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BVM Associate Reflections


Blanche King

I believe that the BVM core values and charism have always been a part of me. My mother was taught by BVMs and entered the community as a novice. Fortunately for me, she decided that becoming a BVM sister was not for her; yet she lived and raised her family with BVM values. Aunt Marion (Mary Janine Wolff, BVM), and the other sisters whom I met through her, reinforced these values.

I have early memories of Aunt Marion in her habit with other sisters in our home, and special one-on-one times with Aunt Marion. These BVM values were not named or identified, but the realization that they embody the charism of Mother Mary Frances Clarke became clear as I went through the associate discernment process with Aunt Marion.

Catholic social teaching and BVM core values go hand in hand in the way that I try to live my life. I am excited about being an associate and I am honored by the acceptance that I have received. When I think of the history of this community, I am in awe to think that a group of five women from Ireland would influence me this much. I have always been thankful for the gift of my faith and now, feel so blessed to have this community as a cherry on top. Thank you Aunt Marion, for your guidance.

Post date 8.25.2107

 

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Valerie Lozowicki

As I make my commitment as an associate, there are so many people here from the different circle of friends in my husband Ed’s and my life. Sometimes when you come to an event like this you may wonder, “Who are they and how are they connected?” So, if you don’t mind, when I name a circle in which we share relationship, would you stand to be recognized? (Some of you may be in more than one circle!)

 

  • Those with whom Ed and I share a connection through Santa Clara University
  • Those connected to the “Romani” of the Loyola-Chicago Junior Year Abroad in Rome
  • Those who share the practice of Centering Prayer
  • Those who’ve taken part in Just Faith
  • Those who are connected in any way to St. Mary’s Ecuador Program
  • My family members
  • The BVM associates
  • The BVM sisters

Did I miss anyone? If so, please stand up. Thank you.

To all of you—my dear husband, my dear son Pete and daughter Chris and grandson Camden (our son-in-law Paul is at home with our grandson, Dash, who is taking a well-deserved nap after his third birthday celebration yesterday), and to you, my wonderful friends—my heartfelt gratitude for your presence today. You are gifts who add joy, laughter and love to each moment we are together.

I would especially like to thank the BVM sisters and associates in the South Bay group who have not only been welcoming, but also embracing . . . you have been my cheerleaders along the way. Sister Marilyn, Sister Bette and Sister Dee, thank you for your encouragement and support. Moreover, a very special thank you to Sister Elizabeth, You have guided me through the process of discernment, checked in on me, and offered help at every turn. By the way, graphic design is definitely one of your callings!

I was told it is customary to say a few words about my journey toward association with the BVMs . . . and that it is always more interesting to hear one’s personal story . . . and to keep it short.

As all of you know by now, my relationship with God is the center of my life. Spirituality is my path, and that’s not to say that it is always a mountaintop experience. There is that marketplace in all our lives where we can lose attention with all that is going on around us. So keeping the balance between the mountaintop and marketplace seems to be the ideal. That is where God uses the circles of life that give us joy, hope, purpose and love that can renew us when we open to them. My family, friends, parish, visits to the sick, all play a part in the balancing act.
Some have asked, “What’s this BVM association about? Why are you doing this? Are you going to become a nun?”

By way of background ...
Mine is a relatively new friendship with the BVMs. In the early 2000s, I got to know Sister Elizabeth when she organized a meeting to talk about a new program called Just Faith (JF) that had a test run in the diocese during the prior year. I was included in the meeting, along with two others from St. Mary Parish—Bob Kutter, a BVM associate, and Jane Ferguson.

Thus began a long series of JF programs at St. Mary and the diocese, under Sister Elizabeth’s shepherding. My awareness of the BVM commitment to serving and advocating for the needs of the poor nationally and internationally grew in the persons of Sisters Elizabeth, Marilyn and Bette. Whether they led groups on immersion experiences to poor neighborhoods, facilitated meetings and retreats, or advocated for justice, I admired their firm resolve.

Then, Sister Marilyn and four of us from St. Mary, including Carol Thornton who is here today, were invited to Los Angeles to learn about the second JF program to be launched. We were welcomed overnight at the BVM convent, and I recall the warmth of community spirit, an after-dinner discussion of ministry journeys, and the inner peace of the sisters, despite some tough circumstances in the LA community where they served. My admiration continued to grow.

This past spring, Ed and I traveled to Ecuador. We visited Quito and the Center for Working Families, established by a Jesuit, Fr. Juan Halligan, and a BVM, Madre Miguel Conway, who were later joined by Madre Cindy Sullivan, BVM. We also went to Damien House in Guayaquil, established by another BVM, Sister Annie Credidio. We saw firsthand how the BVMs serve these international communities with the same resolve and spirit of joy in their work with the people.

Over this past year, during my associate discernment process, the South Bay group has companioned me, as I learned more about BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke and the charism and core values of the BVMs. Here are just a few things that attract me to the BVMs:

 

  • Living a life founded on the good news of the gospel
  • The spirituality of “contemplation and action” or “hands on
    spirituality” (familiar to all of us who were educated by Jesuits)
  • The core values of education, charity and justice (listed on the back of the program) and also
    familiar to many of us
  • The core value of freedom “to be open to God’s love, freedom to become who we are at the core of our being,” and freedom to use our gifts in the most suitable way for us to serve
  • Creating an intentional, mutually-supportive community of sisters and associates

In summary, it has taken me a few years to get here, but here I am — embracing all the goodness of my experiences and spiritual practices while expanding my circles to include the “New Beginning” of the BVM circle and its charism and values.

As John O’Donohoe wrote:

“Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.”

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Carol Gronewold

My brother Mike and I grew up in the small farming community of Carthage, Ill. My parents were raised in Tama and Marshalltown, Iowa. My father, Larry, was raised Catholic and my mother, Doris, joined the church when they married. She became the driving force in our Catholic education and even took us to daily Mass during Lent and Advent. Mass was celebrated in the small living room of the rectory where we knelt on the floor through the entire Mass. I attended public schools but did memorize the Baltimore Catechism as taught by the Benedictine Sisters who lived in Nauvoo.

My father was the driving force in my brother’s and my college education. He chose University of Notre Dame for my brother and Clarke College (now University) for me because his sister had attended Clarke. I enrolled at Clarke as a freshman and sophomore from 1958 to 1960. I am certain that my education at Clarke helped me to become the strong woman I am today.

I left Clarke with the knowledge that there were few limits in my future. Sister Mary Vera served as our class sponsor and listened to my decision to leave Clarke to marry my high school sweetheart who managed the family farm. I would guess that she did not agree with my future plans but did not discourage me. I include Sister Mary Vera as the first member of my Circle of Friends.

I taught elementary and middle school students for 17 years and served as a community college administrator for 12 years. I am the single mother of three sons and one daughter, eight grandchildren, and three and a half great-grandchildren. I serve on the local hospital board and volunteer in several organizations. Through my volunteer activities, I hope that I am answering Christ’s call and am continually looking for new paths to follow. I will be joining the Ecuador Immersion trip in April.

In the fall of 2013, I attended Mass for Benefactors in the Mount Carmel Motherhouse Chapel. Even though I had attended Clarke and many class reunions, I had never visited Mount Carmel. I experienced such peace and love at the Mass and found a brochure about BVM associates that encouraged me to contact Nancy McCarville.

A casual dinner conversation with Kate Keating, BVM (St. Wilma) left me with a hunger to investigate becoming a BVM associate. I then attended the April 2015 CARMA conference and the summer 2015 Associate Retreat. With Nancy’s encouragement, I decided to embark on the discernment journey. One year later, I was introduced to my companion, Karen Conover, BVM. We have met monthly via SKYPE as we studied the resource materials.

I have gained many beautiful friends on my journey. When my youngest son died suddenly last May, the prayers and cards from the BVM community helped me immeasurably. To know that cards with John’s name were on that little table by the altar in the chapel consoled me. I also belong to a spiritual study group which meets weekly as we study the lives of saints. Since John’s death, the prayers and support of the people in this group have greatly comforted me as I struggle with the depression I am experiencing.

I believe that I was sent on this journey of discernment to find freedom, a blessing of insight, and growth for my personal life and faith—to help prepare for the death of my son. Karen Conover’s guidance and concern at our monthly sessions have been a great comfort for me. I am including the following individuals to join me in my Circle of Friends: BVMs Karen Conover, Kate Keating and Kathleen O’Sullivan (Donall), Nancy McCarville, Linda Stoverink, and Bill and Alice Brennan.

 

“Lord, what is the life you are calling me to live?

Who is it that you are calling me to be?

There seems to be so many answers, yet I know

that you have laid a path for me,

Send your spirit to guide me as I discern your path.

Help me listen to your voice in the stillness of my heart

amid the many distractions and temptations of life.

Help me understand and see

the gifts and talents you have given me,

not as the world sees them but as you do.

Give me the strength to listen to you intently,

and to follow your path courageously.”

The Notre Dame Book of Prayer

 

“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”

—Native American Prayer

 

Post Date 4.10.17

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