Volume I, 2021
S i s t e r s
C h a r i t y
C i n c i n n at i
A Letter From Our Sister
“See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time for singing has come.” - Song of Songs Dear Sisters, Associates and Friends,
t this writing, the green of spring has not yet arisen, but the birds are singing and the horizon for the end of the pandemic draws closer. Hope is growing! The lines above seem especially fitting after this long year of so many challenges.
Contents Features Unanswered Prayers........................... 6-7 S. Ginny Scherer’s call to teach. Living the Charism of Elizabeth Ann Seton.................................................. 8-9 Educators reflect on Elizabeth’s influence. Called to Teach....................................10 S. Mary Alice Haithcoat’s dedicated education ministry. In the Name of Love...................... 16-17 S. Sandy Howe walks with family seeking asylum. Blessings Among Us....................... 18-19 SC Community gifted with presence of six international Sisters. Carrying Forward the Spirit........... 20-21 Years after Elizabeth’s death, Cincinnati SCs follow in her spirit.
Departments EarthConnection.................................11 Working Toward a Sustainable Future
As the dormant days of winter seem to indicate an absence of life, we know that deep within is the silent work that prepares life waiting to come forth. This issue highlights a variety of the transforming both inside and out of the Mount campus, as well as the ongoing mission of education that is part of our Charity legacy. The stories illustrate that the journeys, much like the seasons, contain chapters of dying and rising to new life. Much has happened in preparation for the deconstruction of Seton Hall: offices moved, new spaces and places rearranged and renovated even as doors had to remain closed and distances kept. All this in a building that has housed some form of schools, offices, school again, Sisters, retreatants, etc. over these many years. We are excited to share all that has happened over these months as the cranes have certainly brought an end to any silent waiting! Sisters Ginny Scherer and Mary Alice Haithcoat, some of our extraordinary educators, are highlighted in this issue. They are part of the rich lineage and legacy of the Sisters of Charity in education as S. Pat Wittberg has so well depicted in her introduction. It is truly a legacy of love. As you will find in reading about the happenings at EarthConnection, in our Series on Racism, and with our former international guests, there is much continuing in the mission of Charity to move us forward. As flowers appear on the earth, may it be a time for singing for all of us. The journey continues. Blessings,
Timeless Treasures................................26 The original oak tree near Elizabeth’s first gravesite.
S. Monica Gundler, SC
OPJCC................................................27 Transforming Racisms at Three Levels of Society
On the Cover: Since 2018, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sandy Howe (back, second from right) has ministered as the Community’s Newcomers Transitions Program Coordinator. During this time she has walked with Samuel (right) and his family as they sought asylum and acclimated to a new country. Read more on pages 16-17. Disclaimer: The information contained in Intercom is intended for general information and educational purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are the views of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.
Please visit “In Memoriam” at www.srcharitycinti.org for biographical information and reflections on the Sisters of Charity and Associates who have died. May our Sisters and Associates enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as peace with their God. S. Janet Marie Wehmhoff January 4, 2021
S. Irene Luther February 2, 2021
S. Theresa Ann Moran March 8, 2021
S. Jacqueline Riggio January 20, 2021
S. Marie Patrice Joyce February 10, 2021
S. Carol Bauer March 13, 2021
S. Regina Tevis January 24, 2021
S. Lucien Marie Davis February 22, 2021
S. Kathleen Houck April 12, 2021 I n terc o m
Charity Family Welcome New Associates The Community welcomed eight new Associates in Mission on Jan. 3, 2021 in Springhill, Florida. Congratulations to (front row, from left) Iris Ramirez, Janine Poisson, Heather Litton, (back row, from left) Margaret Martin, Jean Leonard, Theresia Griffin, Gail Metcalf and Judith Brooks. House of Charity Feeding Souls S. Pat Newhouse Recognized Congratulations to S. Pat Newhouse, a faithful volunteer of Haven House in Lansing, Michigan, who raised $25,741 for the organization’s annual Pancake Palooza. A Star Server for the event, S. Pat received the People’s Choice Award for most donors (184) for the sixth year in a row; this year she also earned the Crowd Pleaser Award. All proceeds from the event (a total of $65,204) will go to sheltering and rehousing homeless families.
Sisters of Charity living and ministering at the House of Charity in New Orleans, Louisiana, are finding new ways to continue their ministry of hospitality during the pandemic. S. Monica Gundler (pictured, center) and Sisters Peg Johnson, SCL; Vivien Linkhauer, SC (Seton Hill) and Patty Huffman, DC (St. Louise Province) prepped, prepared and delivered food to Jesus Project Ministries and Hotel Hope during the winter months.
Rock Garden RosAry Sisters living in Mother Margaret Hall nursing facility, with the help of Activities Team members, completed a beautiful “Rock Garden Rosary” in November 2020. Each stone was thoughtfully painted and together assembled into this garden installation. The garden is located under two trees near the entrance of the MMH back patio. It is the perfect way to have prayerful time while enjoying the beauty of the seasonal weather.
S. Shirley Dix (right) enjoys the newest addition to the Mother Margaret Hall back patio area, a rock garden rosary. V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
Sisters, Employees Receive Vaccine Sisters of Charity and employees in the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall received the first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine on campus in January and February. SC President Pat Hayden (pictured) said of the experience, “It was great. This is truly a gift and blessing for the world.”
Sisters in Education:
A Long and Influential History By S.Patricia Wittberg
he belief that teaching children is an appropriate apostolate for women religious is a relatively new development in the Church’s 2,000-year history. It was only in the 1600s that some communities of Sisters adopted teaching as their ministry – and even then they were only allowed to do so in private academies within their cloister walls. In these academies, the Sisters invented the first tools of classroom instruction: textbooks, written exams, and end-of-the-year assemblies where students could demonstrate their academic In 1872, S. Blandina Segale was missioned West to teach at schools in Colorado and New Mexico for achievements to their proud parents. For the next 20 years. children in less-wealthy families, however, community, they followed this pattern, establishing an whatever education they received was given by someone in academy – Cedar Grove – in Cincinnati and academies in their local church, as a charitable work that the pastor himself, other towns where they were sent. When S. Blandina Segale or a seminarian, or local pious women parishioners might arrived in Trinidad, Colorado in 1872, for example, the undertake. (Some of these pious women later became new Sisters who preceded her had already begun an academy religious congregations.) Only in the 19th century were state- which educated 12 girls, whose parents were wealthy enough funded public schools established in Europe, usually staffed to give them jewelry for Christmas. The free school was less by ministers, priests, or religious brothers and sisters who were impressive: on first visiting it, she writes: “Today I went to paid state salaries. look at my school room to be; 40 feet long, 14 feet wide, This was the background that prevailed in the United States when Elizabeth Seton began her small community. Public schools did not yet exist in most of the country, and would not for another 50 years. Unlike Europe, however, if the Sisters wanted to teach poor children they could not expect to be supported by the state to do so. Most religious communities in the United States, therefore, established tuition-based academies for wealthier students and used the money they earned to support “free schools” for poorer children. The first of these academies was opened by Ursuline Sisters in 1727, almost as soon as they arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana. By 1810, various Sisters’ congregations ran 10 academies; by 1852 there were more than 100. After Protestant-dominated public schools opened in the middle of the 19th century, more parishes established their own elementary schools; in 1884 they were mandated to do so by the bishops. The Sisters then found that their free schools were often stigmatized as “schools for the poor,” and so they either closed them or merged them with the parish schools. When Mother Margaret George and her companions began the Cincinnati Sisters of Charity as a separate 4
8 feet high; two small windows, a low sized door, no transom; solid adobe walls on two sides, log rafters black as ebony. Of necessity, ventilation said ‘goodbye’ when the house was completed.” In these less-than-ideal circumstances, S. Blandina worked educational wonders: by the following Christmas, her pupils were singing Mozart at Midnight Mass. By 1901, the Sisters of Charity taught in 49 parish schools and two academies, scattered throughout Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and New Mexico. The Community had established a Board of Education to oversee the curriculum and textbooks, and to coordinate the education and certification of the Sister-teachers. Meanwhile, high schools were developing in the United States, and so parishes began to create their own high schools. Around the country, academies also shifted their academic offerings from ornamental arts such as needlecraft, music and the like to a standard high school curriculum. States were beginning to demand that teachers in grade and high schools be professionally certified to teach these academic subjects. As with many other women’s religious congregations, the Sisters of Charity began to send Sisters to The Catholic University (Washington, D.C.), I n terc o m
S. Catherine Lucas served as archdiocesan supervisor of elementary schools for 23 years. Sisters also wrote educational monographs and textbooks for teachers: S. Barbara Geoghegan collaborated on two books of educational psychology, and S. Rita Miriam Robers wrote a picture dictionary for elementary school students. S. Donna Steffen collaborated on the Foundations in Faith series of books for RCIA teachers in parishes.
In 1920, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati officially opened the College of Mount St. Joseph, the first Catholic college for women in Southwestern Ohio.
Notre Dame (Indiana), and Cincinnati’s own Athenaeum to complete their bachelor’s degrees. In the meantime, Cedar Grove Academy had moved from Price Hill to the new Motherhouse in Delhi and the former campus became a school for day students only. As the 20th century began, post-high school courses were offered at the Academy, and in 1920 the College of Mount St. Joseph was begun. By this time the Sisters of Charity were teaching in more than 20 high schools, in addition to more than 50 elementary schools.
By 1965, 587 Sisters of Charity taught in 79 different elementary schools. Another 313 Sisters taught in 30 high schools. The apostolate of education accounted for the largest percentage of Sisters in the congregation: 65 percent in 1969. The declining number of school-age children after the end of the Baby Boom and the movement of Sisters into other ministries has decreased their presence since then. But Sisters of Charity continue the excellent teaching for which they have always been known. S. Ginny Scherer, who won the Ohio Academy of Sciences Award as Distinguished Science Teacher, continues to teach at Lehman High School in Sidney. Her proudest accomplishments include the gold, silver and bronze medals her students have won at the Science Olympiads held yearly in Columbus, Ohio. Sisters Mary Alice Haithcoat and Peggy Rein continue to teach primary school children at Piqua Catholic School and Holy Family School respectively.
But grade schools, high schools It can still be said of our present and colleges were not the only locations day-Sister of Charity teachers what where the Sisters of Charity exercised was said of S. Mary Maude Potvin by their ministry of teaching. They one of her former students: She was Longtime educator S. Benedicta Mahoney taught at also taught particular populations of Elizabeth Seton High School in South Holland, Illinois, a lady, with all the dignity, decency students: deaf students at St. Rita School from 1970 until 1979. and courage of a deeply spiritual, wellfor the Deaf, children with psychological educated woman … Of the legions and educational problems at Springer Institute, orphans who sat before her to learn English, mathematics, history, and expectant mothers at St. Joseph Orphanage and St. Joseph geography, and most of all, their religion, there were few who Infant Home. S. Ruth Jonas helped create a “twinned would not place her alongside their mothers as perhaps the classroom” program that linked students at St. Dominic and best possible influence on their young lives.” St. William schools in Cincinnati with students in France and French-speaking African countries. Beginning in 1935, the bishops had called for the establishment of a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine whereby Catholic students attending public schools could be taught their faith; Sisters of Charity taught CCD classes in the summers for many years thereafter. In 1967, several Sisters began full time work in religious education and adult formation at numerous parishes. Meanwhile, Sisters also began working in full-time campus ministry at various colleges. Sisters of Charity also helped shape generations of future teachers. Several Sisters taught at the archdiocesan teachers’ colleges in Cincinnati and Albuquerque, among them Sisters Agnes de Sales and Sarita Cordova in Albuquerque and S. Concetta Papania in Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
S. Grace Schwietering was the long-time principal at St. Leo’s in Detroit, Michigan from 1970 until 1992. 5
Unanswered Prayers By Erin Reder “… Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. …”
he lyrics in Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers” have long held special meaning to Sister of Charity Ginny Scherer. The long-time Lehman Catholic High School chemistry teacher said that as a student at Seton High School in Cincinnati, she was convinced she would become a nurse. God had different plans. “I didn’t want to be a teacher but that was where God wanted me to be and that’s where I ended up,” she says. “It’s been 58 years this year and I’m still happy!” While she may not have originally known that her destiny would be to teach, she soon realized it was what brought her joy and purpose. As a freshman at the College of Mount St. Joseph and newly entered Sister of Charity, it was S. Ignatius Sanche’s chemistry class that changed her mind. S. Ginny credits Sister’s enthusiasm with what led her to fall in love with the subject and after that there was no looking back. Following graduation from the Mount, S. Ginny began her teaching ministry in Michigan at St. Louis High School in Mount Clemens. She was then sent to Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering followed by Holy Angels High School in Sidney. S. Ginny was involved in the consolidation that began Lehman High School in 1970. She left for 10 years to teach and serve as co-principal at Marion Catholic High School before permanently landing back at Lehman in 1987 after learning the school would be adding AP chemistry to its course offerings. Thinking she would only be there for a couple of years, S. Ginny soon realized Lehman was home, stating no two years are ever the same. Throughout the years S. Ginny has taught chemistry, math, physics and some electronics courses. She has focused on developing her students love for and understanding of science. She encourages participation and enjoys hearing each student’s opinions and perspectives. “I don’t try to answer their questions, we throw it to the floor and ask the class what they think; we figure it out together. They participate as much as I do,” she said. In addition to teaching S. Ginny thoroughly enjoys involving herself in activities outside the classroom; this includes the annual science fair and Science Olympiad, a national competition with more than 7,800 middle school 6
As the senior class advisor for many years at Lehman Catholic High School, S. Ginny Scherer has had the opportunity to be involved in the senior Kairos retreats.
and high school teams from across the U.S. competing in various scientific events. She started the school’s girls athletics program with S. Dorothy William Englert and coached basketball and softball. She has also been the senior class advisor for many years and involved in the senior Kairos retreats where she has witnessed much spiritual growth. “Working with teenagers is really a blessing,” says S. Ginny. “They are going through such an important time in their life. It’s wonderful to see them grow – spiritually, intellectually and socially – and leave as hopefully mature adults, ready to go out and face the world. Working with the students is the greatest joy.” Despite what many would think, S. Ginny feels her students have not changed much over the years. “They have different obstacles but they have always had obstacles,” she explains. “They have a lot more thrown at them and the world they are in is a lot different. The challenges are different but they are the same good kids.” As with any profession the field has changed through the years and S. Ginny says professional development has always been important to her. She is involved in state and national science teachers associations, as well as attends yearly conventions. She says these opportunities allow her to continue to learn and grow. She particularly benefitted from these learnings this past year after being called on to teach students remotely, setting up a spare bedroom in her home to Zoom students and attempt at-home experiments together.
Drawing on the spirit of Sisters of Charity founder, Saint I n terc o m
S. Ginny Scherer has ministered as a Chemistry and Physics teacher at Lehman Catholic High School in Sidney, Ohio, for more than 40 years.
Elizabeth Seton, in her ministry, S. Ginny admires the strong, caring woman Elizabeth was to all she encountered. “I have been blessed with a lot of friends inside and outside of the Community, former students, parents, teachers, Sisters of Charity. Elizabeth gives me courage to be that kind of friend. How she treated her students, she cared about each one of them and what was happening to them, I try to carry that on. “So many times you’ll notice that someone is struggling, whether it be with school or in their personal life. Oftentimes we do not know what happens in their lives before they arrive in the morning or when they leave in the afternoon. When I see that they are struggling in the subject matter, I offer for them to stop in and work on it. That one-on-one teaching is probably the best teaching. I enjoy that even more.” Like her call to religious life, S. Ginny was meant to be a teacher. Her example and her devotion to the success and wellbeing of each and every student has long been admired and celebrated by her former students, parents and coworkers. Little did she know when she took that first Chemistry class with S. Ignatius in 1958 that her unanswered prayers would lead to 50-plus joyful years in the classroom. V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
It was S. Ignatius Sanche’s chemistry class at the College of Mount St. Joseph that changed S. Ginny Scherer’s ministry direction and led her to teaching.
Living the Charism of
Elizabeth Ann Seton By S. Mary Ann Flannery
s soon as her feet hit the floor every morning, Susan (Susie) Gibbons, superintendent of Cincinnati Catholic Schools, says a prayer to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: “Please don’t give me anything I can’t handle!” Across town, Kathy Ciarla, president of Seton High School, follows her morning prayer with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s invocation: “Today, help me to meet your grace.” Ciarla will say that prayer repeatedly in the high school chapel throughout her day.
That’s the same mindset of Kathy Ciarla. She graduated from both Seton High School and Mount Saint Joseph University (MSJU), Sisters of Charity sponsored institutions. Gibbons also graduated from MSJU. Ciarla credits Seton principal Karen Klug White, also an alum, and the staff at Seton and its Board for their incredible cooperation and leadership especially during the two most recent challenges: assistance in relocation and acceptance of students from Mercy Both women share a lifetime of High School which had closed, and the commitment to Catholic education with Susie Gibbons, superintendent reorganization of fundraising because of the charism of their model, St. Elizabeth Ann of schools for the Archdiocese of the pandemic. “We now have a monthly Seton. Gibbons runs the fifth largest Catholic Cincinnati, worked at Seton High School raffle. This year’s results are trending up for 30 years, the last 13 as principal. school district in the nation with 40,000 and we are part of Girls Schools Unite with students throughout 19 counties and Ciarla the other five Catholic girls high schools who compete for navigates the challenges of keeping her school financially the highest number of alum to contribute. We achieved the healthy and academically thriving for more than 500 young highest this month bringing in more than $100,000.” women. Gibbons readily admits she learned the most about education while working at Seton High School for 30 years, the last 13 as principal. She has been superintendent for the last 10 years and was thrilled to see when she arrived that the archdiocesan conference room in the chancery is named for Elizabeth Ann Seton. “Her influence in Cincinnati was profound, from the start of the archdiocese, and certainly the beginnings of the Sisters of Charity, now in Delhi.” She added, “Elizabeth Seton was far ahead of her time and that is something that attracts me very much.” The pandemic gave Gibbons an opportunity to live Elizabeth’s foresight. “Since March 12 of last year, our district planned for every eventuality,” she said. “My goal was to make sure every child was accounted for and had an adult with them when learning from home.” When schools moved to the hybrid system in the fall, Gibbons encouraged principals to make their own decisions as to closings and tracing if they thought these decisions were needed. “We have found that technology is unequal and social interaction is very important. I am very concerned about children in poverty.” Now the Catholic schools in Cincinnati are open with 4,000 teachers doing their best to equalize the outcome of the virus and “move forward to secure funding toward better learning for our children.” 8
Ciarla has no doubt that Elizabeth Ann Seton has put a hand on her shoulder all her life. “I was raised by the Sisters of Charity!” she says laughingly. “I attended a Charity grade school, high school, college. My confirmation saint and name is Elizabeth Seton! I have taught all of my children about her.” Ciarla is Seton through and through! Sister of Charity Kathryn Ann Connelly was constantly on the move during her long career in education. The
Seton High School President Kathy Ciarla (third from left) said former Seton principal, Sister of Charity Kathryn Ann Connelly (third from right), encouraged her to ‘meet her grace’ in every circumstance. I n terc o m
former elementary school teacher and principal, and later, high school principal, and still later, superintendent of Cincinnati Catholic schools, Connelly was ready for anything in education. She loved it as an “apostolate,” the term used in her early days of assignments. And she never stopped loving it! For Connelly, the attributes of vitality, challenge, and courage in Elizabeth Seton, supported everything she did in education. Gibbons, a student at Alter High School in Dayton when Connelly taught says, “She (Connelly) gave me the mantra, ‘don’t give me anything I can’t handle.’” Connelly also encouraged Ciarla to look forward to ‘meeting her grace’ each day. Connelly sees Elizabeth Seton as a mover and a shaker! “This is what educators are,” she says, “always moving toward the future, to service, to God, toward the Church.” Elizabeth Seton provided that inspiration. Elizabeth moved with vitality in creating schools for all children regardless of their means. She faced challenges in the effort that would have overcome the average woman, particularly points out Ciarla, “… handling the deaths of her husband and children even as she moved toward a new faith and creating the beginning of Catholic schools in this country, and a religious community of vowed women.” Connelly sees Elizabeth Seton as a shaker because she challenged her family and friends to be open to new ways in life. She went face-to-face with Church leaders to secure whatever she needed for her mission. “As an educator,” said Connelly, “I had the opportunity to follow Elizabeth, inviting students, teachers, and schools to step up and out; to welcome change, and always be children of the Church.” Like S. Kathryn Ann Connelly, Sister of Charity Brenda Busch felt her mission in life was to be a pilgrim. When approached to consider becoming principal of Seton High School, Busch asked to give a year as assistant principal first. And the principal, who became her mentor, was none other than S. Kathryn Ann Connelly! Busch had lots to learn since she was making a giant leap to high school administration after seven years as principal of an elementary school and
Elizabeth Seton’s influence has always been appreciated throughout Seton High School President Kathy Ciarla’s education, career and personal life.
10 years before that of teaching on this level. But, she was a pilgrim; she took to it. Immediately, in her year as assistant principal, Busch developed a habit of popping into the chapel at Seton asking for the grace to rely on God whenever she was unsure of something. The practice stayed with her for the rest of her time at Seton. The following year, when Busch became principal, Susie Gibbons became her assistant principal. Throughout this pilgrimage, Busch felt Elizabeth Seton’s reliance on God’s faithfulness and love, just as the saint had done before her. After Seton, Busch became principal of Holy Family School in Cincinnati for 12 years. “I had learned that a good leader listens so I tried to listen to my staff, parents and students. And I liked rolling up my sleeves to work with them.” She’s convinced that students caught on to the example of their teachers and became centered on serving others. “We had several Sisters on these missions, so there were plenty of examples of St. Elizabeth Ann’s charism at work,” she added. Today, Busch is retired from education and is a volunteer at WIN, Working in Neighborhoods, an organization that helps create thriving communities through home ownership education, financial, literacy and leadership programs for the underserved. Her sister, Barbara Busch, also a Sister of Charity, and an alum of Seton High School, founded the organization 40 years ago.
S. Brenda Busch served as principal at Seton High School from 1983 until 1997.
V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
All four of these educators can tell marvelous stories of alums from Catholic schools and particularly the schools and diocesan departments where they had served. As Kathy Ciarla says, “When I look out at an audience at a fundraiser or an assembly of supporters, I see alums who are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and of course, moms. I see the effect of Elizabeth Ann Seton in every one of these persons and their contributions to the world.” 9
Called to Teach: S. Mary Alice Haithcoat’s Dedicated Education Ministry By Erin Reder
Mary Alice Haithcoat’s first love is teaching. The gentle kindness and joy that she guides her second graders with can be traced back to her parents’ deep faith and the many teachers she has been inspired by throughout the years. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, S. Mary Alice fondly remembers picnics after Mass when she was a little girl. Her parents stressed the importance of faith early on by making Sunday the most special day in their household, reflecting on the Masses they attended while enjoying time together. She first was introduced to religious life with the Sisters of Mercy at St. Cecilia grade school and then with the Sisters of Charity at St. Mary/Marian High School. “I had some great teachers who really S. Mary Alice Haithcoat has been ministering at Piqua Catholic School in Piqua, Ohio, impressed me, including Sisters Joan Deiters and Mary since 1993. Lucia Dudzinski,” she reflects. “They made learning Screencastify and Zoom were all added to her teaching very interesting, as well as fun.” It was their example repertoire in 2020. And while technology can provide its and her parents’ focus on faith that planted and nurtured challenges, she is grateful to her fellow teachers and principal the seeds of a religious vocation; S. Mary Alice entered the who have all been helpful. Community on Aug. 28, 1966. S. Mary Alice has always appreciated the guidance For as long as she can remember S. Mary Alice says she and example of her former teachers and co-workers. She knew she wanted to be a teacher. She began her education is particularly grateful for the leadership of S. Joan Clare ministry teaching at Holy Angels in Sidney, Ohio, and Stewart, her former principal at St. Mary in Greenville. “She then St. Mary in Greenville, Ohio, where she also served as was a wonderful model of Christian leadership,” remembers principal (1984-1993). In 1993 she came to Piqua Catholic Sister. “Her compassion, patience, and prayerfulness were a School in Piqua, Ohio, and has spent nearly three decades part of her everyday life. Joan Clare led by word and example. ministering at the school in various roles. She also was a great teacher and the students really enjoyed “I love teaching children,” she says. “My students energize and respected her.” me and give me new life each day. Their laughter, smiles, The dedication and hard work of principals and teachers spirit, and love are contagious.” Currently Sister teaches also brings to mind Sisters of Charity founder, St. Elizabeth second grade and says it is a gift to teach the Sacraments and Ann Seton. Elizabeth’s ability to meet challenges with dignity watch the children receive their First Communion. “It makes and her love of God and neighbor provide an example me feel like a proud parent,” she says. “Since I have been here so long, I am teaching grandchildren and children of my S. Mary Alice chooses to follow in her own ministry and life as a Sister of Charity. former students. It is wonderful now seeing them as faithfilled adults sending their children to Piqua Catholic.” Like many Sisters of Charity before her, S. Mary Alice Haithcoat was called to teach. Her love for and commitment Throughout her 50-plus years in education, S. Mary to her students has provided them with the guidance, support Alice has seen numerous changes. Family life, technology, and inspiration needed to live lives as faithful disciples of society, and the media have presented challenges at times. Jesus. As a gentle mentor, S. Mary Alice has continued the Most recently she found herself teaching during a pandemic, legacy of Charity as she not only teaches her lessons but and having to develop new ways to engage her students touches her students’ hearts and persons. while learning from home and online. Google classroom, 10
I n terc o m
Benches made out of recycled plastic bottle caps and lids sit at the entrance of EarthConnection.
Serving Learning students from Mount St. Joseph University have been helping EarthConnection staff with research projects as well as working in the garden and on the bottle cap project.
Working Towards a Sustainable Future By S. Caroljean Willie
here is a growing awareness that a moral voice is needed in the effort to work towards avoiding the worst impacts of climate change as well as to collaborate on sustainability initiatives for the benefit of all Creation. EarthConnection (EC) has taken an active role in this endeavor. Several months ago, a new book was published entitled Faith for Earth: A Call for Action. It was coauthored by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Parliament of Religions. It describes the essential, unshakeable reverence that all religions have for creation and nature, and introduces the world’s major life support systems. The authors hope that the book will provide information and inspiration to learn more about Planet Earth and to encourage people to share knowledge and commitment to care for it, and to become part of the flourishing global interfaith movement that is increasingly bringing people together to protect and sustain life on Earth. EC hosted a webinar on this document. (Free download of book at www.wedocs.unep.org) Shortly after that another publication was released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, and the Catholic Climate Covenant entitled “Ecumenical and Interreligious Guidebook: Care for Our Common Home,” as a guide to offer insights into how Catholics can bring the riches of the Catholic theological tradition to ecumenical and interreligious discussion and actions that uphold the dignity and sanctity of the environment. (Free download of book at https://www.usccb. org/resources/care-our-common-home). At the local level, Green Umbrella, the Cincinnati regional sustainability alliance, initiated an Impact Team entitled Faith Communities Go Green whose mission is V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
to partner with religious communities to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all by mobilizing their moral voice to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change. S. Caroljean (Cj) Willie serves on the steering committee of this Impact Team and is working with people of multiple faiths throughout the Greater Cincinnati Area to bring the moral voices of our faith traditions together and to provide a platform for providing tools to congregations to use at their local levels, but also to share resources and work together to have a greater impact on environmental sustainability in our area. Post-pandemic, EarthConnection will be hosting a number of meetings and trainings on our site to work towards that goal. (www.greenumbrella.org/faith) Plastic bottle caps and lids continue to pour in from all over the country to be recycled into benches and picnic tables. S. Winnie Brubach and Associate Sue DiTullio recently made another trip to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, and returned with a new picnic table and another bench. EC is working with Mount St. Joseph University to provide service-learning opportunities for students. Several students are working on research projects while others are helping with the garden and the bottle cap project. Due to the pandemic, we were not able to host meetings on-site, but have held webinars bi-monthly to continue to provide input on environmental issues. Speakers have included Fr. Terry Moran; S. Carol DeAngelo, SC (NY); S. Gertie Jocksch, SC (Halifax); S. Maureen Wild, SC (Halifax); Sue DiTullio, SC Associate; and S. Cj Willie. Our website, www.scearthconnection.org, has previous webinars as well as information on upcoming ones. All webinars are free, but it is necessary to register on the website to get the Zoom information. 11
God’s Creation on the Move By S. Teresa Dutcher
ritish historian Arnold J. Toynbee once wrote, “History is a vision of God’s creation on the move.” Our Sisters of Charity Archives is certainly an example of this literally and figuratively in these past months. As members of ACWR (Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious), we know that religious Archives are unique, containing not only the history of a congregation but also the history of the times in which Sisters serve. In 1852 the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati became a separate congregation from the Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, Maryland, where Elizabeth Seton founded the first community of women religious native to the United States. In 150-plus years, we have collected a lot of archival material. Today, many congregations, facing significant moves and closures, are deciding what to do with Archives’ collections. It is a normal process of creation moving into the future. Our Congregational decision to demolish Seton Hall, the building in which we have housed our Archives along with other Congregational services, has sped things along. Downsizing while preserving the past for the future became the challenge. Old media such as microfiche was digitized. Extra copies of Community-related books were sent to our sponsored ministries and other area heritage institutions. Our Catholic Directory collection completed the collection of our sponsored ministry Mount St. Joseph University. Extras were advertised in the Catholic Research Resource Alliance newsletter for interested parties to complete their respective collections.
When addressing the need to downsize the extensive
Archivist Veronica Buchanan assists movers with transferring the Archives Repository items to their new location in Marian Hall.
artifact collection in preparation for the transition to a smaller Repository space, Archivist Veronica Buchanan and S. Joyce Brehm worked to identify artifacts that personified a significant event, person or place in the Community’s history. Those items were prioritized for continued preservation while others that didn’t have any notable documentations in our extensive artifact inventories were de-accessioned over the past year. For example, statues like the Sacred Heart, which had been a fixture on the second floor of Seton Hall, were donated to the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, Ohio. To further maximize efficient use of our new Repository space, all framed pieces were also evaluated and more than 40 oversized photographs, art prints and significant documents were pulled from their respective frames and moved into cabinets designed to store blueprints and maps. Moving to a new, renovated space in our Motherhouse necessitated precise measuring, labeling, etc. Creating detailed floor plans of the new spaces and finding exact places for furniture in advance certainly helped expedite the moving process. S. Sheila Gallagher assisted to create these plans and coordinated on-site to execute the vision. We chose to be both creator and executor on the big day. Moving carts were divided into alphabetic pods so they could be moved and placed together in order. The actual move really could have gone awry quickly if the moving team didn’t communicate well to one another.
S. Sheila Gallagher helps movers and staff as they begin to position archival items into their new, renovated space in the Motherhouse. S. Sheila was integral in helping prepare for the move, creating detailed floor plans and intricately measuring all spaces and items that would be moved into each space. 12
It has been rewarding to see the dedication and enthusiasm of our Archivist Veronica Buchanan, the Archives staff and our Congregational historian S. Judith Metz in not only preserving our history but in making it readily available to our own Congregation and to others in a meaningful way. I n terc o m
Moving In Employees working in Seton Hall began preparations to move from the building at the end of last year, with most employees relocating in December 2020. Renovations of existing buildings and office space on campus as well as construction of a new ministry building on Bender Road will provide comfortable and upgraded work areas for employees.
6. 1. Finance Office employees moved to the second floor of Marian Hall in December. 2. Much care transpired to plan and create the modern and efficient new work spaces for SC employees that will meet their needs for decades to come. 3. Transportation was the first to relocate from Seton Hall with its new offices situated on the first floor of McGree Hall. 4. In order for Communications to move into its new home on the first floor of Marian Hall, walls had to be removed and constructed, in addition to painting and carpeting work. V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
7. 5. Information Systems programmer/analyst Dave Buller enjoys his new office space in Marian Hall. In anticipation of the move, IS was integral in working with an outside company to improve network and WiFi capability within the Motherhouse. 6. Human Resources, originally located in St. Mary’s on the Motherhouse campus, has now been relocated into renovated space on the second floor of Marian Hall. 7. SC employees assisted movers with relocating office items and furniture from Seton Hall to their new homes on campus.
Saying Goodbye to Seton Hall
emolition on Seton Hall officially began on the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse campus on Feb. 23, 2021 with the ceremonial first swing taken by Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati President Pat Hayden. The activity set in motion the careful process of taking the 90-year-old building down. Throughout the subsequent weeks, Sisters and employees watched carefully as the building was officially razed in a month’s time. Additional photos as well as tributes to Seton Hall can be found in the Photo Gallery of the Sisters of Charity website (www.srcharitycinti.org).
Shortly after the first swing took place, O’Rourke began demolition near the former Seton Hall entrance.
The limestone-engraved sign above the entrance of Seton Hall was removed and saved before the building’s demolition. 14
S. Pat Hayden takes the ceremonial first swing to begin the building’s demolition. I n t e rc o m
Members of the Sisters of Charity Leadership Team, Campus Refurbishing Committee and Turner Construction prepare for the beginning of demolition on Seton Hall.
One full week after demolition began the entire front portion of the building had been torn down and work continued on the back wing of the building, portions most recently serving offices for SC Communications, Finance and Transportation.
Nearly three weeks into demolition and the building was mostly razed.
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Demolition progress could be seen quickly. Only a few days after the project began nearly one wing of the building had been torn down.
One section of the building (closest to Marian Hall) was taken down brick by brick.
A view of the back wing of the building from Marian Hall. Four weeks after the demolition began and all that remained was rubble.
A view of the new look of the west end of the Motherhouse from the parking lot used by Seton Hall employees and guests.
In the Name of Love By S. Regina Kusnir
acations often include travel to a foreign country where we encounter different cultures, languages, foods, music, etc. We delight in these experiences, even if we hold an English/French/ Spanish dictionary close at hand. When someone befriends us as we look questionably at something, we might recall the words of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hospitality is one of the hallmarks of the Sisters of Charity. We recognize that our call is to “meet the needs that God lets us see,” as St. Vincent de Paul said. We identify with others in the manner stated in our Charism: “As pilgrims we pray for the wisdom to know the needs of our sisters and brothers and we dare to (From left) Marie, Samuel, Samuela and Samuel arrived in the United States in September 2018 seeking asylum. risk a caring response.” It was July 2018 when Jennifer Long from Casa Marianella in Austin, Texas contacted the Sisters in search of those who could welcome and assist families seeking asylum. The Congregation decided to risk that caring response. At the time S. Sandy Howe was making a 30-day retreat and was asked to consider this ministry. A life guided by trust in God found S. Sandy reflecting on the request: “Live simply so others can simply live has guided me my entire life. I believe God calls us, through our baptismal call, to love and serve others.” Prayer, conversations and trust in God led S. Sandy to say ‘yes’ to becoming the Newcomers Transitions Program Coordinator. There were a few guidelines, but the ministry would unfold daily as situations arose. Blessings in abundance continue to shower the journey.
what we had was a mom and dad, a little girl and a little boy,” she said. “The dad is Samuel, mom is Marie, the 7-year-old son is Samuel and the 3-year-old daughter is Samuela. I felt bad. I had little boy toys at the home on our property but nothing pink for the little girl. It didn’t take me long to get that corrected.”
It Takes a Community
S. Sandy was asked to receive a family of four, mom, dad and two children, and meet them at the bus station on Sept. 24, 2018 in Cincinnati. The farmhouse on the Motherhouse property was prepared to receive the Community’s first family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). S. Sandy was expecting mom, dad and two boys ages 3 and 7. “Well, 16
Why Asylum? Samuel, Marie and their children fled the DRC due to political unrest and persecution of their heritage. Samuel was also tortured, having his feet burned and cut with machetes. With no other choice, they trekked through 11 countries until they entered the U.S. through Eagle Pass, Texas, and expressed their intent to apply for asylum. Everything was new: country, language, culture, food, ways of doing things. Resources were tapped by S. Sandy to help in the transition. Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio has English as a Second Language (ESL) and job readiness classes, access to an immigration lawyer and knowledge of others coming from similar backgrounds. A variety of Sisters and I n terc o m
Associates chipped in where possible to assist S. Sandy with the myriad efforts needed during this time of adjustment.
Communication The family spoke Lingala along with some French, Portuguese, Spanish and a “hi” or “hello” in English. S. Sandy recalls, “I contacted some Sisters and Associates that knew French and could help us communicate. We also signed the parents up for ESL classes in the morning and job readiness classes in the afternoon with interpreters in Lingala. “We were able to find a church they felt comfortable in,” she continued. “It has a diverse population including many from Burundi and the Congo as well as Spanish-speaking countries; there is a translator for the readings and homily. Due to COVID-19 we haven’t been able to be there since spring of 2020; we all are looking forward to when we can go back.”
All Manner of Needs Transportation to and from school for both the children and their parents was an issue as was a babysitter. Sisters and Associates were able to help out. Associate Patricia Plogmann was hired as an administrative assistant for the office, and Sisters Pat Malarkey, Pat Wittberg, Nancy Bramlage, Martha Glockner, Annette Paveglio and Associates Christa Bauke and Mary Ellen Williams assisted with transportation either to school or to church, speaking French and childcare. “I signed the children up for school,” said S. Sandy. “We arranged for medical, spiritual, grocery, clothing, legal, and social needs taking it one day at a time. The family was introduced to parks, libraries, museums, parish festivals, etc.”
As the Newcomers Transitions Program Coordinator S. Sandy Howe (left) has assisted Samuela and her family in seeking asylum and with all their needs upon entering and living in the United States.
Associate Patricia Plogmann (left) was hired as the administrative assistant for the Newcomers Transitions Program when it first began.
The Asylum Process S. Sandy and the family met with Catholic Charities’ immigration law department in early 2019 and spent several months of meetings and appointments to get the information and build a case for the family. In late summer 2019, the case was submitted and an appointment was made to go to Chicago for the interview in December of that year. S. Sandy said a lot of praying took place as they waited month after month after month for a decision. They received word Dec. 1, 2020 that their case was approved and they could stay in the U.S. indefinitely.
2021 Work permits came in the fall of 2020. Samuel works in the Sisters of Charity maintenance department and Marie is employed at Amazon. The children are thriving. The family anticipates moving into their own place, obtaining drivers’ licenses and a car. Samuel said, “I am happy in the way the Sisters of Charity and Catholic Charities helped us with everything. … We are so thankful for everything they did, how God helps us and we help each other.” Marie added, “Me and my family, we now feel good … we have jobs … our kids go to school. We want to say we have a good life now.” S. Sandy is grateful for the energy, the passion, the patience, the innumerable relationships, and the blessings of this ministry. The love and the gifts she and the family have exchanged are many. “Trust in God!” she says. “Pray always; I know I am never alone. God is always with me!” The Sisters of Charity and the Associates are graced for their willingness to envision and support this ministry. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” Heb. 13:2. The family certainly found an angel in S. Sandy and those who continue to assist her.
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Blessings Among Us By S. Georgia Kitt
t was 2008, and I vividly remember the phone call from Assumption College in Denville, New Jersey. Excitement overcame as I listened to the request. The Leadership Council soon began to think of what this could mean for the women we welcomed, for our Community and for the education Mount St. Joseph University (MSJU) could offer them; we cautioned ourselves that all needed to ‘fall into place’ for this opportunity to become a reality. And it did! Now, 13 years later, we can reflect on the gift of presence of these six international Sisters who became a blessing among us. Sisters Yoon Mi Kim, Rustica Kayombo, Petra Mkongwa, Maria Pham, Marita Mafarutu and Domitille Ndayisenga, religious women from five different communities, and native to South Korea, Vietnam, Burundi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, have lived among us and earned their MSJU degrees while sharing their lives, cultures and wisdom. They are now leaders in their own ministries, faithfully contributing to Gospel living and their communities’ missions. S. Jean Miller’s connection with several of the resident international Sisters came about due to them missing rice, a staple food in their diets. This was true for Sisters Yoon Mi, Petra and Rustica. Even our Motherhouse kitchen got involved in cooking rice in familiar ways for S. Rustica after seeking her input. Sisters Yoon Mi and Jean would share their missionary experiences over a meal at a local Chinese restaurant. “I learned so much about South Korea and how advanced they are in the technology field,” S. Jean said. S. Victoria Marie Forde also enjoys an ongoing connection with S. Yoon Mi through shared photos of her current ministry and experiences. S. Victoria Marie believes she has learned far more from each of the international Sisters than she was able to provide. “They have broadened my outlook on the world and the beauty in God’s family.” She usually connected with the Sisters as ‘English teacher’ and helped to not change the content, but convey each Sister’s intent in what she wrote. S. Victoria Marie still communicates with S. Maria Pham from whom she feels she learned the most personally, related to the latest in Catholic theology. “S. Rustica seemed to be ‘at home’ from the beginning of her time with us,” S. Jean commented. Sisters Jean and Rustica did gardening together in the ‘backyard’ of the Motherhouse, harvesting tomatoes, corn and greens, starting most from seed. Cooking together they offered small dinner 18
S. Yoon Mi Kim (back) developed a close friendship with S. Victoria Marie Forde during Yoon Mi’s time living at Mount St. Joseph.
parties from their yield and enjoyed great conversation. Sisters Marie Irene and Mary Dolores Schneider were honored to live in community with the international Sisters in Seton Hall over the past 12 years. “Living with these Sisters from such different cultures has given us a concrete view of how similar we are in our religious commitments and prayer lives as well as our ministry responsibilities,” S. Marie Irene shared. S. Mary Dolores added, “We understand more specifically the difficult lives of religious Sisters in other countries, especially those in Africa.” They saw what a firm foundation each had received at Assumption College (New Jersey), especially writing college essays. Each Sister knew the format very well; their difficulties came with vocabulary, pronouns, prepositions and verb tenses. I n terc o m
S. Mary Dolores learned the importance of taking a relaxing walk from S. Maria after an extended study or lecture time. S. Yoon Mi would sit out on a tree stump to relax in nature, often reflecting on the peace of the trees and the Ohio River. S. Marie Irene was taught the importance of a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the example of S. Domitille. “She would frequently tell me to say three Hail Mary’s before her test or even 10 Hail Mary’s before an important exam. And she would check on me!” Each of these Sisters demonstrated such courage to embrace life in a foreign country and to live comfortably with 80 American sisters. S. Mary Bookser’s interaction with S. Yoon Mi began when she was on staff, teaching religious studies at Mount St. Joseph University. They would meet outside of class and their discussions have left a special place in S. Mary’s heart. She found S. Yoon Mi to be reflective and gentle with a mission-driven focus. S. Mary Barbara Philippart usually offered assistance to international students with their studies or with English. They seemed to know that it was wise to have more than one Sister helping them with their English so not to ‘bother’ the same person all the time and to have someone to consult when one was not able to help. Sisters Mary Barbara and Rustica became friends when Rustica needed help in understanding something or how best to write something. She also became an occasional supper guest of Sisters Jean and Rustica’s gardening yield. Sisters Mary Barbara and Martha became friends because of their teasing. When S. Martha informed her that the leaders of her community expected her to send money back
to them, S. Mary Barbara was able to be of assistance. Having missionary experience herself, S. Mary Barbara was able to connect Martha with the Missionary Cooperation Plan of the U.S. Bishops and how to become part of it. S. Martha’s first assignment to preach was in 2013 in northern Ohio and S. Mary Barbara traveled with; she helped S. Martha write her talk showing her how to incorporate the Sunday readings. S. Martha has preached every year since, in different dioceses and on different projects, with S. Mary Barbara reviewing each talk. S. Martha has provided money for her community to make numerous repairs and additions to their motherhouse and local community. She returns to her Sisters in her native Zimbabwe annually to offer a retreat. S. Martha is extremely grateful to the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters at the Motherhouse accepted her, welcomed her, supported her and made her feel one with them as well as educating her. She feels that our Motherhouse is her Motherhouse in the States and she knows that she grew professionally and spiritually during her stay. Sisters Domitille and Mary Barbara became friends when both lived in the Motherhouse. They said morning prayers, the rosary and evening prayers with a small group in the Rosary Chapel. S. Domitille was not sure she always understood what she was reading so the two would get together in the evening to go over her questions. S. Sandy Howe got to know Sisters Rustica and Domitille when taking them on trips to the store and now helping with ‘click it’ lists in these COVID-19 days. She adds minutes on S. Domitille’s phone through her computer to help her remain connected with class and community interactions. Rides back from class are always offered on cold or rainy days. “I so admire these Sisters’ dedication to their studies and am happy to help them where I can,” added S. Sandy. The sharing, the friendships and the learnings have left deep impressions on the women included in this story. This is only a small sampling of the relationships and experiences resulting from these international women religious coming into the lives of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. God’s presence has been felt!
Sisters Marie Irene Schneider (left), Mary Dolores Schneider (center) and the late Benedicta Mahoney (right) became good friends while helping Sisters Maria Pham (second from left) and Martha Mafarutu with their studies at Mount St. Joseph University. V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
To learn more about where Sisters Yoon Mi, Rustica, Petra, Maria, Martha and Domitille are living and ministering today, please visit the Sisters of Charity website at ….
Carrying Forward the Spirit: 200 years after Elizabeth Seton’s death, Cincinnati SCs follow in her spirit By S. Judith Metz
are is the Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who has not ministered in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Just eight years after the diocese was established in 1821, the Sisters of Charity began their service. Since, they have been a permanent and pervasive presence in church ministries of education, health care and social outreach in many cities and small towns throughout the diocese. In doing so they were inspired by their founder, St. Elizabeth Seton, who expressed the spirit of the Community when she wrote of the joy she felt “at the prospect of being able to assist the poor, visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful, clothe little innocents, and teach them to love God.”
took a canal boat to Dayton where they opened St. Mary’s Academy and free school, and two years later traveled to St. Patrick’s in Fayetteville to open a boarding school for boys and a free school for village children. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 a majority of the Sisters served the sick and wounded soldiers in military hospitals from the east coast to the Mississippi River as well as at St. John’s Hospital.
Between the Civil War and the end of the 19th century the Sisters followed the roads, canals, and railroads north and east from Cincinnati to serve in schools from Glendale to Findlay; from Marion In 1854 the Sisters of to Chillicothe to Portsmouth. Meanwhile Charity established Mount Elizabeth Seton had a deep desire to the number of schools in Cincinnati St. Vincent Academy in Price teach poor children but economic necessity multiplied to include Northside, Mount Hill (Cincinnati); today the determined that she open a pay school Adams, Madisonville, and Norwood. By school is known as Seton where students’ fees could support serving the early 1900s the Sisters were educating High School. the poor. She also never lost her desire to well over 8,500 children per year in parish provide care for the sick, visit the poor schools, orphanages, and academies in their homes, and assist the needy in any way possible. The throughout the archdiocese. Cincinnati Sisters embraced this vision. In addition to opening To serve the needs of the schools the Community a pay school, free school, and girls orphan asylum in 1829, they continually worked to strengthen normal school training for worked with the Martha and Mary Society to assist the poor, Sister-teachers. Community supervisors and a school board and nursed during periodic cholera epidemics. oversaw their work and published courses of study. The Sisters Their ministries grew through the 1830s and 1840s as did the number of Sisters working in Cincinnati. However when superiors at their motherhouse decided to join the French Daughters of Charity, six of the Sisters in Cincinnati chose a different direction. Wishing to continue Elizabeth Seton’s original vision of serving the American church, they applied to Archbishop John Purcell who supported them in establishing a diocesan community under the leadership of S. Margaret George in 1852. Opening a novitiate and accepting new members their numbers swelled, allowing the Sisters to expand their ministries. Within two months of their founding, St. Joseph’s Boys Orphan Asylum opened and in November Bishop John Purcell purchased property where the Sisters started St. John’s (later Good Samaritan) Hospital. Soon the Sisters opened new schools in Cincinnati, including Mount St. Vincent Academy in Price Hill (later Seton High School). By 1857 four Sisters 20
attended six-week summer courses and continued their work during the school year studying to pass exams required to teach specific grades. As high schools began to proliferate, the Sisters received additional opportunities to attend summer and Saturday classes at local colleges and universities. While many Sisters were involved in classroom education, others ministered in health care and social outreach. St. Joseph’s Infant and Maternity Home founded in 1873 provided a unique service in the archdiocese. Besides caring for young mothers and their newborns, St. Joseph served as a maternity hospital for neighboring communities. In addition, while many babies were adopted, others resided at the home until they were transferred to St. Joseph Orphanage. The Sisters conducted a preschool and kindergarten for these children, as well as providing prenatal instruction for the expectant mothers. In 1976 St. Joseph’s changed its focus to caring for individuals with complex disabilities, a service it continues to offer. I n terc o m
The Sisters of Charity established The Santa Maria Educational and Industrial Home in 1897 as a settlement house to serve Cincinnati’s Italian immigrant population.
changing need of students led to the college becoming Mount St. Joseph University in 2014. Through the decades from the 1920s through the 1960s the number of Sisters grew as did their ministries. By the end of 1960s, however, many changes in our society, the Church, and the Congregation dictated new approaches to their work. Fewer Sisters worked in classrooms, but new work as campus ministers, pastoral ministers, directors of religious education, and hospital chaplains became available. In addition, Sisters founded organizations such as The Literacy Network, Bethany House, Working in Neighborhoods, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, The Women’s Connection, Seton Family Center and EarthConnection. Sisters worked in the Archdiocesan Education Office and on boards of educational and social service organizations. In the 1980s the Community moved into ministry to the elderly with the founding of Eldermount, and a few years later opened Bayley, a retirement and wellness community serving senior citizens. DePaul Cristo Rey High School, distinguished by its uniquely affordable college prep curriculum and its innovative work program, opened in 2011.
Other endeavors included The Santa Maria Educational and Industrial Home that has offered an array of services for immigrants and the needy since its beginning in 1897. This first Catholic settlement house in the United States pioneered modern methods of social service delivery and continues to do so. In 1915 the Sisters of Charity began their work in deaf education at St. Rita School for the Deaf. Sisters continued to staff the school into the 21st century In May 1997 S. Mary Jo Gasdorf adopting updated educational programs established The Women’s and methods as well as providing many Connection, a holistic center enrichment activities for their students. offering programs to meet the When Springer School was designated needs of women and families a school for children with learning in the Price Hill (Cincinnati) disabilities beginning in 1943, Sisters of community. Charity staffed it. By the 1960s the Sisters there developed an avant-garde program that has made the school a national leader in its field.
Through their 192 years ministering in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Sisters of Charity have touched hundreds of thousands of lives through their educational, health care and social service endeavors. In doing so they have endeavored to follow in the spirit of their founder, Saint Elizabeth Seton, with the unrelenting goal “to assist the poor, visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful, clothe little innocents and teach them to love God.”
In addition to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, the Sisters also conducted Seton Hospital in Cincinnati (18971924), and Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton (1932-2018). All three of these institutions sponsored schools of nursing beginning in 1896 when the Cincinnati hospital opened its school, now the Good Samaritan College of Nursing. The hospital also conducted a school for medical technologists, a dietetic internship, a school of practical nursing, and an X-Ray technicians training program. After staffing numerous elementary schools and a growing number of high schools, the Sisters opened the College of Mount St. Joseph in 1920 as the first Catholic women’s college chartered in the state of Ohio. Through the years growing enrollment, the addition and expansion of programs, and the V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
S. Florentine Bunline was one of many Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who have ministered at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati since its beginnings in 1852.
Re-Imagining a Motherhouse By S. Dorothy Ann Blatnica
hen five Vincentian Sisters of Charity of Pittsburgh arrived on Sept. 4, 1928 on the Bedford, Ohio property donated to them by Cleveland’s Bishop Joseph Schrembs, little did they realize how that property would evolve in the coming years. In not quite a century, the mansion they greeted would one day become a modern apartment complex.
chapel, also in-the-round. The exterior focal point was its bell tower with authentic cast iron bells purchased from a parish church in Maryland. Those bells announced the daily and special events of the life of the Sisters from the noon and six o’clock ringing of the Angelus to celebrations and funerals. It would peal and toll as the situation required. As Sisters retired and returned to live at the Motherhouse, the bells continued to remind their Bedford neighbors that their needs were held in prayer by the Sisters. Those neighbors took saddened notice when the bells rang for the last time in 2010 when the last group of Sisters moved from the Motherhouse.
At the time their minds were fixed on turning the empty and some-what neglected mansion into a suitable convent in order to begin their new teaching ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland. On Sept. 10 Bishop Schrembs blessed the property and The stained-glass windows in the chapel of the present named it Villa San Bernardo to honor During the decades of the 1980s community room of Villa San Bernardo remain due to Bernard Schatzinger and his family who their historical designation. and 1990s, changes in the Church and had donated the 20-plus acre estate to in American life precipitated changes the diocese. Within several weeks three young women joined in the membership of American Catholic religious life. Fewer the Sisters as their newest members. By February 1931, the new members and aging older members demanded new cornerstone of a new convent addition was blessed, and in visions for the ongoing life of Catholic women religious. The February 1939, the Vincentian Sisters of Charity in Bedford Vincentian Sisters took this challenge seriously and entered received approval from Rome to be a diocesan congregation into a process of discernment regarding their future as a of women religious. The convent which housed them became congregation of 50 members. This process of research and their official headquarters or “Motherhouse” and would reflection led to a unanimous decision that they needed to remain so for the next 65 years. seek membership with another congregation of Sisters if their mission and charism were to continue into the future. They During those next six decades physical changes were became members of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who made to the Motherhouse building to make it compatible welcomed their new Sisters with warmth and friendship in with the growing numbers of Sisters. Porches were added to the exterior of the building, rooms were added to the interior, 2004. and a chapel was designed as the central focus of the entrance. Sisters experienced their initial formation within its walls and were sent to various ministry assignments throughout the Cleveland diocese. The congregation’s administrative offices were housed within these walls as well. In time, however, the oldest section of the Motherhouse – the “mansion” – began to show its age in a way that called for decisive action. From 1977 to 1979, the mansion was completely razed and in its place a modern extension of the 1931 wing of the Motherhouse was built. It housed a modern kitchen and food service area, a dining room in-the-round, administrative offices, bedrooms, conference room and a 22
This decision created what would become a major change for Villa San Bernardo. No longer a Motherhouse or administrative headquarters, the property became a retirement home for the Sisters living there. In time these Sisters moved to the Motherhouse in Cincinnati and the decision was made to sell the Bedford property. The sale proved to be challenging because of the structure of the hilly landscape and large buildings which did not easily support a parceling of the property. To sell meant to let go of control over what a buyer might choose to do with the property. The legacy of spirituality, education and charitable works could potentially be forgotten and lost forever. The heavenly housed Vincentian I n terc o m
Sisters were barraged with prayers that a new owner would be found who would value the Vincentian legacy as well as the property itself.
In March 2014, the Testa Companies of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio came to view the property. The history and legacy of the property and the Sisters were shared and a thorough inspection of the buildings was conducted. Initially Villa San Bernardo offers a clean, safe, Testa said they welcoming environment to its diverse only wanted the population of residents. Motherhouse building, but after more consideration of the possibilities a purchase agreement was made with the Sisters of Charity. During the ensuing months the original property of 23 acres was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places as a “historic district” in honor of the educational and spiritual endeavors of the Vincentians and their ministry to the Slovak Catholics of the Cleveland Diocese through the Shrine of Our Lady of Levocha. Ultimately the entire property of Villa San Bernardo was purchased by the Testa Companies in 2016. When asked what the property would be named, their answer was immediate: “The property has a name – Villa San Bernardo.”
Most importantly, the new residents fulfill the mission and charism of the earlier Sister-residents. Though they are a diverse population they share the experience of aging on limited incomes, lack of housing choices, failing neighborhoods, and unsuitable living conditions. They delight in their independence and in setting up house in a clean, safe and quiet environment. Though no longer religiously identified, Villa San Bernardo bestows a sense of peace on so many of the residents that they feel compelled to express it. Catholic or not, many are appreciative of the Sisters who lived and worked on this property and feel honored to live here. Signs of the former residents still dot the property and are gentle reminders of the love that nurtured a longlasting identity still to be continued. Vincentian Pathways was created in 2017 to honor the Sisters who developed this property. Eight acres of woods and green space which wrap around the west side of Villa San Bernardo will provide the apartment residents a quiet place to enjoy the outdoors. As a nonprofit, Vincentian Pathways will always maintain this gem of natural beauty.
Testa’s vision for the property was to create new, affordable, independent housing for lower income seniors age 55 and older. Fifty-nine modern one- to two-bedroom apartments were designed for the total retrofitting of both the Motherhouse and Retreat House buildings. Not surprisingly those two The inside of the newly remodeled apartments at Villa San Bernardo in Bedford, Ohio. names were also retained for these buildings. Because of the historic designation, certain areas of these buildings could not be changed: the long hallway at the Retreat House, the hallway Villa San Bernardo, the former and former chaplain’s quarters at the Motherhouse, and certain Motherhouse of the Vincentian Sisters features such as leaded glass windows, chandeliers and the of Charity, is now home to 59 affordable, chapel ceiling and stained-glass windows. independent housing units for lower income seniors age 55 and older.
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Catholic Sisters Week:
Celebrating Traditions, Changing the World
n March Sisters of Charity employees joined others across the country to celebrate Catholic Sisters Week. The weeklong, annual event shines a spotlight on women religious and encourages all who follow Jesus to expand and support their Gospel witness as well as share in their spirituality, charisms and community. In previous years SC employees have planned activities at the Motherhouse to honor the Sisters and celebrate their lives of service and love. Due to the pandemic and campus guidelines, this year the Community and its employees partnered with more than 80 other women’s religious congregations to bring awareness to a growing food insecurity issue in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people of all walks of life, but with no safe, secure place to call home, the homeless population has especially felt the gravity of our current reality. Throughout the week Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall employees collected more than 1,620 nonperishable and personal hygiene items for Community Matters Food Pantry. Donations were delivered on March 18 to a grateful staff. A heartfelt thank you to the Sisters of Charity employees for their donations; their kindness and generosity is a testament to a true commitment to the mission and spirit of the Community. In addition to the food collection, Sisters living in Mother Margaret Hall and the Motherhouse each received a single flower as a sign of appreciation for their faithful years of service to others. The Sisters of Charity Communications Office honored the Community’s 226 SCs with a video celebrating each Sister. To view the video visit www.srcharitycinti.org/2021/03/11/celebrating-our-sisters/.
Throughout the week of March 8-14, Sisters of Charity employees in the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall brought in items to donate to Community Matters Food Pantry.
S. Ann David Wojtylka smiles with the flower she received from Human Resources and the SC employees during Catholic Sisters Week.
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About Community Matters Community Matters works to create a thriving and more just community by removing barriers to opportunity. One of the ways they are able to do so is with the Community Market Pantry, a choice food pantry that provides a dignified shopping experience for families experiencing need. Customers shop for free and with the opportunity to select items that meet the needs of their family. In addition to nonperishable, shelfstable foods, fresh produce, breads, dairy products, and meats are available. The Community Market also offers hygiene products and household cleaning items, which are not covered by food assistance benefits. It is often the first step for families to meet staff and begin on a path towards self-sufficiency. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Market has been able to pivot by connecting with Lower Price Hill families through phone calls and online chats to offer emergency support through the delivery of items directly to the doorsteps of their neighbors. By mid-April of last year, demand for the pantry alone nearly doubled, and families were (and still are) requesting food and supplies more frequently.
Items collected during the Catholic Sisters Week food drive were delivered to Community Matters Food Pantry the following week.
Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Mary Ann Humbert has been a faithful volunteer to the food pantry for a number of years. She has enjoyed getting to meet the families in the neighborhood as she assists shoppers, bags food items, stocks shelves and collects pantry items. She enjoys seeing familiar faces stop by and as she gets to know them, they are more and more comfortable confiding in her. Her listening ear has been a source of comfort and support. If you or your organization is interested in hosting a food drive for Community Matters, contact 513-2442214. For more information about the organization visit www.cmcincy.org.
More than 1,620 nonperishable and personal hygiene items were donated to a grateful staff at Community Matters in Cincinnati, Ohio. S. Mary Ann Humbert (left) has been a faithful volunteer at Community Matters Food Pantry.
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Timeless Treasures By S. Judith Metz
s we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Elizabeth Seton’s death, we may wish we could have been with those gathered at her bedside in her last hours along with her daughter Catherine and the Sisters. We might have prayed with her and listened to her last whisperings: “be united together as true Sisters of Charity”; “stand most faithfully by your rule”; “be daughters of the church, be daughters of the church.” “It seemed to me,” recalled S. Mary Xavier Clark, “that the Lord was there, close by waiting for this beautiful soul – I don’t ever know when His presence was more real to me.” Rev. Simon Bruté recounted one of her last prayers: “Soul of Jesus sanctify me – blood of Jesus wash me.”
Elizabeth Seton was first buried next to her two daughters Anna Maria and Rebecca in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Photo courtesy of the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
A view of the stately oak tree that once marked Elizabeth Seton’s original gravesite. Photo courtesy of the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The oak tree was struck by lightning and fell in 1984. Photo courtesy of the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Maryland. 26
Elizabeth went to God on Jan. 4, 1821. The whole day she lay in the choir of the chapel where all took turns watching. The following day, the eve of the Epiphany, her body was placed in a “plain coffin,” and after Mass was laid to rest in the “little wood” under a stately oak tree near the graves of her two daughters, Anna Maria and Rebecca. Little remains of the original site where Elizabeth was laid to rest. Gone is the little wooden cross that marked her grave; gone is the intimacy of that small cemetery; gone is the towering oak tree that stood for centuries. When that tree was felled by lightning in the not-too-distant past, small wedges of its trunk became cherished relics of Elizabeth’s first resting place. Other “relics” include the enduring wisdom of her final months. In her prayer book she wrote, “The virtues of the infirm are meekness, humility, patience, resignation, and gratitude for help received.” To a friend she advised: “Keep the straight path to GOD ALONE, the daily little lesson to keep soberly and quietly in His presence, turning every little action on His will; and to praise and love through cloud or sunshine, is all my care and study.”
A piece of wood from the original oak tree that once rested near Elizabeth Seton’s gravesite in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
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Transforming Racisms at
Three Levels of Society By Associate Kay Clifton, Ph.D.
esus’ second commandment to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves,’ guides the Community’s racism series and we are learning that loving our neighbor is a lifelong endeavor. Racism, also known as white privilege and white supremacy, is experienced at three levels of social systems: macro, medial/meso and micro. With such analysis we can better understand various racisms and better plan our transformative interactions. The macro level of society is the abstract level of social institutions. For example, when we talk about the religious institution, we refer to all the religious activity in all the denominations as well as religious-like activity that is performed outside organized religion. This is so for other social institutions: economics, political, education, family, health, leisure, legal. Policies are enacted that mostly impact one social institution: for example, voting laws in politics, educational policies in schools, home ownership policies in economics. Loving our neighbor in these macro contexts is displayed as justice, the opposite of racism and white privilege. Transforming racism in our social institutions means changing the laws that structure injustice and unequal opportunity according to color and ethnicity (as well as gender, sexual identity, (dis)abilities, etc.). Our efforts to transform involve understanding the laws that structure injustice and may mostly involve advocacy and voting so that our neighbors have equal opportunities. The medial level of society consists of organizations and groups. We are currently acting through an organization, the Sisters of Charity. We spend most of our lives acting and interacting through organizations. Organizations have long been studied for their efficiency and effectiveness. More relevant for our present purposes, the cultures of organizations have been studied: their shared language, values, norms, attitudes and accompanying actions of members, separately and corporately. We need to challenge ourselves to the uncomfortable examination of the privileged opportunities and naïve understandings that exist in most of our organizations. White privilege in our organizations is often unrecognized by white members but is jarring or slowly wearing on others. White members often feel comforted and affirmed, but others’ identities are questioned and eroded. Our transformative work at this level is more personal and mostly involves learning how to more honestly include our different neighbors. The micro level of society focuses on the face-to-face interactions that occur in both private and public areas. A helpful term, microaggressions, has recently appeared mostly in the popular media. However, it was coined by a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and studied by psychologists at several universities, including Yale. They identify three types of transgressions. Microassaults are usually conscious and intentional discrimination, such as displaying symbols, using racial terms, avoiding and banning interracial interaction. Microinsults are usually not intentional, may be by omission, yet communicate insensitivity as they demean a person’s history or identity. Microinvalidations also are not intentional, yet nullify a person’s thoughts and feelings. These micro transgressions occur when we see people different from us only for their differences, we see persons as representatives of a category rather than as unique individuals. Health professionals study the negative health impacts on those who receive such transgressions. The consequences for those of us who commit such transgressions is that we miss out on really knowing different individuals, learning their history and culture, and thus enriching our lives with their diversity. Changing our habits is hard, but we are given some guidelines: actively listen and be empathic; accept their feelings; avoid defensiveness; take responsibility for our underlying lack of awareness; take steps to learn and change. Transforming the world means transforming ourselves and here it involves better knowing our neighbors. V o lume I , 2 0 2 1
Intercom is the official magazine of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. This apostolic Catholic women’s religious community exists to carry out the Gospel of Jesus Christ through service and prayer in the world. Approximately 225 Sisters are joined in their mission by 204 Associates (lay women and men). Sisters, using their professional talents as ministers of education, health care, social services and environmental justice, live and minister in 17 U.S. dioceses and in two foreign countries. They also sponsor institutions to address education, health care and social service needs, with particular concern for direct service to the poor.
Intercom Staff Editor Erin Reder Graphic Design/Layout Michelle Bley Director of Communications S. Georgia Kitt Executive Council Liaison S. Monica Gundler Advisory Board Members: Veronica Buchanan S. Mary Ann Flannery S. Tracy Kemme S. Joyce Richter Debbie Weber Vicki Welsh Letters to the editor, articles and photos are welcome. The staff reserves the right to edit for space and readability. Make submissions to: Communications Office 5900 Delhi Road Mount St. Joseph, OH 45051 Phone: 513-347-5447 Fax: 513-347-5467 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions: $15 per year
5900 Delhi Road Mount Saint Joseph, OH 45051 www.srcharitycinti.org www.facebook.com/ sistersofcharityofcincinnati 27
5900 Delhi Road Mount Saint Joseph, OH 45051 http://www.srcharitycinti.org www.facebook.com/sistersofcharityofcincinnati
Demolition on the Mount’s Seton Hall began in February 2021.
S. Peggy Rein continues the SC legacy in education as a teacher at Holy Family School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
S. Marie Irene Schneider (right) was honored to get to know S. Petra Mkongwa during her time living in community at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse.