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The following Diamond Jubilarians are celebrating 70 years in religious life with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

They entered the BVM congregation Feb. 2, 1952. They professed first vows Aug. 15, 1954, and and final vows on Aug. 15, 1959. They gathered on Sept. 11, 2022, for a liturgy and dinner to celebrate 70 years in religious life.

Download BVM Marjorie Heidkamp’s homily reflection.

Sister Mary Catherine “Suzie” (St. Ambrose) Beckman, BVM

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Mary Catherine “Suzie” (St. Ambrose) Beckman entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Help of Christians in her hometown of Chicago and set out for her first mission in Butte, Montana.

Her days in Butte were quite different than in Chicago. She recalls the family dogs arriving at school to “pick-up” the students. She says the dogs had “indoor clocks” and would arrive at the end of the school day. Mothers would let their dogs out (sometimes more than one per family) to meet the children and bring them home. One of her favorite memories is one day during lunch time, a dog catcher was on the premises, trying to catch a stray dog. “The kids all watched and cheered loudly when the dog managed to get away.”

Her second (and favorite) mission holds many bittersweet memories. She was able to return back home to Chicago. She taught fifth grade at St. Gertrude and lived with “many wonderful women there.” She remains grateful for the sisters who really helped her during those days as a still relatively new teacher.

It was a painful time, however, as they mourned together the tremendous loss of life and devastation from the terrible fire that destroyed Our Lady of the Angels school, also in Chicago. She remembers that she and her fellow sisters went to many of the wakes of the 92 children and three sisters that were lost in that fire.

Other missions called her away from Chicago, only to return again, multiple times. She returned to Butte, went on to Omaha, Maywood, Ill, and even on to Germany—where she taught mathematics at the Department of Defense Dependents School in Giessen. But her hometown of Chicago is where she spent most of her life as a teacher, attendance counselor, and alumni associate.

In 2010, Mary Catherine was named the Glenola Club’s Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Woman of the year. She was said to be “the quiet for good in the St. Ignatius Parish and in the Glenola Club.” She spent time volunteering at the Ignatian Services Food Pantry and the annual walk and offered rides to parishioners who did not drive or have a car and would take them to meetings, doctors’ appointments, and social gatherings.

Mary Catherine continues to serve on the Immaculata Alumni Association and has also volunteered on numerous BVM congregation committees.

As she looks back on her 70 years as a BVM, she is humbled by the caliber of sisters around her. “It means the world to me to be associated with so many wonderful women. Especially after growing up with four brothers and no sisters. Many moons ago, when we staffed Cardinal Spellman School in Omaha, General Knapp wanted the best sisters . . . he found the BVMs . . . a move he never forgot.”

Sister Catherine “Kitty” (Roselani) Ornellas, BVM

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Catherine (Roselani) Ornellas, BVM entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Saint Catherine Church in her hometown of Kapaa, Hawaii. A heart for children and a passion for education led Catherine to dedicate her life to teaching and school administration. “To watch little minds learn and grow . . . and being a part of that . . . was extraordinary.”

Her teaching and administration ministries began in Butte, Mont., and took her to California, Nebraska, Illinois, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, and Arizona. In each location, Catherine poured her heart into her teaching roles and impacted the lives of her students and their families. They blessed her as well.

One of her favorite memories occurred at Saint Paul Parish in San Francisco. “Our community started a fund-raising project to build a novitiate in the California region. One of our sisters gave a talk on why this was necessary. After Mass one of my third-grade students came up to me with a quarter and said, ‘this is for your Mother’s house’ . . . enough said.”

Education and teaching can be temperamental work, but Catherine reflects positively on her years of service. “I liked most of my missions. In each there were ups and downs, but the ups overrode the downs.” Ever mindful of the One she serves, Catherine shares that, “God was always there—through the joys and through the difficulties.”

Throughout her 70 years as a BVM, Catherine has considered it to be “a privilege, a blessing, and a gift.”

“It is an honor, for me, to be able to call these great women, living and deceased, Sister. I would like to share my love and thanks to all the people who have helped me BE the person that I am and continue to become. To my family, friends, donors, caregivers, and last but not least, my BVM community, I say, ‘thank you.’”

The following Diamond Jubilarians are celebrating 70 years in religious life with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

They entered the BVM congregation on Sept. 8, 1952. They professed first vows on March 19, 1955, and final vows July 16, 1960.

Sister Alice (Alissio) Caulfield, BVM

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Alice (Alissio) Caulfield, BVM, reflects on an exciting life of sharing, living, praying, and working with other women who answered a similar call to follow the Gospel of Jesus. She felt that “together they could do more than one could ever do alone” and enjoyed committing her life to ministering for freedom and justice for all.

She entered from Saint Dorothy in her hometown of Chicago and went on to minister in Wisconsin, Wyoming, New York, South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa. She found each mission to be unique and special. Sharing her gifts, talents, and love of music, Alice taught music and choir at both the elementary and high school levels. She also spent her time giving private music lessons, serving in administration, and planning liturgies. “The first 14 years of my sister life I taught and did whatever music was needed in the school and parish.”

Next, Alice found herself in administration, once again in elementary and high school, including Inner City Parish in Chicago, then moved on to ministering to her colleagues in Marian Hall at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa; Wright Hall, in Chicago; and as the Life Facilitator of Mount Carmel Campus. “Each was a unique experience in my life, and each prepared me for whatever my next call or adventure might be.”

Alice considers all of her missions and ministries her favorites. If one were more special, she says it was her time as Administrator at Marian Hall. She learned about early BVM missions that were only names to her until she listened to the sisters’ stories. She found them not only to be women of courage, but vibrant on this next step of their journey.

While age and illness may have slowed their pace, she was impressed that they stayed active in doing whatever they could regarding peace and justice issues. “They never considered themselves ill or retired. Once again, I learned how unique each person is, but we are all united in one thing . . . the mission of Jesus. While the Gospel calls each sister to live differently, they walk the same path with and for others.”

Knowing the sisters are on the same journey together is a wonderful memory for Alice. “Having been involved in many different places and ministries has given me an opportunity to get to know most of the sisters in the congregation during my 70 years. That is a true blessing.”

Sister Catherine (Catherine Michele) Dunn, BVM

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Catherine (Catherine Michele) Dunn, BVM, was born to Irish immigrants who fell away from the Catholic church when Catherine was in elementary school. Even so, Catherine answered the call to a Catholic religious vocation and joined the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin.

Overcoming difficult circumstances was not foreign for Catherine. Her professional life proved her strength and resilience. Catherine served as an elementary teacher at St. Vincent in Chicago and St. Matthew in Phoenix and a teacher’s consultant at Carroll Catholic in Lincoln, Ill. The bulk of her mission work was as an instructor in and chairperson of the education department, vice president for institutional advancement, development officer, advisor, and president of Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.

As Clarke’s 22-year term president, she was at the helm when a devastating fire could have brought an end to the school. Under her steadfast leadership and vision, it was rebuilt and remains today. Catherine has also been recognized for her involvement in leadership in the community and has received many awards of recognition for her hard work. She was also the first woman to chair the Iowa Transportation Commission.

The honors, the accolades, and awards pale in comparison to what it means to Catherine to be a BVM. Catherine shares, “If I had my life to live over, I would make the same choice to be a BVM. It means everything.”

A precious memory that stays with her the most is when she taught at St. Vincent’s school in the 60s. The principal’s father gave her money every month to take care of needy students and their families. “I witnessed Sister Mary Leone, greet each student when they came to school. We had over 800 students. She, at the time, was checking their shoes and uniforms. When she saw a need, she would take the student to her office and measure their feet or uniform, or both. The students had new shoes and/or uniforms the next day.”

Another memory Catherine shares is when she was delivering food with BVM Joan Lingen to families in need. Catherine knocked on a door and a four-year-old sibling to one of her students answered the door. “Did you bring us food?” When the sisters replied that they had, the little girl remarked, “Good! Because Johnny [Catherine’s student] had nothing to eat tonight.” She was touched by Johnny’s sacrifice of food for his siblings, whom he had cooked for each night as his parents both worked second jobs in the evening. Catherine shares, “It touched me that we could bring needed food, but also that Johnny, an eighth grader, heard the message of Christ and took care of his brothers and sisters!”

Reflecting on her 70 years as a BVM, Catherine considers her favorite mission to be her continued service to Clarke University, “I have been involved in so many ways! I love the students, faculty, and staff. They are special and faith filled individuals!” She shares, “The service part of my life has been so meaningful. God gave me many gifts and I have tried to use them in service of others. I love being a BVM. . . I have been so blessed to be loved by my sisters!”

Sister Mary Jean (St. Christopher) Ferry, BVM

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Mary Jean (St. Christopher) Ferry, BVM,  spent most of her life in the classroom and in pastoral care. She served as an elementary teacher in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and North Hollywood, Calif. Later, she began a new ministry and served as a parish minister in Hereford, Texas, and in California, serving in Hawthorne and Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles, she also served as a hospital chaplain at the LAC+USC Medical Center.

Mary Jean looks back at a lifetime of wonderful memories. One of her favorite memories from her teaching days is when she taught second grade at St. Francis Xavier in Phoenix. She still remains in contact with some of the students from that class, 65 years ago! A few years ago, Mary Jean asked them, “What happened in second grade that made you remember me over all these years?” They responded, “Well, at the end of the year, we passed to third grade, and you had to stay in second. However, whenever you passed our third-grade line, you always winked at us!” Mary Jean says that in that moment, she realized that even the smallest actions can make an enormous difference to someone . . . by simply showing love.

Love. Love has defined Mary Jean’s life and her call to becoming a BVM. She says, “being a Sister of Charity, BVM, means being an extraordinary lover . . . to wake up in the morning and give thanks for another day of loving. It means pausing before entering a room and saying, ‘All I have to do is to love.’ It means living from my heart center and loving all those who dwell in this holy place. It means loving God in every person, in all of nature and within myself. It means belonging to a Community of dedicated persons who live, love, and serve others, especially the poor.”

One of Mary Jean’s most beloved ministries was as a chaplain at Los Angeles County Hospital. She worked in the obstetrics unit and enjoyed being with the mothers as they held their babies for the first time. Being with them in that precious moment was a blessing. She often heard the tired mothers rejoice with praise and adoration, “I’m in the glory!”

Mary Jean recalls the challenging times at the hospital as well. Some mothers lost their babies. She would stay close to them, ministering to them, and just loving them. Mary Jean recalls that “each experience helped love to grow.”

Reflecting on her 70 years as a BVM, she shares, “It is appropriate to end this reflection with words of gratitude. I am grateful for my wonderful parents, my seven siblings, and all my dear friends. My heart is also overflowing with gratitude for our BVM Community. Our sisters and associates have filled my days with light and love. They have been beside me in my ministries as a teacher, pastoral associate, chaplain, and counselor. I am most grateful to our gracious God in whose light and love I live and move and have my being.”

Sister Genevieve M. (Leonine) Freund, BVM

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Genevieve (Leonine) Fruend joined Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Saint Mary Parish in her hometown of Davenport, Iowa.

Genevieve served as an elementary and music teacher at St. Patrick in Cedar Falls, Iowa; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and St. Paul the Apostle School, in Davenport Iowa, where she served for more than 47 years.

With music as her passion, she embraced the opportunities she had to share it with others. One of her favorite ministries was performing in the school and during parish music liturgies at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga. It was the first time she was able to utilize her gift and share her love for music—and therefore holds a special place in her heart.

In her years of service at St. Paul, she offered her many gifts and talents to both the school and the parish. She served as the 8th grade homeroom teacher, as she anxiously awaited an opening in the music department. As time went on, Genevieve filled many roles at St. Paul, including vice principal, playground monitor, and music teacher. Her legacy continues there, with a scholarship in her name.

Genevieve’s cherishes her many experiences there stating, “The sisters in the community shared everything. We were there for each other. The community was very good to my dad. He was invited for weekly dinners and played cards afterwards. It was a welcoming place!”

As she reflects on her 70-year milestone, Genevieve shares, “I have given my life in the service of Jesus by being a Sister of Charity, BVM. The service our congregation offers to others is important to me. I have come to respect the service that BVMs render. I am grateful to have shared these years with the BVM community. I have always felt at home as have my family.”

Sister Patricia L. (Chrysostom) Fitzgerald, BVM

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Patricia (Chrysostom) Fitzgerald attended Holy Cross Elementary School in South Bend, Ind., from first grade to seventh grade. Due to her father’s health, the family moved to Phoenix and Patricia began attending St. Francis and later, Xavier High School. It was during this time, Patricia got to know BVM sisters that taught there. Sister Agnesita (Margaret Mary Whelan) made a significant impact on her life. Patricia entertained the idea of a religious vocation and soon answered the call.

She entered the novitiate from St Francis Xavier in Phoenix and immediately went to teach at Our Lady of Angels Elementary School in Chicago. A year later, she was sent to teach at Our Lady of Lourdes in Tujunga, Calif.

While living in the Los Angeles area, Patricia began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine art. She continued teaching during this time and as she says, “made a slow migration back to the Midwest.” She ministered in Tucson, Ariz., Kansas City, Mo., and then accepted BVM Ann Christine Heinz’s invitation to teach high school art at St. Mary’s Center for Learning in Chicago. “What an adventure that was!” she says.

She recalls those days as being ones of profound change. Both of her parents had died within a year and a half of each other and there were many changes within the congregation as well. She began to work on her master’s degree in visual education at the Illinois Institute of Technology and returned to St. Mary’s before she moved on to St. Callistus and St. Eulalia. At all three schools, Patricia directed the art program—which she had developed as part of her master’s thesis.

Patricia ministered in a variety of ways, including teaching GED/adult education classes and as an office manager for the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project (ICAP). Her favorite ministry was teaching in minority neighborhoods and schools. Her creativity always found various, meaningful outlets such as dancing, chanting, drumming, playing the guitar, and leading groups of people in Spiritual Journey to Wellness programs.

She developed an interest in massage therapy and graduated from the Wellness and Massage Therapy Institute with her national certification. Considering massage a “sacred touch,” Pat describes the act as an “art of anointing . . . an experience of touch that opens up possibilities for healing on the spiritual level . . . in a religious, ministerial context, massage reenacts the Creator’s original touch.”  She found this form of ministering to deepen contemplation and prayer, to heal psychic wounds, and to promote integration of the mind, body, and spirt.

As she reflects on her 70 years as a BVM, Patricia is most grateful for being “a part of this circle of friends” and being a part of “the set of ’52.” She is thankful for the “great kindness to me by the staff and sisters when I came to Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa.”

Sister Eileen (Patrick Ellen) Healy, BVM

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At just 17 years old, Eileen (Patrick Ellen) Healy, BVM, answered the call to live out her faith in a religious vocation. Leaving family and California behind, she set out to begin life as a BVM. “I will always be grateful to my parents for their unending support as I lived my vocation. It could not have been easy to see their youngest daughter board a train in San Francisco for Dubuque.” Her sisters and brothr, nieces, nephews, and cousins were a continued source of that wonderful family love.

Her missions have taken her across the country, from Memphis to Portland, from Chicago to Seattle, and from San Francisco to Dubuque. She has been blessed in her ministries—having learned so much from the children she taught, from other faculty members, from the sisters she walked with as a member of the team at Mount Carmel, and from volunteering after she retired. “Each situation had its own blessings and challenges. Each was the right place for me at the time . . . I did have a phrase for how I felt about the time at Mount Carmel—’It fit my soul!’”

During her time as a BVM, Eileen contributed her time, talents, and voice to different causes. She is active in is the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Dubuque and has lent her voice to the BVM group speaking out against the death penalty.

Being a member of the Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin has meant everything to Eileen. “It is the fulfillment of a dream and a purpose. I have often thanked God for the ‘wise choice of my ignorant youth.’ I had no idea of the blessings which being a BVM would bestow on me when I walked up the front stairs of the Motherhouse so many years ago.”

Eileen has lived a full life as a BVM, but what has impacted her most are the friendships she has made along the way. As she reflects on her 70 years with the Sisters of Charity, she says, “The most cherished experiences I have had are the faithful, wonderful friends I have made in the congregation. From the first day in the Postulate to the present, friends have filled my life with good times and challenges to growth.”

Sister Marjorie M. (Herberdette) Heidkamp, BVM

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When Marjorie (Herberdette) Heidkamp, BVM entered the novitiate, she did so with a deep understanding that she was making a lifetime commitment. Entering from Queen of Angels parish in Chicago, she began her ministry as a first-grade teacher at St Jerome. Like her students, with each passing year, she moved up a grade and settled in to junior high at St Peter in Antioch, Ill., for 12 years. Marjorie shares, “I spent most of my teaching life in junior high. I still hear from former students I taught in grades 7 and 8.”

Marjorie spent many years in Illinois, serving as director of religious education at St. Peter in Antioch; at St. Beatrice in Schiller Park, and a religious educator at St. James in Chicago. Her last active ministry was as a Hospice Chaplain for Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and at Vistas Innovative Hospice in Lombard. “This was a major move. I felt I could no longer work in the official Church but wanted to continue in ministry. Training for a year and a half at a major trauma center gave me the background to work for 10 years as a Hospice Chaplain in the Chicago area.”

The ministry experiences have been varied and were always supported by the congregation. Marjorie says, “I felt trusted as I moved from one area of ministry to another. The opportunities in the way of education and spirituality have been priceless.”

Reflecting on her 70 years as a BVM, she can sum it up in two words: abundant richness. Her family, students, and people she has met and worked with along the way have been a joyous blessing. But it is her friendships with the BVM sisters that have enriched her life the most. “My closest friends are other BVMs. The community is family in a way I don’t know how to put into words. I have a birth family that is large and loving. The BVMs are my circle of friends and kindred spirits. I know they have my back.”

This bond and mutual devotion have been evident throughout Marjorie’s time as a BVM. She recalls how sisters rallied together after the 2008 stock market crash and signed over their patrimonies—large and small—to rebuild BVM financial stability. For her personally though, the deepest bonding came when the Vatican conducted an apostolic visitation of all women religious congregations, including the BVMs. “It caused us to take a good look at ourselves and to bond in a much deeper way . . . we were living our lives as we heard the Spirit speak in our midst.” She feels strongly that the pain and insecurity of that time only deepened congregational relationships and those with other women religious.

A special memory that Marjorie shares is of her time at the BVM Sesquicentennial Celebration. “It was spectacular.” Singing old songs under the tent, watching the original five members come up the river on a paddle boat, releasing balloons when the boat whistle tooted . . . still brings joy. “Just being together” is what really matters.

“I am grateful for the abundant richness of life as a BVM. It has nothing to do with material things, although I appreciate those too. The abundance is in the relationships with my sisters, some very close, some casual, but still my sisters. The abundance is in the people who have worked with and alongside us for decades. Many of them have absorbed the BVM charism as fully as vowed members have. The kindness, laughter, and concern that surround BVMs on all sides from employees, co-workers, and friends are pure gifts.

Sister Bernadette (Lucinus) McManigal, BVM

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Bernadette (Lucinus) McManigal, BVM, considers being a BVM as part of her identity, “It is as much a part of me as being a McManigal.”

Spending most of her years serving in the field of education, as a teacher and administrator, she counts herself blessed that she has loved every place she has been and has loved her various ministries. “If I were to pick out a ‘special’ place, I would have to say Bellerose, N.Y., where I taught grades 6-8 in a parish school with a great group of BVMs. It was a close family atmosphere with the parents and the students.”

Bernadette, a nationally recognized leader in Catholic education, also spent many years in the Chicago area serving as principal at St. Jerome and St. Rose elementary schools and as an educational consultant for the Diocese of Joliet after serving as a consultant in the Diocese of Kansas City in Missouri.

Serving as superintendent of schools in Lexington, Ky., Bernadette really enjoyed the people with whom she worked and ministered. She served both the Appalachian and the city schools. Of her time in Lexington and Bellerose, Bernadette says, “. . . they are very different places, but both were life-giving for me.”

One experience in Lexington also involved three other religious congregations. Six women religious would meet weekly for prayer and fellowship. Three BVMs, Bernadette, Helen Garvey, and Gayle Brabec met with three other sisters—each from a different congregation. Of that time, Bernadette says, “This community brought into focus the uniqueness of BVMs while appreciation the history and life of other religious congregations.”

Bernadette rounded out her career as superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Arlington, Va. Initially, the position was to be interim, however Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde made her appointment permanent seven months later. She embraced that position for eight years before deciding to retire and return to Mount Carmel in Dubuque.

She was excited to live in community with her sisters at the Motherhouse, to overlook the Mississippi River, and to go fishing—one of her favorite hobbies.

Most of all, Bernadette enjoys spending time praying and just “being” with her sister community. “My cherished memories of community are many. Prayer, parties, discussions with other BVMs are all a piece of my life.”

As she reflects on her 70 years as a BVM, Bernadette summarizes simply and beautifully, “Thank you . . . thank you for the wonderful life I have been privileged to live.”

Sister Judith Terese McNulty, BVM

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Judith (Judith Terese) McNulty, BVM, grew up in an Irish Catholic family. She attended Mundelein College in Chicago, “because she lived in Saint Gertrude Parish, it was in walking distance of her home, and it was Catholic.”

Following in the footsteps of her mother and older sister, she majored in sociology and minored in psychology. Her classmates were some of her best and lasting friends. Mundelein challenged her—not only academically but spiritually. And it was there where she met the BVMs.

“I had the Benedictines in high school. I didn’t know I had a religious vocation when I was in high school.”

After graduation Judith initially worked as a social worker but followed the call to religious life. “There was no question when I was going to enter that I would enter the BVMs.”

Although she had not taken education courses, she says, “I think the Lord actually called me to the BVMs” and entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary through her home parish, Saint Gertrude.

Judith ministered as an elementary teacher in Chicago and Clinton, Iowa, and a secondary teacher in Memphis, Tenn., and Rock Island, Ill. While in Rock Island, she taught at Alleman High School for 20 years, and later served as a family counselor for Catholic Social Services and assistant director of career planning.

She also ministered as a hospice chaplain and bereavement coordinator in Davenport, Iowa.

“I have been a high school teacher, college counselor, part-time college instructor, a marriage and family therapist, and a hospital/parish volunteer . . . but, the BVMs are my identity.” Reflecting on her 70 years as a BVM, Judith considers herself fortunate. “I have loved all my missions and ministries.”

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Sister Edissa Mary Szczepanski, BVM

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Edissa Mary (Edissa Mary) Szczepanski dedicated her life to being an educator, administrator, and librarian. She was an elementary teacher at St. Patrick and St. Jude in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; St. Agustina in Memphis, Tenn.; Our Lady of Angels in Clinton, Iowa; St. Agatha, St. Tarcissus, Blessed Sacrament, and  Immaculate Heart of Mary in Chicago. Edissa served as media specialist in at St. Joseph in Downers Grove and at St. Eulalia in Maywood, Ill. In Chicago, she served in the schools in a variety of roles, including school librarian, resource staff, secretary, and library consultant. She also served in the Holy Name school office, was an administrative assistant at Wright Hall, a BVM retirement facility, and at St. Anthony Hospital.

As a Chicago native, Edissa’s favorite ministry was her seven years teaching at Blessed Sacrament school and parish in her hometown. She particularly enjoyed her time with other BVMs, remarking, “The community was a united, caring group of sisters who worked well together, whether in school or convents.”

She enjoyed combining efforts with the parishioners to achieve their goal of educating the children and their families. Many challenges were met and Edissa recalls, “this was a very poor parish, but a happy place.”

Saint Augustine in Tennessee also holds a special place in her heart. Serving the community four and a half years, Edissa was touched by the people she met along the way. “Learning the people and their culture—that I had not experienced before, was a good memory. They weren’t always treated justly, but they were honest and caring people in spite of how others treated them. They were a good example for everyone.”

Spending retirement with her sisters at Mount Carmel Bluffs in Dubuque, Iowa, Edissa shares that, “being a BVM is a special way of loving and brings joy, peace, and happiness to my heart and to others with whom I interact in my daily life.”

Sister Johanna (St. Johanna) Trisoliere, BVM

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Johanna (St. Johanna) Trisoliere, BVM, was born and raised in Chicago. Her parents were Italian immigrants who worked hard to provide Johanna and her siblings a Catholic education. She attended Saint Callistus elementary and then went on to Saint Mary High School. It was during those high school years, that Johanna felt the call to a religious vocation. She answered that call and dedicated her life to ministry with the Sisters of Charity, BVMs through her home parish, Saint Callistus.

Johanna served as an elementary teacher in Davenport, Iowa, and Chicago, Berwyn and Cicero, Ill. She taught lessons and then studied her own—as a science education student at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.

The Windy City drew her back and she spent the bulk of her teaching career in the area; 33 years at Mary, Queen of Heaven in Cicero and 22 years at St. Odilo in Berwyn, Ill. Her passion for her students and her ministry inspired her then and still continues to be a part of her life. “I loved every child I taught. I pray daily for each one and their families.”

Johanna enjoyed being in service to the poor and serving as a volunteer, teaching catechism to children who did not attend the Catholic school. She also enjoyed bringing communion to the homebound and visiting the sick, sharing, “Being a Eucharistic minister was a wonderful ministry for me.”

As Johanna reflects on her 70 years as a BVM, it is the celebrations with her fellow sisters that are cherished the most: her reception, profession, graduation, and jubilees. “Being a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is such a blessing and a gift from God. I am so grateful to be a BVM in every way. . . I am also deeply grateful to each one who cares for us.”

Sister Betty L. (Leonice) Voss, BVM

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Betty (Leonice) Voss, BVM, has dedicated her life to education and social justice.

As an elementary school teacher, Betty ministered at Holy Name, Chicago; Sacred Heart, Davenport, Iowa; and Saint Francis in Chattanooga, Tenn. One of her cherished memories is when a little third grader came up to her on the playground and said, “I like you.” Betty thanked her and asked her, “Why?” The little girl replied, “You’re funny!”

Betty shared her joy and humor with college students as well, both domestically and internationally. She taught for three years at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and for 12 years at Mundelein College in Chicago. She also traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and spent two years teaching in a bilingual school.

After 32 years in the classroom, Betty moved to Colorado to serve as a pastoral associate. She served as coordinator of BVM associates, worked as a teacher and reading coordinator, and provided in-home care. She took leadership in the Ecumenical Women’s Committee and received the Trish Dunn award for fostering ecumenism.

Betty took part in the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign, to increase voter participation among low-income populations. In addition, she actively sought to end mining pollution in Latin America and elsewhere, with her work on the MineWatch committee. Another passion project, the Denver Justice and Peace committee, received her tireless and invaluable efforts. In 2018, she received the John Proctor Member of the Year award in honor of her efforts for promoting human rights and economic and environmental justice in Latin America.

Retiring to Dubuque in 2019, Betty felt some sadness and nostalgia for the changes taking place at Mount Carmel Bluffs but remained steadfast in the promise of what is to come, “It means to me that God is always a God of surprises, a God of fidelity, a God of caring, and I see that lived out in this project.”

Pondering her varied experiences and adventures, Betty reflects, “While I enjoyed each ministry, I’ve often said that I enjoyed teaching grade school a lot. They got my silly jokes and gentle teasing. They especially loved when I’d make a ‘mistake’ when reviewing a lesson, and they could ‘catch’ me.”

Today, Betty enjoys her apartment at Mount Carmel Bluffs, its many bright windows, and beautiful views of the Mississippi River, the forest, and the Pine Walk. She also loves the wonderful prayer services prepared by BVM Anne Marie McKenna and BVM Diane Forester’s leadership in schola and singing, “as well as her delightful postludes.”

In reflection, Betty shares, “I am called to continually grow in deepened relationship with all God’s creation. I’m grateful for being called within a community of BVM sisters and associates. Books could not contain a list of all I am grateful for.”

Sister Elizabeth (Antoinette) Wirtz, BVM

Read Her Biography

As long as Elizabeth (Antoinette) Wirtz can remember, she had a great desire to be closer to God. From an early age, she discovered the love and care of her BVM teachers. It wasn’t until her junior year at Muscatine Catholic High School in Muscatine, Iowa that she started to think about a religious vocation. “I was certain God was calling me. The call was intense. I loved the BVM sisters and wanted to be one of them.”

A year after graduation, Elizabeth entered the novitiate from her home church, St. Mathias. She spent her life serving as an elementary teacher in Sioux City, Manly, and Muscatine, Iowa; and Chicago—where she ministered for over 50 years.

“All my life I enjoyed teaching. My years at Saint Ferdinand were post Vatican II. This was a time of many changes, not only in education, but also in the Church.”

Answering an invite to a weekend presentation of the archdiocesan program in religious education inspired Elizabeth to pursue a degree in religious studies. She became a district instructor which allowed her to train parish catechists and meet regularly with parent groups.

In retirement, Elizabeth volunteered as an ESL tutor at the Dominican Literacy Center in Melrose Park, Ill. “I worked one on one with some amazing women. They were so determined to learn English and made many sacrifices to do so.”

Life as a BVM has given Elizabeth the opportunity to develop the spiritual life for which she longed and has enabled her to reach out to others. “Being a member of a group of women dedicated to Gospel values, I am able to give witness and to live our core values.”

In 2002 she celebrated her Golden Jubilee. She enjoyed the three-day celebration with liturgy, parties, and picnics. She extended the festivities with fellow Jubilarian, Marjorie (Herberdette) Heidkamp, taking a trip to Ireland. She particularly enjoyed the Botanical Gardens in Dublin. Thanks to the help of an attendant, Elizabeth and Marjorie discovered an area where Mary Frances Clarke had most likely visited often visited. “It was an emotional experience to know that we were tracing the footsteps of our foundress!”

Reflecting on her 70 years as a BVM sister, Elizabeth shares, “My understanding of BVM history makes me realize that I am on the journey with Mary Frances Clarke and all those who came after her. My BVM community has always been my family. Within this family, I have developed beautiful friendships and have been given the freedom to grow. I am so grateful to those who have brought me to this day of Jubilee!”

Eucharistic Liturgy

A Eucharistic Liturgy was held Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 10:30 a.m.

Watch Liturgy 

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