Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Associates: A 50 Year History 1972-2022 (Part 08)

by | Aug 22, 2022 | Formation

An SCN Associate Golden Age
The next three years witnessed the SCN Associates settling into the new formation structure and a stronger, more unified identity. In 1995, the assorted types of SCN Associate membership were combined. All Associates from that point on were to be known as participative Associates.[93] The title of Candidate was given to all of those in the initial formation process who had not yet made their first commitment and Inquirers were those investigating what it meant to be an SCN Associate but who had not yet begun initial formation. Ties between Associates in different countries were strengthened. At the end of 1994, Sharon Cecil visited Belize to minister with the Sisters and Associates there for two months. She grew close to the Associates in Belize and returned many times in later years to minister alongside them again.[94] Sister Marlene traveled to Belize in 1995 and led a meeting with the Associates in Dangriga to train them in the process for Focus Groups.[95] In October 1996, Mary Gene Frank became the first United States-based Associate to visit India.[96] While there she volunteered at Nazareth Hospital and videotaped the Province Assembly. She also met with Provincial Sister Bridget Kappalamackal and the Province Board to discuss how adopting the use of internet and email – neither of which were in use at the time – might benefit the Sisters.[97] In February 1997, Sisters Marlene and Marilyn Shea led an SCN Associate retreat in Dangriga, Belize while they were in the country to attend a memorial for the late Sister Mary Lynn Fields.[98] In July of that year, Nazareth played host to the second SCN Associate Convocation. Associates and Sisters gathered to hear keynote speaker Diana Hayes speak on the subject of confronting racism, participate in workshops, and spend time cultivating stronger relationships with each other.[99] To mark the 25th anniversary of the SCN Associates, Associate Mary Martin researched and published a History of the Associates of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth 1972-1997.[100]In January 1999, Sister Rosemarie Kirwan attended the blessing of a house in Belize. The SCN Associates in Belize had built the house for an elderly grandmother who had raised her grandchildren after her daughter unexpectedly died at a young age. She went on to help her grandchildren care for their children. Through all of this, the woman had never had suitable housing. The Associates worked through the Belizean government to secure her a plot of land. Unfortunately, the land she was given was swampy and overgrown, but this did not stop the determined Associates who cleared the land and brought in landfill. Once the land was made suitable for building, the Associates built a very simple house for the woman and her three great grandchildren. Sister Rosemarie Kirwan recalled Associate Simeon Joseph mentioning at a meeting that the group desperately needed two pieces of plywood to finish the house. Someone at the meeting remarked that they had two pieces of plywood and generously offered them for the project. Though the house was very simple, Sister Rosemarie remembers the woman’s joy and gratitude for her new home as she stood in her doorway and remarked, “This is the first home I have ever owned and you made it for me. I will be so thankful to live here until I die”.[101]

Through Sister Marlene’s six years as Associate Director, working with the Core Council, the SCN Associates grew in understanding and focus. The formation program was re-envisioned and Associate gatherings became more regular as they became an integral part of both initial and on-going formation. Opportunities to live the charism of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac through ministry grew. The first two SCN Associate convocations and other Associate weekends and retreats provided cherished moments for many Associates and Sisters to come together to form closer bonds of friendship. Many recall fondly the time and laughter shared in Russell Hall and Catherine Spalding Center where Associates regularly gathered for retreats and convocations held at Nazareth. On many nights, after the official activities had ended, Sisters and Associates gathered to play games and watch television. Some of those commonly seen around a poker table were Associates Sharon Cecil, Andy Meyer, Jean Denney, Patsy O’Toole, Nora Ballard, Scott Mobley, and Sisters Pat Worley and Ellen Paul McGovern. All of the proceeds from the games were donated to Sister Ellen Paul who used the funds to support poor children in Boston.[102] Through these six years, the Associates, together with the Sisters, grew more confident in their shared relationship and blossomed into unity as a community.

Sister Marilyn Shea becomes Full-Time Associate Director
When Sister Marilyn Shea became Associate Director for a second time in June 1999, many things had changed for the better.[103] Sister Marilyn carried the revitalized Associates forward and set to work providing the structure that would ensure this new vision of the Associate relationship would continue to thrive. Seeking better administrative tools, Sister Marilyn recruited Mary Martin, SCNA, in 2000 to create a customized database application for the Associate Office to track Associates and their commitments, events, resources, and everything else necessary to manage administration of the SCN Associates. The database continues to be an important tool to this day.[104] As the Associate Office gained better organization tools in 2000, so too did each individual Associate. Sister Marilyn published the first official Associate Handbook for the U.S. Regions, which included a wealth of useful information for current and aspiring Associates including the SCN mission statement, brief paragraphs on the history and purpose of the Associates, an overview of Associate leadership structure, the process for becoming an Associate, details of the formation process and commitments, resources available to Associates, and much more.[105] The handbook also proved invaluable to the Associate Office and the Core Council as, for the first time, these important elements of the Associate relationship were clearly documented and available for reference.

An SCN Associate at the United Nations
In May 2000, nominated and sponsored by SCN Vice President Sister Shalini D’Souza, SCN Associate Carmella Vargas spoke as one of three Sisters of Charity Federation representatives at the Peoples’ Millennium Forum of the UN-NGO.[106] An NGO, which stands for non-governmental organization, is generally a non-profit organization speaking in the interest of political or social justice issues. More than 1000 NGOs from more than 100 countries sent representatives to the five-day United Nations meeting. Those gathered worked to, “…formulate a collective vision for the new century, focusing specifically on the role of the United Nations and civil society in the issue areas of peace, poverty eradication, human rights, the environment, globalization and the revitalization of the United Nations”.[107] When given the opportunity to speak, Carmella addressed the concerns of indigenous people including preserving their culture and securing education and healthcare as well as better wages and working conditions.[108]

Sisters and Associates share a laugh at an Associate event in Russell Hall in January 2001

Associates Revitalized in India
The themes of organization and structure were alive and well with the SCN Associates in other countries as well. In June 2000, the Eastern Provincial Council appointed Sisters Bridget Vadakeattam, Vimala Karakattu, Basanti Lakra, and Amrita Manjoly to review the Associate relationship in India and to find ways to adapt U.S. Associate formation and structure to best suit India. These Sisters met on October 27th of that year to discuss what might work best for the Associate relationship in India. Sisters Bridget, Amrita, Basanti, and Vimala felt that it would be best for each locality to manage their own Associates due to the many differences between regions and the difficulty of travel between them. They drafted a letter with an explanation of the Associate relationship and guidelines for cultivating the relationship in their own locality. This letter was sent to all SCN houses and many responses with suggestions and comments regarding how the Associate relationship might thrive in India were received.[109] Plans for fostering the Associate relationship in the many places where SCNs ministered throughout India began to take root.

Changes in SCN Governance Structure
During the year 2002, the SCN Congregation as a whole and the Associates themselves experienced changes in leadership and governance structure. The Core Council founded three committees to assist with the administration of the SCN Associates: the Finance Committee to manage Associate fiscal matters, the Communication Committee to ensure information and news were conveyed to the geographically diverse Associates, and the Formation Committee to review and implement formation procedures.[110] On a congregational level, the SCNs adopted a new governance structure on the 1st of June. The three U.S. Regions were combined into one Western Province. This necessitated a change in the structure of the Core Council. Previously composed of a Sister and an Associate from each Region, the Core Council now began investigating a composition of, “…representatives from specific geographical areas where there is a concentration of Associates.”[111] The change in Congregational government structure also directly affected Belize Associates, as the approximately twenty Belizean Associates who had thus far been counted amongst the Southern Region (now part of the Western Province) Associates, fell under the governance of Central Leadership instead of a U.S. Region or Province.[112] Central Leadership appointed Sister Teresa Rose Nabholz as the first Director of Associates in Belize.[113] In short order, Sister Teresa Rose worked with local Sisters and Associates to found the first Belize Associate Core Council, which consisted of herself as Director, Sister Rosemarie Kirwan and Associates Carmella Vargas and Simeon Joseph.[114] The newly appointed Core Council met for the first time in Dangriga on January 26th of the following year.[115]

Sisters and Associates gather in Maryland in 2003.

Written by Kelly McDaniels, Archivist, SCNA

A history this multifaceted could not have been wrangled into a coherent document without the help of many. I am immensely grateful to all of those who have assisted in any way. First and foremost, a huge thank you to Mary Martin, SCNA, for giving me a solid basis for what to include in this history and for painstakingly reviewing each and every draft. Thank you to Sister Maria Vincent Brocato for interviewing multiple SCN Associates as part of this project, to Sister Malini Manjaly, Archivist in Mokama, for helping me piece together the history of the Associates in India, and to Sister Nalini Meachariyil for helping me with the history of the Associates in Botswana. My thanks as well to Tammy Mattingly, SCNA and Administrative Assistant of the Associate Office, for answering a million and more questions; and to my many wonderful readers (listed below) who have helped with grammar, clarity, and adding a richness to this story that I could not have achieved on my own. Thank you to all of those who contributed their memories and beautiful stories from the past fifty years: Evelyn Faldowski, SCNA; Mary Gene Frank, SCNA; Sister Paschal Maria Fernicola; Sister Barbara Flores; Sister Rhoda Kay Glunk; Charlotte Hazas, SCNA; Sister Beverly Hoffman; Donna Kenney; Sister Rosemarie Kirwan; Sister Marlene Lehmkuhl; Trudi Maish, SCNA; Andy Meyer, SCNA; Jo Ann Paulin, SCNA; Peggy Masterson Ryan, SCNA; Sister Marilyn Shea; and many others who shared a story in passing. Finally, thank you to each and every person whom I have peppered with questions or who has listened to me obsess over this impossibly tangled history for the past several months.

Reviewed and proofread by: Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN; Sharon Cecil, SCNA; Mary Gene Frank, SCNA; Charlotte Hazas, SCNA; Josef Jareczek, Ph.D., best friend of the Archivist; Sister Marlene Lehmkuhl; Mary Martin, SCNA; and Sister Marilyn Shea.


Note on sources: Sources used in this history can be located at the Nazareth Archival Center, SCN Center, or on the SCN Family website.

[93] Associate Statistics document. SCN Archival Center, SCNA Collection, file E.024, “Statistics and Maps.”

[94] Cecil, Sharon. Response to Interview Questions. 25 Oct. 2021.

[95] SCN Annals. Belize, Stann Creek District. 8 Nov. 1995.

[96] SCN Associate Office. History of the SCN Associate Relationship 1971-2019 (powerpoint); Frank, Mary Gene. Letter to Kelly A. McDaniels (email). 17 Dec. 2021.

[97] Frank, Mary Gene. Interviewed by Maria Vincent Brocato. 6 Jan. 2022.

[98] SCN Annals. Belize, Stann Creek District. 14 Feb. 1997.

[99] SCN Associate Office. Formation Event database.

[100] Martin, Mary. History of the Associates of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth 1972-1997. 1997.

[101] Kirwan, Rosemarie. Interview. 15 Nov. 2021; SCN Annals. Belize, Stann Creek District. 29 Jan. 1999; Fernicola, Pascal Maria, Barbara Flores, Beverly Hoffman, and Rosemarie Kirwan. History of SCN Associates in Belize. 14 Jan. 2022.

[102] Cecil, Sharon. Response to Interview Questions. 25 Oct. 2021; Meyer, Andy. Responses to Interview Questions. 28 Oct. 2021

[103] Shea, Marilyn. Permanent Record Card. SCN Archival Center; SCN Associate Office. History of the SCN Associate Relationship 1971-2019 (powerpoint).

[104] Martin, Mary. “Ideas and Suggestions for 50 Year History of SCN Associates.” 23 July 2021; Shea, Marilyn. Response to interview questions. 14 Sep. 2021.

[105] SCN Associate Office. SCN Associate Handbook. Aug. 2000.

[106] Fernicola, Pascal Maria, Barbara Flores, Beverly Hoffman, and Rosemarie Kirwan. History of SCN Associates in Belize. 14 Jan. 2022.

[107] “At the UN, Civil Society Representatives Gather for the Millennium Forum.” (The Bahá’i International Community). accessed January 18, 2022.

[108] Fernicola, Pascal Maria, Barbara Flores, Beverly Hoffman, and Rosemarie Kirwan. History of SCN Associates in Belize. 14 Jan. 2022.

[109] Manjoly, Amrita. “SCNA Update.” 23 Aug. 2001. SCN Archival Center. SCN Associate Collection, file, A.008, “History – India SCNAs”.

[110] Shea, Marilyn. SCN Western Province Associate Newsletter. No. 2, 1 Nov. 2002. p. 3.

[111] Shea, Marilyn. SCN Associate Newsletter. 13. Feb. 2002. p. 2.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Shea, Marilyn. SCN Western Province Associate Newsletter. No. 1, 1 June 2002, p. 1.

[114] Nabholz, Teresa Rose. Letter to Shalini D’Souza. 21 Oct. 2002. SCN Archival Center. SCN Associate Collection, file E.009, “Belize Associates”.

[115] SCN Annals. Belize, Belize City. 26 Jan. 2003.