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Sisters of Charity, BVM Celebrates 190 Years


From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

190 Years! This milestone celebrates the mission of the BVM Sisters: to commit to a vowed life of faithfulness to the Lord; faithfulness to one another in community; faithfulness to God’s people, especially the poor. Since the beginning, we are grateful for all the opportunities from Dublin to Dubuque that have taken nearly 5,000 BVMs around the world.

Leading up to the celebration, sisters, associates, and congregational staff participated in praying a Novena, Oct. 23–31. In the spirit of our Foundress, this prayer was offered as a way of uniting “in one mind and heart.” On Nov. 1, a special Mass was held in the Mary Frances Clarke Chapel. The entire Liturgy of Gratitude was created and organized by BVM Anne Marie McKenna.

Anne Marie says, “In planning the Mass, I tried to be faithful to both the liturgy of the Church for All Saints and the focus on gratitude for our 190 years.” Much time and thought went into each prayer and song selection, choosing those that would include sisters who have passed, BVM Irish roots, the BVM journey, and much more. She adds, “How could we not end with ‘Praise Be to Thee, O Lord’?”

BVM President LaDonna Manternach welcomed guests, including Archbishop Thomas Zinkula, Msgr. Russ Bleich, Fr. Ardell Barta, Fr. Brendan Freeman, and friends from sister congregations, and Clarke University. LaDonna remarks, “On this Feast of All Saints, let us remember that these holy ones who walked before us remain with us and pray for us to God, who sustains us through these many years. In the words of Dag Hammarsköld, ‘For all that has been, we say thank you. For all that will be, yes.’”

Several sisters participated in the Mass— singing, presenting the gifts, and offering reflection. In her reflection, BVM Pat Bombard notes, “Built on the love of thousands, brought together in the present with new friends with whom to build a community that responds to the exigencies of the times, we move gratefully into the future, remembering the words of Mary Frances Clarke, ‘Go on steady and quiet.'” (Letter 11, June 21, 1867).

Archbishop Zinkula offered, “I’ve been walking with the BVMs for the last 33 years of your journey . . . but God has walked with you all along. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift and the fruits you needed to minister to the people of God . . . May God continue to walk with you in the years ahead and may God bless all of us today as we joyfully celebrate the long, wonderful, and Holy history of the BVMs.”

Continuing to honor the core values of freedom, education, charity, and justice is paramount. For the past 190 years, BVM shoes have left footprints around the world for ministry, study, and travel experiences. Today, in the spirit of charity, virtual BVM footprints are being established via Zoom meetings, grant funding, scholarships, and gifts to organizations that send aid across the world. As the yearlong celebration concludes, LaDonna shares, “Thank God for all the gifts we have received: from Dublin to Dubuque, and around the world.”

From Afar

Donors, friends, families, and endowed scholarship recipients in the dioceses in which the BVMs served were invited to watch the liturgy Mass online. Many well-wishes and blessings were sent to the BVMs in celebration, including a video with a special message and song from Carmel Catholic High School students in Mundelein, Ill. CCHS’s President Brad Bonham shares, “On behalf of Carmel Catholic High School, we wish you a happy 190th Anniversary!  We consider ourselves blessed to be founded and sponsored by you. Your legacy is a blessing and remains alive in us today. Our students created this video to share our sincere love and appreciation. Know our prayers are always with you.”  Watch video:

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