In the Beginning: A Beatitude House Story

By Nancy Beeghly

Sometimes it takes a hammer and nails to keep a family together.

Sometimes it takes the courage and faith of a community of Ursulines willing to launch the first Beatitude House for homeless mothers with children.

Sister Margaret Scheetz (“Peggy” to her family) was neither a carpenter nor a social worker.

Sister Peggy Scheetz,
Founder of Beatitude House

She was a math teacher at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. While she was completing a degree in computer science at Kent State University, she was inspired by a film on television.God Bless the Child told a story of the struggles and defeat of a homeless mother and her daughter.

Peggy couldn’t rest as she researched the numbers of single mothers who who were barely surviving in the Youngstown area alone. Most people would have been overwhelmed by the challenge to give homeless and battered mothers and their children hope and a home.   

Not Peggy. She felt called by God to a new ministry. Undaunted, this determined nun prayed, planned and presented her ideas to her Ursuline Sisters community.

“Go for it,” said Nancy Dawson, the general superior at the time. “See what you can do.”  Others in her community volunteered to help.

The fact that there was no money for a house in the budget didn’t worry Peggy one bit. “I made a deal with God that if he wanted me to start the program, He had to find a house!” she laughed. “Then I found a realtor because I know God needs help.”

Indeed. Her requirements for a house were almost impossible among the few available properties: She wanted a house in a safe neighborhood with a porch and a yard where the children could play — and of course, all of this for free. It would be nice to be close to Youngstown State University, too, when the mothers were ready to pursue their college degrees.

Lo and behold, providence delivered a retired nursing home at 1515 Fifth Ave., just north of YSU. As soon as Peggy saw the building, she knew it was just right. That gift from the Masternick family 30 years ago lives on. It has been the anchor and refuge for thousands of disadvantaged children and women finding ways out of poverty and into hope and self-esteem.

The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown officially took possession of the home May 1, 1990.

In July of 1990, Sister Margaret published her first newsletter of many to come: THE GOOD NEWS FROM BEATITUDE. It was a simple white sheet of paper overflowing with optimism and gratitude for the contribution of $50,000 from the city of Youngstown toward the first Beatitude House. She wrote:

Beatitude means a blessing; perfect blessedness or happiness.

This newsletter is being presumptuous since officially Beatitude House is not yet in existence. But it will be

Prophetic words indeed.

The greater community was behind the project. Peggy’s dream was a magnet for generosity.  No money left for a porch?  When Peggy insisted that a porch is an important part of a home, a contractor donated one.

As soon as the final paintbrush was hung up to dry, Peggy reported the best news of all. In her October 1991 newsletter, she wrote: 

We have finally settled in 1515 Fifth Avenue.

Our beautiful house is occupied by four families – living in four separate, finely–furnished apartments –and one house mother, namely, Sister Margaret, former high school math teacher, painting contractor and wall painter. She is adjusting well to her new role as mother and grandmother and promises not to teach algebra to anyone in the house under five.

Four mothers are eagerly starting their new lives as college students, three school-age children and five toddlers. Each contributes their uniqueness to Beatitude. We are, without a doubt, becoming all for one and one for all.

And to you, we humbly say, THANK YOU

God has poured His blessings on us over the past year…Our new dream is to find another apartment complex. For those of you who have helped make Beatitude a success, why stop now? Just think— what if there were a Beatitude House for every homeless mother and child? We started a dream and we will continue to dream, and it is you, our contributors, who have made our dream a reality.

Sister Patricia McNicholas,
Donor Relations Director of Beatitude House

Sister Margaret Scheetz died of brain cancer Jan. 4, 2001.  In her memoriam, Sister Patricia McNicholas wrote: 

In the past 10 years, Peg worked extremely hard to expand and develop Beatitude as an outstanding agency serving both homeless and other low -income women…with children to enable them to pursue their dreams of a better life. She dreamed of creating a comprehensive program including housing and support service. She faced her impending death with the same tenacity and courage that characterized her whole life. Peg was a person of deep practical faith. She had an abiding sense of confidence that Beatitude House was God’s work and that God would see it to completion.

Her legacy lives on in the 7,000 lives of women and children achieving their dreams in the past 30 years.

During the calling hours for Sister Margaret, a young woman made her way to the coffin.

She placed a red rose in her casket.  When she said, “Thank you for saving my life,” she could have also been speaking for the grateful thousands of mothers and children who’ve found their ways out of poverty and into hope and self- esteem with Sister Margaret’s help.