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BVM Core Values Unite Sisters, Students


The core values of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary united sisters in California and students in Illinois.

The four core values flow into each other, three BVMs told students from Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill.

BVMs founded Carmel Catholic High School for Girls ,which later merged with Carmel Catholic High School for Boys, founded by the Order of Carmelites, to create Carmel Catholic High School.

Students expressed how they live the core values now and how the values will help guide their future.

Meeting over Zoom, sisters from the San Francisco Bay Area explained how freedom, education, charity, and justice guide their missions.

Although the values are like individual threads pieced together in a tapestry or parts of a stained glass window, sometimes one value stands out.

“Justice is the one that really animates my life,” says Elizabeth Avalos, BVM. Disparity came into even sharper focus during COVID-19, when workers earning $7.25 were deemed essential and continued working despite risks to their health.

“What can I do during this time to ensure that when we get out of this, there will be justice for everybody?” she asks. One way is to write to elected representatives.

For Bette Gambonini, BVM, education has been on her mind. “I can tend to live in my own little world,” but the global pandemic highlighted the difference among countries’ healthcare systems. Learning about those differences broadened her perspective.

It makes me appreciate what I have, stand up for justice, and write a check to the food bank.”—Bette Gambonini, BVM

“It makes me appreciate what I have, stand up for justice, and write a check to the food bank” or share produce from her garden, Bette says.

They have also continued the ministry of cooking a meal twice a month for the Catholic Worker House in San Jose.

“Because the congregation provides for my basic shelter, food, and support, the core value of freedom enables me to serve others,” says Marilyn Wilson, BVM.

They find ways to connect and minister despite the coronavirus.

Participating in women’s marches and climate marches has been a way to put the core values into action.

“We may not be able to be as active as we have been in the past, but we can be present, be supportive, and be encouraging,” Marilyn says. “And we can listen.”

Carmel students normally visit Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, every year, but could not because of COVID-19.

“This is one of the things we just didn’t want to let go of. We thought what else can we do,” says Lori Ritz, director of the Office of BVM Life and Mission. So she and Kammie French, Carmel campus minister and director of mission effectiveness, decided on Zoom.

Carmel has a Core Values Club, and the four values and quotes from BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke are on the school walls.

“They know the core values, and they really related them to their own lives,” Lori says.

Core values will influence how they choose and practice their careers, students say. For right now, they have been making literacy kits and connecting for an online daily prayer.

Jeremy Kammer, a Carmel student who has been sick for two months, said a friend came and gave him brownies as part of an exchange. That exemplifies charity, he says.

“We’ve been driving around randomly dropping off gifts to show people how much we still care about them. [The pandemic] has opened my eyes to see that there are more ways to show charity: being there for someone, honking your horn,” Jeremy says.

The connection between BVMs and Carmel students benefitted both.

“It was, for me, a wonderful way to connect again with young people,” says Elizabeth. “They have so much positiveness to share with others and it is important to give then a platform to do that.”
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