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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

Check out the latest issue of SALT!

Pope Francis has called on each of us to "Wake Up the World" - sharing our gratitude, passion and hope with others. This issue of Salt illustrates the responses of both lay persons and consecrated religious to the pope's call to action. BVM Carolyn Farrell (Lester) and Kaitlyn Timm, a student at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, forged a close friendship during an oral history project this year, fostering the link between the past, present and future.


BVMs Join Area Catholic Sisters to Host Prayer Service

The Sisters of Charity, BVM, as part of Area Catholic Sisters, invite the public to “Light for the Nations,” on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque, Iowa. A special commemorative prayer service will honor the 35th anniversary of four martyred church women in El Salvador. A social will follow the prayer service in the Cathedral Center.

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.

“The courage of these four women continues to inspire people from all around the world,” said Joy Peterson, PBVM. “We seek to honor their commitment to lay down their lives for justice and to find ways in our lives to be in solidarity with the children and families of Central America who still continue to struggle.”

A special delegation of 100 women religious and community leaders will travel to El Salvador to mark the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionaries from Nov. 28–Dec. 5. Six sisters from area congregations will be 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 is sponsored by SHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

“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,” said Paulette Skiba, BVM. “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 adds, “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 am available 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 will include 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 will also explore root causes of migration to the United States and the current challenges impoverished communities face, including increasing violence.

The prayer service on Dec. 2 is 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.


Heelan Middle School Students Combine Service with Fun

Working with the Heelan students during their annual trip to Mount Carmel are (l. to r.) Julie O’Neill, Kathy Carr, Bernadette Schvach, Geraldine Moorman, Catherina Walsh, and John Thomas Hackett (not pictured).

Working with the Heelan students during their annual trip to Mount Carmel are (l. to r.) Julie O’Neill, Kathy Carr, Bernadette Schvach, Geraldine Moorman, Catherina Walsh, and John Thomas Hackett (not pictured).

Energetic and ready to work, the eighth grade volunteers from Heelan Catholic Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa, arrived at Loyola Hall on Oct. 24 for their annual visit to Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa.

For the past five years, Julie Tebbe, their Faith Formation Coordinator, has brought a group of approximately 30 students to Dubuque to volunteer at the four area motherhouses: the BVMs, Franciscans, Presentations and Trappistines—with a group of students going to each motherhouse. They refer to the program as Operation SKIP (Sisters and Kids In Partnership).

During their years of volunteering at Mount Carmel, the students have helped clean tables and chairs in both dining rooms, have worked in the Joan Kelliher Doyle Garden, and—probably their favorite activity—helped assemble the table favors for the meal following the Memorial Mass sponsored by the BVM development office in November. This year they completed the herculean task of making over 300 favors for the November event and over 500 Santa and elf favors for the Christmas party for staff and their families.

While working on their projects, the students get to interact with the sisters who join them, sharing stories and getting to know a little about each other. Ms. Tebbe relishes the opportunity to bring the students each year so that they can have this direct contact with the sisters, and needless to say, the sisters who participate always offer to come back again. It’s definitely a “win-win” situation!

—Kathy Carr, BVM
Initial Membership Coordinator


Join Us for the 2016 Ecuador Immersion Trip!

The Ecuador Immersion Trip for 2016 is now available for registration!

April 25-May 4, 2016
Registration deadline is March 7, 2016

To find out more about the trip, visit here.

Contact: Volunteer Coordinator at

To learn more about the Working Boys Center, view this video:


Sisters and Students Build Lasting Friendships

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

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


Artwork of James Ann Walsh Included in Local Museum Exhibit

"Birch Trees" and "Abstract Watercolor" by James Ann Walsh are featured at the Dubuque Museum of Art in the Ruttenberg exhibit.

Two paintings of BVM artist and teacher, James Ann Walsh, will be on display at the Dubuque, Iowa, Museum of Art as part of the exhibit, Janet Ruttenberg: Figure in the Landscape / Kathy Ruttenberg: Landscape in the Figure, which will run from Oct. 24 through March 20.

Born in Dubuque in 1931, artist Janet Lee (Kadesky) Ruttenberg was taught for a short time by Sister James Ann and another teacher, artist Dorothy Bechtel Rossiter, whose work will also be featured in the exhibit. Sister James Ann’s artwork, “Birch Trees” and “Abstract Watercolor,” is featured.

Janet left Iowa at age 14 before returning to study at the University of Iowa. Since 1965 she has lived and worked in New York City, declining to exhibit or sell her work. Currently and for the past 15 years, she can be found most days in Central Park working on her signature paintings.

The exhibit marks the first time the mother/daughter artists will display their work together and explores each artist’s focus on the human figure and the natural world through painting and sculpture.


Mary Ellen Caldwell, BVM: Powerhouse in a Small Package

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

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.

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


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.”


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


Anita Therese Hayes Honored at Archivist Conference

Anita Therese Hayes, BVM (l.) is congratulated by current Mount Carmel Archivist Jennifer Head.

Anita Therese Hayes, BVM (l.) is congratulated by current Mount Carmel Archivist Jennifer Head.

The Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious (ACWR) commemorated the 25th anniversary of its founding this year at its August Triennial Meeting in Pittsburgh. At the celebration, Anita Therese Hayes, BVM, was honored as one of nine religious sisters who were founding members. All of these women joined ACWR in 1990 or 1991.

Anita Therese became the archivist for the Sisters of Charity, BVM in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1991. She earned a certificate in Professional Development in Archival Administration in 1995 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also served on the ACWR Election Committee from 1998 to 2003.

Though she retired as the Mount Carmel archivist in 2004, Anita Therese continues to serve in the archives daily as a volunteer, where her extensive knowledge of congregational history and familiarity with the archives is invaluable.

ACWR was established on Sept. 1, 1990. Membership is open to those individuals interested in furthering archival and historical services to women religious. For more information about ACWR visit: or contact the national office at


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.


New Director Takes Helm at Mount Carmel’s Roberta Kuhn Center

The “Annual Class Display and Reception” for participants of the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) at Mount Carmel took place on April 30–May 1. At this time the BVM Council took the opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude to Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) for her eight years of service as director of the RKC. In a paraphrase of a popular lyric from the Sound of Music, they queried:     

How do you thank a leader like Carolyn?

How do you find the words to wish her well?

How do you find a word that captures Carolyn?

What would Wikipedia say, pray tell?

Those gathered responded with applause, cheers, and by presenting Carolyn with a plant, flowers and a memory book to accompany an overflowing basket of cards. As everyone bid farewell to Carolyn, they also welcomed Karen Kane-Heber, who will serve as the new RKC director.

Karen is an educator and alumna of Clarke University. She came to Mount Carmel after years of service in the Holy Family Catholic Schools in Dubuque, Iowa. She has already met many of the RKC faculty and is working with Carolyn in planning classes for 2015–16. Her contagious enthusiasm and dedication to the BVM core values will serve her well as she begins this new journey.


Check out the latest issue of SALT!

“As women of the Church, we are called to give strong public witness against oppression brought about by unjust political and social structures . . . (BVM Constitution #17).” In this issue, learn how BVMs continue to embody this guiding principle in ministry and care for others and our earth. Photo: Activities staff member Annie Birch assists Paul Francis Bailey, BVM as she sews diapers from recycled T-shirts.






Currents of Change Features News for Alumni, Friends of BVMs

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Meet Our Newest Associates


Click here to meet our newest Associates


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



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.


Read all the Wonderful Thank a Nun messages you shared with us

To read the Thank a Nun messages, click here.


BVMs Collaborate with Others to Promote Events for Year of Consecrated Life

Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life (November 2014–February 2016)—a year to express gratitude to women and men who have committed themselves to this lifestyle and to encourage others to consider responding to the call of religious life.

BVMs throughout the United States are involved at the local level in promoting events to raise awareness of religious life. In Dubuque, Iowa, the communication and initial membership offices have helped the Archdiocese develop a special section on their website dedicated to information on religious life and the leadership team is collaborating with other religious congregations on three events proposed by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR): an open house on Feb. 8, a collaborative service project during the summer of 2015, and a day of prayer on Sept. 13.

The Year of Consecrated Life will focus on the following three objectives:

  • to express gratitude for those who live a consecrated life;
  • to embrace the future with hope, trusting in the God who calls us; and
  • to live the present with passion, helping one another to realize the beauty of following Christ in the various types of religious vocations.


A new section will be developed on the Archdiocesan website ( with links to a wide variety of resources for use in parishes, schools, prayer groups, etc. Please check this website frequently for updates. The Archdiocesan Education Resource Center will also have new DVDs and other resources available.

Monthly Adoration:

On the second Sunday of each month from 4:30–5:30 p.m., the Trappistine Sisters at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, are sponsoring an Adoration Hour for vocations to the consecrated life. All are welcome.

Links to Resources:

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
(major resource)

Women and Spirit, Smithsonian Exhibit and Study Guide (excellent classroom resources)

Leadership Conference of Women Religious (stories of women entering)

National Religious Vocation Conference (logo and new materials throughout the year)

Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life:
O God, throughout the ages you have called women and men to pursue lives of charity through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of Faith and models of inspiration.

Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, seek to serve you above all things.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Information is provided by the Archdiocese of Dubuque DAVA (Dubuque Area Vocation Association).

Other Celebrations Where BVMs are Located:

Diocese of San Jose:

BVMs and associates attended a presentation by Simone Campbell at Santa Clara University, one of several events celebrating the year of consecrated life initiated by the Council of Religious. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of San Jose. BVM Marilyn Wilson serves on the Council. Simone Campbell, public advocate for peace-building, immigration reform, healthcare and economic justice, reflects on the integral relationship between faith and justice within her own vocation and shares her journey as a “Nun on the Bus” to ignite social change. If you would like to view Simone’s talk, visit:

The Diocese of San Jose honored and remembered the religious women and men who have dedicated their lives to the schools in the diocese at the opening Catholic Schools Week Mass in January.

For more information on diocesan events read the flyer:

Jackson, Miss.:

BVM Therese Jacobs organized a screening of the documentary, “Women and Spirit, Catholic Sisters in America,” followed by a discussion and talk given by Helen Garvey, BVM, who was chairperson of the LCWR committee that prepared the Women and Spirit exhibit.

Archdiocese of San Francisco

Through the Council of Sisters, the archdiocese has asked each parish to plan an event in their parish or join with a neighboring one to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. St. Matthias Church in Redwood City hosted “Celebrating Sisters” at Mass on Feb. 8.

Archdiocese of Chicago

The new Center for Consecrated Life is now in operation at the Catholic Theological Institute, with a grand opening event planned.
A BVM evening of prayer in celebration of consecrated life was held Feb. 7 in Chicago.
Our Lady of Angels will feature an evening of prayer, supper and fellowship to celebrate consecrated life on May 8, hosted by the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago. For more information contact:

Diocese of Arlington, Va.
The diocese held a Mass and reception in February in celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life.


Hearing Loops at Mount Carmel Enhance Sisters’ World

Thanks to the generosity of donors Cathy and Bob Everhart, hearing loops have now been installed at Mount Carmel in the Motherhouse Chapel and St. Joseph Hall. The Everharts’ gift enables our hearing impaired sisters to participate fully in the liturgy and in community presentations and meetings. Read the entire article here.


BVM Leadership Team Message on Apostolic Visitation Report

We have reviewed the “Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States” and are pleased with the positive and affirming report. The picture of women religious in the U.S. is presented accurately.

The points lifted up for further reflection by the report concern the essence of consecrated life. Self-reflection is not a new process for BVMs who will continue to share insights with each other and with those with whom we minister as we have always done since our founding.

We are delighted by the collaborative nature of the report and its widespread availability and transparency. This form of exchange is a new experience from the Vatican and we are encouraged that dialogue will be continued.

We are especially grateful to all of our sisters who we have shared in this process from the beginning and to the countless other friends who have shown their support in multiple ways.

President, Teri Hadro, BVM
Vice President, Mira Mosle, BVM
Vice President, Kate Hendel, BVM

Presentation of the report on congregations of US women religious

Final Report of the Apostolic Visitation


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