Learn more about the early history of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother Associates movement below:
- In 1977, Sister M. Dorothy Bruder, Provincial of the Milwaukee Province, received a written proposal from two laypersons Elizabeth Guy and Mary Miron, requesting that the Community examine the possibility of establishing a group similar to an Associate Program.
- Sister Myra Smith wrote an early detailed study for review in regard to the idea.
- A committee was established to explore the idea including Sisters Dorothy Ann Dirkx, Cathy Hanegan, Judy Beck, Rita Adlkofer and Paula Jacobs.
- The possibilities of forming such an association were discussed at length at the Provincial Assemblies of November 1978 and February 1979.
- At the May 1980 session of the Provincial Assembly, a policy was approved which asked Sisters to offer opportunities for laypeople to share in gatherings and celebrations with the Sisters. These individuals were known as "Friends of the SSMs."
- The first Day of Sharing with Sisters and the Friends of the SSMs was held on June 28, 1980, with 25 laypeople attending.
- On October 11, 1980 the Associate Committee met, including Sisters Dorothy Ann Dirkx, Cathy Hanegan, Judy Beck, Rita Adlkofer and Paula Jacobs were joined by Elizabeth Guy, Lois Knope, Lorraine Glodowski, Tom Fischer, Dave Sauer, Agnes Kellaher, Shirley Fischer and Bradley Roark. They determined the Associate Program to be: "Similar to the kind of community which the early Christians had toward one another: openness, hospitality, common serving, opportunity to pray together, to grow in knowledge of values and goals held by one another: a continual kind of relationship, a bondedness, a relatedness that is communicated to others and that makes working for the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother or being associated with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother different from being associated, for instance, with Amoco Oil."
- In 1980-81 the Committee held regional meetings across Wisconsin to define who the Associates are, their philosophy and mission and their goals.
- Associates were invited to a Day of sharing at the Mother of Sorrows Convent on Dec.6, 1980.
- The Associate Committee did a presentation at the November 1981 Provincial Assembly, where it was decided to have meetings for interested people in the Milwaukee area throughout the winter of 1981-82.
- In June, 1982, the position of Associate Director was created and in October, 1982, Sister Paula Jacobs announced that Sister Raphael Narcisi had accepted the position, along with her role as Director of Ministry Planning for the SSM Milwaukee Province.
- In September, 1983, the fourth and final draft of the Milwaukee Province's Associate Proposal was approved by the General Assembly. The Generalate in Rome approved the proposal in October, 1983.
- The first Associates received into the movement were Elizabeth Guy, Lorraine Glodowski, Lois Knope, Tom Fischer and Dave Sauer.
- Sister Raphael developed recruitment materials and traveled extensively to promote the program.
- Education, information and invitation were rewarded when 19 new Associates were received on October 21, 1984.
- The movement gained definition and identity in 1985: a membership directory was produced, the Associates and Sisters held two Days of Sharing in Oshkosh, Wis., and Stevens Point, Wis., and a Retreat Day in Milwaukee and Associates took part in SSM Community workshops and seminars.
- On October 20, 1985, 17 new Associates were received into the Program.
- The first Associates' Conference for Tomorrow was held in Stevens Point, Wis., in November, 1985, and was attended by a large number of Sisters and Associates.
- In 1986, Sister Marcella Winkels became the Associate Director when Sister Raphael began service as a member of the Milwaukee Provincial Council. Associates also articipated in two Days of Sharing, in Oshkosh, Wis., and Marshfield, Wis., and a Retreat Day was held in Stevens Point.
- In 1987, Days of Sharing were held in Oshkosh, Wis., and Stevens Point, Wis., and a Retreat Day was held in Tomahawk/Rhinelander. Sister Marcella resigned as Associate Director because of her time commitment as Principal of Mother of Perpetual Help School..
- At the September 1987 SSM Assembly, the decision was made to have the Council liaison, Sister Raphael, coordinate the Program but not be designated as the Director. Sisters are the local level were asked to make a commitment to facilitate the program in their area and Associates were asked to become more responsible for the progam.
- In October, 1987, 3 new Associates were received and 42 renewed their commitments.
- The 2nd Associate Conference for Tomorrow was held in Stevens Point, Wis., in December, 1987.
- 1988 saw a Day of Sharing in Stevens Point, Wis., a speaker and picnic in Oshkosh, Wis., and a Retreat Day in Tomahawk. In September, 4 Associates were received in Denville, N.J., and 16 were received in Broken Arrow, Okla.
- Also in 1988, the Milwaukee SSM Associates became a part of an organization called Wisconsin Kindred Spirits (WKS). This group was composed of Associates' Directors from a dozen religious groups in Wisconsin.
- In 1989 Sisters Dorothy Bruder, Roseann Koskie and Raphael produced a Handbook for Associates and a directory of all U.S. Associates.
- Also in 1989, the first-ever two-day Retreat for Associates was held in De Pere, Wis., and the Associate Reception was held at St. Raphael Church in Oshkosh, Wis., next door to Franciscan Courts, where many of the Sisters were relocating for retirement from the Mother of Sorrows Convent in Milwaukee.
- In addition, the SSM Community was restructured in summer of 1989. The Associate Director became the work of Sister Roseann Koskie in Broken Arrow, Okla., and in the Midwest, each cluster of Associates was now to be coordinated by a volunteer contact Sister.
The Associate history in the Milwaukee area has been, like any birthing, one of pain and change. And yet it continues to be a witness of strong commitment by people who have a vision of the kingdom of God in their midst.
Many wonderful things have happened since 1989 and continue to happen. This movement has now grown to include more than 150 SSM Associates in locations across the U.S. and the Caribbean, including Wichita, Tulsa, Denville, N.J., Roswell, N.M., many cities across Wisconsin, and in the Caribbean in St. Lucia.
"Both Vowed Members and Associates hold the Charism in their hearts as their common bond and the basis of their spirituality, ministry and community building."
--Sister Raphael Narcisi, first Director of the Associate Movement
The nurturing of laypersons was not a new idea to the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in the 1970s when the movement officially began. The earliest lay association with the Sisters, called the Devout Society, was approbated by Pope Pius PP.X on May 2, 1912. The call for new initiatives for the laity was also strongly encouraged by the Second Vatican Council.
The Associate Movement has gained momentum ever since, and over the years, Associates have:
- Completed hundreds of mission projects
- Held countless food and supply drives
- Served at food kitchens, parishes, SSM celebrations, hospitals, AIDS shelters, jails, neighborhood centers, after-school and with the terminally ill
- Organized prayer groups, celebrations with and for SSMs, retreats, meetings with other religious communities, and work on housing needs of the local poor
- Coordinated garage sales, bake sales, bingo and other fundraisers to raise funds for the poor, sick and needy
- Done yard work, sewing, painting and other handiwork for SSM ministries
- Served in SSM missions overseas
- Helped strengthen communities through prayer and volunteer work in countless other ways