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Terrace Residents Reconnect with Sisters

by Mira Mosle, BVM

Rooted on the Land
Paul McAndrew experienced Mount Carmel literally as his home for almost two years. A farm boy who had been taught by the BVMs at St. John  in Peosta, Iowa, he took a job at Mount Carmel after high school to run the dairy. Paul’s task was to pasteurize the milk from the 30 cows in the  herd—200 gallons a day—and deliver it every morning and evening to the walk-in cooler at the Motherhouse. He also fed the cows, cleaned the barn, and worked with two other farm hands in the pasture where the cows grazed.

He lived in a little house near the barn and ate all his meals in a Motherhouse room designated for the workmen. “I never met a sister I didn’t  like,” Paul says with conviction.

Madonna McAndrew, Paul’s wife of 62 years, is first cousin to BVM Jane Rogers, and for years the McAndrews came to liturgy at Marian Hall.
Now, they’ve come full circle. “We love it,” says Paul. “The prayer is beautiful. Mass is so near and everyone is so friendly and inclusive.”  Madonna serves as a Eucharistic minister and lector. “We wanted to come where the BVMs were, and we wanted to come together.”

Ever-Widening Circle of Friends
From students to members of the BVM community to associates and now sharing a Terrace apartment, the lives of Marybeth Coleman and  Eileen O’Shea’s have been intertwined with the sisters. Marybeth’s mother was taught by BVMs at St. Mary in Clinton, Iowa; Marybeth went to  St. Paul Elementary and Assumption High School in Davenport, Iowa. Eileen, a Chicago native, is a graduate of St. Mary High School.

Both entered the community in 1964, then chose a different life path. They’ve been Chicagoans for more than 50 years. Eileen graduated from  Mundelein through the Weekend College and was a leader in the St. Mary Alumnae Association for many years. Marybeth, in retirement,  volunteered at The Learning Center in Lawndale, originally a BVM ministry site at Blessed Sacrament Parish. There she came to know BVMs in a different context.

Relationships with the community ebbed and flowed, and at different points, each opted to become a BVM associate. Eileen is now the part-time associate coordinator for the congregation. Making the decision to move was not easy. “COVID in some ways prepared us for this move,” they agree. Their worship community at Old St. Patrick became virtual. They formed community through Zoom and these patterns for prayer and social sharing continue.

“Each time I come up the drive, I feel like I’m home,” says Eileen. “My adult spiritual roots are here. The buildings may be different, but walking
down the pine walk is like the morning meditations of the past.” This IS “senior living in a sacred space,” notes Marybeth, and the warmth and welcoming spirit is pervasive. Both cherish the quiet as they contemplate the river from their deck, read, and delight in the barges and pleasure craft below. “It feels right.”

Extended Family
Of the many Dubuque residents who have moved into the Terrace Apartments, Judy Haley Giesen may already know the most BVMs on campus and has anticipated this move for the longest time. BVMs were her teachers at St. Joseph Academy in Des Moines—“excellent, kind, and they meant business,” she recalls. When her older sister, Mary Pat (St. Thomas) Haley, entered the community, a whole new level of  relationship emerged. “On our travels to Chicago, we always stayed with Mary Pat,” Judy says. Mary Pat taught at Mundelein College and
Loyola University Chicago for decades, so Judy and her family came to know a plethora of BVMs. When Judy and husband Jim moved to  Dubuque, “we’d see BVMs at all of the same events.” New connections were forged.

Mary Pat served on an early land committee exploring possible uses for Mount Carmel. When she told them about potential senior housing,  the Giesens quickly decided “that’s where we want to go.” They were among the first to choose an apartment. But life shifted when Jim died last fall. Now Judy navigates a new course. “The BVM spirit is alive here,” Judy says. “On these grounds, I can walk alone and meditate. I can visit the
cemetery and especially Mary Pat’s grave.” She finds Mount Carmel Bluffs gorgeous. “And by gorgeous I mean sacred. There are so many  opportunities to pray together. The theology here is remarkable. I find God in nature and art, the relationships, and friendships.”

This story was featured in:

FALL 2023: 190 Years, From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

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