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BVM News

For more information on any of these news articles contact Angie Connolly, Director of Communications, at 563.588.2351 or by aconnolly@bvmcong.org.

BVMs Recognized for 20 Years Participation in Rush Study

On Friday, Sept. 12, a group of the staff members of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago came to Mount Carmel to thank all the sisters who have been and are currently participants in the Rush Religious Orders’ Study.

The overall goal of the study is to obtain reliable clinical and psychological information as well as a brain autopsy on individuals age 65 and older with no prior findings of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. David Bennett, M.D., our speaker for the afternoon and principal investigator of the study, shared the information that 146 BVMs have been enrolled in a variety of time spans since the study was begun in 1994. Of that total, 101 have already died and their brain tissue continues to be used for further medical research.

Each participant present for the afternoon received a certificate which listed the total number of years in which she has participated in the study. Special certificates and pins were presented to four BVMs who have been part of the study for all 20 years: Mary Ellen Caldwell, Sue Rink, Dorothy Gaffney and recently deceased Katie McHugh.

Dr. Bennett repeated several times, “We couldn’t do this without YOU!” Since January 1994, when 350 individual religious were enrolled, the records show that a grand total of 1,250 religious (men and women) have participated. In the Dubuque area, both the Dominicans and the Trappists are currently involved in the study.

What have the scientists learned? Are there specific symptoms which might predict the disease? Do depression and loneliness play an important role in the disease? Is extreme stress a factor? If an individual remains cognitively stimulated does he/she lessen the chance of developing the disease? The scientists continue to look at the “missing pieces” and the study has proven “extraordinarily valuable for medical advancement around the world.”


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Interested in Religious Life? Congregations Offer Retreat


Dubuque, IA—Are you a woman wondering what life might be like as a religious sister? Then sign up for "Dubuque's Got Sisters!" and get ready for a unique experience. Area religious communities are offering an opportunity to come together with sisters and other women who are asking how to best serve the people of God. Join us for prayer, conversation, and a chance to get to know communities of women who continue to serve people on the margins. There is no fee to attend.
 
The "Dubuque's Got Sisters!" event begins Friday, Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. and ends Saturday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. To register or for more details, email Sister Lou Anglin, BVM, at langlin@bvmcong.org or call her at 563-588-2351. "Dubuque's Got Sisters!" is sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters (Wis.), Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Dubuque Franciscan Sisters.  

Click here to view the flyer.
 
The retreat will be held at Mount Carmel, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, situated atop the beautiful bluffs of the Mississippi River. "We are glad to jointly offer this opportunity to women who are interested in religious life. Sisters in the Dubuque area collaborate in many ways to offer service, speak out for justice issues, and pray together. It seemed quite natural to come together to offer 'Dubuque’s Got Sisters' as well,” said Sister Lou, who will be one of the sisters accompanying the group.


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BVMs Join in ‘Creating a Safe Community’

Nicole Hockley will speak on creating a safe community and working together to end gun violence on Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Loras College Marie Graber Ballroom in Dubuque, Iowa. She is the mother of Dylan Hockley, one of 20 first graders who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012. Six educators also lost their lives that day.

Nicole has become an important advocate for turning tragedy into transformation through love. She focuses on bringing people together in honest dialogue and searching for innovative solutions in the areas of mental health, school safety, community building and gun responsibility.

She will share her story and discuss the work of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization initiated by parents and spouses who lost loved ones in the mass shooting. Sandy Hook Promise seeks to identify and implement holistic, common sense solutions to make communities safer from similar acts of violence through education, outreach, and discussion.

Sisters of Charity, BVM will join with other area organizations in support of the event, sponsored by the Dubuque Coalition for Nonviolence (CNV) in conjunction with the Fr. Ray Herman Peace and Justice Center at Loras College. The Dubuque Coalition for Nonviolence was formed in 2013 and seeks to address the crisis of weapons of violence in order to create a more peaceful and nonviolent community.

For more information about the event contact Stacia McDermott at 563-588-7056 or Anastacia.mdcermott@loras.edu.

For more information on Sandy Hook Promise visit: www.sandyhookpromise.org


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New Book ‘Power of Sisterhood’ Co-authored, Co-edited by BVM

Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation, co-authored and co-edited by Mary Ann Zollman, BVM, Ph.D. (Clement Mary) has now been published. The book was initiated by a group of women religious in leadership during the time of the Apostolic Visitation, which originated in 2008 by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, to examine the quality of life of women religious in the United States.

The book serves as an historical record of the event and describes the experiences of the women who participated in it, gleaned from a survey of many congregations of women religious. Though an official Vatican response to the Apostolic Visitation is still pending, Mary Ann writes: “In this time of Vatican silence, we women religious have found our true voice and pierced the silence by our firm and courageous word and action . . .”

After framing the Visitation as a story, situating it in an historical and theological context, tracing its chronology, and detailing the experience as revealed in the survey, the book delves into the deeper meaning of the Visitation for women religious as they experienced it and as they move into the future.

BVM Barbara Cerny’s artwork, a depiction of the Visitation, is the cover illustration for the book.

Power of Sisterhood: Women Religious Tell the Story of the Apostolic Visitation, co-edited by Margaret Cain McCarthy, Ph.D. and Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM, Ph.D., is published by University Press of America, ® Inc. and can be ordered at https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780761864301.

For additional information visit www.PowerOfSisterhoodBook.com.


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Sisters of Charity, BVM Recognized for Participation in Rush Study

Staff members of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago came to Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sept. 12 to thank the Sisters of Charity, BVM who have been and currently are participants in the Rush Religious Orders’ Study, now in its 20th year.  

The overall goal of the study is to obtain reliable clinical and psychological information as well as a brain autopsy on individuals age 65 and older with no prior findings of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. David Bennett, M.D. (above), speaker for the afternoon and principal investigator of the study, shared the information that 146 BVMs have been enrolled in a variety of time spans since the study was begun in 1994. Of that total, 101 have died and their brain tissue continues to be used for further medical research.

Each participant present for the afternoon received a certificate which listed the total number of years in which she has participated in the study. Special certificates and pins were presented to four BVMs who have been part of the study for all 20 years: Mary Ellen Caldwell (Eugenio), Sue Rink (Michaela), Dorothy Gaffney, and recently deceased Catherine (Katie) McHugh (St. Thoma). At left, BVMs Dorothy Gaffney and Eileen McGovern (James Leone) wait in line to receive fleece throws, also given to all study participants.

Dr. Bennett emphasized, “We couldn’t do this without YOU!” Since January 1994, when 350 individual religious were enrolled, records indicate that a total of 1,250 religious (men and women) have participated. In the Dubuque, Iowa, area, both the Dominicans and the Trappists are currently involved in the study.

What have the scientists learned? Are there specific symptoms which might predict the disease? Do depression and loneliness play an important role in the disease? Is extreme stress a factor? If an individual remains cognitively stimulated does he/she lessen the chance of developing the disease? The scientists continue to look at the “missing pieces” and the study has proven “extraordinarily valuable for medical advancement around the world.”

—Julie O’Neill, BVM


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Nuns on the Bus: Reflection from Mary McCauley, BVM


By 9 a.m. on Thursday morning the “Nuns on the Bus” arrived at New Horizon Presbyterian Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We were greeted warmly by a number of Mercy and Notre Dame Sisters from Omaha, as well as supportive and curious residents of Council Bluffs.

Sister Claudia Robinson, the Director of Interfaith Response, welcomed us. A number of the people present were longtime volunteers for this service agency, whose major goal is to prevent homelessness.

Sister Simone then introduced the Iowa Bus Riders, explaining the reason for this 10-state tour. Those assembled resonated with the focus of our tour . . . that we are about living the Constitution . . . that our bus ride is about “We the People have the Power!  We the People have the privilege and responsibility to vote!”

Following Sister Simone’s comments we entered into a Town Hall process. Through honest and at times hesitant sharing those gathered identified the following issues as issues of concern:

 

  • Gap between the rich and the poor
  • Unemployment
  • Violence in society
  • Too much government
  • Power of big money
  • Polarization . . . hence the need to dialogue across party lines
  • Lack of communication and openness to those who do not share similar views/values

Our dialogue led us to action. All present were invited to sign the “I am a Voter” pledge cards and in turn, to invite family, members of their faith communities, and neighbors to do the same.

Finally, all present were then invited to “sign the bus” assuring their presence with us through the entire 10-state tour.

- Mary McCauley, BVM

 

To view pictures from the Nuns on the Bus recent visit to Dubuque, visit our Facebook page: http://goo.gl/30hoxV 


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BVM Sisters Celebrate Jubilees

Ten Sisters of Charity, BVM celebrated 50 years in religious life on Sunday, July 13, 2014, with a liturgy of thanksgiving in the Motherhouse Chapel at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa. The Mass was followed by a celebratory dinner.

Gathered on the steps of the Mount Carmel Motherhouse are golden jubilarians: (back row, l. to r.) Vicki Smurlo, Mary Diane Forster, Mary Anne Hoope, Maria van Werkhooven; (third row, l. to r.) Donna Bebensee, Janice Mary Pertle; (second row, l. to r.) Fran Donnelly, Barbara Brooks; (front row, l. to r.) Ann Marie Dress and Regina M. Qualls.

The “Set of 1964,” was welcomed by BVM President Teri Hadro, who noted that the group is “a set of firsts and lasts.” They were the first group to have a choice of novitiates (Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, and Guadalupe College in Los Gatos, Calif.). The 50th jubilee celebration was the first time the Set of 1964 gathered together in the same place. They were the last postulants to receive religious names and the last novices to make first vows wearing the religious habit.

BVM Frances Donnelly, who gave the jubilarian reflections at the liturgy, shared,  “Even though we began our religious life on the cusp—the ‘first of,’ the ‘last of’—we were grounded in Mary Frances Clarke’s vision and sense of what it meant to live in community and to be of service to God’s people.”

More than 20 members of the Set of 1964, who had followed other paths in life, returned to celebrate with the jubilarians. Teri noted, “. . . those who stayed and those who left are forever part of each other’s formation, of each other’s lives.”

The tumultuous era of the ’60s was also reflected in the changes taking place within the BVM community during those years, and the congregation emerged with a profound sense of listening and responding to the signs of new and complex times.

In their combined 500 years of service, the jubilarians have ministered in 11 U.S. states and five foreign countries and received many awards for excellence in their work. “Let us celebrate these valiant women whose faithfulness to God’s call and attentiveness to God’s people in mission make us proud,” Teri said.

Click here to read about this year's Golden Jubilarians.


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Acclaimed author presents insights on Jewish Mary" at October 20 event

The Council of Catholic Women of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish will host an evening with Sr. Mary Christine Athans, BVM, Ph.D, author of In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology and Spirituality (New York: Orbis Books, 2013), on Monday, October 20. Athans, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will discuss her book and present a Power Point of Marian art through the centuries at the church's Clark Ministry Center, 1335 S. Clifton Avenue in Park Ridge at 7:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public.

In the book, Athans draws on the latest historical research and the fruits of post-Vatican II Jewish-Christian dialogue, along with the insights of feminist theology and contemporary spiritual reflection, to rediscover the Jewish Mary. According to the National Catholic Reporter, "By examining the history of church doctrine concerning Mary and the history of modern scholarship on the Jewishness of Jesus, she calls our attention to the religious Jewish environment in which Mary lived and flourished. Her book invigorates Mary's centrality in the historical life of Jesus and his earliest followers, and opens a wonderful new setting for Jewish-Christian dialogue."

"Mary was a 'mom' who had to deal with fixing meals and doing laundry just like all of us," said Joan Mattingly, president of the parish's Council of Catholic Women. "This is an opportunity for us to learn more about her as a human being in the context of the world in which she lived. I very much look forward to this presentation."

For more information about the event, visit www.mswparish.org, call 847-825-0518 or email joan.mattingly.msw@gmail.com.

About the Author
Sister Mary Christine Athans, BVM, Ph.D., is professor emerita at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Presently, she is an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago and the Catholic Theological Union.

About Mary, Seat of Wisdom and the Council of Catholic Women
In 1955, as the Catholic community in northwest Chicago was burgeoning, Mary, Seat of Wisdom was established to serve the south side of the growing community of Park Ridge. Many of the early parishioners were "transplants" from nearby St. Paul of the Cross, including many women who brought their energy and enthusiasm for service and building community to their new parish. CCW was one of the founding organizations of Mary, Seat of Wisdom and has over the life of the parish been instrumental in every facet of parish life. Recognizing current social trends and the busy lives of women in the 21st century, CCW is working to engage all women in the community, asking them to participate in parish life to whatever extent they are able.


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RKC Sponsors Presentation by Archbishop Jackels

Archbishop Michael Jackels presented “Pilgrimage to Rome” on May 6 in St. Joseph Hall at Mount Carmel. The event was sponsored by the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) class, “Pilgrimages: Life Experiences Shared.”

The class offers first-person presentations from guests with firsthand experiences of pilgrimage travel, offering spiritual insights, practical information and group interaction. BVM sisters, RKC students and guests enjoyed the presentation. Gathered in St. Joseph Hall are (l. to r.) class instructor Dave Vanderah, RKC Director Carolyn Farrell and Archbishop Jackels.

Details of the Archbishop’s pilgrimage experience can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/BVMSisters.


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BVM's Address Featured in New Book of LCWR Presidential Addresses

DUBUQUE, Iowa—Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times is a book of 10 addresses delivered over the years by the presidents of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a national organization of the leaders of orders of Catholic sisters in the U.S.

Of the addresses included, one was delivered by Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Helen Maher Garvey, BVM wrote the introduction and was part of the selection committee for the book.

American Catholics discovered LCWR in April of 2012, when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) announced that, after a four-year assessment, the LCWR—whose members represent 80% of the Catholic sisters in the United States—and its pastoral and doctrinal situation presented “a matter of serious concern.”

The international storm that followed included a “60 Minutes” segment as well as tens of thousands of communications to and about LCWR, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many American Catholics expressed support, finding it difficult to square the CDF’s conclusions with their experience of the sisters as teachers, healers and role models. Indeed the hunger for the type of leadership the LCWR demonstrates was one of the reasons behind the decision to publish the book Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times.

The talks included in Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times are extraordinary in a number of ways: presenting the challenges as well as the joys of leadership, and discerning the meaning and living the reality of religious life on the cusp of two millennia—including the seismic shift from a pre-Vatican II to a post-Vatican II understanding of faith and its impact for Catholics both lay and religious. Prefacing each address is a brief summary of the key events that significantly impacted the world and the Catholic Church at the time the address was delivered at the organization’s annual assembly. The addresses speak to the challenges these events posed to leaders at that time, as well as to the call to exercise leadership that was pastoral, discerning, and at times, exceptionally courageous.


To order the book, visit http://www.orbisbooks.com/spiritual-leadership-for-challeging-times.html, or call Orbis Books at 1-800-258-5838, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST.

 


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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.”


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BVMs Continue to ‘Welcome the Stranger’


From marching in Washington, D.C., to sending a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, the Sisters of Charity, BVM demonstrate their support and shared vision for comprehensive immigration reform.

Since July 22, 2010, with the enactment of the BVM Senate Affirmation of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (http://www.bvmcong.org/socjust_reform.cfm) BVMs continue to show their solidarity in myriad ways. One of the BVM Constitutions is included in the affirmation, reflecting BVM values: “As women of the Church we are called to give strong public witness against oppression brought about by unjust political and social structures locally, nationally and internationally.”

BVMs partner with 10 other religious sister communities—the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley—who have called upon the president and congress to enact immigration reform. They invited other people of faith to join them in becoming “Immigrant Welcoming Communities.” Sisters United News (SUN), comprised of communicators from these congregations, supports and promotes the sisters’ efforts. SUN created billboards, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus’ words: “I was a stranger an immigrant and you welcomed me.” The billboards were put up in six cities across Iowa and shared with other organizations across the country. An image of the billboard is available; contact BVM Director of Communications Angie Connolly at: aconnolly@bvmcong.org.

In July, nearly 300 people, including BVMs Rose Mary Meyer and Gwen Farry, participated in an interfaith vigil for broad administrative relief for immigrants in the Kenwood/Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The candlelight procession ended outside President Obama’s home. The event was sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition/Welcoming Communities. Representing the BVMs and 8th Day Center for Justice, Gwen presented the scripture reading and reflection.

In August, Gwen and Rose Mary boarded one of the “undocumented Illinois buses to D.C.” to join with representatives from many states who gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the group held a rally before beginning the “Not 1 More Deportation National March.” The march to the Freedom Plaza culminated in a program that featured personal stories from immigrant detainees, music, dance and drama. During discussion on the long bus ride back to Chicago, participants agreed that combined advocacy is key to the issues. “Everyone felt encouraged and emboldened to continue the struggle for compassionate, humane, comprehensive immigration reform,” Gwen shared.

BVM Nancy McCarthy and Associate Sylvia Martinez volunteer at “Marie Joseph House” for men in Cicero, Ill., which houses immigrants released from the detention centers who need a place to stay while awaiting a court date. Nancy relieves weekly staff by serving as a presence at the house on Saturdays, while also instructing the residents in English; Sylvia prepares the residents’ evening meal once a week. Marie Joseph House, which also has an immigrant women’s shelter in a dormitory at Catholic Theological Union (CTU), was named for an immigrant who died while trying to come to the U.S.

Former BVM President Mary Ann Zollmann sent a letter in late July to the editor of the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa. Referencing the sign that greets people entering the state: “The People of Iowa Welcome You,” Mary Ann notes that the governor of Iowa has refused to grant a home to some 130 immigrant children already here in Iowa and is considering their deportation. “Committed to act with a global consciousness,” Mary Ann shares, “I live restlessly in my Iowa home that will not be home to me until our border greeting rings true: ‘The People of Iowa Welcome You.’”

Crossing Borders, a group of Dubuque priests, women religious and lay people, meet regularly to address comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking to the issue, BVM Mary McCauley, who was pastoral administrator at St. Bridget Parish in Postville, Iowa, during the 2008 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid, shares this statement: “In light of the humanitarian crisis at our border, we the members of Crossing Borders—Dubuque stand in solidarity with the children and families who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. It is our deepest hope that they will be welcomed warmly, that their dignity as persons will be respected, that all will receive the assistance they need to live without fear and that those who have families in the United States will be reunited. This is our opportunity in Iowa to ‘welcome the stranger!’ May we do so with integrity, justice and compassion.” Mary was among those from Crossing Borders who were featured in July on local news station KCRG, asking Iowans to welcome refugee children.

Mary also helped to organize a discussion hour at River Lights bookstore in Dubuque in August, featuring Luz Maria Hernandez, author of Shattered Dreams, depicting the life stories, told in their own words, of some of the workers affected by the 2008 immigration raid at Postville.

And “back at home,” Mount Carmel sisters and staff participated in the “Comfort the Children Project,” collecting over 200 stuffed toys for immigrant children. Three large boxes with colored pens and toys, as well as monetary donations, were sent to agencies working with the children in Texas, Arizona and California. On Aug. 15, Mount Carmel sisters and staff will gather in Loyola Hall to make soft, comforting teddy bears to send to the immigrant children.

BVMs, associates and friends are invited to participate in the upcoming Immigration Immersion experience at the Arizona/Mexico border Oct. 15–20, where participants will gain a deeper awareness of the challenges and reality of migration and its effects. For more information and registration, contact BVM Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator Tricia Lothschutz at: tlothschutz@bvmcong.org.

In their hearts, prayers and actions, BVMs continue to find ways to welcome the strangers in our midst, reflecting part of their 2010 Affirmation of Comprehensive Immigration Reform: “You shall treat the stranger who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for that person as for yourself; for you, too, were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:34.)


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