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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

Read the latest issue of Salt magazine!

The new issue of Salt is now online! Read how our BVM sisters and staff come together in community.  Click here to download magazine.


Induction of New BVM Leadership Team Celebrated

The Sisters of Charity, BVM celebrated the installation of the new leadership team: (center, l. to r.) Second Vice President LaDonna Manternach, President Teri Hadro, and First Vice President Lou Anglin during a special ceremony at Mount Carmel on July 31.

Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM (Clement Mary) welcomed sisters, family, friends and guests and invited all to prayer. The blessing of the former leadership team, President Teri Hadro, BVM; First Vice President Mira Mosle, BVM; and Second Vice President Catherine (Kate) E. Hendel, BVM was followed by the calling forth of the new leadership team as each was presented with a candle by Joellen McCarthy, BVM.

Affirmation and blessing by the congregation preceded the closing song as sisters affirmed their sharing of leadership, in mutual commitment, in joyful participation, in loving growth, in faithfulness to the Spirit of God, and in the spirit of Foundress Mary Frances Clarke. With gratitude, they blessed Kate (far l.) and Mira (far r.) who have guided the community for the past four years.


Diamonds Celebrate Jubilee

BVMs Carl Loras Pilmaier and Janita Curoe process from their Jubilarian Mass celebration.

BVMs Carl Loras Pilmaier and Janita Curoe process from their Jubilarian Mass celebration.

On Sept. 11, 2016, the Sets of 1943, 1944 and 1946 gathered to celebrate their diamond jubilees at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa, with family and friends. Our jubilarians have been teachers, administrators, congregational leaders, chaplains, pastoral ministers, artists, librarians and much more. They have striven to educate and promote justice and caring for others and the earth in all their missions.

BVM Vice President Lou Anglin, in her welcome, shared: "Looking around the chapel this morning, our jubilarians continue to give testimony on how to live as women of faith in our world. They touch our lives and inspire us through their lives of faithful friendship, concern for the needs of the world, and devotion to prayer. They continue to be the eyes and hands of Christ and show us how to be the same."

Thank you Sisters!

To read more about each sister celebrating her jubilee, or to send her a congratulatory message, visit:

To view additional photos, visit:


Set of 1943
BVMs are: (standing, l. to r.) Geneve Moran, Jean M. Byrne (Jean Francis), Karen Pollard, Julia Acosta (Lorenzo), Eleanor Craggs; (seated, l. to r.) Rita Mary Zander (Magdalene), Mary Frances Shafer (Francis Edward), and Rose André Koehler.

Set of 1944:
BVMs are: (standing, l. to r.): Mary Ann Lenore Eifert, Mary McElmeel (Eugenne); (seated, l. to r.): Mary Enid Lodding, Mary L. Stokes (Charlotte), Carol Frances Jegen, and Barbara Cerny.


Set of 1946
All sisters entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1946, except for Mary Angela Buser, BVM, who entered Feb. 2, 1946. BVMs are: (standing, l. to r.): Marian Hurley (Willliam Marie), Kathleen O’Sullivan (Donall), Dorothy Gaffney, Joan Stritesky (Magdaletta), Mary Angela Buser, Helen Jeanne Hurley, Janita Curoe, Kathleen Spurlin (Bernardone), Carl Loras Pilmaier, Margaret Devereux (Williamette); (seated, l. to r.) Marie Neff (Charles Marie) and Dolores Doohan (Sarah James). 



BVMs Mary Ernest Rothe (l.) and Suzanne Stopper were unable to attend.


BVM Celebrates 100th!

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

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

Relatives, friends and former students joined Ann Regina on Sunday, Sept. 4, at Mount Carmel for a celebratory liturgy followed by dinner. BVM President Teri Hadro, in her welcome, noted: “Two of the lovely things about Ann Regina are her wonderful laugh and that she doesn’t take herself too seriously . . . she is a woman of many talents and within her 100 years accomplished much that is noteworthy.”

But more than that, this was a celebration of the woman Ann Regina is and the relationships she nurtured. Teri spoke warmly of Ann Regina’s “walking hug” of encouragement for others, now replaced by a “rolling hug” accompanied by her unfailing, effusive response to greetings from others.

When asked how it felt to be 100 years old, Ann Regina responded to another sister, “Honey, I don’t know how it feels. I just try to take each day as it comes!” She added that she was overwhelmed and grateful to everyone who helped celebrate her 100th birthday.




Catherine Dunn, BVM Honored

Catherine Dunn, BVM, president emerita of Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, was honored Sept. 29 with the 2016 “50-50 in 2020” Equity for Women Award. Catherine has represented the BVM congregation in many areas of service to the church and community and has received a multitude of awards, from Dubuque’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1986 to reception of the Vatican’s Papal Medal in 2005.

“Sister Catherine used her leadership abilities at every opportunity to make positive differences in the lives of people from many walks of life,” said Maggie Tinsman, former Iowa state senator. 50-50 in 2020 is an initiative to recruit and elect enough women by 2020 so that half of Iowa’s legislature and congressional delegation will be women and a woman will have been elected governor.


Welcome to Vietnamese Sisters!

Global sisterhood is up close and personal at Mount Carmel!

Vietnamese IHM Sisters (l. to r.) Chihn, Tram and Tuyen explore the Mount Carmel campus after their arrival in September. Tram and Tuyen will live at Mount Carmel as they begin their studies at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, while Chihn will attend a college in Connecticut. Welcome, Sisters!

“We are very excited to be able to engage in mission by assisting our global sisters in this way,” says BVM President Teri Hadro. “We are grateful for the hospitality, prayers and many contributions so many will offer on behalf of our new global residents.”

BVMs Mary Crimmin (Agnes) and Marion Murphy (John Patrice) will serve as “house mothers” to assist in the transition of these sisters to our culture and customs. Judy Callahan, BVM (Eugene Mary) will coordinate tutoring at Mount Carmel for the sisters, Carol Marie Baum, BVM (Joseph Louis) will coordinate transportation to and from Divine Word College, and BVM Angele Lutgen will work with volunteers to provide various needs of the sisters. BVMs living in both the Dubuque area and at a distance will also contribute their assistance in many ways.


Congratulations to BVM Golden Jubilarians!

Mary Ann Cronin, BVM and Susan Coler, BVM celebrated their golden jubilees with an Evening Prayer of Jubilee and Gratitude on April 12 in the Mount Carmel Motherhouse Chapel, followed by a reception. Read more about these sisters at



BVMs Join in Welcoming Refugees

The Sisters of Charity, BVM are one of 10 communities of Midwest Catholic Sisters who are calling on citizens, President Barack Obama, and federal, state and local politicians to work together to welcome refugees.

The sisters have launched a public awareness campaign to remind potential candidates and voters to remember this critical issue when they head to the polls in November.

Billboards urging communities to welcome refugees have been placed in the Quad Cities, Des Moines, Dubuque and Clinton, Iowa; Kieler and Madison, Wis.; and Omaha, Neb. Prayer services near some of the billboard sites have been scheduled and postcards are available to be sent to federal, state and local government officials nationwide.

In Dubuque, BVMs gathered with other area sisters on June 20 at Dubuque Auto Plaza, site of one of the billboards, for a prayer service. The event was organized by Mira Mosle, BVM, who spoke to local KCRG news. See the interview at:

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

The billboards feature the message based on the words of Jesus and taken from the Gospel of Matthew: “I was a stranger a refugee and you welcomed me.” They will remain posted through June and July. The postcards read: “As a person of faith, I am writing to ask you to speak out against fear-mongering and inflammatory rhetoric about refugees. I oppose any legislation that would block the resettlement of refugees of any nationality or religion in the United States of America.”

BVMs have worked with refugees for many years as part of their ministry and continue to do so today whenever possible. They also offer financial assistance for refugees through their congregational ministry grants, providing education, shelter and settlement support where needed.

St. Regina Wagner, BVM recalls the year 1975, when Vietnamese families arrived at St. Mary Parish in Lincoln, Neb. “This began a whole new ministry for me . . . as mentor, help and support for families in finding doctors, adequate and safe places to live, transporting them to English classes, finding fair and suitable jobs, advising them with money matters and countless other services.”

Diane Rapozo, BVM (Malia) says, “When the Hmong people arrived in Wausau, Wis., from Vietnam [in the 1980s], they chose St. Anne Parish for their community . . . being their representative was a very rich experience for me.”

Mary Martens, BVM (Loras) recently tutored a local college student living at Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque, whose family emigrated from Indonesia. Working with the student on writing and speech assignments, Mary says, “She’s bright and actually taught herself English at age 12; she’s determined and disciplined.”

Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie), who was pastoral minister at the time of the infamous workplace immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, shares, “Currently my direct contact with refugees is limited; however my advocacy for their rights and concern for their dignity and freedom is very much alive!”

The Sisters of Charity, BVM and the Midwest Catholic Sisters invite you to join them in becoming refugee welcoming communities! To download postcards to send to your political representatives, go to:

The following congregations of Catholic Sisters are coordinating this public awareness campaign: the Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wis.; Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation, Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of the Visitation, all in Dubuque; Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; Sisters of St. Benedict, Rock Island, Ill.; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, Wis.; and Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Community, Omaha, Neb. For more information, visit


BVM Honored with Human Rights Award

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

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

Mary McCauley, BVM (Mercedie) was honored with the Human Rights Award presented by Church Women United, Inc., at the 2016 May Friendship Day held at Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque, Iowa. This year’s service theme was “Finding Grace at the Table.” The featured program focused on “I was an immigrant/refugee and you welcomed me.”

In her own words, Mary replayed poignant scenes of confusion and fear during the workplace immigration raid at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, eight years ago. Serving as pastoral administrator at St. Bridget Parish in Postville, Mary was instrumental in offering support, comfort, help and hope to the workers and their families.

“I accept this honor in the name of all seekers of justice . . . and of all of my friends in Postville who were affected by the devastating immigration raid on May 12, 2008,” Mary shared. “May this award honor all those who suffer because of our current day injustices.”

BVM First Vice President Mira Mosle and Mary Martens, BVM (Loras) spoke at the event, emphasizing that “justice continues to be the aim of BVMs” as they live the call to “Welcome the Stranger.”


BVMs Join Sisters to Promote Care of Earth

BVMs and other Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi Valley joined together in issuing a call to action to care for the environment—through legislation to reduce carbon emissions, developing clean energy policies, and providing financial assistance to developing countries.

More than 20 billboards with the message “Standing with Pope Francis; Caring for our Common Home” have been placed in Iowa from January through early February in advance of the caucuses to remind delegates, potential presidential candidates, and voters of this critical issue. Billboards are also placed in Illinois and Wisconsin.

In Dubuque, Iowa, about 50 sisters, associates and friends carrying placards with the billboard message gathered at 8th and White Streets for a prayer service on Jan. 27, where one of the billboards is displayed. Watch the video at:

Prayer services were also held by the sisters in Davenport, Iowa, on Jan. 27, and will be held at the other billboard sites listed below on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. 

Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth Committee (CSHE) initiated the plan for the billboards and prayer services. Made up of representatives from the sponsoring women religious communities, CSHE urges others to heed the cry of Earth and of those who suffer from the effects of climate change, just as Pope Francis called us to take action to care for our Common Home in his recent encyclical, Laudata Sí.

CSHE Committee Member Carol Marie Baum, BVM (Joseph Louis) says: “It is our belief that we can make the difference with a change of heart and the realization that as ONE PLANET, ONE FAMILY we are capable of making the choices that can change the trajectory of the future.”

Catholic Sisters in collaboration on the billboard campaign are: Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis.; Benedictine Sisters of Rock Island, Ill.; Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community; Notre Dame Sisters of the Central Province; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, LaCrosse, Wis.; Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa; Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa; Sisters United News (SUN); and Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Sisters, and Visitation Sisters, all of Dubuque, Iowa.

The Sisters’ “Care for our Common Home” message and image was first shared in September 2015 during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, when ads were placed in USA Today and local diocesan papers.

Des Moines, Iowa
January 31
12:00 p.m. 
808 42nd St.

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


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


‘Motherhouse Road Trip’ Features Two BVMs in Dubuque, Iowa

A Nun’s Life Ministry took to the road to visit the Sisters of Charity, BVM at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa, on Tuesday, March 1.

The podcast was live-streamed (audio and video) over the internet as two BVM sisters, Lou Anglin and Paulette Skiba, joined the hosts, Sister Julie Vieira and Sister Maxine Kollasch, to discuss the traditions of religious life including discernment, prayer and spirituality. A live chat room provided online listeners the ability to interact with each other and the sisters during the podcast.

Lou Anglin, BVM became acquainted with the BVMs while a student at Clarke University in Dubuque. “The BVMs really created that sense of community,” she says. “I saw them as very capable, human women . . . I felt at home to be myself.” Asked when she finally discerned that she was called to join the BVMs, Lou shares: “I just felt I couldn’t not do this. I think God is telling us often, encouraging us to follow our hearts and to listen.”

Lou taught middle school in Iowa, Alabama and St. Louis, where she lived for nearly 20 years. She served in an all-girls high school as religion teacher, campus minister, and freshmen basketball coach. During that time, she completed a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University Chicago. She recently concluded her ministry on the congregation’s Initial Membership Team.

“The world opened up for me because of the people my life has become entangled with,” shares Paulette Skiba, BVM. “I didn’t want this to be one year, two years—I wanted it to be a life commitment.” She adds, “You don’t need to come with the skills in community . . . you grow into them.” Her first ministry was teaching third grade in Chicago. After completing a doctorate in systematic theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Paulette joined the faculty at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where she has taught in the religious studies department for more than 20 years and serves as department chair.

Sisters Julie and Maxine, who are Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Mich., founded A Nun’s Life in 2006 as an internet-based ministry promoting the belief that each person is called by God to a vocation that enriches the individual and the world.


BVMs Appointed to Dual Leadership Positions at Xavier College Preparatory

Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix has announced that longtime Principal Mary Joan Fitzgerald, BVM (John Raymond) will become the school’s president, and Vice Principal of Academics and Campus Minister Joan Nuckols, BVM will become its new principal. Both positions are effective July 1, and exemplify an emerging administration model of dual leadership structure offering shared authority and responsibilities to better serve Catholic high schools, students, families and communities.

As principal since 1974, Mary Joan Fitzgerald has built a tradition of excellence at Xavier, winning numerous awards for academic excellence and innovation. Joan Nuckols joined Xavier in 1974 as history teacher. Prior to her current position, she served as department chair of social studies and theology and continues to teach Advanced Placement European history. She holds two master’s degrees, one in European history and one in education administration.

The school has been staffed by the Sisters of Charity, BVM since 1943, when they established the Catholic high school for girls known as Xavier College Preparatory.


For BVM Volunteers, Lent Signifies Service

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

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

BVM sisters and associates gathered with other volunteers at St. Patrick Parish in Dubuque, Iowa, on Ash Wednesday to prepare and serve a meal to those in need.

“It was an opportunity to meet and interact with over 90 guests—men and women of all ages plus some young children,” says Mary Martens, BVM (Loras). “The workers who serve this parish meal on a weekly basis provide a welcoming environment in which all can enjoy fellowship and food.”

BVM Associate Marilyn Heinz has been the driving force behind the meal for over three decades. “Marilyn and her parish crew do this every week and get donations from different churches in Dubuque,” says Associate Grace Mendez. “She knows what people will and won't eat and has recipes in her head for serving over 100 people!”

Donard Collins, BVM adds, “Marilyn has everything organized down to the last detail: I crushed potato chips for the tuna casserole! I had a few minutes to visit with the guests that came in early out of the cold, and it was a wonderful way to begin Lent.”

Serving the community meal has a deeper meaning for many of the volunteers. “Being with the dinner guests at St. Patrick reminds me that we are all a part of a world that needs one another,” shares Jean Gordon, BVM (James Miriam).

“It was a joy to help serve the meal with the sisters,” says Associate Jeanne Harrington. “There are so many needs in the world—and the BVMs are so responsive to them. Marilyn has been so amazing in her commitment to feeding folks each week and that, too, is an inspiration!”

BVM Diane Rapozo (Malia) takes it further. “Serving a meal at St. Patrick Parish gave me a chance to have conversations with a few of the people. It made me realize I must go further than serving a meal,” she shares. “I need to contact elected officials to see what we can do to break the unjust economic system.”


BVM Sisters and Associates Resolve to Work for Justice

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

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

The Sisters of Charity, BVM can trace their support of farmworkers to 1970s’ California, where Carol Frances Jegen, BVM was active with the farm workers and became a personal friend to Cesar Chavez. For 40 years, BVMs have been a member organization of the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM). Since 2011, BVM Mary Martens (Loras) has represented the BVMs in NFWM and advocated for farmworker issues.

Ann DeNicolo, BVM (Ann Thomas), currently serving the farmworker community of Arcadia, Fla., invited associates and sisters to spend several days learning about her ministry. From Jan. 13–17, Associates Virginia Piecuch, Kimberly Emery and Nancy McCarville joined BVMs Colleen McGinnity (Rose Maureen), Sharon Rezmer, Joyce Rohlik and Carol Cook (Conrad Ann), who has longstanding ties to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The group looked forward to “A renewed understanding of the work of the farmworkers and the advocacy of CIW for fair food.”

At the CIW headquarters, coalition staff shared a story of unfair wages and horrific working conditions for migrant workers until 1993, when a group of six organized and protested. Goals were to eliminate abuse, guarantee better wages, and improve conditions in the fields.

Remarkable success has been realized as 14 major corporations (including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and WalMart) have come to the table to negotiate, leaving two holdouts: Publix supermarkets and Wendy’s. Workers are now guaranteed the minimum wage, rest breaks, toilet facilities, and no tolerance for sexual abuse of women at work. A major victory was achieved as corporations agreed to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes. CIW hopes to win the same concession for strawberries.

A visit was arranged to the Casa Santa Maria soup kitchen and to the Guadalupe Church where the initial group of six first met to plan their protest strategy.

The DeSoto Cares Drop-in Center for the Homeless was developed and staffed by volunteers with a budget under $9,000. The Center provides hot showers, laundry and mailboxes—with computers and job training slated for the future.

At the Arcadia Center for the Needy, “James” welcomed the group with his wide smile and vivacious personality. Formerly living in the woods and eating from dumpsters, this volunteer has taken charge of the facility, rising each day to prepare a hot breakfast for the homeless who line up at 4:15 a.m.

The state-of-the-art housing community, Casa San Juan Bosco, built by Catholic Charities, offers affordable living to families who paid excessive rents for substandard trailers. Amenities include gardens, a play park, community center, after-school programs, and mothers’ groups.

The day’s outing continued to Arcadia’s Catholic Charities Office, where Edith, the daughter of migrant workers, explained Links2Success, an educational opportunity program for youth. She serves as an ambassador for the program, which provided her with the resources and guidance to attend college. Formerly shy and marginalized, this young woman has found her voice and offers a helping hand to those coming up behind her.

Also at Catholic Charities was a glimpse into Ann’s ministry, answering the needs of her clients with resources including food, clothes, and financial assistance. Advocating for Arcadian farmworkers for 15 years, Ann has gained the trust and love of this community.

Participants approached this trip focused on “better understanding of” and “increased sensitivity toward” the cause of the farmworkers. As they departed, questions challenged them: how to pass on new learnings and resolve to promote justice for farmworkers.

Carol reflected, “Time in Immokalee brought back memories of work with CIW when I served as BVM representative to the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM). My first contact was one winter day when workers arrived in Chicago to lobby Taco Bell to increase wages to tomato pickers by a penny. This turned into a boycott which lasted three years. Next came the campaign with McDonalds. I, also, observed the development of leadership skills by the workers, watching a young man who hung back at the demonstration and who in a year or two was out front organizing the others.”

Colleen admired the deep commitment of people making life better for workers in Immokalee and Arcadia, including Ann. Joyce valued the impact one person can have, saying, “Each speaker was powerful and touched my heart.”

With new insight, Virginia admitted, “I hoped to meet more migrant workers, but instead I came to know them through those who assist them. Long time volunteers and local people, who were once helped by others, are completing the circle and forming community with each other.”

Encouraged to take action and willing to write letters in support of the Fair Food Program, participants share their positive experience at Immokalee and encourage others to take advantage when another opportunity is offered.

—Associate Co-coordinator Nancy McCarville


Check out the latest issue of SALT!

The new issue of Salt is now online! Read how our BVM sisters promote peace and nonviolence in a diverse array of ministries—Freed by Love, Acting for Justice. Find out more at:






Local Art Gallery Features Work of Margaret Mear, BVM

Margaret Mear, BVM (Jacoba) is one of the artists whose work appears in the current show “Creatures Great and Small” at Outside the Lines Art Gallery in Dubuque, Iowa, from January through February. Her exhibited artwork entitled “The Leap” received a Best of Show award.

Margaret also has a sculpture on display for the Art on the River exhibit at the Port of Dubuque. “Always the Horrors of War” is one of 10 pieces selected by a jury of experts that will be on display in the exhibit for a year. Margaret is the first woman religious to have her art chosen for this event. View a video of this exhibit here.

In addition to these exhibits, she has two drawings entitled “Dumbarton” and “Gironde” on display in the online show with Colors of Humanity Art Gallery at Artwork is arranged by the artist’s last name and can be viewed until the end of January.

Margaret was a professor of art for over 30 years at St. Mary University in Winona, Minn.


Diana Malone, BVM Leaves ‘Hands-on Legacy’ for Students

After nearly 50 years in the Chemistry Department at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, longtime department chair and faculty member Diana Malone, BVM retired at the end of the fall 2015 semester. Rather than “watch someone else do it” during classes, Diana insisted on hands-on use by students in all chemistry class levels, fostering her philosophy of competitiveness for the future. Read her story at:


Remembering the Sandy Hook Victims

"What we're doing here tonight is just try to raise consciousness so we can end violence in general, and in particular, gun violence," said Carolyn Farrell with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. View the KWWL news story and a short video clip of BVM Judy Callahan about why she participated in the vigil at


Former BVMs Remain ‘Sisters’ for Life

A remarkable group of women—known as former BVMs—are living out the BVM charism and still walking with their "sisters" in spirit along diverse and rewarding paths.

Their roots in the congregation served as a foundation for the lives they went on to lead, and many of them return to Mount Carmel each year to celebrate jubilees with set members or mark special events.

Who are these women? Many have maintained close friendships with their sisters; some have become BVM associates; most all remain connected to the community in love and support.

Marianne Littau attended St. Jerome and St. Gertrude elementary schools in Chicago and became acquainted early on with the BVMs. As a student at Mundelein College, Chicago, she shares, "The wonderful BVMs who taught me were intelligent, caring women, very professional and committed to seeing us grow as women who could do and be whatever we wanted."

By her senior year, Marianne knew she wanted to join the community and teach mathematics. She taught at Mundelein, completed her master’s degree in math, and directed a program for adult women returning to college.

"After leaving the community, I worked in finance at a large corporation," says Marianne. "I guess I haven’t strayed very far from numbers in some form."

Marianne feels that she gained a lifelong interest in learning from the BVMs, as well as a commitment to social justice, an interest in other cultures, and self confidence.

"I continue to receive great support from the BVMs," she says. "Two years ago, I contracted a serious autoimmune disease . . . I have recovered almost totally. Through the long process, I have felt the support and prayers of BVMs and former BVMs . . . and am immensely grateful."

Marianne adds, "Given my feelings about BVMs and all the ways my life has intersected with the life of the community, I can’t imagine not supporting them. I value all the ways the BVMs have helped me grow and develop as a person."

Jean O’Keefe did not meet the BVMs until her high school years at Our Lady of Peace in St. Paul, Minn. "I experienced superior teaching and met many religious women who impressed me with their strengths and talents," she says. She entered the BVMs in 1964, driven by "a sense of service and commitment to something larger than myself."

Jean spent 13 years in the community. Then, "no longer feeling called to a life separate from the broader faith community" Jean decided to leave. She went to work in the marketing field. "The BVMs gave me a great sense of my abilities and of the value of community in all walks of life," she says. Jean remains close to the congregation and has stayed connected to many of the women who entered in 1964. She supports the BVMs because "I believe the community has and continues to do good work and supports the good work of others."

Like Marianne, Mary Hardiman-Desmond first encountered BVMs in elementary school, at St. Dorothy in Chicago. She remembered the BVMs as "happy women" and a group of "incredible educators." She entered the community in 1965.

"We were young women anxious to make a difference in our world," Mary recalls. "We became ‘other-centered,’ grounded, and emotionally and spiritually alive."

Mary feels that her set formed a true sisterhood which has stood the test of time for the last 50 years. "Our time in community was an incredible period of growth for all of us. My time as a BVM helped to make me the woman I am; the values, commitment, and my choice to work with the less fortunate all stem from the incredible women I had as role models."

In leaving the community, Mary shares, "I never felt that I was truly leaving, but rather, carrying with me all that I had learned from the BVMs."

Mary became a public school teacher on the south side of Chicago. "I loved making a difference in the lives of kids whom others had given up on," she says.

She married her husband Mike in 1976; they have two children and a new grandchild, who is "a special gift of love."

Mary feels that the BVMs challenged and guided her into becoming the best she could be. "I will always support the BVMs and thank God that they supported me."



Dubuque’s Got Sisters Sponsors Fall Discernment Weekend

Two of the discernment weekend participants visit with Lou Anglin at dinner.

Two of the discernment weekend participants visit with Lou Anglin at dinner.

Eight young women arrived at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa, to participate in the sixth annual “Dubuque’s Got Sisters” (DGS) fall discernment retreat the weekend of Nov. 13-14.

The retreat is a collaborative event sponsored by four area religious congregations—the Dubuque Presentations, the Dubuque Franciscans, the Sinsinawa Dominicans, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM—to help women discern how God is calling them in their life.

A major focus of the weekend is the process of discernment itself, as well as general information on how religious life continues to reach out to those on the margins of our society.

Interwoven throughout the weekend are input from the sisters, time for questions and discussion, experiences of prayer and opportunities for quiet reflection, journaling, and talking informally with the vocation directors and one another. The women also enjoy their interaction with our sisters in the Caritas dining room.

This year we also had the “gift” of two current novices sharing their journey to religious life: our own Sharon Rezmer, and Christin Tomy, OP, who is a “graduate” of our previous DGS weekends.

One of the weekend’s participants wrote to us afterward, sharing what the weekend meant to her: “I am so glad you gave us the opportunity to discern our call this month. I was pleased with myself for attending—it helped me at this time of discernment. It was truly a blessing and a well-needed encounter getting to know all of you. The gift of each of you was what made the weekend so memorable. I look forward to participating in the retreat next spring.”

—Kathy Carr and Lou Anglin
Initial Membership Coordinators


BVMs Travel with Area Catholic Sisters on Delegation to El Salvador

Religious sisters Dorothy Kazel, OSU; Ita Ford, MM; and Maura Clarke, MM; and their associate Jean Donovan were brutally murdered by Salvadoran National Guard members 35 years ago on Dec. 2, 1980. The four women had committed their lives to accompanying the children and families who had fallen victim to the escalating violence and oppression that eventually led to the civil war in El Salvador.

A special delegation of 100 women religious and community leaders traveled to El Salvador to mark the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionaries from Nov. 28–Dec. 5. Six sisters from area congregations were part of the group, including BVMs Carolyn Farrell (Lester), and Paulette Skiba; Dubuque Franciscans Charlotte Enright and Judy Sinnwell; and Sinsinawa Dominicans Mary Howard Johnstone and Pam Mitchell. The delegation was sponsored by SHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

During the trip, on the anniversary of the women's deaths, Paulette Skiba, BVM shared: "This was a very moving day. We remembered the 35th anniversary of the deaths of Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean as well as the death of Maryknoll Sister Carla ZPiette who drowned in a flash flood the same year. As we turned off the highway towards the place where they were killed and buried in a shallow grave the buses became siletn as we bumped along - on my bus a chorus of 'Be Not Afraid; began and it seemed as if we were accompanying them 35 years later but no less present . . . "

She adds: “The witness of the four church women in El Salvador who chose to stay in a dangerous situation in order to accompany the poor during a very violent time has always been an inspiration to me. I was discerning a call to religious life at the time of their deaths. Several people told me religious life was no longer relevant in the contemporary world. Their faith and commitment convinced me of the opposite: that there was nothing more relevant.”

BVM Carolyn Farrell shares, “The rape and murder of the four Catholic Church women Dec. 2, 1980, in El Salvador was one of the pivotal moments in my life. I awoke to the clock radio news describing this horrendous tragedy. As I pondered these ordinary women working for the poor and marginalized, I thought, ‘Carolyn what is your life all about?’ This year I was able to join the delegation to El Salvador, that I call a pilgrimage, to lift up and honor with gratitude the inspiration these women have provided me these past 35 years.”

The delegation included a pilgrimage to the martyrdom site of the four churchwomen to hear firsthand testimonies by people who knew them, meetings with grassroots movement leaders, human rights defenders, and mothers of the disappeared. The delegation also explored root causes of migration to the United States and the current challenges impoverished communities face, including increasing violence.

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

The Sisters of Charity, BVM, as part of Area Catholic Sisters, invited the public to “Light for the Nations,” Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque, Iowa for a special commemorative prayer service honoring the 35th anniversary of four martyred church women.

This prayer service was the third and final initiative of the area communities to mark the Year of Consecrated Life, celebrated from Nov. 30, 2014, to Feb. 2, 2016. Area Catholic Sisters observed the Year of Consecrated Life earlier this year by hosting an open house at each congregation’s motherhouse, and in recent months, area women religious invited their associates and employees to help prepare and serve meals to those in need as part of a collaborative service project.

BVMs Carolyn Farrell and Paulette Skiba and Dubuque Franciscans Judy Sinnwell and Charlotte Enright are available to speak to groups in the Dubuque area about their experiences in El Salvador. To schedule a presentation call Carolyn or Paulette at 563- 588-2351 and Judy Sinnwell or Charlotte at 563- 583-9786.


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


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.


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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