Featured here are Presentation Sisters who celebrate 10, 25, 50, 60 and 75 years in religious life.
2014 Jubilee Celebrations
As the Mississippi River flowed quietly on a sunny July 16 evening, nearly 100 sisters boarded the American Lady cruise boat at the 16th Street harbor in Dubuque. Enjoying a festive evening, 14 Presentation Sisters began celebrations of “the year of jubilee” which took place during summer Community Days.
With a focus on the life-giving gift of water, “Draw water joyfully” (Isaiah 12:3), and “Give me this water that I may not be thirsty” (John 4: 15), Sisters Diana Blong, Cheryl Demmer, Richelle Friedman, Suzanne Gallagher, Elena Hoye, Sharon Kelchen, Beth Kress, Corine Murray and Pamela Quade marked 50 years of religious commitment on July 17. They gathered in Sacred Heart Chapel for a prayer ritual proclaiming the beginning of their jubilee year and pledging to provide water purification devices for people in Bolivia where their sisters minister. They also invited Presentation Sisters, associates and friends to join them in this endeavor.
Sister Diana Blong
Recalling her journey to religious life, Sister Diana states, “The dedication, simple warmth and kindness of the Presentation Sisters in Mason City, Iowa, drew me to the community. At the time of Vatican II, Pope John XXIII’s challenge to be animated by charity and be united so that the ‘needs, sufferings and joys of others are felt as their own’ drew me to follow Nano Nagle’s lantern of hope and love both near and far.”
Sister Diana is the pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception Parish in Charles City, Iowa. Previously she served as a high school teacher, director of religious education and youth minister, team member in congregational leadership, hospital chaplain, pastoral associate in several parishes and English and theology instructor at the Theological Pastoral Centre in Tanzania, East Africa.
“Jubilee invites me to remember and give thanks. I am grateful for this grace-filled journey thus far, for the many surprises along the way and for all who have challenged, supported and inspired me with blessings beyond measure,” comments Sister Diana.
Sister Cheryl Demmer
Sister Cheryl was inspired by her parents’ great respect for the priests and sisters who ministered at St. Joseph Parish and School in Farley, Iowa. As she became a Presentation Sister, she grew to love the image of Nano Nagle going out into the streets with her lantern to teach women and children.
“Each time I am teaching a class, whether it be confirmation, RCIA, baptism or other faith formation themes, I use Nano as my role model,” Sister Cheryl comments.
Sister Cheryl is presently the director of religious education at S.S. Mary and Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Mary Parish in Wilton, both in Iowa. She has served as a primary, intermediate and junior high teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools and as director of religious education in several parishes.
“In celebrating 50 years in religious life I have found that St. Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:9) has sustained me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I saw each new assignment as a wonderful opportunity to be stretched a little bit more, and I was open to the graces that I knew that I would be given,” states Sister Cheryl.
Sister Richelle Friedman
Sister Richelle sees the challenge for those living religious life “the same as those of all humanity, to partner in reclaiming a sustainable Earth where peace and respect are the hallmarks of relationships.” Sister Richelle is the director of public policy for the Coalition on Human Needs in Washington, D.C. Previously she served as a high school and junior high teacher in Catholic schools. She also served at various national social justice agencies in the Washington D.C. area, particularly those organizations with a focus on the needs of low-income families.
“I am deeply grateful that the Spirit has gifted me with a supportive family and community,” comments Sister Richelle. “My ministry as a teacher provided me the sacred opportunity to influence the education of young people. For the last 25 years I’ve had the privilege of working in political ministry in faith-based and non-profit organizations whose mission of working to create a society marked by economic justice is inextricably aligned with our Presentation mission.”
Sister Suzanne Gallagher
Sister Suzanne finds personal meaning in the “Draw Water Joyfully” jubilee theme. “It reminds me to thirst for the Living Water that blesses, heals and makes us whole. This in turn impels me to invite others to awareness of the presence of this life-giving water in their lives through my hospitality, compassionate presence and listening in ministry.”
Sister Suzanne currently does patient visiting at Good Samaritan Center in Waukon, Iowa. She has also served as a teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools.
“I am deeply amazed by the presence of God in my life as I celebrate this jubilee year. I have not journeyed alone,” states Sister Suzanne. “Family and friends have also gifted my life and guided me. The most difficult times have been times of the most personal growth, and I live in deep gratitude for them. I am thankful for 42 years in Catholic education and am energized by my current ministry among persons in the company of dementia.”
Sister Elena Hoye
Sister Elena is the International Presentation Association networker with an office in Dubuque. Previously she served as a teacher; director of theology curriculum and dean of students in Catholic high schools; formation director and vice president for the Sisters of the Presentation; pastoral associate; diocesan director of catechesis and faith formation; and hospital vice president of mission.
“I am so grateful that God has nurtured and blessed my life in the Presentation community for 50 years,” says Sister Elena, “Jubilee is a marvelous time to reflect and to recommit to my lifelong promise. It is also an opportunity to express my gratitude for the grace that religious life has been for our Church and to the world.”
Sister Sharon Kelchen
Grateful for the witness of past teachers, Sister Sharon states: “The Presentation Sisters were my teachers in grade and high school. They had a quiet but powerful presence in our small town of Ryan, Iowa. I saw them in the community praying, working hard as teachers with meager resources but caring and happy. Their life of service spoke to my heart. I was willing to take the risk to enter into this different lifestyle because I had witnessed the hospitality of the sisters to their God, and to me, a simple farm girl.”
Sister Sharon is minister of care at St. Elizabeth Pastorate of Bankston, Epworth, Farley, Placid and Peosta, Iowa. She has also served as a music teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools; Spanish and English choir director and parish worker; house coordinator at the Sisters of the Presentation; and staff member at Maria House in Dubuque.
“I carry much gratitude for all the memories within my heart that
I will never forget of the many people that I have ministered among and who have shared their journey of life with me,” comments Sister Sharon. “I have grown through educational opportunities, challenges and the time to reflect on the faithfulness of a God who continually resonates through the gospel writer, John. ‘I have come to bring you life and to the fullest.’”
Sister Beth Kress
Sister Beth appreciates the movements of the Spirit in religious life, the Church and the world. “We are being called beyond power structures of the past to live in greater interdependence, to honor the dignity of all persons and to preserve the gift that is Earth.”
Sister Beth serves as communication specialist for the Sisters of the Presentation and as public relations and marketing coordinator for the Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque. Previously she served as teacher and publications adviser in Catholic high schools; coordinator of public relations and telecommunications for a Catholic school system; publications editor for the Sisters of the Presentation; first coordinator of the International Presentation Association; national coordinator for professional communicators for women religious; director of religious education and family caregiver.
“In this year of jubilee, I thank God for being my solid anchor and my constant companion,” states Sister Beth. “Through a loving family and a supportive religious community, I have been blessed with many opportunities to experience personal relationships and partnerships and rich learning experiences across the globe while using God’s gifts creatively for good.”
Sister Corine Murray
Sister Corine has a deep love for her ministry of welcoming immigrants to Dubuque. “In a world where the needs of so many cry to heaven, the Gospel value of hospitality is so important. I believe Catholic sisters are on the right side of history,” she states.
Sister Corine is executive director of the Presentation Lantern Center. She also served as a teacher in Catholic junior high and high schools and as a pastoral administrator/associate.
“Jubilee is a special time to count one’s blessings,” remarks Sister Corine. “The charism of our Presentation foundress, Nano Nagle, is hospitality. I first experienced it in the sisters who were my teachers in grade school. Nano’s spirit of welcome is something that I try to extend to the immigrants and their volunteer tutors who come to Presentation Lantern Center.”
Sister Pamela Quade
Sister Pamela reverences the Presentation charism of Nano Nagle. “To live the charism of hospitality is to be inclusive and to welcome all I encounter in my ministry and daily life. It is to be aware of and to respond to the needs and challenges of our world.”
Sister Pamela is a lobby receptionist and volunteer for the oncology unit at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, and a Mercy Hospice volunteer receptionist and home visitor in Johnston, Iowa. Previously she served as a teacher and principal in Catholic schools; assistant to the director of the House of Mercy in Des Moines; and finance associate for the Sisters of the Presentation.
“This jubilee year is a time to reflect on the ministries and opportunities I have had,” comments Sister Pamela. “I am grateful for my Presentation community, and for my family, friends and co-workers who have walked with me on my life journey.”
Sisters celebrate their 50th Golden Jubilee. Left to right: Back row: Sisters Elena Hoye, Suzanne Gallagher, Diana Blong, Richelle Friedman, Sharon Kelchen and Cheryl Demmer; Front row: Sisters Beth Kress, Corine Murray and Pamela Quade.
60 & 10-Year Jubilarians
Celebrating with the theme “Jubilee – Light – Life,” Sisters Mary Julianne Brockamp, Mary Louann Doering, Mary Dennis Lentsch and Mary Louise Scieszinski celebrated 60 years and Sister Mery Cari Paz celebrated 10 years of religious life on July 18.
During the homily, Father Doug Wathier reflected on three shoots which come forth from the Presentation tree: jubilee, light and life and how, through their faithfulness, the jubilarians connect these shoots to the joy of the past and hope for the future. “Today it is fitting to thank the jubilarians for the ways they have illuminated our pilgrimage of faith, for sustaining us with their connections with our traditions and for empowering us to go forward strengthened by their faithful example,” stated Father Doug. “We thank Sister Julianne for her expansive and inclusive global vision. We thank Sister Louann for her joyful wisdom. We thank Sister Dennis for her courageous commitment to justice. We thank Sister Louise for her compassionate perceptiveness. We thank Sister Mery for her brave willingness to carry the Presentation lantern into the future. Sisters, we thank each of you for the ways you have lighted, and continue to illuminate, the paths of discipleship.”
Sister Mary Julianne Brockamp
Sister Julianne is serving her second term in community leadership for the Sisters of the Presentation. She has served as an elementary teacher and principal in Catholic schools and as a missionary in Entre Ríos and Cochabamba, Bolivia. She also served as a pastoral associate; director of religious education; campus minister; parish life coordinator; Hispanic parish minister and ESL teacher in a public school system.
As she celebrates this jubilee and reflects on religious life today, Sister Julianne comments: “The great challenge of living religious life today is to continually read the signs of the times and courageously respond with Gospel compassion, love, justice and wisdom on behalf of all creation.”
Sister Mary Louann Doering
Sister Mary Louann is in community prayer and service at the Sisters of the Presentation motherhouse (Mount Loretto). Previously she served as an elementary and high school teacher; instructor at Clarke College (currently Clarke University) in Dubuque and parish minister.
Reflecting on her jubilee, Sister Mary Louann states, “I have gratitude and joy for vocation, community, ministry, people I have met and for support from my family. Being part of the Sisters of the Presentation has been a source of blessings and of opportunities to serve God’s people.”
Sister Mary Dennis Lentsch
Sister Mary Dennis welcomes challenges to religious life today. “I think a challenge for religious life today comes from our culture that pushes people to do as much as they can and as fast as they can. I believe as religious we are called to present an authentic witness of balancing being and doing in our lifestyle and our ministry.”
Sister Mary Dennis began her years of ministry as a secondary teacher in Catholic schools. Over time she has served two terms on the Presentation congregational leadership team. Her heart-focus is to effect a better world for everyone. Toward that end, she has variously worked in rural Appalachian non-profit organizations in east Tennessee, offering empowerment and advocacy; actively worked for a nuclear-free future, which involved some non-violent resistance; ministered in the Diocese of Knoxville Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, and has offered hospitality for homeless people in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sister is currently serving as a peace activist in Washburn, Tennessee.
“This jubilee gives me an opportunity to celebrate my 60 trips around the sun as a member of the Sisters of the Presentation,” comments Sister Mary Dennis. “My heart is full of gratitude for the many people who have encouraged and supported me during these years in my efforts to live and minister in the Gospel spirit of Jesus and the charism of Nano Nagle.”
Sister Mary Louise Scieszinski
Sister Mary Louise is in community prayer and service at Mount Loretto. Previously she served as an elementary and French teacher and principal in Catholic schools; curriculum director for the Archdiocese of Dubuque and formation director for the Sisters of the Presentation.
“Jubilee is a time of immense amazement and gratitude to God for the gifts of life and family, faith and vocation,” states Sister Mary Louise. “Parents, family, teachers, sisters and friends have enabled me to follow the light of Nano Nagle and share in educational ministry and service experiences with God’s people.”
Sister Mery Cari Paz
Sister Mery believes that hospitality is the heart of the Gospel. “The call to live the charism of Nano Nagle for me is a call to live the Gospel. It is in hospitality that it is possible to recognize Jesus, and hospitality is where we gratefully share with our brothers and sisters. Hospitality is not a group thing, but a necessity of each and every one. For that reason it urges us individually to reach out to others.”
Currently Sister Mery is a student at the University of Juan Misael Saracho in Tarija, Bolivia, where she is studying for a degree in psychology. She has previously served in youth ministry in Entre Ríos, Bolivia. Before entering the Sisters of the Presentation in 2004, she was working as a pharmacist in Tarija.
“Even in the midst of adversities, and amidst a consumer society in which we live, religious life offers hope,” reflects Sister Mery. “When we concern ourselves with care of the environment and care of life; demonstrate that it is possible to share and live a simple lifestyle and give ourselves to the service of others, we offer hope. As a Sister of the Presentation, my dream is to be worthy to be called ‘Sister’ and to joyfully offer hospitality wherever I am.”
Sisters celebrate their 60th and 10th Jubilee. Left to right: Sisters Mary Louise Scieszinski, Mary Louann Doering, Mary Dennis Lentsch, Julianne Brockamp and Mery Cari Paz.