S. Delia Sizler
Delia Sizler (center) ministers with Patrick Neary, ND, and Associate Constance Trollan, ANP, at Wellspring Integrated Medical Center in Juneau, Alaska.
“I had been to Alaska on a visit a couple years ago,” S. Delia Sizler recalled. “Last year I was in a discernment period about a position in the Cleveland, Ohio, area where I had thought I would be in ministry. Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to Alaska.’ It was as if God had been preparing me for that change without my even knowing it.”
According to S. Dee, Alaska has the highest incidents of domestic violence in the United States, in addition to alcoholism, unemployment and isolation. With her pastoral counseling experience and friendship with Associate Connie Trollan, who 20 years ago opened Wellspring Integrated Medical Center, “Everything just seemed to fall into place,” S. Dee said.
In January S. Dee began her ministry as part of the extended services at Wellspring, a for-profit clinic offering an integration of quality health care services. A licensed counselor for more than 25 years, she provides family pastoral services to clients seeking supportive guidance for personal, relational and spiritual issues. In addition, Sister ministers part-time at the AWARE shelter where she is present to women and children seeking safety and a place to begin recovery from abusive situations.
Although she traveled more than 3,000 miles from the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse to her new ministry, Sister said she has found community with the Associates living in the area.
“Each Associate is a real witness of Charity and Gospel service,” S. Dee said. “I am discovering by being with them how the new paradigm of Church also parallels the new paradigm of SC community that is emerging here. It is very collegial. Mother Seton challenged us to be ‘daughters of the Church,’ and this seems to be a 21 st century response. The Church does not have many ordained ministers here, and the laity takes responsibility for the development of their faith lives and spread of the Gospel message by study and companioning one another. I see SC Associates doing this where there are no Sisters present.”
S. Mary Ann Donovan
Since 1977, S. Mary Ann Donovan has been a faculty member at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.
As she discusses her 34 years of ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., S. Mary Ann Donovan reflects on a conversation she had with Mother Mary Omer Downing as she began her doctoral studies.
“The whole idea was I would be trained in theology, preferably to teach in a seminary,” S. Mary Ann explained, “because according Mother Omer, who was a woman of great vision, the position of women in the Church will only change, in part, when men are taught by women in the seminary. She asked if I would be willing to do this, and I said, ‘of course.’”
Since 1977, S. Mary Ann has been a faculty member at the Jesuit School of Theology, part of the Graduate Theological Union, and one of three graduate schools of the University of Santa Clara, teaching such courses as the History of Christianity, Thinking and Practice in Systematic Theology, and Spirituality. She has served on numerous committees and published several books and articles.
Presently retired, Sister’s schedule continues to remain full. She teaches one graduate course each semester, and does some student advising and thesis and dissertation direction.
“I love teaching,” said the former chair of the school’s Department of History and Theology. “The thing that makes it so enjoyable is the quality of the students. Currently they are from all over the world. They have a different picture, and because they do it expands everyone’s picture. It is an exciting place for all.”
In addition to her work at the Jesuit School of Theology, for the last five years S. Mary Ann has been a commissioner of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, a membership organization, according to its Web site, that accredits post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs which educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines. Since 2003, Sister has been a member of the Northern California Chan/Zen Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue, a small group of Buddhists and Catholics that meet yearly to develop increased mutual understanding.
Although she is physically more than two-thousand miles from the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse, S. Mary Ann remains connected to her Sisters of Charity Community members. Many years ago she and other Sisters of Charity in a similar position formed a small group. Called the “Somewhere Out There Group,” the women get together every year for an extended period of time and keep in touch by phone and e-mail. “You have to have some ongoing Community support to keep the bond alive, and that’s what we have designed; it has served us well,” she said.
Throughout her ministry S. Mary Ann has served the Church and the real needs of others in the spirit of her Community. “I have to constantly be living toward being a humble, simple, loving woman, never forgetting God is here,” Sister said. “It’s the spirit of our Community – and those virtues are at the core of that spirit. Those are the virtues St. Vincent de Paul laid out for the original daughters, and our constitution lays them out for us. That’s what we are meant to be like.”
Forty years after Sister’s conversation with Mother Omer, S. Mary Ann reflects, “I absolutely have no regrets, only joy. The acceptance of qualified women in this School of Theology is clear, and their impact on the students, well, only they can answer that question. Let us trust that good has been done.”
S. Patricia Cruise
“I am throwing out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds versus San Diego Padres game on July 6,” S. Tricia Cruise announced. It’s one of many ways she has sought to gain visibility in order to “tell the stories of people who need our help” at Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego, Calif.
Since Aug. 20, 2011, following Fr. Joe Carroll’s retirement, S. Tricia has been appearing at numerous media events. As president, CEO and chief fundraiser for Father Joe’s Villages, she stated, “Our annual budget is $33 million, so fundraising and development are paramount. And we are now at least paying our bills.”
“The flagship village in San Diego has a very similar mission to Covenant House [her previous ministry serving homeless youth],” S. Tricia explained. “It is approximately four city blocks with various buildings housing 1,200 people at any given time – including 200-plus veterans and more than 100 families. We serve 4,000 meals a day.”
Father Joe’s Villages includes the St. Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego, and Martha’s Village & Kitchen in Indio, Calif. “I am responsible for ensuring that these partner agencies have the resources and wherewithal to assist our neighbors in need,” Sister said.
“My biggest concern is that there are 54 families waiting to be housed in one of our facilities,” she added, “and a 43-day waiting list – the new face of homelessness. Our program model can be replicated. We actually have people coming from Australia to observe and learn from our staff. We are pretty proud of that.”
Besides housing, S. Tricia noted, “We provide 18 different programs: from childcare; adult education; medical, dental and mental health; parenting and chaplaincy. Our free medical clinic had 35,000 appointments last year, saving the local emergency rooms more than $2 million.”
To make all this happen, S. Tricia explained, “We have five to six fundraising events annually. We have 536 employees and 12,000 volunteers. Just as important, our volunteers provided 168,000 hours of service last year in many ways, helping us save $4 million in our operating budget.
“The professional staff and dedicated board members are passionate about walking with and supporting the homeless of San Diego,” S. Tricia stated.
S. Tricia has appeared in approximately two dozen media event fundraisers. The biggest fundraiser at Thanksgiving was the 10 th Annual 5k Walk/Run with 10,000 participating. Taking Fr. Joe’s advice to “shake a lot of hands,” she installed herself in the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park where the run began at 5:30 a.m.
“Fr. Joe,” S. Tricia said, “has been an icon for this city for more than three decades, providing for almost half the homeless. He has been a great help to me.”
S. Michael Mary Eagan
S. Michael Mary Eagan works with volunteer Bob Bialka to keep the Little Flower Center’s furniture program in line with the needs of the community.
At the age of 84, S. Michael Mary Eagan continues to make a name for herself in Aurora, Colo. A former program director for Catholic Charities, S. Michael Mary operates the Little Flower Center, a social service outreach program in the “original” area of the city of Aurora. The center is located beside Fletcher Gardens, a low-income senior citizen high-rise built 37 years ago while S. Michael Mary was the chairperson of the Aurora Housing Authority.
Among the services provided at Little Flower Center is a furniture exchange program. When an estate or article of furniture is donated, the furniture is given to persons in need of these items. The program is designed to prevent “dumping,” Sister explains, while instead providing quality, useable items to those in dire need. Often, many seniors moving out of their homes and into senior citizen centers become both donors and recipients of the program as their mode of living changes.
As our country continues to fall on hard times , i.e. second and third generations having to move into one household due to circumstances beyond their control, Little Flower Center has made the necessary adjustments and created programs to meet the needs of the people in Aurora. The “Baby Buds” program, currently funded by the Denver Foundation, provides support to the children of these unfortunate families as well as their related or non-related caretakers.
Completely operated by volunteers, the center is assisted by Queen of Peace and St. Therese parishes in Aurora. Monthly donations from the parishes help pay the center’s costs. In addition, Sister said numerous grants are needed to keep the center thriving. “Grant money is out there,” she said, “but you have to go after it.”
As S. Michael Mary reflects on her current ministry, and the impact she has made on the lives of so many in the city of Aurora, she remembers Elizabeth Seton.
“I have such respect for Elizabeth and the many roles she played in her own life; she did them all well,” Sister said. “At the same time she was socially gracious and present to the people. She had a great talent for personal interaction, and I like to think that I bring that to the table, as well.”
“I’m still excited about the possibilities that arrive every day,” S. Michael Mary concluded. “I hope God gives me the ability to keep going and to get out of these crises we’re facing now.”
S. Catherine Erger
S. Catherine Erger currently ministers at St. Francis de Sales Elementary School in inner-city Denver, Colo.
Having spent 58 years in Catholic education, S. Catherine Erger says she has never thought of teaching as a ministry. “Teaching came to me combined with a calling to religious life,” S. Catherine said, “and is inextricably interwoven with the calling.”
S. Catherine ministered 52 years in secondary education in schools in Ohio and Colorado, but in 2005, she found herself in unfamiliar territory, ministering at St. Francis de Sales Elementary School in inner-city Denver.
“Having taught English language and literature, foreign language and journalism to high school students, I’ve come late to the process that prepares elementary students for the rigors of high school,” S. Catherine said.
Sister explains her responsibilities vary from level to level, teaching students in kindergarten and the first, second, fourth and eighth grades. “This past year [I worked with] first graders for drill of basic sound and spelling vocabulary; fourth graders and eighth graders, mostly immigrants, with basic English; second graders with their challenges and on having patience; and with advanced kindergarteners in an attempt to excite and satisfy their yearning to learn.”
For the teacher, Sister says the challenges are exhilarating. “Satisfaction comes when the ‘lights go on’ in young minds,” she said.
Her inspiration comes from the many Sister teachers before her. “The SC presence is totally intermingled in my experience,” S. Catherine continued. “As I come to learn more of Elizabeth Seton, Blandina Segale and Louise de Marillac by encountering them in their histories, I am in wonder at their genius and holiness. Of course, God had everything to do with all of it…
“ Elizabeth’s courage, her intelligence, her love of God and His people must imbue the life of a Sister of Charity,” she concluded. “Her love of children, her care to educate them, her grace-filled love of her Sisters, her family and her Church impel her followers to do the same.”
S. Joanne Burrows
Every year S. Joanne Burrows, president of Clarke University, a Catholic liberal arts school in Dubuque, Iowa, invites new students of the university to her home for dinner.
Each of us experiences stress in our lives relating to work, relationships, family, friends and school. We each deal with our stress in different ways. “I go scuba diving,” S. Joanne Burrows said. “It takes the pressure off my job. No one can find me underwater,” she added with a wry smile. “Underwater I must be in the present moment with my breathing. I can’t be thinking of anything else.” S. Joanne is the president of Clarke University, a Catholic liberal arts school in Dubuque, Iowa.
It is not often that scuba diving options are available to Sister, however. In the interim, you will find her hosting taco bar suppers for students in her home, meeting with faculty, planning budgets, serving on boards or facing the perennial issues of the tuition-driven needs of a small, private university.
“This job is the continuum of my life,” S. Joanne said. “I’ve studied higher education. Mine is a continuous process toward leadership.” With a doctorate in higher education from The Ohio State University, a master’s in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., and more than 20 years in the field, S. Joanne’s ministry is well-fortified with considerable expertise.
“When I was at [the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, Ohio], I was impressed and encouraged by Sisters of Charity Jean Patrice Harrington (a former president) and Elizabeth Cashman. I was also inspired by another president, S. Francis Marie Thrailkill, OSU,” S. Joanne added.
What inspires S. Joanne today? “At Clarke all dimensions of the student’s experience are encouraged, including the faith dimension. We are an inclusive environment; we value dialogue and connections. We are about relationships that promote growth and exploration. People know each other here. Our faculty members care about their students and staff is ready and available to assist. Our students are self-determined young people searching for deep connections through conversations, relationships, faith and values. They are learning more than just content here,” Sister explained. “Relationships happen in a learning exchange.”
S. Mary Caroline Marchal
As director of religious education at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Louisville, Ky., S. Mary Caroline Marchal says this ministry has given her the greatest satisfaction.
S. Mary Caroline Marchal has served as a teacher, principal, School of Theology dean and ministry coordinator, but her greatest satisfaction comes from her current ministry as the director of religious education with an emphasis on adult faith formation and RCIA at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Louisville, Ky.
This has been my longest ministry,” S. Mary Caroline said, who came to OLL in 1996. “RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] is my first love. I spend about 40 percent of my time processing catechumens. We have 17 people in formation at this time – that’s a lot for one time but I work with a team of 10 volunteers, so that is very helpful. Each one of us appreciates the ‘pain and the joy’ of our efforts. Our parish is definitely dedicated to adult faith formation. We offer retreats, speakers, small groups, and materials for the children to bring home from school and many other opportunities for faith development.
“The RCIA process is so energizing because I work with amazing people in various stages of searching and seeking spiritual guidance. They want what we’ve got. There is no need to defend our purpose. It is an amazing gift for me to share my faith with others and to watch others grow in faith,” Sister offered. “Ministering here at Our Lady of Lourdes parish is my greatest satisfaction. I share ministry in this parish with an amazing staff. It is such a privilege to be part of [the parishioners] lives and to have the opportunity to influence theirs. They help me to grow and they keep me honest and real. I treasure each person who has been part of the process.”
In 2003, Sister received the Outstanding Director of Religious Education award from the Office of Lifelong Formation and Education in Louisville. “I treasured it as an affirmation that I have ‘finally’ found my niche,” she said.
“We have a very friendly parish,” S. Mary Caroline added. “We have a variety of hospitality events. There is always someone to greet newcomers when they come to church. Parishioners talk to each other and welcome all who visit. Our events are open to the community.
“We are a full stewardship parish. With 440 children in our school, this is a full-time ministry of the parish. All children attend tuition-free, unless they are a non-parishioner. With more than 3,500 people in the parish including 1,350 families, we average around $42,000 in our Sunday collections. Ours is a large facility, we are debt-free and do not rely on archdiocesan funding. Stewardship at Our Lady of Lourdes parish started 21 years ago and still thrives today,” Sister stated.
In addition to parish ministries such as liturgical planning and visiting the sick and elderly, S. Mary Caroline is pleased to participate in many outreach ministries. “We rely heavily on volunteers to support these endeavors,” Sister added. Some include:
- Dressed in Love, a ministry that combines talent, passion and resources to provide clothing and school uniforms to children in need across the world.
- Hand in Hand Ministries, a Louisville-based, international social service organization providing life’s essentials to the poorest of the poor. Food, clothing, educational offerings and other essentials are provided for the poor of Appalachia. During immersion trips, volunteers repair homes in Belize and Nicaragua as well as Appalachia.
- Rosebud Indian Reservation, located in south-central South Dakota, is an annual mission ministry of OLL. Last year parishioners filled two semi-trailer trucks with donations of clothing, household items and furniture, bedding and winter coats.
S. Mary Caroline does not worry about competition, common in some dioceses. “ Louisville is about collaboration with Catholic schools and parishes. This is a huge thing for me,” said Sister, who appreciates the joy of collaboration in her community. Although she is the only Sister of Charity of Cincinnati in the diocese, S. Mary Caroline is far from isolated. Because of her work at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, located just 65 miles west of Louisville, S. Mary Caroline is connected with many priests and DRE’s in the region. In addition, she has Casey, a rat terrier, who keeps her busy walking at least twice a day. “I have to go home sometimes,” Sister confessed. When she does, her companion Casey, who is her own “outreach” ministry, is at her side.
If she has challenges in her work, Sister philosophically believes they are necessary and ultimately rewarding. “My experience of Church here at Lourdes (and Louisville) has been very positive even though sometimes frustrating. I absolutely believe that we must be an active part of the Church in order to change it and improve it. It is slow going and sometimes feels like backward movement but our faithfulness is noted. I do believe that God is with us and leading us even when the experiences feel otherwise. My faith and commitment to discipleship continues to be renewed daily.”
Returning to her most satisfying ministerial love, Sister shares, “RCIA flows out of Elizabeth Seton’s devotion to the Eucharist. She placed great value on friendship, relationships, and reaching out to others in her service to God.”
S. Monica Gundler
New Orleans, Louisiana
S. Monica Gundler (left) welcomed vonlunteer Emily Meyer to New Orleans House of Charity in June 2010.
For more than five years, a small group of vocation and formation directors in the Sisters of Charity Federation dreamed, discussed and debated the concept of a house of Charity as a place for offering hospitality, experiencing the Charity Charism together, sharing prayer, living in community and ministering with the poor. As the dreaming continued, the idea of creating space to offer others, young adults in particular, evolved. Lengthy meetings took place to determine who would come, where would such a home be located, and could it really work? A driving force behind the discussions, S. Monica Gundler, saw the dream come to fruition when she arrived in New Orleans, La., on New Year’s Eve 2009 to prepare the “House of Charity” for its first guests.
The 19 young adult houseguests were part of a SC Federation ministry trip and scheduled to arrive on Jan. 4 – the Feast Day of Elizabeth Seton. Preparation was a whirlwind. “We bought all the things we needed,” S. Monica said. “S. Janet Gildea did the cooking. She sent us a menu with a list of all the cooking utensils she would need. S. Renee Rose, DC, and I went to the grocery and the store to get everything. Somehow we came up with 27 air mattresses and all the stuff we needed for the week. The New Orleans Daughters of Charity had extra chairs and folding tables so everyone could sit down together for dinner. It was a great experience; a wonderful week.”
The week confirmed that all the discussions and meetings, all the time and energy spent were worth the wait. Shortly after the January trip, S. Monica packed her belongings in Cincinnati, Ohio, and made the move to New Orleans to become the house’s first permanent resident. In April, S. Renee arrived, and by June, S. Claire Regan, a Sister of Charity of New York, had joined her.
“New Orleans is a place of great need. And those needs will continue,” S. Monica said of the decision to make New Orleans home. “It’s a place that needs health care and education, and not to mention the rebuilding efforts to the infrastructure of the city that really took a beating [after Hurricane Katrina.]”
Located off Carollton Avenue on Apricot Street, the house itself was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It is situated in a mixed neighborhood in terms of ethnicity and income. It has a dream kitchen, with a lot of counter space and room to move around and cook. There are five and one-half bathrooms and several bedrooms, some dorm style, a side yard with patio, and second-floor balcony porch.
There is plenty of extra space meant to be kept flexible depending on the week’s guests. Since February, S. Monica has hosted five groups of young adults, Sisters and other volunteers, as well as numerous dinner guests.
S. Monica said every group and stay is different, but the work is never hard to find. Mornings usually begin with breakfast and lunch packing, morning prayer in the chapel and then off to the work site. Depending on the day the work may vary from pulling weeds, removing debris, painting and caulking to weather stripping, installing a toilet and flooring, or removing bathroom tiles.
After the work day, there is time for showers and a little relaxing, a home-cooked dinner and possibly evening reflection time. “We have a chapel in the house, and generally conduct morning prayer there. Evening prayer, because it’s more conversational and reflective, might be in a circle around the table or upstairs in the community room.
“[In the past, when] we did these service and immersion trips we always used the Charity charism for a foundation for prayer and reflection,” S. Monica continued. “We might have a night to talk about St. Vincent de Paul; seeing Christ in everyone; and that Christ is especially present in the poor. Then we might do a prayer and reflection on that. The feedback that we got from young adults over the trips was that the prayer experience in particular was very powerful. Now that we have the house, they can experience living in community with us, and having those opportunities for prayer and sharing.”
With each visit, guests take with them much more than sore backs and aching feet. “It’s more than the work,” S. Monica said. “The work is important but it is also the relationships that they build with people and how they experience the idea of service. It’s more than what they can do for them but also how they can be with them.”
The stories are often heartbreaking, but volunteers are quickly uplifted when they witness the genuine appreciation and joy that the people of New Orleans continue to display even after losing so much.
“One of the things that we’ve found is that the spirit and faith of the people is great,” S. Monica said. “They are so faith-filled, and so grateful. The young people have said they feel like they get so much from the witness of the people. They are so open, and in some ways, they can’t believe people still want to come. They have been real witnesses of faith and generous in sharing what they have.”
The stories are endless; and the needs are growing once again. Recently S. Monica has been volunteering with Catholic Charities to work with the fishermen affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the boat owners and fishermen were just beginning to come back from Hurricane Katrina and its devastating effects, and just as they were starting to make money during the crab season, they were shut down. For most, it is the only livelihood they know, and as a result, are in crisis.
As the House of Charity continues to develop and discover its full potential, S. Monica says she looks forward to its promise as a place where young adults can come for an experience of community to deepen their faith and possibly think about what they are doing with their life in general; a place of renewal for Sisters in terms of mission; and a place of service to the family of New Orleans.
S. Peggy Deneweth
S. Peggy Deneweth with Monserat, a child she works with at the Santo Niño Project in Anapra, Mexico.
Following in Elizabeth Seton’s footsteps,
S. Peggy Deneweth says Elizabeth’s belief in empowering through education motivates and encourages her to carry out her ministry daily. Sister ministers at the Santo Niño Project in Anapra, Mexico, a ministry she and three other Sisters of Charity began in 2002 for poor children with special needs and their families. S. Peggy explains it all started after the women were asked by Columban Missionary Fr. Bill Morton to provide medical care to a neighbor of his. “One thing led to another and before we knew it S. Janet Gildea, a physician, was seeing patients in the kitchen of his house, and Sisters Carol Wirtz, Ann Dorenbusch and I were using his bedroom for massage therapy. Sometimes I think that is the way God works. God knows that if we just dip our ‘toes’ in the water we’ll get hooked.”
At the Santo Niño Project, S. Peggy helps the children with exercises and therapy while teaching their parents how to do the treatments at home. What she names as her most important role, however, is “being present, accompanying the women.” She calls it “a community where women can share their lives with each other in a safe and peaceful environment.”
“The women look forward to these days most especially now with the violence and death that surround them on a daily basis,” Sister said. “They have taught me so much about living in the moment and being grateful for each moment no matter what it holds.”
Serving on the U.S.-Mexico border is challenging. Although she is not afraid for herself, S. Peggy says she fears for those she has come to know and love.
The families’ strength inspires and compels her daily. Sister said she loves to see the spark in their eyes when they discover that they have the power within themselves to overcome adversity.
“Jacqueline, one of our Santo Niño children, came to us as a baby with cerebral palsy,” S. Peggy said. “Her development was slow and she could hardly hold her head up. I taught her mother and father some simple exercises to strengthen her neck muscles, arms and legs. I just said work with her here and in your home and she will progress. Jackie is almost 3 years old now and she runs all over the place. One day I saw her mom in the clinic and I said to her as her daughter ran by me, ‘She is a miracle and it’s because of you and your husband’s work with her!’ She smiled and her eyes sparkled. Her eyes said it all.”
S. Carol Wirtz
El Paso, Texas and Anapra, Mexico
S. Carol Wirtz with Reyna, 2, at the Santa Niño Project in Anapro, Mexico.
S. Carol Wirtz lives and ministers near the Texas/Mexico border. Since 2001, S. Carol has assisted with the treatment of breast cancer patients using lymphatic drainage therapy in El Paso, Texas. In addition, Sister also works with children with special needs and their families at the Santo Niño Project in Anapra, Mexico.
S. Carol says the most important part of both ministries is being present. “Elizabeth Seton accompanied many women in their illnesses and was ‘mother’ to many more than her own children,” she explained. “I feel that she has drawn me into this service and accompanies me. I hear her say, ‘Only do your best and leave the rest to our dear God.’”
In El Paso, S. Carol begins the lymphatic drainage therapy once patients are diagnosed with cancer, even before surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. She focuses on prevention and treatment of swelling due to the cancer surgery and also on lessening the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. She says many times she accompanies the patient and family in a supportive role, even through hospice care.
“I value developing the relationship and accompanying them as they journey through a difficult and often transformative period in their life,”
S. Carol said. “I also really enjoy the science of the lymphatic system, how the drainage techniques can bring such relief to the women and restore normal function, and seeing them regain a sense of well-being when they get relief.”
“While I chose my ministry with breast cancer patients, the ministry in Anapra really chose me – or I should say it chose us,” S. Carol said.
She explains about nine years ago she and three other Sisters of Charity began providing basic health care and alternative therapies in a priest’s home in Anapra, Mexico, a poor colonia just across the border from El Paso. Eventually they built a tiny clinic, and as more people heard about the massage and other therapies they provided, more started bringing children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism and many other conditions.
“We discovered that there were few services for children with special needs and so the Santo Niño Project was born,” Sister said.
At the Santo Niño Project S. Carol performs lymphatic drainage and craniosacral therapy as well as massage and energy work. “I teach the mothers to do these techniques and coordinate their efforts as a team,” she said. “I also just play with the children, feed them, change their diapers, walk to the corner store to buy them treats…whatever needs to be done!
“I love seeing the smiles on the faces of our mothers and children as they tumble out of the van when they arrive at the clinic!” S. Carol continued. “I love hearing their laughter and seeing the moms who have never had any formal schooling providing wonderful healing therapies to their own and other children. My very favorite part of the Santo Niño Project is my own little angel named Reyna. She is 2 years old and has Down Syndrome; her mother, Tania, is herself an orphan at age 17. I feel blessed to have become like a mother to Tania and an “abuelita” (grandma) to Reyna since they have no other family.”
Developing such a connection with her patients makes it all the more difficult to see the violence and danger that the moms and children currently face in Mexico. “It’s hard to make the journey across the border and to see the military forces patrolling everywhere,” S. Carol said. “I see the poverty increasing as jobs disappear and the situation becomes more desperate. And it’s hard to know that I have the opportunity to return to a safe home when others that I know and love do not have that choice.”
S. Rose Izzo
An educator and a licensed professional counselor, S. Rose Izzo (right) continues to offer spiritual direction to individuals in the Lansing, Mich., area after retirement.
“I always wanted to do this. To be with adults and to continue to share my own faith, my own relationship with God – that’s exciting to me,” S. Rose Izzo said of her current volunteer ministry.
An educator and a licensed professional counselor, S. Rose retired in 2004, however, as she is quick to point out, when she sees a need to be filled, she is there to help. Some of those needs include providing spiritual direction to Ph.D. students at Michigan State University and parishioners of St. John’s student parish in East Lansing or facilitating a women’s faith group.
Listening and responding is something S. Rose has become accustomed to. After earning a master’s degree in education-counseling from the University of Detroit, Mich., in 1971, S. Rose became an elementary school counselor. She then joined St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens as a therapist for three years. Prior to her retirement, S. Rose spent eight years counseling at Eastside Therapy and Counseling as well as the Women’s Personal Growth and Therapy Center, both in Okemos, Mich.
“I like people,” Sister said. “And I like to be able to listen. Mostly what I do now is to listen and respond to people as needed. For me and our way of life, that’s what it’s all about. It has always been what it’s all about.”
As times change and as the challenges and struggles faced by individuals grow, Sister sees the need for these services increasing. S. Rose explained the distress and the types of issues adults and children are trying to cope with today are more difficult than ever.
“It’s a totally different world now,” she said. “There are a lot of children in need. When I see the world today, all I can think of is it’s a wonderful world, but it is a new world. A lot of it is positive, and some of it is difficult to even define.”
Like Elizabeth Seton, S. Rose continues to say ‘Yes.’ “ Elizabeth didn’t let anything get in her way of doing what she thought God was calling her to do,” she said. “She set the way, and I am good with that.”
S. Patricia Wittberg
S. Pat Wittberg has been a faculty member at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis since 1990.
As she discusses her current ministry as professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), S. Pat Wittberg’s eyes light up when she begins to talk about her research. “This is why I live,” Sister said. “This is what makes my life; what I am called to do.”
Since 1990, S. Pat has been a faculty member at IUPUI, a branch campus of Indiana University in Indianapolis, Ind. Currently, she teaches mostly undergraduate courses, two each semester, while also serving as the academic advisor for the undergraduates.
“I enjoy teaching and I think this is the kind of people [our founder Elizabeth Seton] would approve of my teaching,” S. Pat said. “The bulk of these students are first-generation college students. The majority are returning adults, their median age 28, and they can’t afford to go anywhere else. These students sweat blood for this education and appreciate it in a way that many never could.”
And while she loves working with the students and helping them discover their potential, Sister’s true passion lies in her research.
“I don’t know that I would feel this way if I were researching any other topic,” Sister said. “It’s about wanting to raise the level of sociological literacy in religious life in the same way psychological studies of the 1950s and 1960s raised the psychological literacy in religious life … If what I write helps one religious community survive, grow and become healthier, then my life is more worth it.”
For the former assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University in New York, S. Pat says there can be some challenges to ministering outside the Catholic culture. “There is a whole piece of my life I don’t feel I can share,” she explained. “I can never figure out how to integrate that. There’s no logical place to say that I am a Sister. That part was better at Fordham.”
With more than 30 years experience in higher education, S. Pat stresses the importance of religious women’s perspectives in the discipline.
“If I didn’t have a degree from the University of Chicago, and if I wasn’t teaching in a research university, would there be anyone in the country looking at what I’m looking at?” Sister asked. “There’s an importance to that. We have several Sisters whose degrees are in theology and scripture; those are good and important, and it’s wonderful that we can do that now. But they shouldn’t be the only subjects we should get doctorates in.
“Where’s the next Teilhard de Chardin, the next Gerard Manley Hopkins?” S. Pat continued. “The people who brought spirituality into anthropology ( Chardin), spirituality into poetry ( Hopkins), and spirituality into genetics (Mendel)? To bring the charism of religious life and the unique way religious look at things into the secular disciplines is important. There are a precious few of us with the advanced degrees to do it.”
S. Julie Gatza
Bay City, Michigan
S. Julie Gatza is in her 10th year as principal at St. James Elementary School in Bay City, Mich.
On Aug. 24, 1873, the Sisters of Charity stepped off a train in Bay City, Mich., to open a school – grades one through 12 – for St. James parish. They planned for 200 and by October had 400 students. More than one century later, the Sisters of Charity continue to educate the students at St. James Elementary School, assisting in the education and development of concerned, caring Christians.
In 1996, St. James became a part of the Bay Area Catholic Schools. At the same time, S. Maureen Donovan was retiring as principal of the school. “Her position was offered to me,” S. Julie Gatza, who had been ministering at the school since 1966, recalls, “and I told them the Lord would send them the person He wanted for the position, and I would keep this in prayer.
“After six months of searching and interviewing, the Bay Area Catholic Schools administrator approached me and said, ‘The Lord has chosen you! Your prayers have been answered.’ So, with the help of the good Lord, I said yes! I have been the principal at St. James since 2002.”
S. Julie said she always wanted to be a teacher, and although the transition to principal was difficult at first, she knows that she is still teaching – but her classroom is expanded. In her current role Sister says she is first and foremost the faith formation leader for her staff, the children, and many times, the parents and guardians of the children who attend St. James. In addition, she ensures the students receive the best education that can be offered while also exposing the St. James family to moral and ethical behaviors that they will carry with them to their ‘other worlds.’
With 50 percent of our school’s children living below the considered poverty threshold, S. Julie has been fortunate to secure grant money through SC Ministry Foundation, a public grant-making organization that supports the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. The funding has provided support to families in need of clothing, food, shelter, counseling and many other basic needs.
“A great education is provided for them,” S. Julie said. “They are assisted in many ways by meeting their family needs with no fanfare or acknowledgment.”
Sister says the children and their faith are her greatest joy in ministry. “They, in their simplicity, have deepened my faith. They have a depth of concern for other people. I have learned that so many have such compassion. They give me courage, hope and the reasons to continue,” she concluded.
S. Clarann Weinert
A nurse scientist, S. Clarann Weinert conducts nursing research at Montana State University’s College of Nursing in Bozeman.
As the “living history” of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in Bozeman, S. Clarann Weinert has found herself in uncharted territory as both the first Sister of Charity of Cincinnati to have a career as a nurse scientist, and the only woman religious in the city of Bozeman.
S. Clarann is a full professor at the College of Nursing at Montana State University (MSU). Since 1982, Sister has conducted nursing research, obtained sustained funding, and developed a recognized program of nursing research focused on the management of chronic health conditions by rural residents. She provides leadership for her research teams and actively engages in dissemination of findings in publications and presentations. In addition, S. Clarann serves in a variety of leadership roles in professional organizations, on boards, and as a consultant. She provides hands-on research experiences for undergraduate students, serves on thesis and dissertation committees, and mentors faculty and students at MSU and across the country.
Sister explains that her passion for nursing research was first realized while working on her master’s degree in nursing at The Ohio State University (Columbus). She pursued a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Washington ( Seattle), and following graduation, a position at MSU became available.
“My intent was to work here for a period of time, honing some teaching skills and beginning to conduct research, then move on to a more research-intensive setting,” S. Clarann said. “But God’s plan was not what I first thought.”
Her research began to blossom, and S. Clarann was able to obtain significant funding. She said she found herself growing into the role of a nurse scientist. Her rural nursing research program is now internationally recognized.
However, it was not always easy. “There had been a limited nursing research culture in the College of Nursing,” S. Clarann said. “The primary focus has been on preparing outstanding baccalaureate and masters prepared nurses, and [ Montana State University] does that with excellence. Building in nursing science was not easy and sometimes a real uphill struggle. But we have reached a new level of integration and that challenge is much less prominent.”
As she reflects on St. Elizabeth Seton, Sister sees a pioneer who also found herself in uncharted territory, “with no well worn paths, yet with a deep belief that ‘God is so infinitely present,’” she said.
“In my ministry, I have often relied on the ever present and unconditional love of God,” S. Clarann said. “My program of research was developed where there were no paths. For the past 15 years we have been conducting the Women to Women program to provide support and health education using a computer-based intervention for isolated rural women living with a chronic illness. And hopefully we have made life better for these women and their families.”
S. Annette Frey
Albuquerque, New Mexico
S. Annette Frey is a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Albuquerque, N.M.
When we think of Elizabeth Seton the teacher, many call to mind Elizabeth in the one-room schoolroom of the White House in Emmitsburg, Md., where she educated poor, young girls. Two centuries later, S. Annette Frey finds inspiration from Elizabeth in her current ministry as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Albuquerque, N.M.
S. Annette explains when she arrived at the school in 2003 she was under the impression that the school would build upon its classrooms. Nine years later, the pre-kindergarten/kindergarten classroom remains the only one in the building.
“[ Elizabeth] served the people, and it was a need at that time,” Sister said. “This too was a need for the people in our area.”
This year Sister has 14 students in her class, arriving at 8 a.m. in the morning and departing around 3 p.m. While her classroom structure remains the same, her teaching style has changed over the 54 years she has been in education to accommodate the needs of her students today. She follows the workshop method under the philosophy that children are free to make mistakes and to learn by themselves, all the while emphasizing that learning is fun. This “discovery learning” enables students to have the freedom and ability to figure out problems and acquire knowledge on their own.
The class is structured to include morning prayer and a math lesson – from learning about the date, month, days of the weeks, months of the year to counting. Next various groups are split up for reading and working on activities on the computers. The afternoon includes group activities, like a printing lesson, religion or singing, and of course, nap time.
Growing up the oldest in a large family, S. Annette says she has always been around and cared for children; therefore, ministering to the youngest of learners was the perfect fit for her. “People say, ‘how do you do it?’” she said. “I guess God’s gifted me with patience. The children are so fun and so honest. They say it like it is.”
S. Regina Kusnir
S. Regina Kusnir is the director of pastoral and special ministries at Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford, Ohio.
Although she has ministered as director of pastoral and special ministries at Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford, Ohio, for more than five years, S. Regina Kusnir’s ties to the Villa go back to its very beginnings.
“When we [the Vincentian Sisters of Charity] closed Lumen Cordium High School in 1987, S. Helen Therese Scasny and I were asked to find another use for the building,” S. Regina explained. “We looked for people with needs not being met. We found there was a niche of seniors who couldn’t live alone but didn’t need full-scale nursing home services. Light of Hearts Villa was developed to fulfill that need.”
Along with S. Estelle Chopnak, SCN, S. Regina provides spiritual opportunities in formal and informal settings. Ministering at a faith-based residence, she focuses on the spiritual growth of each person. “Residents do not allow their health issues to become the focus of their lives,” she said. “We get to know them as people; and do things that let them see their gifts come out.”
As the needs of various generations continue to change, S. Regina said a number of their newer residents are more socially active and computer literate. This requires constant creativity on her end, and in the way Light of Hearts Villa delivers services, something she truly enjoys.
In addition, S. Regina says the Villa tries to engage seniors in the greater community to come in for the spiritual and interactive programs. “We are a neighborhood facility,” she said. “The Villa was founded to meet the needs that God let’s us see (St. Vincent de Paul). That is the driving force behind the way care is delivered, and what we look for in our staff.”
One of her greatest joys is experiencing the people at Light of Hearts Villa. “Our hope more than 20 years ago was that the Villa would become home and those entering would be light of heart when they are here,” she said. “When people have to give up their independence it is a great sorrow, but if they can come to a place where they are welcome, where they can meet new friends, where they can be at peace and feel at home – what more can we ask for?”
Although there is deep sorrow felt after losing a resident, it is those lasting relationships that make the ministry for S. Regina. “One of the beautiful things Elizabeth expressed in her writings was relationships are based on faith and meant to be deep and true,” S. Regina said. “My experiences at the Villa, among the staff and residents here, are deep, faith-based relationships. It brings a sense of joy and trust and it allows for teasing and laughter. In all of that is where we experience God.”
S. Anita Maroun
S. Anita Maroun (left) with Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international organization that enables people with and without disabilities to share their lives in communities of faith and friendship.
In 1972, S. Anita Maroun met Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international organization that enables people with and without disabilities to share their lives in communities of faith and friendship. Jean asked S. Anita three questions: What is your nationality? What is your profession? Do you love Jesus?
“The first two were very easy,” Sister said. “I’m Lebanese and a teacher. The third question was a little more difficult – ‘yes, I think so.’ His response, ‘Come to L’Arche and see.’”
S. Anita traveled to France in 1974 and experienced firsthand what living in community was all about. Following her return to the Cleveland, Ohio, area, Sister met the founder of the Cleveland L’Arche community, Associate Pat Wehner, who at the time was a Vincentian Sister of Charity. This is how S. Anita was introduced to the Vincentian Community, and how she began her 36-year involvement with L’Arche.
In her sixth year as eastern U.S. regional coordinator, Sister’s primary responsibilities involve working with each community in the eastern region toward greater “mission effectiveness.” She provides formation for boards of trustees as well as assistants in the homes and community leaders; ensures there are retreats, gatherings and workshops within the region; and conducts leadership training. In addition, S. Anita is the chairperson of the International Discernment Process for the international coordinator and vice coordinator positions; a member of the Vocational Development Committee; and a participant on the National Council and in the International Leadership Body.
S. Anita says the relationships that she has built with her communities’ core members are what make her ministry so fruitful. “They are wonderful people – gifted in so many ways, so welcoming, so accepting and humorous” Sister said. “When I walk into homes within each community I visit, I am welcomed with open arms and I hear about everyone’s day and the special things they are planning. We share our lives around a meal one of the core members has prepared and we pray together for those we love at the end of the meal.”
As S. Anita responds to the needs of a population that continues to be marginalized and often seen as less than human, the words of Elizabeth Seton inspire her: “Our name devotes us to their service in any manner that we could truly serve them … We must display for them the tender compassion of [God’s] goodness, be the ministers of [God’s] providence for the relief of their miseries, a relief that disposes so well every heart to [God’s] better service.”1
1 Dirvin, Joseph I., C.M., The Soul of Elizabeth Seton: A Spiritual Portrait. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990. pp. 129-13
S. Helen Attenweiler
S. Helen Attenweiler currently ministers part-time at St. William School in Price Hill (Cincinnati).
“I am ever mindful of Elizabeth Seton’s often mention of the ‘grace of the moment,’” S. Helen Attenweiler said as she discussed her current ministry at St. William School in Cincinnati, Ohio. “It is a daily experience to realize this grace when seemingly from nowhere just the right thing I say or do lights up a child’s mind.”
An educator for 54 years, S. Helen currently ministers part-time helping the youngest of St. William’s children who exhibit difficulties in the areas of reading. She works with small groups of five or six, from kindergarten to second grade, for 30 minutes each day. Those children will remain part of a small group for the year, a quarter or a month or less, depending on his or her need.
“This ministry has been a real blessing – and such a challenge!” Sister said. “Some of the children make lots of progress and others will probably be with me again next year. It is welcoming and rewarding when a child seemingly ‘catches’ up with the regular class or improves – however slightly.”
S. Helen has been teaching at the primary level for 52 years, 35 years at St. William. Originally she had hoped to become a social worker. Instead, she was missioned to Guardian Angels in Detroit, Mich. It was during that first year teaching that Sister said she fell in love with the ministry and with the children.
“Isn’t it singular how the Holy Spirit knows what’s best whether we think we do or not?” she said. “Teaching in our schools has been a joy and a challenge to say the least. Not all times have been successful but all have been blessings. There is no pretense in these young children. Their nature is open, loving, perceptive and trusting. It is such a joy to see a child’s face when he or she succeeds.”
Broken homes, one-parent families, working arrangements, increasing needs and poverty create plenty of challenges. “The children are much more needy, in many ways,” Sister said. “They need to learn, to be fed, to be loved, to be listened to and cared for in every way. They cry out for acceptance, attention, encouragement and guidance. That cries out for a lot more understanding and patience on my part.”
Since the opening of St. William School, 100 years ago, the Sisters of Charity have been a vital part of the school staff and the parish. Sisters Helen and Joan Patrice Flynn are the last in a long line of SC involvement. She says parents and grandparents ask and talk about the Sisters of Charity with love and respect, and S. Helen has left her own impression on the school’s students and families after more than three decades.
“Mother Seton asked the angels to ‘Help us to use well the grace of the moment in the care and instruction of the little ones under our charge. Watch over them with us,’” Sister concluded. “And I add – help me to teach with love and to teach the children to love God.”
S. Brenda Busch
S. Brenda Busch (left), who recently joined the staff of Working in Neighborhoods, visits with Amber and her daughter Makayla at their home in western Hamilton County. S. Brenda is one of many Sisters of Charity ministering in the field of social work.
After 44 years in education, most recently as principal of Holy Family School in Cincinnati, Ohio, S. Brenda Busch said her heart told her it was time to serve God in a new way. It didn’t take long for her to discover where she was being called.
After consulting with her sister, S. Barbara Busch, executive director of Working In Neighborhoods (WIN), an organization that empowers individuals to make informed choices for themselves and their neighborhoods through community building, home ownership and economic learning, S. Brenda learned WIN was understaffed.
“For the past 30 years, I have listened, observed and been impressed by the growth and mission of WIN,” S. Brenda said.
So when she learned the foreclosure crisis was not diminishing and there was a real need to be able to schedule more people for housing counseling, she realized this was where God was leading her.
Since August 2010, S. Brenda has served as WIN’s intake coordinator for its housing counseling/foreclosure prevention programs. She is the first person a caller speaks with when contacting WIN concerned and upset about losing their homes because they are falling behind on their mortgage payments. Sister explains the program’s process; fills out an intake form; and signs them up for their first session with one of WIN’s housing counselors.
S. Brenda says she most enjoys helping others, and being part of WIN’s friendly, competent and compassionate staff. “When I was much younger, I came across this quote from George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Evans): ‘What is there to live for if not to make life less difficult for others.’ I believe in the truth of these words,” Sister said.
Throughout the years countless Sisters of Charity have contributed to the mission and success of WIN, which was founded in 1978 by Sisters Barbara Busch and the late Judith Martinez. Through their Board involvement, prayers and monetary support, WIN has helped thousands of low- and moderate-income families purchase homes as well as saved hundreds from foreclosure, and S. Brenda is proud to add her name to that list. As she makes phone calls, greets others and schedules new clients, S. Brenda follows in Elizabeth Seton’s footsteps.
“Elizabeth cared for everyone she met,” S. Brenda said. “She left us the legacy to look for God in each person and event. She asked us to rely on God’s guidance and to do our best for others.”
S. Margarita Brewer
S. Margarita Brewer, with students involved in the Young Readers Program at Roberts Paideia Academy, is an educational services coordinator with Cincinnati Public Schools.
Since 2003, S. Margarita Brewer has been ministering with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to help English language learners (ELL), students whose native language or home language is other than English, become successful in their academic life while embracing their cultural identity.
“To me, the best way for these students to succeed in this country is through education,” said Sister, an educational services coordinator with CPS. “You can give them food and shelter, you can give them whatever they need, but what is going to make them productive citizens in this new environment and in this new culture is their education.”
When she came to CPS eight years ago as a school community coordinator for the Office of Second Language Acquisition, S. Margarita thought she would only be working with the Hispanic population. She quickly realized there were many cultures represented in the Cincinnati area (more than 70 languages spoken by ELL students). S. Margarita said she visited classrooms and discovered that it was impossible for a single teacher to take care of all the educational needs of the individual students. She started the ESL (English as a Second Language) volunteer tutor program, which has helped hundreds of students. In 2010, Sister had approximately 70 tutors assisting nearly 300 students. During the last three years the program has more than 4,000 volunteer hours.
S. Margarita also is a founding member and president of the English Language Learning Foundation, Inc. (ELLF). Among the cultural and educational programs that S. Margarita oversees with the support of her foundation is Children’s Day, a day for parents, families, communities and public officials to value and celebrate all children. In addition, the ELL Fun with Science Camp, in partnership with the Northern Kentucky University Latino Institute for Excellence and Department of Biology, is a week-long event exposing students to all fields of science through hands-on learning activities.
Within the last four years, the ELLF has provided a total of $14,500 in scholarships to deserving ELL students. The funding has motivated students to graduate from high school with a higher GPA and has given them more opportunities for a higher education. In seven years, Sister has seen the graduation rate of her Hispanic students increase from 30 percent to 93 percent.
S. Margarita has truly changed the lives of the students she encounters on a daily basis. Her support has given them more than they could ever have dreamed as they learn to appreciate their cultural identity, receive the needed support for their education, graduate from high school, succeed in college, and become self-sufficient and meaningful contributors to society.
“I am really happy to be able to have the opportunity to help ELL families because I know how hard it is to move to another country,” S. Margarita said. “Several things work against us, particularly if you have an accent; you are immediately labeled for it. This is more or less the reason I want to focus on education. If you want to help families, education is the only way out.”
S. Nancy Crofton
S. Nancy Crofton has been ministering at Talbert House’s ADAPT for Men program in Cincinnati since July 2010.
As she reflects on her current ministry at Talbert House’s ADAPT for Men, a program for drug and alcohol addicted adults charged with felony offenses, S. Nancy Crofton says she never imagined herself working with women and men with addiction.
“I had never worked with adults, and I had never worked with people who have alcohol and drug problems…” S. Nancy said. “I wanted something that would be a challenge for me and would use my gifts to the fullest. I was open to whatever the Lord wanted from me and tried to listen to what God was calling me to.”
A licensed social worker, S. Nancy interviewed with Talbert House’s ADAPT for Women program and was immediately offered the position. “I was worried as to how I would do the job,” Sister said, “but I felt that with all my prayers to Mother Seton and those Sisters who had gone before me I needed to say ‘Yes’ to something I was not sure of. I needed to step out in faith, just like so many before me.”
S. Nancy, who has been at Talbert House for almost three years, transferred to the ADAPT for Men program in July 2010. She is currently responsible for a caseload of 11 clients. She conducts the assessment testing and interviews with the clients; gathers information; and completes a diagnostic assessment to see if the client meets the criteria for treatment. A report is sent to the Hamilton County Drug Court for the judge to decide whether the client is accepted into the program.
S. Nancy meets with each of her clients in one-on-one sessions for one hour each week. She updates service plans (every 20-30 days) and works with the client to determine new goals. In addition, Sister facilitates a Core Group, which can consist of up to 12 men in group therapy five days a week. She also has an anger management group consisting of 15-28 clients that meets twice a week.
Seeing the men turn their lives around is most satisfying to S. Nancy. “I had never realized the effects of drug use on a person,” Sister said, “not only the physical effects but the emotional effects, as well… When I listen to their stories and am able to challenge them to see themselves as created beings of God, making bad choices but not being bad people, I feel I have done something to help them.”
Her challenges include knowing the residential treatment program can help an individual who refuses to participate. “Along with that challenge is the challenge I find the most difficult – to help these men to forgive themselves,” Sister said.
“Every day I wonder if today is going to be the day that I have helped a man believe in himself again,” S. Nancy continued. “Elizabeth Seton helped many to believe in themselves. There are many times that I feel that I will never get a client to understand his worth in the eyes of God and struggle to help him see that there is a ‘higher power’ who is his rock if only he would ask it to be. Elizabeth helped those who struggled in their beliefs. As a Sister of Charity I strive every day to bring that ray of hope into a world where there is so much pain and suffering; to be for even just one of God’s people that witness of strength; to reverence the dignity of one’s life where they no longer see or feel their life is worth reverencing.”
S. Mary Marcel DeJonckheere
Among her many responsibilities at Holy Family School in Price Hill ( Cincinnati), S. Marcel DeJonckheere teaches eighth grade religion, reading, English and social studies.
“Since I was in the first grade I knew that I wanted to teach grade school,” S. Marcel DeJonckheere said of her 31 years in elementary education.
Originally, however, her Community had other plans, and S. Marcel served in a variety of ministries outside of education, including dietetics and as the Congregation’s director of affiliates. Eventually, in 1982, Sister found herself teaching elementary age students at St. Dominic in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thirty-one years later, she remains in education, teaching at Holy Family School in Cincinnati, Ohio, since 1998.
Currently Sister teaches seventh grade religion and science, as well as religion, reading, English and social studies to the eighth grade. In addition, she and another teacher conduct a homework club after school, which allows students to have a quiet, organized place to work with resources – along with the extra help.
Many of Holy Family’s children come from extremely trying family situations – poverty, divorce, neglect, abuse. In addition, many are coming to the class at below grade level, which makes it that more difficult for Sister to motivate them to work hard to catch up. In that, S. Marcel remembers Elizabeth and her great love for disadvantaged children. Each morning, she says, she sits in her car before going into school and asks Elizabeth to walk with her and help her throughout the day.
As Sister explains Holy Family School is among the oldest of SC ministries with a continuous Charity presence. “In 1864, the first Sisters, who lived at Cedar Grove (now Seton High School), came to school in a Conestoga wagon. Because of the small beginning enrollment, the children often enjoyed field trips. The pastor arranged for transportation in a brewery wagon! Through the years there have been as many as 20 Sisters living at one time in the convent on the parish grounds,” she said.
Today, there are currently two Sisters ministering at the school. And S. Marcel is proud to be among those sharing the Charity charism with the students.
“To me, Holy Family is the clean place, the safe place, the respectful place, the learning place, and the God-centered place in our children’s lives,” she said. “What brings me the most pleasure and inspiration is to see students take pride in their achievements and believe in their futures.”
Sisters Barbara Huber and Kay Tardiff
Sisters Kay Tardiff (right) and Barbara Huber volunteer at the Catholic Worker House in Cincinnati, Ohio, weekly.
by S. Mary Bodde
Wanting to work with the poor, enjoying cooking and taking a tour of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine brought S. Kay Tardiff to her volunteer service at the Catholic Worker House on Walnut and 15 th streets in Cincinnati. Now on Mondays she has a collaborator. S. Barbara Huber prepares the main part of the evening meal for 16 to 18 homeless men.
S. Kay was brought on board by the founder, the Rev. Mark Schmieder, “a much loved man in Cincinnati,” S. Kay said. “Through him I got to know the staff. We did a lot of sharing during Fr. Mark’s serious illness of pancreatic cancer. When he became so ill, he asked me to take over the spiritual dimension. He died Christmas Eve 2009. Fr. Mark’s spirit is very much here under the ongoing management of Karl Fields.”
S. Kay’s involvement also has increased. Besides preparing the evening meal two days a week, she serves on the board and is the spiritual director for the residents. She offers a scripture reflection service for them on the first and third Sundays of the month – with “a lot of sharing because of the Baptist origins of so many of the residents,” she said. She also gives spiritual input in speaking with the residents and the staff.
S. Barbara brings extensive experience from Colorado Springs, Colo., where she worked full time in a Catholic Worker-inspired Bijou House, a two-story building with beds for 11 residents. With other volunteers she prepared the noon meal, and on Sunday mornings a special breakfast for “the long lines of elderly who came every day for their only meal,” she said.
At the Catholic Worker House, “S. Barbara does the main part of the meal,” S. Kay said. “They love her cooking.” Both Sisters plan the menus for their evening meals. Other volunteers prepare the evening meals during the rest of the week.
“Residents may stay for 90 days,” S. Kay explained, “provided they are clean – no drugs or alcohol. (Most have had some form of addiction.) They have to be gone from the House each day from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and must be in by 6 p.m. for the evening meal. They are expected to have a job or be looking for work.
“They must attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week and take assigned chores at the house,” S. Kay added. “They must also save 65 percent of their earnings so they can move into their own apartment or into an alcohol-free residence at the end of their 90 days. Some residents have been in prison, and most just need ordinary skills for living within a group – which we try to help them get.”
“It means a lot to me to talk with the men,” S. Kay said, “and let them share their innermost thoughts. I feel very privileged.”
“I appreciate having the experience of being with these people,” S. Barbara added. “My help allows S. Kay more time to work with them in her special role.”
S. Ann Hunt
S. Ann Hunt (back, second from left) coordinates three women’s enrichment programs at The Women’s Connection in Cincinnati, including the Piecemaker quilting group.
“Meaningful living is about building relationships,” S. Ann Hunt said, referring to how she carries out the spirit of Elizabeth Seton in her daily ministry. “I bring a caring, hopeful presence to the staff and the women who come to The Women’s Connection. A lot of my work is via the phone and e-mail, so it is a matter of respecting each person who connects with the center.”
For the last 14 years S. Ann has been ministering at The Women’s Connection in Price Hill ( Cincinnati, Ohio), a neighborhood center that empowers women and girls to make choices that lead to positive change in their lives. S. Ann currently coordinates the Piecemakers quilting group, serves as volunteer coordinator of the center's programs and events, and offers seminars on goal-setting to the women in the HOPE program.
After working in parish ministry for more than 10 years, S. Ann found herself ministering at both The Women’s Connection and Terrace Guild, a GED site in Winton Terrace (Cincinnati). In both ministries she was working with those living in poverty.
“Both ministries gave me the rich opportunity to interact and learn from a different culture,” S. Ann said.
She eventually came to The Women’s Connection full time and quickly learned each day brings something new.
“I enjoy the people with whom I work, meeting new volunteers and observing the excitement of the women who discover that they can do more than they thought,” she said.
Sister says she has seen firsthand the value of women making connections with other women, and how self worth and confidence grow with each coming together.
“Friendship happens,” S. Ann said, “and it is wonderful to behold. Women need one another to laugh, share and grow. How beautiful!”
S. Marge Kloos
Dean for the Division of Arts and Humanities at the College of Mount St. Joseph, S. Marge Kloos says her passion is in the classroom.
Eighteen years ago, at the invitation of then dean of students S. Elizabeth Cashman, S. Marge Kloos arrived at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Initially, her responsibilities involved campus ministry; four years later, she transitioned to the academic side and has remained there since.
Today S. Marge is the dean for the Division of Arts and Humanities, the largest of the college’s five divisions. She provides leadership for the division’s nine departments and 14 programs. The majority of her time spent during the day is working with faculty on development endeavors and with students, sometimes on concerns but oftentimes problem solving.
And while she enjoys the administrative side, particularly working with so many faculty and students, Sister says her passion is in the classroom, teaching such courses as Theology of Pastoral Care, Feminist Theology and Spiritual Care of Women.
“The thing that gives me the most excitement is when students see the relevance of the conversations we have, particularly around the content of pastoral care,” S. Marge said. “We live in a wonderful time, but we also live in a hard time. The struggling and suffering that people encounter seems to be exponential on some days, and at the same time, there is a compassionate consciousness that is emerging more and more in the world in which we live. I think people are making better connections, thinking more clearly, more systemically, and I love that about being in the classroom.”
Throughout the years S. Marge has seen many changes in the students she teaches and mentors - one of the biggest being the students’ exposure to organized religion. While many young people are curious and tolerant, S. Marge says they are not necessarily engaged.
“We’ve had to really restructure our courses to accommodate the shift from what used to be a real immersion in organized religion, much of it Catholic, to an almost passive encounter with any sort of organized religious experience,” Sister said. “That really changes what we do in the classroom. So much of what we do operates out of their story, their experience. It’s a completely different way of teaching than when I started.”
Additionally, following Sept. 11, 2001, Sister says many smaller schools, like the College of Mount St. Joseph, are unable to afford the commitment to nurturing foreign student relationships. She explains this reduces a lot of opportunity in the classroom for students to be exposed to diversity.
“I find it’s an entirely different environment in the classroom without students from other parts of the world,” she said. “It’s a real loss. I teach a lot of social justice classes and immersion courses where we take students to other cultures, but it’s much better when relationships can happen over time and students can make relationships with each other.”
As a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joseph is “grounded in the spiritual values and vision of its founders” – CMSJ Mission Statement. As a Sister of Charity, S. Marge has the ability to show students first-hand how Sisters are living and ministering in the world today. Her classroom is open and relaxed, allowing students to ask questions regarding religious life. And in most of her classes she will have a Sister of Charity visit and speak to the students on topics such as immigration or Earth and spirituality.
“The reason we sponsor an institution is because we have something of ourselves that can be shared with the world,” S. Marge said.
The Mount’s Immersion to College course, she explained, is one of those ways. As students have the opportunity to walk the Motherhouse grounds and visit various SC ministries, they learn firsthand that the mission of the Sisters of Charity is a living mission. Interviews with alumni further those concepts as students hear these former students, who have a sense of their own personal mission, explain how their education has allowed them to participate in the mission of the Sisters of Charity. The current students then write a reflection about what they hope to do while at the college to better understand the mission. It immerses them in the here and now, Sister explained, rather than the past and the history of the Sisters of Charity.
With 18 years of experience in the field, and now as dean for the Division of Arts and Humanities, S. Marge believes we are on the cusp of something very important in the United States in terms of higher education.
“Higher education is about helping persons discover their humanity, deepening their sense of self and importance of person in light of the bigger set of relationships in the world,” S. Marge said. “I think keeping students engaged and focused on the work of their own humanity in light of the bigger possibilities of this sort of project of transforming the world in which we live, keeping that in the forefront of our work is probably the thing that I see will be the most important for us in the next five to 10 years. It’s not fundable, and it’s often not appealing in terms of grant proposals and revenue-generating initiatives. But I think we’re at the point in higher education that we have to make this both/and argument. We have to keep demonstrating in serious ways the correlation between the two objectives. Increasingly higher education is going to have to be very serious about creating professionals who are human beings in every way, really rooted and formed, while attending to affordability and cost-effectiveness of higher education. Higher education should not be for the wealthy – it should be for the capable and invested learner!”
S. Carol Leveque
S. Carol Leveque (center) greets Sisters Joyce Richter (left) and Winnie Brubach following Mass at St. Anthony parish in Madisonville.
Tucked within the urban community of Madisonville on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Anthony parish is served by pastoral associate S. Carol Leveque. “I am in my sixth year in Madisonville, but I have been in pastoral ministry for about 25 years, with some time in between working at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Religious Education Office, in the Congregational Communications Office as well as in pastoral care at Mother Margaret Hall,” S. Carol said.
Sister has a long history in pastoral care. In 1973, after years of teaching high school English, the Holy Spirit guided S. Carol to St. Elizabeth parish in Denver, Colo., to serve as pastoral minister. She returned to her rural roots in Ohio in 1974 to serve in the same capacity at St. Luke parish in Danville.
After receiving a master’s degree in religious studies from St. Louis University in Missouri, S. Carol accepted a position with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as regional director of religious education, serving the northern region of seven counties and 50 small rural parishes. S. Carol remembered, “The position with the Archdiocese allowed me to become aware of the real need for leadership development among the laity in those small parishes.”
Several “off the beaten track” parishes benefited from Sister’s expertise in her pastoral ministry journey. Many times a parish priest was not available, so S. Carol assumed most parish duties in small communities such as Greensburg, Ind., and Williamstown, Ky.
S. Carol took over her current pastoral duties at St. Anthony in 2006. “Currently I work closely in the areas of worship, peace and justice, parish communications (bulletin, Web site, and newsletter), Parish Pastoral Council, spiritual development, stewardship, and I serve as the primary staff person in the absence of the pastor,” she said.
“I most enjoy the interaction with the people,” S. Carol continued. “In most of the parishes where I have served, including St. Anthony, which is non-territorial, people drive distances to come to church and as a result everything happens on Sunday. So I enjoy Sundays and all the interactions, but am exhausted when it is over. Over the years, I have greatly enjoyed my involvement with RCIA and with other forms of adult faith formation. Where I am currently ministering, staff supports most of that. So perhaps the thing I enjoy most here is working with a very active and committed Peace and Justice Committee, and a very committed Parish Council. People at St. Anthony really take ownership of their many activities. I get to play cheerleader and cheer them on.”
When asked about the challenges of the job, S. Carol explained, “Pastoral work in general is challenging today because so much is happening in the Church, for example, changes in the liturgy, various declarations by the Church regarding matters of justice or theology, and the sex abuse issue. People today are well informed and well educated. They are willing to stand up and challenge what they see as injustice in or out of the Church.”
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have had a long history in Madisonville. “The SC’s have been here almost from the beginning,” S. Carol said. “The first schoolhouse was erected in 1874 and in 1888 the Sisters of Charity were invited to staff the school. The convent was built in 1907. The school closed in 1977 but some Sisters continued to live there until the building was converted for offices. It is the building where I currently have my office and other offices of the parish. The late S. Mary Colette Hart was the last principal at St. Anthony School. Our Sisters are fondly remembered here. Several of us sing in the parish choir. Sisters Helen Cranley and Joan Groff are registered parishioners.
“Parish ministry is never predictable,” S. Carol admits. “I try to be open to the events of each day and the people who arrive on the doorstep or who call on the phone. Elizabeth Seton so often called on the Sisters to be open to the grace of the day. I hope that I am doing that.”
Editor’s Note: S. Carol Leveque will be retiring from her ministry at St. Anthony in June 2012.
S. Betty Jane Lillie
S. Betty Jane Lillie is a professor of biblical studies at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Athenaeum of Ohio
Teaching at every level of the educational system, from preschool to graduate school, S. Betty Jane Lillie says her current ministry as professor of biblical studies at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary was a natural progression.
“I love teaching, and it is a great joy for me to bring sound biblical knowledge into the public domain,” Sister said. “… In a Church whose primary ministry is teaching, in some sense, the whole world can be my classroom.”
Going into her 30 th year at the Athenaeum, the third oldest seminary in the United States, Sister says bringing professional biblical and theological education to the People of God is one of the finest gifts we can give to them. “[Elizabeth Seton] had that vision,” S. Betty Jane said. “I believe it is a value to participate in it.”
S. Betty Jane’s primary ministry responsibilities include teaching in the Seminary Division of the Athenaeum and in the graduate level of the Lay Ministry Division. However, as the year evolves, she finds herself involved in much more, including participating in faculty meetings and committees; directing graduate level thesis papers as the occasions arise; giving directed study courses when requested for students with special advanced needs; and reviewing library holdings and new acquisitions for the Athenaeum’s Maly Library.
As the field of biblical studies continues to develop rapidly, Sister says challenges do arise. From keeping up with the new materials, the archaeological finds, and the contributions in the professional journals to the participation in professional meetings and discussions, the ministry is very involved.
With three decades of experience in professional biblical and theological education, Sisters says the ministry of biblical scholarship for women in the Roman Catholic tradition is late coming, getting started about 25 or 30 years ago. Today, S. Betty Jane says there are many exceptional women theologians and biblical scholars in the Church, and some of them are Sisters of Charity.
“Of course, Sisters of Charity have taught religion in schools for a long time,” Sister explained, “but that is not the same thing as professional theological and biblical studies. Higher education in a Catholic context is very important because it is one way that the mission of the Church to “Teach all that Jesus taught” (Matthew 28:19-20) forms leaders for today’s world who have the ability to bring the message of Jesus to contemporary society. This applies to both clerical and lay leadership.”
S. Mary Beth Peters
S. Mary Beth Peters is the executive director of Our Daily Bread, a Christian hospitality ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Our guests are some of the most faith-filled, humble and gracious people I have ever met in my 30-plus years in social work,” said S. Mary Beth Peters, executive director of Our Daily Bread, a Christian hospitality ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“One time a reporter came to Our Daily Bread to do a story,” Sister continued. “One guest he approached said that he would be happy to speak with him, but wanted to pray first. After the interviews the reporter came to me and remarked how surprised he was at the depth of their faith. My response was: ‘Our guests’ faith puts my faith to shame.’”
Since 2005, S. Mary Beth has been responsible for the administrative duties at the shelter, which provides a warm meal and a safe place in community for the poor in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods. But she says the most enjoyable part of her ministry involves associating with the many guests who visit on a daily basis. From the unemployed and the working poor to the homeless and the mentally ill, S. Mary Beth says she receives much more than she gives.
With more than 500 guests making their way into the hospitality center each day, however, Sister says she has her fair share of challenges. “So many suffer from mental illness and you never know what will upset them,” she said. “One of my hats is that of peacekeeper. If a guest is having a hard day and I am having a hard day, it’s a challenge.”
But it is the inspiration of Our Daily Bread’s founder, Cookie Vogelpohl, the niece of the late S. Clara Vogelpohl, that brings things into perspective. S. Mary Beth explains that she wears a bracelet on her wrist with the initials ‘WWCD’ (What Would Cookie Do?).
“Cookie is a unique individual who has created a remarkable presence for the poor in Over-the-Rhine,” S. Mary Beth said. “The bracelet is a reminder for me to keep my ‘bad’ day in check.”
Through the loving relationships she has built with the guests of Our Daily Bread, S. Mary Beth is living the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati daily. Her kind and gentle way with the guests, the time she spends with them, and the listening ear she lends, all keep Elizabeth Seton’s spirit alive and ever present.
S. Pat Saul
S. Pat Saul (left) with Sondra Saylor, director of medical records, says Mother Margaret Hall is blessed with a staff that cares deeply for its residents.
As administrator of Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing facility of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati at Mount St. Joseph,
S. Pat Saul says her ministry “is all about history.”
“Since its cornerstone, the ministry to our elderly Sisters has been our primary focus,” Sister said. “Through the years, we have had a legacy of quality care and presence to our residents. I find that a source of strength and comfort.”
S. Pat came to Mother Margaret Hall in 1999, and in 2000, she became administrator, managing the clinical and non-clinical care for its residents. Her responsibilities include the oversight of the annual budget, annual state survey, department managers, their programs and all daily functions to ensure that quality care is maintained in keeping with the facility’s mission and state regulations.
“I most enjoy working with our staff to provide for the residents as best we can,” she said. “… Care of the elderly is a ministry. I don’t think it is a calling for everyone. There are days when the work and environment can be overwhelming.”
S. Pat explained elder care provides a different focus than acute care, saying with the latter there can be cures for diseases, recoveries, and new life being born. Long-term care allows staff members to get to know the resident, i.e. her interests, needs and medical condition. This enables staff to maximize programs, care and surroundings, so that each resident’s needs are met.
Sister says Mother Margaret Hall is blessed with a dedicated staff that cares deeply for its residents. As she looks to the future, with health care and financial components changing, S. Pat is challenged to continue to find individuals committed to the long-term care ministry – and the SC mission.
As S. Pat and staff continue the legacy of quality care and presence to Mother Margaret Hall residents, Elizabeth Seton’s spirit permeates daily life. “In caring for each other, I find a sense of Elizabeth’s own care and support that she gave to those around her,” S. Pat said. “I think as Elizabeth extended herself to current issues, she maintained her dedication to her family. Mother Margaret Hall is clearly an established home; yet, it is first and foremost a home for Sisters in such love and care as Elizabeth extended.”
S. Marie Irene Schneider
S. Marie Irene Schneider has been ministering at Seton High School for more than 40 years.
Because of her long career at Seton High School, S. Marie Irene Schneider could be considered the school’s matriarch. S. Marie Irene has been ministering at Seton, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, for the last four decades. After 43 years, the Language Arts teacher is now educating the children of her former students.
Sister says her call to both religious life and teaching came as a child growing up in Detroit, Mich. In the 10 th grade, her former teacher and mentor, Sister of Charity Mary Maud Potvin, died.
“I kept thinking who is going to teach these kids; who is going to do what Sister did?” she said. “I thought, ‘I can do that.’ It just kept nagging at me.”
S. Marie Irene was first missioned to Carroll High School in Dayton, Ohio. She spent the next six years there and met another Sister of Charity mentor and friend, S. Eugene Fox.
“She taught me everything I know about being a teacher,” Sister said. “She taught me patience, and how to teach each unit or section. She is the one who taught me how to teach students who have a difficult time learning or don’t want to learn. Her theory was that patience, drill and clever assignments help them. For 50 years now I have been teaching students who need additional assistance, all grades, nine through 12.”
Throughout the years S. Marie Irene has filled many roles at Seton, including department chair, moderator of classes, tutor, assistant principal and English and reading teacher. In addition, she has mentored her own group of student teachers from the College of Mount St. Joseph.
“I owe everything to S. Eugene, and I want to pass [what she taught me] on to young teachers, too,” Sister said.
This year she will be teaching reading skills to freshmen who scored low on their incoming eighth grade tests.
S. Marie Irene says what she enjoys most about teaching is being in the classroom with the students. She describes the ‘ah-ha’ moments that the students have; when all of a sudden they say, ‘oh, now I know what you mean.’
“Those moments are worth a million dollars!” Sister exclaimed. “It’s why I get up in the morning, and why I keep going back every year.”
Being in education for 50 years, S. Marie Irene has seen many changes in the students; many of those changes present new challenges, as well. “The students’ interests have changed along with their behaviors,” she said. “I like to blame the television shows that teach them subliminally how to be sassy, bossy, and now they are so into technology that they are distracted because they want everything fast.
“They aren’t willing to do homework because that might take 20 minutes and take away from their technology. That change is very challenging,” Sister continued. “The use of a computer for me as a teacher has its place. However, maybe I’m hanging on to being the one who helps the students learn, not the computer, but I find it a great challenge to meet them halfway. Whenever we take the literature, stories, poems, plays, I emphasize people and relationships.”
Serving at a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity, S. Marie Irene observes how the lay administration promotes the SC spirit, and honors its founders. And in the classroom, she, too, has the opportunity to teach the students about Elizabeth Seton, her legacy and the legacy of the Sisters of Charity.
“I’m not afraid to pray, to say holy things,” she said. “I’m always telling them about Elizabeth Seton. I have different pictures of her around the room, and I try to show them that I am who I am because of her – and because they belong to Seton they can be like that, too.”
S. Therese Dery
S. Therese Dery (right) is a mental health therapist at Samaritan Behavioral Health in Dayton, Ohio.
As a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, and like Elizabeth Seton, S. Terry Dery, a mental health therapist at Samaritan Behavioral Health in Dayton, Ohio, says her clinical practice allows her “to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners. [Luke 4:18]”
“I tread lightly for I am on holy ground as I attempt to touch the fragile space in each client,” S. Terry continued. “I pray for God’s help in bringing them to an awareness that the kingdom of heaven is happening in their very midst as they heal, grow and find acceptance. In return, their resilience, trust and quiet courage are a blessing to me for I receive more than I give.”
S. Terry has been ministering at Samaritan Behavioral Health since 1986. She works with adults (individuals, couples and groups); most are Medicaid recipients or uninsured. Her responsibilities include accessing, diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders such as bipolar, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress. Her clients also seek treatment to deal with grief issues, addictions, abuse, violence, financial stress and job loss.
“I minister to the broken-hearted who need to be restored to wholeness and health,” S. Terry said. “It’s a ministry of healing emotional pain whether through crisis intervention or referrals to psychiatrists for long-term clients who are in need of medication.”
Her sense of humor and no-nonsense approach serve S. Terry well when things become overwhelming. And she says the rewards far outweigh the challenges as clients get well, develop coping skills, and feel more positive about themselves.
“I often wonder how Jesus felt after curing the sick,” S. Terry said. “I use my teaching skills to develop treatment plans and walk with each client toward change, dividing assignments into achievable goals. For many the journey is painful due to years of being imprisoned by repressing psychic wounds or living amidst dysfunctional family systems and toxic relationships. I marvel at their survivor skills.”
S. Sheila Gallagher
Parma Heights, Ohio
S. Sheila Gallagher has ministered at Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio, for the last 37 years.
Ministering at Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio, for the last 37 years, S. Sheila Gallagher says the school has had an SC presence since 1914. It was that presence that influenced Sister’s decision to come to the school in 1974, after learning that the number of Sisters of Charity ministering at Holy Name was declining.
Since 2004, S. Sheila has been the only Sister of Charity on staff at the school, but that has not stopped her from instilling in her students Elizabeth Seton’s charism. A math teacher and chairperson of Holy Name’s Math Department, this year Sister will teach an Honors Algebra and Trigonometry class as well as an AP Calculus class. In addition, she spends the remainder of her day working in the Development Department.
As she reflects on 47 years teaching mathematics, all at the secondary level, S. Sheila says the subject matter suits her well. “I like the organization of math and get a little boost when I see some lights turn on in the eyes of the students,” Sister said. “High school students are an interesting group to work with. Using and teaching with new technology is great. I was in on the cutting edge of using graphing calculators and have expanded my expertise as they have been able to do more and more.”
With any ministry there are challenges, and as the years have passed, S. Sheila says keeping today’s students motivated has become more difficult. “They need more math than they think they will ever use,” she said. “More and more fields are requiring a good math background. The average ability student does not see this need and tries to get by with as little work as possible.”
The pleasures far outweigh the challenges, however. And S. Sheila says what she enjoys most is simply preparing today’s young people for the future while keeping Elizabeth Seton at the forefront. In her classes, Sister starts with prayer, praying for each other. Throughout the year each of her students has a day assigned to them when all of her classes pray for that person’s intentions. During January, Sister uses the prayer for the feast of Mother Seton. For a number of years, she has even given each of them a Mother Seton prayer card.
“They know about [ Elizabeth] by the time they leave my classroom,” she concluded.
S. Dorothy Ann Blatnica
Pepper Pike, Ohio
S. Dorothy Ann Blatnica (second from left) recently completed 28 years at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
“I absolutely love seeing the faces of my students when a new insight happens for them or when I expose them to new knowledge that enlarges their world. There’s no greater joy for me as a teacher,” S. Dorothy Ann Blatnica said as she discussed her 28 years at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
This summer S. Dorothy Ann will retire as professor and chairperson of the Religious Studies Department at the Catholic liberal arts college and sponsored ministry of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, Ohio.
Sister explains her calling to higher education came at the request of S. Maureen McCarthy, OSU, with whom she completed her master’s work at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. S. Maureen needed an adjunct faculty person to teach an extension course for the college in Akron, Ohio, and called to see if S. Dorothy Ann would accept the position.
“I was teaching at Lumen Cordium High School [in Bedford, Ohio] at the time, and my first response to her was, ‘Oh, Maureen, I can’t teach in college.’” S. Dorothy Ann recalled. “She said, ‘Oh, yes, you can! You’ll love it!’ As they say, the rest is history.”
S. Dorothy Ann began teaching at Ursuline College in 1983 as an adjunct faculty member and became a full-time member in 1991. Serving at the college for 20-plus years, Sister has been challenged to keep up with what is happening in the various subject areas that she teaches, especially those that involve social and environmental justice.
“These two areas are always evolving,” she said. “However, I believe learning is most valuable when it touches the lives of my students personally and calls them to enlarge their own commitments. With so many competing voices and values in our world today, this can be most challenging for me and for the students.”
Like Elizabeth Seton, a teacher, S. Dorothy Ann walks in Elizabeth’s footsteps as she gives extra attention to the students who are struggling, whether it be from inadequate preparation or disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds. Additionally, ministering at a women-focused college has allowed her to empower and advance women.
“I think Elizabeth must be pleased with these efforts that so reflect her own ministry,” Sister said.
S. Mary Alice Haithcoat
Principal S. Mary Alice Haithcoat greets Carly Caulfield, a fifth grader at Piqua Catholic School, in the school’s halls.
“My greatest joy is working with children. Their enthusiasm fills me with energy,” S. Mary Alice Haithcoat said of her 40 years in Catholic education.
The current principal of Piqua Catholic School, a kindergarten through eighth grade consolidated school in Piqua, Ohio, S. Mary Alice continued saying watching the students “form friendships, excel intellectually and grow spiritually is an awesome experience.”
Sister has been ministering at the school since August 1993. She began as assistant principal and part-time teacher; in 2009, she became principal. Among her many roles, S. Mary Alice is responsible for the students in two buildings, as well as faculty and staff consisting of 25 adults.
“I have a wonderful group of dedicated teachers and many supportive parents,” she said.
At this particular time in our country, the challenges in the field of education are certainly there. Sister explains over the years she has seen many changes in family life and curriculum. And while technology is exciting and has brought many benefits to the classroom, it also has brought about its challenges, requiring patience and a willingness to change. In addition, the downfall of the economy forces S. Mary Alice’s parishes, school board and staff to develop creative ways to raise money in order for the school to continue as a successful place for learning.
The joys far outweigh the hardships, however, as Sister sees her students grow in their relationship with God. “I feel like a proud parent as I watch the second graders receive their First Reconciliation and their First Communion, or the eighth graders receive their Confirmation and graduate from grade school,” she said. “The smiles on their faces fill me with happiness. I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to share my energy, my love for life and my faith with the young people of Piqua.”
Approximately 90 miles from the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse, S. Mary Alice has found community in Piqua with two other Sisters of Charity – Sisters Ginny Scherer and Joan Clare Stewart. The three Sisters enjoy walking through the neighborhood and on Piqua’s bike/walking trail, and the community has come to know them well.
“We have three Sisters that touch the lives of people in our parishes at three stages of life: elementary, second and adult formation,” S. Mary Alice said.
S. Louise Zaplitny
“I think any time a person ministers to the poor or sick as Elizabeth Seton did you are following in her footsteps,” S. Louise Zaplitny said of her ministry at Springfield Regional Medical Center in Springfield, Ohio.
Sister is the center’s chaplain, responsible for the ICU units, the step down unit and the birthing center. “There are three ICU units,” S. Louise explained, “two on the first floor that are mainly used for heart surgery patients, and one on the fourth floor for patients with other issues. The step down unit is for patients coming out of the ICU units or for patients critical but not critical enough for the ICU.”
Sister says after all of the stress of the ICU and step down units, it is nice to be able to go to the birthing center to visit with the families and see the new babies.
Her call to this ministry came after her husband’s death in 1991. Due to hospital cutbacks there was no chaplain. “The staff was not kind and really did not handle the death well,” she said. “It would have been so much better to have had a chaplain present. After [my husband’s] death I realized that I needed a change in what I was doing and went through a discernment process in 1992; the end result was that I was being called to become a chaplain…”
“I love people and love my job,” S. Louise continued. “I find it most satisfying when the family gives me a hug afterwards because they are grateful. Then I feel God has rewarded me.”
S. Barbara Davis
S. Barbara Davis, coordinator of alumni relations and annual giving at Mercy College in Toledo, Ohio, speaks at an Alumni Reunion on May 19. .
In 2007, after 43 years of ministry in Catholic elementary education, S. Barbara Davis felt it was time for a change. “The president of Mercy College of Northwest Ohio had heard that I was planning to change ministries and invited me to meet with him to discuss the possibility of coming to the college’s Advancement Office,” Sister said.
Although she did not have any special training in the area of development, Sister knew her ability to relate and to work collaboratively with others, accompanied by her strong organizational skills, would serve her well.
As coordinator of alumni relations and annual giving for the college, whose main campus is located in Toledo, Ohio, S. Barbara oversees the activities of the college’s Alumni Association, working closely with the board of the association. In addition, she serves the Mercy College Auxiliary and coordinates two major fund raising campaigns each year: the Annual Appeal and the annual Employee Campaign. As Mercy College’s enrollment continues to grow significantly, S. Barbara also has been named the chairperson of the Steering Committee for the college’s Strategic Planning Process.
“Our Advancement Office staff is a cohesive group and we truly do work collaboratively on a variety of events and initiatives on behalf of Mercy College,” Sister said.
Mercy College of Northwest Ohio is affiliated with Mercy and Catholic Health Partners, one of the nation’s largest and most respected health care systems. Only about 20 percent of the college’s students are “traditional” college age, S. Barbara said, and the college’s focus is on preparing health care professionals. Additionally Mercy College has a large Short Term Education Program, which offers both credit and non-credit bearing certificates in a variety of areas. It is S. Barbara’s challenge to tell this unique story in a manner that will inspire donors to support its mission, particularly in these tough economic times.
One of the things Sister says she enjoys most about her ministry is the opportunity to meet with alumni and to hear their stories - whether it be from Mercy School of Nursing or Mercy College. As she explains the Mercy School of Nursing was established in 1918 and offered a diploma program. With the transition from the nursing diploma to degrees (associate and bachelor), the college was started in 1992.
“Throughout these years, the heritage and values of the Sisters of Mercy remain foundational to our ministry,” S. Barbara said. “Currently we have three communities serving the college – the Sisters of the Precious Blood from Dayton, Ohio, the Toledo Sisters of Notre Dame, and us. Each brings our own charism to our ministry. It’s always amazing to me that while our histories are unique, we are truly unified in our desire and passion to be disciples of the Lord.”
As an educator, S. Barbara looks to Elizabeth Seton for inspiration. “Though her students were younger in age, our students, just like hers, are seeking truth and knowledge,” she says. “As a Catholic institution of higher education, we strive for excellence in everything that we do, both in the classroom and in any service we provide for our constituents.”
S. Anne Darlene Wojtowicz
S. Anne Darlene Wojtowicz with Nuestra Clinica del Valle pharmacy tech Joe Loredo. Sister delivered Joe’s first child at Holy Family Birth Center.
More than 1,500 miles from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Motherhouse, S. Anne Darlene Wojtowicz ministers in Edcouch, Texas. A nurse practitioner, Sister has been with Nuestra Clinica del Valle since 1991. Although the clinic has 11 sites, some of which she covers regularly, S. Anne Darlene mainly serves in Edcouch where she focuses on family practice.
Seeing approximately 20-30 patients each day, S. Anne Darlene, who has a dual license certification, says her patients range in age from two weeks old to 97 years old. “We do not refuse anyone,” Sister said. “Those who don’t have appointments, we see them in between. We don’t leave the office until we’re finished.”
The clinic is the community health center for Hidalgo County, which is considered a medically underserved and health professional shortage area. Although she originally said she would stay for five years, S. Anne Darlene has been there 18 years – long enough to see patients she delivered marry and bring their children to see her.
“They know they can depend on me,” Sister said. “They know they can ask me to pray for them if they are in the room or at another time. I try to be there for each individual. I try to be where they are at and not go beyond what they can understand or can do.”
The ministry has its share of challenges. Aside from the closest Sister of Charity being in El Paso, Texas, nearly 12 hours from home, Sister says there is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done. She adds it is difficult when she is not able to help her patients in the way that they need help, for example finding a specialist that can and will see a patient. S. Anne Darlene says many of her patients don’t know how to ask questions. If a patient sees a specialist, they may come back to Sister and not know what the physician did or said.
S. Anne Darlene believes it was God’s call that brought her to Texas in 1983. When she first arrived, she and three other women religious founded Holy Family Services, a birth center in Weslaco. The center became a place where women, especially poor women, could have their babies in a safe, comfortable setting. Today the center hosts a range of facilities, including six birthing suites, a clinic, a classroom, a chapel, medical storage rooms, and housing for staff, volunteers, students and visitors. Sister continues to serve on the birth center’s board. She also volunteers at the center once a week after work conducting well baby checks.
“ Elizabeth went where the need was greatest,” she concluded. “I may not always like being moved around, but I too am going where the need is.”