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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

Great Gift Day is on May 6

It’s the first time the BVMs have participated in an online giving event. Please help us increase our participation. All funds will be used for Mount Carmel sidewalk repairs in our beautiful, park-like setting that is used by both sisters and Dubuque-area citizens as they enjoy our sweeping Mississippi views.

Giving is easy! Simply go to and follow the Sisters of Charity, BVM link.


BVM Foundress Inducted into Irish American Hall of Fame

Honored in the Education category, Mother Clarke was nominated by BVM Mary Alma Sullivan, who wrote the winning proposal.

Mother Mary Frances Clarke, BVM, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque, Iowa, is one of nine inductees chosen from over 400 nominees worldwide for the 2014 Class of the Irish American Hall of Fame (IAHOF). Honored in the Education category, Mother Clarke was nominated by BVM Mary Alma Sullivan, who wrote the winning proposal.

An Awards Gala will be held April 12, 2014, at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, which sponsors the IAHOF. BVM President Teri Hadro, who will accept the award on behalf of the congregation, says, “Mary Frances Clarke was a humble, middle class Irish émigré who likely never aspired to a Hall of Fame of any kind. But she knew in her bones that education was the ticket to the surviving and thriving of immigrants in 19th century America.”

Born in Dublin in 1802, Mary Frances Clarke, as a young adult, directed a Dublin school, Miss Clarke’s Seminary, and helped people stricken during the cholera epidemic. She and four other like-minded women forged bonds of friendship and service. The small group embarked on a mission to educate Catholic immigrants in the United States. The congregation of sisters Mother Clarke founded in Philadelphia in 1833 went on to admit nearly 5,000 women who established and staffed more than 1,000 elementary and secondary schools, as well as Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and Mundelein College in Chicago.

Mary Frances Clarke promoted a progressive philosophy of education that excluded no one regardless of ability to pay. She believed in teaching students without seeming to teach, saying, “We must wake up their minds by constantly calling into action their powers of observation and reasoning and incite them to ascertain for themselves.”

With innovative leadership, Mary Frances Clarke embraced the challenges of the American frontier. Her vision was fulfilled in the ensuing years by the Sisters of Charity, BVM who have devoted their lives and ministries to their core values of education, charity, justice and freedom. Today BVMs have over 420 sisters and 180 lay associates. They minister in 20 states and in Ecuador and Ghana.

A banner created to honor Mary Frances Clarke will be displayed, along with others representing outstanding recipients, at the Irish American Heritage Center. Founded in 1976, the mission of the Center is to preserve Irish culture, heritage and tradition. The purpose of the Irish American Hall of Fame is to tell the story of the impact of the Irish in America.


Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth

Too often when we hear the word “house” we only think of a physical building and its rooms. But what if we began to think of Earth as our house—with various rooms—what would we need to do to make this house a true home?

The Sisters of Charity, BVM have joined the Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth in preparing a reflection booklet on the various rooms of a house, placing each room and its activities into the broader context of our Earth-home. The booklet is available as a free download here.

“We are excited to make this publication available in time for Earth Day on April 22,” says Joy Peterson, PBVM, the group’s coordinator. “Our intention is to take a new look at how everything we do, no matter where we are, is interconnected and tied to the well-being of all living things.” The booklet includes suggestions of simple actions for families to take in order to live more sustainably and walk more gently on Earth. 

The word ecology has its roots in the Greek words “oikos” meaning house or household and "logos" meaning to gather, count, recount, say, speak. Ecology is understood as the legend or logic of the dwelling place. In its essence it is the story of where we live. This story of the house instructs us and informs our actions in managing this household we call Earth.

Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth is made up of representatives from congregations of women religious from the upper Mississippi Valley in eastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin including: Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province, St. Louis, Mo.; Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque; and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque. The mission of the group states: “Respecting the interdependence of creation, we will promote eco-literacy and influence a just relationship with the environment.”


BVM Volunteers Inspired by Joy of Ecuadorians

By Tricia Lothschutz

Fourteen participants from across the United States journeyed together to Ecuador on the BVM Ecuador Immersion Trip March 26–April 3, 2014. Having met in the Miami airport, most for the first time, we arrived in Ecuador as strangers to each other; we left with new friendships, new perspectives, and with hearts transformed.

We were first inspired by the work and ministry of Fr. John Halligan, SJ, BVMs Miguel Conway and Cindy Sullivan, and the many other staff members and volunteers at the Centro del Muchacho Trabajador (Working Boys’ Center) in Quito. The Center serves 380 families, helping them become agents of their own and their community’s prosperity. The work of the Center is based on 10 core values: loyalty, personal formation, family, religion, health, education, economy, work, housing and recreation. Through all of their programs and educational opportunities, the Center fosters these important aspects of life in all of the families who are members of the Center.

We traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and were inspired by the work and ministry of BVM Annie Credidio and Associates Pat McTeague and Sonya Rendon. We visited the thriving preschool that is part of Nuevo Mundo School, run by Pat and Sonya. We also spent time with Annie and the patients at Damien House, which provides loving care to the sick and poor of Guayaquil who are afflicted with Hansen´s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy. Annie, the staff and the volunteers work 24–7 to give the patients the highest quality of care and provide them the dignity of life that everyone deserves.

Throughout our trip, we were deeply moved by the love with which we were received and the hospitality given to us. We were constantly inspired by the faith, determination, strength and especially the joy with which everyone lives their lives.


New Book by BVM Author Published

‘Expanding Horizons’ explores BVM leadership between the first and second World Wars.

Expanding Horizons: Sisters of Charity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, 1919–1943 by Ann M. Harrington, BVM (St. Remi) has been published and is now available.

In this account of the leadership of BVMs Isabella Kane (19191931) and Gervase Tuffy (19311943), Ann explores how the spirit of BVM foundress Mary Frances Clarke shaped the direction of the congregation in the 24 years between the first and second World Wars.

“The portraits of seven BVMs grace one end of the main corridor of the Mount Carmel motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa,” notes BVM Secretary of the Congregation Regina M. Qualls, who wrote the book’s foreword. “In her most recent work, the portraits of Isabella Kane and Gervase Tuffy come to life as Ann recounts the significant events in the first half of the 20th century which, surprisingly, have a very familiar feel.”

BVM mission and ministry are reflected in the stories of these two leaders through Ann’s seven years of archival research at the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership (Loyola University Chicago) and the Mount Carmel Archives, plus first-hand accounts of those years by living BVMs.

“The apparent serenity seen in their portraits seems remarkable in light of the challenges faced by Isabella Kane and Gervase Tuffy,” Regina writes. “We are grateful to Ann Harrington and all BVM historians who have expanded our horizons, allowing us to see our past, and perhaps our future, in a new light.”

Copies of the book are available for $10. Contact the Office of the Secretary, BVM Center, 1100 Carmel Dr., Dubuque, IA .


Associate Quilt a Labor of Love

By Ann Chaput, BVM

Last June BVM Margaret Haas and I had the opportunity to meet our St. Louis area associates—among them  Associate Theresa Koetting. Theresa and her sister, Rita, recently deceased and also an associate, had worked together to sew the quilts Mary Frances Reis, BVM raffled each year to benefit her ministry. Theresa felt that she was probably finished with quilting.

I suggested that she make the associate pin into a quilt. Theresa was hesitant, especially since the pin is small and the words would need to be included. Associate Trini Kelly and her husband Dennis were also among those we visited. Dennis is a graphic designer and enlarged the associate pin so that Theresa would have a pattern for the quilt.

When Theresa called to say the quilt was finished, she noted that her guild had helped her and one of the members embroidered the words on the associate pin. With joy, Theresa added that she hoped I would like it. A photo doesn’t do justice to Theresa’s associate quilt, which will be used at associate gatherings, commitment ceremonies, and will be on display at the summer Senate.

Thank you, Theresa, for sharing your beautiful gift which will be enjoyed by many!


BVM Attends Social Justice Conferences

By Mary Martens, BVM

BVM collaboration with the Loretto Community non-governmental organization (NGO) provided opportunities for me to attend two conferences during March. At the first, I was among more than 6,000 representatives from 860 civil society organizations who registered for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. At the second, participating with approximately 1,000 women and men of various Christian denominations, I attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice in Washington, D.C.

The theme for CSW 58 was “Challenges and Achievements in Implementation of Millennium Development Goals.”
Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combatting diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development have been on the UN global agenda since 2000, with varying results among its 193 member States.

In general, results include: Extreme hunger has been cut in half; there are more girls in elementary school but not in high school; there are more women in government and economics, but women’s unpaid work of caring for home and family needs persists; it is women who stand forth and call for peace, but women do not have a place at peace tables where men with guns dictate peace terms to men with guns; issues of domestic violence continue, and men are needed as visible allies for women’s human rights.

Speaking at the UN March 8, International Women’s Day, Hillary Clinton stated that achieving equality for women is the great unfinished business of the 21st century. “No country in the world has achieved full participation, and women and girls still comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unfed and unpaid.”

March 9 was Consultation Day, when civil society gave its input. Among its directives to the UN are: Systemic change must address root causes; opportunities and resources must be available to all; laws on the books must be implemented, with results monitored, and those with positions of authority held accountable.

Parallel events were sponsored by various NGOs at three venues, while official delegates met in the UN building to discuss policy. A sampling of the events: Monitoring the Implementation of Domestic Violence Laws; Opportunities that Build Women’s Economic Empowerment in Science and Technology; Making Unpaid Care Work Pay; Security, Peace and Development—Women Peacemakers’ Recommendations; Gender Gap in Science and Technology; Role of Religions and Cultures in Implementing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Empowering Women.

At the conclusion of the two-week CSW conference, the outcome document that emerged from the UN confirmed the need to include a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This will be among the set of international goals to be introduced after the MDGs expire in 2015.

The theme of this year’s EAD conference was “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace.”
The keynote speaker was Rev. John Dear, well known to many BVMs and associates through his work as peace activist and author. Marge Clark, BVM of NETWORK introduced him, and Associate Joan Mirabal and BVM Mary Martens were among the conference attendees.

Using the nonviolent Jesus as model, Dear pointed out that He wept over Jerusalem, which did not understand the things that made for its peace. And more importantly, Jesus lived and acted nonviolently. Exploring the violence which is part of our culture and world, Dear urged conference participants to live nonviolently toward self, creatures and creation, and to act for justice and peace.

Preparation for building peace included presentations: People of Hope: Justice and Peace Shall Embrace; Gun Violence: the American Politic and Faith’s Response; Transforming Violence: Guide Our Feet into the Path of Peace. There were also issue workshops and skills training workshops to provide both information and tools for Lobby Day, when scheduled visits to Capitol Hill took place.

On the final day of the conference, the Christian message to resist violence and build peace was brought to congressional offices by delegations from each state. A twofold request was made of legislators: 1) Enact legislation that will reduce the acquisition and use of guns for purposes that cause harm, and 2) Re-balance funding priorities from excessive military spending toward priorities which prevent violence and enhance human security. The outcome of the congressional visits remains to be seen.

Videos of major presentations from Ecumenical Advocacy Days are available at:


OLP to Host All Class Reunion

The first All Class Alumnae Reunion for Our Lady of Peace (OLP) High School in St. Paul, Minn., will be held on Aug. 9, 2014, at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.


The day will include an open house where former classmates can gather, reminisce, and view memorabilia from the OLP days, and take a self-guided tour of the school.

BVM President Teri Hadro (’64) plans to attend and is looking forward to this first all class reunion.

Deb Swenson, reunion committee contact person, says, "OLP alumnae come from all walks of life, but we share a common pride in being alumnae of OLP and a devotion to the BVMs who taught us how to be strong women and to believe we could accomplish anything if we tried our best."

In September 1951, OLP was formally dedicated and opened its doors to 115 freshman students. By 1954 the student body totaled 752 and included junior and senior classes. A year later, the OLP Alumnae Association was formally established and officers were elected. By that fall, enrollment at OLP rose to 900.

During the 1970s, families began to move to the suburbs and demographics soon reflected a decline in archdiocesan city-wide high school population. After 21 years, OLP closed its doors in June 1973.

Joan Doyle, BVM (Leon) was president of the congregation at the time. She expressed pride in the accomplishments of the OLP students and graduates and in the sisters who served at the school, bringing to mind a favorite BVM prayer: May God complete the work begun in us!

"Our Lady of Peace alumnae continue to identify strongly with OLP although it has been closed for over 40 years," Deb shares. "Reunions are well attended and many friendships have endured."


Benefactors Partner to Enhance Motherhouse Chapel Worship

A serendipitous turn of events now enables hearing-impaired sisters at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, to listen and hear with clarity all parts of the sacred liturgy for the first time in many years—thanks to a "hearing loop" now in place in the Motherhouse Chapel.


Hidden under the newly-installed carpet, the loop has opened up a new world of sound for our retired sisters.

The loop technology takes a feed from the PA system, transmits it through a wire loop surrounding the worshipers, and projects magnetic signals to an inexpensive telecoil (T-coil) receiver in the listeners’ hearing aids. The result is clear sound with no background noise.

While this technology is not new, it has not been readily available in the United States because hearing aids were not often equipped with T-coils. This trend is changing and assistive listening devices are gaining momentum across America, especially in places of worship.

After attending a presentation by a leading hearing loop advocate, BVM Linda Roby, director of deaf ministry in Portland, Ore. (see p. 3), brought the idea back to Mount Carmel at the perfect time: plans were underway to install new, much-needed carpeting in the Motherhouse Chapel. While the BVM leadership team was intrigued by the new technology, the next challenge was being able to support this unforeseen and unbudgeted technology.

"Our prayers were answered," BVM Vice President Kate Hendel explains about a call she received one day in October from Cathy and Bob Everhart, who were interested in helping our retired sisters (see p. 2). When they heard about the hearing loop, the Everharts quickly offered to not only fund this project but also a variety of related expenditures that enhance our sisters’ hearing.

After experiencing the new system, BVM Paul Francis Bailey says, "I cannot laud the loop sufficiently to express how truly wonderful it is. I hear the homily distinctly, grasping every little nuance and inflection."

(St.) Geraldine Moorman, BVM adds, "I used to use the hearing aids in the back of the chapel. They had to be inserted each time I came. I had to hold them tightly in my ears to get the full benefit. Since the new hearing loop was installed, I have not missed one sentence of Fr. Tom’s homily."


Other sisters are eager to share their enthusiasm. "Before the hearing loop, I was not able to hear what anyone at the microphone was saying," says Louise Marie Levandowski, BVM (Laurina). "After the installation, I was able to hear every word clearly. I am truly grateful for what has been done to help all of us with hearing aids."

"One of the things I really appreciate is the fact that I can hear the names of the deceased sisters whose anniversaries are on that particular day," BVM Carmelina Myers explains. "I can also share in the laughter when the homilist slips in a humorous remark."

Therese Frelo, BVM (Ann Carmelle) sums it up: "The hearing loop is close to a miracle . . . It is a joy to peacefully participate in the liturgy, listen to the homilist, and appreciate the total experience. Thank you."

The Sisters of Charity, BVM are truly grateful for the partnership of our benefactors in helping to meet the needs of retired sisters at Mount Carmel.

Our gratitude is extended to the Everharts, as well as the many benefactors who participated in the 2013 Birdies for Charity event. Birdie proceeds were used to install the Motherhouse Chapel carpeting.




Faith on Fire! Comes to Dubuque, Iowa

The Sisters of Charity, BVM and the Dubuque Area Vocation Association (DAVA) are among the group of Catholic schools, religious orders, organizations, and the Archdiocese of Dubuque who are sponsoring the presentation Faith on Fire!

Performer Jesse Manibusan is a Catholic lay evangelizer using music, comedy and stories to connect with people. His dynamic performance will touch souls and have listeners praising God with him.

Three performances are offered for children, youth and families:

Jan. 15, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.
Clarke University, Kehl Center
A Family Celebration—All are Welcome

Jan. 16, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.
Wahlert Catholic High School
High School Presentation

Jan. 16, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
Wahlert Catholic High School
Middle School Presentation


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