Volume III, 2020
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
Dear Sisters, Associates and Friends,
enerations of Sisters of Charity have graced the halls of our Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse. In this place, strong, gifted, and loving women have journeyed into an unknown future, filled with hope and a deep-down abiding confidence in God’s enduring graciousness.
Contents Features Înventive to Infinity........................... 4-5 Sisters of Charity respond to homelessness. Never Alone....................................... 6-7 S. Pat Dittmeier provides listening, guidance and support to her clients at IKRON. A Fond Farewell............................. 10-11 The Community pays tribute to Seton Hall.
Generations of Sisters have come to this sacred place in response to God’s words of invitation, “Come my beloved.” It is indeed a sacred place. A place of encouragement. A place of rest. A place where life, death, and new life meet across the horizon. This is home, where faith flourishes and love deepens. From this home, generations of Sisters have gone into the world as educators, healers, caregivers, change-agents, visionaries, companions to those living in poverty, wisdom figures, artists, spiritual guides, weavers of hope. Women on fire for our world! Recently Pope Francis wrote, “Faith is not water that extinguishes flames, it is fire that burns; it is not a tranquilizer for people under stress, it is a love story for people in love.”
Signs of Hope................................. 12-14 S. Tracy Kemme professes final vows.
Generations of faithful women have experienced the fire burning deep within, responding with a wholehearted “yes”—commitments made for life, sharing in a way of life that is mysteriously, wonderfully, “on fire” with the love of God.
Lifelong servant to the Latino immigrant community..................................... 18-19 S. Juana Mendez’s 25 years of service as a woman religious.
Today, our generation of Sisters, like every generation before us, is making space for an emerging future that will add new chapters to the love story we so cherish. This is a season of hope. We are paying attention to the tender ways God is folding yesterday’s graces into tomorrow’s possibilities. The fire burns and the love story continues.
A Marvelous Journey...................... 24-25 S. Regina Kusnir celebrates 60 years of religious life.
Generations of Sisters have professed their life-long commitment. In this issue we read about S. Tracy Kemme’s “yes!” Her final profession of vows puts an exclamation point on the commitment she sensed with her first inkling of becoming a Sister of Charity. The fire burns and the love story continues.
Departments OPJCC................................................22 Conversations About Racism EarthConnection.................................23 Deepening Our Connection to Creation Timeless Treasures................................27 St. Joseph House
On the Cover: Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Tracy Kemme professed perpetual vows during a Communion service on July 25, 2020 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse (Delhi Township). Read more on pages 12-15. 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.
Finally, generations of Sisters have taken turns shaping and reshaping the Motherhouse’s footprint of brick and mortar for the congregation’s needs at a given time. Buildings have been erected, renovated, expanded, taken down, repurposed, and repaired. As you will read in this issue, the present generation of Sisters of Charity is no exception. The Motherhouse is again being transformed for life! The fire burns and the love story continues. Be assured of our prayers as our world heals. May you and your families be wrapped in the tender graces needed for this time. Sister Marge Kloos, SC In Memoriam May our Sisters and Associates enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as peace with their God. Associate Rita Wesseling June 28, 2020
S. Lorraine Delisle October 27, 2020
S. Benedicta Mahoney December 5, 2020
S. Florence “Rose” Izzo July 11, 2020
S. Jane Bernadette Leo October 29, 2020
S. Roberta Westrick December 11, 2020
S. Bernadette Marie Shumate July 23, 2020
S. Bernadette Kambeitz November 10, 2020
S. Michael Mary Eagan December 13, 2020
S. Mary Doherty December 3, 2020 I n t e rc o m
The Game of Dominos By S. Joanne Burrows
t has been many months since we shared the decision to demolish Seton Hall and provide new homes for our congregational offices in the Motherhouse. We want to share our progress to date, even as we look forward to inviting you inside to see the changes once the pandemic is under control. The image of dominos cascading captures the nature of our journey these past months. Several projects were required before renovations of the first two floors of Marian Hall (the west end of the Motherhouse) could even begin. The Spirituality Center now occupies the whole first floor of St. Mary’s Hall. Transportation Office has new digs in McGree Hall, next to the garages. The mailroom, beauty salon and dining offices are centrally located on the first floor of the Motherhouse. These beautiful spaces were crafted by our talented Maintenance staff, often using materials they had on hand from past projects. The vintage Marian Hall threw us a few curveballs. Lead paint, asbestos, water intrusion and old termite damage delayed the start of the actual renovation work. An army of engineers, environmental consultants, abatement specialists, and masons assisted Turner Construction to assess each issue and determine steps needed to remediate any problems found.
In preparation of the building’s demolition, employees working on the first floor of Seton Hall moved offices in December to Marian Hall in the Motherhouse.
Early remediation work will delay completion by a few weeks. Seton Hall offices anticipate moving to their new locations by the end of the year with the Archives repository collection moving in mid-January. The delays will not affect the Seton Hall demolition timeline significantly. We still anticipate completion of the demolition and site cleanup by June 1. Before any bricks could begin to tumble, much work needed to be done in Seton Hall. In the fall a group of Sister volunteers coordinated the distribution of Seton’s many furnishings, household goods and appliances to local nonprofits, parishes and families in need. Our Maintenance staff removed and reused or recycled LED lights, sprinkler heads, copper pipes and the like. Water and electrical connections for Regina Hall, which came from Seton Hall, have been rerouted. O’Rourke Wrecking Company will begin site preparation and abatement of hazardous materials around the first of the year. Actual demolition is slated to begin in early February.
In the meantime, Turner Construction was also busy orchestrating a bevy of carpenters, electricians, painters, and flooring installers as they work to create new congregational offices. The new areas will offer more modern office layouts that will allow for better workflow, communication and security. The Environment and Assessment Committee worked with an interior designer to select a color palette for the office areas. The new colors bring a contemporary look to the areas while respecting their historic nature and complementing the beautiful woodwork. The Information Technology Committee worked with engineers and other experts to insure that the offices and meeting rooms will support our technology and communications needs now and in Vicki Humphrey (right), senior director of finance the future. Cedars Auditorium and the and accounting, and Maria Pelonio Schreiner, Motherhouse chapel are also getting environmental services supervisor, help direct movers as they relocate congregational offices from technology upgrades. Seton Hall to Marian in the SC Motherhouse.
Volume III, 2020
Planning for an environmentally, visitor-friendly green space in Seton’s footprint is just getting underway and we look forward to its creation late next summer and fall. It will be a lovely place for us to welcome back our many friends and remember Seton Hall’s gift to so many and for so many decades. 3
Inventive to Infinity:
Responses to Homelessness By S. Patricia Wittberg
s the many articles in Intercom this year have shown, homelessness is a severe, and growing, problem in the United States. From their earliest founding, the Sisters of Charity have ministered to those who lack a secure place to call home, and for the past 50 years they have been joined by Associates with a similar passion. What are some of the ways the Sisters and Associates have responded to homelessness? The first way, of course, has been to prevent homelessness from occurring. A major cause of homelessness is the continuing shortage of affordable housing for persons with low to moderate incomes. To respond to this shortage, Sisters Barbara Busch and Judith Martinez founded Working in Neighborhoods in 1978, for the purpose of constructing or rehabilitating housing that low- and moderateincome residents of the South Cumminsville neighborhood could afford, and for training new homeowners in budgeting and home maintenance skills. In recent years, S. Barbara has been joined by Sisters Whitney Schieltz, Brenda Busch and Annette Muckerheide, and WIN has extended its services to more neighborhoods. Last winter, WIN broke ground on its “50 Net Zero Urban Village” project, which will create 25 new, energy-efficient single-family homes in South Cumminsville, and will also rehab 25 senior citizens’ homes to reduce their energy usage. By the end of 2020, S. Barbara projects that 20 of the 25 senior home rehabs will be completed, and construction of seven new homes will have begun. Another organization in Cincinnati which is actively preventing homelessness is Santa Maria Community Services, founded by Sisters Blandina and Justina Segale more than 100 years ago. Today, Santa Maria continues its founders’ mission by assisting families through its Tenant Education and Stable Families programs. Currently, S. Sandy Howe and Associate Maureen Maxfield serve on the board of Santa Maria, and numerous other Sisters of Charity have volunteered there. In Pueblo, Colorado, S. Nancy Crafton is working to raise money for former migrant farmworkers who cannot afford the newly raised rents on the houses and apartments they currently occupy. Because many of these workers are not documented, they are neither eligible for public housing nor pandemic stimulus money under the CARES Act. Without help, they, too, will become homeless.
In their ministries at Working In Neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Ohio, (from left) Sisters Barbara Busch, Whitney Schieltz, Brenda Busch and Annette Muckerheide work to provide affordable housing and programs to persons with low to moderate incomes.
Another way the Sisters of Charity help prevent homelessness is by funding other nonprofits that construct affordable housing. Twenty of the 63 nonprofit organizations currently receiving loans from the congregation’s Seton Enablement Fund are using this money to build or rehab affordable housing in states from Texas and New Mexico to Oregon and Massachusetts. The second focus of Sisters and Associates, and by far the largest and most varied one, is to minister to those who are already homeless. Some support or serve in emergency shelters. Bethany House, which was started by Sisters Delia Sizler and Mary Grafe in 1983, now houses between I n t e rc o m
35 and 40 homeless families in seven different buildings throughout Cincinnati. S. Lynn Heper, who currently serves on the Bethany House board, says that families arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs and, through Bethany House programs, are helped to find a stable place to live. In Lansing, Michigan, S. Pat Newhouse has raised more than $30,000 during the past eight years to support Haven House, an emergency shelter for homeless families there. Other Sisters and Associates minister to the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of those who are experiencing homelessness. S. Marie Pauline Skalski volunteered at St. Vincent’s Shelter for Homeless Children in Lansing, Michigan, between 2012 and 2019, where she served in the shelter’s school for those children who were too emotionally fragile to attend the local public school. S. Marie Pauline said that she looked into the children’s eyes on her first day there and felt their desolation, their feeling of ‘I don’t know who I am or where I belong in this world.’ Her main ministry at St. Vincent School, she said, was to love the children there: to calm them during their meltdowns, to use loving words like “Sweetie” and “Honey” to them, to hold and hug them.
From 2012-2019 S. Marie Pauline Skalski volunteered at St. Vincent’s Shelter for Homeless Children in Lansing, Michigan, to children who were too emotionally fragile to attend the local public school.
Other Sisters and Associates attend to the physical needs of homeless men, women, and children. S. Tricia Cruise heads Healthy Moms and Babes, a ministry in Cincinnati that serves the needs of pregnant women who are poor – and half of whom are also homeless. The women come to Healthy Moms and Babes for prenatal care before their due dates, and to receive care for themselves and their babies afterward. Those who have no other home can live for up to 18 months at Segale House Apartments on the west side of Cincinnati, a “fast track” to self-sufficiency. The spiritual healing of homeless men and women who are recovering from addiction is fostered by the Ignatian Spirituality Program (ISP), which offers two-day weekend retreats for them in both Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. Several Sisters and Associates give these retreats for women: S. Teresa Laengle in Dayton, and Sisters Donna Steffen, Martha Walsh, Nancy Bramlage, Annie Klapheke and Maureen Heverin, and Associates Anne Shaffer and Kathy McDonald in Cincinnati. The retreats feature talks by the Sister and Associate directors on “Fear vs. Trust” and “Healing of Memories,” opportunities for journaling and meditative walks, and a “Witness Talk” by a former retreatant. Many other Associates and Sisters volunteer to drive the participants to and from the retreat. Associate Patty Broughton reports that the women she chauffeurs are visibly changed by the weekend’s experience and are eager to spread information about it to others. According to S. Teresa, some of the Dayton retreatants have even attended ISP workshops in Chicago, Illinois, to be trained to be retreat leaders. Although Volume III, 2020
the retreats have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dayton directors try to keep in touch with the previous retreatants either online or by phone calls. One of the retreatants had a baby this fall, and the Dayton ISP program leaders helped find baby clothes and other necessities for her. In Cincinnati, there are monthly follow-up sessions by Zoom to help the retreatants carry the insights they received during the retreat into their daily lives. The third way to address the issue of homelessness is to advocate for them with federal, state, and local governments. Here, too, Sisters and Associates have been active. In Pueblo, Colorado, S. Nancy Crafton lobbied for several years to get the city’s zoning designations changed so that permanent housing for migrant farmworkers could be built. The Sisters at Working in Neighborhoods in Cincinnati also advocate with city, state, and national leaders for laws and budget allocations that will permit and encourage the construction of more affordable housing. And, of course, many Sisters and Associates have written letters to their government officials and served on boards of organizations such as the Greater Cincinnati Homelessness Coalition, advocating for state, local, and federal legislation that will prevent more people from losing their homes, and will help those who already have. Many of these advocacy attempts did not succeed due to special-interest lobbying or “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) resistance, but they continue to try. As St. Vincent de Paul said, we all must be “inventive to infinity” when faced with suffering and injustice. For whatever we do to the least of our homeless and near-homeless brothers and sisters, we do for Jesus Christ, who also had nowhere to lay His head. 5
Never Alone By Erin Reder
s she looks back on her years of ministry as an educator and counselor, S. Patricia (Pat) Dittmeier says that she sees a common link between them. A teacher and healer to those she has ministered with, S. Pat has provided deep listening, encouragement, guidance and support to students and clients, assuring them that they are never alone in their journey in life. Her positive, loving presence has blessed many throughout her 28 years as a Sister of Charity. S. Pat began her years of service as a youth minister at St. Peter’s Church in New Richmond, Ohio. The formation process eventually moved her out of that ministry and into novitiate. At the end of that year she was hired again as a youth minister; this In her current role at IKRON, S. Pat Dittmeier is a clinical supervisor, individual counselor, and also responsible for IKRON’s Getting Out of Depression group. time on the east side of town, in a more suburban parish. After seven studying full time to become a licensed professional clinical years, and as the ministry became more demanding on her counselor.” physically, S. Pat began asking God what was next. “At the It was during S. Pat’s studies, in 2009, that she began time there was an opening for director of religious education serving as a practicum student at IKRON, an organization at the parish,” she recalls, “and I had my master’s degree in that provides integrated quality behavioral health services to religious studies. The pastor at the parish said it’s yours and I the Greater Cincinnati area. After six months she was offered transitioned into religious education. I had always loved the teaching side of things, even as a youth minister. Moving into an internship and eventually hired full time. “I felt that was where I was meant to be,” she says. “I felt like my skill set was religious education seemed like a logical move.” being used, and it was meaningful to me to be able to help After six additional years S. Pat began to once again people living in poverty and improve their lives. Everybody discern what was next. She thought hard about what she has their barriers, their own limitations, and we all have our loved most about her ministry and what stayed with her own abilities. Every client is unique, it’s about seeing each were the long, meaningful conversations she was having with meet their own goals that is life-giving.” those around her. She recalls God would send her people S. Pat continues in this role today. In addition to being who needed to talk, and what started as short, five-minute a clinical supervisor to three young interns, she has her own conversations would turn into hour-long, deep discussions. individual counseling list of clients and is also responsible “I realized I was getting out of my depth,” she explains. for IKRON’s Getting Out of Depression group, which “I called a friend that I had known as a youth minister and meets weekly. What feeds her soul is seeing clients grow and who was head of the pastoral counseling program at The succeed. So often when her clients first come to her, they are Athenaeum of Ohio and said I needed training. I started feeling hurt and broken, and have been dealing with such taking pastoral counseling classes there and eventually began 6
I n t e rc o m
heavy burdens. Watching them be able to let go of those burdens and to heal have been graced moments for her. But she is careful to note that although the success stories are heartwarming, what also touches her heart are the moments when hurting clients let her know they are grateful to have the opportunity to talk with her. “It’s a graced place to be in when you know what you’re doing for folks is helping,” she says. This year has provided many new challenges for S. Pat and her clients. She credits IKRON with quickly adapting to the challenges and making sure that those most in need are still able to receive S. Pat Dittmeier (right) has provided deep listening, encouragement, guidance and support to students and clients the services so necessary to their throughout her 28 years as a Sister of Charity. mental health. S. Pat and all staff were immediately trained to begin figure out the housing system in our city. She explains: “I may telehealth work, and to ensure it is done ethically, legally and have a client who is homeless but I don’t have the credentials responsibly. She meets virtually with clients and staff weekly to refer them to Tender Mercies. They must have an identified to keep those connections and relationships from suffering. case manager.” And while she understands that the process Not only does the pandemic affect the daily operations limits the number of calls and referrals coming in, it can be at IKRON but it also is directly affecting its clients. Rates frustrating to her as a counselor because it makes helping a of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed. When you client even more difficult. If she has a client with multiple take a person who is already living on the margins, and barriers to overcome – issues with their physical health, add in the new complexities of the pandemic, it provides substance abuse, mental illness, lack of employment, to name even more barriers to their ability to find employment. a few – as a counselor, S. Pat will spend hours, days, even Increased demands, fewer employees working, and reliance on weeks helping sort through it all, guiding a client through technology have added new obstacles. “We work hard to help the systems, advocating for him or her and empowering them,” S. Pat explains. “It takes longer to resolve court issues, along the way. to resolve medication problems, to get them into an interview, To remain balanced, in her quiet time S. Pat enjoys or even the technology needed to successfully interview.” being outside in the beauty of nature. She loves to swim in In addition to the pandemic, many of S. Pat’s clients are the summer and take daily walks around the Motherhouse living on the margins. She notes that for those struggling with campus. Recently she has enjoyed the company of other homelessness their mental health issues become much more Sisters as they meet in the evenings and talk about their days. complex. “While no one tells you as a counselor you’re going “This is what I enjoy,” she says of her evening meet-ups, “that to become part social worker if you work with people living moment of community. It gives us a chance to be together.” in poverty, the fact is that you do,” she explains. “They are Being together with her Sisters or her clients, one thing living on the edge. One day the client may have housing and is for certain, S. Pat’s deep desire to serve God and to be a the next day they may not.” positive, loving presence to all she encounters have sustained In her role S. Pat has spent many hours connecting clients her relationships throughout the years. The joy, concern for to support systems they need, it might be a housing case others, generosity and genuineness that she first witnessed manager, a shelter, or a psychiatrist to receive medication when she met the Community almost 30 years ago have shined regularly. She says the issues are so numerous and vary from as through in every ministry and relationship she has built and simple as washing a client’s clothing to as complex as trying to serve as a reminder to others that they are never alone. Volume III, 2020
2 0 2 0 J u bil e e
Celebrating Our Jubilarians A total of 17 Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati celebrated 25 or 60 years as women religious this year. They represent 985 years of service to God’s people. Celebrations looked a little different at the Motherhouse this year as restrictions were put in place to keep Sisters healthy and safe. On Oct. 1, 2020, Sisters at the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall enjoyed a special lunch. A prayer service celebrating this year’s jubilarians was also livestreamed for Community members and their friends and family to take part in.
We congratulate silver jubilarian, S. Juana Mendez, and diamond jubilarians Carol Bauer, Josetta Marie Chu, Joan Elizabeth Cook, Nancy Crafton, Jean Marian (Cookie) Crowley, Barbara Davis, Mary Marcel DeJonckheere, Mary Jo Gasdorf, Ann Hunt, Regina Kusnir, Barbara Jean Maniaci, Mary Caroline Marchal, Mary Ellen Murphy, Margaret Rein, Marie Karen Sammons, and Marie Pauline Skalski on their lives of service and their commitments to God’s people. The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati are most grateful for these women; a video was created to offer those near and far the opportunity to come together to celebrate these Sisters, their special milestones and their lives of service and love. To view visit: www.srcharitycinti.org/2020/09/17/celebrating-our-2020-jubilarians/.
Motherhouse Sisters Mary Jo Gasdorf (second from left) and Mary Ellen Murphy (second from right) had the opportunity to celebrate their jubilee on Oct. 1 in the Motherhouse Dining Room. S. Marjorie Farfsing celebrated 80 years of religious life in 2020.
“I was always proud of the Sisters I lived with and shared ministry with. The years working with students (young and adult) in the Reading Lab at the College of Mount St. Joseph stand out as happy memories.” - S. Marjorie Farfsing
Jubilarian S. Mary Loyola Mathia entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati on Feb. 2, 1941.
Additional anniversaries 80 years of service S. Marjorie Farfsing S. Claire Foken S. Bernardine Kandrac S. Mary Kormanec S. Mary Loyola Mathia 75 years S. Michael Mary Eagan S. Florence Sliva 70 years S. Mary Alicia Bomya S. Maria Dolorata Felix S. Roslyn Hafertepe S. Ann Christopher Joseph S. Michael Clare Mauntel S. Carol Joan McCarthy S. Dolores Maureen McDonald S. Mary Laura Miceli S. Jo Anne Termini S. Sue Verbiscus S. Vincent Marie Willman 65 years S. Helen Berson S. Carol Brenner S. Mary Doherty S. Betty Finn S. Annette Frey S. Martha Glockner S. Paula Mary Russell S. Patricia Ann Sabourin S. Bernadette Schmitt S. Rosaleen Simpleman S. Katherine Tardiff S. Ann Elizabeth Von Hagel S. Ann David Wojtylka
S. Vincent Marie Willman was recognized for celebrating 70 years as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati in 2020. I n t e rc o m
In October Sisters celebrating anniversaries in 2020, including S. Jo Anne Termini (seated), were recognized by Leadership Team members with a special lunch and celebration.
“My life has been made full and rich by the ministry opportunities offered to me. It is a blessing to have been able to respond to the call. I cherish the friendships and all the opportunities life as a Sister of Charity has given me.” - S. Mary Caroline Marchal
“As I look back over my years of ministry, I am grateful for an incredible diversity of opportunities and adventures that enriched my perspective and challenged my skills for service. The richness of persons whom I have come to know, the challenges of needs within our communities, and the care and concern exhibited by others to respond to human need have been enriching inspiration.” - S. Carol Bauer
S. Monica Gundler (left) congratulates S. Roslyn Haftertepe (right) on 70 years as a member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati during a special luncheon in October.
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S. Anne Christopher Joseph celebrated 70 years of religious life in 2020.
“Throughout my 60 years, I have never doubted my call to religious life. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been challenging times, personally and in ministry. I have always believed in and been supported by the grace of the present moment, which has supported and encouraged me in all ‘seasons’ of my life.” - S. Barbara Davis
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Volume III, 2020
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A Fond Farewell By S. Georgia Kitt
e say farewell to a key facility that has served the congregation for more than 90 years. Sisters are moving from and deconstructing a most faithful servant, Seton Hall. The following article highlights how Seton Hall has served many in its lifetime. We say ‘goodbye,’ appreciating the building’s years of service and the many Sisters who found this site the center of where/how they ministered as Sisters of Charity.
Seton Hall was home to the College of Mount St. Joseph from 1927 until 1962.
seemed in charge of everything to do with food, bustling about the dining room. We loved the incredible sweet rolls, especially the ones dripping caramel and butter, baked by one of the many displaced persons who had found refuge through the Sisters at the Mount.”
1960-1970 In the late 1950s the Sisters of Charity were looking to develop an enlarged area for a college campus and enhanced physical facilities due to increasing enrollment. With the naming of S. Maria Corona Molloy as president of the college in 1959 plans moved ahead; a new campus across Delhi Road became a reality in the 1960s. The cramped quarters in the college’s last year (1961) in Seton Hall served 761 students with 342 being boarders. The all-new College of Mount St. Joseph-on-the-Ohio opened the fall semester of 1962. As the college vacated the space in Seton Hall, formation groups, young women considering a vocation to religious life, lived and studied there in addition to working toward their degree across the road. Groups of young women entering the Sisters of Charity between 1959 and 1968 called Seton Hall ‘home.’ S. Pat Malarkey, as a member of the Band of 1964, fondly remembers the fun gatherings on the Seton Hall roof. “It was a long walk up those stairs, especially carrying the party supplies – and with long skirts – but it was worth it all. The
1920-1960 Establishing a college for women at Mount St. Joseph came to life in the early 1920s. The College of Mount St. Joseph became a reality the very year women received the right to vote, opening its doors in September 1920. The work of excavation for Seton Hall to serve the college community began in March 1926, with one request: “Don’t touch a tree!” The first class that convened in Seton Hall was in journalism in March 1927 and that summer retreats and classes were offered there. S. Victoria Marie Forde recalls that when the young Junior Sisters came home for the summer from the school missions, they were assigned to clean the areas where the college girls had lived during the school year. As a reward from their hard work, they went off to the roof for an evening of square dancing with music and their own caller. Mount graduate Betsy Gabriell ’58 adds, “[I] remember S. Margaret Agnes and her absolute passion for accuracy in all things, Dr. Orlando and his baton, and Fr. Robillard and his mindblowing theology classes. I also well remember Jarvis, who 10
S. Pat Malarkey (back, third from left) and her Band members were some of the first in formation to live in and explore Seton Hall, including its infamous rooftop views. I n t e rc o m
enjoyable times with each other, the fireworks seen at every angle on the Fourth of July and prayer experiences were all enhanced by the beautiful views.”
1970-1990 In the early 1970s, S. Barbara Geoghegan, a member of the college staff, suggested that Seton Hall could provide an ideal setting for dual learning – college women learning to become teachers and young people, pre-K through eighth grade, benefitting from the most recent learning methods. The college boasted strong teacher-education programs and the Early Learning Center’s work could be re-directed into a K-8 model. S. Marilyn Joseph Czarnecki served as the director of what became known as the Mount Campus School where Seton Hall’s first and second floors were used as well as the surrounding grounds. The upper floors of the building came to serve overnight accommodations for Sister-guests, family members and retreatants, when in 1981 the Spirituality Center opened in Seton Hall (first floor) with Sisters Esther Marie Humbert and Joseph Marion Shappelle as directors; weekend and overnight programs made use of the bedrooms. The centrality of prayer in one’s life brought lay as well as religious to Seton Hall to deepen their spirituality. S. Carol Brenner joined the Spirituality team in 1991 and became co-director in 1992. One of her favorite memories from Seton Hall involves a weekend retreat for a group doing a long process called Finding God in Daily Work; Sisters Esther and Carol facilitated. Rich sharing and changing perspectives were the fruit of that time together and friendships grew as well. Both Sisters Carol and Esther remain grateful to Micki Trentman, administrative assistant in the Spirituality Center, who continues to serve in that capacity today.
1990-2010 With the Mount Campus School closing in 1988, the SC Leadership Council looked to renovate the first and second floors of Seton Hall to serve the expanding needs for congregational offices. In 1990 the building welcomed and gave convenient space to offices for Communications, Retirement, Ministry, Formation, Archives, Transportation, Life Development, Associates, Foreign Missions, Finance, Campus Services, Health Insurance and a Bayley planning group. Several Motherhouse living groups moved to the third and fourth floors of Seton Hall, starting in the mid-1980s, creating a welcoming atmosphere for Sisters staying overnight, retreatants and other visitor guests. S. Rita Hawk shares, “My major memories [of Seton Hall] come as I spent five years (1992-’97) as our first congregational director of the Associate program. I began with one inquiry on my desk, thus starting the chain of events: contacts, interviews, inquiries, committee meetings, small gatherings of those interested. During these initial five years, interest and clarity emerged as to what was desired. Seton Hall can surely be responsible for the birthing!” Volume III, 2020
The Mount Campus School operated from the mid-1970s to 1988 out of Seton Hall offering continuous learning through a preschool for ages 3 to 5, full day kindergarten and grade levels one through eight.
At the same time, down the first floor hall, compatible congregational offices of Archives, Retirement, Formation and Ministry (1985-’92) were moving in. S. Katrinka Gunn remembers when the Sisters’ Retirement Office was moved to the first floor of Seton Hall. “The view from the offices was to the cemetery and it was always a source of inspiration for me as I worked with our older Sisters anticipating retirement. Besides the environment my Sister neighbors were a constant source of support and spirit-lifting. Sisters Judith Metz (Archives), Rosemarie Hewitt (Ministry) and Maureen Heverin (Formation) were the best colleagues anyone could hope for. S. Rosemarie and I planned and executed a program for SCs to share their gifts and talents with each other called ‘Quilting the SC Spirit.’ The location in Seton Hall facilitated a wonderful ministry experience.”
2010-2020 Since the arrival of the 2000s much has continued. Information Services and the Seton Enablement Fund offices were important additions. To meet the growing needs of veterans suffering from PTSD, S. Kateri Maureen Koverman established an office in Seton Hall for a number of years to offer counseling services. Since 2008 six international students from a variety of religious congregations have benefitted from living in Seton Hall’s third floor with Sister of Charity residents while earning degrees at Mount St. Joseph University. Sisters Marie Irene and Mary Dolores Schneider are quick to share that the learning and appreciation among the Sisters has been mutual. In the coming weeks all the Seton Hall offices will be moving to Marian Hall and adjoining spaces on the expanded Motherhouse campus. Memories will linger and the newly open space will become a new reality. We bid farewell to our beloved Seton Hall and the many ways she has served us. Editor’s Note: To view additional articles, remembrances and photographs related to Seton Hall, please visit the Sisters of Charity website at www.srcharitycinti.org/news-and-events/featurestories/#setonhall 11
Signs of Hope:
S. Tracy Kemme Professes Final Vows By Erin Reder
ooking into the faces of a small group of loved ones in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on July 25, 2020, the day of her final vow ceremony, S. Tracy Kemme felt the presence and support of so many more. Watching, praying and celebrating with her through livestream video were thousands of friends, family members, Sisters and Associates from across the world who had the opportunity to ‘tune-in’ to a service that looked quite differently from the one she had originally envisioned. “I know how many meaningful ceremonies have taken place in that chapel over so many years and I could feel that powerful presence, the legacy of our Community, the long impact of our charism. That was so strengthening,” S. Tracy said. “The opening song that I chose was called ‘With All the Saints’; each verse describes different groups of people gathering together as one body in the Lord, a sign and sacrament of Christ. It speaks of those that have gone before and those still to come. It was a way to call upon everyone that I knew watching, the people that were there and the Sisters and family members that have gone before.” 12
Who would have ever guessed that the day she had been planning for, the day she had been anticipating since entering the Community in 2012, would take place during a global pandemic? When this pandemic prohibited visitors to Mount St. Joseph and temporarily halted any sense of normalcy on campus, S. Tracy and her mentors had to rethink the celebration creatively. Through all the uncertainty, S. Tracy says her constants were God’s faithful love and an unwavering sense that she was still supposed to make final vows even if it looked very different than originally anticipated. “There was something about having so much stripped away that shined a light on the commitment in a way I didn’t expect,” she recalled. “It forced me to think about what this commitment really means at its core. I had to ask, ‘What is most essential?’ Strangely, the chaos of the pandemic, a contentious election season, and a long overdue reckoning about race in America actually highlighted why I want to be a Sister – to respond to the pain of the world. My heart said clearly: Yes, this is what I want to do no matter what is I n t e rc o m
going on! The support of the people walking with me was amazing. They made me feel like it would be a joyful day no matter how it happened. They assured me that my willingness to go on with it was a sign of hope.” S. Tracy’s faith has been steadfast and present throughout her discernment process. She first thought about becoming a Sister as a volunteer in Ecuador following graduation from the University of Dayton in 2008. She had the opportunity to live in a neighborhood that was economically poor and made friends with neighbors facing oppression and poverty. It was then that she started to feel this growing desire to use her life to combat that poverty and oppression in some way. She recalls praying on a beach in Ecuador when she felt God inviting her to be a Sister. At the time she didn’t know any Sisters her age and wasn’t even sure what it meant to be a Sister at this particular time in history. She remembers initially feeling terrified and resistant. Slowly, though, and over time, she began spiritual direction and reached out to trusted people in her life that were able to help her process her feelings and realize that religious life was a viable option for her. Enter S. Janet Gildea and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, S. Tracy’s mom, Patty, grew up in the Delhi area where the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse is located, and although she had driven by the Motherhouse many times, S. Tracy said she had never heard of the Sisters of Charity. It took going to the U.S./Mexico border to first meet the SCs. As a college student doing research on her senior thesis project on immigration, she needed a place to stay and was referred to Sisters Janet Gildea, Carol Wirtz and Peggy Deneweth, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati living and ministering on the border. The experience and time with the women stayed with her, and when S. Tracy began considering religious life in Ecuador, she remembered their hospitality and thought she could start there with her questions. S. Tracy reached out to S. Janet, the SC vocation director at the time, and they stayed in touch during her time in Ecuador. Eventually S. Tracy moved in with the three Sisters, participating in the Community’s Associate in Volunteer Ministry program. “For me S. Janet was a special mentor because she’s the one who introduced me to the Community,” she added. “She was very persistent, reaching out to me even when I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted. She was a faithful companion on Volume III, 2020
the journey, willing to walk with me and other discerners without judgment, with support and understanding. And the same with Sisters Peggy and Carol. Over decades of living together, they cultivated a space into which they could welcome people and share the life that they love. I think they really see and appreciate me and the other women coming to our Community for who we are, and they also help us to recognize the potential in our lives. Before I could even believe that I could be called to be a Sister of Charity, they could see it in me and helped draw it out.” On June 27, 2015, and in the presence of a filled Motherhouse chapel, S. Tracy professed first vows with S. Andrea Koverman. At the time she had returned to the Cincinnati area and was beginning to cultivate many treasured relationships with her Sisters, relationships that naturally strengthened during her formation years. The conversations and stories shared with Sisters living in the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall inspired her. “I see in our Sisters evidence of God’s faithfulness,” she said. “It’s amazing to hear all they have done and been through in so many years, and they remain so joyful, loving and committed to the Gospel. Their witness helps me to say, ‘I can do this.’ That sense of inter-generational love is a bond that keeps me going on tough days.” And now she too will be inspiring others as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. S. Tracy has long been involved with the issue of immigration and sees part of her call as a religious being to walk alongside those communities as they struggle for justice. She will complete her Master of Divinity at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union this spring and is currently ministering at St. Leo’s parish in Cincinnati, a community with a large population of Guatemalan
immigrants as well as refugees from the Congo and Burundi. “The laws are immoral and the ways we are responding to the people coming to our borders – and to the immigrants who have been here for many years – are immoral,” she said. “As a Sister trying to live Jesus’ mission, I want to be engaged in that struggle for justice and love.” In addition, one of her most endearing attributes is S. Tracy’s openness and honesty when sharing her journey and call throughout her years of formation. She recalls not knowing much about religious life herself, and feels if more women knew what it looks like today, then more would view religious life as a viable, even exciting option for their lives. As part of her education at CTU, S. Tracy is doing an internship with SC vocation ministry and hopes to keep sharing her vocation journey with others. “I was so blessed by Sisters willing to give of their time and wisdom during the discernment process. Knowing that those relationships are what sustained me, I want to pay it forward,” she says. “I hope to be a supportive companion for other women who are discerning. I am grateful for the opportunity to do that.” Filled with hope and excitement for the bright future of religious life that awaits, S. Tracy knows that community is what will carry the vision forward through joys and challenges. She holds on to the memories from her vow day and the presence she felt of an expansive congregation, the true body of Christ, present for her. “The day overflowed with love from all the people that God has blessed me with,” she says. “I look back through the pictures and feel so clearly that God was with me in each person. As I move forward in this life as a finally professed Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, I am rooted in that truth – God is ever present.”
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Following God’s Will By Erin Reder
s she looks back on her 25 years as an Associate in Mission of the Sisters of Charity, Mary McHale says there wasn’t one particular moment that led her to make her commitment to the Community. Rather, it was a series of small moments that strengthened Mary’s belief that God still had plans for her. In 1986, at the age of 40, Mary became a widow. With six children, and as their sole provider, she felt overwhelmed. In addition to carrying that weight on her shoulders, Mary had inherited the family business – which felt daunting. She decided to set her oldest son up to run the business. This enabled her to look for something that provided a fair wage and benefits. Fate would have it that she found herself accepting a part-time position at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. It was there that Mary first met the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. She was introduced to many SCs who were kind, helpful and welcoming. They eventually invited her to meet with their Associates, and once again it seemed providential that the topic for that meeting was “Virgin Mothers,” a topic Mary could most certainly relate to as a widow and mother of six. For a long time having felt lost and unable to fit in comfortably with those around her, Mary began to finally feel like she had found a group of individuals with whom she connected. Eventually she met S. Ann Elizabeth Von Hagel who became her sponsor. The two clicked immediately; their similar sense of humor sealing the friendship. Shortly after,
S. Ann Elizabeth Von Hagel (left) companioned Associate Mary McHale (right) through her discernment as a Sister of Charity Associate.
she was introduced to S. Betty Finn. “She lit up the room,” said Mary. “She spoke to my heart unlike anyone had ever before.” These encounters slowly enabled Mary to begin to heal. It was comforting to learn about Elizabeth Seton and Margaret George, both widows who went on to live full lives and to do God’s will. S. Betty became her spiritual director and she attended many classes and workshops that resonated with her. She even had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to visit S. Sarah Mulligan and see her work with the people there. While at one time Mary thought she was supposed to join the Sisters of Charity, she realized that God’s plan was calling her to continue living her everyday life, doing the best she can, one day at a time. Today, at 75 years old, Mary is living in the Notre Dame Sisters Senior Village in Covington, Kentucky. She has 15 grandchildren and one greatgranddaughter and enjoys attending Zoom meetings and talks, and communicating on Facebook with other Associates and Sisters. She feels blessed for the relationships she’s built through the years and the opportunities to live the Mission. “I’m following the Charity Charism and I’m always grateful!” she concludes.
Associate Mary McHale (center) has enjoyed the many social opportunities she has had to get to know the Sisters of Charity better. Volume III, 2020
In 2003, S. Roberta Westrick was commissioned by St. Mary’s Cathedral to create an outdoor display of the patron saints for all the parishes in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
Answering Her Call By S. Georgia Kitt
n 1892 the Sisters of Charity arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Throughout the years their contributions in health care, retreat work, education and parish ministry were cooperative experiences, accomplished and continued with the help of the Greater Colorado Springs community. In the fall of 2019, S. Roberta Westrick became the last Sister of Charity to leave the area, entrusting the Spirit to continue to accomplish God’s work there. We highlight S. Roberta’s varied ministries below as they offer another example of being open to God’s call ‘to risk a caring response.’ Looking back on 125 years of Sisters of Charity presence in Colorado Springs, S. Roberta served the area close to onethird of that time. Never would she have thought she would remain in the area that long when she was first missioned to teach primary students at Pauline Memorial in 1968. The friendliness of the people made it easy to get to know those in the parish and she found the Catholic community was small enough that everyone seemed to know one another. The big vistas and the great variety of beauty nature offered made exploring fun on weekends.
thing led to another and she soon realized the need for more formal training in pastoral counseling. She took time out to receive her master’s degree in counseling from St. Paul’s in Ottawa, Canada in 1978. Ministering elsewhere for eight years she realized that the inviting spirit of Colorado Springs was calling her back, along with the special attributes of the Hispanic and southwestern cultures. Being open to what presents itself, S. Roberta offered 20 more years of service in various forms of pastoral work in area parishes, the homeless center (adults) and high school campus ministry. These years also found her painting saints as a hobby. This was a future ‘fit’ for her! She became a working artist in this southwestern art form known as santos, holy images. S. Roberta was even commissioned by St. Mary’s Cathedral to create an outdoor display of the patron saints for all the parishes in the Diocese of Colorado Springs in 2003.
After four years with young children S. Roberta was invited by S. Jean Patrice Harrington to serve as director of the Catholic youth groups of the parishes which put her in contact with the teenagers and their vibrant spirit. She would say, “They challenged me in new ways; it was through their personal searching and struggles that I learned that pastoral work was calling me to seek out more one-on-one opportunities to listen and learn.”
Retiring from active ministry in 2008, S. Roberta continued to remain in the area pursuing art through various exhibits, displaying her work at Regis University, Pikes Peak Community College and in private collections. In addition, as another retirement activity, she coordinated reservations for the Sisters of Charity cabins outside of Manitu Springs for the last 12 years and volunteered at the Sacred Heart Church pantry. In the fall of 2019, she said farewell to Colorado Springs. She concludes, “I have had a rich and varied ministry experience, always trying to be open to new calls and new avenues for learning. I have been truly blessed and proud to have contributed to the Sisters of Charity spirit here.”
After four more years working with teens S. Roberta went to Penrose Hospital, serving on the pastoral care team; one
Editor’s Note: S. Roberta Westrick died peacefully on December 11, 2020 in Mother Margaret Hall after a short illness.
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SC Service in Colorado Springs By S. Judith Metz
lthough the Sisters of Charity arrived in Trinidad, Colorado in 1870, it wasn’t until 1893 that they made their way to Colorado Springs when they were invited to take over Glockner Tuberculosis Sanitarium that had been operating at a deficit. Glockner was a shoestring operation subsidized by the Motherhouse during the Sisters first years there. In 1900 the Community decided to sell the sanitarium, but when the Bishop of Denver protested, S. Rose Alexis Broderick took over as administrator. She soon turned it into a thriving operation that expanded into a general hospital and opened a school for nurses.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new 12-story Penrose Hospital in 1956. (From left) S. Maria Corona Molloy, Mother Mary Romana Dodd, Colorado Springs Archbishop Urban Vehr, S. Helen Eugene Williams, S. Rosarita McKeone and S. Elise Halloran.
In the 1930s Spencer Penrose, a wealthy businessman, was being treated for cancer at Glockner Hospital. Upon his death in 1939, his wife, Julie Penrose, became a generous donor to the hospital. The following year Penrose Pavilion for cancer research was founded, and established an international reputation for cancer treatment. By the late 1940s the name of the hospital was changed to Glockner-Penrose, and in 1959, after a new 12-story hospital was dedicated, it became Penrose Hospital. Since that time it has continued to grow and thrive as a premier health care facility for the Colorado Springs area. Mrs. Penrose’s generosity did not end with the hospital. In 1944 she offered her home, El Pomar, to the Sisters of Charity for use as a retreat house. The 30-room Italianate Renaissance mansion built in an apple orchard was located at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. The grounds included a tea house, swimming pool, and stables. El Pomar was the first women’s retreat house west of the Mississippi River. Initially weekend retreats cost $12.50 and included transportation from Denver. Through the years the retreat house flourished thanks in part to the labor provided by the Sisters of Charity on nearby missions who spent weekends there working at the programs. By the 1960s decreasing attendance at retreats led the Sisters to adapt by offering expanded programming, but ultimately the center was closed and the home was repurposed by the El Pomar Foundation. Sisters of Charity staffed several parochial schools in Colorado Springs beginning in the 1950s. Pauline Memorial Volume IiI, 2020
(From left) Sisters Ann Maureen McCabe, Marie Alice Moran, Marie Evelyn Dow, Zita Burke and Marianella Domenici (seated) taught together at Pauline Memorial in Colorado Springs in 1988.
School was opened on property that had initially been part of the Penrose estate, and became St. Paul’s parish. The school opened in 1955 with four grades and gradually expanded. By 1962 a new convent was available for the Sisters and the school had an enrollment of more than 300 students. The Sisters continued to serve there through the 1980s. On the other side of town, the Sisters of Charity were invited to staff Divine Redeemer School. While the Sisters were there they conducted a large catechetical outreach program that included more than 600 students at the parish, and more than 300 at the Air Force Academy. Even after there were no longer Sisters teaching in the school, a few remained to serve on the pastoral staff. Sisters also taught for a time in the 1970s at Corpus Christi School. In 1980 the Sisters of Charity opened St. Elizabeth’s Residence for retired Sisters who wished to remain in the West. Located on the grounds of El Pomar Retreat House, St. Elizabeth was a hub of volunteer activities the residents engaged in. It was the inviting spirit among the Sisters serving in the West that brought our first Associates; today they continue to serve as partners in ministry and mission in the Colorado Springs area. Other Sisters were active in individual ministries, and in the 1990s they opened a branch of SET (Service, Empowerment, Transformation), whose goal was to address the unmet health needs of the elderly and low-income population. 17
Sister Juana Mendez: Lifelong servant to the Latino immigrant community By Vicki Welsh, Associate
he found herself a single parent. Life is many times more difficult when you must make all the decisions for you and your children alone. Words like “poor,” “uncertain,” “fear” can become a daily part of your life. She looks out across the wide expanse of water lifting her heart skyward remembering she must trust in God. Her womanhood, her children, the loneliness, the everpresent water, her God. If you were to guess what was to come next, you might say you were about to hear the story of Saint Elizabeth Seton (EAS). Very understandable! Saint Elizabeth was a single parent and bore many of the same burdens and fears. She cared for not only her five children, but could be found helping other mothers and their children. She often lived where she could look across the water. And to the core of her being, she trusted in God. But, no, this story is about our 2020 silver jubilarian, S. Juana Mendez. Her story reads a lot like our dear Saint Elizabeth. S. Juana has this to say of their similarities, “She (EAS) dedicated her life to the services of the community, devoted a great deal of time to work with the poor, and provided free education for girls. Her desire to grow in a deep relationship with Jesus was evident in her work and style of living.” S. Juana was one of four children born to her family in Puerto Rico. Times were hard. But she has beautiful memories of kneeling on the hard concrete floor, saying the rosary every morning as a family. While eating their breakfast of bread and coffee, S. Juana’s mother spoke to them about trusting in
S. Juana Mendez (second from left) was joined by her two brothers, sister and mother when she professed final vows 25 years ago.
God. Her mother raised them to build their hope on faith, never to stay in a place of fear. Saying the rosary was a daily reminder that God dwelled in and among them. When S. Juana was 8 years old, the family made the arduous move to Cleveland, Ohio in the San Juan Bautista parish. She attended St. Francis elementary and St. Peter’s High School. S. Juana recalls, “I loved to serve. As a young girl I knew I was being called to a religious life. However, I took the long road.” Part of that long road was marriage, motherhood and single parenthood. S. Juana recalls, “It was a struggle to raise my children as a single mother. With the help of my family, and with lots of prayers, my children attended Catholic
For 12 years S. Juana Mendez (back, second from right) served as the Hispanic minister for the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, advocating for and providing services for the Hispanic/Latino community. 18
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schools; two out of three attended college. They were active in the Church. My daughters played the guitar in choir and my son was an altar boy. As a family we attended Mass together. I have a close relationship with my children. I have six grandchildren that I get to talk to almost every day.” S. Juana found employment with the Cleveland City Public School system. She performed clerical duties there for many years working her way up to a supervisory position. She continued attending San Juan Bautista parish. S. Juana picks up the story: ‘“I was searching for others who had my vision and I found the Sisters of Charity. I met two women who dedicated their lives to making a difference in the lives of others.” Those two Sisters were Sisters Florence Cremering and Ann Dorenbusch, who served at the parish and had asked S. Juana to become a Catechist. They formed a deep and lasting friendship. They also journeyed with her during her discernment process. S. Juana’s pre-entrant year was spent as a Marianist volunteer. Later she lived one year in Parma, Ohio, at a house with other Sisters of Charity. Before entering her novice year she worked with S. Maureen Heverin. S. Juana’s novice director, S. Mary Bookser, sums up S. Juana’s story best, “S. Juana Mendez has a heart centered in love for God and for people in need. Her life experiences and her bilingual abilities allow her to minister to our immigrant sisters and brothers in a manner few of us can. Her quiet, loving response to their needs, as well as her willingness to stand up against a system which unjustly ignores and denigrates people in poverty, makes her an invaluable support to so many who live ‘on the margins.’ She lives out our beautiful Mission Statement which calls us to ‘act justly, to build loving relationships, to share our resources with those in need …’”
S. Juana Mendez served as a youth minister at San Juan Batista parish in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1990s.
S. Juana is a true living example of our charism as she walks “in humility, simplicity, and charity” and as she has dared “to risk a caring response” throughout her 25 years as a beautiful Sister of Charity. She became Sister of Charity Juana Mendez on Aug. 1, 1995. “My passion has always been to help those in need regardless of the consequences,” S. Juana said. “Like Saint Elizabeth Seton, I founded a low-income center for the Latino community. In 1999, I was hired at the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, as a pastoral associate. In the last 12 years I was the Diocesan Hispanic Minister. As such I advocated and provided services for the Hispanic/Latino community. I dedicated the majority of my ministry to doing immigration services. I have a BIA Accreditation1 approved by the Immigration Board of Appeal to practice immigration law. “One positive encounter that I will always remember is when I had to travel to Mexico City, with S. Mary Kay Bush, to take a three-month-old baby to parents who had been deported.” In March 2020 S. Juana began working at St. Michael’s parish in Cleveland, Ohio, as the pastoral minister. This is a multicultural community where she ministers to the Hispanic community including some immigrants. “My life will always be in service to the poor and the culturally marginalized,” she concludes. A nonprofit that wants to provide legal advice to immigrants or represent them in legal proceedings needs to have a lawyer on its staff or be recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). “Recognition” is permission to offer the legal services. “Accreditation” is permission for a particular staff member to provide the legal services. (Sourced from Google.) 1
Sisters Juana Mendez (left) and Mary Kay Bush (right) traveled to Mexico City to deliver Baby Yasmine to her parents who had been deported.
Volume IiI, 2020
Woman as Person: Women’s Studies Program Still Impacts MSJU Curriculum By AJ Keith, former Communications intern
he Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is made up of powerful women dedicated to the service of others but they also take time to educate themselves on what it means to be not just a strong woman, but a strong person. Such was the case when Sister of Charity Victoria Marie Forde spearheaded the Women’s Studies program at the College of Mount St. Joseph (currently known as Mount St. Joseph University) in an effort to help women realize their value at a time of surfacing Second Wave feminism. Second Wave feminism was a movement that occurred after World War II. Women were struggling to adjust back to their unchosen roles as housewives and mothers after supporting the United States in the workplace. While First Wave feminism focused on women’s suffrage, Second Wave feminism took civic action for women in the workplace, which inspired one Sister of Charity in particular. When S. Victoria Marie began teaching at the College of Mount St. Joseph in 1973, she was filled with hope and beamed with opportunity. One of her first and most demanding tasks was to think of a core curriculum for the women’s college alongside fellow Sister of Charity Martha Glockner, in philosophy; Fran Harmon, in history; and Mary Ann Haubner, in mathematics. The result was establishing a Women’s Studies program through the lens of multiple disciplines and each of them were thrilled to be a part of something so pertinent to the time. As S. Victoria Marie once wrote, “Each of us was enthusiastic about all we could bring to such a program.” Their proposal to establish a Women’s Studies program was initially met with scrutiny and heated responses, as some argued that an all-women’s college should innately contain acceptable information about Women’s Studies. This was one of the many instances of the program that stirred controversy, which was made all the more apparent when female students came to learn about Women’s Studies. The students that enrolled did so with the intention of learning how women could achieve equality, and it was primarily made up of married women who never completed college. Some husbands of these students were angry, fueled by their beliefs that they should have remained housewives. S. Victoria Marie said in the Spring 2019 edition of Mount News, that her goal was “to help students understand the truth about the unjust 20
S. Victoria Marie Forde (left) helped establish the Women’s Studies program in 1973 along with three other colleagues.
inequality of women and men in almost every area. To have them graduate with increased self-confidence and self-respect, new perspective on life and learning, and women’s impact on law, government, ministry and the arts.” The classes were generally taught in teams to look at Women’s Studies through the areas of expertise of the professors. For example, S. Victoria Marie taught alongside Fran for a course known as Woman as Person where they used a feminist perspective to study literature and history of women, respectively. Their work, however, was having a grander impact on the college than either of them could have known. To celebrate the new study, the College of Mount St. Joseph hosted an event called “Women Today” in February 1973, which featured a series of plenary talks about the role of women in sports, the workplace and as people over the course of the weekend. The opening address was given by the former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Wilma Scott Heide. To counter her points, they even invited anti-feminist J.J. Jarboe in an open discussion to the convention. Heide had the utmost faith in the new study, as she stated the following in The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1973: “Women’s lib[eration] means men’s lib[eration] and that of our children. The family, to be viable in today’s society, needs for children to thrive in lib[eration]’s richness and diversity.”
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The program steadily increased attendance from the beginning, as the introductory course in 1976 called “Woman as Person” had a class size of 20 people. This attendance convinced the staff at the college to make an additional certificate for the study, which would be the precursor to the minor and eventual major. When the college became coeducational, the first man, Steve Frietch, entered the Women’s Studies program in 1989. This made the program noteworthy in the Cincinnati area, especially since it was one of the only programs concerned with feminism that was successful. The University of Cincinnati attempted to create a similar program in their core curriculum, but to no avail (however, it was eventually offered as a Master’s and Doctorate program, using the college as a model to structure the classes). In 1992, S. Victoria Marie noted that more professors were trying to integrate the ideas of women’s studies into their classes in an attempt to make them gender-balanced. The Women’s Studies program had finally gained enough steam for it to be considered a major in 1990 when it was unanimously voted upon, making S. Victoria Marie the director of the program until she retired in 1992. Succeeding her as director of Women’s Studies was Judith Sauerbrey (a current SC Associate in Mission) before stepping down in 2000. To commemorate the years of learning that resulted from this program, members of the staff and students and the College of Mount St. Joseph’s Friends of Women’s Studies gathered in a prayerful ritual in 2000 at a former student’s home. Their ritual involved dropping pebbles into a pond to see the ripples of the water that reflected their work in Women’s Studies. The prayer ended with the following quote: “…we thank [God] for all that has been, all that now is, and all that will continue from our dedication to the betterment of women and also men in our time and place.” Though the study may have ended, the graduates with this degree took this study as seriously as all of their other classes. Louise Hess, who graduated in 1991 with honors,
S. Victoria Marie Forde (center) still meets with some of her former students for a monthly lunch, such as Mary Jo Dangel (left) and Nancy Heisel (right).
was even awarded the Distinguished Student Award and Harrington Leadership Award at graduation. The graduates also went on to pursue great careers, as Mary Jo Dangel became the assistant editor at St. Anthony Messenger and wrote articles on women’s rights because of the inspiring Women in Literature courses that she took. “Sharing stories related to the literature that we read in class brought out our own stories,” Mary Jo says. “We felt free to share in this safe space that we created.” While Women’s Studies does not exist as a program itself today, it is engrained into the curriculum of Mount St. Joseph University. However, that does not lessen the effect that S. Victoria Marie had on the institution. Social issues are challenged through courses such as Common Ground, which explores the common good and equal treatment for all people, regardless of gender. Classes are offered which highlight the accomplishments of women, such as Professor Drew Shannon’s various Women in Literature courses that explore how women are portrayed in literature through male and female authors. “By the time I received my graduate training in the late 1990s, Women’s Studies had radically altered university curricula,” Dr. Shannon says. “Thus, it’s always been inconceivable to me to craft a course which doesn’t strive for equity between male and female authors.”
To celebrate the life and learning of the program after it ceased function, the College of Mount St. Joseph Friends of Women’s Studies held a prayerful ritual with S. Victoria Marie Forde (right). Volume III, 2020
The study of women is one that cannot be overlooked because it laid the groundwork for many similar programs throughout the area and the integration of a gender-balanced curriculum at Mount St. Joseph University. S. Victoria Marie left her mark on the university and her students alike by embracing the value that all people share. To this day, some of the students have monthly meetings with S. Victoria Marie to discuss how the program empowered them. 21
Conversations About Racism By Debbie Weber, OPJCC director
“We may be non-racist persons, or more likely working to become non-racists, yet still foster and benefit from the practices of racism within various organizations. Becoming aware of this personal and social reality may be one of the most important steps toward helping to build a more fair and just society.” - Associate Kay Clifton, Ph.D.
his past summer, Sisters and Associates were invited to participate in a nine-month, interactive series on racism: Conversations About Racism. This series is being offered as a venue for the Charity Family to explore racism and to have frank conversations with others. From August 2020 through April 2021, seventy-five participants are engaging with presenters, reading books and articles, watching videos, journaling, having conversations with each other, and reflecting on ourselves and our society through the eyes of faith. We are developing understandings that will enable us to learn to better love all our neighbors and to work together to help bring needed change. The Steering Committee members for the series are Sisters Mary Gallagher, Monica Gundler, Marge Kloos and Associates Kay Clifton and Debbie Weber. They are hosting five sessions using Zoom technology: August, October, and December in 2020 as well as February and April in 2021. Participants gather at these sessions for a wide variety of experiences including prayer, guest speakers, breakout rooms for quiet conversations, and helpful tools to use after each session. Session one laid the groundwork toward understanding our own attitudes. Participants tackled the term racist – a persons’ prejudicial attitudes. Delving deeper, we learned that all attitudes consist of three components: beliefs, feelings and intentions to act.
Everyone was encouraged to continue our attitudinal work throughout the series and beyond, and to go at our own pace. For some, this was their first experience talking about the terms racist and racism. For others this is a journey they have been on for years. A robust resource list was provided as well as handouts to enrich participants’ journeys. The remainder of the Zoom sessions have, and will, explore various forms of systemic racism. It is the hope of the Steering Committee that these sessions will inspire and challenge participants to learn more and to continue conversations about racism with others. Session two offered participants a moving experience with Saundra Willingham, a former Notre Dame de Namur Sister. As she read from her article that was published in the December 1968 issue of Ebony Magazine, Saundra wove in personal insights and stories that helped us understand what it was like for her to be a Black Sister in the 1960s. The Steering Committee invited Saundra back one week later for Deepening the Conversation. This was offered to all participants who wished to talk further with Saundra via an informal Zoom experience. As the series progresses, participants are encouraged to continue reading, observing, listening and exploring our own attitudes. A question that was raised in session one was: “Where are you with the experience of race in your life today?” It is a relevant question for all of us to contemplate, every day.
I n t e rc o m
Our Connection to Creation By S. Caroljean Willie
friend of mine recently commented that she felt this pandemic was Mother Nature putting humanity in a time-out. Remember as children when our parents used this technique to encourage us to think about what we did? Perhaps this is God’s way of saying to us “Think about what you have done to my creation.” At EarthConnection we continue to strive to model what sustainability is through our organic garden as well as providing information via webinars, newsletters, our website and Instagram. We work with a number of different audiences from Girl Scouts to adults. Rather than list the topics of our bi-monthly webinars, I would like to share some of the content from a few of the presentations. “A Call to Ecospirituality” focused on how we find ourselves in the place we are today and what we are called to do as people of faith. The presentation traced our evolving relationship to creation back hundreds of years and echoed Father Thomas Berry’s assessment that we are in trouble right now because we are in between stories. He noted that the story of creation which flows from Genesis is a divine revelation, but is incomplete. It is a static model of creation which posits that creation was finished on the seventh day. Yet we know from science and theology today that creation is ongoing; God is continually revealing Godself to us in new and unique ways. Whereas once we believed that Earth was the center of the Universe, we now know that we are only a part of one of thousands of galaxies. God never stopped creating but calls each of us to continually be co-creators of a more just and peace-filled world. Ecospirituality is a belief in the sacredness of all creation recognizing the Divine as an integral part of creation and that human beings are inextricably related to all other life forms within an interrelated, interconnected, ever-evolving web. It calls us to live in right relationship with all of creation. Specific activities in art, music, literature and writing offered ways to deepen one’s own connection to creation.
impossible expectations, cherry picking and conspiracy theories. His book, Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change, as well as his website www.skepticalscience.com provide information from climate scientists throughout the world. In addition to being a scientist, Dr. Cook is also a cartoonist and he employs that skill in both his book and website making complex topics easy to understand. Despite getting a late start, S. Winnie and the “Garden Ladies” provided 562 pounds of vegetables to the Good Samaritan Free Health Center this season. Since 2006 they have provided 12,595 pounds of veggies to the clients of numerous social service agencies. S. Winnie has also provided several lectures for students from Cincinnati Tech on alternative energies. S. Caroljean has offered environmental programs via Zoom for teachers in Belize, an earth literacy center on Vancouver Island, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, DePaul University as well as to members of the SC Federation. A current project is developing programs for teachers at the elementary level on a variety of environmental issues. SC Associate Sue DiTullio maintains our website and social media presence. Check out www.scearthconnection.org. S. Winnie Brubach and her volunteers were able to donate 562 pounds of fresh vegetables from the EarthConnection gardens to the Good Samaritan Free Health Center this season.
The presentation on “The Realities of Climate Change” focused on the scientific evidence supporting the human role in climate change, but also offered ideas on how to understand and respond to climate change deniers. Drawing from the work of climate scientist Dr. John Cook, it detailed the characteristics of science denial: fake experts, logical fallacies, Volume IiI, 2020
A Marvelous Journey: S. Regina Kusnir celebrates 60 years of religious life By Erin Reder
“God’s ways are a marvelous journey. Sometimes it’s like sitting on the hillside and getting fed with the multiplication of fish and loaves and sometimes it’s like traveling through the desert for the 40 years. When you look at it in its totality you see the fidelity of God to us. God’s faithful despite us. I’ve always felt graced by the people who were part of the different experiences I have had along the journey.” - S. Regina Kusnir
hroughout her 60 years of religious life, S. Regina Kusnir has seen God’s work as He has re-shaped and re-formed her for the many challenges and changes in her life and ministries. And while the reasoning behind those challenges and changes may not have been known at the time, eventually they unfolded to bring with them new understandings, relationships and joys. As a child growing up in Akron, Ohio, S. Regina recalls her parents being active parishioners at St. John’s Church, which was located just up the street from their home. Her father was a handyman and would volunteer his time helping with odds and ends. Often her parents would invite the Sisters at the parish to come for dinner or dessert. Her memories of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity (VSCs), and their kindness and compassion for the poor, left a lasting impression and eventually led S. Regina to enter their community after the eighth grade.
S. Regina Kusnir (right), who celebrated 60 years with the Sisters of Charity in 2020, has happily ministered at Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford, Ohio, for 15 years as the director of pastoral and special ministries. 24
In 2017, S. Regina Kusnir (right) was one of six recipients of awards from the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging at its Annual Luncheon and Conference Day. She had been nominated for the award in Excellence in Service Provision recognizing her work in the creation of Light of Hearts Villa’s Seton Safety Net, a program which serves seniors in need providing non-perishable food, gift cards and assistance with paying bills and house payments.
Entering religious life at such a young age, S. Regina recalls her group of six growing up together during those first years of formation. Their bond, and with the guidance of S. Petronella Huzicka, the novice directress at the time, allowed a lot of fun to come into their life experiences. She recalls: “One time while we were in the novitiate we decided to decorate an old-fashioned Christmas tree and string it with popcorn. We had no access to popcorn and so we got one of the ladies in the kitchen to buy us the popcorn. We would sneak down at night, pop the popcorn and then take bathroom breaks throughout the course of the day to string the popcorn on the tree. Those were fun memories! … There was something about us all coming together, we were all about something that we believed in and were learning along the way. And, for the most part, it was a happy time.” By final profession, S. Regina was the only one of the six to remain in the community, and while each were called to new chapters in their life’s journey, S. Regina was just beginning to unfold the blessings she would find in religious life. With a bachelor’s degree in education from St. John’s College, her first assignment was teaching second grade at Holy Family in Parma, Ohio. The next school year she taught fifth grade with 42 children in her class followed by another change when two weeks before the start of a new I n t e rc o m
school year she received a phone call saying that she would be teaching junior high religion! Her ability and willingness to welcome each new adventure would serve her well as the years continued to provide surprises. After receiving her master’s degree in education and majoring in religious education, S. Regina ministered as a director of religious education and then pastoral minister at St. Mary’s in Bedford, Ohio. Eventually she was called to serve in leadership for her Vincentian community, which she said expanded her horizons and honed new skills. “I was in Leadership when we merged with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati,” she explained. “That was such a graced time. There are so many blessings to be able to watch God fill the lives of people to literally risk all and do something that you know in your heart of hearts is the direction God is calling you to. “When [the VSCs] closed Lumen Cordium High School in Bedford and we needed to do something with the building, S. Helen Therese Scasny and I were asked to undertake that ministry,” S. Regina continued. “And that was walking into the deep. We had no idea what to do. Thankfully, we had people who offered their services to us. We learned a tremendous amount throughout the course of that process.” Following the merger, S. Regina found herself joining the staff at Light of Hearts Villa (the former home of Lumen Cordium High School and the same place she helped transform into the successful independent and assisted living residence that it is today). She has happily ministered there for 15 years as the director of pastoral and special ministries. In this role S. Regina works one-on-one with residents, plans the Villa’s formal liturgical celebrations and prayer services, and leads Bible study, which she says is one of her favorite things to do. “Their insights are so marvelous because their lives have been so rich,” she says.
S. Regina Kusnir (right) was a member of the Leadership Team for the Vincentian Sisters of Charity when the community merged with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 2004.
The pandemic has provided its challenges. In a ministry that is predominantly one-on-one, S. Regina has had to go to the line of the creative. In its early days, when residents were not able to have Mass, she was determined to find a way for them to still be able to celebrate the Lenten season. She found a portable microphone, enlisted the help of two resident priests and they took a cart up and down the halls and hosted roving services. Residents were able to sit in their doorways, follow a worship aid and participate in the prayer services. She says the creativity and additional thought has been worth it when receiving the gratitude from residents. In addition to her professional life, S. Regina has seen how she has been re-shaped and re-formed in her personal life as well. She explains: “As as an adult I have had some significant health issues and they have always been shrouded in mystery; they don’t follow the medical books. Until two years ago I had a genetic disorder that was the only known case in the Cleveland Clinic’s history. In the midst of that there’s not a lot of satisfaction, there’s a tremendous amount of question, angst and pain. You may not know in the moment what the reason is but somewhere along the line it unfolds. Maybe it’s my understanding of seniors and those I work with at Light of Hearts, or the friendships I have developed as a result of my doctor visits. Along the way good people come into your life and you learn to simply say, you have to deal with whatever it is and move on with that.” Throughout her 60 years S. Regina has faithfully accepted whatever path she has been led down. Each chapter has unfolded into the next, gifting her with life’s blessings and graces and always assuring her of God’s faithfulness. In her words, “God’s ways are a marvelous journey.”
S. Regina Kusnir (second row, left) with Band members at their Golden Jubilee celebration in 2010. Volume IiI, 2020
Charity Family SCs Donate Seton Hall Furniture With the help of S. Pat Wittberg (left), a group of Cincinnati area volunteers secured beds and bedding, lamps and desks from the Motherhouse’s Seton Hall for a “Reverse Yard Sale” for Guatemalan residents. The sale offered clothing, toys and small furniture items to those who had never experienced such choices and amenities before. Read more at: https://www.srcharitycinti.org/2020/10/27/when-theres-a-will/.
Welcome New Associates Congratulations to Tom Laverty and Kathy McDonald who made their commitments as Associates in Mission on Nov. 7, 2020. Due to the pandemic the commitment ceremony was held via Zoom for all Community members to participate in. Associate in Mission Tom Laverty
Associate in Mission Kathy McDonald
Reaching Out The Sisters of Charity participated in the PB&J Outreach Project of Our Daily Bread (Cincinnati) in September 2020. A group of Motherhouse Sisters prepared 200-plus sandwiches to be delivered to the soup kitchen and social center. Read more at www.srcharitycinti. org/2020/09/08/giving-back-2/. 26
Sisters Support Seton High School Twenty-two Sisters of Charity participated in Seton High School’s annual walk on Oct. 31, 2020, to benefit Seton families in need of support. Wearing Seton T-shirts the Sisters participated virtually, walking around the property of Mother Margaret Hall and the Motherhouse.
S. Shirley Dix was pleased to receive her TinySaints bookmark from the SC Associates.
TinySaints Bring Joy to MMH As the pandemic continued to require caution and distance, SC Associates found creative ways to keep their connection strong. TinySaints bookmarks of Elizabeth Seton were delivered to Sisters living in Mother Margaret Hall. It is their hope that the bookmarks let the Sisters know their Associates are thinking of them, praying for them and looking forward to the day when they can be together again. I n t e rc o m
Timeless Treasures By S. Judith Metz
his year the Sisters of Charity celebrate the 150th anniversary of their move to Delhi. The Academy at Cedar Grove was too small, and the novitiate was increasing year by year: a new Motherhouse was needed. S. Anthony O’Connell, who knew the owner of a property in Delhi Township, rode out with Mothers Regina Mattingly and Josephine Harvey to investigate the prospects. They were all impressed with the land and its beautiful vista overlooking the Ohio River. Negotiations with the owner and the approval of Archbishop Purcell resulted in Biggs Farm becoming St. Joseph’s Motherhouse in embryo on Sept. 29, 1869. Soon the postulants and novices moved into their new two-story red brick farmhouse, with its iron-work cornices, that was named St. Joseph’s House. According to S. Mary Agnes McCann, “The early days of Emmitsburg were repeated when the Sisters used soap boxes for chairs, dishes This sketch of St. Joseph House and its property begins at St. Joseph Station with a 400-foot that baffle description, shuck mattresses, and all stairway leading up the Bluffs of Delhi to Biggs things in harmony or discord. When the novices Farmhouse, home to St. Joseph’s Motherhouse went to church at Our Lady of Victory their in 1869. vehicle was a jolt wagon and the road was hilly and circuitous. ‘Bruises? They’re nothing, darling. Put a little cold water on them,’ Mother Josephine, Mistress of Novices, would say.” The young Sisters enjoyed their new home of 97 acres of farmland and orchards, and began a long tradition of picking apples and peaches at the end of each season and enjoying the fruits of their labor. It wasn’t until March 19, 1870 that the first Mass was offered there by their chaplain, Rev. Thomas Byrne. Dedicated to the Sisters, he often left the Seminary (in Price Hill) at four or five o’clock in the morning, said Mass, and was back in time for his eight o’clock class. During the summer he would spend his days teaching the Sisters religion, the sciences, languages, rhetoric and higher mathematics. Interestingly, four future mothers of the Community made their novitiate in the “old farmhouse”: Sisters Mary Blanche Davis, Mary Florence Kent, Mary Bertha Armstrong, and Irenaea Fahey. S. Evelyn Dee recalled a memorable time during her novitiate in 1880 when S. Anthony O’Connell was removed from her position at Good Samaritan Hospital. Surprised by the news, Joseph Butler Jr., son of the donor of the hospital, announced he was coming to the Motherhouse to see about it. “We novices heard that Mr. Butler was coming. We ran to the window and watched for him. The carriage drew up; Mr. Butler leaped from the carriage and ran up the steps. Soon, the novices could hear Mr. Butler pacing the floor, scolding and objecting to S. Anthony’s change. Gradually his voice subsided and he came to agree with the opinion of the Superiors.” Through the years St. Joseph’s has been put to many uses and seen many Sisters come and go. Who of us do not have our own memories of this first Sisters of Charity home in Delhi? Volume IiI, 2020
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 233 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 16 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
S. Ann Hunt was one of 17 Sisters of Charity celebrating 25 or 60 years as women religious in 2020.
Sisters of Charity employees working in Seton Hall began their move to new office space around the Motherhouse campus in late fall, early winter.
Sisters, Associates, employees and friends of the Community remember the love, laughter and learnings from Seton Hall.