Dear Neighbor Summer 2021

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Published by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pennsylvania

summer 2021

Serving God and the dear neighbor

without distinction Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


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✛ leadership team letter

building relationships

The members of the Leadership Team are front row, from left, Sister Lyn Szymkiewicz and Sister Sharon Costello; back row, from left, Sister Jean Uzupis and Sister Mary Parks.

About the cover Sister Min Shik Kim chats with one of the children in her first communion class at St. John Cantius in Sharpsburg. Read more about Sister Min Shik on Page 12.

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Dear Neighbor, Through the help of divine grace, the Sisters seek to become more and more simple, compassionate, and joyful in all their relationships and to recognize in every genuine encounter the tenderness of God. -

Constitutions, #69

Core to the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph is building relationships with our dear neighbors and with all of Creation. Through our relationships, we live and work to bring all people into union with God, so that all may be one. In this edition of Dear Neighbor, we are delighted to share a sampling of the relationships we have nurtured with others through our presence and through our Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Inside this Issue ministries. For Sisters Rosanne Oberleitner, Marjorie Kelly and Christy Hill, cultivating a trusting relationship with those seeking spiritual guidance is critical to their ministry. On Page 3, read how, as the newest spiritual directors at St. Joseph Spirituality Center, they are listening to the stories of those seeking to re-center or re-imagine their spiritual lives. Whether kayaking on the water or strolling through her neighborhood, Sister Jan Franklin appreciates a relationship with nature where she readily finds God. Read her story and how she captures spirituality in nature through journaling, beginning on Page 8. Edwin Koontz, a boarding school student at Mount Gallitzin Academy in the 1950s, felt compelled to write about his former teacher, Sister Mary Louise (Ignatius Loyola) Simmons, when she passed away earlier this year. He had reconnected with her and their newfound relationship had a rippling effect, jogging memories of his school days with other Sisters and reflecting on new relationships that formed in the Motherhouse. Thank you to Edwin, our guest writer, who chronicles his connections with our Sisters on Page 16. Sister Min Shik Kim has dedicated her vocation to helping others discover the transformative power of knowing who they are and what’s important in their hearts. Her experiences in Korea and her father’s charitable outreach inspired her to build relationships as a founder of the Korean Catholic Community, a mental health clinician, and a university professor. Read her story on Page 12. We can only imagine how many lives have been impacted by the 14 Sisters who celebrated their Jubilees. Serving a total of 905 years, they continue to connect with dear neighbors through ministries, outreach and prayer. Meet our Jubilarians, beginning on Page 22. As our Constitutions remind us, we see the tenderness in God in all whom we encounter. With each relationship, we hope to bring hope, joy, healing or compassion. In turn, by sharing in our mission, you help us connect neighbor to neighbor and all to God – so that all may be one. Peace and blessings to you and your loved ones,

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Directing spirituality


Finding God in nature


Bridging cultures


Connecting with Sisters


Celebrating Jubilarians


Announcing programs


Commemorating history


Sustaining our mission


Barbara Hecht – Editor Phone: 724-869-6566 Email: Dear Neighbor Contributors Barbara Hecht Director of Communications Alison Lucci Marketing Communications Specialist Erin Ninehouser Communications Specialist Jeanne Minnicks Director of Development Sister Gerrie Grandpre Staff Photographer Sister Norma Bandi Sister Linda Rettstatt Kathleen Washy Karyn Zaffuto Proofreaders Barb Sterchele, Omega Design Group, LLC Design/Layout Permission must be granted for reprinting articles that appear in the magazine.

Connect with us!

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C ✛ spirituality

creating space to listen to God

Lois shares photo with Sister Rosanne.

Lois Trimbur remembers well the pivotal moment of grace that led her to seek spiritual direction from Sister Rosanne Oberleitner. “I felt that I needed a sense of direction because I was living halfheartedly and was just wandering page 4

through life,” she recalls. “I felt like Sister Rosanne would be a perfect coach for a retired person like me to talk with regarding finding a new purpose in life.” After years of helping students at Butler County Community College Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


with their career paths, Lois was ready to work on the direction of her own life.

with God. Discovering inner peace. Finding meaning and purpose. These are some of the recurring motivators expressed by individuals seeking spiritual direction from our Sisters.

“Sister Rosanne began by asking me about what was going on in my life. She listened thoughtfully, cared deeply, and allowed absolutely no distractions to interfere,” Lois says. “I got the feeling that rather than focusing on me specifically, Sister Rosanne was listening with a third ear to what the Spirit was saying while I talked. I began to believe again that not only was there a plan for me, but that God just might lead me in that direction.” Sensing a need to re-center, Ed Curtin also reached out to Sister Rosanne who was recommended by a friend. Just four months into spiritual direction, Ed, president of Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie, PA, was faced with an opportunity to start a new ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. The timing of the spiritual direction was providential for Ed who, guided by Sister Rosanne, shifted focus into discerning about a significant career move. Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


“Sister Rosanne was extremely helpful in getting me through this. It couldn’t have been better timing for spiritual direction,” says Ed. “She is a great listener. She is extremely gentle, but probing when necessary.” When interviewed, Ed was two weeks away from relocating to Florida to begin his new position as founding head of a new career and technical education school that will primarily help individuals in underserved communities, providing them with job skills and pathways to earning a living wage. Re-centering your life. Deepening your relationship

Just as Sisters are called to their vocations, Sister Marjorie Kelly believes that individuals are called to seek spiritual direction. “I personally believe that it’s a deep call that someone experiences; it’s a profound longing to deepen their spiritual life. It’s not something that you can talk about at a cocktail party or in social settings with friends. But you can talk as much as you like about your soul in spiritual direction.” Feeling called was “part of the pull” for Andrea KorcanBuzza whose spirituality was nurtured as a young child by her grandmother who read Bible stories to her. Andrea, who is the Safe Environment Coordinator for Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Beaver, met Sister Marjorie through the pastor, Father Bob Miller. Acknowledging the importance of “bringing your whole life together in a spiritual framework,” page 5

Andrea describes the fruits of spiritual direction with Sister Marjorie as “transformative” in how she lives and “life-changing” in how she treats others. “I think, because of spiritual direction, I always feel connected to God through the day, and I’m very much aware of his presence,” says Andrea, who teaches at Geneva College. Helping to connect individuals to God is embedded in our Sisters’ varied and extensive ministries, which often provide a natural bridge to becoming a spiritual

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director. “I feel like spiritual direction has been part of my ministries for years and years,” says Sister Marjorie, who has served as teacher, counselor, therapist and pastoral minister. Likewise, Sister Rosanne brings broad experience in education, counseling and social work. Both Sisters recently completed an intensive three-year training in spiritual direction

After seven years teaching and 28 years serving as a principal, Sister Christy decided to transition into spiritual direction, which like education, has relationships at its core.

at Villa Maria and, along with Sister Christy Hill, are the newest spiritual directors at St. Joseph Spirituality Center.

Their desire for God was amazing, no matter the situation,” she says.

“The more you are in relationship with people and the more they trust, the more they share. It was true of children, true of teachers, and true of parents.

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Sister Christy received her Spiritual Direction certification from the Haden Institute in North Carolina. “I loved the ecumenical experience of the program. The interaction with people of various faiths and backgrounds enriched my own faith experience and relation with God,” she says. After leaving the ministry of education, Sister Christy still holds the children and parents close to her heart. While at Haden,

she realized her desire to offer spiritual direction experiences to children and parents who “often demonstrated and expressed a desire to know God more deeply.” In response to that desire, Sister Christy will be offering prayer and retreat experiences for children and parents along with individual spiritual direction. Sisters Christy, Marjorie and Rosanne agree that spiritual direction is a “sacred time” for listening to individuals’ stories and for helping them listen to where God is leading them.

“When you think about how much noise there is in our lives and how everything is fast-paced, individuals just appreciate being still and being heard,” says Sister Rosanne. “Spiritual direction may be the only place that this can happen.” For more information about Spiritual Direction at St. Joseph Spirituality Center, please contact Kathy Fletcher Wray, Director, at or 724-869-6585.

Andrea meets with Sister Marjorie at Trinity House on the Motherhouse grounds.

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Nature journaling: Be present, be open

One way that Sister Jan Franklin cultivates a relationship with nature is through nature journaling, which she describes as “in many ways, like prayer.”

“All you have to do is be present, be open,” Sister Jan explains, to get started. Nature journaling can happen anywhere - on a walk through your neighborhood, your front porch, the bus stop, or a local park - any place where you can observe what’s going on. “You have to really just be still and quiet and then things will come out to you,” she shares. “Then you get curious about what you see.” • You might ask yourself about the origin of a tree or flower, why it’s a particular color, how many leaves it has, or why it might be in that unique place.

• You might notice an insect or bird, and pause to think about how it sees the world, or take the time to draw a sketch.

Sister Jan has been learning about nature journaling from naturalist John Muir Laws, who uses the prompts “I notice,” “I wonder,” and “this reminds me of” to cultivate “conscious attention.” Nature journaling, he teaches, is less about “pretty pictures” than “attention, curiosity and questioning” as you observe your surroundings. As your focus on the intricacies and connections in nature grow, so, too, will your sense of wonderment at the Creator’s loving hand. Learn more about nature journaling and other ways that Sister Jan, Sister Mary Frances Grasinger, and the Sustainability Committee are fostering an awareness of the gifts of creation and how we might better preserve and share them with our dear neighbors - today, and for generations to come: Scan the QR Code that links to page 8

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S ✛ creation

Sisters connect with God through nature

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The dusty gravel on the path from Raccoon beach shifts and crackles underneath the wheels as Sister Jan Franklin slowly turns onto the road after a morning on the lake. Nestled into the driver’s seat, her eyes lift to the vibrant green treetops that surround the water. “It feels like being with old friends,” she says, smiling as the leaves seem to wave goodbye, enlivened by a soft summer breeze.

Sister Jan at Raccoon Lake

It was her first time in a kayak in months - a joyful reunion with the water, a place where she finds solace, inspiration, and restoration. “I think it’s a relationship you have,” she muses, reflecting on the ways time spent in nature has deepened her spirituality and appreciation for creation. “I mean, this is Mother Earth.” page 9

kayak, soaking in the warm embrace of nature and the chance to simply “be still.” It was a way to shed the worries of the work week, and also, a form of worship. “There’s just a care that goes on when you’re out in nature,” she explains, “a kind of Sister Jan loving presence - for me anyhow - that just settles you right down Even as a child, Sister Jan felt “pulled to” nature, appreciating the and says, you know, it’s okay . . . it’s freedom to explore and build cabins okay. And I think that’s what leads and roast potatoes with her friends. you to God.” “I just liked being out there,” she Connecting with God through remembers, adding that her dad nature is a deeply meaningful always planted trees “to help clean experience for our Sisters, who the air.” believe in a “sacramental universe” Before moving to St. Benedict the Moor convent in Pittsburgh’s Hill District this spring, Sister Jan spent many Sundays on the lake at Prince Gallitzin State Park, swimming early in the morning and then drifting along in the page 10

where all living things are “imbued with the presence of the triune God” and therefore, intrinsically valuable. This reverence for creation and the desire to share its gifts with our dear neighbors breathes life into Earth Tones, the Sisters’

ministry of ecology devoted to tending the 80-acre Baden campus in sustainable ways, producing allnatural apiary goods like honeys, creams, and soap; and addressing food insecurity in our region. While not all Sisters kayak, many find ways to spend time in nature, be it volunteering in our community gardens, planting and tending flowers around the Motherhouse, walking the nature trail on the grounds, or visiting local parks. This spring, Sister Mary Frances Grasinger organized a nature walk at the nearby Wildflower Reserve for Sisters who live at the Motherhouse. It’s a tradition she began more than 30 years ago as a professor at Duquesne University where she taught students working to Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


become principals and school administrators. Like Sister Jan, Sister Mary Fran’s love of nature began when she was a child. She was inspired by her Aunt Kitty, her Mother’s twin, who loved flowers. “We’d go to the arboretum, we’d go to the botanical gardens, she was always telling me what the flowers were,” Sister Mary Fran recalls before excitedly pointing out a patch of bluebells to the group. The Sisters made their way through the woods at Raccoon Creek State Park, equipped with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Guide to Plants and Flowers, stopping often to examine the flora and celebrate discoveries. “Usually the best time to go is the last week of April or the first week of May to see the wildflowers,” Sister Mary Fran Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


From left to right: Sisters Mary Frances Grasinger, Lyn Szymkiewicz, Judith Kenaan, Jacqueline Treciak, Colleen Crossen, Mary Lou Shimshock, Rosella Lacovitch and Bernadette Carlow at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve

explains. During the two-hour trek, Sisters were delighted to find trillium, fiddle ferns, woodland phlox, Mayapple, violets of the white and purple varieties, bluets, spring beauty, Solomon’s Seal, and a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. “The wildflowers are just so beautiful,” Sister Mary Fran shares, with a broad and joyful smile. Sharing nature’s gifts and preserving them for future generations is important to her. Along with Sister Jan and about a dozen other Sisters, Mary Fran works with the Sustainability Committee to develop creative ways to save energy, encourage Sisters and our dear neighbors to

spend more time in nature, and work together to mitigate activities and policies that damage the environment, “our common home.” For Sister Jan, it’s all about relationship, where a desire to care for the world around us comes not from a sermon, but from the realization of how connected we are to nature, and to all living things. “It’s through the heart, you know? When you start caring about nature, then you’ll act to protect it,” she says. “Nature is more than a neighbor, it’s our Mother,” Sister Jan reflects, adding that “when the soil is sick, we are sick. After all, we are all one.” page 11


✛ vocation

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inspired by father, Sister instills love of neighbor Sister Min Shik Kim’s parents were born in communist-controlled North Korea and moved to democratic South Korea before the nation was divided into two countries. Then in the 1950s, the Korean War occurred. At that time, Sister Min Shik’s family lived in Seoul, the capital, which had been destroyed by bombing and shooting. People couldn’t begin to rebuild their lives without recovering their legal and other official records, and her father helped them - as many as possible. “Those who were in need were mainly the poor and poorly educated,” Sister Min Shik recalls, and, though she was very young, she remembers her father’s charitable deeds as Christian. “He worked tirelessly from morning until night every day.”

Korean Catholic Community first communion Mass

Sister Min Shik’s father saw the extreme violence of the Korean War when the North Koreans came down to South Korea. “Safety was in his mind at all times for the family,” she remembers. Her parents did not have a particular country in mind, but they wanted to move out. Sister Min Shik said that during her parents’ time, Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


First communion class gathers for group photo at St. John Cantius, home to the Korean Catholic Community, with Sister Min Shik and Father Hyeong Cheol Lee.

“they did not make immigration but later, when the U.S. government opened immigration to the world, my oldest brother was able to come after many years of service with Americans.” Sister Min Shik came as a professional person in the early 1970s. At the present time, all her family members are American citizens and they are enjoying freedom and human rights. “And they are grateful,” she adds. “They are now safe as North Korean descendants.” “I didn’t know at the time what a religious vocation was, but I could Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


feel it budding in me,” Sister Min Shik shares, inspired by her father’s charitable deeds during the war and after the war. While she wasn’t raised Catholic, she began to search for who was “living a single life, but for others,” following her heart’s desire to do as her father did and help those in need. Sister Min Shik spent several years working as a psychiatric clinician in Michigan and Illinois still with the desire for religious life dwelling in her - before moving to Pittsburgh in 1978. Sister Min Shik had a friend in Pittsburgh. Under

the circumstances, she met Sister Janet Mock, and the two became friends. One day, Sister Janet invited Sister Min Shik to visit the novitiate, where she was novice director. “I realized that her life goals and my life goals were the same,” she recalls. Sister Min Shik began to learn the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph through Sister Janet and how it matched her father’s Christian belief and the way “he worked for the poor and uneducated people without distinction.” page 13

Realizing “that this was where I was meant to be,” Sister Min Shik formally joined the Congregation in 1979 after spending a year as an Associate. “The way Sister Janet lived strongly influenced me.” When she came to Baden, Sister Min Shik met Sister (then Superior) Marge Berry. “I remember she said to me: ‘You don’t have to adjust to us, we all will adjust to you.’ It was a spirit of mutual acceptance.”

Sister Min Shik

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For many immigrants at that time though, life was very difficult, with even highly educated professionals facing language barriers. “It can be a very isolating experience to re-establish your life in a foreign place, and religion plays a very strong role in comforting yourself,” Sister Min Shik explains. “Having a place to worship in your native tongue is vital, and it helps to cope with those difficulties.” Seeing that Korean immigrants needed a place where they could attend Mass and worship in their native tongue, Sister Min Shik began reaching out to other Korean immigrants in the Pittsburgh area. Sister Min Shik and others founded the Korean Catholic Community of the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1979.

Members of the KCC, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019, worshipped at several parishes around the city before settling at St. John Cantius in Sharpsburg in 2006. Early after its founding, Sister Min Shik taught baptism, first communion and confirmation classes (most recently, online) for children and adults, offered spiritual direction, led retreats and prayer groups, and provided bilingual education to parents who lacked language support. “Worshipping in your native tongue, you feel safe that God understands; you can literally understand the words of an American priest that speaks English, but they might not move in your heart,” she shares, reflecting on the significance of

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"Come to me, all who are heavy laden. I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 this community for Korean immigrants - then and now. Through her professional work as a psychiatric and mental health specialist, Sister Min Shik supported patients healing from trauma and living with mental illness, as well as the healthy population. She dedicated her life to helping others discover the transformative power “of knowing who you are, and what’s important in here,” she says, touching a hand to her heart. Her gentle, empathetic, and forthright approach to counseling enabled clients to “straighten out their lives.” Devoted to her ministries and her work as a clinician at the Western Psychiatric Institute of Pittsburgh, Sister Min Shik continued to pursue another lifelong love: education. Through a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh, she earned a second degree in community mental health and in 1991, a doctoral degree in public health epidemiology. Now “Dr. Kim,” Sister Min Shik left Pittsburgh to teach psychiatric mental health nursing at Mount Marty College in South Dakota before returning to the region in 1998, where she spent nearly 20 years as a professor at Gannon University in Erie, PA. Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


something she’d done her whole life. Passionate about her work, she wrote grants that helped to fund yearly trips to Korea, where she was able to teach college students and religious communities there about mental health, culture, and spirituality.

Sister Min Shik and a professor from Gannon University’s psychology department developed mental health programs for caregivers and educators to better understand and help Erie’s growing and diverse immigrant population adjust to life in America. At that time, and today, Erie is designated by the federal government as a resettlement area for refugees from Somalia, Bosnia, and other countries. The curricula, focused on identity - “not your culture or ethnicity, but who you are as a person, what you value,” she explains - which allowed students to discover their self-worth as unique individuals. At Gannon, Sister Min Shik had the opportunity to earn a certificate in pastoral ministry,

As a founding member of Asian Pacific American Association, and Asian Youth of Erie, Sister Min Shik was a catalyst for festivals, events, and ongoing programming for young people that celebrated Asian culture. These efforts were an integral part of her ministry, she states, because “spiritual life is parallel with mental health; when mental health improves, your spiritual life becomes very productive.” Now retired and in her fourth decade as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Min Shik can be found teaching Tai Chi on Monday mornings in the Motherhouse, sharing her love of learning through spirited conversation with friends, and adapting her ministry to be present to the needs of the next generation of Korean immigrants. She isn’t concerned with what her legacy might be, only with “who comes to know Jesus Christ and his teaching to love neighbors as self through what I’ve been blessed to impart.” page 15

O ✛ connections

our remarkable relationships with the Sisters We grieved with the Community when Sister Mary

About the author

Edwin Koontz graduated from Mount Gallitzin Academy in 1958, St. Basil High School in 1962, and Duquesne University in 1966. He met Kathleen Mulvehill at Duquesne, and they married in the University chapel 53 years ago. They have three sons and two grandchildren, and live in Pleasant Hills. page 16

Louise Simmons passed away last March. She was my grade school homeroom teacher at Mount Gallitzin Academy in 1958 and one of the Sisters we visited on various occasions over the last decade. This is a story about how I first became connected with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, and how my wife, Kathy, and I developed some remarkable relationships with the Sisters.

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Meeting Sister Electa Sullivan at Mount Gallitzin Academy

Sister Electa on grounds in 2000

The first St. Joseph Sister I ever met was Sister Electa Sullivan, a hearty woman with a welcoming smile. My parents took me to Baden in 1956, 65 years ago, to see Sister Electa, who was the principal at Mount Gallitzin Academy, a boarding school for boys at the time. I was a 6th grader in an overcrowded classroom with card tables for desks and an “unsatisfactory” for deportment. Ed Koontz as MGA Sister Electa student assured my parents that she and the teachers had encountered boys with similar problems, and they could and Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


would help “Edwin” become a better boy and a better student. I was immediately accepted into the Academy, and began attending school, mid-year. I loved it there, and my parents were surprised to learn that I didn’t want to come home for holidays and breaks. To this day, I credit Sister Electa and the Sisters of St. Joseph for my turnaround in the early stages of my life. By the time I reached 8th grade, Sister Electa was on her way to another assignment. She became principal at St. Bede’s School in Pittsburgh, and coincidentally, my future wife was

in grade school there at that time. I later learned that Sister Electa was a teacher and principal for more than 40 years in the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown, and Miami, and had even taught private music lessons. After retiring from teaching, Sister Electa relished her work tending to the Motherhouse grounds, and she was often seen riding a tractor wearing an oversized sun hat. The Harvest Festival, which ended in 2002, was a big part of Sister Electa’s life. I also learned that Sister Electa was 90 years old when she passed away in 2006 in her 74th year of religious life. Like so many other Sisters, she had given her whole life and considerable talents to God. page 17

Visiting at the Motherhouse are, from left, Sister Dorothy Pashuta, Ed Koontz, Sister Mary Louise Simmons, Kathy Koontz, Nancy Staresinic, and Sister Sally Witt.

Joining Sister Sally Witt and Her Family at Mass Fast forward decades later when we met my wife’s cousin, Sister Sally Witt, at Sacred Heart Church in Pittsburgh, where a memorial Mass was celebrated for the mother of a mutual friend.

Congregation’s Archivist and an author. One of her books, “A Hidden Spirit,” was about the history of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Pittsburgh, an extraordinary work with more than 600 pages.

Sister Sally said she would like us to come to Baden for Sunday Mass. Shortly thereafter, we received an invitation for Mass and brunch, a custom that was repeated with Sister Sally and her family over the years until the pandemic struck. We would join Sister Sally and her family, including her sister, Nancy, her daughter, Gail, and husband, Steve, and their daughters, Leah and Andrea, who both helped lead the singing on our first visit.

During that first visit, Sister Sally took us on a tour of the buildings. The boys’ school was closed, but the memories came rushing back. The semicircular area where there were about 20 beds, called the Angel Guardian Room, was no longer protected by a lifesized angel. It had been converted into Supportive Living quarters. I recalled that on the night before graduation, one of the 8th graders climbed onto the back of the Angel and swatted any 7th grader with a pillow who dared to enter.

Over the course of time, I learned that Sister Sally was the page 18

Still on site was the Dining Room where the novices served three healthy meals every day. I looked briefly into the empty classrooms, and then we went outside to the back of the buildings and looked at the playgrounds. That’s when I remembered a Sister dressed in white who had suddenly appeared in the middle of our pickup football game. She asked for the ball and motioned to one of the boys to go long. Then she launched a spiraling pass which was caught for a completion. The Sister dressed in white was Sister Anthony Costlow, our cook. All of us watched that pass in awe. It was the first and last time we ever saw Sister Anthony again in our playground. Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Reuniting with Sister Ignatius Loyola Simmons When we returned to the Dining Room after our tour, I found Sister Anthony seated with a group of Sisters, and I retold the story about the amazing pass she threw in 1958.

It had been over a half century since I had been in her homeroom, but Sister Ignatius Loyola immediately announced, “I well remember Edwin.” I remembered her, too. Sister Ignatius Loyola was a strong presence both inside and outside her classroom, and was always in complete control. We quickly became reacquainted over a delicious brunch, but I had to get used to the name change from Sister Ignatius Loyola to Sister Mary Louise.

During other visits, Sister Sally introduced us to members of her Community and we learned of their ministries at the time. We met Sister Dorothy Pashuta, Vocations Director; Sister Karen Stoila, Director of Development; the late Sister Kathleen Garde, coordinator of the Book Nook; and the late Sister Bridget James O’Brien, Sacristan and caregiver to Sister Crescentia Mulvehill.

We shared stories about my classmates and reminisced about the year 1958 at the Academy. Sister Mary Louise would tell any sister who came by, “I taught him!” Sister Mary Louise told a story about how she had arranged for us to go to the drive-in next door and sit at a distance on the grass to watch “Old Yeller.” However, when we returned to the building the door was locked. Fortunately, Sister Jean Michael Flynn came to our aid, and let us back into the building.

One time we headed to the cemetery to pray for the deceased Sisters we had known. We saw a Sister tending her lovely garden, and struck up a conversation. It was Sister Joyce Smith, who was more than happy to describe in great detail how to plant a garden like hers. I inquired about my former teachers, Sister Cosmas Allen, who taught social studies, Sister Zita Toomey, who taught math, and Sister Ignatius Loyola Simmons, who was my homeroom teacher. What a surprise to learn that Sister Ignatius Loyola was retired and living in Baden! Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Sister Mary Louise was both a teacher and principal in numerous parishes before becoming Executive Director of Adult Literacy in Martin County, Kentucky. Once she retired, she volunteered in the Development Department for 11 years. I remember how she hustled us for raffle tickets. She later helped on the switchboard and would drive the Sisters to their appointments. It was a privilege for Kathy and me to help celebrate Sister Mary Louise’s 70th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph, as well as her 90th birthday. Sister Mary Louise with Ed page 19

Seeing Sister Crescentia Mulvehill Again Kathy had another cousin in the Community, the late Sister Crescentia Mulvehill. We had heard from people at Jefferson Hospital that Sister Crescentia was greatly admired by her all-male staff while serving as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for South Hills Health System. We approached Sister Crescentia one day at a Jefferson Hospital event, and Kathy and Sister Crescentia were both pleased to get acquainted for the first time. In 2007, there was a full page spread in the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper honoring Sister Crescentia on her 90th birthday, “For Her Faithful Dedication, Outstanding Leadership and Compassionate Service in Health Care. “We are blessed and enriched by the life and ministries of Sister Crescentia and the 234 Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden who have responded faithfully to the health care, educational, social service and spiritual needs of our neighbors in Western Pennsylvania since 1869,” the citation read. The Sisters of St. Joseph at Baden received a significant gift on Sister Crescentia’s 90th birthday from South Hills Health System, which was used to refurbish the Motherhouse Chapel. When Sister Crescentia retired to Baden, Kathy would remind her during our visits of their “Mulvehill” connection, and she would break into a big smile. We attended Sister Crescentia’s funeral Mass in 2009, and I was asked to be one of her pallbearers, a great honor, to be sure.

Sister Crescentia at South Hills Health System in 1980 page 20

Finding Another Cousin, Sister Ruth Bearer On another trip to Baden, I heard that a Sister Ruth Bearer was a member of the Community, and I wondered if there was any relationship since my great grandmother was a “Bearer.” Sister Sally introduced us in the Dining Room, and we quickly reviewed our family histories. We figured out that my great grandmother and Sister Ruth’s grandfather were brother and sister. They were members of the same Bearer family who had 14 children and lived in the CarrolltownEbensburg area. We had found another cousin in the Community! We also learned that Sister Ruth’s birthday was on Valentine’s Day, a day she shared with her twin brother, Paul. Another time, Sister Ruth and Sister Sally were among the presenters at a poetry reading program that we attended. Shortly thereafter, we invited Sister Ruth to take a trip with us to where she was born and raised and where my great grandparents lived. It had been ages since Sister Ruth had been back home. The drive by her house proved to be the highlight of the trip, as she had me Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


You Can Rest in Peace NOW, Sister Mary Louise Simmons Kathy and I were disappointed that COVID-19 prevented us from attending Sister Mary Louise’s Prayer Vigil and Funeral Mass in person; however, we were able to see them both on Zoom.

Sister Ruth dedicated her book to Father Ryan.

circle the property several times while reminiscing about her years in that neighborhood. We visited Saint Benedict’s Cemetery where the “Bearer” name was visible on gravestones, and we prayed for our relatives buried there. We also stopped by the nearby white frame Saint Joseph Mission Church.

Sister Ruth dedicated the book to Father Regis Ryan who headed the organization and inspired its expansion to what it is today. Three of Sister Ruth’s heart-felt poems celebrating its rich history are included in her book. Father Ryan and Sister Ruth still keep in touch.

We learned that Sister Ruth taught Sister Ruth later sent us a copy at six parish schools before earning of her book, “Focus on Renewal,” a Master’s degree in Social Work at about the 50-year history of the Catholic University in Washington, community center in McKees D.C., the first Sister in her congregation Rocks. She ministered to the less to become a social worker. Sister fortunate in “The Rocks” as a social Ruth retired in 2011 and had worker and administrator for a total volunteered in the Communications of 25 years, only interrupted when and Development offices. We she served on the Community’s helped celebrate Sister Ruth’s 65th Leadership Team for a term. anniversary in the Community. Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Sister Mary Louise received the best of care during her long illness, but it was no secret that she was not yet at peace. She told us and others that she “was on the door step and other Sisters were passing her by.” Then, on March 16, 2021, her prayers were answered, and she entered eternal life. We plan to visit Sister Mary Louise again in her place of rest on our next trip to Baden, and pray for her and all the Sisters of St. Joseph. Of course, we will stop to admire Sister Joyce’s garden along the way.

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M ✛ jubilee

moving toward profound love of God and neighbor 14 Sisters celebrate a total of 905 years of loving service

80th Jubilarian

“A coal miner’s daughter,” Sister Eleanor (Kenneth) McCoy fondly recalls teaching as the great joy of her life. “I really loved my students,” she says, grateful to spend 25 years forming the hearts and minds of elementary students in the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown, and Columbus, OH. Entering the community from St. Bonaventure in Blacklick in 1941, Sister Eleanor first set foot in the classroom at St. Bede’s in Pittsburgh (1944). She later taught at St. John in Johnstown (1949-55), Sacred Heart in Altoona (1956-63), and St. Pius X in Reynoldsville, OH (1963-67) before transitioning into parish ministry at St. Thomas More in Bethel Park (1970-71), St. Paul in Butler (1971-80), and Christ the Divine Teacher in Chippewa (1987-91) as Director of Religious Education.

Sister Eleanor McCoy

For seven years, Sister Eleanor coordinated Religious Education for the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese in West Virginia, a focus rooted in her conviction that “the most effective religious education takes place on the adult level.” She served as a driver and as Assistant Sacristan in the chapel upon her return to the Motherhouse in 1992. Prayer forms the center of community life for Sister Eleanor, whose quiet devotion, kindness to all, and tender smile evince the joy of God’s love.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


75th Jubilarian

Sister Monica (John Baptist) Suhayda has ministered alongside the Shoshone and Arapaho people on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming for nearly five decades. She arrived at St. Stephens Indian Mission in 1974 to serve as an alcohol counselor but instead spent a year leading the religious education department. A former educator and principal, the familiarity of teaching eased her transition to reservation life.

Sister Monica Suhayda

Sister Monica established weekly meetings centered on spiritual, educational and social wellbeing to reduce substance abuse. It was the mission’s first attempt to address the problem devastating its people. Sister Monica’s casual and approachable counseling method helped “open the door” to sobriety for countless individuals and families. Fondly referred to as an “elder,” Sister Monica now ministers as curator of the Heritage Center and Gift Shop, which she launched years earlier as a display of crafts offered to fund outreach and counseling materials. The center celebrates tribal artistry and craftsmanship and serves as a gathering place where Sister Monica continues to share the warmth of God’s love. “What I may have given [the Shoshone and Arapaho people] is minimal to what I have received from them,” she wrote in a reflection in 1982 – a sentiment that remains in her heart.

70th Jubilarian

“God used me in ways that I could never have imagined,” said Sister Rose Mary (Marie Aubert) Rank, reflecting on 70 years of service. She once shared that her greatest love, as a high school teacher and guidance counselor, was working with teenagers and helping them recognize their goodness and strengths. “I wanted them to develop sound Christian values and become responsible, contributing adults,” Sister Rose Mary said.

Sister Rose Mary Rank

Described as dedicated, sincere and forthright, Sister Rose Mary served 40 years in education at eight high schools, beginning at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown and culminating at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh in 1990. She subsequently served as a patient companion at Mercy Hospital and hospitality aide at Mercy House where her cheerful disposition resonated with those whom she encountered. The organizational skills that Sister Rose Mary practiced in education carried over into her new business environment at the Motherhouse where, in 1999, she became Assistant Coordinator of Sisters’ Benefits.

Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Sister Rose Mary views her life as “a journey with Jesus” and credits her parents and the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her for guiding her vocation journey. Known for whistling on key, Sister Rose Mary’s passions included family, football, politics and current events. page 23

70th Jubilarian

Sister Callista Williamson set aside her childhood dreams of calling professional baseball games to follow God’s call into religious life, entering the community in 1951 from Holy Rosary in Pittsburgh. Describing her ministry of teaching elementary students - mostly firstgraders - as “a joy, not a job,” Sister Callista brought enthusiasm and zeal into the classroom for 42 years, cheerfully instructing her students and helping them to believe in themselves.

Sister Callista Williamson

Beginning in 1954, Sister Callista served in several Pittsburgh diocesan schools before moving on to St. Andrew in Columbus, OH (1966-72; 1976-85) and returning to Baden (1985-96) where she was recognized by students and peers at Mount Gallitzin Academy with the “Golden Apple” award of excellence. In nominating his teacher for the award, a third-grader wrote, “Sister Callista never gave up on me. She is the perfect example of a teacher to me.” An avid sports fan who roots for Ohio State and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sister Callista enjoys puzzles, mystery novels, and most of all, time spent with other Sisters and Motherhouse staff. “It’s the relationships that bring me great joy, and make me a better person,” she says, grateful to live each day from “the gift of God’s love.”

65th Jubilarians

Celebrating 65th Jubilees are, from left, Sisters Carol Arch and Margery Kundar.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


60th Jubilarians

Celebrating 60th Jubilees are (front row, from left) Sisters Anne Green, Nancy Kline, Geraldine Grandpre and Rita Murillo, and (back row, from left) Sisters Patricia Byrne, Rosanne Oberleitner, Faith Hepp and Elizabeth Brush.

Journeying with the Sisters Congratulations to our 25-year Associates Kathy Lotzmann Eleanor Stelma Mary Ann Whalen For more information about joining the Associates, contact Judy Lewis at 412-831-5654 or Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


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✛ save these dates

serving the spiritual needs of our neighbors Evelyn has a reflective moment on the grounds during a children’s retreat at the Motherhouse.

St. Joseph Spirituality Center continues our Sisters’ tradition of lovingly guiding our dear neighbors in their desire for deeper union with God. Through virtual and in-person programs, the Spirituality Center provides space, support, and spiritual direction for people of all ages in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment. page 26

Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


OFFERINGS THIS FALL INCLUDE: Intentional Mourning: Finding Meaning and Hope in Suffering, an eight-week series for those grieving the loss of a loved one. (In person, 6:30pm, Sept. 8 - Oct. 27. $50) Claiming Light and Darkness: Evenings of Poetry for Each Change of Season with Sister Sally Witt, CSJ. (In person, 6:30pm, Sept. 20, Dec. 20, Mar. 21, Jun. 20. $20/event) Better World Book Club, a five-week discussion of “Let Us Dream – The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis. (Virtual, 6:30pm, Sept. 29 - Oct. 27. $25 plus cost of book) Health Care Heroes Mass for All Caregivers. (In person, 1:00pm, Oct. 24.) Young Adult Art Retreat, a three-day retreat for young adults seeking time away from busy lives. (In person, Nov. 5-7. $125 includes meals, lodging, and art supplies) Advent Day of Reflection, a prayerful start to a faithful Advent season our Christmas gift to you! (In person, 1:00pm, Dec. 5. Free) “Blue Christmas” Prayer Service, a contemplative church service of peace, healing, and hope for those mourning loss or experiencing hurt of any kind. (In person, 6:00pm, Dec. 12.)

IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY RETREATS The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: The 19th Annotation Form, a retreat for people who feel called to deepen their spiritual lives through weekly prayer practices, readings, meditations, and spiritual direction. (In person, 1:00pm, Sept. 28 - May 17. $500)

In loving memory Sister Mary Morgan, 92 (Sister Robert) May 19, 2021

Ignatian “Retreat in Everyday Life,” an eight-week retreat that mirrors the Spiritual Exercises in an abbreviated format. (Virtual, 6:30pm, Sept. 28 - Nov. 16. $75)

Sister Mary Louise Simmons, 92 (Sister Ignatius Loyola) March 16, 2021

Ignatian Directed Retreat Weekend, a three-day retreat that offers scripturally-based prayer in a contemplative mode, daily liturgy, and individual retreat direction in an atmosphere of silence and quiet prayer. (In person, Oct. 8-10. $140 includes meals and lodging)

Sister Eileen Sweeney, 91 (Sister Carina) February 26, 2021

Individual spiritual direction is also available at St. Joseph Spirituality Center. Certified spiritual directors can meet in person, on our grounds, or virtually for conversation, prayer, and companionship.

Sister Marie Bernard Martino, 88 February 3, 2021

For complete program details, financial aid, online registration, or to explore customized experiences for individuals or parishes, please visit or contact St. Joseph Spirituality Center Director Kathy Fletcher Wray at 724-869-6585.

Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


To read more about our Sisters or to make a memorial contribution, please visit our website at

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U ✛ history

unveiling a state marker In an 1894 legal case, the Sisters of St. Joseph successfully defended

their right to wear habits while teaching in the Gallitzin Public Schools. This little-known action led to a history-making moment on June 23 when the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission dedicated a new state historical marker in Gallitzin to commemorate the nineteenth-century court case that allowed the Sisters to wear their religious habits while teaching in public schools. The dedication, which attracted approximately 80 attendees, took place at Gallitzin Tunnels Park in Cambria County. The 1894 court case of Hysong v Gallitzin School District was overridden the following year when the Pennsylvania Legislature approved the so-called “garb law,” which banned public school teachers from wearing religious attire and insignia.

The court case, and resulting legislation, had a rippling effect across the country, inspiring 21 other states to enact similar regulations. The ban in Pennsylvania has endured. With Nebraska’s repeal in 2017, Pennsylvania is the last state where the ban remains in place. Recently, efforts have been made to repeal the law in Pennsylvania. The site of the dedication was near the location of the former public-school building at Convent and Foster streets where six Sisters of St. Joseph taught from 1893 through the 1894-95 school term Kathleen Washy, Congregational Archivist, and Rev. Dr. Walker, keynote speaker, at historical marker page 28

Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Sisters of St. Joseph prepare to tour restored engine at dedication site.

when their employment was no longer legal in the state. The historical marker designation is one of 24 announced by the PHMC in March 2020. There are nearly 2,300 of the goldlettering-on-blue signs throughout Pennsylvania, chronicling what the PHMC describes as “the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries.” The dedication included remarks from keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Nathan C. Walker, Executive Director of 1791 Delegates; Scott Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Doyle, Preservation Incentives Division Manager of PHMC; and Phillip Mazzarese, President of Gallitzin Borough Council. Father Albert Ledoux, Pastor of St. Demetrius Parish, offered the vocation. The marker was unveiled by the Leadership Team - Sisters Sharon Costello, Mary Parks, Lyn Szymkiewicz, and Jean Uzupis. “The Sisters of St. Joseph didn’t set out to make history. Since our founding in 1869 in nearby Ebensburg, we have been called to serve wherever needed, to respond

to the urgent needs of the times,” said Sister Sharon, Congregational Moderator, in welcoming remarks. “We have remained faithful and committed to humbly serving God and every dear neighbor without distinction: from teaching public school students of Gallitzin more than a century ago to providing foster care to children, growing fresh produce for families, and engaging young adults in our social justice initiatives today.”

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D ✛ development letter

dear partners in mission Our Sisters of St. Joseph are ever faithful to their timeless mission to serve God and each ‘dear neighbor’ without distinction. To know them is to love them, and through works of charity that are rooted in their profound love of God and neighbor, they’ve made our world a kinder, gentler place.

This order of women that has survived for more than three and a half centuries is deeply committed to its mission, and extraordinarily resilient in the face of adversity. If you’re familiar with the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph, you may recall that they were in great peril during the French Revolution. The Sisters risked their lives, Jeanne Minnicks, MBA, CFRE and several were martyred at the guillotine for refusing to renounce the Catholic Church, which was considered a privileged ally of the monarchy. The community disbanded until the danger had passed, but throughout this ordeal, its members remained loyal to the Church and inspired by their vision of a life of union with God, with one another and with every other person. Our founding Sisters established a Motherhouse and school in 1869 in Ebensburg where they lived and worked for decades until they purchased farmland in Baden in 1898 to build a school and Motherhouse. The Sisters no longer operate the school, but 152 years after their founding, the Motherhouse remains the spiritual and physical “heart” of the Congregation. The Sisters who taught us as children, nursed us or our family members when illness struck, or consoled us in times of grief have known

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Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


hardship and faced unexpected challenges of their own, but we never knew it. Their lives have always been about others, especially the poor, the needy and neglected. And so, when we hear that more and more of our Sisters are retiring and that fewer numbers of young women are choosing to enter vowed life, we can’t help but wonder what the future holds for the Sisters of St. Joseph, and for a society where so many individuals depend upon our Sisters’ love, compassion and charitable works. To that end, our Sisters’ future is filled with hope, and one that does not depend upon their numbers alone. It is an inclusive future where Sisters and all of us who share the same values collaborate to advance the mission. A yearlong process on how to move the mission forward brought together Leadership, Sisters, staff and supporters to the table. Together, we envisioned the Baden campus as a home for our Sisters; a preserve for their sacred spaces; and a flourishing hub of ministry programs that focus on caring for the environment, nurturing spirituality, and advocating for justice and peace. Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


Our collaboration has culminated in “Sustaining the Heart and Spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” which you can read on our website at or contact me for a print version. In addition to our vision and ministries, you can also learn about ways you can support us as partners in mission. We promise that you’ll feel the joy, determination and love of God and dear neighbor that has sustained our Sisters throughout their grace-filled history, and will sustain them for years to come. Have a blessed summer,

Jeanne Minnicks, MBA, CFRE Director of Development We are especially grateful to Ruth Darragh, Mary Frankenberry, Susan Jackson, Sandy Jenkins, Romaine Jesky-Smith, Patty Miller, Eileen Prince, Carol Rubritz, Tim Rubritz and Jason Tapolci. These special friends gave generously of their time to review our draft materials and offer insights as to how we might best describe the vision and mission of our Sisters.

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Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Pittsburgh, PA. Permit No. 4675

1020 State Street • Baden, PA 15005

We’re rolling up our sleeves for the dear neighbor!

Sister Mary Susan Connell

Eyes open, ears attentive, spirit alert . . . sleeves rolled up for ministry . . . Never before has this reflection, “Portrait of a Daughter of St Joseph,” played out so literally by so many people than when I worked at the Vaccine Clinic at AHN Jefferson Hospital. As Manager of Mission and Supportive Services for the hospital, I had a front row seat to the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the vaccines finally became available, the hospital not only had to care for patients with COVID, but also offer mass vaccination clinics as well. My small role was to help direct people coming into the clinic for their shots. Even some of our Sisters (all of whom are now vaccinated!) were blessed to be served through this clinic. While I saw fear of getting a shot and concern of side-effects by some as they patiently lined up for their vaccinations, I witnessed an overall sense of acting on behalf of the common good and showing care for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are grateful to all of our neighbors who joined with us to roll up their sleeves, and we hope and pray that others will choose to become vaccinated.

Sister Sarah Crotty

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- Sister Lisa Balcerek

Sisters of St. Joseph / summer


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