Director of Candidates and Novices
Sr. Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

AndersonMaryElaineIHM Center
2300 Adams Avenue
Scranton, PA 18509
Phone: 570-330-8621



Updates from Initial Formation

Who are the women currently in initial formation? Where are they, and what are they doing?  by Sr. Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM

Liz McGill 2021

Congratulations to Sister Elizabeth Ann “Liz” McGill who will be making her first profession of vows in the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary! The rite of profession will take place during the Eucharistic celebration on September 26, 2021 at the IHM Center Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel in Scranton.

Liz is the youngest of Richard and Helen McGill’s six children. She was born and raised in Elmira, New York, by parents who modeled the importance of having a relationship with Jesus and serving the most vulnerable of God’s people. Although Liz felt a tug toward religious life in high school, as a young adult, she pursued advanced education and a career in human development and higher education. When she still found herself desiring a deeper relationship with God, she again began to discern a vocation to religious life.

On March 20, 2018, Liz entered the candidacy phase of incorporation with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA. As a candidate, she lived on Capouse Avenue before she moved to Annunciation Community at McCarty Hall to continue her candidacy and begin her novitiate. During candidacy, Liz studied Alphonsian spirituality, IHM history, charism and core values. Liz came to the IHM Congregation with the desire to serve and to bring the redeeming love of Jesus to all those whom she would encounter. As a candidate, she worked part-time at Marywood University, visited the sisters at Our Lady of Peace and volunteered at St. Joseph's Center and Friends of the Poor. Liz also spent a month in Sicuani, Peru, where she taught sports to different age groups of children in the summer program.

Liz was received into the novitiate on September 8, 2019. During her canonical novitiate, she studied Marian Themes with Sister Catherine and participated in theological conversations with Sister Redempta Liz also attended InSearch, a weekly inter-novitiate program, where she met men and women in initial formation from different congregations. Liz describes the experience of meeting and dialoguing with her peers as an enriching and transforming opportunity to broaden her perspective of religious life and to prepare for its emerging future.

During the second half of the novitiate, Liz participated in three formative experiences to help her prepare for ministry, community life and profession of temporary vows. For the first two months of the apostolic novitiate, she lived with Sisters Florence and Lisa in St. Petersburg, Florida, and she ministered at Academy of the Holy Names. From November 2020 to February 2021, Liz volunteered at St. Joseph Center and assisted with projects, such as the development and implementation of program evaluation for Community Support Services and Residential Support Services, the preparation for the first ever virtual service week of Academy of the Holy Names with Trinity Daycare Center and the organization of the Pandemic Memoirs.

Liz’s third formative experience was at Marywood University where she worked on Government Advocacy and trained in the area of Compliance during the months of March, April and May of 2021.

Liz currently lives in Scranton with Sisters Jean Louise, Catherine and Eleanor Mary. She ministers at Marywood University. On July 1, she became the Interim Executive Director of Student Services at Marywood University where she will work closely with personnel to coordinate and promote a strong student experience at the university.

During initial formation, Liz spent time and energy in discerning God’s call to her. In June 2021, she made a 30-day directed retreat because she had a strong desire to deepen her relationship with God and to make it the source from which all other relationships would flow. Liz has freely chosen vowed life within the Scranton IHM Congregation as her response to God’s call because it is “what makes her heart come alive.”

We rejoice with Liz as she takes this next step and commits herself to God and all of God’s creation. Liz, we stand with you; we pray for you, and we look forward to welcoming you as a member of the IHM Congregation!

The second year of the novitiate is a time to explore meaningful experiences in community and ministry as well as an opportunity to integrate prayer, community life, ministry, study and leisure. As a novice, Sister Elizabeth “Liz” McGill has been engaging in a diversity of experiences that will help
her discern her future as a woman religious and, in particular, as an IHM sister.

Since March 1, Liz has been volunteering at Marywood University. She currently is working on Government Advocacy and also training in the area of Compliance. Liz, who received her B.A. in Social Sciences and her Ph.D. in Human Development with a specialization in Higher Education Administration from Marywood, enjoys being back at the university and participating in areas that broaden her understanding of higher education and stretch her professionally.

Liz feels attracted to not only higher education but also IHM sponsorship. Her concern for the vision and the future mission of our IHM sponsored ministries impelled Liz to contact the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with the hope that she might find information on how other congregations were managing their sponsored works.

As a novice, Liz leads a busy life. She recently moved from the formation house and is integrating herself into the rhythm of living with the sisters at Spirit of Hope Convent. Liz continues to participate in the Inter-Community Formation Program. On March 20, she attended the virtual workshop titled Interculturality: Culture, Communication and Perception of Power that was presented by Dr. Arturo Chavez, the Associate Vice-President for Mission & Ministry and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of the Incarnate Word. On March 25, Liz also completed the second semester of InSearch, an Inter-Novitiate Program, that focused on topics of human development within religious life.

Liz approaches her life with an eye on wholistic health. As well as focusing on ministry and community, she prioritizes prayer and her spiritual development, makes time to connect with others and enjoys skiing, golfing and cross fitting! As a second-year novice, she takes seriously our IHM core value of wholeness

The month of February was a time of transition for Sister Elizabeth Ann “Liz” McGill. On Saturday, February 6, Liz moved and will live in community with Sisters Jean Louise, Catherine and Eleanor Mary.

At the end of February, Liz also brought to closure her time of formative activity with St. Joseph's Center. From November 2020 thru February 2021, Liz assisted with numerous projects, including the following:

  • Developing and implementing the program evaluation for Community Support Services
  • Collaborating with SJC’s Director of Volunteers to prepare for a first ever virtual service week (Students from Academy of the Holy Names, Tampa, Florida, will focus on literacy and nutrition with children at Trinity Child Care Center.)
  • Connecting St. Joseph's Center with facilitators and participating in early-stage meetings for the development of a Racial Equity Initiative
  • Working with a committee to capture and organize St. Joseph's Center’s Pandemic Memoirs
  • Volunteering in the Baby and Children’s Pantry

At St. Joseph's Center, Liz was able to utilize her personal strengths, draw upon her experience and respond in a flexible manner to the needs of the organization. At the end of her formative activity, Liz expressed great appreciation for the SJC Community and the organization’s priority and commitment to respect and value each person.

On March 1, Liz will begin serving as a volunteer for the spring semester at Marywood University. During that time, Liz will be working on Government Advocacy and training in the area of compliance.

With all the endings and the beginnings that have taken place recently in Liz’s life, one might wonder what has remained stable. As a novice, Liz continues to deepen her relationship with God, to strengthen her commitment to the redeeming mission of Jesus and to discern her role in the emerging future of religious life.

Spirit of Hope Community Feb 2021 L-R: Sisters Jean Louise, Catherine, Elizabeth Ann and Eleanor Mary (not pictured)

Sister Elizabeth (Liz) McGill currently volunteers at two of our IHM sponsored ministries. Since mid-November, she has been involved in fundraising efforts at Friends of the Poor and program evaluation, among other projects, at St. Joseph’s Center. A member of the Sponsorship Committee, Liz says that she is energized by the clients and the employees that she has encountered in our IHM institutions and that she is committed to the evolving development of our sponsored works.

As a novice, Liz participates in a weekly virtual class on Human Development with men and women in initial formation from the Delaware Valley Area of the Religious Formation Conference (RFC). She also attends occasional one-day workshops offered by the RFC Hudson Valley Area. The most recent presentation, which focused on Living the Vow of Poverty as a Blessing, took place on January 23. Participation in Inter-Community programs promotes the development of healthy interpersonal relationships among the participants and prepares the way for inter-community collaboration in the future.

Living in community is another important aspect of Liz’s formation. Since entering the IHM Congregation, she has had several community experiences. At the beginning of her candidacy, she lived with the sisters on Capouse Avenue before joining the formation community at McCarty Hall. During her time of residence in the formation house, Liz completed two formative activities outside of McCarty Hall. She spent a month in Sicuani, Peru, and more recently, she lived in community with our sisters in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Hiking 1
Sisters Elizabeth McGill and Mary Elaine Anderson find hiking in the Gardner Spencer Preserve (Dalton, PA)
to be a creative way to reflect on and dialogue about important matters.

Sister Elizabeth (Liz) McGill returned from St. Petersburg, Florida, where for the past nine weeks she lived with Sisters Flo Marino and Lisa Perkowski. During her time there, Liz ministered with Lisa at Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa. She describes her ministerial experience as a stretching one that will serve her well into the future. Among the many activities to which she was exposed as well as helped to create and facilitate, Liz says that Senior Recollection Day was one of her favorites. During the day, the students reflected on the parable of the talents. Prayer, drama, art and goat
yoga were just a few of the activities that Liz and Lisa provided to make the day a rich and profound experience for the seniors.

goatyogaStudent enjoys goat yoga.

Liz returned to Scranton on October 20. In November, she will be making a directed retreat at Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA. After retreat, Liz will be volunteering at St. Joseph Center and Friends of the Poor in November and December.


Liz Lisa Goat Yoga 2-sm
Sisters Elizabeth Ann McGill and Lisa Perkowski participate in goat yoga.
image4 (2)Reflection activity with Sister Lisa

Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez is preparing excitedly for her First Profession on November 10th. She has put much care and attention into making the Eucharistic Celebration an intercultural and joyful experience. Amidst the numerous preparations being made, Giovana still finds time to meet with Sister Michael Marie Hartman three times a week for English class. She also just began to volunteer one day a week at the Catherine McAuley Center. After profession, Giovana will be sharing community with our IHM sisters on Capouse Avenue, and she will expand her hours of service at the Catherine McAuley Center.


Hello, Sister!

Last week while Liz McGill was walking across the campus of Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Florida, she passed a first-grade class eating lunch outside. The moderator gave her a little wave and said “Hello, Sister.” Liz immediately heard a small voice excitedly say, “Is that your sister?” As Liz walked away with a smile on her face, she thought, “Good luck explaining what a Catholic religious sister is to a first grader!”

Although she was relieved that she did not have to take on that task, a week later Liz found herself facing an auditorium filled with high school students trying to unpack the complex topics of vocation and religious life.

The Mission and Ministry Team at the school where she is doing her formative activity asked Liz to give a brief reflection on her own call and journey in life.

Here are a few of Liz’s thoughts that, while pertinent for high school teens, also may serve us who have been living religious life for quite some time.

  • Each of us has a purpose and through the grace of God, we come to discover our own unique path in life.
  • Our purpose here on earth evolves and passes through many stages. All of those parts of our past make us who we are today.
  • Throughout life we are always discerning the question: How do we want to be in this world? When we bring this question to prayer, we discover where our hearts are being pulled, how we can best offer our gifts and talents to the world and become our most authentic selves.
  • Let us pay attention to the gentle nudges of God that do not go away. Confident that God will give us the grace and courage that we need, let us walk boldly in the direction that makes our hearts come alive.

Liz speaking about vocation9-2020Sister Liz offers a reflection to high school students

In United States culture, September usually marks the beginning of new programs and the time to reconnect with peers that we may not have seen during the summer. September 2020 brings with it a newness that we have not experienced in past years. This fall the Inter-community Formation Programs and connections with women and men in initial formation from other congregations will take place virtually instead of in person.

Both the Hudson Valley and the Delaware Valley Areas of the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) sponsor the formation programs in which the IHM women in initial formation participate. Sisters Elizabeth DeMerchant, Giovana “Gio” Fuentes Bendivez and Elizabeth “Liz” McGill will attend these virtual presentations of the Hudson Valley Area during the fall.

Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez is presently participating in a Program for Animators called Laudato Si – Time of Creation 2020. The seminar introduces the participants to the causes of climate change and how it affects the most vulnerable. The presenters have encouraged the participants to take a leadership role in promoting ecological healing within their communities and protecting the “common house” that is shared by all of creation.

Gio is committed to bringing Laudato Si alive in the environment in which she lives. For a recent birthday party in the formation house, Gio asked the sisters not to use paper plates which, although biodegradable, emit methane, a contributor to climate change, when they are placed
in a landfill and surrounded by inorganic material.

In addition to her online seminar, Gio is taking English classes three days a week with Sister Michael Marie Hartman. She currently is waiting for a place of formative activity to be determined.

Rachel - Donna - GiovanaSisters Rachel, Donna and Giovana in support of Laudato Si and ecological healing.

Sister Elizabeth McGill will be transitioning into her second year of the novitiate on September 9. During the summer, she helped with the St. Joseph Center Festival, volunteered at Friends of the Poor and occasionally assisted sisters who were moving from one place of residence to another. Liz currently is doing her formative activity in St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida. She is living in community with Sisters Florence and Lisa; and she is serving at the Academy of the Holy Names.

Flo - Liz - Lisa-sm
Sisters Florence, Elizabeth and Lisa at Queen of Apostles Convent

Thank you to all who accompany and pray for Elizabeth, Giovana and Liz as they continue their discernment during initial formation!

Just like everyone else in our congregation and the world at large, the women in initial formation are adjusting to the “new normal.” They continue to discern, steep themselves in prayer and engage in community life and ministry.

As Lackawanna County transitioned from the “red” to the “yellow” phase, Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez (second year novice) moved from Cathedral Convent, where she was living during her formative activity, back to Annunciation Community–McCarty Hall. A warm thank you to Sisters Michael Marie, Karen, Joan, Fides and Theresa who welcomed Giovana into their local community and shared daily life with her for the past five months! Giovana had only a few days to settle back into Annunciation Community before leaving for St. Raphaela Retreat Center on June 26. We ask for your prayerful support as Giovana enters into retreat.

Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez returns from Cathedral Convent to Annunciation Community.

Sister Elizabeth McGill (canonical novice) currently is participating in a twelve-week virtual Ignatian retreat. Finding Christ in the World and Everyday Life began in June and will continue through August. Liz also is doing a mini-course on the Incarnation and Redemption during the months of June and July with Sister Redempta Sweeney. Thank you, Sister Redempta, for your time, enthusiasm and wisdom!

For the past six weeks, Liz and I have been visiting the graves of our deceased IHM sisters. We began with St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow and the cemetery on the grounds of Marywood University with which we were familiar. When we realized that our earlier sisters were not buried in either of these two sites, we asked for Sister Beth Pearson’s help. Sister Beth provided us with the names of all the cemeteries where our IHM sisters are buried. So far, we have visited St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Friendsville, PA, St. Rose of Lima Cemetery in Carbondale, Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton and St. John the Evangelist Cemetery in Pittston, as well as Immaculata where Mother Theresa Maxis is buried and St. Agatha’s Cemetery in West Chester where the early Philadelphia IHM sisters can be found. Visiting the graves of the many IHM sisters who have gone before us has been a humbling experience. It seems fitting that as the IHM Congregation celebrates its 175th Anniversary that we remember the sisters who gave their lives for the sake of the mission. We ask for their inspiration and wisdom as we continue to respond with unconditional love to the needs of today’s world.

Im Cem 1
Sister Elizabeth McGill at the grave of Mother Theresa Maxis.

These past ten weeks of “sheltering at home” have been both challenging and deeply meaningful for the women in initial formation and also for me. Faced with the reality—cancelled inter-community formation programs and retreats, abruptly terminated ministerial experiences and formation
classes, and restricted access to OLP, the IHM Center and sponsored works—I found myself asking: What now? Like all of you, the women in initial formation and I have had to respond creatively to the “new normal.”

At the beginning of the quarantine, Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, who is in her second year of the novitiate, was living at Cathedral Convent and volunteering several days a week at Jackson Terrace. Because of the recommendation to “shelter at home,” Giovana’s stay at Cathedral Convent was extended, while at the same time, her volunteer service with Friends of the Poor was curtailed. Currently, Giovana is enjoying the focus on community life and her participation in activities, such as praying, cooking, playing cards, taking walks and helping the sisters at Cathedral Convent navigate technological challenges.

My weekly meeting with Giovana is now via Skype. Fortunately, Giovana is technologically savvy, and she is motivated to communicate virtually at this time when in-person contact is not realistic. Giovana has been able to stay connected with her family and friends in Peru via WhatsApp, and she says that she has become the “psychologist at a distance” whom many depend upon for advice during this critical time.

Through her own initiative, Giovana also has been taking courses online at no cost. She has completed Seguimiento de Jesus (Following Jesus), a series of classes offered by Boston College, and The Science of Well-Being, a 19-hour course provided by Yale University. The one class that Giovana does not have to study online is English. When Giovana was no longer able to continue English classes with her sister-teachers at the IHM Center and OLP, Sister Michael Marie Hartman, who lives at Cathedral Convent, volunteered to tutor her daily!

L - R: Sisters Karen, Joan and Giovana relax by playing cards.

Elizabeth “Liz” McGill, who currently is a canonical novice, was in the midst of an inter-novitiate program with other women and men in initial formation when her classes ended unexpectedly, and she had to finish what was to be an oral project on IHM history, charism and mission via PowerPoint. During these weeks of quarantine, Liz has continued her course on Feminist Theology with Sister Nancy Hawkins. Her final session, which was to be in-person, will now take place via Zoom.

Liz has been helping with the Food Give Away Days organized by Friends of the Poor. She also shops for sisters in the area who are unable to leave their homes. In coordination with Sister Mary Kay Faliskie, Liz planned a gathering of the sisters in Scranton to show their appreciation for the selfless service of staff at Our Lady of Peace.

Liz also enjoys planning fun activities. To celebrate “Cinco de Mayo,” Liz made a home-made piñata of a COVID-19 microbe and invited the sisters in Annunciation Community to take turns trying to break it. It was a great source of laughter and a wonderful way to relieve stress! Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have been meeting with Liz on Tuesday mornings in the basement rec room of the formation house or “novice cave” as Liz has begun to call it. Recently our meetings have taken the form of field trips that Liz plans and to which we both look forward. It is amazing how much ground can be covered in a car, literally and figuratively, as we travel together to sites in the surrounding area that have historical significance to our IHM Congregation! 

Liz at cemetery
Sister Elizabeth McGill at St. Catherine's 
Cemetery, Moscow, PA
Susquehanna - ME
Sister Mary Elaine Anderson at Theresa Maxis historical marker in Susquehanna, PA

As the days of social distancing continue to unfold, the women in initial formation and I welcome your prayerful support and your creative suggestions for making this time meaningful and memorable.

From February 13 to 17, 2020, Sisters Giovana “Gio” Fuentes Bendívez, Elizabeth “Liz” McGill and Mary Elaine Anderson joined the women and men in the Hudson Valley Inter-Community Formation Program for a presentation on the Enneagram.  The four-day workshop took place at Maryknoll in Ossining, New York.

The days included PowerPoint presentations, periods of reflection, small group dialogue and large group sharing. In the evenings, there was time to enjoy a movie, converse with friends or have a quiet moment for self. On one of the nights, Liz prepared a party which included plenty of physical activity, a game of Pictionary and prizes for everyone.

Spending time at Maryknoll was an intercultural experience! The diverse cultures from around the world were reflected in the sea of faces in the chapel and the dining room as well as in the artifacts found in hallways and common spaces. Sisters who had spent years ministering in Peru were happy to have the opportunity to meet Gio and speak with her about their common experiences.

The Maryknoll Sisters welcomed us into their home and invited us to join them for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of their foundation. Knowing that we were IHMs, Sister Claudette Verdiere, who is currently organizing the written legacy of the Maryknoll Sisters, approached me and reminded me that their original group, including their founder, had received their initial formation from the IHM Congregation from 1914 to 1916. The account can be found in The History of the IHM Sisters (pp. 390-398). During our time at Maryknoll, we also were invited to the Jubilee Mass and dinner of the sisters who were celebrating 60, 70 and 75 years in religious life. It was amazing to realize that many of those sisters had actually known their foundress, Mary Josephine Rogers!

Giovana Fuentes Bendivez with friends from Maryknoll

Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez connects with women
from diverse cultures at Maryknoll, Ossining, NY

The women in or involved with initial formation started off the year 2020 at a fast pace!

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson attended the fourth and final session of the ForMission Program from January 4-11, 2020 two-year program is sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference for women and men religious who are currently accompanying new members in initial formation. During the week spent at the Oblate Renewal Center in San Antonio, TX, the participants explored the topic, “Formation for Religious Life."

Sister Mindy Welding organized a Marywood University service trip and invited Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez to participate in it as part of her novitiate experience of IHM mission. Giovana accompanied six students and Sister Mindy to Frenchville, PA. The Marywood delegation volunteered from January 6-11, 2020, at Young People Who Care (YPWC) Ministries, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains of central Pennsylvania. YPWC welcomes volunteers who desire to serve the poor, live in community and prayerfully reflect on their experiences.

Service Trip 2019 -smSisters Mindy Welding and Giovana Fuentes Bendivez with Marywood University students at Young People Who Care Ministries

After returning from the service trip, Giovana moved from the formation community convent to a convent in downtown Scranton. As a second-year novice, Giovana continues to prepare for ministry and profession of vows. Her preparation includes having diverse communal and ministerial experiences. While she is living with the sisters at Cathedral Convent, Giovana will be serving at Friends of the Poor.

Cathedral Community 2020-smFront to back: Sister Giovana with Sisters Fides, Karen Marie, Theresa, Joan and Michael Marie

As a canonical novice, Sister Elizabeth “Liz” McGill is immersed in study, community life, and service in our IHM sponsored ministries and congregational activities. During the next few months, she will be commuting to Villa Maria House of Studies, Immaculata, PA one day a week to participate  in the inter-novitiate course, “The Biblical, Historical and Spiritual Roots of Consecrated Life.” Liz also will be studying “Feminist Theology”
with Sister Nancy Hawkins.

Novices Explore the Significance of Mary in the Lives of IHMs Today

“We embrace Mary, the first disciple, as our model of a life rooted in God.” (IHM Charism Statement)

Mary plays an important role in Alphonsian spirituality and is a prominent figure within our IHM heritage. As IHMs, how has our relationship with and understanding of Mary as a model for our lives evolved over time? What significance does Mary have for us today?

IHM novices, Giovanna Fuentes Bendivez and Elizabeth McGill, along with Sisters Rachel Terry and Mary Elaine Anderson are exploring these  questions in “Marian Themes,” a weekly dialogue facilitated by Sister Cathy Luxner. When asked about her experience of teaching “Marian Themes” to
the women in initial formation, Cathy responded: “I look forward to each class and being with these women! It’s renewing and refreshing for me to ponder Mary’s place in our charism and spirituality...and more importantly in our future.”

We are grateful to Cathy for providing a space where we are able to reflect on our personal relationship with Mary, dialogue with one another about content which intrigues us, and expand our understanding of Mary’s significance for IHMs in the 21st century.

Liz-Gio_CathyLuxner_RachelTerrySisters Elizabeth, Giovanna, Cathy and Rachel in “Marian Themes” class

IHM Presents to International Communicators, Congregation Leaders and Formators

The UISG (International Union of Superiors General) and MMI (Multi-Media International) invited Sister Annmarie Sanders to participate in an interview with Phillip Pulella from Reuters News Agency. The topic: how media covers women religious in the news. The interview took place in Rome, Italy, on October 17 and was ustreamed to religious all over the world. It was followed by a two-day workshop titled “On Fire for Communications: Communication for Religious Life,”which Annmarie presented to communicators, congregation leaders and formators. Participants from international congregations attended, and Annmarie’s presentation was translated from English into Italian, French and Spanish.

During the workshop, Annmarie focused on the importance of communicating to the public not only the dedicated works that religious do but also the “core” or the deeper aspects of their lives. She reminded the participants that people all over the world deal with the same “big” questions and are often drawn to religious because they do not shy away from their yearnings and from the challenging questions.

Annmarie created space for personal reflection on and dialogue about the necessary skills to both listen and communicate on a profound level. She urged participants to:
Cultivate curiosity and adopt a judgment-free stance in their encounters
Walk with beauty and let themselves be surprised and their thinking be stretched
Live with a sense of awe and mystery and see beyond the tangible

The workshop was both inspirational and practical. Communicators, congregation leaders and formators learned about the art of crafting powerful questions and the tools needed for communicating in times of crisis.

Annmarie’s presentation went far beyond the participants’ expectations. It nurtured their very souls and awakened them to their deeper mission of communicating their vocation, not just their works.

The interview about the media’s coverage of women religious is available on YouTube at:

Sisters Annmarie Sanders (left) and Mary Elaine Anderson (right)
at the UISG conference in Italy

Growth promoting moments in initial formation are not always planned. Invitations, which come without prior notice and entail a spontaneous response, often are the catalyst for deeper self-awareness and discernment. In July, Elizabeth Ann “Liz” McGill received a request from Tamron Hall, a former host of the Today Show, to appear with three other young sisters on her new show. Liz accepted the invitation saying that she hoped her participation might shed a positive light on religious life and give her the opportunity to highlight how past and present IHM sisters have touched the lives of many people. Liz participated in the Tamron Hall Show on September 17, and this is what she writes about her experience. “This experience was quite unique and is not comparable to anything I experienced previously. I enjoyed sharing information about Catholic sisters and our congregation with the producers. Over the month of back and forth phone calls and emails, the questions and sharing grew deeper. The ability to share insights and positive reflections around religious life and the IHMs was an experience that fostered a deeper understanding in others and in me. After the show, outside the studio, I was approached by two women who had tickets but missed the show. Initially disappointed, they were happy to have the chance to meet us. One woman explained to me, she was taught in Syracuse at The Most Holy Rosary by IHM Sisters. How wonderful! We were able to converse for a few moments. To sum up our conversation, she was thankful for her fond memories and experiences with the IHM Sisters. This conversation was the highlight.”

Front L-R: Sister Desire Anne Marie Findlay, CSSF, Tamron Hall, Sister Boram Lee, FMA
Back L-R: Sister Elizabeth Ann McGill and Sister Rachel Lauritsen, FMA

In September, IHM novice Giovana Fuentes Bendivez was invited to accompany Sister Kieran Williams on a trip to North Carolina. Kieran and Giovana visited Rocky Mount and Williamston, two missions where IHMs previously served, as well as New Bern, where they met with Sister Monique Dissen, the only Scranton IHM currently ministering in North Carolina. The sisters also took time to connect with several IHM associates.

Sister Elizabeth "Liz" Ann McGill Received into IHM Novitiate, Sunday, September 8, 2019 at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA

Slideshow of Sister Liz McGill's reception into the IHM Novitiate

On the afternoon of September 8, in the presence of IHM sisters and associates gathered in Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at the IHM Center and also connected via u-stream, Sister Ellen Maroney welcomed Elizabeth Ann “Liz” McGill into the novitiate of the IHM Congregation.

During the simple ceremony, Elizabeth expressed a desire to deepen her relationship with God and to let the spiritual overflow into all aspects of and be a sustaining force in her life. Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, Director of Candidates and Novices, attested to Elizabeth’s dedication to the mission and core values of the IHM Congregation, her desire to embody God’s unconditional love for all and her readiness to enter the novitiate.

Elizabeth asked the sisters to support her as she continues to discern her call to religious life by being a visible sign of the IHM spirit and charism and by modeling the core values of rootedness in God, radical interdependence, justice, respect for diversity and wholeness. The sisters responded in resounding unison: “Elizabeth, we stand with you, we pray for you and we welcome you as our sister.”

Entrance Ceremony for Liz McGill  by Ellen Maroney, IHM President

Good afternoon, Everyone.  This is indeed a very good afternoon, a very special afternoon, and I welcome our sisters and associates who are here in person and those who join us via live stream, those in Peru and Mexico, and wherever we are, and especially our sisters at Our Lady of Peace. 

I want to thank those sisters who have reached out in many different ways during this year to enable Liz to become familiar with us as individuals and as a congregation:  Sisters Margaret Gannon, Michel Keenan, Cathy Luxner, Ann Marie Sanders, Mary Ellen Higgins, and Mindy Welding taught classes for Liz on our IHM history and spirituality and as part of the Inter-Novitiate program we participate in. Sisters Betty, Vincentia, Kieran, Maria Goretti, and Leonette were special guest speakers in Liz’s history of the congregation class.  Our thanks also to the sisters who shared life and ministry with Liz this year at Marywood University, St. Joseph’s Center, Friends of the Poor, and Sicuani, Peru, the sisters at Our Lady of Peace and the IHM Center, and those with whom Liz lived in community, the sisters at Capouse and Annunciation communities.  I want to particularly thank Sister Mary Elaine who has journeyed with Liz during this past year and who, I understand, is being petitioned by Liz to build a golf course for the novices!  She thinks it could also be a money-maker for the congregation, so Terri Jordan is looking in to it.

Liz, your desire to pursue this call was nurtured in you during your youth at home in Elmira, NY with your parents and your brothers and sisters.  Through your many and varied life experiences, God’s invitation was stirring within you because of your heart’s connection with the God in you.  Your personal yearning for a deeper relationship with Christ coincided with your longing for something beyond your worldly success and achievements.  Your restlessness connected with your desire to do more for the less fortunate and the powerless in society.  In your letter expressing your desire to enter the novitiate, you wrote that this decision “is the best way for me to come fully alive to the will of God, in the spirit of God, for the reign of God.”  Liz, we are grateful your trust in God at this time and your desire to join with us as you continue to discern your call to religious life as an IHM.  We assure you of our continued prayers and support

So in the presence of the congregation leadership, Sister Mary Elaine, your mentors, role models, and friends in community and ministry, I welcome you, Liz, to a new way of being and living out your call and welcome you among us, your sisters and companions.  And as you begin this next step on your journey, I’d like to paraphrase a prayer that captures my, and all of our, wishes for you:


          May you be further enriched by the opportunities you will have to deepen your understanding of religious life, our IHM history and charism, and the ways in which we witness to God’s life in our world through the evangelical counsels;

          May the times of silence and the spirit of your canonical phase grace you with a sense of spirituality that will open your heart even wider to the limitless love and power of God’s presence within you;

          May you encounter empty spaces in your soul so that you will learn the wisdom of the forgotten, the overlooked, and the powerless in our society;

          May you grow even more in your understanding of your own goodness, kindness, and compassion, so that those whom you will serve throughout your life will see you and know that God is good and merciful and compassionate;

          May you be disturbed, in good ways, in holy ways, when you are confronted with the shadows that will show up on occasion – your shadows and ours; may you be disturbed enough to seek change, but not disturbed enough to surrender your dream and your call;

          May you embrace the surprises that will change the course of your life, because those surprises are the signs of God’s work within you and around you;

          May you stay on fire as you continue to run for God’s heart so that your one life will indeed make a difference in our world.  Amen.

During the summer, the women in initial formation were involved in a variety of programs, retreats, service opportunities and activities. The diversity of experiences provided ways for each woman to use her unique gifts and talents and to continue developing spiritually, psycho-socially and professionally. Currently, the IHM Congregation has three women in initial formation: candidate Elizabeth “Liz” McGill, novice Sister Giovana “Gio” Fuentes Bendivez and temporary professed Sister Elizabeth DeMerchant. Although many activities are unique to each woman’s stage of formation, during the fall, Elizabeth, Gio and Liz will attend some classes and workshops together. Sister Catherine Luxner will be giving a course on Marian Themes to Gio and Liz on Wednesday mornings. Elizabeth will join Liz and Gio for at least one of the three Inter-Community Formation
weekends in the fall.

Liz is transitioning from candidacy to the novitiate; she will be received on September 8. As a novice, Liz will participate weekly in the Inter-Novitiate Formation Program offered by the Delaware Valley Area of the Religious Formation Conference.  Liz also will have the opportunity to audit an online course called Religious Life for the 21st Century: Creating Communities of Hope on a Global Scale. During the fall, Liz will continue to volunteer a few hours weekly at St. Joseph Center and Our Lady of Peace.

Giovana, who presently is a canonical novice, will transition into the apostolic year of her novitiate near the end of October. She will volunteer one day a week at Friends of the Poor, continue to serve on the Vital Living Committee and be part of the coordinating committee to plan for and gather with the Spanish-speaking Circle of Grace.  During the fall, Giovana will concentrate on her English grammar, pronunciation, writing, reading and conversational skills. In addition, Giovana will meet regularly with the director of novices to dialogue about her experience of balancing the different dimensions of religious life—spirituality, community, ministry and leisure—and to study the vows and IHM Constitutions

Elizabeth is in her second year of temporary profession.  This year Elizabeth will be teaching the following classes at All Saints Academy: reading to students in the Individualized Instruction Program, religion to fifth through eighth grade, social studies to seventh grade and computer to eighth grade.

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson, Sister Elizabeth, Gio and Liz attended the profession of Luciania D'Cruze, see photo below.

IHMFormationGroup at Luciana s Profession
Pictured above L -R: Mary Elaine Anderson, IHM, Elaine Bebyn, MFP, Elizabeth DeMerchant, IHM, Giovana Fuentes Bendivez (IHM novice), Luciania D’Cruze (newly professed MFP), Liz McGill (IHM candidate), Mary Kate Mensch (SSCM novice) and Maco Cassetta, CND

Candidate to be Received into IHM Novitiate


Elizabeth Ann “Liz” McGill will be received into the IHM Novitiate in September of 2019.  In November 2018, Liz moved to McCarty Hall on Marywood University’s campus where she continues to live with the sisters in the formation community.  As a candidate, Liz worked part-time at Marywood and volunteered at Friends of the Poor, St. Joseph’s Center and Our Lady of Peace. She also participated actively in formation classes, Inter-Community Formation workshops, retreats and activities and served on congregational committees.

Pictured above is Liz McGill standing beside the statue of Theresa Maxis Duchemin at St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site in Baltimore, MD.

 Sandra Gio ME at River Raisin-sm

On the Bank of the River Raisin

Sisters Giovana Fuentes Bendivez and Mary Elaine Anderson recently had the opportunity to spend six days in Monroe, Michigan, with our IHM sisters. River House Spirituality Center, where we were lodged, stood on the banks of the River Raisin.

The week in Monroe was filled with study, reflection, dialogue, encounters and reconnecting with Monroe IHMs.  Sandra Schneiders offered a mini-course—Exploring the Resurrection—to about twenty-five IHM sisters and associates each morning of the week (July 15-19, 2019).

In the afternoons, Giovana and I engaged in a variety of activities with our Monroe sisters. We explored the archives, visited the tombs of Father Gillet and our first sisters and walked along the Detroit River, where we had a view of the Canadian coast. In the evenings, Giovana and I, as well as the Monroe sisters and associate from Juarez, Mexico, were invited by the IHM communities in the area to eat and socialize.

Pictured above are Sisters Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, Sandra Schneiders (Monroe IHM) and Mary Elaine Anderson on the bank of the River Raisin

Gio Betty Faustina - dessert at McCarty Hall April 2019-sm

From September 2018 to May 2019, IHM novice Giovana Fuentes and candidate Liz McGill participated in the mobile inter-novitiate program organized by RFC Region 2 formation directors. The twenty-four topics were presented in blocks of two days, and members in initial formation took to the road twelve times to hear presentations given by religious from a variety of congregations.

Congregations took turns hosting the program and offering hospitality to the participants. It provided the perfect space for initial members in formation to reflect on what they had learned during the year, how they had changed and the relationships that they had created.

On April 24-25, 2019, the Inter-Novitiate Program took place in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Conference Room at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA. Sean Sammon, FMS, spoke to participants about the vow of chastity, and Mary Catherine Redmond, PBVM, presented on the integration of the vows. On the evening of April 24, the visitors walked from the IHM Center to McCarty Hall on the Marywood University campus, where the sisters who live there had invited them for dessert—ice cream sundaes! Visiting congregations expressed gratitude for the warm welcome that the sisters at both the IHM Center and McCarty Hall gave them. Many commented on the joyful and loving spirit of our IHM sisters.

Pictured above are Giovana Fuentes (IHM novice) and Sister Faustina Ferko, CSFN, join Sister Betty Bullen, IHM, for dessert at McCarty Hall

Liz and Gio in Peru-2019

In January 2019, IHM novice Giovana Fuentes Bendivez and candidate Elizabeth “Liz” McGill worked side by side with our sisters, associates and parish youth to deliver a successful summer program to children ages 3 to 12 in Sicuani, Peru. Giovana’s artistic talents and Liz’s athletic abilities were greatly appreciated by the children. During their time in Sicuani and Lima, Giovana and Liz also had the opportunity to connect and dialogue with our five IHM sisters who currently live there. By participating in their prayer, community life and ministry, Giovana and Liz experienced how the IHM charism makes itself present in Peru.

Since their return from Peru, Liz and Giovana have been busy with classes and inter-community formation workshops.

Pictured L -R above is candidate Elizabeth “Liz” McGill and Sister Giovana Fuentes Bendivez 


November 2018:
Sister Elizabeth DeMerchant made her profession of temporary vows on July 28, 2018. She teaches full-time at Holy Cross High School. Elizabeth is an active and passionate member of two congregation committees: EarthCARE and Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.

Sister Giovana (Gio) Fuentes Bendivez was received into the novitiate on September 20, 2018. She is a canonical novice and dedicates time to prayer and study to deepen her spiritual life.

Elizabeth (Liz) McGill is a candidate. She works part-time in the Admissions Office at Marywood University, visits our sisters at Our Lady of Peace Residence and volunteers at St. Joseph’s Center and Friends of the Poor.

Both Gio and Liz participate in Sister Margaret Gannon’s weekly class on the history of the IHM Congregation, which is being video streamed for IHM sisters, associates and friends who are unable to attend the class at the IHM Center. Sister Margaret possesses a wealth of knowledge about religious life, social issues, Alphonsian spirituality and IHM history and traditions. Her class is interactive and she is always happy to share with Gio, Liz and online participants.

As a novice, Gio participates regularly in the Inter-Novitiate Formation Program, which provides a course of study with topics that help canonical novices deepen their prayer life and their relationship with Jesus, acquire a sound theological base, develop skills for communal living and continue to discern their call to religious life. Although she is a candidate, Liz also attends some of the sessions of the Inter-Novitiate Program. She is present for those topics which she has chosen and considers integral to her own spiritual and psychosocial development. Gio, Liz and Sister Mary Elaine Anderson travel once or twice a month and stay with hosting congregations in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut in order to participate in the Inter-Novitiate Program.

On October 27-28, 2018, Elizabeth, Gio and Liz attended the Inter-community Formation Program for candidates, novices, temporary professed sisters and directors of Region 2 of the Religious Formation Conference. The program offers weekend courses on a variety of topics, brings together men and women from different congregations, promotes the development of healthy interpersonal relationships and prepares the way for inter-community collaboration in the future.

Pictured above are Sisters Kieran Williams, Mary Elaine Anderson, and Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, with candidate Liz McGill

Welcoming Giovana to the IHM Novitiate


On the evening of September 20, 2018, in the presence of IHM sisters gathered in Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at the IHM Center and also connected via u-stream, Sister Ellen Maroney welcomed Giovana Fuentes Bendivez into the novitiate of the IHM Congregation.

During the simple ceremony, Giovana expressed a desire to deepen her relationship with the God who faithfully inspires, motivates and invites her to reach out to others. She asked for the opportunity to share life in community, grow in her knowledge of the history of the IHM Congregation and embrace more fully its charism, spirituality, core values and mission.

Sister Mary Elaine Anderson reflected on Giovana’s experiences as a candidate in both Sicuani, Peru, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. She attested to Giovana’s zest for life, her passion for serving the most vulnerable, her capacity to listen compassionately and to include each person, her joyful participation in community activities and her willingness to move out of her comfort zone to make herself understood in nonverbal and, sometimes humorous, ways.

Having heard Sister Mary Elaine’s affirmation of Giovana’s readiness to enter the novitiate, Sister Ellen asked the IHM Congregation and the formative community, in particular, if they were willing and ready to accompany Giovana as she enters more deeply into a contemplative experience, continues to explore her vocation to religious life and grounds herself in the IHM way of life. The sisters responded in resounding unison: “Giovana, we stand with you, we pray for you and we welcome you as our sister.”

Pictured L-R above are Sisters Ellen Maroney, president, Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, and Mary Elaine Anderson 

Sr. Elizabeth DeMerchant Makes Her  Profession of Temporary Vows 

July 28, 2018:

Four years ago, when Sister Elizabeth Ann DeMerchant heard God’s voice beckoning her: “Come work for me,” she began a quest to understand the deeper meaning of God’s words and where she might best bring those words to life. Her search finally led her to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and to our IHM Congregation where she discovered that her heart beats in synchrony with our IHM spirit of hospitality and service and resonates with our IHM charism, core values and mission.

Elizabeth Ann believes that religious, by their public profession of vows, are a sign of hope for people today. She herself is a hopeful person and has freely chosen a life of vowed commitment with IHM sisters because she wants to do “something lasting” and “something bigger” than she could accomplish by herself. In her own words, Elizabeth Ann asserts, “At the end of my days, if I have had less and a child has had an education or a chance for justice, and the earth is cleaner, then it will have been worth it.”

Pictured above L-R is Sisters Elizabeth Ann DeMerchant and Ellen Maroney, president

Inter-Community Formation Prog April 2018
IHM novice, Elizabeth DeMerchant, and candidates, Giovana Fuentes and Liz McGill, participated in the Inter-Community Formation Program on April 21-22, 2018, in Wappinger’s Falls, NY. The program, which offers weekend courses on a variety of topics, brings together men and women from different congregations who are in initial formation, promotes the development of healthy interpersonal relationships among participants and prepares the way for intercommunity collaboration in the future. Monica Murphy, CSJ, presented the topic, The Church I Love, at the recent intercommunity formation weekend. Elizabeth, Giovana and Liz helped to create a sacred space for the gathering with the prayer that they prepared and led.

Pictured above L-R are Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, Elizabeth DeMerchant and Liz McGill

New Candidate Welcomed in Sicuani, Peru


On November 19, 2016, Sister Ellen Maroney welcomed Giovana Fuentes Bendivez into the IHM Candidacy program during a simple ceremony which took place in the Chapel of San Filipe, in Sicuani Peru. IHM Sisters Eileen Egan, Ancilla Maloney, Kathy Kurdziel, Tomasa Fernandez and Norma Poma Arpi, five IHM Associates Maura, Maria Cruz, Delphina, Casilda, and Matilde, as well as friends, neighbors, members of the youth group, co-workers and young women from the IHM House of Studies gathered to pray and wish Giovana well as she began her journey toward membership in the IHM Congregation.  A lovely liturgy, planned by Giovana, followed the entrance ceremony. IHM associates served light refreshments after the liturgy. 

Giovana met the IHM Sisters in Lima while she was studying at the University and she kept In touch with them even after she was employed as a psychologist at a Fe y Alegria School and at the Clinic of the Holy Cross Fathers in Lima.  

She adjusted very well to the life in Sicuani and ministers part-time as a psychologist for ALPINE (Association for the Support of Exceptional Children). She also volunteers with the Office of Social Justice which serves abused children and adults. Because of her expertise, Giovana partners with the local bishop to do radio programming on issues affecting the youth and families of the region.

An accomplished folk dancer and a lover of music, Giovana teaches dancing to the young women in the IHM House of Studies and plays, sings and teaches the young musicians in the parish.