The Charity Family – Seton High School
By Erin Reder
The Charity Family reach is far and wide. Chances are if you were born and raised, or even lived in the Cincinnati area for a short time, you are familiar with the Sisters of Charity. Whether it’s having the opportunity to know a particular Sister, or being involved with a ministry started by or sponsored by the Sisters of Charity, the familiarity of the SC charism is deeply rooted in the many friends and community members who carry with them a mission to serve and to risk a caring response.
Last September 2022, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati announced plans to transition its sponsorship roles for its remaining sponsored ministries – Bayley, DePaul Cristo Rey High School, Mount St. Joseph University, Seton High School and St. Joseph Home. These sponsored ministries – like those that embarked on sponsorship transitions before them – are thriving, independent organizations with proficient lay leadership at the helm. Each is positioned for success, and while Sisters will exit their board and governance roles over time, they will continue to champion and celebrate the Catholic heritage and values of these ministries as each continues to serve persons in need.
As the Community and each individual sponsored ministry prepare to transition, we would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the deep relationships built and the evolving futures they are embarking on. We begin with Seton High School.
Founded in 1854 as Mount St. Vincent Academy before reopening as Seton High School in 1927, the school has long maintained its commitment to faith, academic excellence, leadership and service. With the spirit of Elizabeth Seton and the Sisters of Charity at its core, educators and staff members through the years (which included countless Sisters of Charity) have served as confidants and role models and guided young women to grow into faith-filled women, critical thinkers and servant leaders.
“As a second generation alum, Sister of Charity, former teacher and board member at Seton, I have continually been proud of the commitment of parents, students, teachers, administrators, staff and alums, to the mission of the school,” says S. Judith Metz. “The students who choose to attend Seton High School are eager to plunge into the academic challenges, assume leadership roles, and provide service to others as expressions of their Christian faith that God is present in them and in all those they encounter.”
The hallmarks of faith, academic excellence, leadership and service are embedded in the Sisters and employees (past and present) that have given their hearts and hands to forwarding the mission of the school and the Sisters of Charity. Principal Karen White and President Kathy Ciarla attended Seton themselves and credit many of the leadership skills they developed through the years to their early education, particularly by the Sisters. “The Sisters of Charity have been an influence in my life for a long time – as a student and a teacher,” says White. “I attribute my confidence, decision-making and leadership skills to their influence. I know what they gave me and it’s my obligation and desire to pass that along to our students.”
Adds Ciarla, “The education I received in the classroom from so many Sisters of Charity at St. William, Seton and Mount St. Joseph University was amazing and I learned early on about being responsible, following directions, and working hard. Those lessons were ingrained in me by these women of faith as they held me and all their students to a higher standard. This has stayed with me for life. Their dedication to Catholic education changed our community and made our world better.”
Young women are receiving a marvelous gift as students of Seton High School, a school that thrives in educating in the spirit of Elizabeth Seton. Faculty and staff are committed to providing students with a Christian environment that is faith-focused; where each person is accepted and esteemed, and strong leaders are born. Seton fosters service, bonds of caring and compassion, and provides a setting that promotes empowerment, school pride, and deep respect for all people.
Lois Childers, a Seton alumna and math teacher for the last 41 years, elaborates: “Kathy and Karen and the whole administration are committed to building strong leaders and creating close-knit bonds. There is an emphasis on sisterhood, and promoting caring relationships between our students. More recently daily mentor groups and Seton houses [which both combine students from all grades] foster school pride and bonds of acceptance and friendship.”
Added Ciarla, “We hear all the time that there is a spirit and a welcoming atmosphere at Seton where all the students feel like they belong, that they are valued and appreciated. Recognizing the value of each individual and the gifts they bring to the whole creates this incredible school community. It encourages personal growth in our students and staff and transcends our building.”
Sarah Lykins, Seton’s director of institutional advancement, is passionate about getting the next generation of Saints excited about their legacy and the rich charism and history the school has. A proud Seton alumna herself, Lykins emphasizes the importance of self-confidence, as well as leadership and communication skills. “Those skills aren’t only taught in the classroom,” she says. “They are learned in many of the opportunities and activities outside of the classroom as well. I feel as though we are carrying forward the spirit of the Sisters of Charity and Elizabeth Ann Seton as we model confidence and kindness. Don’t do it for the credit but for the passion you have.”
Faith is at the heart of everything faculty and staff do at Seton. Says White, “What that entails is a very caring, loving response – whether for a student, a student’s family, or a staff member. Everything we do comes from our faith and drives how we respond to things and how we execute things. … We take a lot of time to teach our students to spread the good news of Seton and in turn spread the good news of their faith and the Sisters of Charity to others. We talk about educating the whole person. Learning takes place not just in the classroom, but also on the volleyball court, when you’re in the school musical, or on a mission trip. Learning is more than sitting in your classroom; it’s spiritual, it’s service.”
The teachings of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Sisters of Charity are evident. Students and staff live by her words: “Meet Your Grace.” Childers says, “I think about Elizabeth Seton quite a bit. I think about her life and how difficult it was at times. When I find challenges and difficulties, I think, ‘If she did it, I can get through this.’ I pray to Elizabeth almost every day. Our students hear about her legacy and they are aware of her influence in the Catholic school system. At Seton I enjoy the spirituality and connectedness and it’s because of what Elizabeth Seton started so many years ago.”
“St. Elizabeth Seton must be smiling down as she watches over her SC legacy,” says S. Mary Dolores Schneider, who taught at the school from 1982 until 2016. “The involvement of alumnae, the spirit and enthusiasm of the current leadership, staff and students reflect their joy and love for teaching and learning.”
As many faculty and staff have pointed out it is now their mission to carry forward the legacy started many years ago. Yet, at the same time, they are not afraid to face change and growth.
“Seton has evolved and changed with the times, thanks to the forward thinking, knowledge and brilliance of the Sisters of Charity,” says Ciarla. “This tradition is ingrained at Seton and in my days as a student and now in my career, I learned from their examples how to evaluate, research and continue to improve. ‘Hazard Yet Forward,’ we are dedicated to the tradition of excellence by always looking ahead and planning for the needs of tomorrow’s students with faith as the foundation.
Adds Lykins, “The charism will continue. We are so proud of it and so blessed to have been touched by the Sisters of Charity.”
Through the laity, the work of Seton will continue to change lives and witness to Gospel values. The school is well prepared to move forward while standing on the shoulders of the Sisters who came before them. S. Annette Marie Paveglio, who has served as the Corporation Board for Sponsored Ministries’ liaison to Seton for almost 15 years, says, “I have a great deal of trust that the mission of the Sisters of Charity will continue to be ‘lived’ at Seton and beyond in the young women. … It is true that the leadership of any organization is its key to success, so I continue to pray that when the sponsorship transition takes place, and on through the years, the legacy and founding by the Sisters of Charity will continue to be grounded in unshakable Catholic values in the spirit of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who reminds us that ‘God is God in it all. If you are to do [God’s] work, the strength will be given you.’”