Partner Highlights

Partner Highlights

We simply could not do the work that we do without our partners in mission. Thank you for sharing your story and supporting the Sisters of the Presentation.

“God blessed us with three wonderful children, Benjamin, Mandy and Carrie, our greatest gifts from Him. With three little ones, life kept us busy running in circles. Many times we were just trying to figure out which end was up! Over the years, we were always very busy, but also very blessed,” expresses Patti (Weigel) Cullen. She and her husband, Terry Cullen, just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

“I’m the middle child of five, born to my parents, Ann and Richard Weigel, with older brothers Al and Tim, and younger siblings Pam and Greg. We were country kids who hung around our neighbors, the Cullen kids, on their farm. It was always an incredible adventure!”

Patti shares, “In 2010, my dad joined our Heavenly Father, to be reunited with Greg, my little brother who was killed in an auto accident in 1981. Mom’s faith accompanied her loss. Profound statements she used and continues to share with others are, ‘If I can’t raise my son, who better than God to do so,’ and ‘Don’t place a question mark, where God has placed a period.’ A woman I once viewed as weak became one of the strongest I know. A true warrior.”

On November 11, 2014, there was another excruciating loss. With pain in her eyes, Patti explains, ”This was the day we learned Benjamin, our firstborn and only son, made the lone decision to take his life. Ben’s devastating suicide blindsided our entire family! As Ben’s mom, I questioned, ’How do I go on? Is it possible? Do I want to?‘”

Patti recalled the drive to Ben’s home as one of the longest rides of her life. “Upon arriving, we waited, what felt like forever, to see Ben. When it was time, we entered his room. I ran to my beloved son, dropped to the floor and lay over Ben in agonizing grief, sobbing hysterically and trying to make sense out of this. Then, a calm suddenly came over me. I looked up at my family standing above me and declared, ‘We will find goodness in this.’”

Patti realized immediately that those words proclaimed from her mouth were not hers. This was divine inspiration from God! “I have clung to His words ever since,” says Patti.

“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

In 2015, the Telegraph Herald featured an article about the Cullen’s losing Ben to suicide and their desire to start a survivors of suicide support group. As God would have it, this article fell into the hands of Sister Kay Cota. “Sister Kay sent us a letter introducing herself and commended us for our efforts. She offered us love, prayers and support with an invitation to visit. Following her outreach, Terry, my mom and I were blessed to meet Sister Kay.”

Having facilitated several retreats, Sister Marie Barth joined in and offered the family countless resources, prayers and support. “Both offered encouragement as we ventured into uncharted territory of our grief and healing journey. It was then, Ben’s Hope was created.”

“On weekends, Sisters Kay and Marie hosted retreats,” states Patti. “Mom and I visited regularly and, at times, others would join us. We embraced the opportunities to learn, rest and refuel. We were never ready to leave. Our standing joke was and still is, pack extra underwear in case we stay an extra night!”

Ben’s Hope later became the acronym BENS Hope signifying, ”Because Everyone Needs Some Hope,“ after God put this on Terry’s heart. BENS Hope became the family’s ministry and outreach expanded. In addition to a monthly survivors of suicide meeting, they also host an annual BENS Hope 5K/2M suicide awareness/prevention event every September and Healing Hearts retreats.

Sisters Kay and Marie graciously assist with the Healing Hearts retreat efforts hosted at Mount Loretto and all of the sisters offer prayers. “The retreats focus on moms who have lost a child. Since both mom and I have had the misfortune of losing a child, who better to host retreats and offer hope to other moms?” explains Patti. “The weekend retreats are at no cost. It is felt the moms have already paid the biggest cost, they have lost a child. Everything from room and board to meals and materials are covered by the ministry. In turn, BENS Hope donates to the sisters to bless them for the opportunity to walk with these mothers on their grief and healing journey. Looking back, it is so apparent how God orchestrated all of this! For that, we are truly grateful.”

God also gave Terry the idea for BENS Hope Helping Hands. “Each February we accept applications from people who are struggling, doing something good in the community or continuing their education in a mental health related field. Three recipients are chosen and blessed with a monetary donation from BENS Hope with the announcement on a special day … March 5, which also happens to be Ben’s birthday. God has the best ideas!”

“Following Ben’s suicide, God instructed me to journal about my loss. He told me that His son Jesus died to save others. These journal entries would become a book called Tears of Love. God said this book will help save the lives of others.” At first, Patti adamantly declined the call, but God was persistent. “Mom and I spent a great deal of time at Mount Loretto while Tears of Love was in its final stages. While I was in my room working on the book, Mom could be found in the puzzle room, spending time with the beautiful sisters who join her.”

“We have been blessed by everyone at Mount Loretto. We enjoy the fabulous meals, lovely services in the chapel and countless conversations. Sisters Kay and Marie have not only been a beacon of light in our lives, but have become friends we consider family.”

The recent years have definitely been transformative as Patti and Ann’s faith grew. Patti left her 43-year career to focus on BENS Hope. “While rules, regulations, policies and procedures once consumed my time, my new priority is to be a light in this world, offering hope and helping others who are struggling,“ explains Patti. ”Pastor Mark Dieter made a statement that stuck with me. ‘We all have a theology of God based on our circumstances and these circumstances reorganize and reshape us and our lives.’ I agree. With faith, BENS Hope came to be. And we are astonished, humbled and honored at the work God is doing through us.”

Patti sends a message to all, “During the ebbs and flows in life, we find ourselves questioning the hardships. No one requests hardships. This is when faith comes into practice … where our faith is tested at levels we never thought possible and where growth and incredible things can happen if we are open to listening to God. I’m not saying that everything we are dealt is easy to get through. What I can say, from my experience, is that it is possible to get through if you have faith, and let God guide you.”

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Jeannie and Pete Kalb’s story dates back to high school. They grew up as friends at Sacred Heart School in Oelwein, Iowa, where they both graduated. Then their life-long commitment began in marriage 58 years ago.

Today, Pete and Jeannie live on the family farm in Stanley, Iowa, located a few miles outside of Oelwein. “We have been blessed with five children; Bob, Mary, Larry, Beth and John, who all attended Sacred Heart. When our youngest started school, I began volunteering. I soon became a financial officer and served at that capacity for 15 years,” explains Jeannie.

Pete and Jeannie describe their experiences with the Sisters of the Presentation. “We first became acquainted with Presentation Sisters when our grandchildren attended Sacred Heart. In 1996, Sister Benjamin Duschner became principal. We truly loved her from the start. She did a terrific job as the principal. Later, we were blessed to meet Sister Marilou Irons and Sister Diana Blong. We met Sister Diana at Chautauqua Nursing Home in Charles City where my sister resided. We appreciated her love and compassion. She checked in on my sister often. It was sweet of her. We give thanks to Sister Diana for driving over to Oelwein for my sister’s funeral when she died. The sisters are truly blessings and we are fortunate to have them in our lives.”

Jeannie reminds us that being present at a time of need is a perfect example of the common good. Pete and Jeannie have given service to their community for close to 60 years. “Pete, too, is dedicated to service outside of making charitable contributions. To date, Pete has more than 50 years as a member of the Knights of Columbus. We both feel it is important to give back.”

Following retirement, the couples’ support continues. “Common good is what makes the world better for all of us,” states Jeannie. “To us, this means if we are blessed we have a duty to share those blessings and try to make life better for others. Sometimes we get so caught up in this crazy world we forget this is what God has commanded us all to do.”

“After retiring, I continued my service at a different capacity. I volunteered at Sacred Heart School where our grandchildren were then students. Today we have 17 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. I am grateful for my time at Sacred Heart, as I volunteered until COVID-19 hit. Sadly, the school has closed,” says Jeannie sorrowfully. “As for Pete, he has farmed all his life and is still farming with our boys, Bob and John. We are so fortunate to have them farm with us.”

As a tribute to the mission and ministries of the sisters, Pete and Jeannie show their appreciation through prayer and as partners in mission. “We see the work being done and make charitable contributions as our way to help others. Pete and I have been so blessed and feel it’s our way of thanking God and making someone else’s life better. The sisters do a good job at keeping us updated on what they are doing by hearing from our Presentation Sister friends. We always enjoy reading about the sisters and seeing pictures in the Presentation Doorways. We are happy to support the Presentation Sisters as our way of saying “thank you” and hoping to help in our small way for the sisters to continue the wonderful work they do. I challenge all to think about how you contribute to the common good.”

“I grew up on a farm in Clare, Iowa. There were four girls and one boy in our Catholic family. All of us went to Catholic school and we were taught by the Presentation Sisters. We also attended Mass regularly. Pat, whom I married in 1959, was not as lucky as me! He also attended Catholic school but did not have the Sisters of the Presentation,” expresses Maureen Hobart, Presentation partner who has included the Sisters of the Presentation in an estate plan as part of her living trust.

“Throughout our life together, Pat developed a good sense of business. Prior to his death in 2016, he worked in a funeral home and observed how others were giving to charity and inquired on how he could too,” shares Maureen. “He knew we could do something that matters, thus he received a recommendation of an attorney and began talking to him to arrange gifts to charities.”

An estate plan involves formalizing how you want to be looked after both medically and financially when something happens to you or when you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, and, how you want your assets to be protected while you’re alive and distributed after you pass away.

Within an estate plan, one could have a living trust and include a charitable remainder trust (CRT), as Maureen has, and/or qualified charitable distribution (QCD). Presentation associate Dr. Janine Idziak is familiar with QCD’s and has an estate plan to include the Presentation Sisters as well. “In fact I converted the stocks in my retirement portfolio into an IRA in order to make QCD’s,” states Dr. Idziak.

A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is a written legal document through which your assets are placed into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime. At the time of your death, your assets are then transferred to designated beneficiaries by your chosen representative, called a successor trustee.

Maureen adds, “Creating an estate plan was not difficult. Pat really was the one who looked into creating one. The attorneys did their homework, provided us with advice and presented us with options. Some of our favorite charities include helping individuals with disabilities, the Archdiocese of Sioux City and the Sisters of the Presentation. The development of our will and estate plan was not a hard job but it does take time.”

Creating a living trust and will prohibits the estate and charitable contributions from going to probate thus eliminating sometimes prohibitive estate taxes. Property left through a living trust does not pass through probate. Property left through a will does go through probate. Probate is the court system designed to wrap up a person’s affairs after their debts. Probate takes a long time, can be very expensive, and for most estates, isn’t necessary.

In contrast to Maureen, Dr. Idziak had obstacles to overcome before she created her estate plan. “The most difficult thing about making out a will was psychological. I had to squarely face up to my own mortality. But I recognized that making out a will was a way for me to ensure that my money would be used to do good.  It is a matter of ‘stewardship.’”

How does one go about creating an estate plan with the options the benefactors above utilized to make contributions? “Giving While Living” can be done in conjunction with a financial planner or an attorney. Maureen explains a bit about her experience “I was lucky, my husband was really the driving force behind preparing our legacy and we knew God was guiding us to where we need to be.”

One may question, what is the difference between an estate plan and a will? A will may be a relatively simple document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of property such as cash, land, automobiles and items like jewelry; it may also include instructions regarding the care of minor children. An estate plan goes much further and deeper into your assets than a will.

“We created an estate plan because we knew we wanted to leave part of our estate to charity. This makes me happy and I know it is what Pat wanted before he passed away. The Presentation Sisters were my educators. My sister, Sister Mary Dennis Lentsch, is a part of the congregation and we even celebrate reunions and come to visit the motherhouse at Mount Loretto. We wanted to give back to charities that matter to us,” states Maureen as she expresses her love for the Presentation Sisters.

Dr. Idziak concluded with emotion and compassion, “As an associate of the Presentation Sisters, I felt I should support the ministries of the community. I especially appreciate the Presentation Sisters commitment to works of social justice. This is why I have included the Sisters of the Presentation in my estate plan.”