"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

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

Up the Line

In April Affiliate Karina Montes-Ayala and Pre-entrant Sandra Ramirez traveled “Up the Line” – I-25 from Albuquerque to Denver – with Sisters Andrea Koverman, Peggy Deneweth and Carol Wirtz. The journey to various ministries, past and present, where Sisters of Charity lived and served offered the two discerners the opportunity to learn more about the Community’s history and service to God’s people – a legacy that continues today. Learn more about the tremendous impact the experience had on both women as well as the Sisters accompanying them below.

S. Peggy Deneweth
Traveling “up the line” was a journey not only to experience our Sisters of Charity past, but also my own journey living and ministering in the West. I have traveled these roads many, many times, but this time, as we were reliving the history of our Sisters who paved the way for us, I had a deep sense of gratitude for each of them. Reliving their struggles and determination to create a system of justice and new life for those they served took true courage and trust in God. This trip (to Albuquerque and Santa Fe) was unique for me in that in each place that I went (S. Carol and I did not continue on to Colorado), I had also served. I was retracing my own life and ministry in the West. The experience left me with an awareness that I had not had before. We truly are following in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. The whole purpose of the trip was to have Karina and Sandra experience the SC history in the West. They, too, represent those who may follow in our footsteps.

S. Andrea Koverman
We feel that it is really important for newer members to have a broad sense of our congregation because, though connected through time and place through our shared charism, there is and has been great diversity in the ways God has called us to put our gifts and talents to use in the service of God’s people. It was wonderful to have within our group women at the very beginning, middle and more towards the end of religious life. We often felt their presence as stories of Sisters everywhere we went introduced us to women past and present who left behind a legacy of love and service as they made their way back to the Motherhouse in retirement or on to their final home with God. Every stop and conversation filled us with a sense of wonder and awe at what incredible good has been and continues to be done by women of faith committed to doing their best as they “met their grace” when faced with daunting challenges. Like S. Blandina Segale admonishes us still today, they omitted nothing out of hardship or repugnance and so left a wake of healing, compassion, love and justice all the way “up the line”!

Karina Montes-Ayala
Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to go “up the line” visiting and learning about the history of our Sisters’ missions in the West. It was incredible to see how the fruits of their hard work, love of service, and the gift of our charism live on to this day through these ministries.

This was a very special experience. Not only because of the Sisters that I journeyed with but also being guided by Sisters Peggy and Carol who ministered in these places. This opportunity opened my eyes to see the courage, love, and reliance on the Spirit that our Sisters have. I hope to one day do as they have taught me – to do what presents itself and meet the needs with a caring and compassionate response.

Sandra Ramirez
This trip “up the line” was an amazing, surreal experience. It gave me an opportunity to take a deep dive into the history of the Sisters of Charity. I had the opportunity to see firsthand many of the remaining ministries and how they are still impacting people today. I felt so honored to hear the stories S. Peggy told and her many experiences in the different ministries.

I have read “At the End of the Santa Fe Trail” three times and having the opportunity to see all the places talked about in the book and in person was unbelievable. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow! Blandina was 24 and did all of this … I am 24 now and what have I done?”

As a discerner with the Community, this trip opened my eyes to see what it truly means to be a Sister of Charity and to Hazard Yet Forward. These women are so inspiring, and I hope to one day be able to do a fraction of the work they have done for the people in need. (I pray that all Sisters, past and present, walk with me on my journey of discernment.)

Travel Log

Day 1: Albuquerque, New Mexico
The group toured St. Joseph’s Children learning about the historic work of S. Blandina Segale in Albuquerque and how her legacy continues today from Allen Sanchez, president and petitioner of her cause for beatification. “It is incredible to see how the organization has grown and continues to respond to the needs of the community,” said Sandra.

 Their next stop was for a tour and conversation with the manager of the Blandina Convent in Old Town, New Mexico. They also heard about the plans to renovate the building and convert it into a retreat center and Blandina museum. Finally they explored the new and old hospitals in the area, with S. Peggy sharing her experiences and the experiences of young nurses she knew before her. 

Day 2: Santa Fe, New Mexico
The group visited St. Elizabeth Shelterfounded by S. Shirley Le Blanc and still going strong today. Next, they went to Villa Therese Clinic and St. Vincent hospital complex. Within the building complex at one time included an orphanage and nursing school. Finally, they visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the square before retiring for the evening and enjoying the vista from the mountains overlooking Santa Fe. 

Said Sandra, “St. Elizabeth Shelter for the homeless in Santa Fe was an incredible organization to see. I had no idea that the Sisters started this organization years ago. It warms my heart that it is still up and running and serving hundreds of people in the community. We got to talk to an employee who came to the shelter years ago looking for help. Now she works for the shelter and advocates how important this ministry is.”

Day 3: Chimayó and Taos, New Mexico
Chimayó is central to the devotion to Santo Niño de Atocha and a very special place for this particular group of Sisters to visit. They spent a long time there before driving to Taos where they found St. Francis of Assisi school and convent where Sisters of Charity Grace Catherine Aufderbeck and Annette Frey taught.

Day 4: Trinidad, Colorado
S. Rosaleen Simpleman’s brother, Louis Simpleman, and his wife met the group in Trinidad and spent the whole day showing them the town and sharing stories. They visited Holy Trinity Catholic Church (1885) and saw the school and convent where so many Sisters of Charity lived and taught; plans are to create an assisted living center at the school/convent, Holy Trinity Academy (started by Sisters Donna Bryant and Isabella Glenn). They also visited the Blandina Wellness Gardens, where the names of all the SC teachers and nurses who ministered in Trinidad are displayed; the Blandina Gift Shop; Mount San Rafael Hospital, where S. Augusta Zimmer’s mural is displayed; the Ave Maria Queen of Peace Shrine (1934) overlooking the hospital and town; the cemetery where someone still puts a fresh flower on the graves of the Sisters of Charity; and finally, Mt. Carmel Health Wellness and Community Center, the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, that was renovated and repurposed in 2007 by Jay and Emily Cimino.

Added S. Andrea, “It’s always fun for me to find my relatives’ names on the wall [in the Blandina Wellness Gardens]. My Aunt Jane, S. Mary Joseph Koverman, and her aunt, S. Mary Naomi Koverman, both can be found listed with so many others. Both Louis and his wife were taught by Aunt Jane and were deeply grateful for the education they received.”

Days 5 and 6: Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colorado
The Sisters were hosted for lunch by S. Barbara Jeanne Krekeler who pointed out the Western Novitiate, St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, and Pueblo Catholic High School. S. Nancy Crafton wasn’t able to meet with the group but they also learned about Los Pobres Center in Avondale, Colorado, and S. Nancy’s ministry with migrants.

The group went to Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral and walked through the beautiful display of S. Roberta Westrick’s commissioned artwork of saints. Then they set out to find the SET office. Service, Empowerment, Transformation is a social service agency that S. Barbara Counts was involved with. It has grown and the group was given a tour of one of the service sites called Marion House that is a food bank and homeless shelter.

They also spent time at Penrose Hospital to learn its history from the early days (1900) as the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium to the present day. The gift shop shared a very special book (though not for purchase) called “The Sisters’ Story” where they learned more about so many Sisters who ministered there, including Myra James Bradley, Sally Duffy and Louise Lears.

Sister Andrea noted, “Someone listening to our squeals of delight as we went through the book page by page would have thought we were looking at rock stars or something! But these Sisters are rock stars to us. We spent an hour or more taking photos of the pages since the book was sadly not for sale.” Added Karina, “It was remarkable to see how the Sisters met the needs at that time – to build a tuberculosis sanatorium and how to this day their legacy lives on still impacting the community.”

Finally they visited El Pomar, arriving late in the afternoon after everyone had left and having the place to themselves to explore. They learned its history and saw many remembrances and tributes to the SCs. It is now a wonderful setting dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations working to improve lives in the Pikes Peak area and beyond. The three women enjoyed exploring the beautiful grounds and gardens.

Day 7: Denver, Colorado
S. Andrea, Karina and Sandra spent their last day with S. Jackie Leech in Denver. S. Jackie took them to visit a shrine to St. Cabrini up in the hillside. “It was thrilling to go to where she miraculously tapped a rock with her cane and water sprung forth!” recounted S. Andrea. S. Jackie told the group about her history in that area before doing a drive through Denver showing them all the sites where Sisters ministered including Cathedral High School and convent and the original and contemporary sites of the Margery Reed Mayo Day Nursery.

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