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

‘Circle of Friends’ Fosters BVM Charism

Historically, the charism of BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke was spread through the work of the Sisters of Charity, BVM, primarily in the ministry of education. Today, that charism is shared through the work of BVM sisters, associates, staff members, volunteers and donors—the “Circle of Friends.”

Tricia Lothschutz was drawn to work for the BVM community as a result of the passion she experienced among its members. In her current role as BVM outreach/volunteer coordinator, Tricia shares this passion with others. One of her responsibilities includes collaboration with the other members of the Life and Mission Team, comprised of the initial membership coordinators and the associate co-coordinators.

Expand Mission Through Relationships

As a member of the Life and Mission Team, Tricia strives to help strengthen the relationships among those who belong to the BVM Circle of Friends. To do this, she has planned service projects in areas across the country and in Ecuador. She has also worked with campus ministry departments at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and Carmel HS in Mundelein, Ill., and has spoken with alumni at events such as the Our Lady of Peace HS reunion in St. Paul, Minn.

The events that Tricia and the other members of the team have helped coordinate are concrete expressions of the BVM core values. Those who have participated in the events have had the opportunity to live out the BVM mission in a real way. Tricia says, “I believe this is all about seeing the needs that are present in the world, responding to those needs, and working for justice.”

During a 2014 mission trip to Ecuador, Tricia served with one of her colleagues, Cory Weinschenk, who is employed in the Sisters of Charity, BVM information technology (IT) department. He staffs the helpdesk and assists with general technology issues. Cory’s position represents his second connection with the BVM community; the first was forged as an undergraduate student at Clarke University, where he majored in computer information systems. As part of his job, he loves hearing sisters tell stories about their lives.

Immersion Trips Ignite Spirit of Service

When Cory learned of the mission trip to Ecuador, he knew he would participate. Beginning at a young age, his parents taught him the importance of serving others. This lesson was reinforced during his years in the Boy Scouts. He notes that the trip to Ecuador was a particularly humbling experience. “It was such an amazing trip that if I’d had more vacation time, I would have stayed longer,” he says. “The people we met lived in substandard conditions yet they were so grateful for what they had, and very welcoming and willing to share.” His time abroad underscored his understanding of the BVM mission, which he explains as “fostering self-respect and trying to change people’s lives for the better.”

Tricia, Cory and other members of the volunteer group spent about a week in Ecuador. Other volunteers, like Kansans Bethany and Matt Ludwikosky, have chosen to live out the BVM mission abroad in a long-term capacity. They currently work as live-in volunteers at Damien House in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which serves persons with Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

Bethany had previously volunteered at Damien House as a student and knew that she wanted to come back for a longer period of time. She and Matt married three years ago; they returned to volunteer at Damien House in January, welcomed with open arms by Ann Credidio, BVM, who has dedicated her life to bringing care and dignity to Damien House patients. “In volunteering at Damien House,” says Bethany, “we have been introduced to other BVMs through Sister Annie. This relationship has shown us the wonderful people in the BVM community and the support they give to people in need.”

‘Seeing the World From a Different Perspective’

Though Bethany and Matt will return to the States later this year, their work will have a lasting impact. In their own ways, the couple has been working to empower the residents and staff of Damien House. Bethany has used her training as an occupational therapist (OT) to establish group exercise sessions and work one-on-one with residents to address issues such as pain. “My whole life has changed from this experience,” Bethany shares. “I have received love, patience, kindness and appreciation from the people of Damien House and they appreciate the skills I have to offer them.”

Similarly, Matt has used his expertise in business to assist with technology and marketing efforts. He adds, “This experience has changed me as a person and helped me see the world from a different perspective. It has shown me that I can make a difference.”

Pat Maddux, who recently made his commitment as a BVM associate, has chosen to carry out the BVM mission a little closer to home. Pat’s first exposure to the congregation was as a staff member at Clarke University, where he has been employed for the past 15 years. Pat enjoys working with others and looks forward to continuing his relationship with the BVM and associate communities. “My experiences working in the Clarke community, my involvement in BVM associate activities, and my technical support of off-campus BVMs have all been deeply rewarding and bring me joy.”

Like Tricia, Pat has been inspired by the passion of the sisters with whom he works. At the center of this passion is a spirit of honesty and authenticity. Many times, Pat feels, people interact with one another in a manner that is guarded and clouded by biases and agendas. He believes that BVMs are confident in their honesty, willing to question the status quo, and unafraid to live with uncertainty.

The contemporary witnesses to the spirit of Mary Frances Clarke are transformed by their experiences living out her mission in the world today. This transformation is a source of hope and instills an ever-growing commitment to the core values. Bethany and Matt’s time in Ecuador has filled them with a strong sense of gratitude and commitment to others. Pat is committed to practicing honesty and authenticity in his own relationships and to serving others. When Tricia is asked about living out the BVM mission in the future, she responds, “I will continue to be a person of hope, to go where I am called—even if I haven’t been there before.”

by Associate Dan Abben