Associates build extended communities

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Living out the works of mercy in their everyday life

By Sister Lupe Valdez and Associate Anne Carey

Associates around the Central Pacific Province celebrate their service and commitment to God through a variety of events.How do associates stay connected when ministering hundreds of miles away from other associates? By extending an invitation to men and women to become SSND associates within their communities.

SSND associates are located across the United States and around the world. United in a desire to live out the spirit and mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the associates are lay women and men who better their communities in their own ways. Because many associates live in areas far away from large SSND communities, they have adapted and formed their own communities to spread the SSND vision and spirit.

The sisters ministering in Coolville, Ohio, have perfected the art of inviting and nurturing associates. The foundation of the associate community in Coolville began on May 17, 2008, when Sisters Mariel Kreuziger and Henrita Gonia invited Sister Joan Penzenstadler and Associate Marni Geissler from Elm Grove, Wisconsin, to share information about the SSND associates in hopes of developing an associate base in Coolville, Ohio. Sister Mariel shared information with 20 friends and parishioners who attended this informational gathering. Of those, six individuals became the founding members of this associate group. Ten years later, there are 13 associates total with eight men and women preparing to join the associate group later in 2018.

Associates in Ohio have started a variety of ministries, including the Green Hope Gardens in Little Hocking, Ohio, which provides fresh and canned vegetables to a local food bank.

Sister Joan Marie Van Beek and Associate Cindy Molinari are active members of the associates group in Ohio.“It is always a joy for the sisters and associates to work together on projects that bring oneness to their community, whether it is raising vegetables for the local food bank or making prayer sacks for high schoolers,” said Sister Joan Marie Van Beek, an associates coordinator in Ohio.

Sister Joan Marie has coordinated various associate activities at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Coolville since 2011, and has helped in preparing 15 of the 21 associates and pre-associates as they learn more about the SSND mission. She also helps coordinate the prayer sack program,where one of 50 Scripture quotes is placed into a brown paper lunch bag and distributed to high schools and youth groups.

Sister Lauretta Rose Koscielniak is in her third year of ministry in southeast Ohio and feels enriched by the mutual sharing of spirituality, charism, gifts, prayer and commitment with the associates. She said that associates are eager to be involved in activities such as helping out those in need and in other ways to help further the mission. Because of the distance from other SSNDs, this connection with the associates is beneficial and helpful to all.

Sister Joan Marie finds her interaction with the SSND associates and pre-associates very life-giving. She said, “We may be the only SSND sisters in Ohio, but the spirit of Mother Theresa and Mother Caroline are very strong in our associate/pre-associate relationship.”

Are there people you would like to invite to explore the spirit of the community through the SSND associate relationship? Contact the directors of associates at for more information.

Related stories:
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  • Beekeeping shows mercy and compassion Most people may not think of beekeeping as an act of mercy. However, if the main reason to care for bees is to help them survive in an increasingly unsafe environment made so by human action, and to refrain from exploiting them for the honey they produce, beekeeping surely represents compassion and mercy. Read more...
  • Writing and my bus ministry To me, mercy means being available to joyfully and humbly serve as needed, which is what I do in my “bus ministry” as I wait at city bus stops and ride city buses in Milwaukee. I have incorporated my bus ministry with another ministry: bringing Scripture to life by condensing it into readable poetry and publishing it as books. Read more...

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