Celebrating 70 years as BVMs


For The Catholic Messenger

DUBUQUE — Three Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who served in the Diocese of Davenport will celebrate 70 years as BVMs.

• Sister Jean Marie Brady was principal at St. Mary Catholic School in Iowa City and then principal at Regina Elementary School when the schools merged. She entered the BVM congregation on Sept. 8, 1951, professed first vows on March 19, 1954, and final vows July 16, 1959. The BVMs taught her from kindergarten through high school, and she had cousins who were members. “I thought I would like it,” Sister Brady says of her decision to join the congregation.

Sister Brady

After the novitiate, she taught in Illinois and Iowa for 13 years and then went to Iowa City, where she was principal at St. Mary. She supervised the merger of St. Mary and St. Patrick schools to form the Iowa City Catholic Grade School and the move of seventh- and eighth-graders to Regina High School to ease overcrowding. “I also taught religious education on weekends,” she said. She remained principal at the now-named Regina Elementary School, where she instituted morning kindergarten, extended kindergarten enrichment in the afternoon, and started free before and after school daycare.

Sister Buntemeyer

• Sister Lydia Buntemeyer taught math and religion at Clinton Catholic schools from 1967 to 1990. She also taught in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and East Moline, Illinois. She entered the BVM congregation on Sept. 8, 1951, professed first vows on March 19, 1954, and final vows July 16, 1959.

“My heart was called. I feel very privileged to be called to have a vocation to be a sister, and to be a BVM,” she said. The BVMs who taught her at Our Lady of Angels Academy in Clinton exemplified dedication and service, she says. During senior year, her class took a trip to Mount Carmel. “I was very attracted to Mount Carmel,” she says. “The sisters were all so friendly.” She was ready to enter the convent, but her father thought she should wait a while. So she took teacher training at Mount St. Clare Junior College in Clinton for two years, and then joined the BVMs.

Sister Buntemeyer taught math and religion, mostly to junior high students, for 46 years. She taught 20 years in Clinton. At St. Mary, the annual Christmas mosaics that eighth-graders designed and created are great memories for her and students alike. She taped paper across the full length of the back blackboard where students glued tiny squares of colored paper to make a beautiful scene of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Sister Emerson

• Sister Helen (Clare Ann) Emerson, taught at St. Ireneaus Catholic School in Clinton and St. Anthony and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools in Davenport. She also taught at St. Martin Catholic School in Cascade, Iowa. She entered the BVM congregation on Feb. 2, 1951, professed first vows Aug. 15, 1953, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1958.

Her desire to be a sister began when she was in second grade. “We were shown films of missionaries working with the sick and poor. I felt sorry for the people. I wanted to be a missionary. As time went by, I still wanted to be a sister but couldn’t decide what order.

My aunt, Sister Claudius, was a BVM and I went to St. Mary High School, where BVMs taught. My aunt would visit us once a year and we would go see her on visiting Sundays. I met sisters, toured the convents and schools and decided to be a BVM.”

Her life as a BVM took her to classrooms in Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee and to churches in Georgia.

“Choosing the BVM community was right for me,” Sister Emerson said. “I am thankful for all those who have gone before me, passing down their courage to keep going even in hard times. I am grateful for our leadership, who are facing the difficulties of today with courage and strength and wisdom. I am grateful for our freedom to grow and to know that the Holy Spirit has been leading us all the way. For all of this, I give thanks!”

A celebration will be held in September. Send cards and wishes in a sister’s name to 1160 Carmel Dr., Dubuque, IA 52003-7999. To read more about the jubilee sisters visit https://www.bvmsisters.org/whats-new/2021-jubilarians/.

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