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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

Giving Tuesday a Great Success!

The Caritas Dining Room at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa, is the hub of socialization for our resident Sisters of Charity, BVM. There, they experience the daily blessings of good food and warm companionship. There, sisters chat during meals, host friends and family, and enjoy special community events.

“Since I’ve been here at Mount Carmel,” says Dining Services Coordinator Laurie Noel, “the staff and I have been concerned about the safety of the sisters as the dining room chairs have deteriorated over the years. They don’t slide easily, or provide leverage to assist sisters in getting up out of the chairs.”

We are grateful for and blessed by your contributions on #GivingTuesday (, Nov. 28!

The BVM sisters received $53,735 from 276 donors, which will help in the purchase of 250 new chairs for the Caritas Dining Room, providing safety, support and comfort for our sisters. We were also blessed to be awarded a $25,000 grant from the Robert and Kathryn Schwemley Foundation.

The current chairs are 20 years old and many can no longer be reglued, reconditioned or repaired. New, stackable chairs will feature durable frames with longer arms for ease in getting in and out of them. Chair backs will be shorter to keep from tipping over when moved backward, and chair feet will slide more easily. Current chairs that are still usable will replace the chairs in the sisters’ smaller dining room in Marian Hall.

“The sisters are very excited about the new chairs,” says Sarah Rentz, Mount Carmel administrator. “They appreciate being involved by indicating their own individual preferences on style, comfort and ease of use. I am as excited as the sisters are to see the end result!”

Laurie adds, “The sisters were great participants in the whole process and the dining staff enjoyed watching them select the chair design that was ‘just right.’”

The Sisters of Charity, BVM are grateful for your support this year, helping to improve the quality of our sisters’ lives with safe and comfortable dining chairs. We thank you, as well, for your past participation in #GivingTuesday.

See what our sisters have to say! Watch the video:


Former BVM President Sister Helen Garvey, BVM Dies at 82

Helen Maher Garvey, BVM


Helen Maher Garvey, BVM
Sharing of Memories and Funeral Liturgy
Thursday, August 17

Wake Service: 11:00am-noon (CDT)
Funeral Liturgy: 1:30-3:00pm (CDT)
Video will be available through Aug. 28


Sister Helen Maher Garvey, BVM (Robert Joseph), former president of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), died Aug. 6, 2017. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in the Motherhouse Chapel at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa, followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

Sister Helen was born in Hempstead, N.Y., on Jan. 17, 1935, to Clarence and Ruth Maher Garvey. She is survived by brothers Joseph (Warwick, N.Y.) and Eugene (Tinton Falls, N.J.); sisters Therese Fox (Brecksville, Ohio) and Kathleen (James Kearnz) Garvey (Warwick, N.Y.); sister-in-law Pat Garvey, East Marion, N.Y.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 65 years.

Her leadership spanned decades and found expression in a broad diversity of ministries and locales. 

Equipped with a Ph.D. in Organizational Development from Columbia University, she moved from serving as principal of two BVM elementary schools on Long Island, N.Y., to BVM leadership in 1976.  Only 41 at the time of her election, Sister Helen served 16 years as president and vice president of the congregation. 

In an address to the BVM congregation in August 1994, Sister Helen shared: “I hope in religious life because I experience God in religious life. I experience God in prophetic witness. I experience God in faithful relationships. I experience God in history. Mostly, I believe in religious life because I encounter the mystery of God in the total experience of religious life, personally and communally. God is here.”

During her tenure as BVM president, her compassion led to the creation of the Heartland Housing Initiative in Dubuque, and the renovation of a stately old home into apartments for 22 families, named Helen Garvey Place. 

She was elected to the three-year presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in 1986.  In this role she addressed Pope John Paul II on behalf of American women religious when he visited San Francisco in 1987. 

In 1993, she began an 11-year ministry as Director of Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Lexington, Ky. She developed lay leadership and worked with parish councils in a largely rural and unchurched area.

Her service on behalf of Catholic sisters entered uncharted territory when she chaired the LCWR History Project to create a national exhibit, “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America.” The highly acclaimed exhibit traveled to 10 cities coast to coast over a three-year period from the Smithsonian in D.C., to Ellis Island, and westward to Dubuque and other cities on the way to the California coast.

The recipient of an honorary degree from Clarke University, Dubuque, Sister Helen also served on the Board of Trustees at Clarke, Mundelein College and Loyola University in Chicago, and most recently on the Board of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.

She was a consultant for the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), assisting religious communities plan for their retirement needs, and worked with many individual religious communities as a meeting facilitator and speaker.  

In 2009, Sister Helen received the Outstanding Leadership Award from LCWR. The citation summarized the leadership gifts of this woman deeply loved and widely admired by all who encountered her: 

“A woman

      Who knows who she is, and where she stands, and what she believes

      Who listens to all opinions and finds consensus in divergent voices

      Who builds up everyone around her by expecting the best and acknowledging excellence

     Whose humor and charm open doors, rally troops, and disarm enemies

     Whose depth of knowledge in so many subjects, and understanding of human nature, empower her to connect with people from all walks of life.”


BVM Honored by Loyola University Chicago

Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM (Clement Mary) received Loyola University Chicago’s Coffey Award on June 9 from the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership at Loyola’s annual Founders Dinner. The Coffey Award is named for the first president of Mundelein College, M. Justitia Coffey, BVM, and is bestowed by the University on alumni from each of their schools in recognition of their leadership and service to others.

Mary Ann shares, “Justitia’s founding spirit poured like concrete into the architecture of Mundelein College, endures in the Gannon Center, and permeates the whole of Loyola University. She and I stand here together testifying to the joy of being able to live life fully and to the truth that education, as the process for calling forth the gift and potential of ourselves and others, makes that happen. The education we celebrate and support at this Founders’ Dinner . . . carries on the passion of Justitia Coffey: freeing students to be who they are and do what they love and so forever transforming the landscape of our world. That is the real Coffey Award—and it belongs to all of us tonight.”

Loyola President JoAnn Rooney invited Mary Ann to “receive this award in special recognition for your dedication to advocating for women in the Catholic Church and raising awareness of peace and justice issues; your devout leadership as part of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, and the Conference of Women Religious; as member of Loyola’s Board of Trustees; and graduate of Mundelein College.”

Watch the video:

Post date 6.27.2017


BVM Honored at Mundelein Spring Mass and Brunch

“Some women were leaders in the past and maybe they were recognized as leaders and maybe they weren’t—history never really recorded women’s stories very well at all, so yes, we want to lift up women and women’s leadership . . . today we’re talking about the past, a peek at the present, and hope for the future.”

These words were spoken by BVM Carolyn Farrell (Lester), founding director of the Ann Ida Gannon, BVM Center for Women and Leadership, Loyola University Chicago. On Sunday, April 30, Carolyn was honored for her leadership at the annual Mundelein Spring Mass and Brunch in Chicago.

The Gannon Center, Alumni Relations, and the Mundelein Alumnae Board recognized Carolyn for her role in guiding Mundelein College into Loyola University and establishing the Gannon Center in 1993 as a heritage piece of Mundelein.

The Gannon Center educates and fosters women leaders to contribute in the development of a more just social order—preparing women to lead extraordinary lives.

Post date 5.19.2017


World Refugee Day Observed on June 20

June 20 was designated by the United Nations as a day to show public support for refugees. Worldwide, 21.3 million people have been forced from their home countries, seeking safety and security; half of them are under 18 years old. Last year, the United States welcomed 85,000 refugees.

A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country due to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention.

BVMs joined other religious, friends and neighbors in Dubuque, Iowa, at a peaceful rally to show support of our refugee brothers and sisters on World Refugee Day and honor those who have been forced to leave their homes.

Participants heard firsthand accounts of refugees who were settled in Iowa and stories from professionals involved in the screening and resettlement process. They also learned how to take legislative action and partner with local/regional organizations providing support to refugees and asylum-seekers.

Refugees Welcome! We stand with refugees!

The Sisters of Charity are members of Crossing Borders—Dubuque, and are one of many local sponsors of the rally.

Post date 6.9.2017


BVMs, Catholic Sisters ‘Get in the Habit’ of Kindness

The Sisters of Charity, BVM, together with other Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, launched a new campaign, “Kindness: Get in the Habit,” during the fourth annual National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8–14.

The message, to encourage people to be kind toward one another, was created to counter the continued divisiveness seen throughout the country, and was shared on billboards, in movie theater ads, through social media posts, and in Catholic school classrooms.

BVM President Teri Hadro says, “Those of us in the U.S. sometimes take water, food, shelter, clothing and respect for granted. Our sisters and brothers in need help us understand the real meaning of the Gospel and gift us with the opportunity to live Jesus’ message today and every day.”

The billboards featured an image of a homeless person receiving a cup of coffee, with the accompanying text: “Kindness: Get in the Habit.” Billboards were displayed in six communities from the Quad Cities to La Crosse, Wis., including Dubuque.

Six similar images, all illustrating the “Kindness” theme, were featured both on social media sites and on the big screen in local movie theaters, including Dubuque.

“Sometimes it’s easy to take the simple acts of kindness that are a part of daily life for granted—the smile, recognition of hard work, the ‘I’m praying for you,’” reflects BVM First Vice President Lou Anglin. “Those moments bring out the best in people. I don’t want to ever stop noticing them or being a part of paying them forward. They make a world of difference.”

LaDonna Manternach, BVM second vice president, agrees. “People I meet are generally kind and considerate toward their neighbors and those they meet each day. This is not what makes the news, yet it is the biggest deal out there—it’s even radical. We live in a world that longs for kindness and kinship with one another. Kindness connects us, consoles us, and inspires us at a very basic level. Let’s hear again God’s call to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and be people that make a difference.”

The Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley represent 12 congregations whose collective mission is to spread the Gospel message in the 21st century. They are the Sisters of St. Francis—Clinton, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Dubuque, Sinsinawa Dominicans, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery—Rock Island, 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.

Watch the video at:

Visit them on Facebook at:

Post date 3.7.17


BVM Ecuador Immersion Trip 2017

On April 19, a group of 17 adults traveled to Ecuador for a 10-day immersion trip sponsored by the Sisters of Charity, BVM of Dubuque, Iowa. Our group consisted of three men and 14 women (four of whom are BVM associates and three are BVMs). We all met in Miami for the flight to Guayaquil. Most of us had not met prior to this trip; as we waited for our flight, everyone engaged in positive conversation.

We stayed for two days in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and visited three important programs. Ann Credidio, BVM is responsible for Damien House, home to 26 women and men who have Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Sister Annie has made remarkable progress in caring for and offering hope to her patients. She is also securing their future by developing the staff of Damien House, who have benefitted from BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke Scholarships for education in healthcare, finance and administration. Our time with the patients at this clinic was rewarding and helped us understand the challenges faced by those with this disease.

We traveled to a nutrition center run by two women religious from a Marian Order. The center was located in the barrio (slum) of Duran. It had rained for six hours the day before, and the streets were flooded and filled with trash. Some areas were impassable. The poverty was magnified in such situations. When we finally arrived at the center, we learned that the services are provided primarily to women with children ages 1–5 years old. Most of the women have few skills to earn a living. Many have escaped abusive situations. The center helps them with childcare while they learn new skills, such as sewing, to help them survive on their own. This mission encounters many challenges, but there are signs of progress, especially in terms of building the women’s self-esteem.

We also spent a morning at Centro Educativo Nuevo Mundo, a school in Guayaquil where we met BVM Associate Sonya Rendón. This school educates tuition-paying students in the morning; children who cannot afford to pay come in the afternoon. Dedicated teachers staff this beautiful facility, offering a way out of poverty and injustice through education.

We then traveled to Quito for a week’s stay at the Centro Muchacho Trabajador (CMT). Quito is a vast metropolis spread throughout the valley and up the hills of the Andes Mountains. CMT has two different campuses. We stayed at Center #2, which is equipped to house groups of our size or larger. This Center, serves over 350 families. There are three meals per day, students and parents are educated, showers and medical care are available, and there is a safe place for recreation. We could hear the joyful noises from happy children throughout the day.

While in Quito, we had excursions to visit the artisans, an open-air market, historical downtown Quito, the Cathedral, Fe Y Alegría School, and the Middle of the World. Reflecting on our experiences, there are two events that stand out for me.

The first was our interaction at CMT with Padre Juan Halligan, SJ, Madre Miguel Conway, BVM, and Madre Cindy Sullivan, BVM. Padre Juan and Madre Miguel began this ministry in the mid-1960s. Under their guidance and vision, it has evolved through decades of change.

Juan had the dream and Miguel had the organizational/administrative skills to keep it in motion. Madre Cindy has been with them since the ’70s and is a vital part of the Center’s mission. What an amazing collaboration of gifts and charisms! Rooted in prayer and love, they represent a living sign of the Spirit at work. These three especially seem to live in the tradition of Dorothy Day, who co-founded the U.S. Catholic Worker Movement. They observe, listen, and live with the needy.

“We must talk about poverty because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.”—Dorothy Day.

The second event was our visit to the homes of three of the families served by CMT. Most of the families live in one room—with one overhead light, a stove to cook on, running water in the house or nearby, often no door (just a piece of material to cover the entry), a dirt floor, and minimal belongs. This was not simple living. It was poverty. Their lives are very difficult and full of struggle to meet basic human needs. The contrast with our American lifestyle was striking. Most of our group pondered this and will continue to ponder this for a long time.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”—Simone Weil.

This trip allowed us to pay attention to the needs we encountered. The distractions of our American life were removed, even if only for 10 days. This allowed us to be attentive to the beautiful people we encountered and their stories changed our hearts.

There are a number of ways to change your heart. If you have a chance to make this type of an adventure, do it. Your life will be enriched in many wonderful ways.

If you would like to learn to more about the Ecuador BVM Immersion Trip, contact:  

—Ann R. Wertz

Post date 5.9.2017


School Celebrates BVM Roots at 125th Anniversary

BVMs (l. to r.) Sue Effinger, Terese Shinners, Virginia Stone and Janet Desmond celebrate with DSHA President Ellen Bartel (center).

Divine Savior Holy Angels HS (DSHA) in Milwaukee marked the beginning of its 125th anniversary year with a special liturgy on Feb. 1. Alumnae and former teachers joined DSHA faculty and students in celebration of both the anniversary year and National Catholic Schools Week (NCSW), observed this year from Jan. 29–Feb. 4. This year’s NCSW theme “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” is embodied in the story of DSHA’s roots.

Holy Angels Academy opened in Milwaukee in 1892, under the leadership of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, where it grew and thrived into the 20th century. In 1926, the Sisters of the Divine Savior established another high school in Milwaukee to educate young women interested in joining their order. In 1948, Divine Savior opened to all girls in the Milwaukee area. The two schools merged in 1970 to create Divine Savior Holy Angels HS. Since that collaboration, DSHA has grown to become the number one high school for girls in Milwaukee.

“Holy Angels was my alma mater and that of most of the women in my family,” said Terese Shinners, BVM (Ellena). “The BVM alumnae at the liturgy shared memories of our high school teachers and the excellent education we received. My favorite part of the day was reconnecting with former students and colleagues from my years teaching at DSHA.”

BVM Suzanne (Sue) Effinger (Frances Carol) shared, “The event today celebrating 125 years was a powerful experience for me. The welcome all of the alums received as we processed into liturgy brought me to tears.” Janet Mary Desmond, BVM added, “The spirit of joy, service and pride filled the celebratory 125 year anniversary Mass. Students and faculty welcomed alums and all witness to their excellent academic and religious education.”

In her welcome at the Mass, DSHA President Ellen Bartels noted, “As we open our liturgical celebration, we honor those who have gone before us in our Procession of Alumnae. These women, who have graduated from Holy Angels Academy, Divine Savior HS, and Divine Savior Holy Angels, represent the over 14,000 young women who have come through the doors of our foundational institutions and have gone out to make a difference in the world.”

Post date 2.9.17


BVMs Join in Making History

BVMs (l. to r.) Joellen McCarthy, Diane Rapozo and Rose Mary Meyer display their posters in front of the Capitol building.

On Jan. 21, the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. marked the largest mass demonstration in U.S. history. Throughout the country and globally, 5 million people marched in cities and towns in a show of solidarity for human rights.

From coast to coast, BVMs andassociates joined the sea of participants in prayer and presence! The BVM Women’s Network sponsored three sisters to attend the D.C. march: BVMs Rose Mary Meyer (Sebastian), Diane Rapozo (Malia), and Joellen McCarthy. “I am thrilled that these rallies happened in hundreds of cities and towns in the United States, in many countries and all of Earth’s continents,” says Rose Mary. “Together we are strong.”

Both Diane and Joellen share that they were “hungry for a different way of people coming together” after the election campaign. “The experience in Washington generated in us such hope that we were encouraged to discover during the day in Washington and now in subsequent days, invitations to channel that positive energy to actions that can bring about change and work toward creating a world we can believe in.”

Associate Coordinator Kimberly Emery was also in D.C. for the march, and Associate Kathy Linhardt took part in the New York City march, while her daughters walked in D.C. and Los Angeles. Associate Coordinator Lori Ritz, during her visit to Iowa, joined her sister to march with supporters in Des Moines.

BVMs Barbara Gaul, Mary Ellen Meckley, Colleen McGinnity and Carol Cook rallied for the Chicago march. “It was a call to stand together, to use love as our strategy, to build on this day, to bring our energies to our local communities, to be involved,” says Carol. Associate Virginia Piecuch echoes Carol as she says, “The march in Chicago was an amazing experience to be one with women, men and children showing God’s diversity in our world.”

From Dubuque, Iowa to Milwaukee to San Jose, Calif., BVMs were present and engaged in the respective marches. Former Dubuque mayor Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester), joined by other Dubuque BVMs and associates, shared with the local group gathered in unity and support. “We are here, connected in spirit with the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.—lifting up positive energy, inspiring justice for all.”

Along with many others, BVMs Marilyn Wilson (Claudia Mary), Bette Gambonini (Esther Mary) and Elizabeth Avalos gathered with Associates Francis and Carol DeCarvalho and their family, and Associate Barbara Harper and her daughters, at the march in San Jose, Calif. Elizabeth shares, “Everyone was so positive—talking, laughing, holding their signs . . . our future is in safe hands.”

The Women’s March on Washington (, urges supporters to join them in launching a new follow-up campaign: Ten Actions for the first 100 days. “Now, the real work begins.”

View Photos

Post date 1.30.17


BVMs, Associates and Friends Gather in Solidarity

“No Mas! No More! Tear Down the Border Wall! Basta Ya, Basta Ya, Basta Ya!”

These were the words that rang through and around the border wall at the Nogales, Ariz./Sonora, Mexico border for the SOA (School of the Americas) Watch Oct. 7–10. BVM Associates Carol and Francis DeCarvalho, Kay Harrison and Elizabeth Fitting joined BVMs Elizabeth Avalos, Bette Gambonini (Esther Mary) and Marilyn Wilson (Claudia Mary), and friends Arline Nelson and Wally Inglis for the event.

They gathered together in solidarity with over 1,000 justice seekers to:
• bring attention to the injustices of the U.S. immigration policies;
• advocate for a shift in U.S. policy toward refugees;
• offer a positive narrative about immigrants and refugees;
• build bridges of understanding and dialogue;
• struggle against U.S. militarization at home and abroad;
• and to commit to continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform.

A march led by Veterans for Peace guided the group to the border wall. Stages set on either side of the wall created connections with those who have suffered at the hands of border patrol and immigration officials. Participants attended workshops on both sides of the border, studying various aspects of the issue—injustices in the U.S. detention centers, unequal economies, disastrous effects of free trade, and deportation of veterans.

They joined 40 other women religious and associates for Encuentro de Hermanas, to pray together and engage in conversation about immigration and their response as women religious. For over 20 years, many congregations have had missions on both sides of border towns in the southwest. Coming to the watch from several states, they networked and shared resources.

For everyone, it was an experience that saddened, challenged, energized and filled them with hope.

“Abre corazones, abre brazoes, abre puertas en bienvenida.”
“Open hearts, open arms, open doors in welcome.”
              from NCR Global Sisters Report – prayer at Encuentro de Hermanas, Oct. 8, 2016

Prayer by Marilyn Wilson, BVM: Ode to the Wall

For more information go to:


Heralding the War—BVM Coverage of ‘The War to End All Wars’

April 6, 2017, marked the 100th anniversary of American entry into World War I. On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany. Eight months later, the United States officially declared war against Austria-Hungary on Dec. 7, 1917. While the Sisters of Charity, BVM publication, Our Herald, did not focus on the war, it referenced the conflict several times prior to the involvement of the United States.

The earliest mention of the war came in an October 1914 article that requested prayers for the new pope, Benedict XV, “whose accession to the throne comes in times so troublous, our prayers will be earnest and unceasing.” Two years later, the April 1916 issue noted that “Eastertide this year sees war, death and desolation stalking through the world. ‘Christian Civilization has failed,’ say our enemies. We need the strong, joyful hope of triumph and of life eternal that rings out in the Easter Alleluia; but we cannot know final defeat.”

Once America entered the war, it was regularly referenced in Our Herald. The October 1917 issue, the first published after U.S. involvement, informed the reader that “at Mount Carmel adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is kept up at all the hours of the day to obtain the blessing of peace.” It also noted that “prayers have been redoubled that the Nations at war may listen to the words of the Ambassador of the Prince of Peace” (Pope Benedict XV) who had recently issued a letter calling for peace.

In January 1918, Our Herald emphasized the importance of religion in education, arguing that war “has shown in a hideous series of object lessons . . . the result of educational systems, scientific and materialistic, in which religion had no part . . . Men educated under these systems used this knowledge for the destruction of their fellowmen and themselves.”

It also heralded the capture of Jerusalem on Dec. 9, 1917, by the combined forces of Great Britain, France and Italy, and proudly noted that the chaplain who carried the cross into Jerusalem was Rev. William Raphael Ludford, OSB, who had been educated by the BVMs at St. Mary Academy in Elgin, Ill. This issue also includes a more somber mention of the war—the name of Lieutenant William T. Fitzsimmons, “one of our Kansas City boys, the first U.S. Officer killed in France.”

The October 1918 issue, which included information on the influenza epidemic, was apparently published late as it also included a short article noting that before beginning Mass on the morning of Nov. 11, the chaplain announced the armistice had been signed. “With all the fervor of our souls, we offered the Holy Sacrifice in thanksgiving” and later that afternoon the Te Deum was sung.

This issue of Our Herald, as well as the January 1919 issue, include excerpts from letters sent home by some of the soldiers. In one letter, one of BVM St. Catherine Murphy’s brothers informs her that soldiers can receive communion any time after confession, “no matter how long our fast.” On a lighter note, he also tells her the American troops “hate the name ‘Sammie’ and ‘Yank’ is our name.”

In the past, history was often taught on a macro level—great deeds performed by great men. As the teaching shifts to more of a micro level, resources such as Our Herald become more valuable to researchers as they provide a glimpse of how history was documented “as it happened.”

—Jennifer Head
BVM Archivist

Post date 4.20.2017


BVMs Unite With Others in ‘A Call to Compassion’

Award-winning journalist and author Margaret Regan shared the heartrending stories of people caught in the chaos of the U.S. immigration system during a presentation, “Immigrant Families Under Fire—A Call to Compassion in the Heartland,” with an audience of 200 at Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, on March 30.

The event was sponsored by the Sisters of Charity, BVM and 29 co-sponsors who comprise Crossing Borders—Dubuque, a group of concerned citizens, organizations and religious who work to raise awareness of injustices experienced by immigrants and advocates on their behalf. 

Regan noted that thousands of deportations of undocumented individuals have occurred in the last 10 years and are still happening everyday in the United States, affecting children, spouses, neighbors, employers and communities.

One of her books, Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire (2015) investigates the fate of undocumented immigrants who are taken away from their families, incarcerated in detention centers, or deported back across the border.

Another book, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands (2010), chronicles the tragic deaths of migrants in the desert. Both books are named Top Picks in the Southwest Books of the Year competition, and have been adopted in many university classrooms.

Crossing Borders member Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie) says, “Ever since experiencing the heartache and injustice suffered by so many men, women and children at the time of the infamous workplace raid at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, in 2008, I have been convinced that the first step in transforming our immigration system is to transform hearts. What better way to transform hearts than to share the stories of those directly affected by our current immigration system? What better way to set our hearts on fire!”

BVM Mira Mosle, also a member of Crossing Borders, spoke to the concerned and sober crowd, saying, "What to do? We want to pray. We want to weep. We want to do something. How will we find and encourage compassion in the heartland for our brothers and sisters?"

Area co-sponsors of the presentation include: Catholic Charities, Church of the Resurrection, Clarke University, Community Foundation of Dubuque, Dubuque for Refugee Families, Loras College, Nativity Church, Gwen Nilles, Father Jack Paisley, St. Raphael Cathedral, St. Patrick Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church Key West, Sinsinawa Dominicans, Sisters of the Presentation, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Visitation, and Sisters of Charity, BVM.

Regan’s books are available at River Lights Bookstore, Dubuque, which will contribute 10% of sales to Crossing Borders.

Post date 4.6.17


LCWR Expresses Deep Concern about Executive Orders

LCWR Expresses Deep Concern about Executive Orders

January 30, 2017

We emphatically endorse the statement issued today by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR): “We strongly object to President Trump’s attempts to limit our ability to heed God’s call to welcome the stranger (Mt. 25:35) and to care for those most in need (Mt 25:40), and we are particularly concerned about rules and regulations that deny access to refugees because of their religion, race, or nationality. It is a violation of our faith and every norm of humanity.”

With the LCWR, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary “vow to continue to welcome refugees and minister to immigrants. [We,] LCWR, and its members will continue to press for restoration of refugee resettlement, relief for families, an end to needless deportations, and the closure of all family detention centers. We will continue to advocate for compassionate, bipartisan legislation that fixes our broken immigration system. We will continue to stand in solidarity with families, regardless of immigration status, who labor daily to provide safety and security for their children.”

Leadership Team, Sisters of Charity, BVM

Teri Hadro, BVM
Lou Anglin, BVM
LaDonna Manternach, BVM

Read: LCWR expresses deep concern about Executive Orders


‘Am I a Human Trafficker?’

Chris Cox, campaign manager of The Human Thread, explored this question with an audience of 230 in a presentation on Feb. 27 at Clarke University.

Cox was hosted by the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in the Tri-State Area, 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.

After 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.

Long committed to faith-based advocacy and the work of justice, Cox reflected 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.

While most think of human trafficking in terms of sex trafficking, Cox challenged the audience to think about how their technology, food, and clothing purchases from countries with “horrific practices” are also forms of human trafficking.

He notes, “. . . the reality is so many things that are the basis of making our lives comfortable—cell phones, chocolate, coffee, clothing—can grossly be at the expense of other human beings.” He shares that approximately 98 percent of clothes sold in America are made overseas and that only between .5 percent and 3 percent of the cost of production for the average item goes to the worker who made it.

For garment workers to make a living wage, Cox says that the increase in cost per item would only have to be between .5 and 5 percent. “This white t-shirt I’m wearing that would cost $10—to pay a living wage, to triple their wages now—means I would pay $10.50 for it and frankly, I’d want to pay that if given the option.”

BVM vice president Lou Anglin says she now intends to change her own shopping habits after Cox’s presentation. “I grew up being a prudent shopper—looking for deals, but now I need to be aware that paying a just wage for people’s labor is the greater good.”

Cox advises others to do their homework before supporting a brand and to vote with their wallets. He also shares that practicing the “Four Rs” can help to make an impact—repairing our clothes, reducing our closets, and reusing and recycling our clothes by donating them to charity.

Post date 3.15.17


BVM Inducted into Loyola University Athletic Hall of Fame

On Jan. 21, during the Loyola men’s basketball game against Evansville University, Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM became the 173rd member inducted into the Athletic Department Hall of Fame at Loyola University Chicago.

At halftime during the game, Athletic Director Steve Watson and Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney escorted Sister Jean to the center of the court for her induction ceremony. After a video presentation showing Loyola men and women basketball players thanking Sister Jean for her support through the years, she received her Hall of Fame plaque amid a standing ovation.

Sister Jean, age 97, went to her first Loyola basketball game in 1962, and the rest is history! Her dedication to the towering athletes who dwarf her tiny figure is legendary. As chaplain of the Loyola men’s basketball team since the early 1990s, Sister Jean leads everyone in prayer before the games and shares her enthusiastic support, unflagging energy, and astute critiques for each one.

Thrilled by the honor, she says, “I appreciate being in the Hall of Fame with all those wonderful athletes, who have brought such honor to Loyola and have influenced so many people.”

In the past year, Sister Jean has also received an honorary doctorate from the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University. What could possibly be next for this diminutive BVM powerhouse?

Read the full story at Loyola Phoenix:

Watch Video:

Post date 2.3.17


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


BVM Honored as Paul Harris Fellow

Cindy Sullivan shares a special moment with a graduate of the Working Boys’ Center.

‘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


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


BVM Lynn Winsor Named Golf Coach of the Year

Photo Credit: Golf Digest

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:

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:

Post date 12.13.16


MUSIC & MEMORY Rekindles the Past for BVM Sisters

Activities Aide Dawn Merges shares time with a BVM sister who enjoys her special music!

What if we could unlock the buried, joyful memories of an elderly or infirm person with just a song, helping them connect with life again through music?

The MUSIC & MEMORY program, founded by Dan Cohen and based in Mineola, N.Y., was created as a nonprofit in 2010. Its mission is to “bring personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology” ( Since its inception, the program has successfully implemented iPod personalized music programs in care organizations throughout the United States and Canada.

The Sisters of Charity, BVM at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, thank you for your contributions on #Giving Tuesday ( Nov. 29. Over $15,000 has been raised to help enrich the lives of our elderly sisters as they enjoy the music of their memories!

Three people—a BVM associate, BVM employee, and Dubuque Senior High School student—have come together, working to enhance the lives of our sisters in the memory care unit.

The idea to bring the therapeutic program to the elderly BVM sisters at Mount Carmel came from wellness department Activities Aide Dawn Merges. After staff viewed the documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” ( showing the results of the MUSIC & MEMORY program, they were unanimously on board to initiate the program.

Challenges include engaging in research with the elderly sisters to learn about their favorite music from years gone by, obtaining iPods for storing the music, and educating and training staff to implement the program.

But Dawn feels the challenges are well worth it. The program “helps unlock isolation, relieves worry and anxiety, and facilitates pain management,” she says. “Seeing the sisters in their rooms—singing, smiling, tapping their feet, and enjoying their lives—is incredibly moving.”

BVM Associate Sharon Scully spends time visiting with the sisters, reminiscing and sharing. “My job is to talk to each sister and identify what kind of music she loves,” says Sharon. “We need to do this now, before the elderly sisters are no longer able to communicate with us.”

Sharon grew up in a house full of music and feels that she is simply “sharing with my friends, the sisters. And they teach me as well.” She believes that MUSIC & MEMORY generates opportunities as a multi-generational project—with tech-savvy younger aides and nurses helping the sisters to find new joy in life through the music of their memories while they, in turn, learn about the older generation.

Sibani Ram is not your typical high school sophomore. Like many young people, she likes music, books and learning about the world. But she also wants to do something about what she learns.

After watching the movie, “Still Alice,” which depicts a middle-aged college professor who finds herself battling Alzheimer’s disease, Sibani shares, “’Still Alice’ left me deeply stirred and scouring the internet for a creative way to help those with mental health illnesses.”

Looking for a local care center that used the program led her to the BVMs at Mount Carmel. “I’m grateful to have the chance to work with the sisters to advocate for the 24-hour online #GivingTuesday ( fundraiser on Nov. 29,” she says. “This is a terrific opportunity for anyone who believes in the power and delight of music. MUSIC & MEMORY is where the arts meet the sciences, transforming the quality of life, one care center at a time.”


Join BVMs, Associates and Friends on an Ecuador Immersion Trip

The Sisters of Charity, BVM and BVM associates invite you to stand in solidarity through work, reflection and prayer with our sisters and brothers in Ecuador. The date for the trip is April 19–28, 2017. Registration deadline is March 1.

On this journey, you will live and work with BVMs Miguel Conway and Cindy Sullivan at the Working Boys’ Center in Quito, a place dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. You’ll visit homes in the barrio and countryside. You’ll gather with the local community to help a family build a house. You will visit Otavalo’s renowned indigenous artisan open air market, where area villagers bring their wares to barter and socialize.

A two-day trip to Guayaquil is also offered, including a visit to Damien House, a clinic for Hansen’s disease patients, and Nuevo Mundo, a foundation school where poor children receive free education along with those able to pay tuition.

The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) in Dubuque, Iowa, are a community of Catholic women religious who minister in 16 states and Ecuador and Ghana as educators, pastoral ministers, counselors and advocates for the elderly and immigrants.

For more information contact:
Kimberly Emery, ACT (Associate Coordinator Team):

Read this reflection by Peggy Geraghty, BVM about last year's trip to Ecuador.



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.


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.


BVM Celebrates 100th!

Ann Regina (seated) visits with BVMs (l. to r.) Jean Beste (Jean Allan), Carol Cook (Conrad Ann) and Mary Ellen Zimmerman (Ellenmae).

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.




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.

Updated 12.13.16

Watch KCRG’s news coverage:




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 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:

Pictures from the Dubuque prayer service and other related events can be viewed at:

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:

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


Remembering ‘Sister’

Sisters Dorothy Feehan (Agnes Cecile) (l.) and Therese Jacobs (Therese Carmelle) enjoy a ride to the cemetery on the golf cart “shuttle,” driven by Kyle Collins, donor relations representative for the Sisters of Charity, BVM.

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.”


BVM Honored with Human Rights Award

Sue Hattel, local/state president of Church Women United, presents Mary McCauley, BVM with the 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.”


Centenarian Sister Commemorates Special Day at Mount Carmel

BVM President Teri Hadro congratulates Marilyn Thomas, BVM.

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.”


Carolyn Farrell, BVM Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Alumni award recipients are (l. to r.) Chris Murray, Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester), and Paul J. Duwelius, M.D.

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 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    


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.


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 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.

Prayer Card

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.


For BVM Volunteers, Lent Signifies Service

BVMs Donard Collins (l.) and Judy Callahan (r.) work under the watchful eye of Associate Marilyn Heinz (ctr.) as they prepare a meal at St. Patrick Parish in Dubuque, Iowa.

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.”


‘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.


BVM Sisters and Associates Resolve to Work for Justice

Immersion trip participants are (l. to r.) Associates Virginia Piecuch and Kimberly Emery, Carol Cook, Joyce Rohlik, Colleen McGinnity, Sharon Rezmer, Ann DeNicolo, and Associate Nancy McCarville.

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


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 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:


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:

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
January 31
12:00 p.m. 
808 42nd St.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
February 2
4:30 p.m.
242 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE


Press Release billboard and prayer service locations
Prayer service: Standing with Pope Francis
Billboard blessing


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 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.

Read more about the delegation in the Witness article: Six Local Sisters Honor Legacy of Martyered Churchwomen

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.


Mary Ellen Caldwell, BVM: Powerhouse in a Small Package

Tutor Mary Ellen Caldwell, BVM presents Madeleine Gendry, OCSO with an achievement certificate in English.

“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)


‘Circle of Friends’ Fosters BVM Charism

Bethany Ludwikosky uses her training as occupational therapist to help Damien House residents.

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


Sisters and Students Build Lasting Friendships

BVM LaDonna Manternach and Bree Moore formed a lasting friendship from the oral history project.

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
Communications Specialist
Sisters of Charity, BVM


BVMs Help to Promote Awareness of Human Trafficking

A display board (top, left) at the Dubuque exhibit reminds people that trafficking occurs in every state.

Marilyn Wilson, BVM (second from l., below) helps arrange human trafficking materials for the presentation at Santa Clara University.

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.



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.”


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.


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


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

Read the entire document:

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[1] 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.”

[1] 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



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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