You are the light of the world. Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
– Matthew 5: 14-16
Children at St. Lawrence School in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood are faced with numerous obstacles to learning due to the high rate of poverty in their neighborhood. Many children face issues such as difficult family relationships, exposure to violence and crime, and food and housing instability which lead to high absenteeism and low academic performance.
To overcome the social and mental health issues these students face, St. Lawrence School provides support through a counselor/social worker program. Since 2001, the SC Ministry Foundation has supported the counselor/social worker program at St. Lawrence School, as well as three other Price Hill Catholic Elementary Schools: Holy Family, Resurrection, and St. William. The programs vary by school, yet each provides students with individual and group counseling, classroom guidance, and essential interventions that identify and address academic issues to prevent larger problems in the future. Additional support is provided for bilingual students and families through a partnership with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Latino Outreach Program.
The success of the counselor/social worker program has been documented through improved academic proficiency scores, improved attendance, and fewer
behavioral disruptions in classrooms.
Approximately 85% of St. Lawrence School graduates have enrolled in Catholic high schools over the past four years.
Above all, the compassionate care provided by the St. Lawrence counselor and social workers fosters a loving environment that eighth grader, Yendy, described as
“family.” May all who share in the education of children at St. Lawrence and schools everywhere continue to share the light of Christ.
Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people. – Luke 2:10
Hidden in an industrialized neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, is a niche of color with flourishing gardens, beehives, and worm farms. This earth-friendly place that defies its bleak surroundings is EarthLinks – an organization that brings hope and joy to an increasing number of chronically homeless people in Denver.
EarthLinks remains firmly planted in this struggling neighborhood, providing those who are homeless and impoverished with an opportunity to earn an income through meaningful work in a safe environment. Participants build relationships and learn new skills by contributing to EarthLinks’ line of sustainable products which include soap, cards, vases, jewelry, birdhouses and bee boxes. EarthLinks’ programs focus on the strengths of each person, while also helping them to step out of isolation and re-enter community. As one participant shared, “I am no longer a loser – I am a beekeeper.”
EarthLinks has shown that participants with a stronger connection to community report a higher self-esteem.
Since 2007, the SC Ministry Foundation has supported EarthLinks, where Sister Jacqueline “Jackie” Leech, S.C., serves on the advisory board. “The special moments at EarthLinks are when I watch the participants and staff laughing together while producing beautiful items to be sold. I hear someone’s story of being homeless and the wonderful things EarthLinks has done for them,” shared Sister Jackie.
SC Ministry Foundation recognizes EarthLinks for their efforts to spread Gospel joy while helping the homeless care for each other and care for our Earth.
At the heart of the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is the promise to “strive to live Gospel values” – to live as Jesus did, according to the examples recorded for us in the Gospels. The peaceful words, loving actions and wise counsel that Jesus shared with his followers during his time on Earth provide a needed respite from the harsh, critical words and violent actions that are gripping our world today.
How can we be like Jesus for others?
Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel: “The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that ‘where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more.’ (Rom 5:20)”
We are thankful for the organizations who continue to look with eyes of faith and serve those in need through the example of Jesus. It is through these organizations that children receive the light of knowledge, and the vulnerable and oppressed receive peace and safety and feel the joy of inclusion.
We thank all Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who continue to live out their mission with passion and vigor, providing motivational role models for all of us to
emulate. May God continue to bless our efforts to strive to live our lives by the example of Jesus.
Delhi Township, Ohio –The SC Ministry Foundation has announced the retirement of Sister Sally Duffy, SC as president and executive director of the SC Ministry Foundation. With this announcement, Sister Sally shared, “I remain deeply grateful for the call to servant leadership at the SC Ministry Foundation. Thank you to all the organizations who have partnered with the Foundation in sharing the Sisters of Charity mission to act justly and to share their resources with those in need.”
The SC Ministry Foundation is a public grant-making organization that promotes the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Sister Joan Elizabeth Cook, SC, president of the Sisters of Charity congregation stated: “We thank Sister Sally for her sixteen years of leadership and the positive impact she has had on the many groups, near and far, that have benefitted from the Foundation.”
The SC Ministry Foundation is dedicated to many social justice issues such as the revitalization of the Price Hill neighborhoods in Cincinnati, comprehensive immigration reform, and access to affordable, quality health care. Sister Sally has earned numerous recognitions including: the St. Katherine Drexel Award from Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA) for exemplary and outstanding contributions to philanthropy on behalf of the Church and the common good; recognition by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for service to women religious in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; recipient of the Gabriel Award as co-executive producer of the documentary, “We Shall Not Be Moved: Catholic Sisters of New Orleans;” the Catholic philanthropy Charles Carroll Award for her love for the poor and her passion for social justice; the Doctor of Humane Letters from Mount St. Joseph University; and the Career Woman of Achievement by the Greater Cincinnati YWCA.
“Sister Sally has been an invaluable asset to the success of the Foundation and has served as an important counselor to many Foundation grantees, community partners and to the board,” shared Denise Kuprionis, chair of the SC Ministry Foundation Board of Directors. “We are grateful for her dedicated years of service to the SC Ministry Foundation and wish many blessings for her future.”
During this time of transition, the vice-chair of the Foundation’s board will assume the management of operations, and Foundation staff members will continue in their current roles.
About the SC Ministry Foundation: Since 1996, SC Ministry Foundation has been promoting the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati as a public grant-making organization that supports direct service, advocacy and systemic change. Through their commitment to living Gospel values, the Foundation strives to reduce poverty and injustice, maximize human potential and build healthy communities through regional, national and international partnerships and collaborative initiatives.
For more information, contact: Amelia Riedel, Director of Communications and Program Officer at (513) 347-1086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home, Pope Francis expresses, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, at the same time protecting nature.”
A key component of the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is to “care for all creation,” a message which was reaffirmed with their 2015 Chapter Direction: “Called from the beginning of our foundation as Sisters of Charity to address the needs of our world, we move intentionally and creatively toward the vulnerabilities of our Earth and our sisters and brothers.”
This Spring, in recognition of Earth Day, SC Ministry Foundation invited three Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters CJ Willie, Marge Kloos, and Barbara Busch to share how they are fulfilling the call to environmental stewardship. Staff from 20 nonprofit organizations joined in the conversation to learn how to adopt “green” practices, reduce energy costs, and inspire their community to do the same.
The Legacy of the Solar Nun
Sister CJ spoke from her varied experiences as the program director for EarthConnection, a member of environmental committees for both the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Mount St. Joseph University, and a board member for Ohio Interfaith Power and Light (OhIPL). Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC co-founded Ohio Interfaith Power & Light in 2007 as the statewide affiliate of the national organization. Before her passing in July 2016, Sister Paula had spent 45 years of her life advocating for renewable energy, earning her the recognition as the “solar nun.” Sister CJ shared how OhIPL is continuing Sister Paula’s mission by partnering with energy assessment experts to help faith-based nonprofits obtain low-cost energy audits and implementation plans to reduce energy costs. She included information about financing options that are available to support energy conservation projects, such as the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding mechanism.
Moving “Off the Grid”
As the co-founder and executive director of Working in Neighborhoods (WIN), Sister Barbara discussed how WIN is providing energy-efficient home renovations, and developing plans to utilize solar and geothermal energy in newly-constructed affordable homes. For many years, Working in Neighborhoods has been providing energy-efficient renovations for low-income homeowners, which includes Energy Star rated furnaces, water heaters and appliances, insulation and replacement windows, as well environmental remediation to manage issues with lead or asbestos. In addition, WIN builds new homes with the same principals of energy efficiency and sustainability. WIN’s latest project will create a “Net-Zero” Urban Village in South Cumminsville, one of Cincinnati’s oldest, predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Within a targeted area, WIN will build 25 net-zero or near net-zero energy usage homes using energy efficient design and green energy technology such as geothermal and/or solar. WIN’s goal is to move low-income residents out of costly, inefficient and often unhealthy rental properties into affordable, sustainable homeownership. Within the same targeted area, 25 current homeowners will receive weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades. Sister Barb shared, “We think we can help those in poverty… we’re not going to increase their money, but we can increase their ability to use their money differently.”
Living the Mission
Sister Marge’s background in environmental studies and global travel experiences have prepared her for the responsibility of coordinating environmental initiatives on the Sisters of Charity properties, through her role as an executive councilor with the Sisters of Charity Leadership Council. She shared how Pope Francis’ call to “integral ecology” led the Sisters to consider “what we were doing with our own properties to protect our ‘non-human neighbors’.” Sister Marge shared that when we utilize any energy, we “have to look at the ecological cost as well as the economic cost. As long as I can remember, Sister Paula has been encouraging us to do this.” She described how the Sisters of Charity are on the leading edge of the renewable energy efforts in the Greater Cincinnati area through geothermal, solar, and other energy-efficient initiatives in order to transform their properties into “ecological models of sustainability.” One example Sister Marge cited was their effort to switch 10,500 lightbulbs in the Motherhouse to LED lighting. This has resulted in an estimated cost savings of $62,000 a year. Beyond the Motherhouse, the Sisters have installed geothermal HVAC technology for two of the Sister’s residences and solar technology for six of the residences. The combined impact of these renewable energy solutions is anticipated to reduce carbon emissions at the equivalent of 120,000 miles driven by a passenger vehicle in one year, or 54,000 pounds of coal burned each year.
Contributors: Brittany Hein, communications assistant with SC Ministry Foundation and English major at Mount St. Joseph University; Amelia Riedel, director of communications and program officer with SC Ministry Foundation.
At a time when most of their peers are focused on climbing a career ladder or advancing their education, five young women and men from around the world have chosen to live in Cincinnati in a lifestyle challenged by poverty as they devote a year of their lives in service for others. They share a home in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood, share modest meals and utilize public transportation. They serve in full-time positions and earn only a small stipend for living expenses. They are a uniquely special group of young professionals called the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati.
The Vincentian Volunteer program was created by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Cincinnati in 2012 to expand the Society’s mission of “neighbors helping neighbors.” The program engages young adults in 11 months of full-time service to neighbors in need, while living in intentional community with each other and growing in faith. Though similar programs such as AmeriCorps exist across the country, at the time the Cincinnati Vincentian Volunteer program began it was the only faith-based, residential service opportunity available in the area.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society has served Cincinnati-area neighbors in need for nearly 150 years, and is the largest provider of emergency assistance services that prevent homelessness. The need is great, since approximately one in three Cincinnati residents fall below the federal poverty line, according the 2015 Ohio Development Agency’s Poverty Report. In 2014, 69% of homeless families in Cincinnati were turned away from shelters, largely due to lack of capacity. As requests for services became monumental, the additional assistance from the Vincentian Volunteers has helped to meet the increased demand.
The SC Ministry Foundation has supported the Vincentian Volunteer program since its inception in 2012. Several Sisters of Charity serve as volunteers, including Sister Mary Ann Humbert, as spiritual advisor and advisory committee member, Sister Christine Rody, as pharmacy volunteer and board member, and Sister Nancy Bramlage, as an advisory committee member.
The Vincentian Volunteer program engages a range of 4-6 participants each year. The current 2016-2017 cohort includes a diverse group of five members (pictured at top, from left): Mary Ellen Ostrowski from Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Olafare “Fare” Olagbaju from Lekki, Nigeria; Sarah Spech from Willoughby Hills, Ohio; René Betance from Chihuahua, Mexico; and Molly Gibbons from Margate, New Jersey.
Giving More than Medicine
A variety of reasons may influence a young adult to choose to give a year of their life to service. Mary Ellen’s decision to become a Vincentian Volunteer was tied to her career goal to become a physician’s assistant. Her position as a patient advocate for St. Vincent de Paul’s charitable pharmacy has provided Mary Ellen valuable experience with patient interactions. The charitable pharmacy provides low-income individuals access to prescription medications free of charge, due to donations from pharmaceutical companies, doctor offices and nursing homes, and donated service from volunteer pharmacists and pharmacy students. Before any prescriptions are filled, Mary Ellen and other patient advocates meet with each patient confidentially to document the cost of their medications in addition to other living expenses that exceed the patient’s income.
Sometimes a patient needs more than medication. Mary Ellen shared a poignant story about a woman who had recently lost her spouse and then was diagnosed with cancer. Mary Ellen could tell the woman was struggling on many levels. “I asked her if she would like me to pray with her, and she agreed,” shared Mary Ellen. “We prayed for strength and peace, and shared a hug.” Experiences such as this, Mary Ellen shared, “provide a different lens for me to see and better understand the struggles of underserved populations.”
One of the unexpected benefits of Mary Ellen’s experience has been the friendship developed with her co-worker, Sister Christine Rody, SC. Mary Ellen has had friends who have chosen religious vocations so the idea of working closely with a Catholic sister was not strange to her. “It has been fun to see how our friendship has grown,” Mary Ellen said, reflecting on her relationship with Sister Christine. “It was surprising for me to learn of her experiences, especially when she ministered in El Salvador. She has done some crazy, awesome things by making a radical, counter-cultural choice.”
During the nearly 60 years through which Sister Christine has been a Catholic Sister, she has been a math teacher, ministered in violence-afflicted El Salvador, earned her license in canon law, and became a member of two religious congregations. Sister Christine became a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati in 2004 when her previous congregation, the Vincentian Sisters of Charity from Bedford, Ohio, assimilated into the Cincinnati congregation. “When our two congregations were discerning our options, we realized that the spirit and the charism of our communities had a connection,” she shared, referring to the model of St. Vincent de Paul in caring for the poor, and how that model was later adopted by St. Elizabeth Seton when she founded the Sisters of Charity. “St. Elizabeth Seton ‘American-ized’ the Vincentian charism.”
Sister Christine shared how the Vincentian Volunteers are continuing to live out this model. “Their generosity of spirit and willingness to live in poverty and in solidarity with the poor is remarkable. Most people their age are focused on their career and/or finding a life partner. These volunteers are so spiritually-minded at an early age.”
The additional assistance the Vincentian Volunteer program provides has allowed St. Vincent de Paul to effectively serve more neighbors in need, specifically reporting a 135% annual increase in individuals served. As the emergency needs of more neighbors are met, evictions are avoided and homelessness is prevented.
A Year of Service, Impact for a Lifetime
The program has also proven to be beneficial professionally, developmentally and spiritually for the participants, with 100% of the program’s alumni reporting that they secured employment or advanced education opportunities following completion of the program. Two of the volunteers have become full-time employees of St. Vincent de Paul after their service, and all of the program’s alumni remain actively engaged with St. Vincent de Paul and/or with other nonprofits.
Charissa Qiu, a member of the first Vincentian Volunteer cohort, currently works as Campus Ministry Coordinator at Mount St. Joseph University alongside Sister Nancy Bramlage, SC, who will retire from her role as Director of Mission and Ministry at the end of June. (See related article) When reflecting on her experience, Charissa shared, “It made me question what it truly means to love one’s neighbor. It sharpened who I am and who I want to be in the world.”
Sister Nancy, who serves on the advisory committee for the Vincentian Volunteer program, shared how the St. Vincent de Paul Society reflects the mission of the Sisters of Charity and the spirit of St. Elizabeth Seton. “St. Elizabeth ministered to everyone, whether they were rich or poor,” she explained. “The Vincentian charism recognizes the dignity of all people. The Vincentian Volunteer program is a concrete expression of that charism.”
The Vincentian Volunteer program has played a vital role in building the capacity for the St. Vincent de Paul Society to meet the needs of the neighbors they serve. But perhaps its greater role is in laying the foundation for passionate, committed Vincentians who will continue to serve their neighbors in the spirit of St. Louise de Marrilac and St. Vincent de Paul, as well as St. Elizabeth Seton for many years to come.
Contributors: Brittany Hein, communications assistant with SC Ministry Foundation and English major at Mount St. Joseph University; Amelia Riedel, director of communications and program officer with SC Ministry Foundation.
“…faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.” – Pope Francis
National Migration Week is January 8-14, 2017
On January 8, the celebration of the Epiphany, Christians reflect on the journey of the wise men in search for the Savior. This date also marks the beginning of National Migration Week – a time designated by the Catholic Church in the United States as an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances confronting immigrants and refugees. Many of these migrants are children, and many are victims and survivors of human trafficking.
The theme for National Migration Week 2017, “Creating a Culture of Encounter,” draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter, and in doing so to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us.
Too often in our contemporary culture, we fail to encounter migrants as persons, and instead look at them as “others” or render them invisible. We may not take the time to engage migrants in a meaningful way, as fellow children of God, but remain aloof to their presence and suspicious of their intentions.
During this National Migration Week, let us all take the opportunity to engage migrants as community members and neighbors worthy of our attention and support.
Prayer and Reflection for National Migration Week
“Do not be afraid,” the angel Gabriel told Mary.Immigrants and refugees face fear daily.
Let us pray for the grace of love,
which casts out all fear.
Jesus was born a migrant. Bethlehem had no room, so Jesus was born in a stable.
Let us pray for the grace of hospitality to welcome newcomers.
The Holy Family became refugees through the wrath of King Herod. Today migrants and refugees are still forced from their homes.
Let us pray for the grace of charity,
to offer comfort and consolation.
Merciful and Loving Father, Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes.
Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us.
-Adapted from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Unity in Diversity, A Scriptural Rosary”
Images of stained glass and nativity scene from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Immaculate Conception Chapel.