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Scattering seeds: A strategy for starting SSND associate groups

Associates logoSchool Sisters of Notre Dame Associates

By Associate Anne Carey and Sister Lupe Valdez, Associate Co-directors

When Sister Mariel Kreuziger starts talking about the SSND Associates, it is hard to contain her enthusiasm. Sister Mariel has been involved in starting two groups of associates, the first group in southeast Ohio and the current group now in Beaver Dam, Wis., about 90 minutes northwest of Milwaukee.

Throughout her 64 years of religious life, Sister Mariel has lived in large communities, alone and sometimes with one other sister. Most of these have been in rural settings away from major SSND centers.

New associates and pre-associates with sisters from Beaver Dam, Wis.

Sister Mariel says her success with forming associate groups is being open to the Spirit, listening deeply to the desires of people for spiritual growth and inviting them to learn more about the mission of the SSND. She recalls how she and Sister Henrita Gonia went through parish directories in Ohio, creating a list of 20 people who they thought might be open to learn more about the School Sisters of Notre Dame. They sent them a written invitation to a simple dinner and an evening where they could learn more about SSND, the spirit of the community and the associate program.

Twenty were invited, 12 showed up for dinner and six became the founding members of the associate group that meets monthly in Coolville, Ohio. Today the Coolville associates are a vibrant group consisting of nine associates and two pre-associates.

Sister Mariel and Sister Anton Marie Voissem, both retired, moved to Beaver Dam, Wis., in 2012 to provide a presence to the people. Unlike Ohio, Beaver Dam has a long history of SSNDs teaching and ministering in the parishes, so the people are aware of and grateful to the sisters who taught them and their children, but many are not familiar with the SSND charism.

Soon after settling into the area, the sisters began to replicate the process used in Ohio. The result of their efforts was evident in early October when six women from Beaver Dam made their first covenant or became pre-associates. Sister Mariel is quick to point out that the key is to listen deeply and extend an invitation.

Sister Mariel is convinced people are drawn to the sense of community exhibited by the SSNDs and desire to find ways they can enhance their spiritual life by growing in the SSND charism. She believes this success can be replicated anywhere by listening to the Spirit, inviting others to join, providing simple hospitality and sharing the SSND story.

When asked what she gains from the associates, Sister Mariel said, “I am re-energized when I spend time with the associates because of their desire to share and grow in the spirit of SSND.”

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