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Dorothy Ann Furey was born on February 8, 1925 in Toledo, Ohio, the oldest of Teresa Tillman and Edmond Francis Furey’s four children. Although Dorothy grew up in Toledo, most of her summers were spent in near Houghton Lake in Michigan swimming, boating, horseback riding and frog catching.

In 1930 Dorothy was enrolled in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Her parents, however, felt she needed a more challenging curriculum and transferred her to Notre Dame Academy on Bancroft in Toledo in 1937. Sister’s years at NDA and later at Notre Dame College, Cleveland, were filled with activities. She participated in sports, dancing, and, in college, she worked in her aunt’s bookstore and ushered for the Cleveland Opera. Sister Mary Josanne graduated Cum Laude from Notre Dame College in June 1945 and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame on Ansel Road the following September.

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At first, Sister Mary Josanne ministered in secondary education in the Cleveland area. In 1960 Sister was transferred to California where she taught at Notre Dame Academy inLos Angeles (1960-1966, 1983-1984), La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks (1966-1983), and St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura (1984-2006). As principal at La Reina Sister Mary Josanne initiated the addition of the seventh and eighth grades.

Mathematics was among Sister Mary Josanne’s first loves. At La Reina Sister started her own mathematics competition for 7th and 8th graders. When she transferred to Saint Bonaventure, she initiated the competition there as well. The following year, the Mathematical Association of America invited her to join a team of 15 mathematicians who gathered once a year to formulate original math problems for 25-question, timed tests for the American Mathematics Competition.

“The problems weren’t simple,” Sister Mary Josanne said, “I had to create the circumstances to make them difficult.”

Another of Sister Mary Josanne’s loves was the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame – an affinity she had acquired in childhood. During football season the children at Our Lady of Perpetual Help sang the Victory March and listened to a recording of Knute Rockne’s famous speech each morning before class and were rewarded with a candy bar every time the team won.

Sister Mary Josanne described herself as “a community person.” As she herself admitted: “By nature I am not a solitary soul…I don’t have a problem making friends.” Sister attended the Congregation’s Centennial celebration in Cleveland (1950) and its Sesquicentennial in California (2000). She also participated in the 1974 General Chapter as and visited both in Toledo and Florida. All were occasions for her to renew important relationships with her family and friends, especially with the sisters in her entrance group with whom she remained very close throughout her religious life.

In 2007 Sister Mary Josanne joined the community at Notre Dame Center where she remained active- helping in the finance and development offices and working jig-saw puzzles, enjoying a good mystery, and cheering for St. Bonaventure’s football team. Sister quietly and peacefully went home to God on Friday, January 29, 2016, just two weeks before her 91st birthday.

Those who wish to pay their respects to Sister Mary Josanne Furey are invited to a wake and liturgy on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. The service will take place at Notre Dame Center in Thousand Oaks, California. It will be officiated by Reverend Joseph Shea, Pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Church. Sister will be interred at Assumption Cemetery in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday, February 10 at 9:30 a.m.

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This post was written by Sister Betty Mae Bienlein.

On Christmas Day, 2015, Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy and I joined the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to participate in a small gesture of solidarity with the Muslim community in Ventura County, California. The event was organized by the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to promote inter-religious relationships. Reverend Julie Morris, an Episcopalian Minister and parent at La Reina High School and Middle School, invited us to attend this event.

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About 75 non-Muslims stood in unity with the Muslim community supporting them, their values and faith, and denouncing Islamophobia in all its forms. We gathered on the lawn in front of the Mosque with signs and banners, greeting the passersby with peace and solidarity.

All were invited to join the Muslim community for the Friday Jummah prayer. We listened as Imam Ahmed Patel graciously thanked the visitors for supporting them especially on “the most holy day, Christmas Day, of the Christian religions.” He also spoke about the Muslim religion as one of peace and respect for others and that their religion was not one of extremes. “If the Quran says we pray five times a day we do not pray six times a day.” Imam Patel also stated, “That for a Muslim, we are first human and then a Muslim.” As we left the gathering we were treated to donuts and many hugs and kisses filled with gratitude.

Imam Ahmed has posted the following statement on the Center’s website.

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The Sisters of Notre Dame continue to support our Muslim neighbors and strive for peace and unity among all religious individuals.

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Vision & Challenge is published three times annually by the Office of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California. This issue highlights the important work that sisters are doing at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Oxnard. It also includes a special report on the positive impact we have made on the community this year. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send an email to cvieira@sndca.org.

Click here to read the online version.

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Inspiring Catholic school educators with the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame is one of Sister Marie Paul Grech’s top priorities. Put simply, that charism (or what the sisters believe) is that God is good and provides for us. They strive to look at the world with hope; and what could be more important in a classroom than a positive attitude?

Sister Marie Paul loves this part of her ministry. Her love for teachers and her respect for the role they play in the lives of their students shows in her dedication to faculty and staff retreats.

“These men and women who give of themselves so generously to touch the hearts of the young are always an inspiration to me. It’s a real joy to continue spreading our Notre Dame charism and spirit,” Sister said.

She taught secondary school for more than 30 years in Ventura and LA counties, as well as in the sisters’ mission in Uganda, Africa. Armed with her faith and a lifetime of experience as a sister, Sister Marie Paul shows others how to infuse their classrooms with joy and compassion.

“Teachers continue our mission in our sponsored and affiliate schools where we are no longer physically present. God’s call to teachers in every Catholic school is vibrant and it is my joy to be part of their ongoing response to that call,” she said.

Sister recently led a retreat for 20 teachers from Saint Jude the Apostle School in Westlake, Calif. The retreat began with a morning Mass and breakfast, followed by small group discussions and a video presentation.DSC_0455

“Your job” Sister Marie Paul told the group “is to help children connect the dots- between science and religion, between what they learn on the playground and in the classroom. Your job is to teach them how to learn.”

Deana Herrera (pictured at right in the photo below) has taught at Saint Jude the Apostle School for seven years. She was motivated to apply Sister Marie Paul’s lessons in her fourth-grade classroom.

“Her positive spirit reminds us to see the good in our everyday lives,” Herrera said. “Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, one of my students will say something really funny. Those moments are God saying ‘Lighten up!’”DSC_0470

Sister Marie Paul is the coordinator of Kindred Hearts Ministries (KHM). KHM offers prayer programs, spiritual events, retreats and many other services for local parishioners provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame. To learn more about KHM, visit www.sndca.org/khm or email Sister Marie Paul at mgrech@sndca.org. Click here for the KHM calendar of events.

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At the end of the school year, the Sisters of Notre Dame attended a Many Mansions award ceremony. They watched proudly as 20 students received academic scholarships, four of which were donated by the sisters. Sister Mary Joan Schlotfeldt was moved by ceremony.

“I felt proud to be a Sister of Notre Dame and be able to help those who are pursuing an education,” she said.

Many Mansions is a non-profit that builds and maintains affordable housing complexes for low-income families in Ventura County and the Conejo Valley. According to the Many Mansions website, the organization owns and manages over 500 units, housing about 1,000 adults and 300 children. They also provide on-site services including job training, case management, homework literacy, free summer camp for kids and a scholarship program called Vicky’s Fund.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin first became involved with Many Mansions as a board member in 1995. While serving on the board, Sister Mary Lisa met Marty and Eileen Garcia.

“When I first joined the board I had a lot to learn about affordable housing. Whenever we were deliberating a major topic, Marty would always ask ‘How does this relate to our mission?’ Our growing friendship and collaboration gave me opportunities to observe him, his faith and his concern for those in need,” said Sister Mary Lisa.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin at Notre Dame Center in May.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin at Notre Dame Center in May.

Several years later, the Garcias became Associates with the Sisters of Notre Dame.

“Growing up, my perception of nuns was completely different from the experience I’ve had with the Sisters of Notre Dame,” said Marty. “They’re out in the world, actually living their charism. Sister Lisa has made a huge impact on Many Mansions. She and I go way back, so we’re really able to see the growth that Many Mansions has had.”

The Garcias started Vicky’s Fund three years ago in memory of Marty’s mother, Victoria Garcia. A child of Spanish immigrants to the U.S., Victoria was only able to obtain a 4th grade education before she had to begin working to help her family. As an adult, she volunteered as a bilingual teacher’s aide until she was in her mid-eighties.

“After my mother’s funeral, people came up to me and told me what an impact she had on them. She had an innate ability to recognize that the children in her classes couldn’t focus on their studies because they came from unstable home environments. She set out to make the classroom a safe place and build up their God-given talents and self-esteem. I asked myself what I could do to extend her vision. It dawned on me to start a scholarship within Many Mansions,” said Marty.

In three years, 48 students have received a total of $23,000 in scholarships through Vicky’s Fund and Many Mansions. Scholarship recipients range in age and academic goals. Some are young students preparing for college, and others are adults earning their GED or taking vocational training classes. The main requirement for the scholarship is that the recipient is a resident at a Many Mansions property.

“We want to offer something that will help with their finances and build up their self-esteem,” said Marty. “Seeing their appreciation lets me know I’m doing the right thing. I started the scholarship in honor of my mother, but it’s given me so much more than I could have imagined.”

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Since she became a postulant with the Sisters of Notre Dame nearly two years ago, Mayra Martinez feels she has grown into a more confident, peaceful person. Now, she is about to embark on the second step of her vocational journey. In August, Mayra, age 37, will move from Providence House in Long Beach, C.A. and travel to Covington, K.Y.  for two years of novitiate, which is a time of intense prayer, study of the Congregation and theological reflection.

“I’m choosing to move forward in the process of becoming a Sister of Notre Dame,” she said. “I’m  moving closer to making my first profession of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.”

Despite the challenges before her and the uncertainty of the next several years, Mayra feels unafraid.

“I’m amazed by the amount of grace and trust in God that I feel. It’s starting to become very real now. I know I won’t see my friends, family or the sisters in California for a while, so I feel a little sad, but I trust that He will take care of me.”

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Mayra Martinez (left) with Nicole Varnerin, both women are postulants with the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Mayra was recently accepted to Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, K.Y. where she will continue her education. When a woman completes the novitiate, she then professes vows of chastity, poverty and obedience for the first time and begins the ministry for which she has been prepared.

According to Mayra, the highlight of her experience in the community is living with and learning from the sisters. She has learned to live in a close-knit community, ask for help when she needs it and trust in God’s goodness and provident care.

“I’ve had many beautiful moments with my sisters. They’ve taught me that everything we do is rooted in prayer, the importance of the Eucharist, to think logically, and to stand up for myself. I love them all and I’m very excited for the next step in my journey.”

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Notre Dame Center sits on about 4.5 acres of land on Hendrix Avenue in Thousand Oaks and houses 32 Sisters of Notre Dame. In light of the worsening drought, several sisters were concerned that their 1.5 acres of landscaped space might be using too much water. So, with the help of California American Water and Blue Watchdog Conservation firm, they conducted a water survey on their property.

The survey revealed that there were, in fact, several simple fixes that could save the sisters water and money. First, the surveyors recommended installing two new Weather Based Irrigation Controllers (WBICs).  According to the survey, the WBICs “work by using specific information about the site, including weather patterns, plant types, soil type, slope, and irrigation system application rates to automatically adjust irrigation schedules.”

A Weather Based Irrigation Controller that can suspend irrigation in the event of rain.

A Weather Based Irrigation Controller that can suspend irrigation in the event of rain.

The surveyors also recommended that 84 sprinklers be replaced with more efficient ones that will save about 149,600 gallons of water per year. The sisters will also need to repair 12 leaky sprinkler heads and adjust 39 nozzles contributing to overspray.

Ripping out the existing lawn on the sisters’ property would be too costly, according to Sister Mary Karlynn Werth, house administrator at Notre Dame Center. However, she does plan to use drought-tolerant plants on all new landscaping projects including the area behind the convent, adjacent to La Reina High School.

Overspray on the sisters' property in Thousand Oaks.

Overspray on the sisters’ property in Thousand Oaks.

“Now’s the time,” Sister Mary Karlynn said of the changes, “Saving water is a personal responsibility and we have to keep encouraging each other to do better.”

Inside Notre Dame Center, saving water has always been important to the sisters, who make sure that loads of laundry and dishes are full before they start.

“We have cut our water usage by nearly half since June of last year,” said Sister Mary Anncarla Costello, provincial superior for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California, “This represents our very conscientious awareness of the seriousness of the situation and our responsibility to contribute to a solution. Each of the sisters is doing her part and those who oversee the daily operations of our property are also working toward conservation.”

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