Pictured above: Associate Linda Dolphin, Associate Marlene Von Fumetti, Sister Leanne Welch and Associate Sue Murphy.
by JOAN BRINCKS, PBVM, and CINDY PFIFFNER, ASSOCIATE PARTNERSHIP CO-DIRECTORS
People belong to groups, clubs and organizations for many reasons: friendship and camaraderie; sharing a common interest; service; a work expectation. Becoming an associate is more than joining a club. It is a call from God to live the Gospel life in relationship with a particular religious community and share in their spirituality and charism as lay women and men in the world. The call to commitment requires discernment and a desire to live the values and mission of the community.
Associate Anastasia Nicklaus-Schmelzer explains her commitment, “Being in relationship with the sisters and associates has opened up my mind and my soul to the needs of the world in a greater way. I live in a greater sense of solidarity and earth-consciousness, all guided in faith. I embrace the community’s charism and am amazed that I can contribute to furthering the values of the Presentation Sisters within my little part of the world.”
Sister Diana Blong sums up her experience of journeying with associates through the discernment process, “The associates’ interest and excitement in exploring the life of Presentation foundress Nano Nagle renewed and rekindled my own desire to walk in her spirit in my life. Our conversation reveals the rich heritage we share in Nano’s call to respond to those in need in her time in history, and our call to do the same.”
Associates are not “wanna-be sisters” or the answer to diminishing numbers of women religious. Associates are women and men who seek to live the charism and spirit of the congregation within their primary vocation in society. Associates possess gifts and experiences distinct and independent from the sisters; and their relationship with the community offers fresh and creative life to the expression of the charism in present times. It is a mutually-enriching relationship that recognizes that we are better together than we are alone.
Engaged with associates, Sister Rosalyn Ulfers comments, “I have been edified by the women and men who have committed themselves to become Presentation associates, as they are people of prayer and dedicated to serving in their parish, community and family. As associates, they enhance our mission, and we mutually benefit each other.”
Pondering on her personal experience with associates, Sister Julia Wingert adds, “I am always inspired by the many ways our associates reach out in care and compassion. They assist people in need and work for the common good in whatever way possible in the places where they live and work.”
Associate Sharon Loeffelholz notes how the associate relationship impacts her life, “The women in my associate group are faith-filled. Supporting one another and praying together, we discuss problems in our community and the world and try to find ways to help relieve some of the pain and misfortune of others. I would not have been able to do this on my own, but with my associate sisters I feel stronger and have more courage.”
Many religious communities are currently entering into conversations with associates about how to deepen the relationship and mutuality between sisters and associates while honoring the distinct gifts and experiences that both bring. Together they are discerning how to recommit to the charism and mission of the foundress of their prospective institutions.
The Dubuque Presentation Associate Partnership has been in existence for over 20 years and continues to grow and flourish. During this past year, Dubuque Presentation associates created an associate identity statement that expresses the essence of who they are to themselves, to one another and to the world in being called to the mission and charism of the Presentation Sisters. Giving energy and focus to their lives, the statement speaks to the purpose and expectations of associates and is intended to remind and challenge them to live out that commitment. The Dubuque Presentation Associate Identity Statement reads as follows:
Dubuque Presentation associates are women and men called to share in the life, spirituality and mission of the Dubuque Presentation Sisters.
Grounded in prayer, we support and encourage one another as we seek to embody the Presentation charism of radical hospitality both individually and communally. In the spirit of Nano Nagle, we reach out with hospitality and compassion as we seek justice and respond to the needs of the world.
The statement was presented to all of the Dubuque Presentation associates in December of 2020. They were invited to pray with the statement, to reflect on how it speaks to their heart and how they currently live out the associate call and to deepen that call in their life.
Associate Deb Jasper prayerfully considered the statement and affirms, “My relationship with the sisters and associates has made me more open to look beyond my own doorstep; in other words, to be aware of people in need and how I could help. From my personal experiences with the Presentation community over the years, I believe I am more and more aligned with the mission. Being an associate only enriches my life and makes me a better person.”
Inspired by Nano and the desire to live radical hospitality, Associate Judi Moritz states, “As a Presentation associate, I am challenged to foster the practice of radical hospitality and hone my skills every chance I get, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The example of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters is always top of mind and empowers me to find a way to extend radical hospitality to others as I become more aware and informed of social justice issues.”
Allured by Nano’s vision and passion, associates continue to strengthen their evolving identity and commitment as they are called to embody the Presentation charism so that it is a part of their very being and gift to the world.