All Are Welcome
By Katelyn Rieder, Communications co-op
Among the many treasures on the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse property, the Sisters of Charity Gift Shop has become an essential stop for those living on and off campus. Opened during the 1980s, the Motherhouse Gift Shop was built up by S. Giovanni Vastano to the accolades of “Best Gift Shop” in the city in the 1994 “Best and Worst” edition of Cincinnati Magazine. While the focus has shifted through the years, one can be certain that the items offered and the friendly hospitality continue to shine.
Located in the west wing of Marian Hall, the Gift Shop contains a rotating stock of various items, from tissues and toiletries to purses and rosaries. It is open every Tuesday and Friday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Currently, S. Mary Jo Gasdorf oversees the shop with the faithful assistance of Sisters Annette Frey, Kathryn Ann Connelly, Ann Hunt and Annette Paveglio.
When you first walk into the Gift Shop, you will be greeted by either S. Annette Frey or S. Kathryn Connelly. Both handle all the purchases and questions guests may have. In that area visitors can find jewelry, toiletries, hygiene products, books, purses, and more. Heading towards the back area is where the majority of items for sale are located—the adored card section, statues, rosaries, blankets, candles, stationary, paintings … you never know what you may find!
S. Annette Frey recalled when she initially joined the Gift Shop staff, “I just got into spending time in there. One of the nicest things is meeting people and being there for their needs, and being able to do something—to keep myself occupied.”
Several other Sister volunteers emphasized that they enjoyed meeting the needs of their fellow Sisters. Even if a visitor cannot find what they’re looking for, the volunteers are able to make online orders for them and get whatever they may need. This is especially important for the Sisters living on campus (either in the Motherhouse or Mother Margaret Hall) who cannot get to the store as easily as others.
A large portion of the Gift Shop’s purchases come from the greeting cards section, which is managed primarily by S. Annette Paveglio. She was asked to join specifically to help handle the cards back in 2020, and has remained in the position since. They offer beautiful cards for nearly every occasion: birthdays, holidays, appreciations, condolences, and do-it-yourself cards with a blank interior.
“The Sisters at Mother Margaret Hall like to buy them by the box, so they disappear in a hurry,” she says with a laugh.
The other manager of items is S. Ann Hunt, who runs “Ann’s Workshop,” a space where all donated items to the Gift Shop are stored and sorted through. Since the shop mainly provides donated items for sale (from Sisters, Associates, friends, etc.), there is a large variety of items displayed at any given time. Currently, there are many items available that have been donated by Sisters who visited Guatemala—such as pens, blankets, rosaries, etc. S. Ann helps these items be display-ready for visitors.
S. Ann also created a wall decoration when she was asked to join the staff of volunteers at the Gift Shop. This beautiful art piece creates an inviting, peaceful atmosphere—a welcome feeling for any visitor.
The Gift Shop is not-for-profit, with all proceeds going towards the Social Justice Emergency Fund on campus.
“Many things are marked with a sale price, but many are also not,” said S. Mary Jo. “And this is not-for-profit so there’s no taxes involved. We try to ask the person buying, ‘Well, what would you like to pay for it?’ And then they know where their money goes.” The Sisters also commented that some customers even donate extra money as an additional contribution to the fund. It is a win-win for both parties.
The Sisters remarked how much the customer base increases during holiday seasons, specifically Christmas time. In the past, the Gift Shop has done extravagant Christmas sale events, and displayed many seasonal cards and decorations. However, they have recently shifted their focus.
“Our first priority isn’t a huge Christmas sale event. Our first priority is to get more people in here, both customers and donors,” said S. Mary Jo. “We want to make it known that our doors are open.” While the Gift Shop does have a lot of items available, the stream of donations is not the same as what it once was.
So, if you ever find yourself free on a Tuesday or Friday afternoon, stop by the Gift Shop to check out some beautiful items, donate something, or just chat with the Sisters; they welcome all customers and donations into the store. With such a vast and unique display of items, you are bound to find something new every time you visit.