What led to the establishment of SC Ministry Foundation more than twenty years ago? Two Sisters of Charity share their insights below, beginning with Sister Judith Metz, SC, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Historian, who shares the history of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and their mission that paved the way for the foundation.
“St. Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity here in the United States in 1809 and she was really carrying on the charism of charity that had been founded by St. Vincent de Paul. Within just a couple of years after her death, in 1829, the Sisters were invited to come to Cincinnati to start a girls school and a girls orphanage here. We started with seven sisters and very quickly began to grow and as more sisters came we were able to take on more missions or ministries,” shared Sister Judith.
“From the very beginning our constitution always said the sisters should always be able to respond to whatever the requests were, whatever the needs of society were. St. Vincent de Paul at one point told the sisters back in France, “go where you are needed, do what needs to be done.” And that’s been our way of responding to the various requests that we have received,” she added.
“The main work of the community has historically been in health care and education. But we were always involved in other types of work as well. We sponsored a number of hospitals, we also had a number of orphanages, boarding academies, and then as we moved into the 20th century we began to have a series of foreign missions,” Sister Judith explained.
The legacy that the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati had forged in health care ultimately led to the creation of SC Ministry Foundation.
In 1979 all Sister of Charity sponsored health care institutions were brought together in the Sisters of Charity Health Care Systems under the leadership of Sister Grace Marie Hiltz, SC. This became one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the United States until it joined with other systems to form Catholic Health Initiative in the 1990s.
Sister Grace Marie had ministered as a nurse and later served as administrator of St Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, Colorado and Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. She served on many boards of trustees and chaired the Catholic Health Association and Ohio Hospital Association Boards. She earned the title “Amazing Grace” through her involvement in many civic as well as health care endeavors.
The Sisters of Charity as well as the broader community suffered a tremendous loss with the untimely death of Sister Grace Marie in 1985. But the legacy of “Amazing Grace” continued to grow since the proceeds of her insurance policies were used to begin the Sisters of Charity Health Care Foundation, which later became SC Ministry Foundation.
Sister Roslyn Hafertepe, SC, served as the first chairperson of the first board of directors for SC Ministry Foundation. She recently reflected on the early days of the foundation.
“I always thought the Charities responded to the call ‘Stay true to your charism. Stay true to your roots.’ And so Sisters were responding to that and identifying new ministries, new ways of serving, new people who needed to be administered to. A number of these new ministries required funding,” recalled Sister Roslyn.
“It was in that kind of environment that the concept of the foundation emerged. Because the foundation then appeared to be a vehicle that we could use to help create and encourage new thinking, and to help stabilize some of the sustaining ministries, which were equally important,” explained Sister Roslyn. “We also had a strong commitment to systemic change. Looking at not only what caused poverty, but what could we do to prevent it.”
While serving as the treasurer for the Sisters of Charity congregation, Sister Roslyn was asked to chair the first formally constructed foundation board. “But there were so many important people that helped make this implementation plan a reality. I think particularly of Celestia Koebel, who was president of the Sisters of Charity Health Care Systems at the time,” recalled Sister Roslyn. “Maryanna Coyle was on congregational leadership at the time and she always brought her unique dimension. And then, ultimately Maryanna became the first president of the foundation. And we all look back and see how the foundation was launched with creativity and the direction that it took.”
Sister Roslyn added, “It was an exciting time, really exciting time. There was so much change in the wind and a lot of challenges, and a lot of opportunity for creative thinking – that was the part I thought was so exciting.”
When asked if she would have advice for Sisters facing challenges today, Sister Roslyn advised them to, “Have no fear. It’s amazing to me some of the things that emerged that we never dreamed of. But it was what meant to be for us. What’s so exciting for me is I see it today in our Sisters around us – all of these creative ideas popping up. And it just gives you all kinds of energy.”
“When we think of some of the things we have embraced as a community, it’s the hand of God in it all,” Sister Roslyn added with a smile. “And we say Alleluia… I think that’s where we are in celebrating the 20 years of the success stories of our foundation. Amen.”