Following Her Heart: S. Andrea Koverman professes final vows
As she stood in front of Community members, Associates and family on Aug. 14, 2021, preparing to profess her final vows as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, S. Andrea Koverman’s heart overflowed with gratitude and joy. Looking out into the eyes of so many people who have loved and walked with her through the years, and remembering all those who came before her and their continued presence in her life, she felt their connections, heart to heart.
A piece of artwork, created by Grace Gibson and visibly present on the altar on Aug. 14, beautifully frames S. Andrea’s journey to that moment. Gibson, a good friend of her housemate S. Carol Wirtz, had the opportunity to meet with S. Andrea and capture her experience to religious life. S. Andrea calls it her own sacred icon, and uses it to further explain her life and growth into becoming a fully vested member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.
At the center of this artwork, is her tree of life. “I practically grew up in trees, attracted to their strength, beauty and protection,” she explained. “Cradled in their arms far above my earthly cares and closer to the heavens, I would sway day or night consoled in the knowing that we are both in the world and not of it, finite and infinite, human and indwelt with divinity, individualized but inherently interconnected beyond time and space. I could feel and intuit these perennial truths though I wouldn’t have the words, theology or science to express them until much later.”
In addition to very personal quotes, Scripture verses and phrases framing the artwork are her personal cloud of witnesses, those who have had a deep personal influence in her life. She is guided by the principle of Quantum Entanglement, which states that two entities become entangled through a deep and personal exchange of energy, and once that happens, there is nothing that can ever sever the connection. The intelligence to recognize an entanglement lies not in one’s brain but in one’s heart, and the field of heart intelligence is making incredible discoveries about just how that works. The thin white lines connecting all the hearts in the image by Gibson depict heart intelligence and Quantum Entanglement.
Andrea’s own cloud of witnesses is full of hearts entangled with hers, those she has loved in her lifetime, as well as ancestors, saints, foundresses and guides from way before her time. She explains, “That is how you know my mother or father when you know me, and how we know God when we know Jesus. That is why Elizabeth [Seton] or Blandina [Segale] can speak to me as clearly as Sisters Kateri Koverman or Janet Gildea, and how the words of my Great Aunt, S. Mary Walburga Koverman, rang true in my 9-year-old heart when she said, ‘Don’t worry about a thing, darling. You are going to make a fine Sister. Welcome to the Community.’ She knew that someday I would continue our century-old family tradition.”
Andrea comes from a long line of Sisters of Charity: great-aunts Mary Walburga and Mary Naomi; aunt Mary Joseph; and cousin Kateri Maureen – all Kovermans. Kindred spirits and entangled hearts recognize one another, and it was S. Kateri who helped S. Andrea to experience that truth as she became more invested in the SC community. She says, “I questioned Kateri when she first asked me to consider that I had a vocation to religious life and pressed her to name what it was that would make her ask me that question. After all, I had a whole family of Sister-aunts that never mentioned it to me after Aunt Teenie all those years ago. She put it so eloquently and so perfectly when she said to me, ‘You’ve shared what you hold in your heart with me, what is always on your mind, what you work for, what you pray for. God creates some hearts to love in exclusive relationships, and others to love broadly, extravagantly. That is what Sisters do, and you are one of us.’” S. Kateri is depicted at the base of the tree, lifting up what she recognized in Andrea, her pure self, her essence represented by an infant. The growing iterations of Andrea continue to lift up the true self she is striving to bring forth by acting by the ways and thoughts of God.
The artwork was at the center of S. Andrea’s celebration on Aug. 14 and directed her heartfelt reflection to her Sisters and congregation, something she wanted to do personally. “I thought so much about the years of formation,” she says, “all of the people who have had something to do with that, who have touched my heart or influenced me in some way or encouraged me. I didn’t want it to be about me so much as about us – and the bigger picture.” The entrance procession set the tone for the service, with groups of wisdom figures and elders, family and friends, Community members and formation people each bringing forth a colored piece of cloth to lay on the altar. “This day was about celebrating with the people that I’m saying ‘yes’ to and who are receiving me,” Andrea said. “It’s a reciprocal thing.” Making her final vows in the Motherhouse chapel, in a space that allows her to feel the presence of generations of entanglements, brought her much joy and comfort.
Now, as a perpetually professed Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, S. Andrea looks to the future with confidence. She moved to Anthony, New Mexico, in 2019 when she felt a call to be present for Sisters Janet Gildea, Carol Wirtz and Peggy Deneweth. S. Janet was in the final stages of cancer, and as a most trusted mentor and friend, S. Andrea hoped to be able to help care for her and assist where needed with the many ministries the Sisters were responsible for, including Proyecto Santo Niño in Anapra, Mexico. She remembers S. Janet saying ‘go see what you can do… whatever you can do would be good.” What she soon realized was the clinic, established by Sisters Janet, Carol and Peggy in 2003 to serve children with special needs and their families, was in need of development of their academic and educational programs. With her extensive background in education, she knew she could be of help.
Since S. Andrea’s arrival, the clinic has undergone renovations to offer additional classroom space. These designated spaces are now able to support additional educational needs including preparing preschoolers to be successful in the public school, helping special needs students maximize their potential, tutoring school-aged siblings, aiding young adults in getting education certification, and offering English classes.
As the clinic’s curriculum coordinator/educator, S. Andrea is currently working on building partnerships in Juarez, Mexico and the U.S. to broaden the clinic’s services to include an accredited school program that is inclusive of but not limited to children with special needs. She and Sister of Charity Romina Sapinoso plan to receive Montessori certification to facilitate the transition when the time arrives. “Our niche is to model inclusive education and to lift up the dignity of people with disabilities; to show that segregating them is not of God and is not good for anyone.”
As a member of a congregation founded on education, S. Andrea is inspired to continue this legacy; particularly in advocating for all children to receive the same quality of education, regardless of their financial status or physical/learning abilities. She and S. Romina hope to put in place something that will be sustainable long into the future.
In addition to her responsibilities at the clinic, S. Andrea coordinates the Sisters of Charity AVE (After Volunteer Experience) program, which provides hospitality and support to young women who have done a year or two of volunteer service and who are discerning their next steps. “I feel very privileged to lead this ministry,” she said, adding that S. Janet asked her to continue the program after she no longer was able. “Like her, I believe it’s a unique program. It has a lot of support in the Catholic Volunteer Network and beyond and has begun to be duplicated elsewhere.”
As she looks to the future as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, S. Andrea is grateful to all the women that came before her through the many evolutions of religious life, and to those who continue to be welcoming, loving and discerning how God is calling each of them to bring love to life in the world. She appreciates these kindred spirits and the commonality they share in their love of and pursuit of God. As she begins her new journey she treasures these entanglements and holds close the words of her late mother, Sally, “Follow your heart, Andrea.”