"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

Doubly Blessed

By Associate Kate Branch

(From left) Pat Branch, Kate Branch and S. Marie Pauline Skalski

I made my commitment to the Sisters of Charity as an Associate in 2019. When the ceremony was over my Aunt Kay, who you probably know better as S. Marie Pauline Skalski, hugged me and said in my ear, “I’m so glad we’re doubly related now.” I loved that comment.

S. Marie Pauline and my mom, Pat Branch, are also doubly related; Pat made her commitment as an SC Associate in 2013. Outside of my family, the SC family has two other Sister and Associate pairs of sisters: S. Barbara Davis and Associate Carolyn Davis, who also made her Associate commitment in 2013, and S. Louise Lears and her sister, Associate Kate Lears, who became an Associate in 2017. All of these doubly related sisters have much in common; yet, the path each Associate took differs. Just a taste of how much our Sister and Associate pairs have shared their whole lives: they are close in age, have been extraordinarily close since childhood, and have shared the essence of their individual spiritual paths since they were young. The Sister and Associate pairs feel an unmatched joy to be able to share the charism and ministry outreach with their sibling. The clearest thing that came through in these interviews: the three pairs of sisters are all closely bonded, loving, supportive, and proud of each other.

Childhood Bonds and Beyond

(From left) Carolyn and S. Barbara Davis

S. Barbara and Carolyn, who is 18 minutes older, intensely and inextricably bonded when they were “womb mates.” As is sometimes the case with twins, particularly when only one baby is expected, Carolyn wasn’t able to leave the hospital for six weeks. S. Barbara fussed and wouldn’t be soothed until Carolyn came home. Today, in addition to their inexhaustible ministry work, the two spend a lot of time together, sharing a love of sports, games, books and more.

Church was always a part of S. Barbara and Carolyn’s lives. They received an early introduction to Sisters in several different orders, including a brief time with the Sisters of Charity in elementary school. Eventually they arrived at Seton High School and found that, at their root, the SCs were about service and joyfulness. During her senior retreat, S. Barbara discerned that God was inviting her to become a Sister of Charity. She suggested early on that Carolyn become an Associate but it took until 2013 for her to make that commitment, bolstered by the encouragement of S. Barbara’s small group.

Shared Experiences

S. Marie Pauline, two years older, and Pat have been of one mind always. When S. Marie Pauline began grade school, the sisters played “home school.” Pat learned easily because S. Marie Pauline is a natural teacher. They continue to work and play together frequently. Each possesses unique talents that they share generously to the other. They are a big part of each other’s lives, right down to watching “Survivor” together over the phone every Wednesday night.

All along, spiritual development was a shared endeavor amongst the two. Pat credits a deepening of her spirituality in 1975 to S. Marie Pauline’s guidance in meditation and contemplation. In 1997 the pair attended an SC retreat for Sisters and their sisters and had a wonderful experience. Pat had an early interest in Saint Elizabeth Seton. She and S. Marie Pauline communed with St. Elizabeth when in New York City in the mid-90s. They visited Elizabeth’s home on Wall Street and attended vespers at her parish, St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, Wall Street. Those experiences and early connections stayed with Pat, the mother of three, and once were children were grown, she felt the call to become an Associate.

A Role Model for Life

(From left) S. Louise and Kate Lears

As the oldest girl in a family of seven children, S. Louise was naturally the babysitter for the younger children, including Kate. Kate came to see S. Louise as her primary role model. S. Louise and Kate went to church together every morning before school, so religion and spirituality have always been a part of their lives. They share an enthusiastic love of sports, and playing together on teams brought them even closer. Later, Kate made a huge effort and was more than joyful to attend every one of S. Louise’s events, and to visit every place S. Louise was missioned. Kate worked to understand S. Louise’s life in the Sisters of Charity Community. Both she and S. Louise made sure they remained a part of each other’s lives, and they still joyfully are.

S. Louise professed her final vows in 1991. A short 26 years later Kate made her commitment as an SC Associate. Both sisters took their time discerning their relationship with God and with the Sisters of Charity, looking at other orders before choosing the SCs. A few of the Sisters at S. Louise’s final vows asked Kate if she ever considered becoming a Sister, but Kate felt that was not exactly her calling at the time. Later, when she realized something spiritual was missing in her life, she applied to the Associate program, saying, “I feel as though the SC program has corralled all the best parts of growing up Catholic into one pasture for me – a pasture from which I can draw and to which I can contribute so that we all may ‘journey together into wholeness.’”

Called to the Associate Relationship

Pat, Carolyn and Kate were each called to the Associate relationship after their sibling answered her call to religious life. The three Sisters of Charity all feel the Associate sister came organically to the SCs because she has valued the charism her whole life, even before knowing what it was, and particularly by living life through love and friendship. For each of the Associates their discernment and commitment was made easier by having their siblings already a part of the Community. This spiritual relationship brings a renewed energy, both in their relationship to each other, and in their relationship to the Sisters of Charity Community – making them feel doubly blessed.

(From left) S. Marie Pauline Skalski and her sister, Associate Pat Branch; S. Louise Lears and her sister, Associate Kate Lears; and Associate Carolyn Davis and her sister, S. Barbara Davis.

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