Living Holy Lives

When St. Angela Merici founded the Ursulines in 1535, she promised, “You’ll witness wonderful things if you direct all to the praise and glory of God.”

The wisdom of her words proves true in the 21st century! Our Sisters are engaged in gospel service with wonderful people around the Mahoning Valley.

Several work with families in the diocese. Sister Mary Alyce Koval ministers at St. Luke and St. Charles parishes, Sister Janice Kusick at St. Angela Merici Parish, Sister Martha Reed at St. Columba Parish Cathedral, and Sister Regina Rogers at St. Edward Parish, all in Youngstown.

Other Sisters are active with our major ministries. Sister Patricia McNicholas serves as donor relations director for all of Ursuline Sisters Mission. Sister Norma Raupple leads our Immigrant Outreach program and works closely with volunteers and Associate formation. Sisters Carole Suhar and Darla Jean Vogelsang work with women in our Immigrant Outreach program as well.

Sister Nancy Dawson helped 13 incarcerated men become Catholics through our Prison Ministry. Still others maintain their own ministries. Sister Dorothy Kundracik operates our Altar Bread Ministry. Sisters Bridget Nolan and Diane Toth bring food and friendship to seniors through Meals on Wheels. Sister Marie Maravola brightens lives as a pastoral minister at the Antonine Village in North Jackson.

Sister Mary McCormick educates the next generation of faith leaders as a professor and academic dean at St. Mary’s Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland.

Many more are active in ministries offered from the Motherhouse. Sister Pauline Dalpe is a mental health counselor. Sister Nancy DiCola oversees some of our archiving efforts. Sister Elizabeth Anne Freidhoff keeps us all going as Community Secretary. Sister Mary Ann Diersing helps in our administrative office. Sister Jan Gier is a friendly face and voice to visitors at our Motherhouse front desk.

Sister Eileen Kernan offers spiritual direction at home and in the field. She, along with Sisters Kathleen McCarragher and Marlene LoGrasso, also began a “Nuns & Nones” group in 2022.

Sister Kathleen Minchin continues to serve with our HIV/AIDS Café. Sister Nancy Pawlen ministers with our Education & Wellness programs, our Volunteer Outreach Ministry, and with St. Rose Parish, Girard.

Sister Marilyn Hoover earned a gold medal for the 90+ age group when walking the 5k of our Nun Run. Sister Charlotte Italiano keeps in touch with contacts at Holy Family and St. Joseph the Provider schools.

Sisters Mary Ann Coz and Helen Nordick are active with our Prayer Ministry.

We keep all of you in our prayers, and hope you’ll keep us in yours as well.

From left, front row, are Sisters Mary Ann Coz, Marilyn Hoover, Nancy Dawson, Helen Nordick, Diane Toth, Jan Gier, Marlene LoGrasso, and Charlotte Italiano. Middle row are Sisters Eileen Kernan, Marie Maravola, Bridget Nolan, Kathleen Minchin, Martha Reed, Kathleen McCarragher, Regina Rogers, Elizabeth Anne Freidhoff, Nancy Pawlen and Mary McCormick. Back row are Sisters Darla Jean Vogelsang, Pauline Dalpe, Janice Kusick, Nancy DiCola, Dorothy Kundracik, Patricia McNicholas, Norma Raupple, Mary Ann Diersing, Carole Suhar and Mary Alyce Koval.

Fighting Poverty with Education

For nearly 150 years, the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown have been dedicated to the education of women, men and children. The creation of the Ursuline Sisters Scholars Program grew out of a clear need to address people living in poverty.

It was painfully apparent that those who did not pursue a higher education found themselves restricted to low-wage jobs with insufficient wages and few opportunities for advancement.

There was no better advocate for the poor than Sister Jerome Corcoran. She felt strongly that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty was to earn an education.

She knew an advanced education equates to higher wages, better healthcare outcomes, an increased sense of pride in self, more stable families, and in turn, a more solid community. It was through her hard work and dedication that the Ursuline Sisters Scholars program was born.

Sister Jerome was amazingly well-educated in her own right. She began her educational journey at St. Columba Elementary School and was a 1934 graduate of Ursuline High School.

She attended St. John College, Cleveland, earned a BA in English from Sisters College at the Catholic University of America in 1942.

She then earned an MA in English from Catholic University and a Ph. D. in Education from Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1952.

Throughout 79 years of active ministry, Sister Jerome dedicated her life to advocating for the poor through education. In 1967, Sister Jerome conducted GED classes in Youngstown enabling people to earn a high school diploma. In 1976, she began Millcreek Children’s Center for preschool education in the city of Youngstown.

In 1998, Sister Jerome, along with Sister Mary Dunn and the Board of Developing Potential, Inc. began a charter school, Youngstown Community School. Sister Jerome retired from the Millcreek Children’s Center in 2012. In 2013, the year after she retired, she kept going and created what would become the Ursuline Sisters Scholar’s program.

Believing everyone deserve access to a quality education to achieve a better and brighter future, Ursuline Sisters Scholars, a program of our Beatitude House ministry, helps college students from low-income families achieve their academic aspirations through mentorship and financial assistance for school-related living expenses.  The goal is to break the cycle of poverty through education and help underprivileged adults overcome everyday challenges.

In 2020 alone, the Ursuline Sisters Scholars program served 54 students, 16 of which reached graduation (61% of whom were single parents). 55 students have been served so far in 2021. In the past 3 years (2018-2021) a total of 94 students have been served.

The program awarded three scholarships for the Fall 2020 semester. Tymira received $1,000 from the Beeghly Fund for Scholars. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work at Ursuline College, and graduated during the Spring 2021 semester. Ashlee received $1,000 from the Boardman Rotary Fund for Scholars and is currently working on her associate degree in occupational therapy at Kent Trumbull.

Nasheema received $1,000 from the Kennedy Fund for Scholars. She graduated from Trumbull Career & Technical Center with her license in practical nursing and will use this scholarship to further her education at Cuyahoga Community College and earn her associate of applied science degree in nursing. 

Three scholarships were awarded for the Spring 2021 Semester. Rasha received $1,000 from the Comerford Fund for Scholars and is studying Health Information Management Eastern Gateway Community College. Kathryn received $1,000 from the Boardman Rotary and is working on her bachelor’s degree in social work at Youngstown State University. Lastly, Ashlee received $500 from Ursuline Sisters Fund for Scholars and is working on her associate degree in occupational therapy at Kent Ashtabula. 

The program had three graduates during the Fall 2020 semester. Luz graduated from Mercy in the College of Nursing. Theodora earned a degree from Youngstown State University in Hospitality Management, and Beth earned a degree in Integrative Studies from Kent State Ashtabula.

There are five students who graduated or are graduating between May-July 2021. Chondia and Kara will graduate from Choffin in Licensed Practical Nursing. Amanda will graduate from Kent State Ashtabula with a degree in Human Services. Yasmeen will earn a degree in Paralegal Studies from Eastern Gateway Community College, and Tymira will graduate from Ursuline College with a degree in Social Work.

We’re proud of all our graduates, and thankful to Sister Jerome for her passionate work to raise people up through education. What started with 12 students in 2013 has grown into a hugely successful program with an 80% success rate helping so many to break the cycle of poverty.

Donations to this program to continue Sister Jerome’s work can be made by contacting Beatitude House.

A Virtual Visit with Beatitude House

By Jessica Driscoll-Owens
Communications & Community
Relations Coordinator

A Virtual Visit with
Beatitude House

For nearly 30 years, Beatitude House has adapted to meet the changing needs of our clients and our community. With the onset of this pandemic, our lives have been turned upside down. Everyone is affected and at Beatitude House, caring for over 200 people daily, in three different programs, has taken a great deal of creativity.

The pandemic has been challenging for all families, but for those working to maintain permanent housing while changing the habits that left them homeless, the struggle is even more difficult. We’ve been working diligently to keep those in our programs housed, supplied with fresh food, as well as provided rent and utility assistance as needed.

As all of our clients have very low or no-income. We provide most of their basic necessities.

In addition, the majority of our case management, tutoring and mentoring sessions turned virtual. We’ve established regular check-ins and are making sure to provide extra care for those struggling with technology or online learning.

In May of 2020, we began a Child Wellness initiative to further support the children of Beatitude House. This initiative has helped ease the burdens our children are facing.

We’ve engaged our kids to keep them busy and set up desks for them to have their own work spaces, while making sure they had Wi-Fi and tablets if needed.

This year has also brought challenges financially. Our largest fundraiser, as well as all other events, had to be canceled. General donations have slowed dramatically and many foundations have stopped general funding to focus on COVID specific needs. Our resources at this time are being stretched very thin.

As we prepare for Christmas, your help is desperately needed. With your help, we can make sure all of the women and children in our programs experience the love and excitement they truly deserve this holiday season.

Donations last year kept our families warm.

When you provide gifts for our families, they feel so blessed knowing there are wonderful people in this world who truly care! Gifts for our women and children can be found on our Amazon Registry here:

Keep My Word

My mother told me the first word I uttered was WHY. I suspect that really was an exaggeration. However, I do remember that WHY was a word I used most often. And I remember my mother saying , “Because I said so”.


This has never been a very satisfactory answer for a child; we can imagine a teenager rolling the eyes in response. This answer doesn’t give any explanation for doing what is asked, but simply states a chain of command, a line of authority.

In today’s gospel Jesus’ desire that we keep his words functions something like a “Because I said so.” Extraordinary gifts are given to us if we keep his words. His words rest on the authority of himself, his Father, and the Holy Spirit. This is about as high that a chain of command, a line of authority can get. It all rests on “If you love me.” [Living Liturgy 2013]

To enable us to keep his word, Jesus promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit—through whom we are re-created as persons able to live and love as Jesus himself did. We are a new creation empowered to continue the mission of Jesus in peace and with fearlessness. To be created anew means that we share in the Life of the risen Lord—in a very real way, we share in Jesus’ very identity. Indeed, this is the gift of baptism: that we are made members of the Body of Christ. Only because we share in Jesus’ identity as members of his Body can we love as he does, truly keep his word, and carry on his saving mission.

The word of Jesus we are to keep is his command to love as he loves us. Jesus’ word, however, is not simply spoken—“Because I said so”—but is love-in-action. Our love-in-action flows from the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and teaching us to keep Jesus’ word-command to love. Our love-in-action is risen Life-made-visible. Jesus’ “Because I said so” is so much more than simply words.

We are able to fulfill Jesus’ word-command to love as he loves because the Holy Spirit dwell­ing within prompts us to total self-giving. The Holy Spirit prompts us, for example, to embrace the sick and the suffering, to be present to those in need, to ease the troubled heart, to bring peace in the midst of anxiety, to rejoice at the success of others, to believe in the goodness of others. As Jesus loves, so are we to love. Totally. This is what discipleship demands.

Adapted from PrayerTime, Renew International

Furthering the Healing Ministry of Jesus: Sister Darla Vogelsang

Furthering the Healing Ministry of Jesus: Sister Darla Vogelsang

By Michele Ristich Gatts

Prayer brings comfort in the most difficult of times, especially health crises.

For seven years, Sister Darla Vogelsang has witnessed that in her Chaplain Ministry for Mercy Health, ministering at St. Elizabeth Hospital Boardman campus.

“It has been both a privilege and a blessing to be part of the mission and healing ministry of Jesus as a multi-faith Hospital Chaplain,” Sister Darla comments.

Hospital Chaplaincy is an all-inclusive ministry, she states, and does not distinguish between race, color or creed.

“It has helped me appreciate God’s unlimited, merciful love for all people,” Sister Darla states. “My experience as a multi-faith Chaplain in a heath care facility has expanded my understanding and appreciation of Jesus’s mission to reveal God’s unconditional love and presence to ALL people – even the ‘nones’ who have distanced themselves from institutional religion.”

Sister Darla says her personal spiritual journey has been enriched by her encounters with the sick, the suffering, and the dying, which “have drawn me into a deeper appreciation for life and an awakening to God’s hunger for a deep relationship with us, as well as our need for a deep relationship with God.

“When we are faced with our human limitations and vulnerability in the hospital setting, when we are ill and need comfort, in the prison of loneliness and fear, or the confinement of a hospital bed and need someone to visit, that hunger for God surfaces,” she continues. “I am privileged and blessed to be one called to address that hunger and thirst for God’s healing presence in mind, body and spirit and welcome God into the journey.”

Sister Darla, center, works with fellow Chaplain Louise Howell and Sacramental Minister Father John Trimbur to bring God’s love to patients and their families through the comfort of prayer.

“I spend my days on foot, walking the halls saying the mantra: ‘Take me today, God, where You want me to go. Let me meet whomever You want me to meet. Let me say what You want me to say.  And DON’T LET ME GET IN YOUR WAY.’   And God does just that,” Sister Darla continues.

Creating harmony is essential to a fulfilled life, she adds. “Continue to live in harmony with All of God’s creation: nature, our planet, all races and religions. Also in harmony with self: body, mind, and spirit.  And use your gifts and time to make a difference in the lives of others.  See change as an opportunity for good and be ready and willing to risk change that addresses Gospel values for the good of others.”

Sister Darla has been an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown for nearly 57 years. She says experiences great happiness and fulfillment as a member of the religious community, and “being and growing in a garden of Holy Women who bring beauty and goodness where it is least expected,” she says joyfully.

Before becoming a hospital chaplain, her ministry was focused on the Gospel and sacramental life as an educator and parish liturgist. You can view her Vocation Story video on our YouTube channel.

New Ministry ‘Energizing’ for Sister Mary Alyce

Change can be a difficult thing. But Sister Mary Alyce Koval finds a big change in her life right now “energizing.”

Today she begins a new ministry – new for her, and relatively new for the Diocese of Youngstown. She’s the new Parish Leader for St. Luke Church in Boardman. St. Luke’s is one of three parishes in our diocese which will now have a parish leader instead of a resident pastor.

“I am excited to start this new ministry as the parish leader at St. Luke Parish in Boardman,” she says. “St. Luke’s is a trailblazer in this new model of church leadership.”

The move by the diocese comes in an effort to offset the current lack of priests. Priests will still celebrate Masses, funerals and sacraments. Sister Mary Alyce will coordinate these services at St. Luke’s. Fr. John Keehner has been named the Canonical Pastor for St. Luke’s. He’s also the full-time pastor of St. Christine Parish in Youngstown. Frs. Zachary Coulter and Chidiebere Ogbuagu have been named as the Sacramental Ministers. Fr. Coulter also is the associate pastor of St. Christine’s. Fr. Ogbuagu will continue his full-time ministry as Chaplain of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown.

Additionally, Sister Mary Alyce will oversee all pastoral staff and strengthen the faith community of St. Luke’s.

She’s been spending the last few weeks getting to know, and becoming reacquainted with, families at St. Luke’s. “Many of them are former students and their parents. It’s amazing how once you get to know someone, you never know where you’ll meet them again. I’ve also found I have connections with many of the parishioners through other places I’ve ministered in the area.”

Sister Mary Alyce served as the education director for Beatitude House from 2009 through this past July. Beatitude House is our ministry that helps homeless women and their children overcome cyclical poverty through housing, education and other assistance.

Prior to that, Sister Mary Alyce ministered in school administration, serving as principal first at St. Joseph School in Austintown, followed by St. Rose School, Girard, then at St. Charles School, Boardman. She ministered as an educator at several elementary schools in the Diocese, including St. Luke’s.

“I have met so many people who are committed to continue the legacy that has been laid in the past,” Sister Mary Alyce states. “We as a parish are looking forward to bring about the Kingdom of God at this time and in this place.

Sister Mary Alyce also is active in the greater community, serving on the board of directors at St. Joseph the Provider School, Youngstown, as a Hospice of the Valley companion, and on the Youngstown Diocesan Pastoral Council. Previously she served on the board of directors for Park Vista of Youngstown, on St. Charles Parish Pastoral Council and in several liturgical ministries at that parish.

Sister Mary Alyce also served a member of the Ursuline Sisters’ Leadership teams from 2002-2014, and as a member of our formation team.

A graduate of Ursuline High School, Youngstown, Sister Mary Alyce earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University, a Master of Science in Educational Administration from the University of Dayton and a Master of Arts in Ministry from Ursuline College, Cleveland. She also holds several professional certifications.

“After entering the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown following graduation, it didn’t take long to realize that there were more doors to new adventures in my life than I could ever imagine,” Sister Mary Alyce comments. “My heart is filled with gratitude.”

Overflowing Gratitude

By Sister Nancy Pawlen

“The great use of life is to spend it for something which outlasts it.” — William James(1842-1910), Father of American Psychology 

sister-nancy-pawlen1As a young Sister working on my B.S. in Elementary Education (from 1965-1970), I was very much drawn to that quote. Reflecting on its meaning, I thought that its truth connected well with Jesus’ words: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find life.” (Matthew, 16:25)

Throughout my 50 years as an Ursuline, that quote by James and the words of Jesus have been key parts of my automatic guidance system — inspiring and encouraging me in all circumstances.

Of course, there are other significant aspects of my life’s guidance system: St. Angela’s life and words,
the examples of the saints, contemporaries who “pay it forward,” the unconditional love of family and friends, and the gift of my Ursuline Sisters, who share life and ministry with me.

How can I not be filled with overflowing gratitude as I live this Jubilee year? I remember the children I taught in my 40+ years in education. I see the faces of teachers and music ministers with whom I served. I delight in looking through photos of past achievements, celebrations, and times of vacation. In my imagination, I hear the voices of those who taught or affirmed me.

Some people have remarked that I have given up so much to live the calling of an Ursuline Sister. Looking back 50 years, I’d have to say that the blessings Jesus promised those who give up so much for “his sake” certainly have been bestowed upon me.

In spending my life for others, God has given me the “abundant life” in the here and now. What a wonderful foretaste of that which is to come!

Heartfelt Gratitude

By Sister Mary Alyce Koval


And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’ So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

From “Gate of the Year” by Minnie Louise Haskins

I first became acquainted with this poem when I recited it as a student at Ursuline High School. At 16 years old, the only doors I knew were those that opened to homes and classrooms.

After entering the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown following graduation, it didn’t take long to realize that there were more doors to new adventures in my life than I could ever imagine. In my 50 years as an Ursuline Sister, I would learn very quickly to put “my hand into the Hand of God” and to “trod gladly” into the new adventures ahead of me.

From my years of classroom teaching, to more than 30 years of elementary school administration, to the opportunities to serve in leadership in the Ursuline Community, to the women and children whose lives have touched me in the past seven years at Beatitude House, I reflect often on the students, teachers, Sisters and friends who have been such an integral part of the confidence with which I “trod gladly into the night.”

Classroom stories, administrative challenges, community blessings, and the daily struggles of the poor are the tangible hands of God for me as I greet each “breaking of day” with thanksgiving. My heart is filled with gratitude.

It’s No Wonder

By Sister Diane Toth

dscn0631When you have parents and grandparents who believe in serving and helping others, you have an opportunity to follow in their footsteps. Add to that a family history of centering around the church community, and the vocation has a fertile field.

I am amazed at how I learned of God’s call. It happened while I was standing on a corner waiting for my mother to pick me up following an after-school meeting. It happens in ordinary moments and is quiet as a gentle breeze. The thought of being a sister popped in my head from nowhere. The call is a mystery. It is there for you if you pause and listen. Talk to God about it. God is there all the time. Listen and ask for God’s input. God will let you know how to serve.

In the last 50 years, I was blessed to meet people of all ages. Working with children as a teacher, I was taught the meaning of the scripture, “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

As a social worker I encounter young adults and people in the final time of life’s journey. God is there in the pain and the joys. God has taken many of my ordinary experiences with people and transformed them into “Awesome encounters.”

One afternoon, an older woman in a nursing home repeatedly called for help even though she did not need help. A chaplain talked to her and read scripture. When the chaplain left, the older woman again took up calling out — but in a calmer voice saying, “God loves me, God loves me.”

Look for God in the eyes of others and in your own.

Sister Diane is one of three Sisters celebrating their 50th anniversaries, or Golden Jubilees, as Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown in 2016.

150 Years of Blessings

We are celebrating the golden jubilees of Sisters Mary Alyce Koval, Nancy Pawlen and Diane Toth, during Mass at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Charles Borromeo Church.

13667951_1348805705147845_2866414730150418312_oMarking 50 years as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown is Sister Mary Alyce Koval. She’s the education director for Beatitude House, Youngstown and volunteers with other nonprofits in the greater community. She has ministered in school administration and education, with our leadership team.

“After entering the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown following graduation, it didn’t take long to realize that there were more doors to new adventures in my life than I could ever imagine,” Sister Mary Alyce comments. “My heart is filled with gratitude.”

A graduate of Ursuline High School, Youngstown, Sister Mary Alyce earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University, a Master of Science in Educational Administration from the University of Dayton and a Master of Arts in Ministry from Ursuline College, Cleveland. She also holds several professional certifications.

13923591_1348807301814352_6697300399694842228_oSister Nancy Pawlen celebrates her 50th anniversary as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown this weekend. She is an assistant director of The Ursuline Center, is active with our Young Adult Outreach program, serves as a Homebound Minister for St. Rose Parish, Girard, and volunteers with other nonprofits in the greater community. She has ministered in school administration and education, and was the director of Omni-West Assisted Living in Youngstown from 1989 to 1991.

“In spending my life for others, God has given me abundant life in the here and now,” Sister Nancy observes. “What a wonderful foretaste of that which is to come.”

An Ursuline High School alumna, Sister Nancy earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Youngstown State University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton, and a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education from Kent State University. She holds several professional certifications.


Sister Diane Toth is one of three Sisters celebrating her Golden Jubilee as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown Aug. 7 with Mass and a special dinner.

Sister Diane is a social worker, ministering at the Windsor House facilities of Parkside Health Care Center in Columbiana and St. Mary’s Alzheimer’s Center in Salem. Before becoming a social worker, Sister Diane ministered as an educator in several diocesan schools and has volunteered with other nonprofits in the greater community.

“I am in awe of the many well wishes and prayers,” Sister Diane says. “I am aware of others who have made commitments to raise children or remain faithful to their spouse. I am inspired by people who have strong determination to spread the Word of God by action or example. I am experiencing a deeper appreciation of God’s loving presence in all these moments.”

Sister Diane is a graduate of Poland Seminary High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. She holds professional certifications in her fields of study.

Sister Jeanne Cigolle Celebrates 65 years of Service

UPSK Sr. Jeanne (1)Sister Jeanne Cigolle celebrates 65 years as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown in 2016. Throughout her varied ministries, her life has been filled with joy. Sister Jeanne walks us down her path in this installment of Vocation Stories.

In Sister Jeanne’s own voice

 I am an Ursuline Sister and very proud of it.

When I came to the convent, I just knew that was the place for me. I love the Mass. I love the prayer life. The words of prayers and the Mass have a beautiful meaning. As I’m getting older, those words have even more meaning for me.

The call to become a nun came in the summers between the 1st and 2nd grade, when my mother, two brothers and I would help the Sisters clean the school. Sister Virginia asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, ‘I’m going to be a nun.’ She told me that I’d change my mind 10 times before I did that. I looked her right in the eyes and said, ‘No I won’t.’ And I never did. I kept that dream all through my school years.

When I entered, I felt at home. I felt it was the place for me. God has his ways of doing things.

In the summers, we’d go to school to get our bachelor’s degrees. I also went to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., for five summers to get a Master’s degree in education.

My first 19 years I was a teacher at the old St. Ann School on Federal Street, at St. Columba, and at St. Patrick’s in Youngstown. Then I was asked by the Mother Superior to sew habits for the Sisters and did that for a decade.

When we needed a nurse in our healthcare wing, I volunteered. I went to nursing school for two years. I am still a licensed nurse today.

For six years I worked with our Motherhouse Pool ministry. I now tutor at Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten. In my spare time, I like to do crafts and sell the items to support ministries at The Ursuline Center.

If you are considering religious life, pray. Ask God to help you decide. Become associated with some Sisters so you can get to know what they’re really like. It makes discernment a little bit easier.

“Sister Carole, You’re the First Nun I’ve Ever Met!”

Sister Carole 2During this past June, I enjoyed a wonderful vacation in North Carolina and Florida, visiting with friends both young and old. One of the people I spent time with was Amy Lindsley, who now resides in North Carolina. She and I first met in 1977 when, as principal of Saint Luke School, I was interviewing candidates for a school nurse.

This was my first assignment as principal. This was one of the first tasks I needed to do before the school year began. As an introvert, I wasn’ t looking forward to the task thinking the candidate probably was less nervous than I was.

Amy recalls, she wasn’t nervous about the interview itself, but being non-Catholic and meeting a nun for the first time produced great anxiety, to say the least. Fortunately, our time together went well. We talked for a long time that day and shortly thereafter I hired her for the position. No, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do any more interviews!

Amy was a natural for the position. She was, and still is, an extremely kind, compassionate and caring person. I knew that the children of our school were in good hands. It was during Amy’s second year at the school that her husband of 21 years died of cancer. Those days were difficult but Amy’s faith was strong and our friendship deepened as we shared many discussions about faith and God and about what the future might hold for her and her four young children.

Since she was now the only “bread winner” for the family, Amy moved on to a full time position at Boardman High School but our “connection” was never lost. I am happy to say that I was her sponsor when she was received into the Catholic faith. Amy became a member of our Company of Angela and spent many hours visiting at the Ursuline Motherhouse, especially with Mother Blanche, who was retired at the time.

Amy remains a blessing in my life, though separated by 500 miles. She tells me I continue to be a blessing in her life. I am thrilled that God chose me to be the first nun she ever met!

Reflection written by Sister Carole Suhar


de-dos-en-dos1-e1339422180393A subpoena summons us to court. A principal summons a student to the office. Parents summon a wayward child to a family conference. Summons such as these do not admit of being ignored, carry grave importance, and tend to put us on edge. Their urgency is already the message: something’s up. What was up when Jesus summoned the Twelve in this gospel passage?

What was up was the salvation of the world. What was up was the call to repentance. What was up was the healing of humanity. Nothing—neither life necessities nor rejection—can keep us from faithfully hearing and responding to Jesus’ summons to preach repentance. The summons is urgent because the mission is urgent.

This gospel poses two challenges for us: first, that we hear Jesus’ summons; second, that we grasp its urgency. We hear Jesus’ summons through his word in the gospels, the cry of those in need, the desire of those wishing to grow in their faith. We grasp the urgency of the summons when we respond without counting personal cost, actively seek ways to preach repentance, consistently shape our everyday living in accord with the demands of the Gospel. What is at stake is the salvation of the world. The summons is urgent because the mission is urgent.

Sister Brendan Sherlock: A Life of Giving

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer and social activist (1856-1950)

BrendanWhile quite a few Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown are of Irish descent, Sister Brendan is unique in that she emigrated from Ireland. She faced discrimination when she first arrived in the United States, but her faith in God was a source of strength that empowered her through life’s challenges.

Sister Brendan came from a large Irish family. Growing up in poverty, in the 1920s and 30s, her family worked hard to make ends meet. She was the third of ten children, and because she was considered the strongest of her siblings, often helped her father around the farm.

At age 19, after working in a Dublin restaurant, Sister Brendan traveled to England, where she learned English from a priest (she’d only spoken Gaelic), and the world opened up before her. With her mother’s encouragement, Sister Brendan left her family’s farm and immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s to pursue a religious vocation.

As an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown, Sister Brendan has ministered in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and beyond. Wherever she goes, she has been a witness of God’s unconditional love. “She makes everyone feel special,” Ursuline Sister Kathleen Minchin says. “That’s what God does for us, makes us feel special. People see that reflected in her.”

Sister Brendan’s ministry began in the field of education. She spent 20 years teaching grades 1-5. After that, she began working at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, supervising the housekeeping staff.

More recently, Sister Brendan served as a pastoral minister at St. Michael Parish in Canfield. She ministered to the home bound as well as those in hospitals and nursing homes. She looks back on those 13 years with particular fondness. She enjoyed getting to know the families of the parish and working alongside the pastor, Father Terry Hazel. With a beaming smile, she remembers, “I liked Terry since the first day I saw him. But if he gave you work to do, he expected to find you working.” The two have remained close friends.

Sister Brendan’s adventurous spirit led her to new places and experiences. She found a kindred spirit in fellow Ursuline Sister Virginia McDermott, a friend who shared Sister Brendan’s sense of adventure until her passing a few years ago. Sister Brendan also incorporated her passion for driving into her ministry. When she visited St. Michael’s parishioners in their homes, she bought a GPS to help her navigate the different neighborhoods. She was one of the first among the Ursuline community to have a GPS and she quickly learned how to use it, first gauging the distance on a map, and then following the GPS’s directions.

“She loved visiting people,” Ursuline Associate Rosemary Yaniglos says. “She’d tell me how she would encourage them and pray with them and give them hope, and how in turn they gave her hope—and wisdom, too.”

During Sister Brendan’s years with St. Michael Parish, she made monthly visits to Paisley House, an assisted living facility in Youngstown for women, where she prayed with the residents and distributed communion to them. Sister Brendan’s visits united people of different faiths, and she made everyone feel welcomed and loved.

Though retired, Sister Brendan remains active, drawing energy from the company of others as she has her whole life. During the week, she participates in activities such as crafts, exercise, and bingo at the Antonine Sisters’ center in North Jackson. She enjoys talking with the other seniors there and seeing the delight in their eyes when they win bingo prizes. “That thrills them, you know,” Sister Brendan observes. “And they’d say: I’m taking this home to my aunt, I’m taking this home to my sister… It’s a nice thing to give them.”

For women discerning a religious vocation, Sister Brendan offers these words of encouragement: “Go for it. You’ll make it. I’ll tell you that. Even with hardships—you overlook those, because they have meaning.”

Through joys and hardships, Sister Brendan’s good-hearted nature touches all those she meets, and Rosemary Yaniglos admires her spirit and strength. “Somehow she grows with it, and, those of us who love her, we grow with her. She makes us stronger,” Rosemary says.

Sister Brendan enjoys community life and is grateful for the friendships she’s formed with the other members of the Ursuline community. “They’re helpful, in every way that they can,” she says of the Sisters. “There’s a lot of joy to have women together.”

Golden Jubilee

Sr. Carole HeadshotThe Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown will celebrate Sunday, Oct. 19, as Sister Carole Suhar marks her golden jubilee (50 year anniversary). Invitations have been issued to family and friends for a celebratory Mass at 1 p.m. at the Motherhouse Chapel, which will be followed by dinner in the Motherhouse dining room.

Sister Carole Suhar was born in Youngstown on April 21, 1945, to the late Steve and Margaret Suhar, and was a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Austintown. After graduating from Ursuline High School, Sister Carole earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University and a Master of Science in Elementary Administration from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. She performed post-graduate work at Boston College, Dayton University, St. Mary of the Woods, St. Mary of the Woods, Ind., and YSU. Sister Carole also has earned numerous professional certifications. You could also go dining at restaruants in Boston.

On Sept. 8, 1963, Sister Carole entered the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown. She was received into the Novitiate Aug. 6, 1964, and made her Final Profession Aug. 8, 1971.

“I had wanted to be a nun for as long as I could remember but really couldn’t have told anyone why. I just did,” Sister Carole reflects. “Deep down a very shy person by nature, the very thought of leaving my family, my security should have been terrifying, but it wasn’t. Why not? I know now that it was because God was calling me. God was inviting me and giving me the strength and courage I needed to answer God’s call then and throughout these past 50 years.”

Sr. Carole tutoringSister Carole has ministered in education for 41 years, and currently ministers as Intervention Specialist at St.Rose School, Girard, where she has worked since 2010. Sister Carole’s ministries have included serving as a principal of St. Rose, St.Nicholas School,Struthers, St.Luke School,Boardman, and St. Mary and Joseph School, Newton Falls, and teaching at St.Columba and Sacred Heart schools in Youngstown and St.Nicholas. She also has ministered as the Learning Center Coordinator at Ursuline High School.

Sister Carole is active as a Eucharistic Minister and Lector at Holy Name of Jesus/Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Youngstown

Walking In The Footsteps of Christ: Sister Julia Baluch’s Vocation Story

Imagine setting your feet on the actual ground where Christ Jesus walked. Few of us will ever have that opportunity. But not only has Sister Julia Baluch toured paths in the Holy Land where Jesus is believed to have traveled, she’s dedicated her life to following in the footsteps of Christ by continuing His mission to share God’s love with His people.
When Sister Julia first entered the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown community, she taught grades 1-8 at various schools in the Youngstown Diocese and served as a principal. She has fond memories of the bonds she forged, and in particular remembers a young girl from St. Rose in Girard whose mother and grandmother volunteered at the church baking bread. On the first day of school, the girl gave Sister Julia a rose bud. This gesture marked the beginning of an enduring friendship.
After 30 years as an educator, Sister Julia served as a pastoral minister, including at her home parish of St. Patrick in Youngstown. She visited the sick and families who lost loved ones. She prayed with them, listened to their stories, and attended funeral masses. “It was a gift to God,” Sister Julia says of those experiences. “They were so appreciative, and it was a beautiful thing to see.”
Sister Julia began contemplating a religious vocation during her years attending school at St. Patrick’s. A Sister of St. Joseph visited her school, and a classmate asked the nun how to know if one has a calling to vowed religious life. As Sister Julia recalls, the nun advised them to pray three Hail Marys before bed each night, and “when the time is right, you’ll know.” This piece of advice, Sister Julia says, “sparked” her desire to serve God, a longing which continued to grow.
Throughout her life, Sister Julia was blessed with Catholic mentors and role models. Her mother, an immigrant from Kassa (then part of Hungary), was very religious. Deeply touched by a community of Ursuline Sisters during her childhood in Hungary she even considered joining the community. Therefore, Sister Julia observes, her mother was supportive of her decision to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.
Another mentor was Sister Julia’s spiritual director, Sister Miriam Thompson, an Ursuline Sister of Brown County. “I read about spiritual relationships, but I didn’t know what that meant in my younger days,” she says, describing how their friendship grew in ways she had never imagined. Sister Miriam was a source of inspiration, she says, and also provided her with criticism when needed. Sister Julia remembers making several trips to Brown County, and Sister Miriam promised that there would always be a guest room available for her.
Sister Miriam also shared a quote from Marie of the Incarnation (1599-1607), an Ursuline Sister — recently canonized — who served the Iroquois and children of pioneers in an early French-Canadian colony: “Leave it all to God. He has his own time, this God of ours who is so full of love.”
To this day, Sister Julia keeps a copy of these words with her. Their meaning has evolved over time, she’s found.
Despite having retired five years ago from active ministry (60 years!), Sister Julia remains active and serves others. She is involved with the Antonine Sisters’ program for senior citizens, where she describes her ministry as sharing God’s love and providing a healing presence.
Once, when she was consoling a woman, Sister Julia placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “We continued to talk, and then I was realizing my hand was going over and back, over and back on her back. Actually, I was just massaging her back,” she explains. In that moment, though, Sister Julia discovered her new ministry.
Mary Clyde, Ursuline Associate and aide in Motherhouse Healthcare, has formed a close bond with Sister Julia. “She’s very prayerful with me,” Mary says, recalling the blessing Sister Julia gave Mary’s son before he left for basic training. “You feel good when you are with her,” she adds. “I think I am a better person because I’m with her.”
Ursuline Sister of Youngstown Nancy Dawson, executive director of The Ursuline Center and former general superior, admires Sister Julia’s commitment to reach out to others. “She is a gift of God to the Ursuline Sisters and the whole Church,” Sister Nancy says.
Sister Julia’s Hungarian background brings cultural diversity to the community, and she takes pride in her heritage. She also helped foster the extended Ursuline family, visiting communities across the United States and making two trips to Italy, where the Ursuline order was founded. Her involvement in the Jewish-Christian dialogue led by Father George Balasko and Rabbi Samuel Meyer, united people of different faiths and deepened her own spirituality.
Through life’s changes, Sister Julia remembers a piece of advice she received from her spiritual director: “When you knock on the right door, it will open.”

Sister Frances Marie Sopko’s Vocation Story

Soon Sister Frances Marie Sopko begins a new phase of ministry. In this installment of Vocation Stories, she reflects on how answering God’s call to be a nun has shaped her life.
[su_quote]Not many people can say they’ve looked into the eyes of a saint. But Ursuline Sister of Youngstown Frances Marie Sopko can![/su_quote]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the 1990s, Sister Frances Marie traveled to Rome with fellow Ursuline Sister Jeanne Cigolle to meet Pope John Paul II. Sister Frances Marie describes the pope as very “personable,” and following his canonization, she cherishes her memories of “looking into the eyes of a saint.”
That holy experience is just one of many treasured events in Sister Frances Marie’s life as an Ursuline Sister. “We do have a wonderful community and I’m glad I’m part of it, that the Lord has directed me here,” she says.
In August, Sister Frances Marie Sopko will retire from her full-time ministry at The Ursuline Center, the educational facility operated by the Ursuline Sisters. She takes pride in her work at the Center over the last decade and considers the time her “contribution to the community and working for the Lord.”
Sister Marlene LoGrasso, who also works at the Center, values Sister Frances Marie’s ability to keep everything organized. “One of her biggest assets is her ability to remember things and set up systems,” Sister Marlene says, describing Sister Frances Marie’s methods for organizing the calendar and invoices. “She keeps all of that straight—now that’s amazing to me!”
Sister Frances Marie’s responsibilities included overseeing maintenance, housekeeping, and scheduling. With the wide variety of events that the Center hosts — recitals, family gatherings, and diocesan programs — her position kept her “going 24/7.”
Renee Harrison, receptionist for the Ursuline Motherhouse, has watched Sister Frances Marie going between the Center and the Motherhouse for many years. With a laugh, Renee adds, “There’d be times she’d come back and forth past the desk three or four times a day!”
Over the past several decades, Sister Frances Marie has served in a variety of ministries. She taught grades 1 through 8 in Youngstown Diocese schools for 40 years. Because the schools were small, she filled a variety of roles: teacher, principal, secretary and bookkeeper. “I did it all, so I had to rely on a lot of volunteer help,” she recalls, expressing gratitude for the support of parents, the home and school association, and the priests.
Sister Francies Marie notes the students she taught were very conscientious. She believed in being firm with them, and she says that as a result, they treated her with respect. Once when keeping a group of students after school to write essays, a monsignor stopped in the classroom, asking the kids if they thought she was mean. In unison they replied, “She’s fair!” Sister Frances Marie considers this one of the best compliments she’s ever received.
Sister Frances Marie’s ministries included bookkeeping at Assumption Village Nursing Home in North Lima. Of her experience performing clerical work at Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in North Jackson, she says, “It was a very spiritual time in my life. I had time to go on different pilgrimages and make many holy hours.”
Through it all, Sister Frances Marie has stayed involved in her religious community. She says she enjoys sitting and talking with the other sisters, as well as going places with them. She regularly attends First Friday events, a monthly series that features guest speakers about a variety of faith-related topics. Sister Marlene says she admires Sister Frances Marie’s commitment to continuing her spiritual growth. “She really absorbs and understands well what they’re talking about and can remember things that she’s heard.”
Now as Sister Frances Marie leaves her full-time position at the Ursuline Center, she looks forward to deepening her prayer life. “I will be able to spend more time with our Lord in chapel,” she says.

Search Your Heart

Sr. Jan CU

[su_quote]There’s just something special about the Ursuline Sisters that made a difference in my life.[/su_quote]

Spend just a few minutes with Sister Jan Gier and you’ll easily understand why children respond so well to her. Her kind, gentle voice and warm smile bespeak her love for them, her love of her vocation, and her love of the Lord.

“My personal relationship with the Lord through Eucharist, community prayer as well as my personal prayer, and my teaching ministry give meaning to my life,” says Sister Jan. “My community, family and friends also give my life meaning.”

The joy in Sister Jan’s heart radiates when she speaks both of her vocation as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown and her ministry as an educator.

Sr. Jan early teaching“Sometimes you don’t realize what an impact you have on children’s lives. Being a positive presence in the classroom promotes an environment of love and support,” Sister Jan says. She had many Ursuline Sisters as teachers when she was growing up, and notes, “There’s just something special about the Ursuline Sisters that made a difference in my life.

That difference was one of the reasons Sister Jan answered her calling to become a nun a couple of years after becoming a teacher. Since then, she’s spent more than three decades as a teacher a and administrator in schools and preschools throughout the Youngstown Diocese.

Sr. Jan St. Shephen's“I love teaching,” exclaims Sister Jan, now a kindergarten instructor at St. Stephen School in Niles, Ohio. “The children are so enthusiastic. They love being in school. They love to learn, and they get excited about simple things.”

The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown were originally a teaching order, but just a handful minister as educators today. Still, that was one of the original appeals about the community for Sister Jan – but not the only one.

“The Ursuline Sisters served primarily in the Diocese of Youngstown, and I felt called to be a part of their ministry to serve the local church.

Sr. Jan at Mass“Praying together and sharing Eucharist helped me to grow in my spiritual life and affirmed my decision to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.

“And then there was Sister Norma,” Sister Jan continues. “I would meet with her on a regular basis before I entered. Sister Norma was enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging.”

[su_quote]If you think you might be called to be a nun, Sister Jan advises, ‘Search your heart and respond to God’s love in the many ways that He reveals it to you.'[/su_quote]

And contact Sister Norma Raupple, who can offer you guidance as she did for Sister Jan. You can call her at 330-792-7636, or call or text her at 330-261-4729.

Teacher, Traveler, Trailblazer: Sister Marcia Welsh

Sr. Marcia WelshUnlike many women called to become a nun in the 20th century, Sister Marcia Welsh wasn’t drawn to vowed religious life right after high school. First she received her college education, enjoyed a successful career teaching, and had a very active social life that included a tour of Europe with a friend. Yet the entire time, she was a model of faith and lived the Gospel in many ways that inspired and comforted others.
An exemplary student at Youngstown College, Sister Marcia was asked before graduating to teach college math courses to GIs returning from World War II. “I was almost a different person in the classroom. I felt like an actress,” she reflected in a 2002 interview by her nephew, Tom Welsh. “I thought, ‘I should go to Hollywood,’ because I really acted the role of being in charge of this class, when technically, I didn’t feel old enough to be in charge.”
But she was a good instructor, and the college called on her teach from 1946-56. She also taught math at Walsh College in Canton, and was on the faculty of Ursuline High School for two decades.
Her college years weren’t all work and no play, though. Sister Marcia was a member of the Alpha Theta Delta sorority and forged friendships that lasted her lifetime. “I met Sister Marcia during my first college days,” remembers Theresa “Tess” Trucksis Hickey, Sister Marcia’s good friend. “I knew no one. I was lonely. Sister Marcia became my friend, always kind, caring and helpful.” Mrs. Hickey and fellow sorority sisters the late Dr. Gratia Murphy and Mary Dingledy Fecych kept close ties Sister Marcia over the years.
During her young adult life, Sister Marcia was already a leader in the Catholic community, volunteering on campus with students looking to deepen their faith. “I knew her from 1950–1954 at the [Youngstown College] Newman Club,” says Sister Charlotte Italiano, then a student and now director of the Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten. “She was very much a spiritual leader. She was a very, very, very active person. She was a very important person in our lives there.”
Sister Charlotte, who entered the Ursuline Sisters in 1955, the year prior to Sister Marcia, remembers that Sister Marcia’s example impressed many people. “She was a very active woman and ahead of her time, teaching at college in an all-man’s world, being a very involved woman leader. It was great.”
Sister Marcia’s academic record is impressive, having earned a baccalaureate with five minors and a master’s degree before entering the convent; after becoming an Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, she earned another master’s degree and completed more than 170 hours of post-graduate work at various universities to strengthen her ministry work. As both a student and an educator, Sister Marcia was recognized for excellence with numerous awards.
Despite having academic and career success as a young adult, as well as great relationships with family and friends, Sister Marcia’s heart wasn’t filled, so in her early 30s, Sister Marcia was led by her faith to another vocation.
“When I first thought of going to the convent, it was because a relative of mine had thought of a vocation in terms of missionary work with the Maryknollers,” Sister Marcia reflected in her 2002 interview. “And then, I met a young woman who was entering the Ursuline Sisters, and she told the Diocesan director of vocations that I was thinking about convent; and so, I was invited to come and talk about it. And it was even surprising to me. I said, ‘Yes, I should look at this.’ I’ve been very glad that I did, ever since.”
In her 44 years of active ministry, Sister Marcia not only taught high school and college math, she served as In-Service Director at Windsor Nursing Home and as Pastoral Minister at St. Aloysius Parish in East Liverpool. During the 1990s, Sister Marcia lived and worked in Washington, D.C., for SOME (So Others Might Eat), first as a volunteer coordinator and then as a Senior Center Coordinator. “The first couple of years I was there, I educated myself in Washington,” Sister Marcia said in her 2002 interview. “I took part in a lot more peace activities…I educated myself politically.”
When she returned to Youngstown in 1998, she began a decade of ministry in Social Justice, especially working as a chaplain for jails and prisons in northeast Ohio, a ministry inspired by her time in and connections from Washington. “I had been arrested twice while I was there [for picketing outside the South African Embassy] and was inside the D.C. jail, one time for three days. And, you know, just that little experience made me think, ‘Gee, there should be more going on down there than just warehousing….’ Then, I went to a national meeting of C.U.R.E. [Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants]…. It’s people who are in prison ministry, and it especially dealt with people who want restorative justice rather than just revenge or warehousing. They want rehabilitation and restoration.
“So, then, when I got home, I looked into it, and gradually, I worked into prison ministry,” Sister Marcia recounted in her 2002 interview. At that time, she was visiting four prisons and one jail every week, speaking with both women and men. Sister Marcia said that while she taught the inmates ideas and widened their understanding, she also learned from them.
St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline order, always counseled hospitality and resilience. Sister Marcia Welsh embraced both these in her daily life. And she did her best to influence others in her mission and ministry – especially her family.
“She always shared with us her causes, the things she thought were important on a broad society scale and encouraged us to get involved — whether it was about nuclear disarmament or capital punishment — to work to try to make society better,” says Kevin Welsh, Sister Marcia’s youngest nephew. “Even from being a young kid, I can remember things from being involved in a march about nukes, or how she would talk about her ministry in later years with the folks in the prisons — trying to help those who faced an uphill struggle and not many on their side.”
Passionate about peace, courageous in her fight for Social Justice, leading by example in her love of the Lord, learning, her Ursuline Sisters community, family and friends, Sister Marcia Welsh passed away Oct. 9, 2013. From the time of her retirement from full-time ministry in 2008 until her death, Sister Marcia remained active in service at the Motherhouse, most recently praying for the needs for the Church and the world.
“What we will miss are Marcia’s educational skills, her love of politics and encouragement to respond to injustices, her advocacy for those in prison and the poor,” states Sister Nancy Dawson, General Superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown. “I am sure there were never enough mailboxes in Congress to accommodate her letters on behalf of the poor.”
Read Sister Nancy’s full reflection on the life of Sister Marcia.

Sister Mary O’Leary Still Sharing Her Sweet Smile

If you are one of the lucky many to have known Sister Mary O’Leary, you’ll be glad to hear that her smile still brightens every room she enters.


Many people around the Mahoning Valley and beyond remember Sister Mary  from her days in education. For 30 years, she worked in various education ministries around the Diocese of Youngstown. She began teaching in 1953, working with elementary-school children – an experience that sparks fond memories.


“Oh I loved it. I just loved taking care of the little kids!” she says, her soft voice expressing utter joy. “They were so much fun. They would be coming into the school, they’d have their lunches in one hand and their books in the other, and they’d come running up to my desk. They wouldn’t even take their coats off, they’d just tell me what they did the night before. We were so friendly, and they were friendly to each other, too. It was so, so nice.”


Over the years, Sister Mary instructed every grade from 1-8 except 5th. She ministered at Sacred Heart and Immaculate Conception in Youngstown, St. Charles, Boardman, Holy Family, Poland, and St. Nicholas, Struthers. She also ministered as a principal at St. Charles and Our Lady of Peace, Canton, and as assistant principal and registrar at Cardinal Mooney High School, Youngstown. She’s remembered fondly by many former students and colleagues for her caring and gentle ways.


But Sister Mary’s ministry wasn’t limited to schools. She also served in the department of education for the Diocese, and for the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown in various leadership roles – treasurer, director of finance, as local superior, and in community service.


Sister Mary has slowed down since retiring in 2011, but she still enjoys greeting other Sisters, employees and visitors around the Motherhouse, often sharing stories from her childhood and about her family.


“She always tells me how when she was young, her brothers used to sneak her coffee because she liked it,” laughs Renee Harrison, receptionist and healthcare aide. “And she still loves to drink coffee!”


Sister Mary had three older brothers and one younger. “We had a great time growing up. We had such good times. We were just friendly with each other,” Sister Mary says, noting her family was very happy at their farm on the Southside of Youngstown until tragedy befell them; Sister Mary’s father, who worked in the steel mills, died of a heart attack when she was but 11 years old. “It was sad, sad, sad. Then we had to move from the country into the city. My mother had to get a job.”


With five children to provide for, Sister Mary’s mother went to work in the office for the Youngstown Police. But the job required long hours beginning early in the morning, so Msgr. Maurice J. Casey, who was pastor of St. Patrick Church, Youngstown, stepped in to help his parishioners. “He found out that my mother was raising five children,” Sister Mary says. “He said, ‘No let’s change it. You take care of the children until the evening, then you can come in when everybody’s home.’ Two of the children were older so they could watch all of us.”


Msgr. Casey gave Mrs. O’Leary a job at the parish that allowed her to spend more time with her children. Sister Mary’s aunt and uncle, she remembers, also helped her family. Her two oldest brothers came of age during World War II, and even after joining the service, they did what they could to help the family by sending home their pay each month to fund tuition for Sister Mary and her youngest brother to attend Ursuline High School, Youngstown. “We were the only ones who went. The three of them went to public school,” Sister Mary remembers of her older brothers.


Hearing Sister Mary tell that story has touched the heart of Patty Hackett, director of nursing for Motherhouse Healthcare. “Imagine having nothing but doing for others. How much better the world would be if more people were like that still.”


Perhaps it’s no wonder that with such examples of selflessness and kindness throughout her childhood, Sister Mary chose to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown shortly after her high school graduation. The Ursuline Sisters follow the charism, the mission and ministry of St. Angela Merici, who counseled hospitality and service to others.


“Sister Mary O’Leary is a role model for all of our Sisters,” says Sister Nancy Dawson, General Superior. “Her vowed, community life and service exemplifies what the Ursulines are all about. Her devotion to family captures Saint Angela Merici’s (our Founder) love and care for families.”


If you would like to send a card or note to Sister Mary O’Leary to say hello or relate treasured memories of your time under her tutelage, you can write her at the Motherhouse, 4250 Shields Rd., Canfield, Ohio, 44406. You can also send an email to [email protected].

Called To Be A Nun ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Says Sister Patricia McNicholas

Ursuline Sister Patricia McNicholasShe’s taught elementary through college students. She’s worked for the diocese of Youngstown. And her ministry of nearly two decades saves the lives of homeless women and their children.


Sister Patricia McNicholas, an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown for just over 50 years, calls being a nun “wonderful.” Reflecting on her experience as an Ursuline Sister recently even brought tears of joy to her eyes.


Sister Patricia shares her Vocation Story in this short video



World Day of Prayer For Vocations

This Sunday [April 21} is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In 1963 Pope Paul VI designated Good Shepherd Sunday as World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows us well and gives his life for us. In the name of Christ Jesus we rejoice in the Good Shepherd who leads us into fullness of life. As we celebrate this feast we pray for fidelity to our vocation.
820429-musicThe Church invites us to honor the vocation of all Christians given at baptism. Through the vocation of marriage, priesthood, diaconate, consecrated life, and the single life may we further the reign of God. May those who are discerning their life vocation listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd to guide them.
We offer this prayer to be said on that day.
Gracious God, You have called me to life and gifted me in many ways.
Through Baptism You have sent me to continue the mission of Jesus by sharing my love with others. Strengthen me to respond to Your call each day.
Help me to become all You desire of me. Inspire me to make a difference in others’ lives. Lead me to choose the way of life You have planned for me. Open the hearts of all to listen to Your call. Fill all with Your Holy Spirit that we may have listening hearts and the courage to respond to You.
Enkindle in my heart and the hearts of others the desire to make the world a better place by serving as Lay Minister, Sister, Priest, Brother or Deacon. Amen.


Sister Marlene LoGrasso Has A New Ministry

If you’ve ever attended Catholic school in the Mahoning Valley, there’s a good chance you’ve been taught by an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.
marlene-225x300Sister Marlene LoGrasso taught or served as principal for 30 years in the Diocese of Youngstown schools. From St. Nicholas in Struthers to Our lady of Lourdes, East Palestine, Holy Family in Poland, Sts. Peter & Paul, Sacred Heart (Now St. Angela Merici), and finally Ursuline High School, all of Youngstown.
After receiving a master’s degree in pastoral studies, she went to St. Hilary Parish in Fairlawn, where she served in various ministries for 21 years.
Now she’s starting a new and re-energizing phase of ministry at the Ursuline Motherhouse.
In her own words…..


If you’re considering a religious vocation or you just want to find out about it, Sister Marlene advises praying and reading Scripture. “Each one of us is a Gospel story and we have good news because God has been with us, calling us by name,” she says. “As it says in Psalm 139, ‘I knew you before you were born.’”

How Is God Calling You?

diligentHow is God Calling You,a 20-part series being produced locally by the Catholic Television Network of the Diocese of Youngstown and shown on ETC – the Ecumenical Television Channel – featured the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown on Monday,Dec.17 at 8 p.m.
The show helps area youth and young adults reflect on and discern the path that God has chosen for them, whether that be a vocation to become a nun or priest, to marry or live a single life.

View the conversation with Sister Mary McCormick.

If you’re considering becoming a nun and would like to talk with someone about your thoughts and feelings, call Sister Mary McCormick or Sister Norma Raupple at 330-792-7636 or contact them by email at Vocations office.

Also, visit our page with information on how to Become A Nun

Deepening Your Relationship With Christ: Sister Mary Alyce Koval’s Vocation Story

Sister Mary Alyce KovalIn our continuing series of Vocation Stories, short videos about the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Sister Mary Alyce Koval shares her experience on life as an Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, what inspired her to become a nun, and offers advice on what you can do if you feel called to religious life.
“I would encourage them to keep relationships with any religious women they know or establish some. I think that was the seed of my vocation – getting to know the sisters as individuals. Establish a relationship with a Sister or group for Sisters. Spend time with them, not just in prayer. Most people think we pray all day but we have very busy lives. Share meals with them. Do things socially with them.

I think the core relationship that has to be established is the relationship with God. I think God can work miracles in people’s hearts and minds. Keeping that communication open through prayer – not just formal prayer but spending time with the Lord and listening to the Lord’s side of the conversation. Listen to what Jesus is instilling in your heart to move you forward in your journey. It is a journey, it’s not a decision you make in one day. You move into it and grow into it. Keep that vision of what you want ahead of you and do what you can to nurture it.”


If you’re considering becoming a nun and would like to talk with someone about your thoughts and feelings, call Sister Mary McCormick or Sister Norma Raupple at 330-792-7636 or email them at [email protected].

My Joyful Life As A Catholic Nun

Sheila Triplet, Sister Betty Schuster, Sister Mary Alyce KovalBy Sister Mary Alyce Koval [far right in photo]
I never really thought about being a nun until I was in high school. I started to develop relationships with some of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown who were teachers. Eventually I thought, “This is a fun group of women to be a part of!”

I knew there was a joy in their life, prayerfulness in their life, and I liked to be around them.

So here I am, almost 50 years later, and I am one of them! The fact that I am energized every day when I go to work keeps me going.

I was involved in education for over 40 years. I was a teacher for a few years, then I moved into administration and I was a principal in various elementary schools. I dearly loved it.

For the last three years, I’ve been involved at Beatitude House. I’m the education director for the program, which means that I’m responsible for making sure that each of the women in our program has an education plan.

It’s been a real joy. It’s been a blessing to work with them. I have learned so much from the women in hearing their stories and helping them to refocus their lives and aim for something higher.

For any woman thinking about becoming a nun, I would encourage you to establish a relationship with a Sister or group for Sisters. Spend time with them, not just in prayer. Most people think we pray all day but we have very busy lives! Share meals with them. Do things socially with them.

I think the core relationship that has to be established is the relationship with God. I think God can work miracles in people’s hearts and minds. Keep that communication open through prayer – not just formal prayer, but in spending time with the Lord and listening to the Lord’s side of the conversation. Listen to what Jesus is instilling in your heart to move you forward in your journey.

If you believe you are being called to become a nun, give us a call at 330.301.6891 and we can help you discern God’s call.