Humility of Mary Associate Community
The Humility of Mary Associates carry out the charism and mission of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary to bring more abundant life to God’s people, especially those who are poor. The HM Associate Community consists of women and men who have chosen to deepen their baptismal call through prayer, service and community in the spirit of the founders of the Sisters.
The HM Associate Community is open to men and women who are at least 21 years of age. They must understand and value the beliefs, charism and ministries of the HM Congregation and participate in the mission and ministries of the Congregation. Candidates must complete a one year Formation program.
HM Associate Mission Statement
We, the Associates of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, recognize our baptismal call to share our faith and works in ministry with the HM Community. We strive to share in Jesus’ mission of bringing more abundant life to God’s people by responding to the needs of the times.
In the spirit of the HM Community founders, we strive to support one another and the community by sharing our time, talent and treasure through prayer and active ministry.
With Mary as our model, and in the spirit of humility, we trust and look for opportunities to answer “yes” to God’s call.
For more information, contact:
Patsy Richards, HM Associates Director
PO Box 706, Villa Maria Community Center
Villa Maria, PA 16155-0706
HM Associate Sandra Lucas, regional director of spiritual care for Mercy Health, was named one of five outstanding leaders, going above and beyond while demonstrating Mercy Health values and inspiring staff to do the same. All Mercy Health employees were asked to submit nominations, and a committee representing mission integration and human resources selected the winners. All five leaders received gift cards to pay for a celebration with their departments.
Celebrating 30 Years
As the Associate Community celebrates its 30th anniversary, please enjoy the following reflections.
Memories of My 30 Years as an Associate of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary
- Ann McGill
Advent of 1984 found me making my first directed retreat at the Villa with Sister Marguerite Holz. I spent the weekend in a room on the 4th floor of the old building, now demolished, and this building had formerly held the Novices. Not only was this new for me, but I was constantly getting lost and the sisters would look up from their jigsaw puzzle, laugh and redirect me to the correct area. I was just an Associate in training because we were not accepted until 1985.
We attended gatherings at various Sister homes, where they described their various ministries. The variety of ministries and the commitments of the Sisters were mind-boggling.
During our first group retreat at the Villa, we picked a motto, and Mary Rita Gruenweld decided to make a banner. We were 10 candidates, 7 from the Cleveland area and 3 from eastern Ohio and western PA, but we had become fast friends.
We were all so thrilled and honored at our initial commitment ceremony. My son asked (to him a very logical questions), “Mom, does this mean you are going to be a nun?” I responded that somehow I did not think his father would approve of that, but I was going to be connected in a special way to the Sisters.
Sister Damian drove me to the Villa my first directed retreat as an associate (again with Sister Marguerite Holz), and as we pulled into the parking lot she said, “Welcome home, Ann, this is now your community.” I never forgot that moment for its thrill and excitement and love.
Vivian Zorn and I were a part of the committee that did our “statement” on Central America, which started because of the Community’s need to take a stand on the injustices in El Salvador. This was only one of the “statements” we worked on; other associates participated in the statement on women.
Sister Carla Rutter led many of us in prayer meetings including the “service of bread” where we brought breads from around the world, and discussed how each was the “staff of life” for an ethnic group and how we were all connected. We also shared all of the different breads; it was a wonderful Lenten growth experience.
Another committee I joined met at the Rosemary Home, and I was able to meet and love Sister Joan Acker, who, because I was not HM educated, I would never have known. She was a truly wonderful and learned woman, and I and my prayer life are much the richer for the opportunity.
I was able to bring people from St. Ambrose to the Villa for retreat experiences as well. It was their first experience with directed retreats and Sister Marguerite was the perfect person. To this day many of them tell me how much the experience meant to them.
The Best Memories of Being An HM Associate
- Darlene Morrison
I made a private retreat in the 1980s, and I was given a room on the fourth floor of the old convent. I was the only one on the floor for five wonderful, peaceful days. There was a small chapel at the end of the hall where the Eucharist was present. It had pillows on the floor and a few chairs. Sister Leonilla Landgraf told me Jesus and I would be sharing the fourth floor for the next five days. It was July and very hot. There wasn’t any air conditioning in the convent area, so at night I would sit on the wide old window sill and listen to the tree frogs and crickets sing and felt nothing could ever be wrong with the world. One night I remembered there were fans in the chapel and I could stay cool in there. I took my pillow and sheet and slept in the chapel that night. The next day I told Sr. Leonilla that I slept with Jesus beside me. She said it would be our secret.
I also noticed an old stairwell and wondered where it went. I was afraid to go down it for fear I was venturing into an area that I didn’t belong, but one day I decided I would be daring enough to go down the stairwell and see where it lead. When I got to the bottom I looked through the small window in the door and found I was outside where the old “Book Nook” used to be. Those five days live in my heart as some of the best days I ever spent at the Villa. I had trouble getting into my car to leave for home because I felt so welcome and at peace on that holy ground.
This was before the present day chapel was redone. There were pews and carpeting and an altar area that had seven steps to get up to it. This chapel had its own smell and every time I went in and sat down, I would smell this smell that was so soothing and comforting. I wondered what it was; maybe the wood from the pews or something they might have used to clean them. I would sit in there and get a feeling of something warm and comforting pouring over me and it brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was from the years and years of prayers that were said in that chapel by the Sisters, and then I felt it was God’s presence. Every once in a while I will get just a hint of that smell again and that same feeling will come back to me. What a blessing!
This happened more recently. A group of us were packing clothes to send to Haiti and we had tables piled high with boxes of all sizes. They were all sealed and ready to be taken to the mail room. Dwight looked around and said, “Where is my ball cap that I left on the table with your purse?” It was nowhere to be found. We looked at the boxes and agreed we were not going to unpack all those boxes looking for his hat. Delores saw it and thought it was part of the things to be sent to Haiti and so it was packed. I told Dwight that someone in Haiti needed that hat more than he did.
I could go on and on with memories, some of them sad, some very funny, some not so funny, but all of them are good and stored away in my memory. The best part is the Sisters and other Associates that I have met and made friends with. The encouragement, love, friendship and prayers that I have received by being an HM Associate are truly a gift from God. I wouldn’t trade a minute of my 26 years of experiences for anything. Being an Associate has been the greatest and best decision I ever made for myself and my experiences are not over yet. God has more to give because of my commitment to the HM Community.
A Treasured Sister, Associate Connection
- Toni Kline
As I reflect over the 30 years as an Associate, I find myself being inspired again and again by many of the Sisters who have gone home to God and played a most important role in my spiritual and personal life, helping me to develop relationship with a loving God through their love and compassion shown to me and to my family. To name just a few: Sr. Sheila Salmon, Sr. Racquel Domingez, Sr. Barb Walter, and those still surrounding me in this present journey, Sr. Catherine Cassidy, Sr. Sue Klein, Sr. Jeannette Dufek, Sr. Elaine Wellinger, and many more.
These 30 years have been a process of questioning, searching, finding, listening and trusting in a circle of love which only the Sisters and partner Associates could provide. I believe that "being in the world but not of it" can only be learned through experience and time. The Associate connection has allowed for both. My hope is that this connection will continue to grow into changes and expansions that we have come to know as faithful trusting. My prayer is that more folks come to the circle, eager to take a step into a process that is life changing and life giving. Thank you Sisters and partner Associates, for the invitation to walk the journey together for the rest of my life.
A Simple Invitation that Changed Us Forever
- Patsy Richards
My husband and I became Associates in 1999. At that time I was not sure where this association was going to take us. We were invited to the Associate Community by Sr. Elaine Schindler ‒ a simple invitation that changed us forever.
Association is a call and I knew I was being called but I was not sure what I was being called to do. Over time, this call has evolved as our lives unfolded. Looking back I can see the hand of God in the whole thing; as one set of circumstances led to another. Not in a million years would I have thought I would be where I am now.
Our daughter attended Villa Maria High School, and through the school we met many of the Sisters. We were impressed with the mission and ministry of the Sisters. When the school closed and the retreat center opened I was with the Diocese of Pittsburgh Youth Retreat Office, and Sr. Rose Marie Kramer and Sr. Elaine asked if I would be able to help with youth retreats at the Villa. This began a life-long relationship with the Sisters, Associates and Villa Maria.
One such relationship was with Sr. Mary Nativity, who liked to watch the Dating Game on TV. We would talk about the episodes and I shared with her I was worried about our son and daughter’s choices of those they were dating. She said she would pray for them to find their mates for life. Each time she saw me she would tell me, “I am still praying.” She was still with us when Krissy and Dan met but not when Jeff and Kelly met. However, I know Sr. Mary Nativity still had her hand in it – we were all sure of it, and when Jeff and Kelly were married, we gave special thanks to Sr. Mary Nativity for bringing them together.
My husband and I love our Associate friends, our companions on the journey. For each of the Associates, our HM Associate pin is more than a pin; it is the outward sign of our inner commitment. Associates journey home to God with their pin. Last year HM Associate Dolores Cugino journeyed home to God. When we attended the wake, we saw she did not have on her pin. Her husband just could not find it. I had one with me and we all stood with Dolores as he placed the pin on her and she journeyed home with the sign of her commitment to the Humility of Mary community.
Last fall I celebrated my own Lifetime Commitment to the Humility of Mary community with five of my Associate companions. My companion/mentor for my Lifetime Commitment was Sr. Elaine Schindler, who first invited me to this way of life. It was a special moment in my life and the first celebration of HM Associate Lifetime Commitment in our Associate Community.
In the 30 years of the HM Associate Community, we have grown and changed. Yet we remain at heart, a community of women and men, dedicated and committed to the HM Charism and to the HM Community. Wherever we are Humility of Mary is.
I Could Feel Christ at My Side
- Mary Lou Mack
My memories are so numerous, so I will share just a few. One winter's day I was reading John's gospel where Christ is gathering his disciples. I was just discerning religious life or a lay association. That afternoon I chose the HM Associates I could feel Christ at my side literally and physically. On the day I began formation after the program was put on hold for a year, the reading for our class that day was the same verse in John. Beckoning "Come I will show you where I live." I was brought to tears. I was home at the Villa.
I had always loved women and especially the elderly, and for a number of years I volunteered with the retired sisters. They years of grace for me. One of my favorites, Sr. Consolata reminded me early on that they were little old ladies first and sisters second. How dear they were. They taught me how to grow old and suffer with dignity and utter faith. Sr. Marcia Crucis, Sr. Dorothy Murray and the Mullin sisters will be in my heart for the rest of my life. I remember afternoon teas organized with hats and pearls and Sr. Therese Berry at the helm. A few are still with us from this class, Sr. Margaret Mary Siegfried, the others are in glory, and I can say from my perspective they are with us still. How I love them and this community.
This community has always been on the cutting edge, never shying away from modern issues, the poor, peace, social justice and opening new ways of belonging with the Covenant formation. How fortunate we are to be a part of God's plan through this community.
It's Like Deepening a Friendship
- Alan Bayowski
When I moved to The Villa I knew very little about the many ministries of the HM Sisters.
As my spiritual journey at the Villa continued, I was drawn to the HM story of ministry and the charism of the sisters as I was blessed to get to know many of the sisters.
Like a friendship that deepens, those relationships lead me naturally to the associate community, and I am so thankful for the many blessings this connection has opened up to me in my life.
The associate community has provided me with, not only a closer relationship with the sisters, but opportunities for new friendships and partnership service with the sisters in several of their many ministries (Villa Maria Apartments, Dorothy Day House) and the opportunity to develop close friendships with other associates who are traveling their spiritual journeys, like me, aided by the associate community.
It’s like deepening a friendship that brings you to the family reunion. Sharing in so much more, joining in the active HM ministry and becoming a part of the HM legacy of service.