Bon Secours Associates participate in the mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours by compassionately serving others in need in their own vocation in life, in collaboration with the Sisters.
Associates are people who live out the charism (a special gift of the Holy Spirit) of Bon Secours, through prayer, service and faith-sharing by their participation in an Associate Community. Members, both married and single, live in their own homes and carry out their own professions in the world. They come together monthly with other Associates for prayer, study of Scripture or other spiritual readings, and mutual support.
Charism of Bon Secours
A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to members of the Body of Christ to further the Reign, or the Kingdom, of God. The gifts given to the early Sisters, such as Mother Josephine Potel and Mother Angelique Geay and expressed today in diverse ways by the Sisters and Associates, are healing, compassion and liberation, with a special emphasis on providing compassionate health care and ministry to the sick and the dying. Associates are people who share the Sisters’ charism, and, like the Sisters, may have received that God given gift at birth to share with the world.
History of the Associate Community
In 1981, the Sisters of Bon Secours became one of the first religious congregations in the United States to begin an Associate Community for those laypeople, both Catholic and non-Catholic, interested in sharing in the Sisters’ ministry in a more active way. The community grew to include clergy, and Sisters from other congregations. This diverse group now includes local communities in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.
The Life of an Associate
There are different paths to becoming a Bon Secours Associate. Usually a person finds the connection through a relationship with a Sister or another Associate. Often a person finds that their sense of personal mission matches the charism of Bon Secours. Associate Dan Kirkpatrick expresses it this way:
“In my ministry in health-care chaplaincy, I recognized that I strongly resonated with the Sisters of Bon Secours’ charism to care for those who are sick and dying. Through the witness of the Sisters as living examples of the healing ministry of Jesus and through our prayerful reflection, we are encouraged to find ways to pray for each other and serve our community.”
The Congregation of Bon Secours, which means “good help” in French, began in 1824 as a community dedicated to offering home health care and a compassionate Christian presence to those ill or in the final stages of dying. Today, a person interested in becoming an Associate spends some time, usually a year, completing a period of formation within the context of an Associate group learning about the heritage of Bon Secours. During this time, one learns about the Congregation of Bon Secours’ history, mission, charism, justice statement and statement of care for the dying. These are all core elements of Bon Secours. The other important element is attending the monthly gatherings of a local Associate community for prayer and faith sharing.
Faith sharing often begins with reflections on scriptural or other spiritual readings. The discussion might then move into sharing how the mission and spirit of Bon Secours is being manifested and experienced in the lives of those present. As they attend Associate gatherings, and hear others talking about God’s Presence in their lives, new members become more comfortable exploring and expressing their faith journeys with their community. Hampton Roads, Virginia area Associate Theresa Davis expresses her monthly participation in her local community this way:
“Whether it is the insight I gain from someone else sharing, or a reading, prayer or song, the gatherings help me take time out to prioritize and focus on what truly is important and what we are called to do. The mission and history of the Sisters of Bon Secours are values that I share and want to support, regardless of where my life takes me. I admire the founding members and the sisters and women and men who follow their call to provide good help to those in need. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be an Associate.”
Another Associate, Mary Anne Lenz, from the Grosse Pointe, Michigan community, was drawn to the Associate community by a friend who was already an Associate. As said before, often this personal invitation, either by a Sister or another Associate, is the open door for someone seeking a deeper Christian walk in community following the Bon Secours charism. Mary Anne says:
“My friend was already an Associate. She truly is an inspiration to me. I have learned so much by her example. She, like most others, has crosses to bear, but is so strong in her faith and prayer life.”
By being a compassionate and caring example, even in their own difficulties, Associates of Bon Secours witness in a special way to the charism of being “good help” to those who are suffering.
Ministry of Associates
Bon Secours Associates express their vocation to serve the Church and the world in ways as varied and unique as the number of Associates themselves. Many came to know the Sisters through their work in nursing and health care, others through retreats at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Marriottsville, MD, through volunteer work as teenagers at Bon Secours facilities and some through earlier membership as Sisters of Bon Secours. One such Associate, Catharine Moore of the Darby, PA community, shares:
“Gratefully, I have walked hand in hand with Bon Secours for most of my life. At age 14, I became a “Guild Girl” at St. Francis, a nursing home in Darby, PA, where somehow it seemed natural to care for the elderly and dying. Upon entering Community as a Sister, I was immersed in the culture of compassionate care to those in need. Such values had a claim on me after I left, as I was called to teach about dying, death and, more recently, to teach about putting forgiveness into practice. As an Associate for 28 years, I feel I have come full circle. I share a faith community with women who laugh, cry, pray and help “resettle” our homes together. I’ve concluded that tender mercies do indeed thrive through Bon Secours.”
Life in Community
Associates do not live in religious community, as the Sisters do, but as more of an extended community of connected friends and souls sharing a mission. It has been said that “Christ reveals me to myself through community.” Many Associates have discovered this truism. As their relationship with God and one another has deepened in community, so also to each has been revealed their deepest yearnings for the love of God and a desire to express this in acts of compassion and love for others. In community, there is an opportunity to experience a taste of the Trinitarian life of love, mutual interdependence and communion shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each local community seeks to live out the spirit of Bon Secours in a way unique to each locale and gifts of the individual members. Bon Secours Associates are women, men, Catholics, and non-Catholics, together sharing a common purpose and desire to, as the Mission Statement of the Sisters says, “reproduce in themselves Christ healing, Christ consoling, Christ loving.”
Who better to express the deep meaning of this than an Associate? Evelyne Cheslock, from the community in St. Petersburg, FL, shares what sharing faith with others in her Associate Community has meant in her life:
“I have never felt such a connection as with the Associates and sharing God with them. I always thought God was my own special friend and it is so much more rewarding to share Him with everyone. I am truly, personally grateful for the impact the Associates have had on my life.”
Associates have a national impact
Former Directors, Jean Sonnenberg, and Sister Rose Marie Jasinski have played a role in establishing NACAR, the North American Conference of Associates and Religious, a membership organization whose mission is to act as a catalyst to serve, empower, and promote the Associate-Religious relationship. To read more on the role of the Sisters of Bon Secours, CLICK HERE. For more information about NACAR, CLICK HERE.
To learn more about the associate community, contact our Associate Director, Amy Kulesa at 410-442-3131 or at email@example.com.