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Prayer Pals: The Spirit of the BVMs Continues to Thrive at Clarke

November 21, 2019

The Resident Assistant staff of Residence Life work hard to make sure everyone on campus at Clarke University feels welcomed, supported, and informed. In an effort to connect students with Clarke’s Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) heritage, every Resident Assistant (RA) has been partnered with a BVM sister for one school year. These partnerships are “Prayer Pals,” and, as the name suggests, they will connect in prayer and beyond throughout the year to not only support each other, but all students living in the residence halls. The BVM sisters and RAs gathered together at the beginning of the semester to get to know one another. They enjoyed a wonderful afternoon talking, learning, laughing, and building a lasting bond. The prayer pals also held an ice cream social and mason jar painting event on Clarke’s campus.

Many alumni fondly remember the time when the BVMsisters lived on campus in the residence halls alongside students. Clarke remains committed to honoring the connections between students and the BVM congregation. Celebrating our shared heritage is extremely important to the future of Clarke University.

Clarke continues to further these connections and bring BVM sisters to campus to engage with students living and learning at Clarke. In addition to RA partnerships, BVM sisters also have spent increasing time in Campus Ministry in the Dorice and Corbin McNeill Student Wellness Center, where they offer spiritual guidance and support alongside our Campus Ministry staff.

Director of Sudent Life Brenda White said, “This was an idea that came from our storied history. Long ago, such ‘Prayer Pals’ existed in the form of friendships between students and BVM sisters. Somewhere along the way, as new ideas arose, Prayer Pals were phased out. We want to enliven that bond again. In my mind, it brings our BVM heritage to the forefront of Clarke’s values again. Our campus and buildings may be long standing, but our connections with one another are new.”

“The story of the Prayer Pals between the BVM sisters and the RAs here on campus has come up organically in many conversations I’ve had recently. It’s important to connect students, founders, heritage, and values. It’s both encouraging and inspiring to me,” said Clarke President Thom D. Chesney, Ph.D.

Lori Ritz ’73, Director of BVM Life and Mission, shared, “Brenda White and I put together the program for what we wanted it to be. Being a retired teacher and school administrator, I am familiar with how to train and facilitate groups, so Brenda and I just planned it from there—knowing that taking the time to build relationships first would be crucial.”

She continued, “The sisters and students met for the afternoon early in the school year. They shared a noon meal at Mt. Carmel and engaged in getting to know you activities which focused on relationships and leadership. The sisters and students exchanged emails and phone numbers and have been in contact with each other. Since then, the sisters have visited the RAs on their floors, met students on Clarke’s campus, and continued building relationships. Sisters send notes, assuring students of prayer during finals, vacations, and sporting events.”

Student Rashaud Colbert ’20 is a Sport Management and Business major. He said, “Getting to know my Prayer Pal, Sr. Mira Mosle ’65, has been a very great experience. We did a fun activity of making paper cutouts of ourselves and then exchanged them to always remember one another. We also took pictures that I now have hanging up in my room. Those little reminders keep me focused. I like knowing I have someone not only praying for me, but my floor mates as well. In addition, I feel that knowing her has taught me how to be a better individual inside and outside of the classroom. Making that connection with her has made me feel surrounded with positive love and energy which can help get me through the rest of college. I know that when I am down and need prayer, I can contact Sr. Mira and she will bless me with words of wisdom to keep me going every day.”

Sr. Mira said about Rashaud, “He is a very positive, energetic young man who takes every opportunity to spread happiness and hope. He is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of the young men whom he mentors as an RA. There is great power in prayer, and Rashaud has asked for prayers as he makes decisions to keep his life on track. Juggling studies, RA responsibilities, and athletics calls for the wisdom of the Spirit. His dynamism and spirit of giving back to others has already been a lift to my spirit and given me renewed belief in the goodness of young people and their ability to make a difference in the lives of one another and in the world.”

Savannah Swanson ’22, a double major in Business and Accounting, has met with her Prayer Pal, Sr. Carol Cook, “Sr. Carol and I have a great time just asking each other a bunch of questions from what we like to do in our free time to things that make us laugh. She comes to campus to join us for floor meetings and to talk to my residents. She also attended some athletic events throughout the year. My hope is that I can help her feel like a student again at times and help her relive some of her younger years. She helps me bring my relationship with others closer, while also establishing a closer connection to God.”

Sr. Josette Kelly ’59 is paired with senior Gavin Collingwood. Sr. Josette is a Clarke alumnae and previously taught piano, electronic studio, music history, theory, composition, and literature at Clarke. Sr. Josette said, “Gavin shared with me his reverence for his grandfather, which was inspiring. He told me of his participation in a similar project with Mt. Carmel last year. We talk about spiritual aspects of life and how we agree and differ. I’m often stunned by how effective prayer is, even when we simply send a good thought when one of us comes to the other’s mind.”

The BVM sisters were and continue to be a central piece of the Clarke experience for many alumni. This initiative is only but one way to ensure the BVM spirit lives on. Clarke will continue to educate its students about the power and love of the BVMs. We will share updates on Prayer Pals throughout the semester.

Pals from the Past

Ashley Kurt ’07 met her Prayer Pal 14 years ago. She shared, “One of the most important things I learned while attending Clarke was the importance of relationships and how to value those relationships. I was matched up with my Prayer Pal Sr. Virginia McCaffrey as a young college student. I never imagined that I’d continue to stay in touch over the next 14 years, or that she’d ever meet my daughter! I’d often run into her as I was at Mt. Carmel visiting my great aunt. We would catch up, laugh, and always end our visit with a hug. It’s been a blessing to stay in touch with Sr. Virginia and continue our prayers for each other. I’m thankful for all the relationships I made while at Clarke, but this one holds a special place in my heart.”