Come together, for each other
Uniting for: Catholic Education, the Sisters of St. Francis, Service and our Caring Faculty
Mikey Brauer (’09) witnessed the impact of Catholic Education through the students and faculty who live out their faith at the Cliff and beyond. Which is why he came to Briar Cliff non-Catholic, but with the support of his now wife Mollie, he left Catholic.
Participating in Antioch retreats, the RCIA program and the Honduras Mission Trip allowed Mikey to dive deeper into his faith.
“Especially through mission work. The mission trips we took to Honduras, to bring water to rural, poverty-stricken areas that didn’t have it. Those were life changing.”
His (2nd) favorite thing about Briar Cliff is the community, the first, of course, being his wife Mollie.
“The smile or ‘hi’ you get from every random person you meet on campus. Stealing lunch trays with your friends to go sledding. A professor who calls you when you accidentally oversleep your final,” Mikey says. “There’s a support system and network that will open up opportunities for your career – and help you take advantage of those opportunities when they come.”
Kathy & Elise Berg
Growing up watching her mom Kathy (Liske) Berg (’88) teach with such passion and energy, Elise Berg (’19) knew she wanted to become a Catholic School teacher just like her.
Kathy chose Briar Cliff because she wanted a Catholic college close to home, yet far enough away. She ended up meeting her husband, playing her two favorite sports, making friendships that have stood the test of time, and watching her younger siblings graduate after her.
“A Catholic education was super important to me. I felt like I was going to meet like-minded people in their faith which was going to help me be stronger in mine as an adult,” Kathy says.
Wanting to pass those values on to her children, the Bergs made sure to live in a community that offered a K-12 Catholic education system that she could also teach in. This is where Elise got to see her mom’s passion in action, as her 6th grade Language Arts teacher.
“I loved her class and I saw how much time and energy she put into each lesson. She cares so deeply for all of her students, which results in a class that is both focused and fun,” Elise says. “She is the inspiration behind so many of my lessons and classroom practices today. I would not be the teacher that I am without her.”
Sisters of St. Francis
Sisters of St. Francis -
St. Clare Legacy Society
Founded in 1929 by Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke, the Sisters of St. Francis worked laboriously day and night to ensure Briar Cliff was able to serve the future leaders of the world. When the college finally open its doors the following year, it was served by 12 Franciscan sisters (often referred to as “the 12 Apostles”).
“Before building began, several Sisters from Le Mars visited the site. On the way back, Lena Grennan said ‘To my way of thinking, this is a most unlikely place to build a college.’ Briar Cliff would not exist without the Sisters’ perseverance and optimism, pouring their time, labor and resources into the college."
The Sisters of St. Francis were the first members of Briar Cliff’s Mother Dominica Society which recognizes benefactors with a lifetime giving of $1 million. In January of 2019, they were the inaugural members of the St. Clare Legacy Society which recognizes benefactors with a lifetime giving of $5 million.
Witnessing the Sisters of St. Francis in action throughout his time at Briar Cliff was awe-inspiring for Chris Vos (’91). He often reflects on the impact they’ve made on his life as well as his passion for educating.
“It’s always been my goal to connect with my students in the same way the Sisters connected with me. They were always loving, positive, encouraging and full of life,” Chris says. “They were always asking students how they were doing and what they could do to help them to be successful.”
Chris fondly remembers Sr. Clo, Sr. Margaret Wick, Sr. Michaela Galles and especially Sr. Margaret Clare Dreckman who took him under her wing for advice and counsel. Hanging in his classroom today is a yarn plaque that she gave to him as a student.
“I truly believe that the education and foundation I received at Briar Cliff from both professors and the Sisters have given me a great basis on which to live my life,” Chris says. “Their unconditional love for us provided many of us with the determination to go out and make a difference in the world.”
Thanks to his Mission: Honduras experience, Max Pizarro (’17) discovered just how great of a translator he really is. He along with 19 other BCU students and staff spent their J-Term preparing a retreat center for workers in Gracias, Lempira, Honduras.
Immersing himself in Honduran culture and doing manual labor while being the bridge of communication for everyone gave him a different experience from everyone else.
“Eduardo and I spent a lot of time talking with Victor and the other workers. I can definitely say it was so nice sharing with those guys and I’m always pleasantly surprised to see how much we Latin Americans are much more similar than different,” Max says.
Students worked at the retreat center for the majority of their time there clearing brush, digging for the outhouse, shaping and laying brick, pouring concrete, moving piles and piles of resources and so much more. The group was also able to meet the Sisters stationed in Honduras, visit a prison and explore the city of Copán and its ancient ruins.
“Part of what made this experience so memorable for me was making the trip with a lot of people with which I already had a close relationship with and got to know them on an even deeper level,” Max says.
Max highly recommends anyone for this mission trip. Not only for those in Honduras who need the assistance, but for the bonds you create and the interpersonal growth you make.
Traveling to Tanzania in the summer of 2019 for a service-learning trip through Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM) was a once in a life-time opportunity. This trip challenged me to “travel” outside my comfort zone by becoming more open and willing to learn.
Reflecting on my service trip, it’s hard to differentiate the things I learned and the things that changed my life. Those “little” moments when I learned how to overcome a language barrier or strengthen my faith shaped me into the person I am today.
1. Being open to all
This trip helped me become more culturally sensitive. While talking to the women and children of the village I learned they have customs that people in America and other developed countries only hear about in movies.
2. Take care of the Earth
I learned the importance of taking in Earth’s natural creation. Tanzania is full of beautiful mountains and thousands of miles of natural wildlife and the people who live there strive to keep the land as magnificent as the day it was created.
3. Making time for worship
During this service trip, I wanted to become closer in my relationship with God and experience other religious beliefs that are similar and different to mine. It was an eye-opening experience to compare how I and other cultures worship and how they are virtually the same even halfway around the world.
4. Learning how to be patient & understanding
I had to quickly learn how to use patience while communicating through language barriers. Having an open mind when someone is trying to communicate with you can change your perspective to become more receptive to others and relay genuine kindness.
5. Building relationships
I gained an overall sense of purpose throughout my trip. The relationships I built with my service trip group and the Tanzanian people I met will forever hold a close place in my heart. This trip has helped me realize nursing is the field I’m meant to be in.
Our faculty are a staple of pride at Briar Cliff. They are mentors, leaders and friends of the students they help graduate. We can't thank them enough for their dedication and time invested into shaping our students to be the ethical world changers we know they are.
If you haven’t heard, this spring will be Dr. Paul Weber’s final semester teaching at Briar Cliff. His retirement is well-deserved and Briar Cliff thanks him for his many years of dedicated service. Since the fall of 1980, Dr. Weber has taught many generations of chemistry students, not only in labs but through trips to the Black Hills and beyond.
We will truly miss seeing Dr. Weber’s goggled face around campus, and therefore are establishing an annual scholarship fund in his honor. Join us in celebrating the impact he has made on you and your fellow Chargers’ lives by making a gift.