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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


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


Mount Carmel BVMs Find New Ways to Recycle

At Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, recycling is almost a way of life for the resident sisters. Guiding their efforts is the Mount Carmel ‘Green Team,’ a committee comprised of sisters and staff who are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to recycle. And in their efforts to recycle and help the earth, the BVMs are also engaged in their ministry of helping the less fortunate.

“We are registered with TerraCycle, a company that recycles items normally not recyclable,” says Julie O’Neill, BVM, who serves as unofficial chair of the Green Team committee. In September 2014 the sisters mailed recycled items to TerraCycle’s warehouse and later learned they were one of the winners for that month. Their prize was ten cases of Huggies diapers.

“We didn't have to think too hard or too long to realize that the perfect place to send them was Maria House in Dubuque, a transitional home for women and children,” says Julie. On Dec. 11, BVMs (photo, l. to r.) Mary McCauley (Mercedie), Sue Rink (Michaela) and Julie O’Neill helped to deliver ten cases (almost 1,000 diapers) to the shelter.

The recycling company pays the postage for the mailed recyclable items sent, as well as 2 cents per item. The sisters embarked on this particular project about two years ago, and this year they have earned about $200 from recycling oral care items, drinking cups, and other plastic products. All money earned goes to the BVM Hunger Fund.

“The Mount Carmel Green Team is thrilled with the results of our ongoing recycling efforts,” Julie shares.




Clarke Physical Therapy Students Provide In-service at Mount Carmel

Students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, presented an Aquatic Training Program for use by Mount Carmel and the Roberta Kuhn Center (RKC) instructors in leading aquatic-based exercise.

Instructors gathered on Nov. 18 for the in-service in the Caritas Center studio, where RKC Director Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) introduced the students, who provided a newly designed, updated instruction manual along with a short video featuring fresh ideas for the women’s arthritis exercise class. Combining their knowledge of physical therapy, how the body and muscles work together, and an understanding of the benefits of water exercise, each student presented a specific area of the program and answered questions from the instructors.

The students noted that though the training manual contains many suggestions, instructors will modify these according to each individual participant’s needs. Key to the program are exercises that help provide balance, coordination and strength, aiding in a person’s ability to function independently in daily life. Feelings of wellbeing and decreased depression are additional benefits of aquatic exercise.

After the studio presentation, students and instructors moved to the pool for some hands on training and exercise. The doctoral student presenters included Becky Steffens, Kate Ramza, Maria Pitz, Stef Morland, and Nick Brimoskas. They expressed the hope that all current and future aquatic instructors will benefit from the new manual and video in order to keep the aquatic exercise classes safe, functional and fun!




'I Want to Be a Sister,' by Helen Maher Garvey, BVM

When asked in the first grade, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Helen Maher Garvey, BVM responded, "I want to be a secretary or a teacher." But what she really wanted to say was, "I want to be a sister like you, Sr. Mary Verita." We invite you to journey with Helen as she takes you through her life as a "sister" and reflects on the future of religous life in this issue of Commonweal Magazine:


BVMs Leave Long Lasting Legacy in Des Moines

By Sandy Rodemyer, BVM for the Catholic Mirror

The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the BVMs) were founded by five young Irish women who left their homeland in 1833 to teach Irish immigrant children in Philadelphia. 

In 1843 they arrived in what is now Dubuque, after accepting an invitation from Bishop Mathias Loras to come teach in the Iowa Territory.

From 1865, when the first BVM sisters came to teach at St. Ambrose Grade School, to the present, over 1100 BVMs served the Des Moines Diocese. Their primary ministry was education.  In addition to St. Ambrose, they staffed St. Michael’s (later known as Visitation) in 1881 and St. John’s in 1906.

The sisters owned and operated two boarding schools.  St. Francis Academy in Council Bluffs was opened in 1872, and sold to St. Francis Xavier parish in 1915.  In Des Moines, the sisters purchased the estate of W. H. Welch in October 1884 for $20,000. (The land was in a suburb called Greenwood Park.) The Welch home, christened Villa Maria, served as both school and convent until brick school buildings were built.

St. Joseph Academy was dedicated on March 19, 1885, and opened immediately.  Two girls graduated in 1892. St. Joseph Academy Pre-school was in operation by 1950, and remained open until the merger of SJA and Dowling High School in 1972.

The BVM Charism of “being freed and helping others to enjoy freedom in God’s steadfast love” is reflected in the BVM core values of freedom, education, charity and justice. 

Originally these values were lived out through formal education.  But as schools closed or merged, BVMs found a myriad of ways to serve in the Diocese. They were in the Diocesan Schools Office (Dolores Marie McHugh), Family Life Office (Joan Stritesky)and the Communications Office (Mira Mosle); in parish ministry  (Christella Dee, Therese Jacobs); Drake campus ministry (Mira, Carola Broderick); a Drake Education Specialist counselor (Kathy Carr); at Mercy Medical Center as Chaplain (Carola)and volunteer visitor (Carolyn Weibeler.); the Beacon of Life Women Shelter (Margaret Drain); in Church Women United (Margaret D.); teaching music (Gertrude Bussanmus); cooking at Orchard Place (Eletta Mohrs); Director of the DMARC Food Pantry (Sandy Rodemyer); Assistant Manager at Mercy Park Apts.(Carol Marie Baum), prison ministry (Sandy);  the Iowa School for the Deaf (Nancy McCarthy); in senior day care centers and nursing homes (John Agnes Smith and Genevieve Kordick.) 

Approximately 123 women entered the BVM community from Council Bluffs and Des Moines.  Of those, 30 returned to serve their home Diocese.  Some BVMs literally gave their lives in ministry.  Many young sisters died of tuberculosis in the late 1800s. But the most tragic deaths were those of two SJA music teachers.  They were struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Nov. 2, 1921, as they attempted to cross Grand Avenue to return to the Academy.  The grand jury did not find enough evidence to charge the man who was the most likely suspect.  Thus the case is considered unsolved and is listed on Iowa’s Unsolved Murders website. 

Sandy Rodemyer, the last BVM in the Diocese, volunteers at the women’s prison and is on Holy Trinity’s Stephen Ministry team.  The BVM spirit lives on in the Diocese.


Welcome Associate Christine Olsem


BVMs Continue to ‘Welcome the Stranger’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BVMs Participate in Holiday Decoration and Silent Auction

The 2014 Roshek Holiday Decoration Event began Nov. 17 at the Roshek Building, 700 Locust St., Dubuque, Iowa, and continues through the month, concluding with a silent auction on Dec. 5, from 4–7 p.m.

Area nonprofits have been invited to create holiday items that will be on display for bids during this time. Community members are welcome to view and bid on the items, with proceeds going to each nonprofit organization. The winners of each themed item will be announced at the silent auction on Dec. 5.

The Sisters of Charity, BVM are participating in this special event and have a beautiful, hand-crafted wreath on display. The wreath’s theme is Ecuador, with the stories and mission of BVM sisters woven into it with colorful adornments and handmade decorations.

The beginning of the BVM mission in Ecuador dates back to 1967. Miguel Conway, BVM began her partnership with Father John Halligan, SJ working with the Shoeshine Boys of Quito. The once-small operation that fed 250 boys lunch each day now serves 35,000 meals to parents and children weekly.

Called the Working Boys’ Center, the purpose has expanded from teaching only boys to the vocational training of their parents and graduates of the high school as skilled workers in a vast array of fields. Since 1967, more than 5,000 families have graduated from the program and moved out of poverty. BVMs, associates and volunteers remain active in Quito, participating in the ministry of helping those in need.

The BVMs also work closely with Damien House, a residential hospital and community outreach program for persons with Hansen’s disease, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Proceeds from the purchase of the Sisters of Charity, BVM wreath will go towards BVM ministries in Ecuador. The BVM community supports the sisters working there and asks you to join in supporting this nonprofit mission and other area nonprofits at the Roshek Holiday Event.

Visit to learn more about current BVM international ministries, including the Ecuador missions.

Have a joyous holiday season!


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