Click on photo below to view slideshow of the IHM Sister-Associate Conference held June 22-24, 2012, at the IHM Center in Scranton.
L-R: Sister Redempta Sweeney, Facilitator of the Circle of Grace, Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM President; Jane O'Neill, Director of IHM Sister-Associate Relationship, and Jo-Ann Baca, Diane Braendly and Joyce Marchese, who were commissioned during the Eucharistic liturgy on Saturday afternoon.
Doorways to the Holy: Opening Together into the Heart of God
by Jane O'Neill
Associates and Sisters from near and far gathered on the weekend of September 23-25, 2016 for the IHM Sister-Associate Conference. We began with Friday dinner, followed by an ice breaker that tested our knowledge of IHM history, people and places, then some time for visiting with one another; we closed with a beautiful rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem sung in rounds. Saturday was a day filled with prayer, learning, Eucharistic liturgy and the commissioning of three women from Wilmington, Delaware, in addition to the opportunity to tour the Rotunda and new Learning Commons on Marywood’s campus. After dinner, we danced and sang our way back to our youth. Our IHM Bandstand was a huge success. There was no shortage of great conversation, a wonderful DJ from a local high school, and dancing that gave way to sheer hilarity at times.
Saturday morning our extended session, facilitated by Sister Chris Koellhoffer, provided us the opportunity to dwell on the Sisters’ Statement of IHM Culture. We pondered the words of this statement with reverence, prayer, reflection, and sharing about our IHM Sisters’ commitment to "seek to promote a culture of contemplative consciousness, lived out together in a life of reverence for the sake of the world." During the morning the associates learned something about the congregation’s efforts to enter into contemplative dialogue over the past few years.
We came together on Sunday morning for breakfast and a panel discussion. Associates made up the panel which was moderated by Sister John Michele Southwick. The panel shared with us their experience of living out the promise they made at the time they were commissioned—the promise to live the Core Values and IHM Charism. We learned what first drew these women to IHM and how, over time, they have engaged with the Sisters and worked to extend the charism in their daily lives.
A final round of Dona Nobis Pacem was the prayer and blessing that we extended to one another in parting on Sunday.
Who are Associates?
IHM Associates are women and men from all states of life and various creeds who are seeking a deeper experience of God for their own transformation and for the transformation of the world. This distinct relationship with the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary creates a mutual bond between the associates and the sisters that widens the circle of Jesus’ unconditional love for all.
What is IHM Associate Relationship?
It is not membership but it is a mutual relationship of vowed members of the congregation and lay women and men. At heart, the associate presence is recognized as the work of God’s creative spirit in the life of the congregation. The vowed members receive from the associates the wisdom of their faith stories, friendship and a new vision of co-creating the reign of God. At the same time, the sisters share the heritage of joyful participation in the redeeming love of Jesus, their spiritual tradition, hospitality, and friendship.
Why does one pursue this relationship?
“I long for something more.”
“I feel a hunger to grow spiritually with others.”
“I am hearing a call to a deeper self.”
“I was drawn by the bond that associates and sisters have through their spiritual connection.”
“I want to be connected with the IHM Sisters with whom I have experienced a gracious hospitality, a deep respect for each person, a prophetic community that celebrates diversity, and the prayer life that nourishes these graces.”
How can one respond to the call?
- Gather information by contacting the director
- Commit to personal prayer, informed reflection and faith sharing in a Circle of Grace.
What associates do:
- Maintain their individual lifestyles as they participate in the spirituality, life, and mission of the congregation.
- Choose to live the IHM Core Values in various ways while actively pursuing their spiritual growth.
- Nurture the bond among themselves and the sisters.
The IHM Congregation is a member of the North American Conference of Associates and Religious : http://www.nacar.org/
Circles of Grace
In January 2015, Sisters Beatrice Caulson and Nancy Elder along with the IHM Associates of Gainesville, Florida, initiated the gathering of a group for young teenagers and called it The Theresa Maxis Circle. The circle began with five young women from grade eight through high school. Pictured front L-R: Jordan Yachabach and Nadia Vassou. Middle L-R: Emma Bokowy, Alison MacMullen, Kaitlyn Maddux. Back L-R: Sister Beatrice Caulson, Jennifer Jones, Stephanie Bokowy, Sondra Moorhead, Pat Rohs, Mary Welch and Sister Nancy Elder.
Pictured are members of the three Circles of Grace from Vestal, NY, and a Circle from Scranton who traveled to Vestal to visit them. They enjoyed prayer, lunch and good conversation about next steps after the associate process is finished. For the Scranton group, the ride home included a visit to Old St. Joseph Church and cemetery where Mother Theresa Maxis first lived when she came to Pennsylvania. They commented that it was humbling to know they were on the same ground Theresa walked when she began her ministry here.
This Circle of Grace was delighted to discover they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have their photograph taken with Pope Francis during a recent visit to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Vestal, NY. Pictured L-R are Lisa Kirby, Judy Battle, Janice Richardson, Pope Francis, Ann Williams, Chuck Wallinger, and Sister Jane Snyder.