LOCAL MINISTRY

Throughout our history, the Sisters have worked tirelessly to help the communities in which they lived. While traditionally the Sisters worked to charter and run schools, today we serve in a variety of capacities to heed the call of our community's needs.

     

     

BLESSED WOOD: This 87-year-old carves walking sticks from the grounds of Our Lady of Victory. By, Karen Gavis

Last year, while Stickman - a short film about a homeless Dallas man who found fame carving walking sticks - was showing on the indie film circuit, Sr. Camella Menotti was gathering limbs.

Sr. Camella pruned the trees for years behind Our Lady of Victory Center, a two-story retirement home for Catholic nuns on the near Southside, before a cancer diagnosis and a torn rotator cuff. The 87-year-old planted about 50 of the center’s nearly 300 trees: pine, crepe myrtle, pecan, pear, apple, peach, and fig. She makes preserves from the fruit that the small band of sisters eats throughout the year. And now, she has some help looking after the center’s 13 acres.

“She’s the one with the whip,” joked David Gruver, 56, who began managing the grounds about three years ago. “I’d hate to show you my back. She’s taught me a lot about trimming the crepe myrtles and the fruit trees.”

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Sr. Camella said the crepe myrtle trees were so thick along a fence that she decided to start using the tree trimmings to create walking sticks. “I hated to throw those good sticks away,” she said lifting up a branch. “It’s beautiful wood.”

Rather than trashing the limbs, Sr. Camella organized a workshop in the shed where she once ironed sheets as a young woman for the Catholic boarding school she attended next door. A peek inside the tidy shop reveals various tools, wood stains, and an assortment of walking sticks in the rough.

Last fall, thieves cut through a fence, broke into the building, and stole some of her tools and an air compressor. Since then, she’s had to reinforce the building’s entrance and buy a heavy padlock. “I think we’re good now,” she said.

Gruver said that since the shop has been ransacked twice, they had to install a security system. “They even stole my drinks, my Gatorades, and my peanut butter crackers,” he said. “That really made me mad.”

Now that things have returned to normal, when the weather is warm, Sr. Camella, a former rodeo queen, is back whittling away at her walking sticks. She likes to call them staffs, which she says were symbols of leadership and often used to move cattle and sheep. She estimates that she’s made about 100 of them, which she sells or gives away to friends. She estimates that she's experimented with pecan and elm, but she said she prefers working with the crepe myrtle branches. Her all-time favorite creation was one she made that had a vine twisted around its center. She shared how the strips the bark off the crepe myrtle branches using a small knife.

“Sometimes, I’ll just go to town, if it’s a good sharp one,” she said.

When the bark is all removed, which sometimes requires a sander, she’ll smooth the whole branch down with sandpaper and then strain it with a red mahogany before sawing both ends off flat and adding a rubber tip. The work requires a steady hand, she said, and the whole process sometimes takes a week or more because the wood and stain have to be completely dry.

“In the summertime, she’ll have them all lying out there in the sun getting warm or leaning up against the building,” Gruver said.

A former pupil recently delivered about 100 sticks to Sr. Camella, and she said she recently began training a young woman in the ways of walking-stick creation. A husband of one of the nurses at the center also built her a wooden stand for Sr. Camella to be able to display her work inside the center’s lobby. While some handcrafted walking sticks sell for hundreds of dollars, Sr. Camella said she can’t recall pricing any of her sticks at more than $45.00.

“That one’s strong,” said a visitor leaving the center, about the thickest stick on display.

Occasionally, Sr. Camella walking sticks can also be seen along the center’s hallway. That’s because she’s given several away to those who may need one while out for a stroll. She said while some of her friends tell her they “don’t need it,” others seem like to use the crooked ones.

“It’s therapy for me,” Sr. Camella said of her walking stick-making hobby. “Every time I go to the cancer center, I take mine.”

Fort Worth Weekly, March 28 - April 3, 2018, By Karen Gavis

WALK FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AT TRINITY PARK

We hope you got some hot coffee or chocolate!

Sr. Yolanda, Sr. Francesca, and Sr. Rosemary took part in the Walk for Multiple Sclerosis at Trinity Park on a Saturday morning. It was really cold, so they were all bundled up!

Way to go Sisters!

SSMN having fun at the Zoo!

On May 16th, Sisters Francesca and Ines organized an trip to the Ft. Worth Zoo for the Sisters at OLV with our good friend Fleet Rine. They, together with a large number of school children from various places and their teachers, enjoyed visiting the new African savannah area with lions, a white tiger, elephants, some rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) and other animals. The children seemed especially fascinated by the variety of birds: flamingos, parrots, etc. After a couple of hours, we went to Trinity Park and shared a delightful picnic lunch.

It was a beautiful day at the Zoo; everyone had a lot of fun!

THANK YOU, SISTER Rita Claire!

Sr. Rita Claire directs ESL Classes (English as a Second Language) at Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Pastoral Center. This is a great service for the community!

THANK YOU, SISTER FRANCES VUILLEMIN

Sr. Frances volunteers at Tarrant County Corrections Center doing tutoring and Bible Study. Even retirement can’t slow some Sisters down!

CONGRATULATIONS UD GRADUATES

May 2018

University of Dallas Graduates from Neuhoff School of Ministry, includes Deacon Formation Program, Pastoral Theology and Advanced Biblical Studies.

A joyous day for all filled with great memories and many blessings!

HELP US PRAY FOR ALL THE SISTERS AND ESPECIALLY FOR SSMN!

On April 21, 2018, the Sisters had their Spring Regional Assembly at OLV Center. They spent most of the morning discussing in small groups what religious communities want to live today:

  • Contemplative engagement in our milieu today.
  • Community life in its various forms.
  • Mission and Ministry in the 21st century.

NEWS FROM SR. GLORIA CABRERA

I have been working with several parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth, TX.

On October 21, 2017, I worked with the Youth Group from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fort Worth. I met with the girls and Fr. Pedro with the boys. We spoke about God’s call to each one of us and the different ways to live out His call in the single, married, and religious life. We had a good sharing and motivation to consider a religious vocation as an option for life.

Fr. Wilcox and I met for Vocation Awareness Week with some of the teenagers of St Joseph Parish. I spoke in general about the three possible ways of living out God’s call. I answered many good questions such as, how did you know you wanted to become a nun? At what age did you realize you wanted to become a sister? What is your favorite thing about being a sister? There were many, many other questions. At the end they split into small groups to share more about their own discernment.

At St. Joseph, as part of my ministry, I help the teams to organize their activities. As an example, the weekend of October 21-22, we had a retreat for men in which we welcomed twenty-four participants and about thirty worked on the team. They ran the retreat and I oversaw them as their resource person.

On October 28-29, we had a weekend Women’s Retreat and during the retreat we had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The team rotated to be in prayer the whole time for the participants. We had thirty-seven participants and about the same number of team members running the retreat with the different things they have to do, such as being coordinators, speakers, cooks, cleaners, contact persons, etc.

KUDOS TO OUR SISTERS AND FRIENDS WHO ARE PARTICIPATING TUESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2017

Senate Bill 4 will harm Fort Worth in countless ways.

It legalizes racial profiling and encourages systemic racism. This law will normalize bigotry and lead to increased discrimination toward many segments of the local population including blacks, Asians, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community.

SB4 will make Fort Worth less safe because it creates an environment of distrust between local law enforcement and residents. Community engagement will be harder for police.

SB4 will increase victimization in Fort Worth. Even though the law exempts crime victims, undocumented residents will be too concerned to report victimization for fear that local law enforcement personnel are working with ICE on the civil side of enforcing immigration law.

SB4 will jeopardize educational attainment for local children. The stress and trauma caused by fear of parents’ potential deportation will hinder their ability to focus and learn in the classroom. Students will skip school and miss vital instructional time when parents are concerned they could be detained on the way to campus or at school.

SB4 will hurt the local economy. Fort Worth will not be considered an innovative or welcoming community. Companies will be reluctant to do business in a market that supports legalized and codified discrimination. Fort Worth will lose economic development, corporate relations, tourism and conferences.

SB4 will negatively impact Fort Worth’s many colleges and universities. As Texas develops a reputation for legalized racism, diverse students will choose to attend universities in other more progressive states, taking their talent and tuition with them.

SB4 will negatively impact the workforce in North Texas. Diverse populations will stop enrolling in higher education to avoid risk of exposure to campus police who lack adequate training in immigration enforcement. Less educational attainment will mean a less productive workforce.

SB4 will burden Fort Worth’s local law enforcement by siphoning scarce resources such as jail space, on-duty time of officers and local tax dollars to do a job that is supposed to be done by the Federal government. It will also delay police response times.

Fort Worth leaders believe no child’s zip code should determine their future success. But SB4 will target children in zip codes with predominantly Hispanic and Latino populations by allowing them to be questioned about immigration status.

Women’s Oasis Retreat

Women's Oasis Retreat given at OLV by Sr. Mary Fran, Sr. Cecile, Sr. Charles Marie, Sr. Patricia Ridgley, Associates Diane Murray and Toni Craven. Approximately 50 plus women and a number of Sisters attended, this morning retreat with SSMN at OLV Center. Holy is the place within me where God lives. God’s tender fingers reach out from age to age to touch the softened inner spaces of those who open their souls in hope. I have experienced the creative power of God’s embracing arms and I know the cleansing fire of unconditional love.

SISTERS ROCKING BABIES

Sister Francesca Walterscheid and Sister Mary Elaine Breen volunteer once a week at Cook Children’s Hospital. They have been assigned to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These babies were born either prematurely or need some kind of surgery.

The premature babies remain until they have gained weight and are able to be bottle fed. The other children will be there for weeks or even months. Some parents live some distance from Fort Worth and are not always able to stay with their baby. We have the wonderful privilege of holding and loving them. The nurses and the parents are very appreciative of this attention.

ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

In response to Jesus’ directive to go and teach all nations and to share the good news of his love for each one of us, Sisters Rita Claire and Cecile began English classes with 84 adults at our neighboring parish in Fort Worth, Immaculate Heart of Mary, in 2013-2014.

PRISON MINISTRY: THE LCP CARSWELL FEDERAL PRISON POT LUCK

We minister with the Life Connections Program, called "The President's Pre-Release Program," which is a faith-based program.

This involves mentoring participants of different faith traditions who attend 20 hours a week of classes that deal with moral values (but don't express the teachings of any specific religion). Mentors meet with participants two times a month until they graduate.

WHY AM I AT OLV?

"As I walk the halls of Our Lady of Victory Catholic School, I am in awe of the many years of former students, families, teachers and administrators who have dedicated their efforts to our school Community. I am very humbled to be the Principal at OLV and walk in the steps of the many who have come before me. It is an accumulation of their efforts that have led OLV to where we are today and where the school is heading in the future.

The one constant in our school community is the spirit and continued support of the Sisters of Saint Mary. The Sisters are OLV. They are the foundation of the OLV community, leading us by their dedication and devotion to the Catholic Church and living the word of the Gospels. From their beginning in 1910 to current 2015, the Sisters of Saint Mary’s continued presence and support is crucial to breathing life into the OLV Community and to our continued existence.

With a staff dedicated to the Sisters, I am blessed to continue the OLV mission of spreading the Gospel, delivering a Catholic education for our Community, building honorable and faithful citizens, and extending the faith and love of God."

- Linda Petry

Sister Yolanda Perpetuates Founding Order’s Service to UD

The Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, as you may know, founded UD. The sisters were intermittently part of UD’s faculty and staff until 2001, when Sister St. John Begnaud retired from the English Department.

In 2015, one of the sisters, who had received her Master of Theological Studies from the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry, began teaching at UD, finally bringing the presence of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur back to campus.

“I’m overjoyed to have returned to UD to teach,” said Sister Yolanda Cruz, S.S.M.N., MTS ’05, affiliate instructor of Hispanic ministry. She teaches intensive Bible study in Spanish in the Catholic Biblical School as well as pastoral ministry continuing education and deacon formation courses.

Sister Yolanda feels that being part of an international religious congregation has provided the groundwork for her to have an awareness and openness to diversity and the richness of different cultures; the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, with their motherhouse in Belgium, are also in four countries in Africa (Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania), Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, the U.K. and the U.S.

On the local level, Sister Yolanda, who is also a delegate for women religious in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the vocation director for the Sisters of St. Mary in Texas, appreciates the work of Cardinal Kevin Farrell (former bishop of Dallas and chancellor of UD), Bishop of Dallas and current UD chancellor Edward Burns, Bishop of Fort Worth Michael Olson, and UD’s own President Thomas W. Keefe for their vision to embrace all cultures and strive for the formation of all laity.

“We need these local missionaries to understand their faith and witness to it in this world that is in such need of it,” she said.

At UD, beyond teaching, Sister Yolanda participates every year in the Dallas Ministry Conference, which welcomes thousands of participants annually; the 11th annual conference was held in October. Sister Yolanda presented a talk in Spanish titled “¿Cómo enriquecer nuestra espiritualidad para el discipulado?”

“The conference opens the possibilities and opportunities for participation from all dioceses and people of all cultures,” she said. “The keynotes and workshops provide a new richness for everyone in their personal and ministerial lives. All of these offerings and the participation of the faithful in these opportunities for prayer and fellowship with the extended church paint an authentic portrait of a church that is alive.”

As part of the faculty at UD, Sister Yolanda feels she is able to reach further into communities and parishes to which she otherwise would not have been able to connect.

“I would be remiss not to point out the reality of the growing HIspanic population in the church and in our area specifically, all who are seeking better formation and a deepening of their faith,” she said. “As one of the bilingual instructors who teaches in Spanish, I see how we mutually enrich each other, as I remain well-grounded in our local realities and richness in gifts.”

Her students seem eager to learn and to embrace these gifts.

“I find the students are very passionate about growing in their faith and being disciples of Christ,” she said. “They radiate in their desire to achieve academic excellence as well as a strong spiritual foundation.”

Spanish language Pastoral Theology Class

Sister Yolanda Cruz, SSMN from the University of Dallas, teaches Pastoral Theology at the Catholic Pastoral Center in the Diocese of Beaumont. The Spanish language Pastoral Theology class was taught at the Diocese of Beaumont Catholic Pastoral Center March 26, 2017. Sister Yolanda Cruz, from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, taught the class. Sister Cruz teaches Spanish Formation for the University of Dallas. The class is offered online, but once each semester the teacher visits Beaumont to teach the class. This spring semester the course is: “Fathers of the church.”