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.
Sister Frances Vuillemin began her teaching career in the early 1940s. She taught in schools operated by the Sisters of St. Mary for over 50 years. In 1995 she joined two other Sisters in going to Rwanda for six months to work with children who had survived the genocide. Upon returning to Fort Worth, she volunteered to teach art and to tutor in several of our Catholic schools. When she heard about the Jail Ministry program, she began working with it also, and has now received this well-deserved award from the Tarrant County Sheriff for serving for twenty-three years.
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.”
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
Women Oasis Retreat
Prayer and Sharing
Circles of Women gathered on April 28, 2018; They explored and shared the wisdom of women from scripture, from the Sisters of St. Mary, and wise women from various other sources.
Thank you SSMN!
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
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.
SISTER HOLDS BABIES
Sister Francesca Walterscheid, volunteers once a week at Cook Children’s Hospital. She has 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.”