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Friends and family of the Sisters of Charity, BVM gathered on Sunday, May 22, for the annual Memorial Mass at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa. Nearly 100 guests traveled from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin to attend.
“Today we remember BVMs who hold a special place in our lives and hearts,” President Teri Hadro reflected in her greeting, noting the names of 22 BVMs who have died since last year’s Memorial Mass. “We remember that Sister often was the one to bring God to our consciousness,” she shared. “When Sister believed in us, encouraged us, laughed at our jokes, cried with our pain, rejoiced in our successes, it wasn’t hard to imagine that maybe God was doing that too and we came to understand that we should offer similar expressions of love to others.”
Gathering with BVMs for the commemorative liturgy, dinner, and visit to the cemetery enabled guests to honor and share memories of their special sisters, coming together as a circle of friends and members of the larger church community.
For many, it was their first time attending the Memorial Mass as they came to pay tribute to a sister. The warm, sunny day kept golf cart drivers busy shuttling guests and BVMs to the cemetery, where many left mementos at the graves and had their pictures taken in remembrance of their visit.
“The Memorial Mass continues to be a special event for both our sisters and many family and friends that attend,” said Andy Schroeder, development director for the Sisters of Charity, BVM. “The sisters we lost this year are sadly missed but fondly remembered. We were blessed to have this day together to share stories about our loved ones.”
BVM Honored with 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.”
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 http://www.bvmcong.org/whatsnew_jubs.cfm
Discerning the Call: Serving the Congregation
At their recent Senate of Elections in Dubuque, Iowa, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary chose a new leadership team to begin a four-year term Aug. 1, 2016.
President Teri Hadro, BVM served as president of the congregation for the past four years and as vice president from 2008–12. A native of St. Paul, Minn., she graduated from Our Lady of Peace HS and received a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Minnesota. She holds a Master of Science degree in zoology/genetic counseling from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and was a pediatric genetic counselor from 1979–2000 at hospitals in Springfield and Chicago, Ill. She has served the congregation in many capacities, including senator, regional representative, and committee and board member. Prior to joining the leadership team, Teri was a pediatric genetic counselor at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We look forward to continuing to share the BVM mission in the United States, Ecuador and Ghana," Teri says. "Together with Pope Francis, we hope to 'Wake the World with joy!'"
First Vice President Lou Anglin, BVM, is a Dubuque native and graduate of Western Dubuque HS and Clarke University, Dubuque, where she received a bachelor’s degree in political science. She holds an MPS in pastoral studies from Loyola University Institute of Pastoral Studies. From 1987–2006 Lou taught elementary and secondary school and was campus minister in St. Louis. She recently finished her second term of service as coordinator on the BVM Initial Membership Team. Lou has also served the congregation as senator and committee member and is currently on the Board of Directors. "I'm glad to be able to offer myself in service to the community," Lou says.
Second Vice President LaDonna Manternach, BVM is a Cascade, Iowa, native and graduate of Beckman HS (Dyersville, Iowa) and Clarke University, Dubuque, where she received a bachelor’s degree in music. She holds an MME in music education from Holy Names College, Oakland, Calif.; and a DMA in vocal performance from the Hartt School, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Conn. She taught elementary school music in San Francisco and Des Moines, Iowa. She is an assistant professor of music at Clarke, where she has taught since 1996, while also serving as liturgist and as chair of the Clarke music department. LaDonna has served the congregation as senator and committee member. LaDonna shares: "I love this community of women; since I've been called to serve, I am willing and blessed to do so."
Centenarian Sister Commemorates Special Day at Mount Carmel
Marilyn Thomas, BVM celebrated her 100th birthday on April 17, 2016, joined by family and friends for a celebratory liturgy and dinner at Mount Carmel.
President Teri Hadro, in her “Welcome” at the birthday liturgy, reflected: “In a prayer attributed to our foundress, Mary Frances Clarke, BVMs ask to ‘be a fit instrument’ in God’s hands. Marilyn, could there be a better metaphor for your life as a BVM?”
A talented musician, Marilyn taught music at Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport, Iowa, for 11 years. She served as secretary for the BVM Mother General, BVM provincials, and at least two Clarke University presidents, while also teaching music and French to novices. And if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Marilyn also maintained accounts and employee payroll duties at the Mount Carmel complex for many years.
Responding to all who rejoiced with and remembered her, Marilyn said: “Thank you for the many ways you made my 100th birthday celebration so meaningful. Your many cards, enrollments, candy, special greetings and promise of prayers are very much appreciated. Whoever thought I would live to be 100. It came so fast! God bless you all.”
Carolyn Farrell, BVM Receives Distinguished Alumni Award
Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the Scholastic Achievement Ceremony April 19 at Dowling Catholic HS, West Des Moines, Iowa.
Carolyn is a graduate of St. Joseph Academy, established by the Sisters of Charity, BVM in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1884. Dowling HS for boys was founded in 1918 in Des Moines. By 1970, the BVM sisters agreed to share in the development of a new co-educational high school in West Des Moines, and Dowling Catholic HS/St. Joseph Educational Center opened in the fall of 1972.
Carolyn notes that her fondest memory of St. Joseph Academy was working on the school newspaper: “It was learning in action how a group functioned together to achieve a common goal with Sister Donatus as our guiding light. I think that was my unconscious realization of leadership’s value through facilitation.”
After teaching elementary and junior high school and serving as principal, Carolyn ministered in a variety of administrative positions. Within the BVM congregation she served as the first coordinator of the Women’s Office and as regional representative. She was director, Continuing Education, Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa; interim president, Mundelein College, Chicago; associate vice president, Loyola University Chicago; and director, Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, Chicago.
The first woman to be elected to the Dubuque City Council, Carolyn was also the first “nun” to serve as mayor of Dubuque. She was a member of numerous boards and committees related to the BVM congregation, her ministries, and her civic involvement. She last served as director of the Roberta Kuhn Center, Mount Carmel, Dubuque, where she was instrumental in fostering enrichment activities for older adults in the area communities. She continues to serve on Clarke University’s Board of Trustees.
As she addressed students who received academic awards at the ceremony, Carolyn stressed the importance of education, one of the BVM core values. “The BVMs taught us by word and example that as young women we could be all that we could be,” she shares. “Be grateful for the opportunity your education offered you as you continue your life journey.”
Great Give Day: Thank You From the BVM Sisters!
On May 3, 2016, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary participated in the third annual nationwide Great Give Day—a 24-hour online giving event!
We continue to receive gifts and are happy to share that over $28,000 has been given by nearly 200 donors to date. Your generous donations will help to preserve the beauty of the sisters’ home at Mount Carmel by providing resources to treat some of the oak trees infected by oak wilt. The Mount Carmel property is a reminder of God’s creation, given to both the sisters and the Dubuque community to enjoy.
Last year, your gifts helped our sisters at Mount Carmel by providing new paint to brighten their bedroom walls and warm their hearts! Your gifts also enabled the purchase of material for our sisters' mission projects that include making diapers for third world countries, creating heart pillows for cardiac surgery patients at the University of Iowa Hospital, and knitting winter hats for needy children in the United States.
Thank you for supporting the BVM Sisters!
The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque sponsored this event for its endowed nonprofit partners as part of a nationwide day of giving.
BVMs Join Area Sisters in ‘Pray it Forward’ Campaign
The BVMs and other Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, along with the Archdiocese of Dubuque, celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week 2016 with a new social justice campaign called “Pray it Forward.”
The “Pray it Forward” campaign—funded by a grant from National Catholic Sisters Week—will feature six one-minute videos with Catholic sisters holding signs that illustrate social justice issues such as human trafficking, violence, and poor environmental practices. The videos ask viewers to join sisters in raising awareness of and praying for resolution of the issues.
Beginning March 6 and continuing each day throughout National Catholic Sisters Week, a new “Pray It Forward” video and message will be posted at www.facebook.com/catholicsisters. All are encouraged to share the “Pray It Forward” posts on their own social media accounts to ensure that these important messages reach many others.
To promote the event, the Archdiocese of Dubuque will distribute over 10,000 “Pray It Forward” prayer cards to students in all grades k-12 throughout the Archdiocese. Schools in which BVMs minister will also join in the campaign.
Links to the prayer cards, prayer and posters are provided below.
The Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley represent 12 congregations of women religious whose collective mission is to spread the Gospel message in the 21st century. They include the Sisters of St. Francis-Clinton, Sisters of the Presentation, Sinsinawa Dominicans, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Sisters of Mercy-West Midwest Community, Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of St. Francis-Dubuque, Sisters of the Visitation, Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey and the Carmelite Nuns.
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: https://youtu.be/6broFbs0heY
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
808 42nd St.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
242 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE
‘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
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
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: http://www.bvmcong.org/whatsnew_pubs.cfm
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 www.colorsofhumanityartgallery.com. 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: http://bit.ly/1VJccAK
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 www.facebook.com/bvmsisters.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Anita Therese Hayes Honored at Archivist Conference
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: http://www.archivistsacwr.org/index.html or contact the national office at email@example.com.
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
Currents of Change Features News for Alumni, Friends of BVMs
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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
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.
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 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.”
 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
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.
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
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