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Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Who are the BVMs?
    The BVMs (Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) are women who have lived their dreams since 1833, when five young women in Ireland left their homeland to educate Irish immigrant children in the United States. Ten years later the sisters' pioneering spirit led them to respond to the invitation of Bishop Matthias Loras of the Iowa Territory, to come to the frontier where teachers were desperately needed. Gradually the community expanded into a cross-country educational network.

    2. What are the ministries of the BVMs?
    Today the BVMs live out their core values of education, justice, charity and freedom in many ways:

    3. How many members are in the congregation?
    Currently BVMs number just under 500, with our active sisters serving in 17 states in the U.S., in Ecuador and Ghana. The pioneering spirit of the BVMs is rooted in love of God lived out in a sensitive, courageous and competent response to human needs.

    4. What is vowed religious life?
    A vow is a sacred promise. As women religious in the Catholic Church, we make public vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience to God. We vow to live for God alone and to serve God's people for the rest of our lives. Our vows free us for this life through which we hope to express God's love, mercy, compassion and justice.

    5. What is the difference between a nun and a sister?
    While nuns and sisters are both called "Sister," there is a distinction made in the Catholic Church which is generally not made by the public. Nuns take solemn vows and are cloistered, that is, they reside, pray and work within the confines of a monastery. Sisters take simple vows and live a life governed by the particular mission, vision and charism of the respective order or congregation of sisters. Sisters embrace ministries that take them out to serve the people in hospitals, schools, parishes, social services, and the like.

    6. What is a charism?
    The word charism means special character or gift which is the distinctive quality of a certain person or congregation. Just as one inherits certain physical and emotional features from one's ancestors, we religious women inherit certain characteristics and spirit from the founders of our individual congregations.

    FAQ's #4-6 adapted and used with permission of

    7. What is the charism of the BVMs?
    As Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are women who have been touched by God's steadfast love. In response to that love, we are moved to commit ourselves to a vowed life of faithfulness to the Lord, faithfulness to one another in community and faithfulness to God's people, especially the poor. This covenant relationship is a freeing one enabling us to risk responding to the pressing needs of our times, according to our gifts and in keeping with our BVM mission of being freed and helping others enjoy freedom in God's steadfast love. (BVM Directory #1)

    8. How can I learn more about BVMs?
    We invite you to explore our website, meet with a BVM Sister, or contact our Initial Membership Office for vowed membership or an Associate Coordinator for lay association.