2023 Guided labyrinth walks

The Ursuline Education & Wellness Center, 4280 Shields Rd., soon begins its 13th year of guided labyrinth walks. While the labyrinth is open year-round, themed and guided labyrinth walks are offered by trained facilitators during the warm-weather season.

Each walk is led by a different facilitator, either an Ursuline Sister or Associate, with the meditation centering on a related theme.

This year’s overarching theme is compassion, a virtue central to the programs of Ursuline Sisters Mission.

All persons of faith are invited to participate in these free, weather-permitting events. Walks generally take 20 minutes to ½ hour.

This year’s schedule is:
Sun., May 21, 2 p.m. : Compassion as a Way of Life
Thurs., June 15, 6:30 p.m.: Compassion for One's Self
Thurs., July 20, 6:30 p.m.: Compassion for God's Creation
Thurs., Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.: Compassion for Family
Thurs., Sept. 21, 6:30 p.m.: Compassion for the Marginalized
Sun., Oct. 15, 2 p.m.: Compassion for the Journey

The labyrinth is open dawn to dusk for all persons of faith. There’s no cost to use the labyrinth, which is accessible for different physical abilities and offers ample parking.

Printed guides are provided at the Labyrinth’s entrance giving suggestions for following the path, but there is no right or wrong way to experience the sacred walk.

For more information on our labyrinth, visit our YouTube Channel (includes a virtual walk) or visit ursulinewellness.org.

Here's a paper labyrinth you can print and follow with your finger. Our labyrinth is modeled after this famous one.

Christ is risen – Alleluia!

Photo by Ian Beckley

Easter morning is full of images -- the empty tomb, the voice of angels, Mary's encounter with Jesus -- so rich, so full, and so basic to who we are as Christians.

Jesus is risen. Death could not hold him. And if it couldn't hold him, it can't hold us.

All that Jesus said about life and death wasn't really understood by his disciples, until it was made real in that empty tomb and encounter in the garden.

And every Easter, we get to share in it.

We share in the promises made to the Children of Israel and to the entire world through the Prophets. We share in the promises made to the disciples and to all who listened to Jesus as he walked towards his death upon a cross.

What is this Easter? It's God's promise of a new day. It's God's promise of a new life. It's God's promise of a new world coming to pass in our midst.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

This is an excerpt of a reflection written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2011.

What's your choice?

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Photo by Irene Lasus

Get a powerful person angry and you often pay a penalty.

Martin I became the last pope-martyr for accepting his election without waiting for the emperor’s approval. That “mistake” was followed quickly by another: Martin condemned a notion the emperor favored.

Folks like the emperor preferred to think of Christ’s humanity as dissolving “like a drop of honey in the sea” of his divinity — rendering Christ’s free choice to save us as no choice at all.

This Easter Monday, remember that goodness must always be chosen, which makes us truly human and not puppets — as emperors then and now would like us to be.

All Are Welcome!

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Our Chapel

The church is built on community.

Together, the People of God welcome new members in Baptism, come together to be fed in the Eucharist, and witness faith proclaimed at Confirmation.

Such community nurtures, supports, and affirms the universality and unity of church. When gathering around the table to celebrate, give thanks and worship, it’s helpful to look and see those around us.

Who isn’t present? Who isn’t being served at the table? Who have I shut out? Our call, especially this Holy Saturday, is to spread the Good News . . . and sometimes the greatest news is that all are welcome!


Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Photo by Amy Pointer

Why is a story of betrayal central to our Holy Week experience?

Was it really necessary? Is Judas the villain of the story, or perhaps simply a convenient scapegoat?

Truth be told, we’re all “the betrayer” in one way or another, in that even having heard the Good News, we forget it, neglect it, ignore it, overlook it… more often that we care to admit.

Oh well. That’s why we indeed need a savior. And though it may seem our betrayals kill him, the story of salvation has a different ending.

Stay tuned this week.

The Triduum Begins

Written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2014

Our Chapel, ready for Holy Thursday Mass

The Triduum, beginning with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday and ending with evening prayer on Easter Sunday, is the church’s most sacred trifecta — after the Trinity, of course!

These moments are part of the one paschal celebration in which we, along with all of creation, journey with Christ through passion, death, burial and resurrection.

As you move from the joyous beginning of Holy Thursday into the quiet stillness of evening, take time to gather your own joys and struggles — and those of the rest of the world — and walk closely with Christ.

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.

Living Mission

A Follow-Up To Our Oct. 17th Reflection

Here’s an intriguing take on a familiar commission: Thankful people become missionaries. “To be ‘in a state of mission’ is a reflection of gratitude,” Pope Francis declares on this World Mission Sunday. Yet this “state of mission” belongs to the whole church, not just to those brave souls who pack up and go off to foreign lands. Jesus commissions his friends to take the Good News wherever we go. Grateful folks do this cheerfully. How can we keep from singing, when a song’s been placed in our hearts? Live the mission of gratitude.

We gathered as a community for our Fall meeting. As we do each time we gather, our meetings begin with communal prayer and faith-sharing. The reflection for our faith-sharing centered on our call to our mission. This short video expresses our call to mission living.

Anthony J. Gittins, C.S.Sp., taught theology and anthropology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago from 1984 until 2011 and is now emeritus professor of theology and culture. He continues to do consultancy work and offer workshops, seminars, short courses, and retreats in more than thirty-five countries from Africa to the Pacific. He is the author of fourteen books on theological and anthropological topics, on mission, and on spirituality.

Whenever Father Gittens speaks of Spiritan living, think Ursuline missional living.

‘I Was a Prisoner…’

The Gospel of Matthew reads: “For I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least of my brothers, you did it for me!”

These words of Jesus are important to our Sisters, Ursuline Associates and Young Adult volunteer members of our Prison Ministry.

Sister Nancy Dawson heads the ministry, with the mission of creating hope in a place most consider hopeless.

Sister Nancy and Ursuline Associate Gerry Mansour, showing a calendar revamped to meet prison guidelines.

A retired instructor of World Religions studies at Youngstown State University, Sister Nancy is a chaplain at Youngstown’s Ohio State Penitentiary site.

There she interacts with officers, chaplains of many other faith traditions, and incarcerated people. She collaborates with Catholic and other faith communities to provide spiritual care.

She helps the incarcerated develop their spiritual lives — teaching RCIA classes to those who wish to become Catholic and bringing Communion to those who are. She also works to facilitate better relationships between the guards and the incarcerated.

Sister Nancy represents all the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and brings our prayers when she visits the prison.

You can learn more about incarceration rates in the United States, as well as crime rates and costs from a 2021 document released by the Pew Charitable Trust.

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.

Spring Blessing

Magnolia blossoms adorning
our Motherhouse grounds.
By Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

Blessed are you, spring, bright season of life awakening.
You gladden our hearts with opening buds and returning leaves
as you put on your robes of splendor.

Blessed are you, spring. In you is a life no death can destroy.
As you exchange places with winter you harbor no unforgiving spirit for broken tree limbs and frozen buds.

Blessed are you, spring. You open the closed buds of our despair
as you journey with us
to the flowering places.

Blessed are you, spring. You invite us to sing songs
to the frozen regions within
and to bless the lessons of winter
as we become your partner in a new dance.

Blessed are you, spring. Like Jesus, standing before the tomb of Lazarus,
you call to us: “Remove winter’s stone, come out,
there is life here you have not yet tasted.”

Blessed are you, spring, free gift of the earth. Without cost we gaze upon your glory. You are a gospel of good news for the poor and rich alike.

Blessed are you, spring. Your renewing rain showers and cathartic storms
nurture the potential that sleeps in Earth’s heart and in our earthen hearts.

Blessed are you, spring, season of resurrection, sacrament of promise.
Like Jesus you rise up out of the darkness, leaving around you a wake of new life.

Blessed are you, spring, miracle child of the four seasons. With your wand of many colors
you work your magic in the corners of our darkness.

Blessed are you, spring,
season of hope and renewal.
Wordless poem about all within us that can never die. Each year you amaze us
with the miracle of returning life.

November Kindness Challenge

Kindness Challenge: We’re asking you to join us in making this a “November to remember” for goodness. Spread the word!

Mary Ann Critell

We’re blessed with many wonderful co-workers!

One in particular, Mary Ann Critell, radiates kindness and inspiration.

As director and principal of our Ursuline Preschool & Kindergarten ministry, she sends weekly “MAC Messages” to staff. These include positive quotes and periodic kindness challenges.

Her challenges are so inspiring that we created a calendar of them for November. Below you can download the file to print and put on your fridge. We’ll also post the ideas daily on our Facebook page.

Please join us! Invite your friends! Let’s make this a November to remember for good deeds!

Comfort, Inspiration for Troubled Times

Sister Pauline Dalpe

By finding our center in Christ, we can find comfort and inspiration in these troubled times. Four of our Sisters offer their wisdom to help you.

From Sister Pauline Dalpe
When words are unable to express the times we are living in, I turn to words that inspire me and pray with Thomas Merton.  

Here’s a prayer I especially like:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Sister Dorothy Kundracik

From Sister Dorothy Kundracik
This time is a gift to us to call old friends and renew the bonds that were set aside in our “busy schedule.” We can Bring peace amidst the hardship.

I’ve been able to work from home for SCOPE as supportive services to the home bound.

The longer this isolation goes on the more seniors appreciate that they are not forgotten. More persons prayed or asked for prayer lately. Individuals will even call me when they are in need. This has been a very satisfying ministry.

Sister Diane Toth

From Sister Diane Toth
This is my favorite quote, Ezekiel 26: “I will take your heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh.”

During this time of quarantine, I find myself edgy and judgmental. I curb the impulse to think negatively.

What would my next encounter with a person look like with a heart of flesh? I tell myself to listen, care and make a difference.

Sister Darla Vogelsang

From Sister Darla Vogelsang
“One of the marvelous facts of life is that every ending carries within itself the potential for a new beginning.” 
Mary Borhek

This quote speaks to me of the changes that we are facing during this universal pandemic, leaving us to wonder what is not going to be in the new normal. Change brings endings. But there is the potential for new beginnings ahead if we keep our focus on Christ, who is both our origin and our destination in life, as we now know it and hope it to be.

Ursuline Sisters Adapt Ministries amidst Covid-19

Help and hope – two things people have always been able to count on Ursuline Sisters to offer.

Since 1535, Ursuline Sisters have been there to help in both periods of catastrophe and better times.

Since 1874, Mahoning Valley residents have counted on the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown to be there in good times and bad. The current health crisis is no exception.

Many Ursuline Sisters are active both in prayer and in ministry while sheltering in place. The Ursulines of Youngstown are following the advice of their founder, St. Angela Merici, who wrote: “Let your first refuge always be to have recourse to Jesus Christ, to pray fervently. He will enlighten and instruct you as to what you should do.” 

“All of our Sisters are taking more time for prayer and finding ways to continue in ministry,” states Sister Mary McCormick, general superior.

Three Sisters are teachers. Sister Mary is a professor and academic dean for St. Mary’s Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland.

“I’ve been having class with the seminarians using Zoom. They can see me and my Power Point presentations, and I can see them, each in his own home. We are blessed to be able to continue the semester using this technology.” 

Sister Mary is in the top right corner.

Among the seminarians are two from the Diocese of Youngstown, Kevin Bertleff and William Wainio (William is also an Ursuline Associate).

Sister Nancy Dawson is an adjunct professor at Youngstown State University. She’s been in contact with her students since before the university resumed classes and now teaches World Religions via computer. Here you will get the all about anything related to software.

Sister Nancy Dawson

“The students are important to me. Each and every one of them expands their world view through the World Religions class, realizing that diversity in spirituality and religion are to be appreciated,” Sister Nancy observes. “Each religion has some truth and value that we can learn from and can help us — especially during this time of the pandemic. This is how we change the world, one student at a time.”

As the technology teacher for grades k-8 at St. Rose Parish School, Girard, Sister Carole Suhar’s teaching gifts have perhaps never been more vital. She not only continues her lessons with students, what Sister Carole teaches the children helps them successfully complete their assignments in core classes as well.

Sister Carole Suhar

“All of us at St. Rose are posting assignments online in Google Classroom and on the school website. The computer is the only way we have to communicate,” Sister Carole states.

“I’m in contact with students through email each and every day,” she continues. “I’ve been working on assignments and grading what’s completed and turned in.”

Our Sisters ministering in churches also are relying on technology to keep in contact with parishioners.

Sister Mary Alyce Koval in a Facebook video

As Parish Leader for St. Luke Church, Boardman, Sister Mary Alyce Koval calls social media “a lifeline to reach St. Luke parishioners. Facebook and Zoom meetings have become a way of life for spreading the message.” 

Although CCD and other church programs are unable to meet in person, Sister Martha Reed is communicating with parishioners at St. Columba Parish, where she serves as Director of Religious Education.

“I’ve been in contact with parishioners via the phone to reassure them of our prayers and check to see that they are doing well during this difficult time,” Sister Martha says. “I post prayers and activities for our youth on St. Columba’s Facebook page almost every other day.”

Sister Martha Reed

Sister Martha also is sending notes of encouragement and prayers of reassurance to home-bound parishioners and organizing food distribution to those in need.

“I’m praying, and I have our teens praying. I’m telling them to hold on and keep the faith. Every day we pray the passage from John 3:16,” she continues. “One parishioner was having a very hard time, so I sent her the Communion prayer to help comfort her.”

Sister Regina Rogers, pastoral minister for St. Edward Church in Youngstown, is keeping in contact with parishioners by phone.

Sister Regina Rogers

“Every day I make a couple of phone calls to touch base, especially with our older parishioners,” Sister Regina says. “I want to make sure they’re okay. I let them know the people of St. Ed’s are thinking about them and praying for them, and that hopefully we’ll see back in church soon.”

For major ministries such as Beatitude House, responding to the needs of clients – already a vulnerable population before the pandemic – remains foremost. These ministries have worked diligently to adapt to the “new normal.”

“When working for Beatitude House, I work from my kitchen table. It’s actually very functional,” says Sister Patricia McNicholas, co-director of the ministry. “I participate in regular Zoom meetings with the development staff. 

Sister Patricia McNicholas

“We have applied for many of the grants they have been made available to us so we can respond to the needs of our clients. I also participate in regular meeting with the staff of the scholars program,” she continues. “Our scholars and their mentors continue to meet virtually and some seem to actually prefer this method. Today we were discussing ways to help with a client’s inability to pay rent and another with a major car repair.”

Beatitude House’s food pantry has remained open during this crisis, Sister Patricia adds.

“Our immigrant families seem especially vulnerable. Many had previously worked in restaurants and are struggling. We are providing extra gift cards for groceries,” she states.

Volunteers with Beatitude House’s English Language Learning Program have worked hard to continue tutoring children, reports Sister Norma Raupple, director of that program.

Sister Norma Raupple with Anna, a student

“Five college students led by three employees have connected with 16 children. Three retired teachers have also ‘adopted’ children,” she explains. “All tutors meet on Zoom with weekly updates.

“The children appreciate the support, and they receive incentives for their ongoing progress,” Sister Norma adds. 

Meanwhile, Sisters who minister with the Ursuline Education & Wellness Center are working to maintain relationships with the people served by its programs.

Sister Jan Gier

Now that classes cannot be held, Sisters Jan Gier and Nancy Pawlen are reaching out to the hundreds of participants in our SilverSneakers land and water classes and other exercise classes by phone, email and social media – inquiring after their health and that of their families.

Sister Jan has been calling the women who participate in the water programs.

“I reassure the women they’re being remembered to the Lord in the Ursuline Sisters ‘prayers,” Sister Jan says, noting the women are very appreciative.

Sister Nancy Pawlen

“I’ve received some very nice text messages back from folks,” Sister Nancy adds.

The Sisters have tried to not only overcome obstacles created by the COVID-19 crisis, they’re also looking for the bright side of things.

Sister Patricia says, “For me, this time of additional quiet time is much appreciated. The resurrection calls us to find new life even in the face of suffering. Our ability to respond to the needs of the poor is, we hope, a means of bringing that new life.”

Sister Marie Maravola’s Ministry: ‘I love it!’

For some women, the call to be a nun is a gradual nudging over years.

For others, it’s like a lightning bolt.

Sister Marie Maravola falls into that latter category.

“I was working in a dark room developing x-rays. Suddenly, I felt this overwhelming experience of God in my life. He spoke to my heart, as clear as anything. I knew at that moment I wanted to be vowed religious. I cried. Then I gathered myself and felt such a peace about me.”

Like most women in recent years, Sister Marie didn’t enter right out of high school but was in her late 20s. When she decided to become an Ursuline Sister [she professed her final vows in 1993], Sister Marie also decided on a career change, leaving the medical field and pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education.

“Anyone who knows me knows I love babies and children. But I had to take a social work class and fell in love with it. I excelled in those studies and loved everything about it,” she comments.

Sister Marie went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Youngstown State University and became a Licensed Social Worker in the state of Ohio.

“When I got that call to be a Sister, I knew I wanted to be an Ursuline,” Sister Marie says, noting she’d had Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown as teachers. Sister Therese Ann Rich, she adds, taught her to play guitar.

“I felt very connected to St. Angela [founder of the Ursuline order]. Before the term social worker came about, Angela was a social worker. She was working with the incurables and for the education of young girls. She was a caretaker.”  

And, fun fact, Sister Marie and St. Angela Merici shares the same birthday – March 21.

Sister Marie ministered as a social worker for a number of years at local senior healthcare facilities. But when the Antonine Sisters in North Jackson contacted the Ursulines, looking for someone to serve as a Pastoral Minister at their senior healthcare facility, Sister Marie was a natural fit.

“I do one-on-one visits with residents,” she says. “A lot of what I learned in social work and my experience working as a social worker in long-term care rolls over to pastoral care. A lot of it is attending to the needs of the people, being present to the people.”

Sister Marie shares this story: “Right now, I’m meeting with a woman who’s very sad. She’s mourning the loss of her husband. It’ll be a year in August. Now her children are preparing to sell her home. She also lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, so she feels like she’s losing everything. She’s not sleeping at night. I went in to talk to her and let her know how sorry I am for the losses she’s experiencing, and also to let her know to look for the things she still does have, to not lose sight of the bigger picture. She still has living to do.”

The transition to living at a senior care facility is difficult for many older adults, Sister Marie reports, because it’s not made out of their choice but often by their families out of necessity for safety and health concerns.

The Antonine Village is a wonderful place,” Sister Marie states. “People choose it because it has a chapel. I have a resident who did so because she’s a very religious person. It gives her great comfort to have the chapel and also that Sisters are there to serve in the capacities we’re there for.”

Sister Marie ministers with over 50 residents on independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing floors.

“I also do a lot of reminiscing with the residents. They love to sing. Especially the people down in the memory care unit. Music is one of the things they remember,” Sister Marie says. “For independent and assisted living, we do a lot of sharing. We talk about their childhoods and when they were married. Their stories are fascinating. They have so much to share.”

Since some emigrated to the United States as young people, and others traveled for work and fun, Sister Marie helps them renew those experiences in a 21st century way.  

“We tune into YouTube videos,” she explains. “Since they can’t travel anymore, we’ll travel to different places. We’ve traveled the world! I always have opportunities where we learn something.”

Working for another community of Catholic Sisters, Sister Marie has the opportunity to share her deep faith as well. She started the St. Anthony the Great Rosary and Prayer Group (some members are pictured here), and an Ursuline Sisters’ spiritual treasury for Mass at the Chapel.

“I love it. I love the older population. They have so much to offer,” she says. “It has been fulfilling.”

The gospel story that greatly influences Sister Marie’s ministry, she says, is that of the woman with the hemorrhage.

“She thought if she could even touch Jesus’ clothing, she could be healed – and she was!” Sister Marie notes. “He said, ‘You have been healed by your faith.’ I pray for the healing she experienced. She’s my prayer partner.”

Sister Isabel Rudge Is ‘Like a Piazza’

Sister Isabel Rudge’s warm smile illuminates her face when she discusses her ministry. It’s clear she takes St. Angela Merici’s counsel to “be like a piazza” to heart.

Our founder’s instruction to be hospitable and engaged in our communities, just as people are in the inviting Italian spaces called piazzas, has been central to several of Sister Isabel’s ministries. Especially recently.

For the last four years, Sister Isabel has ministered as part of our hospitality team, welcoming visitors to both the Ursuline Education & Wellness Center and Motherhouse.

 “I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s wonderful!” she comments. “I’m meeting new people, and they are meeting somebody they know is a Sister. I like them to feel welcome to whatever program they’re attending, whether it’s something that we sponsor, somebody’s music recital or a birthday party.”

Sister Isabel’s ministries have taken her down different paths, but the need to share St. Angela’s charism of compassion has remained a constant.

CCD class at St. Columba 2016

Sister Isabel has ministered as a teacher at St. Nicholas School in Struthers, St. Patrick School in Youngstown, and Ursuline High School, where she also served as an administrative assistant. She left teaching to serve with the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Youngstown, where she ministered for several years. She then served on the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Leadership Team for several years before becoming both Pastoral Minister and Director of Religious Education at St. Columba Cathedral Parish, Youngstown. 

In 2016, Sister Isabel “retired” from ministry outside of the Motherhouse for health reasons. That’s in quotes because the change hasn’t slowed Sister Isabel much.

In addition to serving on our hospitality team, Sister Isabel is also the Motherhouse Coordinator.

“I direct things when we’re [the Sisters] going to have a something special. I fill in at the reception desk and check all the doors at the center and in the back of the house every night to make sure that everything is locked.”

While she’s very busy, the change in ministry has its merits, Sister Isabel observes.  

“Several months ago when the impeachment trials were on, I was able to watch. I enjoy following politics, but I’ve always been too busy to do something like watch the entire proceedings. I was able to this time,” she says with a chuckle.

Sister Isabel’s interest in politics was influenced by her mother. Her desire to find her life’s vocation as an Ursuline Sister was influenced by the Holy Spirit and the many Sisters she had as teachers.

“I remember thinking, ‘Someday, I want to be one of those Sisters,’ and my mother had been a teacher, so I was interested in teaching, too,” she says. Sister Isabel first entered the convent while a senior in high school and made her final profession of vows in 1953 – almost 70 years ago!

She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University. During summers and a sabbatical year, Sister Isabel furthered her studies through St. John College in Cleveland, Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and Marquette University, Milwaukee.

Spend time with any Ursuline Sister and you find a common theme that’s echoed by Sister Isabel as well – how being an Ursuline Sister has led to a lifetime of joy.

“I really enjoyed every single one of my ministries,”  she states.

Prayer & Comfort Amidst Covid-19

Since this health crisis began, we Ursuline Sisters have endeavored to do what we’ve committed our lives to doing — being a witness to God’s love through ministry to those in need.

Through our websites, our social media pages and eNewsletters, as well as personal outreach through phone calls and emails, we have offered several messages to inspire hope, comfort fears and offer prayer.

Here a links to some of the material we’ve offered. We hope that you and your family are safe during the pandemic, that you have the supplies you need while sheltering at home, that those in your family on the front-lines have the supplies they need for protection, and that you all remember we are praying for you — not only during this pandemic but always.

Sister Darla Vogelsang’s message for “Hanging Tough” in tough times.

A prayer to the Blessed Mother offered by Pope Francis.

Father Michael Graham’s Prayer for Uncertain Times.

A Meditation for the Anxious from Eric Clayton.

Popular prayerful and inspirational memes from our social media pages.

Prayer and Comfort for the Pandemic

This is a prayer Pope Francis offered to the Holy Mother:

O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain, with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee, joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the Father’s will and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us, through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

A Prayer for Uncertain Times

By Fr. Michael Graham, S.J., president of Xavier University

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.