by Terese Shinners, BVM
Winter 2020, issue of Salt
This year, there will be a dramatic shift in the trajectory of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary story.
A new senior living community attached to the Mount Carmel Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa, will become home for BVMs and other older adults in the tri-state area.
The Motherhouse, home to BVMs since 1893 and now jointly owned by BVM Sisters and Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), will become the hub of Mount Carmel Bluffs.
This entity, product of the partnership of BVMs and PHS, emerged from exhaustive study by both partners.
For almost 30 years, BVMs have been engaged in planning for a future with fewer and older sisters, but with a consistent determination to continue the BVM legacy despite these realities. This intent was a major criterion in searching for a partner to help make this possible.
Objective factors—including finances, Dubuque demographics, and the environment—figured into the decision leading to the partnership with PHS.
But profoundly more important was the need to find a partner with values congruent with those of BVMs. Shared values have driven the process and will be intrinsic to the life of Mount Carmel Bluffs.
A deep and conscious commitment to Scripture has inspirited the PHS mission “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults.”
This resonates deeply with the BVM mission of service through ministries chosen in the spirit of the BVM Constitutions which call the sisters to live the Gospel of Jesus.
Prayer is part of the daily routine at PHS facilities where, during the daily “Stand Up” time, staff share concerns and hopes in a scriptural context.
This meshes with the rhythm of BVM prayer. BVMs meet in groups to share a variety of prayer styles. Shared prayer is central to BVM Sisters and links them to the wider community through the BVM Prayer Association.
Meetings to plan this shared ministry are held in a context of prayer. BVMs and PHS celebrated prayerfully together the creation of the new entity and the groundbreaking for the new senior living community.
Responsible stewardship of resources is another mutual commitment of BVMs and PHS. Although the sisters’ ability to engage in active ministry has diminished, the congregation shares its financial resources when possible through Ministry Partnership Grants to other church-related agencies reflecting congregational values. PHS Benevolence Fund, a vehicle for outreach, endows medical programs around the world and assists residents experiencing financial crisis.
Sensitive regard for individuals permeates the BVM and PHS ethos. BVM Philosophy of Retirement stems from congregational core values of charity, freedom, education, and justice. PHS values, summarized in CROSS (Christian Ministry, Ready and Engaged People, Operational Integrity, Service Excellence, Stewardship), ensure quality of life for residents.
The resonance of these strong value systems augurs well for the future of Mount Carmel Bluffs.
In the fall of 2020 sisters will move into the Phase I building. Optimism, some trepidation, and trust in a very transparent process are in the sisters’ hearts.
A strong undercurrent of peace is rooted in the words of BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke: “I have no fears so long as you are working unitedly.”
About the author: Terese (Ellena) Shinners, BVM volunteers at St. Camillus Health Center in Milwaukee. She is a member of the BVM Future Planning Committee.