Spotlight on Associates

Maureen Hellwig

Maureen Hellwig“For all the years I have been an associate, justice has been the theme of my ministry,” Maureen wrote in Alive magazine back in 2011. At the time, Maureen was Senior Director of Programs at Chicago’s Erie Neighborhood House, a place that for nearly 150 years has “embraced immigrants arriving in Chicago, welcomed them to our city, and helped them to find their place.”

In that role, Maureen mentored and guided program directors to be effective servant leaders. “But my association with Erie House goes back to 1968 when, as a School Sister of St. Francis, I served as a teacher at Santa Maria Addolorata School, just around the block from Erie House,” she recalled.

“Our principal and superior, Sister Marian Dahlke, was a model of engagement for social justice,” Maureen continued. “She heeded the call of Vatican II on ecumenism and served on the board of Erie House. She knew that our students and families needed a place like Erie, and she encouraged us as sisters to volunteer there. This was ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship’.”

“In the late 1960s, I had in my life two of the most powerful and consistent influences: the School Sisters and Erie House,” she wrote. “My association with both of them has been joyful and productive. These, to me are the characteristics of peacemaking: Making a joyful noise and empowering others, and yourself, to be productive. I have been blessed with extraordinary people and places to help me do this work.”

Maureen retired from her position at Erie House in 2014, but she remains active in Associate Relationship, having recently served on the St. Joseph Chapel Centennial planning committee and attending the Associate Relationship 45th anniversary retreat and festivities this past weekend. We congratulate Maureen on her many years as an associate, and for living out our congregation’s ideal of loving commitment to service.

Maria Torres

Maria TorresIn 1998, Maria Torres met School Sister Maureen Jerkowski, who was director of Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza, an organization bringing hope for immigrant women. This introduction set Maria’s life on a new path.

She said that she did not start out intending to devote her life to social work. Maria had come to the United States from Guatemala on a Fulbright Scholarship to study anthropology at Northern Arizona University. After completing her studies and earning a master of arts degree, she moved to El Paso, Texas, where she applied for a position at the center.

Through her work as the center’s program facilitator, Maria got to know more about the lives of Mexican immigrant women. As she listened to their stories, she wondered how they could be so brave and resilient.

Maria realized that she needed a better understanding of immigration and knew that she would need the credentials to make a difference. She enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Texas-El Paso. For the next four and a half years she worked toward a degree in philosophy in interdisciplinary health sciences. The topic of her dissertation was “The Resiliency of Immigrant Women.”

Now a graduate, Maria said, “I am ready to serve in whatever it may be that is needed, and within my capabilities.” We congratulate Dr. Maria and pray that her life will be full of many blessings as she continues to serve God’s people.

Barbara and James Rayford

James and Barbara RayfordBarbara and James Rayford have lived in Holly Springs, Mississippi, for over 50 years. Their association with the School Sisters of St. Francis family has been just as long.

The sisters’ influence on Barbara began early as she attended grade school and high school at St. Mary’s. She also began pursuing a degree at Alverno College, finishing her degree at Rust College. James received his degree at Rust College, where he served for 43 years as teacher, coach and administrator.

Both Barbara and James are converts to Catholicism. In speaking of his conversion, James said that at the age of 13, his cousin invited him to attend Mass. James said that he felt a strong presence of God and wanted to be a part of this church. Taking instructions and becoming Catholic became a life-changing experience. Although, soft spoken, he is very vocal about his faith and quick to share his beliefs. In fact, he has been asked by some if he was a preacher. Chuckling, he admits that he is very comfortable speaking about the Good News and is so happy to be a Franciscan associate.

When recommending James and Barbara for Associate Relationship, Sisters Julene Stromberg and Ramona Schmidtknecht noted that, “James and Barbara raised an outstanding Catholic family. They exhibit Franciscan values caring and serving others. They are both very active in their parish.”

This long relationship with the sisters included the difficult years of segregation. Those times forged a deep respect, and love for the sisters. Barbara noted that no matter what, “they, the sisters, hung in there with us, and have never left us. Our relationship with Sisters Julene and Ramona can be summed up in the Bible passage (Ruth 1:16), “Where thou goest, so I also shall go.”

Rosaura Solano

Rosaura SolanoRosaura Solano is a familiar name to most sisters and associates. She is the one who takes care of registrations, sending out letters, and answering a variety of questions by phone. However, there is so much more to know about this special woman!

Rosaura was born and grew up in Veracruz, Mexico. In 1999, Rosaura joined her brother Carlos and her parents who had moved to the United States a few years earlier. At first, she said, she knew just a few words in English and had trouble understanding and making herself understood. Eager to remedy this, Rosaura took courses at Milwaukee Area Technical College to learn English. This was just the beginning of Rosaura’s learning. In 2002, she enrolled at St. Francis de Sales Seminary where she pursued, and in 2006 earned, a certificate in Parish Administration. She became very involved in her parish working with youth groups.

In 2005, while working on her certificate, she was hired by the U. S. Province as an administrative assistant in the Associate Relationship office. As she went about her work, she said she saw how the sisters lived and how joyful they were. She also observed the relationship between the associates and sisters. In 2008, Rosaura decided she wanted to be “part of the family by becoming an associate.” From that time forward, she has been totally involved in events, committees, and projects sponsored by the Province and the Associate Relationship office. Rosaura’s cheerful personality and efficiency have made her a valued member of the U. S. Province staff. She is not only highly respected but also loved by those who work with her. “I love the sisters, associates, and my work!,” she said.

For more information, please contact:
Sister Rosemary Reier, Director of Associate Relationship
(414) 385-5270rreier@sssf.org
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