a.m.
The state-of-the-art housing community, Casa San Juan Bosco, built by Catholic Charities, offers affordable living to families who paid excessive rents for substandard trailers. Amenities include gardens, a play park, community center, after-school programs, and mothers’ groups.
The day’s outing continued to Arcadia’s Catholic Charities Office, where Edith, the daughter of migrant workers, explained Links2Success, an educational opportunity program for youth. She serves as an ambassador for the program, which provided her with the resources and guidance to attend college. Formerly shy and marginalized, this young woman has found her voice and offers a helping hand to those coming up behind her.
Also at Catholic Charities was a glimpse into Ann’s ministry, answering the needs of her clients with resources including food, clothes, and financial assistance. Advocating for Arcadian farmworkers for 15 years, Ann has gained the trust and love of this community.
Participants approached this trip focused on “better understanding of” and “increased sensitivity toward” the cause of the farmworkers. As they departed, questions challenged them: how to pass on new learnings and resolve to promote justice for farmworkers.
Carol reflected, “Time in Immokalee brought back memories of work with CIW when I served as BVM representative to the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM). My first contact was one winter day when workers arrived in Chicago to lobby Taco Bell to increase wages to tomato pickers by a penny. This turned into a boycott which lasted three years. Next came the campaign with McDonalds. I, also, observed the development of leadership skills by the workers, watching a young man who hung back at the demonstration and who in a year or two was out front organizing the others.”
Colleen admired the deep commitment of people making life better for workers in Immokalee and Arcadia, including Ann. Joyce valued the impact one person can have, saying, “Each speaker was powerful and touched my heart.”
With new insight, Virginia admitted, “I hoped to meet more migrant workers, but instead I came to know them through those who assist them. Long time volunteers and local people, who were once helped by others, are completing the circle and forming community with each other.”
Encouraged to take action and willing to write letters in support of the Fair Food Program, participants share their positive experience at Immokalee and encourage others to take advantage when another opportunity is offered.
—Associate Co-coordinator Nancy McCarville
Catherine Dunn, BVM Honored
Catherine Dunn, BVM, president emerita of Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, was honored Sept. 29 with the 2016 “50-50 in 2020” Equity for Women Award. Catherine has represented the BVM congregation in many areas of service to the church and community and has received a multitude of awards, from Dubuque’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1986 to reception of the Vatican’s Papal Medal in 2005.
“Sister Catherine used her leadership abilities at every opportunity to make positive differences in the lives of people from many walks of life,” said Maggie Tinsman, former Iowa state senator. 50-50 in 2020 is an initiative to recruit and elect enough women by 2020 so that half of Iowa’s legislature and congressional delegation will be women and a woman will have been elected governor.
Check out the latest issue of SALT!
The new issue of Salt is now online! Read how our BVM sisters promote peace and nonviolence in a diverse array of ministries—Freed by Love, Acting for Justice. Find out more at: http://www.bvmcong.org/whatsnew_pubs.cfm
Welcome to Vietnamese Sisters!
Global sisterhood is up close and personal at Mount Carmel!
Vietnamese IHM Sisters (l. to r.) Chihn, Tram and Tuyen explore the Mount Carmel campus after their arrival in September. Tram and Tuyen will live at Mount Carmel as they begin their studies at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, while Chihn will attend a college in Connecticut. Welcome, Sisters!
“We are very excited to be able to engage in mission by assisting our global sisters in this way,” says BVM President Teri Hadro. “We are grateful for the hospitality, prayers and many contributions so many will offer on behalf of our new global residents.”
BVMs Mary Crimmin (Agnes) and Marion Murphy (John Patrice) will serve as “house mothers” to assist in the transition of these sisters to our culture and customs. Judy Callahan, BVM (Eugene Mary) will coordinate tutoring at Mount Carmel for the sisters, Carol Marie Baum, BVM (Joseph Louis) will coordinate transportation to and from Divine Word College, and BVM Angele Lutgen will work with volunteers to provide various needs of the sisters. BVMs living in both the Dubuque area and at a distance will also contribute their assistance in many ways.
Local Art Gallery Features Work of Margaret Mear, BVM
Margaret Mear, BVM (Jacoba) is one of the artists whose work appears in the current show “Creatures Great and Small” at Outside the Lines Art Gallery in Dubuque, Iowa, from January through February. Her exhibited artwork entitled “The Leap” received a Best of Show award.
Margaret also has a sculpture on display for the Art on the River exhibit at the Port of Dubuque. “Always the Horrors of War” is one of 10 pieces selected by a jury of experts that will be on display in the exhibit for a year. Margaret is the first woman religious to have her art chosen for this event. View a video of this exhibit here.
In addition to these exhibits, she has two drawings entitled “Dumbarton” and “Gironde” on display in the online show with Colors of Humanity Art Gallery at www.colorsofhumanityartgallery.com. Artwork is arranged by the artist’s last name and can be viewed until the end of January.
Margaret was a professor of art for over 30 years at St. Mary University in Winona, Minn.
Diana Malone, BVM Leaves ‘Hands-on Legacy’ for Students
After nearly 50 years in the Chemistry Department at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, longtime department chair and faculty member Diana Malone, BVM retired at the end of the fall 2015 semester. Rather than “watch someone else do it” during classes, Diana insisted on hands-on use by students in all chemistry class levels, fostering her philosophy of competitiveness for the future. Read her story at: http://bit.ly/1VJccAK
Intenational Day of Peace
Join the BVM Sisters, associates, and friends around the world as we pray for peace on International Peace Day September 21. Dubuque will celebrate with a Day of Peace Festival with events from Sept. 12-25.
The focus for this year’s Day of Peace Festival is women who are leading the way to resolve disputes nonviolently and to achieve understanding and justice for everyone all around the world and in Dubuque.
The main event for the Dubuque Day of Peace is at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21. Rohina Malik will present, “Unveiled” at Hoffmann Hall Theater, Loras College, 1450 Alta Vista St., Dubuque, Iowa.
“Unveiled” is a one-woman show that tells the stories of five Muslim women in a post-9/11 world. This event is free and open to the public.
Rohina Malik was born and raised in London, England. At the age of 15 she migrated to Chicago with her family. During a playwriting and performance class in 2008, she started writing her much-acclaimed play “Unveiled.” Since then, “Unveiled” has been presented at theaters in the United States, Canada, and South Africa.
The other main events in Dubuque for the Day of Peace include:
Hike to Help Refugees, Sept. 24, 12-2 p.m. Start at Loras College (outside Christ the King Chapel), touch base at University of Dubuque (outside Blades Chapel) and end at Clarke University (outside Atrium). Co-sponsored with Iowa United Nations Association (IUNA). All proceeds raised go to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which helps provide refugees with life sustaining tools. Suggested donation: $20 adults; $10 students. One can also register and/or donate online at http://iowauna.org/hike-to-help-refugees-in-dubuque-september-24/
This is how we BBQ in DBQ, Sept. 24, 2-6 p.m., Kehl Center, Clarke University. Co-sponsored with Clarke University, Dubuque Branch NAACP, Dubuque Community Foundation, the Dubuque Human Rights Commission, Dubuque Independent Football League, the Dubuque Police Department and Auxiliary Police and the Jule. This community barbeque is an event where residents can bond and engage with different cultures through free food catered from a variety of local vendors. There will be family-friendly music and games. For more information, visit www.bbqindbq.org or www.facebook.com/bbqindbq.
For a list of free festival related events, visit: For more information, visit http://www.dbqdayofpeace.org/.
Remembering the Sandy Hook Victims
"What we're doing here tonight is just try to raise consciousness so we can end violence in general, and in particular, gun violence," said Carolyn Farrell with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. View the KWWL news story and a short video clip of BVM Judy Callahan about why she participated in the vigil at www.facebook.com/bvmsisters.
Interested in Religious Life? Area Congregations Offer Retreat
Are you a woman wondering what life might be like as a religious sister? Then sign up for “Dubuque's Got Sisters!” and get ready for a unique experience. Area religious communities are offering an opportunity to come together with sisters and other women who are asking how to best serve the people of God. Join us for prayer, conversation, and a chance to get to know communities of women who continue to serve people on the margins. There is no fee to attend.
The "Dubuque's Got Sisters!" event begins Friday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. and ends Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. The retreat will be held at Mount Carmel, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, situated atop the beautiful bluffs of the Mississippi River.
One young woman who attended the retreat shared, "While spending time with the sisters, I was amazed at how much life and joy they share. I loved every minute I spent with the sisters because of their energy and enthusiasm for life that is so contagious."
To register or for more details, contact Sister Rita Cameron, PBVM at: email@example.com or call 563-590-8144. "Dubuque's Got Sisters!" is sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Wis.), Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Dubuque Franciscan Sisters.
Former BVMs Remain ‘Sisters’ for Life
A remarkable group of women—known as former BVMs—are living out the BVM charism and still walking with their "sisters" in spirit along diverse and rewarding paths.
Their roots in the congregation served as a foundation for the lives they went on to lead, and many of them return to Mount Carmel each year to celebrate jubilees with set members or mark special events.
Who are these women? Many have maintained close friendships with their sisters; some have become BVM associates; most all remain connected to the community in love and support.
Marianne Littau attended St. Jerome and St. Gertrude elementary schools in Chicago and became acquainted early on with the BVMs. As a student at Mundelein College, Chicago, she shares, "The wonderful BVMs who taught me were intelligent, caring women, very professional and committed to seeing us grow as women who could do and be whatever we wanted."
By her senior year, Marianne knew she wanted to join the community and teach mathematics. She taught at Mundelein, completed her master’s degree in math, and directed a program for adult women returning to college.
"After leaving the community, I worked in finance at a large corporation," says Marianne. "I guess I haven’t strayed very far from numbers in some form."
Marianne feels that she gained a lifelong interest in learning from the BVMs, as well as a commitment to social justice, an interest in other cultures, and self confidence.
"I continue to receive great support from the BVMs," she says. "Two years ago, I contracted a serious autoimmune disease . . . I have recovered almost totally. Through the long process, I have felt the support and prayers of BVMs and former BVMs . . . and am immensely grateful."
Marianne adds, "Given my feelings about BVMs and all the ways my life has intersected with the life of the community, I can’t imagine not supporting them. I value all the ways the BVMs have helped me grow and develop as a person."
Jean O’Keefe did not meet the BVMs until her high school years at Our Lady of Peace in St. Paul, Minn. "I experienced superior teaching and met many religious women who impressed me with their strengths and talents," she says. She entered the BVMs in 1964, driven by "a sense of service and commitment to something larger than myself."
Jean spent 13 years in the community. Then, "no longer feeling called to a life separate from the broader faith community" Jean decided to leave. She went to work in the marketing field. "The BVMs gave me a great sense of my abilities and of the value of community in all walks of life," she says. Jean remains close to the congregation and has stayed connected to many of the women who entered in 1964. She supports the BVMs because "I believe the community has and continues to do good work and supports the good work of others."
Like Marianne, Mary Hardiman-Desmond first encountered BVMs in elementary school, at St. Dorothy in Chicago. She remembered the BVMs as "happy women" and a group of "incredible educators." She entered the community in 1965.
"We were young women anxious to make a difference in our world," Mary recalls. "We became ‘other-centered,’ grounded, and emotionally and spiritually alive."
Mary feels that her set formed a true sisterhood which has stood the test of time for the last 50 years. "Our time in community was an incredible period of growth for all of us. My time as a BVM helped to make me the woman I am; the values, commitment, and my choice to work with the less fortunate all stem from the incredible women I had as role models."
In leaving the community, Mary shares, "I never felt that I was truly leaving, but rather, carrying with me all that I had learned from the BVMs."
Mary became a public school teacher on the south side of Chicago. "I loved making a difference in the lives of kids whom others had given up on," she says.
She married her husband Mike in 1976; they have two children and a new grandchild, who is "a special gift of love."
Mary feels that the BVMs challenged and guided her into becoming the best she could be. "I will always support the BVMs and thank God that they supported me."
BVMs and Staff Unite for Alzheimer’s Research
Sisters and staff at Mount Carmel were honored with an award for the Top Fundraising Team for the 2016 Alzheimer's Walk in Dubuque, Iowa. The award was presented on Nov. 1 by Alexandra Barton, program and event coordinator at the Alzheimer's Association, Dubuque. In all, staff and sisters raised over $9,000.
The fun began when the “Working Unitedly Team” at Mount Carmel held their own “Olympics” in early August. Teams representing 10 colors, each made up of 30 employees and sisters, competed for one week to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research—a cause near and dear to the Sisters of Charity, BVM!
“Opening Ceremonies” commenced on Aug. 3, followed by a week of fun-filled competition between the teams. Ten boxes labeled with team colors were placed at Mount Carmel entrances and all were encouraged not only to “bring their change” but to “be the change,” helping to raise awareness of the disease and the upcoming Alzheimers’ Association Walk in Dubuque on Sept. 10.
At the week’s end on Aug. 10, sisters and staff braved the heat and humidity in the Joan Doyle Garden at Mount Carmel for a “Mini Memory Walk,” followed by root beer floats. Over 128 participants walked a total of 122,250 steps. All of the teams were declared winners, as they had dug into their pockets during the week of friendly competition and raised a total of $3,934.81 for the Alzheimer’s Association!
After the Mini Walk, a grand total of $4,871.93 had been raised by sisters and staff for Alzheimer’s research, and everyone was proud to be a member of TEAM PURPLE, the real winner!
But it didn't end there! By the time the Sept. 10 Alzheimer's Association Walk in Dubuque was finished, donations from staff and sisters had exceeded $9,000.
Watch KCRG’s news coverage: http://bit.ly/2barWA3
Dubuque’s Got Sisters Sponsors Fall Discernment Weekend
Eight young women arrived at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa, to participate in the sixth annual “Dubuque’s Got Sisters” (DGS) fall discernment retreat the weekend of Nov. 13-14.
The retreat is a collaborative event sponsored by four area religious congregations—the Dubuque Presentations, the Dubuque Franciscans, the Sinsinawa Dominicans, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM—to help women discern how God is calling them in their life.
A major focus of the weekend is the process of discernment itself, as well as general information on how religious life continues to reach out to those on the margins of our society.
Interwoven throughout the weekend are input from the sisters, time for questions and discussion, experiences of prayer and opportunities for quiet reflection, journaling, and talking informally with the vocation directors and one another. The women also enjoy their interaction with our sisters in the Caritas dining room.
This year we also had the “gift” of two current novices sharing their journey to religious life: our own Sharon Rezmer, and Christin Tomy, OP, who is a “graduate” of our previous DGS weekends.
One of the weekend’s participants wrote to us afterward, sharing what the weekend meant to her: “I am so glad you gave us the opportunity to discern our call this month. I was pleased with myself for attending—it helped me at this time of discernment. It was truly a blessing and a well-needed encounter getting to know all of you. The gift of each of you was what made the weekend so memorable. I look forward to participating in the retreat next spring.”
—Kathy Carr and Lou Anglin
Initial Membership Coordinators
Induction of New BVM Leadership Team Celebrated
The Sisters of Charity, BVM celebrated the installation of the new leadership team: (center, l. to r.) Second Vice President LaDonna Manternach, President Teri Hadro, and First Vice President Lou Anglin during a special ceremony at Mount Carmel on July 31.
Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM (Clement Mary) welcomed sisters, family, friends and guests and invited all to prayer. The blessing of the former leadership team, President Teri Hadro, BVM; First Vice President Mira Mosle, BVM; and Second Vice President Catherine (Kate) E. Hendel, BVM was followed by the calling forth of the new leadership team as each was presented with a candle by Joellen McCarthy, BVM.
Affirmation and blessing by the congregation preceded the closing song as sisters affirmed their sharing of leadership, in mutual commitment, in joyful participation, in loving growth, in faithfulness to the Spirit of God, and in the spirit of Foundress Mary Frances Clarke. With gratitude, they blessed Kate (far l.) and Mira (far r.) who have guided the community for the past four years.
BVMs Travel with Area Catholic Sisters on Delegation to El Salvador
Religious sisters Dorothy Kazel, OSU; Ita Ford, MM; and Maura Clarke, MM; and their associate Jean Donovan were brutally murdered by Salvadoran National Guard members 35 years ago on Dec. 2, 1980. The four women had committed their lives to accompanying the children and families who had fallen victim to the escalating violence and oppression that eventually led to the civil war in El Salvador.
A special delegation of 100 women religious and community leaders traveled to El Salvador to mark the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionaries from Nov. 28–Dec. 5. Six sisters from area congregations were part of the group, including BVMs Carolyn Farrell (Lester), and Paulette Skiba; Dubuque Franciscans Charlotte Enright and Judy Sinnwell; and Sinsinawa Dominicans Mary Howard Johnstone and Pam Mitchell. The delegation was sponsored by SHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
During the trip, on the anniversary of the women's deaths, Paulette Skiba, BVM shared: "This was a very moving day. We remembered the 35th anniversary of the deaths of Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean as well as the death of Maryknoll Sister Carla ZPiette who drowned in a flash flood the same year. As we turned off the highway towards the place where they were killed and buried in a shallow grave the buses became siletn as we bumped along - on my bus a chorus of 'Be Not Afraid; began and it seemed as if we were accompanying them 35 years later but no less present . . . "
She adds: “The witness of the four church women in El Salvador who chose to stay in a dangerous situation in order to accompany the poor during a very violent time has always been an inspiration to me. I was discerning a call to religious life at the time of their deaths. Several people told me religious life was no longer relevant in the contemporary world. Their faith and commitment convinced me of the opposite: that there was nothing more relevant.”
BVM Carolyn Farrell shares, “The rape and murder of the four Catholic Church women Dec. 2, 1980, in El Salvador was one of the pivotal moments in my life. I awoke to the clock radio news describing this horrendous tragedy. As I pondered these ordinary women working for the poor and marginalized, I thought, ‘Carolyn what is your life all about?’ This year I was able to join the delegation to El Salvador, that I call a pilgrimage, to lift up and honor with gratitude the inspiration these women have provided me these past 35 years.”
The delegation included a pilgrimage to the martyrdom site of the four churchwomen to hear firsthand testimonies by people who knew them, meetings with grassroots movement leaders, human rights defenders, and mothers of the disappeared. The delegation also explored root causes of migration to the United States and the current challenges impoverished communities face, including increasing violence.
The Sisters of Charity, BVM, as part of Area Catholic Sisters, invited the public to “Light for the Nations,” Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque, Iowa for a special commemorative prayer service honoring the 35th anniversary of four martyred church women.
This prayer service was the third and final initiative of the area communities to mark the Year of Consecrated Life, celebrated from Nov. 30, 2014, to Feb. 2, 2016. Area Catholic Sisters observed the Year of Consecrated Life earlier this year by hosting an open house at each congregation’s motherhouse, and in recent months, area women religious invited their associates and employees to help prepare and serve meals to those in need as part of a collaborative service project.
BVMs Carolyn Farrell and Paulette Skiba and Dubuque Franciscans Judy Sinnwell and Charlotte Enright are available to speak to groups in the Dubuque area about their experiences in El Salvador. To schedule a presentation call Carolyn or Paulette at 563- 588-2351 and Judy Sinnwell or Charlotte at 563- 583-9786.
‘Circle of Friends’ Fosters BVM Charism
Historically, the charism of BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke was spread through the work of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, primarily in the ministry of education. Today, that charism is shared through the work of BVM sisters, associates, staff members, volunteers and donors—the “Circle of Friends.”
Tricia Lothschutz was drawn to work for the BVM community as a result of the passion she experienced among its members. In her current role as BVM outreach/volunteer coordinator, Tricia shares this passion with others. One of her responsibilities includes collaboration with the other members of the Life and Mission Team, comprised of the initial membership coordinators and the associate co-coordinators.
Expand Mission Through Relationships
As a member of the Life and Mission Team, Tricia strives to help strengthen the relationships among those who belong to the BVM Circle of Friends. To do this, she has planned service projects in areas across the country and in Ecuador. She has also worked with campus ministry departments at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and Carmel HS in Mundelein, Ill., and has spoken with alumni at events such as the Our Lady of Peace HS reunion in St. Paul, Minn.
The events that Tricia and the other members of the team have helped coordinate are concrete expressions of the BVM core values. Those who have participated in the events have had the opportunity to live out the BVM mission in a real way. Tricia says, “I believe this is all about seeing the needs that are present in the world, responding to those needs, and working for justice.”
During a 2014 mission trip to Ecuador, Tricia served with one of her colleagues, Cory Weinschenk, who is employed in the Sisters of Charity, BVM information technology (IT) department. He staffs the helpdesk and assists with general technology issues. Cory’s position represents his second connection with the BVM community; the first was forged as an undergraduate student at Clarke University, where he majored in computer information systems. As part of his job, he loves hearing sisters tell stories about their lives.
Immersion Trips Ignite Spirit of Service
When Cory learned of the mission trip to Ecuador, he knew he would participate. Beginning at a young age, his parents taught him the importance of serving others. This lesson was reinforced during his years in the Boy Scouts. He notes that the trip to Ecuador was a particularly humbling experience. “It was such an amazing trip that if I’d had more vacation time, I would have stayed longer,” he says. “The people we met lived in substandard conditions yet they were so grateful for what they had, and very welcoming and willing to share.” His time abroad underscored his understanding of the BVM mission, which he explains as “fostering self-respect and trying to change people’s lives for the better.”
Tricia, Cory and other members of the volunteer group spent about a week in Ecuador. Other volunteers, like Kansans Bethany and Matt Ludwikosky, have chosen to live out the BVM mission abroad in a long-term capacity. They currently work as live-in volunteers at Damien House in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which serves persons with Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
Bethany had previously volunteered at Damien House as a student and knew that she wanted to come back for a longer period of time. She and Matt married three years ago; they returned to volunteer at Damien House in January, welcomed with open arms by Ann Credidio, BVM, who has dedicated her life to bringing care and dignity to Damien House patients. “In volunteering at Damien House,” says Bethany, “we have been introduced to other BVMs through Sister Annie. This relationship has shown us the wonderful people in the BVM community and the support they give to people in need.”
‘Seeing the World From a Different Perspective’
Though Bethany and Matt will return to the States later this year, their work will have a lasting impact. In their own ways, the couple has been working to empower the residents and staff of Damien House. Bethany has used her training as an occupational therapist (OT) to establish group exercise sessions and work one-on-one with residents to address issues such as pain. “My whole life has changed from this experience,” Bethany shares. “I have received love, patience, kindness and appreciation from the people of Damien House and they appreciate the skills I have to offer them.”
Similarly, Matt has used his expertise in business to assist with technology and marketing efforts. He adds, “This experience has changed me as a person and helped me see the world from a different perspective. It has shown me that I can make a difference.”
Pat Maddux, who recently made his commitment as a BVM associate, has chosen to carry out the BVM mission a little closer to home. Pat’s first exposure to the congregation was as a staff member at Clarke University, where he has been employed for the past 15 years. Pat enjoys working with others and looks forward to continuing his relationship with the BVM and associate communities. “My experiences working in the Clarke community, my involvement in BVM associate activities, and my technical support of off-campus BVMs have all been deeply rewarding and bring me joy.”
Like Tricia, Pat has been inspired by the passion of the sisters with whom he works. At the center of this passion is a spirit of honesty and authenticity. Many times, Pat feels, people interact with one another in a manner that is guarded and clouded by biases and agendas. He believes that BVMs are confident in their honesty, willing to question the status quo, and unafraid to live with uncertainty.
The contemporary witnesses to the spirit of Mary Frances Clarke are transformed by their experiences living out her mission in the world today. This transformation is a source of hope and instills an ever-growing commitment to the core values. Bethany and Matt’s time in Ecuador has filled them with a strong sense of gratitude and commitment to others. Pat is committed to practicing honesty and authenticity in his own relationships and to serving others. When Tricia is asked about living out the BVM mission in the future, she responds, “I will continue to be a person of hope, to go where I am called—even if I haven’t been there before.”
by Associate Dan Abben
Mary Ellen Caldwell, BVM: Powerhouse in a Small Package
“I am an American sister. I do not speak the language.” Mary Ellen Caldwell, BVM (Eugenio) has learned to say this phrase in eight foreign tongues. When she began teaching preschool over 70 years ago, it looked like a lifework. The oldest of eight children, she had a lot of experience with little ones and loved teaching them; at 5 feet tall, she was safe from the backaches that often affect teachers of tiny people.
However, in 1956 she was appointed principal of St. Patrick School in Dubuque, Iowa, and taught eighth graders bigger than she. While there, she studied theology in Marquette University’s summer program in Milwaukee, newly opened to non-seminarians; in 1962 she moved uphill in Dubuque to teach theology and scripture at Clarke University and stayed 25 years, during which she took more summer theology classes and workshops across the country.
Other Ministries Beckon
In 1973, Mary Ellen and BVMs Carol Frances Jegen and Betty Pleas (St. Laura) had a free day after an institute on Ignatian Spirituality in San Francisco. They spent it picketing with farm worker advocate Cesar Chavez, were arrested, and entered—not another nation—but another world in a Fresno jail for two weeks. Mary Ellen said, “I was angry about the treatment given to hardworking farm workers; they didn’t deserve to be treated as criminals. It was an honor to be with them and a special privilege to spend time with Dorothy Day who came to California to join us.”
This unexpected sojourn delayed Mary Ellen’s departure for a year’s study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The following summer, she and her BVM little (in both senses) sister, Mary Remi Caldwell, toured western Europe and added more languages to her pet phrase.
The next year Mary Ellen became a member of the BVM committee writing a new Constitution, as directed by Vatican Council II. That was a 15-year project, with many meetings and much input from BVMs, canonists, and other religious congregations doing the same work. Deanna Marie Carr, BVM (Bernita) initially led the committee and Mary Ellen chaired at the end.
In 1988, Mary Ellen retired from Clarke to complete Constitution work and prepare the records for the Mount Carmel Archives. “Membership on the Constitution committee, working with wonderful people, was a privilege,” she said. “When Helen Garvey and her Council went to Rome for approval of the document, they didn’t have to take me, but I loved being in Rome again and participating in the dialogue at the Vatican.”
Teaching Expands to Africa, Europe and ‘Back Home Again’
While in Rome, Mary Ellen visited one of her former instructors who prompted, “In Africa they are desperate for seminary teachers.” Having spent an earlier summer in Kenya, she was open to going again. For 2 1/2 years she taught at St. Hubert Seminary in Kumasi, Ghana, where Mary Ann Hoope, BVM (Bernarde Marie), another theologian, works at the Centre for Spiritual Renewal. In Ghana she added some new languages for her favorite phrase and got used to being addressed as “old woman,” a title of high respect there, where most people don’t live long and revere those who do.
When Mary Ellen returned to the United States, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) was recruiting volunteers for the Catholic Bishops’ Program of Aid to the Catholic Church in central and eastern Europe. “The bishops could send money, but they asked LCWR for help sisters could give—mostly education, but some sisters did oral histories and a film about sisters’ experience under Communism,” Mary Ellen shared.
Four times she went to Budapest for two-month sessions to teach English in classes organized by the Hungarian Sisters’ Council. More languages. Some young Hungarian sisters had been admitted to graduate schools in the United States. Mary Ellen arranged for them to live with retired BVMs in Chicago while improving their English.
Coming home for good, Mary Ellen taught Scripture classes in the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, for five years, but finally retired to private tutoring in English for select foreign students. However, she is open to other possibilities!
—by Mary A. Healey, BVM (Michael Edward)
Sisters and Students Build Lasting Friendships
Since the early days of the Sisters of Charity, BVM there have been countless stories of the BVMs’ lives, mission and spirituality. They have been trailblazers in society and have paved the way for the future. In order to preserve these stories, the BVM congregation partnered with Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa, and St. Catherine University (St. Kate), St. Paul, Minn., to participate in a semester-long oral history project in which four BVMs sat down with four Clarke University students to reflect on their lives.
Grant Provides Means to Accomplish Goals
In late 2013, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded a $3.3 million grant to St. Kate. The purpose of the grant was two-fold: one portion would help establish an annual National Catholic Sisters Week each March; another portion would fund oral history projects of sisters across the nation, to be preserved in digital archives.
An online article published on St. Kate’s Newswire July 14, 2014, notes that the goal was to “engage . . . students and their counterparts at Catholic universities across the country in creating high quality films and narratives to document and celebrate the profound impact of women religious” and to “foster meaningful relationships between college-age women and accomplished American women religious.” To facilitate this, St. Kate reached out to religious congregations and colleges across the nation and BVMs answered the call.
Sisters, Students Partner Together
The first order of business was to select the sisters who would represent the BVM congregation during the pilot project. BVMs Janita Curoe, Carolyn Farrell (Lester), LaDonna Manternach and Paulette Skiba, who embodya wide array of talents and ministries, agreed to participate in the project. They would partner respectively with Clarke University students Rosalyn Gravrok, Kaitlyn Timm, Bree Moore and Rachel Ehlers.
“Going into this project I did not have too many expectations. I just thought it would be a fun way to get to learn more about some pretty amazing people who seemed to have a lot to do with the history of Clarke,” said student Bree Moore.
For many of these students, it was their first time extensively interacting with a religious sister. Leading into the project, there was much excitement as the students prepared for meeting and getting to know their sisters.
Project Preparation Fosters Bonds
“The only thing I really knew [before the project] was that the BVMs were a large part of Clarke, and a religious order. I was excited to learn more about the impressive women who dedicated their lives to teaching others,” said Rosalyn Gravrok.
The oral history project would take approximately 14 weeks. As the semester began, students met with their BVM sisters once a week to familiarize themselves with each other and prepare for the oral history interview—an extended, sit-down session in which the sister is asked questions that reflect on her life.
This preparation time exceeded Rachel Ehler’s expectations. “I think going into this I figured it would be a pretty stagnant ‘question-answer’ type project where I just had to read some questions and get some answers. I expected to be interested in the project, but I don't think I ever expected to form such a trusting and strong relationship with my sister.”
Once the sister/student bond was formed, the questions established, and the date set, it was time for the interview. Each sister sat down with her student and, while being video recorded, recounted her discernment to religious life, her mission, and ministries.
“What struck me most was Sister Janita's modesty about the great works she did during her career in education and her overall outlook on life,” Rosalyn Gravok shared. “Whenever I had asked a question about any troubles that she might have faced during her life, Sister Janita truly could not come up with a single one. She just kept saying that she felt as if she had led a charmed and wonderful life.”
BVM Carolyn Farrell continues to have a positive relationship with her student, Kaitlyn Timm. “Kaitlyn was the treat of the project: the heart of the matter. She didn’t know sisters, although a Catholic. Our personalities and organizational skills were a great match for a comfortable working situation. She knew more about sisters at the end of our project.”
Kaitlyn agrees. “Being in college right now, while I am trying to figure out what my calling is, it’s calming to know that the path for even a Sister was a difficult one to figure out, and yet she lived and is living such a meaningful life.”
Relationships Continue as Mission, Legacy Preserved
Once the video recording was finished and the transcripts written, the relationship between student and sister didn’t end, especially between Rachel Ehlers and LaDonna Manternach, BVM. “I loved getting to spend time with my sister. I loved learning not only the roots of the BVMs, but also the life of my sister. Her stories and thoughts were very interesting to me. Every chance we got to spend time together was such a blessing.”
The completed interviews and transcripts were sent to St. Kate, to be preserved in digital archives, enabling the mission and legacy of the Sisters of Charity, BVM to be shared with younger generations.
Paulette Skiba, BVM notes: “Religious congregations have some of the oldest and richest archives in the world—this project continues that tradition and I hope we can have other BVMs included in this archive since BVMs have left a mark on the church and on religious life in the United States.”
Because this was such a positive experience for both students and sisters, the Sisters of Charity, BVM and Clarke University will partner once again in the spring semester of 2016 for another round of oral histories.
—by Ellen Reiss
Sisters of Charity, BVM
Check out the latest issue of SALT!
Pope Francis has called on each of us to "Wake Up the World" - sharing our gratitude, passion and hope with others. This issue of Salt illustrates the responses of both lay persons and consecrated religious to the pope's call to action. BVM Carolyn Farrell (Lester) and Kaitlyn Timm, a student at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, forged a close friendship during an oral history project this year, fostering the link between the past, present and future.
BVMs Help to Promote Awareness of Human Trafficking
What began as a college student’s class project has now grown to become a traveling exhibit to raise awareness of human trafficking, which is both a global epidemic and a reality in Iowa.
“Journey to Freedom: A Walk through Human Trafficking” was displayed in the Roshek Building in Dubuque, Iowa, in September. The audience, a mixture of women religious, college students and parishioners from the Dubuque area, had the opportunity to view photos, written words, and displays of those trafficked. Viewers found the exhibit to be informative, sobering and very disturbing!
The exhibit was on display until Oct. 5, making it possible for others to become aware of human trafficking. It was sponsored by the Coalition of Women Religious and Associates against Human Trafficking in the Tri-State Area. BVM, Dominican, Franciscan and Presentation sisters and lay associates make up this coalition.
“As educators, we appreciate the use of varied media to speak the truth,” says Dorothy Gaffney, BVM. Kate Keating, BVM (St. Wilma) adds, “I have hope that this display opens many eyes to the reality of human trafficking.” Both sisters are members of the coalition.
In other parts of the country, BVMs are working to promote awareness of human trafficking and ways to prevent it. Educator Marilyn Wilson, BVM was part of team which gave a presentation at Santa Clara University in California recently. Many of the students were unaware that trafficking was a local reality and were energized to become involved. In addition, the upcoming Super Bowl will be held in Santa Clara in February 2016, providing even more opportunities to advocate for this crucial human rights issue.
Human trafficking is not only a violation of human rights of the most vulnerable population; it is also a major health problem resulting in STDs, and an increase in cervical cancer in many women who are victims. HIV continues to grow in adolescents and young adults.
Human trafficking is also a national security issue, as gang members and ISIS use profits from human trafficking to fund their activities.
Prevention of trafficking begins with families caring for each other and building self-esteem and unconditional love for children. Schools can use available age appropriate curriculum which teaches safe touch and helps students know where to report problems. Concerned citizens can support laws which protect vulnerable victims but help bring the buyer, seller and pimps to justice.
Artwork of James Ann Walsh, BVM Included in Local Museum Exhibit
Two paintings of BVM artist and teacher, James Ann Walsh, will be on display at the Dubuque, Iowa, Museum of Art as part of the exhibit, Janet Ruttenberg: Figure in the Landscape / Kathy Ruttenberg: Landscape in the Figure, which will run from Oct. 24 through March 20.
Born in Dubuque in 1931, artist Janet Lee (Kadesky) Ruttenberg was taught for a short time by Sister James Ann and another teacher, artist Dorothy Bechtel Rossiter, whose work will also be featured in the exhibit. Sister James Ann’s artwork, “Birch Trees” and “Abstract Watercolor,” is featured.
Janet left Iowa at age 14 before returning to study at the University of Iowa. Since 1965 she has lived and worked in New York City, declining to exhibit or sell her work. Currently and for the past 15 years, she can be found most days in Central Park working on her signature paintings.
The exhibit marks the first time the mother/daughter artists will display their work together and explores each artist’s focus on the human figure and the natural world through painting and sculpture.
Karen Conover Recognized with Education Award
Karen Conover, BVM was presented with the Durocher Award on Oct. 9 at Holy Names HS for young women in Oakland, Calif., where she taught chemistry for 20 years.
DeJuana Aldrich, Holy Names HS science department chair, introduced Karen to guests at the school’s “Fund Her Future” event, where Karen received her award.
The award is the school’s highest honor, and is “bestowed in eternal recognition of an outstanding individual.” Holy Names HS Principal Constance Hubbard said, “Sister Karen . . . we extend our sincere appreciation for your outstanding service and unselfish support and dedication to the concepts of a quality secondary education as exemplified by Holy Names HS.”
Karen, who was the speaker at the event, shared: “The Durocher Award is named for Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, whose feast day we have just marked this past Tuesday. This 19th century woman believed in the potential of women and their capacity to learn, grow and contribute to God’s work in this world. In her name, I join with you as we honor all past, present and future Holy Names HS women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics . . . It is for them that we are all here this evening.”
Holy Names HS is a small Catholic school for young women that provides an academically challenging college preparatory education to a diverse community of students, the majority of whom are on some form of financial aid.
BVMs Inspired by Historic Pope Visit
The Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the United States from Sept. 22–27 moved many Americans as they watched this humble man reach out to all with genuine affection and love. BVMs were privileged to be among the crowds in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia during his five-day schedule.
“I found the trip to Washington, D.C., to see Pope Francis a very powerful experience,” says Novice Director Lou Anglin, BVM who was accompanied by novice Sharon Rezmer and BVM President Teri Hadro. “Although it didn’t go quite as planned (due to extremely tight security) it was amazing to be with people from all over the world drawn to his message of love and mercy,” Lou shares. “It’s seems obvious that he walks the talk. He just doesn’t talk about being merciful, he shows mercy. I have hope that his message, which is the message of the Gospels, will extend to all.”
‘Waiting with the Faithful’
Sharon offers a delightful take on the experience. “Naturally, I was filled with anticipation and excitement at the prospect of seeing the Holy Father, maybe even shaking his hand or speaking with him,” Sharon says. “The theme for the pope’s visit was, ‘Share the Joy, Walk with Francis’ and I would be there to walk with him!”
Lou and Sharon arrived at the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception and began a five-hour wait under the beating sun without access to water or food and with insufficient porta-potties, which ran out of toilet paper and soap.
“The saving grace was that we met some interesting people while we were there,” Sharon says. “Among them were a 70-year-old Cistercian novice (who beat me in age); an African American single mother who taught high school math and who personally rescued two trafficked female students; a compassionate Filipino couple who offered us water and an unappealing snack cake—which after a few hours seemed like a gourmet treat; an enthusiastic group of Hispanic people who entertained us with song; religious and priests, some wearing brightly colored habits or cassocks; lay people of all nationalities; and sisters and novices who Lou and I knew from South Bend and Sinsinawa, among many others.”
Sharon adds, “Our one and only glimpse of Pope Francis was when he was riding past in his popemobile with his back towards us . . . I may not have walked with Francis but I certainly waited with his amazingly diverse church!”
“I went to the Junipero Serra canonization Mass on the campus of Catholic University in Washington, D.C.,” Teri shares. “The experience of being one of more than 25,000 attendees at the Mass was memorable . . . the people gathered were remarkable for their good humor, patience, and willingness to step aside as others moved in front of them. The demeanor of the crowd paid tribute to the man we’d come to see. My experience at the Serra Mass suggests the pope’s message is finding fertile soil in the hearts of many who came to see him during his U.S. visit.”
Teri also viewed the Pope’s talk to the staff of the United Nations. “He told them that their work was as important as that of U.N. dignitaries and asked them to care for one another, to be just, and to be peace.”
Pope Francis: Building Bridges
BVM Marge Clark shares her own Washington, D.C. experience: “I was at the White House, the Mass at the Basilica and at the Capitol . . . far out on the lawn. The most impressive part for me was the address to Congress, where Pope Francis walked deeply into so many of the issues on which there are vicious divides among both House and Senate members. He dove deep in only a brief paragraph or two on each. But the point was clear. And he ended with, ‘It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same.’”
Marge adds, “It was a terrific thrill to be in the presence of Pope Francis—particularly at the Mass at the Basilica, where I was in the fourth row of women religious . . . I was able to see his face clearly and closely!”
“I was on the west lawn of the Capitol with thousands of people, listening to the message he extended to Congress,” says Kathy Kandefer, BVM. “It was a good experience. His presence created excitement and hope. The message that was continually gleaned from his words was that of mercy and compassion. We need to care for the poor and not judge those around us who may think differently.”
BVMs Joanie Nuchols and Joan Fitzgerald (John Raymond) were also present at Pope Francis’ address to the Joint Session of Congress. “As a teacher of American history, this was a special event made even more so by Pope Francis’s knowledge and use of four great Americans in his speech. I was moved to tears," Joanie shares.
"Being seated in the gallery, as our American leaders, whom we see so often in the news media, were processing in person was a thrill overshadowed only by the moment of pride when Francis from the Holy See was announced. The sincerity of his presentation was most respectfully and enthusiastically received,” Joan says.
Together, the two of them felt that “The entire Washington experience was one of unity, joy and fellowship—from the cab drivers, to people on the street, to all the security personnel, and to the many world visitors who came to see Pope Francis and witness his gentle love and appreciation for each person he touched. We carted 1,500 Pope Francis medals through airport security and metal detectors at the capitol—to the amusement of the guards and the people around us. We brought these back to all the Xavier students, faculty and staff who have been so appreciative.”
Marguerite Murphy, BVM (John) was at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, with Associate Clara Schwartz, to see Pope Francis. “What a privilege to hear Pope Francis encourage us to respect religious freedom and immigration and to act responsibly—while sitting in this historic setting of not only America’s declaration of becoming a nation, but also Mary Frances Clarke’s commencement of the Sisters of Charity, BVM—just a few blocks away,” shares Marguerite.
Earlier this year on July 7, BVM Mary Miguel Conway was “blessed to have experienced the Papal Mass in Quito” during Francis’ trip to Ecuador.
“The expression of faith and the feeling of the presence of Christ in the man who is our pope is enough to bring tears to one's eyes,” Miguel says. “What an experience! In the name of Jesus we were greeted and attended to as if each of us was a special guest. For me, this was an historic day, to be in the presence of someone who is so simple and so attractive for the kingdom. I will not forget it.”
Join Us for the 2016 Ecuador Immersion Trip!
The Ecuador Immersion Trip for 2016 is now available for registration!
April 25-May 4, 2016
Registration deadline is March 7, 2016
To find out more about the trip, visit here.
Contact: Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Working Boys Center, view this video:
Sisters and Friends Join in Fight to End Alzheimer’s Disease
Sisters of Charity, BVM formed a team of over 20 walkers this year, including sisters, staff, family and friends, as they joined in the Dubuque Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 12.
BVM Human Resources Representative Connie Palm, who served as team captain, says, “We have been focusing on growing the sense of community among our employees and fostering the core values of the Sisters of Charity—freedom, education, charity and justice—among staff. Participation in the walk was just a natural outflow of the work they do with the sisters.”
A root beer float fundraiser at Mount Carmel a week earlier helped raise awareness of the walk and brought sisters and staff together to support the cause. Resident sisters who could not participate in the walk weren’t left out; they walked in spirit with the team and tracked their personal fitness center activity, earning purple ribbons as they accomplished their goals.
The BVM team raised over $2,400, surpassing their goal of $2,000. Lou Anglin, BVM shares, “Alzheimer’s is such a terrible disease that touches so many. It’s so important that money continues to be put towards finding a cure. It’s also critical that we continue to support people with the disease as well as their caregivers.”
Other BVM sisters participate in the Religious Orders Study (the “Rush Study”) based at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. They engage in yearly medical and psychological evaluation and have agreed to the donation of their brains after death for research.
BVM Vice President Mira Mosle says, “Our sisters, associates and staff witness daily the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the participation by many of our sisters in the Rush Study’s scientific search for a cure, our participation in this walk enables more resources to be channeled for education, support and research initiatives. We are grateful for the support of so many who participated in our Mount Carmel team, and the hundreds of persons who turned out to walk for a cure.”
Midwest Catholic Sisters Support Laudato Si’
Catholic Sisters shared their support for Pope Francis’ environmental message in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si,’ through an ad in a national commemorative edition of USA Today. The special section was released two weeks prior to the Pope’s historic U.S. visit, which begins Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C., and concludes Sept. 27 in Philadelphia. Twelve Midwest religious congregations (see ad) in the Upper Mississippi River Valley comprise the group, Sisters United News (SUN), which collaborated on the ad.
Anita Therese Hayes Honored at Archivist Conference
The Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious (ACWR) commemorated the 25th anniversary of its founding this year at its August Triennial Meeting in Pittsburgh. At the celebration, Anita Therese Hayes, BVM, was honored as one of nine religious sisters who were founding members. All of these women joined ACWR in 1990 or 1991.
Anita Therese became the archivist for the Sisters of Charity, BVM in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1991. She earned a certificate in Professional Development in Archival Administration in 1995 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also served on the ACWR Election Committee from 1998 to 2003.
Though she retired as the Mount Carmel archivist in 2004, Anita Therese continues to serve in the archives daily as a volunteer, where her extensive knowledge of congregational history and familiarity with the archives is invaluable.
ACWR was established on Sept. 1, 1990. Membership is open to those individuals interested in furthering archival and historical services to women religious. For more information about ACWR visit: http://www.archivistsacwr.org/index.html or contact the national office at email@example.com.
Summer 2015 Associates Retreat: Living with Uncertainty and Change
The BVM core value of freedom led us on a journey of exploration at the associate retreat at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, July 17–19. How are we being called? And what keeps us from this freeing experience?
Facilitators Virginia Stone, BVM (Alice Rose) and Associate Joann Crowley Beers provided us with an extraordinary process using the river as a metaphor. This quote by the Hopi Elders led us on our own exploration:
My fellow swimmers: There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, and keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate . . . All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones who we have been waiting for. (Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation)
A significant part of the journey included four powerful and moving panelists: BVMs Catherine Dunn (Catherine Michele) and Mary McCauley (Mercedie) and Associate Co-coordinators Kimberly Emery and Lori Ritz, who shared their stories of change and uncertainty.
This in turn gave us permission and an invitation to listen to the river within ourselves. Are we ready to let go of the shore? What edge are we clinging to? Associate Kathy Weishaar shared, “My whole life I followed the river; my Dad always drove the roads that did that. So a river as a metaphor for uncertainty and change made the weekend so personal and enlivening.”
An opportunity for a new relationship was given to us at the retreat when we each received the name of a BVM sister living at Mount Carmel, with whom we could talk and listen, and share stories of uncertainty and change.
“I came not sure of what I might give or receive. It took not long . . . that I knew my trip from Montana had been more than worthwhile and there was more to come before the retreat ended,” shared Associate Jim Tackes. “I had been waiting to decide what I might do next after my wife Rosemary died. The weekend gave me some possibilities.”
Perhaps a quote from Irish poet John O’Donohue sums it up best: “I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
—BVM Associate Jeanie Fritscher
Currents of Change Features News for Alumni, Friends of BVMs
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BVMs Celebrate Diamond Jubilees
Read more about our diamond jubilarians.
BVMs Receive Governor Volunteer Awards
Two Sisters of Charity, BVM were among other Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque volunteers presented with the Governor Volunteer Awards on June 11 at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Each volunteer dedicated over five years of service to the program.
“Mary Agnes and I volunteer as members of Circles of Support and Accountability, a project of the Archdiocesan Jail and Prison Ministry,” says Sara McAlpin, BVM (Philip Mary). “We meet in groups to support women and men of various ages who have been arrested on drug charges.”
Mary Agnes O’Connor, BVM (St. Agnes) adds, “We volunteer in Dubuque’s Restorative Justice Program—with some of us visiting men’s prisons and others involved with the Dubuque Drug Court Program. All of this is under the auspices of Catholic Charities.”
The Governor’s Volunteer Awards (GVA) program was created in 1982, with inaugural awards presented in 1983. “Iowa is recognized as a national leader in volunteerism and service because of the steadfast devotion of our volunteers,” states Governor Terry E. Branstad. “I am pleased to have an opportunity to personally thank this year’s Governor’s Volunteer Award recipients for contributing their priceless time and talent in ways that make an enormous difference in our state.”
BVM Sisters Grateful for Pope Francis' Encyclical
We applaud the publication of LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis’ new encyclical, and look forward to reading it, praying it, and discussing it with our sisters and friends. We commit to joining with like-minded people to live in ways that reverence our common home, work towards reversing the negative impact of our collective human footprint, and demonstrate our gratitude for all creation as God’s gift. -BVM Leadership Team
Join us in Pope Francis' prayer for the Earth as we reflect on the Encyclical on climate control:
A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, hat we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
From the Mount Carmel Archives: BVMs Partner With Clarke University for USO Tours
As we approach Memorial Day, once again attention turns to the men and women who have served in the United States military. Many members of the military remember with fondness the various entertainers who, through the United Service Organizations (USO), traveled overseas to bring a little piece of home to them. BVMs Xavier Coen and Therese Mackin (Jeremy) made several USO tours to Europe with members of the Clarke University drama and/or music departments. Xavier wrote extensively about her USO travels and several of these articles are found in her file in the Mount Carmel Archives.
In 1964, Clarke University was one of seven schools invited to tour European bases under the auspices of the American Educational Theater Association (AETA) and the USO. Fourteen girls from the drama department, two male musicians (one from Clarke and one from Loras College), and Xavier and Therese flew to Europe on a military air transport service plane. Over the course of eight weeks, “Coffee House Theater” was presented 75 times, primarily in southern Germany. Three years later, Xavier took a similar group to tour bases in Iceland, Greenland, Labrador, and Newfoundland. The group performed 50 shows in 50 days and traveled over 15,000 miles. However, this group was not the first from Clarke to visit the frozen north; in 1965, Meneve Dunham, BVM and Therese took “13 X13,” a 13-act musical review by 13 members of the Clarke Music Department, to the Arctic circle.
The production consisted of songs, dances, skits and improvisations. Attendance would grow throughout the show as the GIs realized the production wasn’t “churchy.” But perhaps the biggest attraction for the GIs was the dances that the girls would have after shows or on their nights off. By necessity, each dance was “ladies choice” and the girls would change partners every two minutes to make sure as many young men as possible had a chance to dance. Xavier relates the story of how one young man looked at a girl, shut his eyes for a few moments, and then looked at the next girl—he was trying to memorize each face so he could have pleasant dreams that night.
Xavier often found herself serving as a counselor to the GIs, Catholic or not. One young man asked for her counsel on “mixed marriage”—he was Baptist and his girl was Lutheran. Xavier reassured him that “it’s the same God, isn’t it?” Another asked her if she thought he had “the call,” as he was contemplating entering Union Theological Seminary after he was discharged. After their discussion, Xavier commented that she felt very ecumenical and that Pope John (and surely Pope Francis!) would approve.
Others came to her with more serious concerns. One young man asked to make a promise to her, because he knew if he promised a sister something, he would keep it. When Xavier agreed, he promised her he would not go AWOL that night; his father was ill and he did not have permission to return to the States. Another young man wanted to know if he could still go to heaven if he killed a man with a bayonet. He had had bayonet practice earlier in the day and was convinced that he could never kill anyone. Xavier emphasized how his job was to protect the peace and that he might be called upon to defend others. She wrote that she wasn’t sure she persuaded him “of anything, but I think I comforted his doubts, at least for the moment.”
Xavier Coens, Therese Mackin, and their troupe managed to bring a little bit of “home” to young men far from their families. One GI wrote to Clarke, after seeing one of the shows, that he and his fellow GIs often asked themselves: “Do the people in the United States really care? I cannot think of a better way of showing appreciation than by what Clarke’s ambassadors gave us.”
 BVMs Xavier Coens (author) and Mary Paulita Kerrigan (illustrator) collaborated on a book about this unusual venture. GI Nun was published in 1967 by P.J. Kenedy.
By Jennifer Head
Mount Carmel Archivist
New Director Takes Helm at Mount Carmel’s Roberta Kuhn Center
The “Annual Class Display and Reception” for participants of the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) at Mount Carmel took place on April 30–May 1. At this time the BVM Council took the opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude to Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) for her eight years of service as director of the RKC. In a paraphrase of a popular lyric from the Sound of Music, they queried:
How do you thank a leader like Carolyn?
How do you find the words to wish her well?
How do you find a word that captures Carolyn?
What would Wikipedia say, pray tell?
Those gathered responded with applause, cheers, and by presenting Carolyn with a plant, flowers and a memory book to accompany an overflowing basket of cards. As everyone bid farewell to Carolyn, they also welcomed Karen Kane-Heber, who will serve as the new RKC director.
Karen is an educator and alumna of Clarke University. She came to Mount Carmel after years of service in the Holy Family Catholic Schools in Dubuque, Iowa. She has already met many of the RKC faculty and is working with Carolyn in planning classes for 2015–16. Her contagious enthusiasm and dedication to the BVM core values will serve her well as she begins this new journey.
Check out the latest issue of SALT!
“As women of the Church, we are called to give strong public witness against oppression brought about by unjust political and social structures . . . (BVM Constitution #17).” In this issue, learn how BVMs continue to embody this guiding principle in ministry and care for others and our earth. Photo: Activities staff member Annie Birch assists Paul Francis Bailey, BVM as she sews diapers from recycled T-shirts.
Meet Our Newest Associates
Click here to meet our newest Associates
BVM Immersion Experience Engenders Perspective, Inspiration
Fifteen participants journeyed to Ecuador April 7–16 to share in an educational, service and spiritual immersion into the Ecuadorian culture and BVM ministries in Quito and Guayaquil. Our group included a BVM, an associate and associate candidate, one Mount Carmel employee, and 10 people newly acquainted to the BVM community,
In Quito the group learned about the ministry at the Working Boys’ Center, providing education, meals, trade school and certifications, and employment opportunities where graduates can use their trades. We worked in the trade school workshops, learning from the students. We were given a task or project to complete, and the students became the teachers, giving us directions and guidance. It was exciting to see their pride in themselves and in their work and to create something together.
We visited some of the younger classes at the Center and were greeted and serenaded by the children. In one class, the children challenged us with rhyming riddles, all in Spanish. Another class had prepared poems of love. Others sang songs. Our hearts were warmed by their beauty and friendliness.
Helping out in the school kitchen, we prepared an evening meal of cheese empanadas for the children and families. We were privileged to be welcomed into the homes of several families who belong to the Center, and witnessed the difficulties of everyday life that they encounter. We were inspired by their resilient spirits.
Our group took part in a “minga,” a traditional group work effort to build a home. Arriving at the site, we were welcomed by the family, who gave us directions and we got to work. Rocks, sand and gravel had been delivered to the site; our task was to help move it all down the hill and organize it into piles that they will use to lay the home’s foundation. The group shoveled gravel, carried buckets, and moved rocks, alongside the family members, who impressed us with their strength and agility. The day was fun, full of hard work and fellowship, and graced with the blessing of getting to know and work with the family!
Cory Weinschenk, IT Helpdesk specialist at Mount Carmel, was one of the immersion trip participants. He shares, “It was such an amazing trip that if I’d had more vacation time, I would have stayed longer. The people we met lived in substandard conditions yet they were so grateful for what they had, and very welcoming and willing to share.”
We traveled to Guayaquil and spend two days with BVM Annie Credidio and the residents of Damien House, a home and clinic for persons with Hansen’s disease. Annie provided a thorough tour and introduction to the inspiring residents, who greeted us with messages of love and blessing. We played various games and participated in group physical therapy sessions with them—kicking a soccer ball to help build leg strength, and exercising with the women.
We met the staff and volunteers—doctors, nurses, physical therapists, a researcher, and technology helpers—all working together for the benefit and support of Damien House. They have felt called to dedicate their lives to Annie’s vision. She works tirelessly to improve the residents’ lives. They all have a great love for her, because of her kindness, compassion, dedication and faith. This enthusiasm impacted us all and we will carry it in our hearts forever.
Each day ended in fruitful group prayer and reflection on our day of service, discovery and fellowship. Through this immersion experience, new friendships were formed, new perspectives were gained, and all came home with hearts transformed and inspired.
By Tricia Lothschutz
BVM Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator
BVM Co-Hosts Teleconference on ‘Power of Sisterhood’
The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual presents WATERtalks: Feminist Conversations in Religion Series, co-hosted by Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM, Ph.D., and Margaret Cain McCarthy, Ph.D. on June 10, 2015. They will discuss the book, Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation.
Both women served as co-editors of the book and will explore the dynamics of religious life that led to the Apostolic Visitation of U.S. women religious, the experience of women engaged with its various phases, and the significance of the event for women religious.
The teleconference is free and open to everyone.
June 10, 2015
1–2 p.m. ET
Register at: http://bit.ly/1HLqQ70
For more information, contact:
BVMs Collaborate with Others to Promote Events for Year of Consecrated Life
Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life (November 2014–February 2016)—a year to express gratitude to women and men who have committed themselves to this lifestyle and to encourage others to consider responding to the call of religious life.
BVMs throughout the United States are involved at the local level in promoting events to raise awareness of religious life. In Dubuque, Iowa, the communication and initial membership offices have helped the Archdiocese develop a special section on their website dedicated to information on religious life and the leadership team is collaborating with other religious congregations on three events proposed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR): an open house on Feb. 8, a collaborative service project during the summer of 2015, and a day of prayer on Sept. 13.
The Year of Consecrated Life will focus on the following three objectives:
- to express gratitude for those who live a consecrated life;
- to embrace the future with hope, trusting in the God who calls us; and
- to live the present with passion, helping one another to realize the beauty of following Christ in the various types of religious vocations.
A new section will be developed on the Archdiocesan website (http://www.dbqarch.org) with links to a wide variety of resources for use in parishes, schools, prayer groups, etc. Please check this website frequently for updates. The Archdiocesan Education Resource Center will also have new DVDs and other resources available.
On the second Sunday of each month from 4:30–5:30 p.m., the Trappistine Sisters at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, are sponsoring an Adoration Hour for vocations to the consecrated life. All are welcome.
Links to Resources:
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Women and Spirit, Smithsonian Exhibit and Study Guide (excellent classroom resources)
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
https://lcwr.org/publications/sisters-documentary (stories of women entering)
National Religious Vocation Conference (logo and new materials throughout the year)
Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life:
O God, throughout the ages you have called women and men to pursue lives of charity through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of Faith and models of inspiration.
Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, seek to serve you above all things.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Information is provided by the Archdiocese of Dubuque DAVA (Dubuque Area Vocation Association).
Other Celebrations Where BVMs are Located:
Diocese of San Jose:
BVMs and associates attended a presentation by Simone Campbell at Santa Clara University, one of several events celebrating the year of consecrated life initiated by the Council of Religious. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of San Jose. BVM Marilyn Wilson serves on the Council. Simone Campbell, public advocate for peace-building, immigration reform, healthcare and economic justice, reflects on the integral relationship between faith and justice within her own vocation and shares her journey as a “Nun on the Bus” to ignite social change. If you would like to view Simone’s talk, visit: http://scu.edu/ic/publications/videos.cfm?b=474&c=20186
The Diocese of San Jose honored and remembered the religious women and men who have dedicated their lives to the schools in the diocese at the opening Catholic Schools Week Mass in January.
For more information on diocesan events read the flyer:
BVM Therese Jacobs organized a screening of the documentary, “Women and Spirit, Catholic Sisters in America,” followed by a discussion and talk given by Helen Garvey, BVM, who was chairperson of the LCWR committee that prepared the Women and Spirit exhibit.
Archdiocese of San Francisco
Through the Council of Sisters, the archdiocese has asked each parish to plan an event in their parish or join with a neighboring one to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. St. Matthias Church in Redwood City hosted “Celebrating Sisters” at Mass on Feb. 8.
Archdiocese of Chicago
The new Center for Consecrated Life is now in operation at the Catholic Theological Institute, with a grand opening event planned.
A BVM evening of prayer in celebration of consecrated life was held Feb. 7 in Chicago.
Our Lady of Angels will feature an evening of prayer, supper and fellowship to celebrate consecrated life on May 8, hosted by the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Diocese of Arlington, Va.
The diocese held a Mass and reception in February in celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Read all the Wonderful Thank a Nun messages you shared with us
To read the Thank a Nun messages, click here.
Hearing Loops at Mount Carmel Enhance Sisters’ World
Thanks to the generosity of donors Cathy and Bob Everhart, hearing loops have now been installed at Mount Carmel in the Motherhouse Chapel and St. Joseph Hall. The Everharts’ gift enables our hearing impaired sisters to participate fully in the liturgy and in community presentations and meetings. Read the entire article here.
BVM Associates Make Commitment
Join us in celebrating the BVM Association commitment of Clarke University faculty/staff Sean Bradley and Pat Maddux, and Clarke Alum Andy Schroeder. Andy is the also the Director of Development for the BVM Sisters. Inspired by the example and friendship of BVMs at Clarke, these they are eager to share the legacy of Mary Frances Clarke in their lives, united with the sisters by a common bond—the BVM core value of education.
Read their reflections: http://www.bvmcong.org/join_bvm_reflections.cfm
Nonviolence: ‘Deepening Our Vision’
The BVM corporate stance on nonviolence is timely. The evil of beheadings, the capture of Christians and journalists, and the destruction of artifacts from an ancient culture breaks our hearts. Yet it seems the problem is so large we do not know where to begin to address it.
We may wonder if people like us can do anything to make a difference. Did Jesus wonder in His last days of suffering and death if His life had made any difference? He asked His followers to put away the sword and cried out from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus’ life did make a difference and so can ours. We may not see results. The change of heart we hope for in our “enemies” may be a long way off. Yet even as we pray for our enemies, we as Americans need to search our own hearts and that of our country.
Have U.S. values and decisions contributed to the mess in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East with our occupation, drones, military might, our destruction, and our “national interests” for oil, etc.? Do we as a country need a change of heart? Where do we begin?
Our BVM resolution encourages our “striving to deepen our vision and understanding of nonviolence and sharing that vision with others.” For me, going online and searching “Nonviolence with ISIS” has been one place to begin. The two articles in excerpts below give concrete suggestions of ways for the United States to use nonviolence.
Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, writes: “We should commit to a new energy future, free from the shackles of Middle Eastern oil. We should base our support for governments in the region on their respect for democracy and human rights. We should work to dismantle our empire of military bases in the region. And we should fully embrace a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine to openly speak truth to both sides regarding the many wrongs they continue to inflict on each other.”
Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., counsels: “1. Stop the air strikes . . . ; 2. Make real the commitment for ‘No Boots on the Ground’ . . . ; 3. Organize a real diplomatic partnership to deal with ISIS . . . diplomacy must have center stage; 4. Initiate a new search for broader diplomatic solutions in the United Nations; 5. Push the U.N. . . . to restart real negotiations to end the war in Syria; 6. Massively increase U.S. humanitarian contributions to the U.N. agencies for the now millions of refugees in and from Syria and Iraq . . .”
We might reflect on whether anything in the above statements “deepens our vision” and prompts us to “share that vision with others.”
Scripture says: “They shall beat swords into pruning hooks (Is. 2:2).” Regarding this promise from God to Isaiah, Dan Berrigan, SJ, prophet and peacemaker, wrote: “Because the task is crucial, necessary, and because it is radically impossible—therefore it must be done. The oracle will come true. God has sworn it (Testimony, the Word Made Fresh, p. 5).” Though written in 2004, Dan’s words give hope for today and for the future.
Our prayer might be that we as a people, a nation, a world, will find nonviolent strategies that will turn all of our hearts to hope and to peace—so that indeed after the death and violence of the many Good Fridays in the world, Easter and resurrection will come alive everywhere and remain with us.
BVMs Join Catholic Sisters in Release of ‘Earth as Our Home’ Prayer Service
The Sisters of Charity, BVM, in conjunction with Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth, have released a prayer service to be used in connection with the well-received “Earth as Our Home” reflection booklet.
The prayer service was created to meet the needs of several faith-based organizations which expressed interest in supplemental resources for the booklet. The service includes suggested adaptions designed for the unique needs of various groups: communities and families alike. It can be used as a physical pilgrimage—moving from room to room of a home—as well as a guided meditation, either alone or in a group.
“After a journey, how many of us say, ‘It is so good to be home!’ What if we could say that every day?” reflects Michelle Balek, OSF, author of the prayer service. “And not only about returning to the building we inhabit and the relationships there, but the entire environment, the entire Earth Community in which we move every day. It IS good to be here in this home we call Earth.”
The “Earth as Our Home” booklet looks at the various rooms of a house, placing each room and its activities into the broader context of our Earth-home. The prayer service and the original booklet are available as a free download at www.ClintonFranciscans.com/earth.html.
Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth is comprised of representatives from congregations of women religious from the upper Mississippi Valley in eastern Iowa, southwestern Wisconsin, and Missouri, including the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province, St. Louis; Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; and in Dubuque, Iowa, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Sisters of St. Francis; and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The mission of the group states: “Respecting the interdependence of creation, we will promote eco-literacy and influence a just relationship with the environment.
BVMs, Students Experience ‘Interconnectedness’ of the CSW
The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held its 59th annual session in New York City in March. BVMs Mary Martens (Loras) from Dubuque, Iowa; Marilyn Wilson (Claudia Mary) from Sunnyvale, Calif.; and Helen Wolkerstorfer (Edith) and two seniors from Bishop Garcia Diego HS in Santa Barbara, Calif.; attended this year’s event. BVMs are one of the sponsors of the Loretto Community Non-governmental Organization (NGO), which was represented by 34 students and adults at this year’s session.
Events on Sunday, March 8, included International Women’s Day, where student participants created posters for the celebration march, and Consultation Day, which allows civil society to give input to the representatives of the U.N. Member States who formulate U.N. policy. The day’s final event celebrated “Beijing + 20,” the 20th anniversary of the Fourth International Conference on Women held in China in 1995. Thousands of women, along with men allies, marched and gathered for a rally in Times Square. Banners and posters proclaimed the continuing push for women’s equality worldwide: “Planet 50-50 by 2030.”
Official representatives of the U.N. held their own policy meetings, while approximately 9,000 other CSW attendees chose from many parallel events. The BVMs and students made their own selections of panel presentations from a variety of social justice, nonviolence and peace issues.
The group heard from women from Kenya, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Switzerland, Argentina, Sweden, India, the Netherlands, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Uganda, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. They recognized their interconnectedness as women, and the importance of using their collective voices and partnerships with men to bring about a transformed, nonviolent world. In a world of equal respect and freedom, equal representation and leadership, equal rights and opportunities, empowering women means empowering humanity.
The CSW session concluded with an agreement by U.N. Member States on steps to boost efforts to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world waits with hope that “power over” gradually gives way to “power with.”
BVM Marilyn Wilson comments, “It was good to be in the white-haired minority—much to listen to and learn from the energy, enthusiasm and realism of those younger generations.” Helen Wolkerstorfer, BVM adds, “I am glad for time to think about the riches of the CSW experience, sort through notes, and be grateful. The experience has been such a gift and I look forward to sharing it.” The students from Bishop Garcia Diego HS plan to present a video/PowerPoint presentation of their experience.
National Day of Prayer
May 7 marks the National Day of Prayer. Our Sisters always pray for persons in need. Click here to send your special prayer requests. http://www.bvmcong.org/contact_requests.cfm
Your prayer request will be placed on the prayer boards outside the chapels at our Motherhouse and Marian Hall at Mount Carmel.
2015 BVM Easter Appeal: BVMs Mary McElmeel and Dolores Myers – Their story continues . . .
As you may have sensed from our Easter letter, Sister Dee and Sister Mary are extraordinary women. They have lived their religious lives in service to others while carrying out the BVM core values of freedom, education, charity and justice with limitless passion and enthusiasm.
Sister Dee Myers is currently a spiritual advisor to individuals seeking a deeper relationship with God. Her counseling skills, deep-listening abilities, and knack for getting to the heart of what is troubling someone allow her to guide those who seek her assistance. She also facilitates prayer days and short retreats at parishes in her area and leads prayer vigils and interments. “All of this keeps me in touch with what is important as a BVM and keeps me energetic for life,” she says.
The core values have defined Sister Dee in each chapter of her life. “They are like four children I am meant to nourish and care for all of my BVM life.” From her time at a segregated school in Tennessee in 1963 to her work as a pastoral associate at St. Matthias Parish in California, and now in her current spiritual ministries, Sister Dee spreads the word of God’s love each day and fulfills her promise to serve where the need is greatest.
As expected, there have been difficult times in her ministries, but as she says, “I can rejoice and be glad because every day is blessed in some way.”
A longtime friend of Sister Dee speaks of her fondly. “Her greatest desire is to bring a sense of wholeness, integrity, joy and deep peace to the people she serves,” Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie) says. The fire that drove Sister Dee to join the congregation remains lit to this day.
Sister Mary McElmeel is a BVM through and through. Her humble demeanor and gentle spirit have guided her in each of the many ministries she has been part of.
The 16 years she spent in Kankakee, Ill., were eventful. Cooperativa de Mujeres, the women’s co-op she started from the ground up with her fellow BVMs, remains open today. It serves the women of the community who are striving for a better life. The Azzarelli Outreach Clinic attends to the healthcare needs of the underinsured. A newly established St. Vincent de Paul Society responds to the outreach calls that Sister Mary herself used to answer.
An important source of funding came from Campaign for Human Development grants that Sister Mary applied for. This money was instrumental in supporting the co-op, a youth ministry, workshops on Hispanic leadership, and the outreach clinic.
Other BVMs that worked in Kankakee over the years include Judy Callahan (Eugene Mary), Mary Crimmin (Agnes), Eileen Powell (Robertrese), Mary Kelliher (Maurita), and Isabel M. Conchos. This past September they were presented with the St. Teresa Parish Rose of Spirit award. At the ceremony, the BVMs were praised for fostering leadership in the Kankakee parish and community. The systemic changes they implemented resonate today in the lives of the people who reside there.
A familiar scriptural verse that states, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad,” speaks deeply to Sister Mary. “The quote speaks to me of new life. I give thanks to the Holy Spirit who urged me into religious life and to the BVMs for opening windows to a new life for me,” she says.
After speaking to Sister Dee and Sister Mary, as well as friends who have known them throughout their lives, a theme emerges. They are responsible for changing lives. They are the reason why individuals are fulfilled, families are strengthened, and communities are thriving.
The Sisters of Charity, BVM congregation is blessed to count these women among our own.
Click to read appeal: http://www.bvmcong.org/downloads/easterappeal2015.pdf
Click to make an online donation: http://www.bvmcong.org/support_donate.cfm
Read the latest issue of SALT
In this issue, explore the many faces of the BVM core value of education and discover how, though many BVMs are no longer in the classroom, they continue to ‘make a difference and shape minds.’
Click here to read the latest issue.
Clarke University to Feature Immigration Film ‘ABRAZOS’
Documentary filmmaker, Luis Argueta, will present his new film, “ABRAZOS,” the second in a trilogy of films on the issue of immigration, on Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in the Jansen Music Hall at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. His first film, “abUSED, the Postville Raid,” was presented at Clarke two years ago.
“ABRAZOS touches the heart and puts a human face on the issue of immigration,” says Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie), a member of Crossing Borders, Dubuque. “Its’ clear and soul-stirring message has the power to transform hearts. In so doing, it has the potential to influence a change in current immigration policy.” Crossing Borders is a group of Dubuque priests, women religious and lay people who meet regularly to address comprehensive immigration reform.
There are 4.5 million U.S. citizen children who are living with at least one undocumented parent. Because they have never met their grandparents or other family members, they do not have a clear sense of who they are or of their heritage. ABRAZOS is the story of 14 of these children from Worthington, Minn., who traveled to Guatemala to see their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings for the first time. After being separated for nearly two decades, these families reunite and share stories, strengthen traditions, and begin to reconstruct their cultural identity. ABRAZOS is Spanish for “hugs.”
Following the 45-minute screening there will be an opportunity for questions and answer facilitated by Argueta. A small reception will follow.
The screening is free and open to the public. There will be an opportunity to participate in a free will offering to support future presentations of the film.
A public screening will also be held March 5 at 2:30 p.m. at the Clare House of the Sisters of St. Francis, 3340 Windsor Ave., in Dubuque.
The film’s presentations are sponsored by: Clarke University; Archdiocese of Dubuque; the Sisters of Charity, BVM; Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of the Presentation; Sisters of St. Francis; Sisters of the Visitation; Crossing Borders of Dubuque; Resurrection Catholic Church Social Justice Committee; Dubuque Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, Daniel and Ann Ernst, and individual donors.
For more information contact:
Mary McCauley, BVM
National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8–14, 2015)
As part of Women’s History Month, join the Sisters of the Charity, BVM and the nearly 50,000 Catholic sisters across the nation in celebrating the second annual National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) from March 8 –14, 2015.
National Catholic Sisters Week is headquartered at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., the nation’s largest undergraduate college for women. NCSW is supported by a three-year, $3.3 million grant that the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded to the university in late 2013. Everyone is invited to participate in NCSW through local community events and outreach, volunteer opportunities, and social media.
“National Catholic Sisters Week celebrates the commitment, compassion and influential work of women religious from pressing the frontlines of social change or praying in cloistered chapels,” says Sister Mary Soher, OP, co-executive director of the Hilton Sisters Project National Catholic Sisters Week.
For NCSW 2015, Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi Valley will share stories from individuals who were and are positively affected or influenced by sisters. Each congregation’s “Thank a Nun” campaign, initiated in January, asked, “Did a Catholic Sister help you in your life? Thank her now!” Photos, notes and videos will be shared on social media and in prints during NCSW. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/bvmsisters and https://www.facebook.com/catholicsisters
Molly Hazelton, co-executive director adds, “We’ve found the key to success is to foster personal relationships with women religious . . . For students grappling with major life decisions and exploring their spirituality, there is great strength and wisdom to be drawn from Catholic sisters.”
An oral-history project chronicling the life stories of Catholic sisters was launched last year, with the goal of producing 150 stories. College women partner with a Catholic sister, forming relationships through weekly visits.
BVMs are participating in this oral-history project in conjunction with Clarke University. Four Clarke students are interviewing four Dubuque BVMs. By spring 2015, 11 Catholic colleges and universities across the country will have participated in the project, blogging about the experience at sisterstory.org/oral-history-list and posting their official oral histories at www.vimeo.com/sisterstory.
Founded in 1833, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) continue to follow in the footsteps of their Irish foundress, Mary Frances Clarke, responding to God’s love and serving wherever the need is the greatest especially among women and children. Today, there are more than 400 sisters and 185 lay associates. Their core values of freedom, education, charity and justice guide their lives and choice of ministry. They minister in 18 states, Ecuador and Ghana, as educators, pastoral ministers, counselors, advocates for the elderly and immigrants, and in the ministry of prayer. They are committed to joining with others to work for justice and to care for Earth.
How can you be involved?
• Become an Associate
• Send a note to a Sister
• Send us a prayer request
• Discern religious life for yourself
• Visit us on Facebook to view short video clips of sisters
• Make a donation to support our ministries
• Volunteer inside or outside of our Motherhouse
We invite you to pray the following prayer for all Catholic sisters during this special week:
Gracious God, we give you thanks for the gifts
Catholic Sisters bring to our church and our world.
We are grateful for their hearts’ focus on You,
their service to those in need and their community lives,
a sign of Your love.
Keep them faithful to their call as you make us faithful to ours.
Together may we reflect on your way of justice and peace,
compassion and mercy and your transforming love
for our world. Amen.
Thank a Nun
Did a Catholic Sister help you in your life? Thank her now! Email email@example.com to share how she made a difference to you. You can send a note, a photo or even a video!!! We'll share your message online and in print during National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14!
Join BVM Sisters in Solidarity Against Human Trafficking
The Sisters of Charity, BVM, invite you to join them from Jan. 11 through Feb. 8 in awareness of and solidarity against Human Trafficking.
A special prayer service was held by the BVMs in the Motherhouse Chapel at Mount Carmel on Jan. 11 as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
A link to the prayer used, “Prayer Service to End Human Trafficking,” is provided below. Included also are links to action suggestions to end human trafficking and a biography of St. Josephine Bakhita, a religious sister who was also a survivor of human trafficking.
Ever cognizant of the times in which we live, BVMs are called by the Senate of 2014 to oppose any form of human trafficking. As affirmed in this summary: “The Sisters of Charity, BVM in accordance with our mission and core values oppose the trafficking of human persons for any purpose whatsoever. We stand in solidarity with all who work to eliminate this tragic evil . . .”
BVMs believe that nonviolence is a value lived by Jesus and his followers. They pledge through prayer and study to educate themselves and others regarding the magnitude, causes and consequences of human trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day was designated by the U.S. Senate in 2007. The United Nations sets aside July 30 each year to focus on human trafficking, and the Pontifical Council for Migrants designated Feb. 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.
Many religious communities and people of faith are choosing to devote the month between the January and February dates to education, prayer and action.
BVMs Extend Invitation to Open House at Mount Carmel
In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, the Sisters of Charity, BVM invite the public to an Open House on Sunday, Feb. 8, from 1–4 p.m. at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse, 1100 Carmel Dr., Dubuque, Iowa.
“We welcome our neighbors into our homes and invite all to join us in conversation and prayer on this special day,” says BVM First Vice President Mira Mosle. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to strengthen relationships and learn more about each other.”
The Open House at Mount Carmel will include tours, refreshments, displays and conversations with the BVM sisters. A prayer service will be held at 2:30 p.m. The event is an opportunity to learn and understand more about the BVMs and contemporary religious life.
For additional information contact Mira Mosle, BVM at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 563.588.2351.
Nearly 1,000 Catholic sisters live and work in the tri-state area. With six motherhouses located within a 20-mile radius of one another, the sisters have been an integral part of education, health care, and helping those in need since 1843. The Year of Consecrated Life is intended to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past and embrace the future with hope,” said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Other religious congregations hosting open houses in the Dubuque area on Feb. 8 include:
Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters
585 County Road Z, Sinsinawa, WI 53824
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family
3390 Windsor Ave., Dubuque, IA 52001
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Sisters of the Visitation
2360 Carter Rd., Dubuque, IA 52001
The Cistercian (Trappistine) Nuns
8400 Abbey Hill Ln., Dubuque, IA 52003
The Cistercians will give a talk on Cistercian life at 4 p.m.,
followed by a Holy Hour for Religious Vocations at 4:30 p.m.
They have begun this practice on the second Sunday of every month.
BVM Scholarships Awarded at Clarke University
Students at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, are grateful and inspired by the BVM scholarships awarded to them in 2014, enabling them to help pay for their college educations and pursue their goals.
In 1981, BVMs at Clarke began to designate an amount of their contributed services for an endowed scholarship fund. The agreement between the sisters and the university was formalized in 1985 and the fund has grown to approximately $1.18 million. The BVM Endowed Scholarship continues to provide student scholarships each year.
The BVM Sesquicentennial Scholarship was established by the 1993 BVM Senate in recognition of the 150 years of BVM ministry and mission through education at Clarke University.
Bill Biebuyck, vice president of institutional advancement at Clarke, forwarded letters of appreciation from Clarke scholarship recipients to BVM President Teri Hadro in December 2014. Bill notes in his letter of thanks: “Please be assured that endowed scholarships make a significant impact on our students and their ability to afford a Clarke University education.”
Three Clarke students were awarded the BVM Sesquincentennial Scholarship and five students were awarded the BVM Endowed Scholarship. Here are two excerpts from the eight letters of gratitude sent to the BVMs by the scholarship students.
Business administration major Malik McCrary, of Conyers, Ga., received a BVM Sesquincentennial Scholarship. Malik says: “I want to say thank you for providing scholarships because without your contribution I would not be here at Clarke University, let alone college at all. I understand that in today’s world it is necessary to be college educated and with your help I now have the opportunity to achieve that goal. Thank you.”
Nursing major Liliana Cruz of Woodstock, Ill., received a BVM Endowed Scholarship. Liliana shares: “I would like to thank you for your generous support. I am honored and grateful for the BVM Endowed Scholarship because it has allowed me to accomplish my dream of being the first in my family to go to college. Thank you for making this dream possible for my family and me.”
The BVM endowed scholarships continue to perpetuate the core value of education at Clarke University.
Service Event for Sisters, Associates and Staff at Mount Carmel Kicks Off the New Year!
Collaboration while helping others was the focus of the first Sisters, Associates and Staff Service Event (SASSE) held Jan. 6–7 at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa.
Volunteers gathered with sisters in Loyola Hall for service outreach work while getting better acquainted with each other in the process.
“We are excited to kick off the New Year with a collaborative service event that will make a difference to so many people,” says Sisters of Charity Human Resources Director Cari Simpson. “This will be the first of many opportunities for sisters, staff and associates to come together and experience the BVM values through action.”
Outreach projects included making diapers from t-shirts for needy families, creating plastic bag mats for homeless persons, and assembling hygiene packets for marginalized residents in Haiti.
Associate Co-coordinator Grace Mendez shares, “What a marvelous event! It was amazing to see all the sisters, staff, and associates interacting as we worked on the three different parts of the project! I met sisters and staff I don’t usually see and I got to hear some fabulous stories! It was a party with good works at the core!”
Mount Carmel employees were glad to share in an effort to help others less fortunate. Kathy Day is assistant business manager in the treasurer’s office of the BVM Center. “I appreciate the fact that so many, some in spite of their physical limitations, were able to help with the project and share their time and talent,” she notes.
Jackie Schwartz, health insurance claims examiner in the treasurer’s office, adds, “The event was a great opportunity to help others and you could just feel the joy in the room.”
Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator Tricia Lothschutz, who organized the event, thanked everyone who helped to make it a success.
“It gave me great joy and pride to look around and see so many smiling faces, working together on these worthwhile projects,” she says. “Many hands do indeed make light work! Working with the Haiti hygiene packet assembly project group, I was so impressed how quickly the task was accomplished! In a little over an hour, the group worked together to assemble 111 packets! It warms my heart to see everyone’s generosity and gifts of time come together to accomplish so much good!”
To view more pictures from the SASSE event, view our Flickr page.
Mount Carmel BVMs Find New Ways to Recycle
At Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, recycling is almost a way of life for the resident sisters. Guiding their efforts is the Mount Carmel ‘Green Team,’ a committee comprised of sisters and staff who are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to recycle. And in their efforts to recycle and help the earth, the BVMs are also engaged in their ministry of helping the less fortunate.
“We are registered with TerraCycle, a company that recycles items normally not recyclable,” says Julie O’Neill, BVM, who serves as unofficial chair of the Green Team committee. In September 2014 the sisters mailed recycled items to TerraCycle’s warehouse and later learned they were one of the winners for that month. Their prize was ten cases of Huggies diapers.
“We didn't have to think too hard or too long to realize that the perfect place to send them was Maria House in Dubuque, a transitional home for women and children,” says Julie. On Dec. 11, BVMs (photo, l. to r.) Mary McCauley (Mercedie), Sue Rink (Michaela) and Julie O’Neill helped to deliver ten cases (almost 1,000 diapers) to the shelter.
The recycling company pays the postage for the mailed recyclable items sent, as well as 2 cents per item. The sisters embarked on this particular project about two years ago, and this year they have earned about $200 from recycling oral care items, drinking cups, and other plastic products. All money earned goes to the BVM Hunger Fund.
“The Mount Carmel Green Team is thrilled with the results of our ongoing recycling efforts,” Julie shares.
Welcome New Associates Terry & Emily Kruse
Welcome BVM Associates Terry and Emily Kruse. Inspired by the example and friendship of BVMs at Clarke University, these dedicated employees are eager to share the legacy of Mary Frances Clarke in their lives, united with the sisters by a common bond—the BVM core value of education.
Click the link to read their commitment reflections: http://www.bvmcong.org/join_bvm_reflections.cfm.
BVMs Leave Long Lasting Legacy in Des Moines
By Sandy Rodemyer, BVM for the Catholic Mirror
The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the BVMs) were founded by five young Irish women who left their homeland in 1833 to teach Irish immigrant children in Philadelphia.
In 1843 they arrived in what is now Dubuque, after accepting an invitation from Bishop Mathias Loras to come teach in the Iowa Territory.
From 1865, when the first BVM sisters came to teach at St. Ambrose Grade School, to the present, over 1100 BVMs served the Des Moines Diocese. Their primary ministry was education. In addition to St. Ambrose, they staffed St. Michael’s (later known as Visitation) in 1881 and St. John’s in 1906.
The sisters owned and operated two boarding schools. St. Francis Academy in Council Bluffs was opened in 1872, and sold to St. Francis Xavier parish in 1915. In Des Moines, the sisters purchased the estate of W. H. Welch in October 1884 for $20,000. (The land was in a suburb called Greenwood Park.) The Welch home, christened Villa Maria, served as both school and convent until brick school buildings were built.
St. Joseph Academy was dedicated on March 19, 1885, and opened immediately. Two girls graduated in 1892. St. Joseph Academy Pre-school was in operation by 1950, and remained open until the merger of SJA and Dowling High School in 1972.
The BVM Charism of “being freed and helping others to enjoy freedom in God’s steadfast love” is reflected in the BVM core values of freedom, education, charity and justice.
Originally these values were lived out through formal education. But as schools closed or merged, BVMs found a myriad of ways to serve in the Diocese. They were in the Diocesan Schools Office (Dolores Marie McHugh), Family Life Office (Joan Stritesky)and the Communications Office (Mira Mosle); in parish ministry (Christella Dee, Therese Jacobs); Drake campus ministry (Mira, Carola Broderick); a Drake Education Specialist counselor (Kathy Carr); at Mercy Medical Center as Chaplain (Carola)and volunteer visitor (Carolyn Weibeler.); the Beacon of Life Women Shelter (Margaret Drain); in Church Women United (Margaret D.); teaching music (Gertrude Bussanmus); cooking at Orchard Place (Eletta Mohrs); Director of the DMARC Food Pantry (Sandy Rodemyer); Assistant Manager at Mercy Park Apts.(Carol Marie Baum), prison ministry (Sandy); the Iowa School for the Deaf (Nancy McCarthy); in senior day care centers and nursing homes (John Agnes Smith and Genevieve Kordick.)
Approximately 123 women entered the BVM community from Council Bluffs and Des Moines. Of those, 30 returned to serve their home Diocese. Some BVMs literally gave their lives in ministry. Many young sisters died of tuberculosis in the late 1800s. But the most tragic deaths were those of two SJA music teachers. They were struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Nov. 2, 1921, as they attempted to cross Grand Avenue to return to the Academy. The grand jury did not find enough evidence to charge the man who was the most likely suspect. Thus the case is considered unsolved and is listed on Iowa’s Unsolved Murders website.
Sandy Rodemyer, the last BVM in the Diocese, volunteers at the women’s prison and is on Holy Trinity’s Stephen Ministry team. The BVM spirit lives on in the Diocese.
'I Want to Be a Sister,' by Helen Maher Garvey, BVM
When asked in the first grade, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Helen Maher Garvey, BVM responded, "I want to be a secretary or a teacher." But what she really wanted to say was, "I want to be a sister like you, Sr. Mary Verita." We invite you to journey with Helen as she takes you through her life as a "sister" and reflects on the future of religous life in this issue of Commonweal Magazine: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/i-want-be-sister.
Clarke Physical Therapy Students Provide In-service at Mount Carmel
Students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, presented an Aquatic Training Program for use by Mount Carmel and the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) instructors in leading aquatic-based exercise.
Instructors gathered on Nov. 18 for the in-service in the Caritas Center studio, where RKC Director Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) introduced the students, who provided a newly designed, updated instruction manual along with a short video featuring fresh ideas for the women’s arthritis exercise class. Combining their knowledge of physical therapy, how the body and muscles work together, and an understanding of the benefits of water exercise, each student presented a specific area of the program and answered questions from the instructors.
The students noted that though the training manual contains many suggestions, instructors will modify these according to each individual participant’s needs. Key to the program are exercises that help provide balance, coordination and strength, aiding in a person’s ability to function independently in daily life. Feelings of wellbeing and decreased depression are additional benefits of aquatic exercise.
After the studio presentation, students and instructors moved to the pool for some hands on training and exercise. The doctoral student presenters included Becky Steffens, Kate Ramza, Maria Pitz, Stef Morland, and Nick Brimoskas. They expressed the hope that all current and future aquatic instructors will benefit from the new manual and video in order to keep the aquatic exercise classes safe, functional and fun!
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