Sisters on the Frontlines Grants, Part II

For a second time, the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown were chosen for Sisters on the Frontlines grants. The grants were administered by Catholic Extension, based in Chicago.

Here’s how our Sisters helped people especially suffering during the pandemic:

Sister Martha Reed, Pastoral Minister and Director of Religious Education for The Cathedral of St. Columba Parish, Youngstown

COVID-19 has hit some families harder than others. Such is the case for a couple with three teenagers from St. Columba Parish, near the heart of downtown Youngstown. On Jan. 2, the father was hospitalized because he’d contracted COVID-19; by Valentine’s Day, he needed a double lung transplant to survive.

“The doctors described his lungs as being like shattered glass after COVID ravished them,” Sister Martha describes. “My heart aches for them. They’re a great family of great faith.”

Dad is still recovering in a hospital in Columbus, more than three hours’ drive from the family home in Youngstown. Mom and the teenagers travel to Columbus as often as possible.

Not only has the father been unable to contribute to the household income during this time, doctors say it will be quite some time before he’ll be able to work.

Meanwhile, bills have accumulated. Sister Martha used her $1,000 to purchase gasoline and food gift cards for the family, so that affording to visit dad and affording groceries will be two less concerns for a short time.

“It humbles me to be able to help this family through this grant from Catholic Extension,” Sister Martha says.

Sister Regina Rogers, Pastoral Associate for St. Edward Parish, Youngstown

Sister Regina Rogers ministers at a parish in the heart of a poverty-stricken neighborhood on the city’s north side. There, she’s encountered “Mary,” a single mother of two who works in housekeeping in the hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit from COVID-19.

“She has touched my heart deeply,” Sister Regina states.

“In her I see the struggles of a single parent with two young children who wants to better her life,” she continues, “but keeps running into obstacles.”

Mary is the victim of a so-called “Catch 22,” Sister Regina says.

“What a bind. If she doesn’t go to work, she doesn’t get paid, but if she doesn’t have child care –which she hasn’t had for over a year because of the pandemic — she can’t go to work,” Sister Regina explains. “It is a blatant example of the negative effects of being poor.”

Sister Regina is very grateful for the $1,000 Sisters on the Frontlines grant from Catholic Extension, which she used to purchase gift cards for food and gas. This will enable Mary to divert the money she earmarked for feeding her family and traveling to and from work to retain child care.

“Hopefully, the gift cards can help her get ahead. I only wish that people who make the rules could meet her and talk with her,” Sister Regina observes. “She is truly an example of faith and perseverance. She is the face of the working poor for me.”

Sister Patricia McNicholas, Donor Relations Dir. of our Beatitude House ministry, Youngstown

Sister Patricia is helping “Angela,” a young mother of two who suffered quite a blow during the pandemic.

For six years, Angela worked for minimum wage at a gas station, never receiving a raise.

When the owner applied for and received CARES act funding, she inquired when employees would benefit. The owner told her it was all for him, fired her and falsely accused her of theft.

Her unemployment was held up. The severe loss of income left her and her children homeless and in serious debt.

Sister Patricia used her $1,000 to help cover back utility bills so that Angela has the ability to get housing. Further, Sister Patricia and the staff of Beatitude House arranged for Angela and her children to move into permanent housing June 1. This was made possible because of the Sisters on the Frontlines grant from Catholic Extension.

“This will give them a stable home,” a grateful Sister Patricia notes. “In addition, it will give her young children a place where they can get outside and play.”

Sister Kathleen McCarragher, volunteer minister at Mahoning County St. Vincent de Paul Society Dining Hall and Food Pantry, Youngstown

Sister Kathleen, her brother and sister-in-law and father have long been volunteers with the Mahoning County St. Vincent de Paul society, located in downtown Youngstown.

According to census data, Youngstown has the 2nd highest poverty rate in the nation, with more than half its children living in poverty, and a significant elderly population.

Further, the St. Vincent de Paul location is situated near the campus of Youngstown State University and therefore accessed by hungry students.

During the pandemic, the dining hall has distributed packaged meals/food supplies outdoors.

Ordinarily, volunteers and parishes contribute to stocking its shelves and supplying food. Unfortunately, the pandemic has resulted in a decrease in those donations, while the need by guests, as well as the number of guests, greatly increased.

Sister Kathleen used her $1,000 grant to purchase grocery items.

“I used the grant money to purchase enough food, with items such as crackers, peanut butter and canned foods, to fill 50 boxes of food that the Mahoning County St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry distributed to those in need in our area,” Sister Kathleen says.

“The funds also allowed me to buy ground beef and other foods for the Dining Hall,” she continues. “The Dining Hall serves hot meals to an average of 200 people a day.”

The experience meant a great deal to Sister Kathleen on a personal level, she says.

Sister Kathleen Minchin, Director Emeritus of our Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry, Youngstown

Nearly 80% of the individuals served in the HIV/AIDS Ministry are living in poverty.

For many of them, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused even more hardships and challenges.

Many clients in our ministry work in the food service and hospitality industries. Because of the COVID pandemic, they either lost their jobs or had reduced hours.

This issue, along with children being at home more because of remote schooling and limited children’s programming, has led to an increase in food needs for clients.

Sister Kathleen used her $1,000 Sisters on the Frontlines grant from Catholic Extension to purchase items for our food and personal goods pantries. Items purchased include pasta and sauce, cereal, and canned stew, vegetables and fruit. The grant also was used to purchase such items as soap, cleaners, toilet paper and paper towels.

“Receiving this grant money has allowed us to provide emergency food assistance for those in need, and it has helped to alleviate some stress in their lives,” Sister Kathleen states.

“As Ursuline Sisters, we strive to meet the needs of the times,” she continues. “During these exceptional times, this funding allowed us to meet these needs with hospitality, respect, and compassion for those adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sister Mary Alyce Koval, Parish Leader for St. Luke Parish, Boardman

St. Luke’s Social Concerns Committee offers a monthly pantry distribution to meet needs not covered by the SNAP program. It offers such non-perishable and personal care items as toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, etc.

The pantry has seen a great increase in need since March 2020. Not only does the pantry have new visitors, the need increased for some people because households had to combine due to financial woes caused by the pandemic.

St. Luke’s pantry is wholly funded through the generosity of parishioners, who themselves have unfortunately suffered financial difficulties because of COVID-19.

“Thanks to the Sisters on the Frontlines grant from Catholic Extension, there are 50 families in our community who received their usual monthly bag of paper products and personal care items,” Sister Mary Alyce states.  “But in addition, this month they were surprised with ‘bonus’ gifts of an extra stick of deodorant, tooth brushes and toothpaste, shower gel and sunscreen.”

Sister Mary Alyce notes that many of us take the ability to purchase these items for granted, especially something like sunscreen with summer approaching, but the families who visit her parish’s pantry don’t have that option and come to St. Luke’s out of necessity.

“These families received these items as a gift,” she says. “I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Sister Norma Raupple, Director of the Beatitude House Immigrant Outreach Program, Youngstown

The mission of Beatitude House is to help create homes, provide educational opportunities and foster healthy families.

As director of its Immigrant Outreach Program, Sister Norma Raupple has “the privilege of accompanying immigrant families in their journey toward a better life.”

These families come from countries around the world, including from Asia and the Middle East, but mostly from Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America. Most live in poverty.

Many work low-paying jobs in the food service, landscaping and hospitality industries. They didn’t have enough hours before COVID struck to qualify for unemployment during pandemic layoffs, and even though they’re returning to work, they’re earning very little.

“The laundry detergent and cleaning supplies I was able to purchase with this grant definitely makes their daily lives manageable and enjoyable,” Sister Norma observes. “The purchases help about 20 families with children.”

Sister Norma extends her gratitude to Catholic Extension for how the $1,000 Sisters on the Frontlines grant allowed her to help these families.

View a short video of how we administered the first round of grants.