Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur create a digital quilt of memories and insights

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

January 13, 2021

SSMN at UDSSMN at UD
Sister of St. Mary of Namur with University of Dallas students. (file photo)


FORT WORTH — When Elizabeth Martin’s mother, Dorothy, passed away in 2011, the Fort Worth native found comfort by wrapping herself in a quilt made by her grandmother.

Eight years later, grieving the death of her father, William, she experienced a similar emotion after visiting the Our Lady of Victory Center with her sister, Mary.

“It was a warm feeling in the midst of a challenging time,” remembered Martin, who was there to donate a medical walker to the convent. “Walking in and seeing the faces of the sisters consoled me. It felt like home.”

Returning to Washington, D.C., where the Catholic school graduate tackles health policy, she began looking into ways to help her former teachers, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur (SSMN), survive the financial hardship many religious communities now face.

“I’ve known these women since I was in kindergarten and they have been serving and giving and praying all these years,” Martin emphasized. “I wanted to find a way to tell their stories.”

The result is “A Legacy of Care,” an innovative, digital collection of memories, thoughts, and insights that celebrate the work of the religious order’s western province here and abroad. Created with help from Mary Beth Lehman, co-owner of M.Path public relations and Diane Murray, an SSMN oblate, the project launched December 1 — on Giving Tuesday. Both Martin sisters are funding the venture and hope the personal accounts of vocation and service generate funds for the order.

 The Sisters of St. Mary were hesitant, at first, about drawing attention to themselves.

“They are selfless women,” noted Martin, who reshaped the conversation to persuade them. “This isn’t just about the sisters but all of us whose lives were touched.”

Videoed during Zoom computer calls, the interviews with five different sisters were woven together and placed on the website, legacyofcarequilt.com, to look like a virtual quilt. Clicking the different blue and gold squares reveals stories under the topics Life in the Order, History, Service, Mission, Joining the Order, Life Before the Order, and Legacy.

“The sisters have been part of North Texas for so many years and have impacted generations of families,” Murray explained. “We don’t want to lose those stories.”

Several much-loved members of the order recently passed away, so organizers admit feeling the pressure of time.

“We want to capture quickly as many stories as we can from these dear, powerful, and extraordinary women,” she added.

Lehman, whose Dayton, Ohio firm was brought in to collate and format material, as well as offer suggestions, described the project as large and evolving.

“We started with 100 videos and five sisters, but we imagine doing a group of five sisters every month,” said the public relations specialist. “Our job is to reflect back what we’re seeing. We talked to each sister individually about telling her own story and just gave wings and some structure to that. This is entirely a project of the Sisters of St. Mary.”

The video segments, lasting from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, are like treasures placed in a digital time capsule, according to Lehman, who was impressed with the richness of the stories. Hearing details about the order’s mission work in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide surprised her. Other narratives deal with segregation, racism, and social justice.

“There are some amazing stories and insights into living the Gospel and what that means in really tangible ways,” she continued. “By listening to what it was like for these women to join the order and what it meant to them, you get a sense of where their hearts are.”

The next batch of interviews set for upload to the website will highlight people in the community who were taught or helped by the sisters. Introduced to the public just a few days ago, “A Legacy of Care” already has garnered positive feedback and a few monetary gifts.

“It creates an opportunity for people to join us on this journey of supporting and making sure these sisters have everything they need to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives,” said Murray, a member of the SSMN development ministry team.

Known for their warmth and hospitality, the Sisters of St. Mary miss welcoming visitors into their home because of the COVID pandemic. The project, which will weave in stories from former students and other supporters, fills some of that need for connection.

“The mission and work of the sisters can only perpetuate good work in others,” said Martin, who believes everything she does harkens back to her time with the sisters. “We spend a lot of time today talking about education, progress, and how effective we are. The service aspect of what the sisters do — to go forth and set the world on fire — I’d like us to remember that more.”

Sister of St. Mary of Namur with UD students

FORT WORTH — When Elizabeth Martin’s mother, Dorothy, passed away in 2011, the Fort Worth native found comfort by wrapping herself in a quilt made by her grandmother.

Published (until 1/13/2040)
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