Introducing the Elders of Cor Unum

"… But Ruth replied:
'Do not urge me to leave you
or to turn from following you.
For wherever you go, I will go,
and wherever you live, I will live;
your people will be my people, …'” (Ruth 1:16-17)

And so we begin. We are Cor Unum Women Elders. Cor Unum is a physical space—a house in an historic Springfield, Illinois, neighborhood—and a virtual gathering place that has sometimes included women from as far away as Zambia. Our combined age is about 300 years, and we’ve been in one community or another for most of those years.

Who Are We?

I am Clare—officially Sister Mary Clare of the Springfield Dominican Sisters. My whole adult life has been spent in the ministries of this congregation, progressing from teaching to school administration, to neighborhood organizing, to Catholic parish pastoral assignments. Working with diverse cultures, including refugees, has been my special love. Any advice I give flows from several “takes” on a theme….

I am Dietgard. All my life seems to reflect God's words to Abraham, "Go forth from the land or your kinsfolk to a land that I will show you...and I will guide you and bless you." (Gen 12:1)

I was born in East Prussia (Germany) during WW II, fled with my family westwards, and ended up in British-occupied northern Germany, about 100 miles south of the Danish border. Influenced in a positive way during my childhood years by the after effects of the war, I was shaped by changing living arrangements, scarcity of food and material goods. I learned to treasure and use opportunities as they presented themselves and was instilled by my parents with a love for gardening and being close to the outside world.

In school we were required to learn English for 6 years. I became fascinated with the United States and seeing the Mississippi River was on my "bucket list." After graduation I worked first in an office to help my parents financially, and then got involved in social service work, working and living in a youth village for children who couldn't live at home.

In 1967 I had the opportunity to come to Chicago, went to college, and worked in a group home for teenage girls, sponsored by Catholic Charities. There I met my husband. We got married, moved to southern Indiana, and influenced by the "Back to the Land Movement" in the 1970's, bought a log cabin on 3 acres. We were trying to live a simple lifestyle, trusting God's promised blessing and guidance. We had 2 sons, a wonderful life with a big garden, bees, chickens, ducks.

My husband died when the boys were 4 and 2. After 5 years I felt called to leave and move on again. I remarried and we moved to Vandalia, Ill. Again, I had a big garden, and enjoyed the outdoors. We raised the boys; I got involved in parish activities, taught religion and RCIA classes, and worked for 18 years in a day care center with infants and toddlers, which I loved dearly.

In 2014, when the boys were grown into their own separate lives, my husband developed Alzheimer’s and couldn't live at home anymore and I met the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. In 2018, after my husband had died, I became an Associate with this special group of sisters, which was a gift and eventually a new call to "go forth.... I will show you... and I will bless you." So, in 2020, I sold my house and my treasured garden plot in Vandalia, and moved to Springfield 2 days before COVID-19 shut down the city.

So, here I am, still trying to follow where ever He might lead, now accompanied by other searchers and followers.

I am Molly. I am originally from Iowa, and have lived in several different locations and cultures in North America. For fifty years I worked with Head Start as a teacher, a coordinator, and the director of the Illinois program for migrant farmworkers. I’m married and have a son and three grandchildren.

I am Anne. I’ve been married almost 50 years. During those years my most important role has been caretaker—as daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I worked outside of the home for 34 of those years and my caretaker role spilled over there as a human resources administrator. I have two daughters, four grandchildren, and now one great granddaughter. I’ve been an associate of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield for fifteen years and was surprised, when I joined them, to learn the sisters and I have much more in common than I ever imagined.

Our life experiences will end with our death but before we get there we believe we have stories worth telling and lessons to share.

What is our goal?

Like Ruth and Naomi, we four women wish to share our lives with others. Our life experiences will end with our death but before we get there we believe we have stories worth telling and lessons to share. We address our stories to women who are searching for faith, spirituality, community life, or whatever it is they believe is missing in their lives. Perhaps one of our stories will answer a question and/or response they would like to share with us and others.

How to begin?

Let’s start by giving Clare’s perspective on the goal of Cor Unum House to welcome into their lovingly restored home as many as three women ages 21-30, who might want to join the Dominican Sisters for a year or so as a way of deepening their spiritual lives and giving of themselves in a community of like-minded women.

Cor Unum House is meant for those who are intent on enjoying community, feeling free to talk about spiritual values, and being supported in their choices of mission or ministry into the future.

What might life be like at the intersection of community life when religious women and lay women live together?

The women will benefit from an over-arching goal that unites them. They will discuss this as they shape the new community and spell it out for each other, perhaps settling on scriptural expressions of their intentions:

As for me and my household; we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24: 17)
Love one another with family affection. Anticipate each other in showing respect. (Romans 12:10)
Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave if all. (Mark 19:45)
Likewise, they will come to decisions about schedules, chores, financial contributions, space usage, ministry commitments, sacrificial listening, adjusting of habits of life, roles of leadership, health care, reporting and communicating, management, spiritual practice and development, social life in and outside the house—all subject to goals of unity, justice, peace, mutuality, and goodness.

Each woman will have a personal space, her own bedroom, and gently use the common space and community time to create a prayerful, considerate, healthy way of co-existing with the other women.

What would you like to hear from us? If you have an idea for some wisdom you'd like us to share, use the form on this page to share it with us. We'd love to hear from you?

Contact the Cor Unum Elders


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