Working Together For ‘God’s Thirsty Children’

Our Youngstown Associates recently adopted “Water With Blessings” as a project. They raised $3,000 to buy water filtration kits (pictured above) for families living at the Brownsville, Texas/Matamoros, Mexico border in need of clean water.
image002In December, I traveled to the border with six college women and met up with Sister Larraine Lauter, a Kentucky Ursuline who founded the program, for what was a beautiful and enriching experience. Not only was our goal to help people in desperate need of clean water, but also to give the young women (such as Lynne, at right) an opportunity for an international immersion/reflection experience with the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown.
Sister Larraine trained “Water Teachers” from among Ursuline Associates at the border. Our local group brought the clean water to 50 young mothers during the training sessions. These “Water Women” agreed to share their filters with four other families. Thus, “God’s Thirsty Children” received the gift of clean water for Christmas.
Advent Scripture readings provided a focus for our morning prayer and reflection, while participating in “Las Posadas” filled three of our evenings. We walked with local families through the neighborhood, singing and praying, while “seeking shelter for Mary and Joseph.”
image011We shared a meal with immigrants at La Posada de Providencia in San Benito, Texas, who are housed with several Sisters of Providence while waiting for their immigration cases to be processed. Their stories were both sad and hopeful.
The week ended with an enjoyable day at the beach at South Padre Island. Carly Conklin (center in photo at left), one of our Companions in Mission who made the trip, says, “Such an amazing project! I’m so blessed to have been included in this first group to work with U. S. women. Thank you for this life enriching opportunity to see God’s loving hand at work.”
I was inspired by the prayerfulness and generosity of the six beautiful young women who made the trip with me.
We’re planning another trip to the border in December 2014. If you or your group would like to sponsor a “Water Woman,” the kits are $60. You can view a short slideshow of the experience.image009

Companion In Mission

Picture 076The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown are Catholic nuns who respond together to the most critical needs of God’s people in Northeastern Ohio and have since 1874 — adapting our ministries to meet the needs of the times. We are committed to bringing our spirit, vision and presence to Northeastern Ohio for generations to come.
We offer job shadowing opportunities for college students as we minister in all levels of education, including religious education, as health care professionals, hospital chaplains, counselors, social workers, administrators, spiritual directors, pastoral associates, and advocates for the poor.
We also offer job shadowing opportunities at our facility, The Ursuline Center, which serves the educational and spiritual needs of more than 1,000 children, youth and adults.
Companions in Mission with us have the opportunity to create programming at this educational facility which is in line with our mission to offer a place of welcome and conversation and a space where all can enrich their lives through learning, celebrating, praying and sharing in a dynamic community.
We operate Beatitude House, with locations in Youngstown, Warren and Ashtabula. This program has helped thousands of homeless women and their children break the cycle of poverty by providing transitional housing, guidance in parenting, education and other assistance. The Potter’s Wheel, Youngstown, helps disadvantaged women, especially immigrants, succeed through educational and employment assistance.
We operate the Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry, which comprises the Comprehensive Care Clinic, The Guardian Angel Café & Angela’s Place, and Casa Madre, a home where children infected or affected by the virus receive tutoring, mentoring and support services.
If you are interested fill out application form online and submit.

Companion In Mission Online Application


Be a Piazza: Perspectives of a Companion In Mission

Mary Ann and Sister Betty“A piazza is open and it knows people are going to come in and people are going to go out, but it is always going to stay open. …The other may come in, may reside there, and may share what he or she has with me; then the other may go back out.”  I liked the impression of ease and confidence in that image. Mary Ann, our Companion in Mission offers her final reflection of her summer experience with us.

One Saturday night in July, I went to a Western Dance party organized by the members of the Lordstown SCOPE. I didn’t recognize many of the songs the band played, but since I enjoyed going to dances in college, I couldn’t resist getting myself out on the dance floor and having a good time. Among the other dancers was a white-haired woman named Dorothy who came dressed for the event, complete with Western boots and a fringed shirt. I noticed she was looking for a dance partner, so I offered to join her, and I was quickly able to learn her step. A good-humored man named Frank tried to follow along with us, and he’d slump his shoulders in exaggerated defeat whenever he made a mistake. Whenever he’d start to get the hang of it, he’d smile to his spectators seated at the table to assure them he had figured it out, but at some point he would slip up again. Read more….


Recuerdo que cuando yo estaba en la escuela primaria, mi PSR (CCD) profesor de PSR (CCD) alguna vez dijo que la fé no es algo que tu puedes tomar cuando vas a misa el domingo y luego te olvidas de ella por el resto de la semana. Mientras que yo encontraba maneras ocasionales de integrar mi fé en el curso de la semana, me encerraba en la rutina de distinguir el domingo del resto de los dias cuando yo no iba a misa. Como parte de la comunidad de fé en el Convento, sin embargo, la rutina de una vida llena de fé me da la sensación de que cada día es domingo, y el tiempo mismo parece tomar un ritmo diferente

Cuando completé una semana de mi estancia, tuve problemas para conceptualizar la cantidad de tiempo que había pasado aquí. En algunos aspectos, yo no podía creer que una semana entera había pasado. Entre el tiempo con las hermanas, cumpliendo los compromisos de mi internado, y tomando tiempo para mi reflexión personal, perdí la noción del tiempo escurriéndose de mis manos. En otros aspectos, sentí como si yo hubiera estado aquí por mucho mas que una semana. Yo estaba sorprendida de lo rápido que caí en la rutina y me familiarizé con las hermanas y el personal del Convento y las otras voluntarias y estudiantes con los que trabajé fuera de allí.


The Face of God

Many thanks to the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Summer 2012 Interns and Volunteers and Companion in Mission! Eleven young adults have found rewarding experiences at Beatitude House, Casa Madre, Motherhouse Health Care, The Potter’s Wheel, and The Ursuline Center. Here is a video of them “on the job.” Thank You to all of them for being the face of God and the spirit of the Ursulines.


Turning Downs to Ups

From discovering new ways to pray to learning how to touch the hearts of troubled kids, Mary Ann  finds much to both enjoy and challenge her every day. In this reflection, our “Companion in Mission” this summer shares how she turns downs into ups, and how the ups help her to soar!

Over the past few weeks, Sister Dorothy and I have gotten into the routine of saying prayers together in the evening. I have learned to navigate my way through the various parts of the prayer book, and the routine has become a relaxing way to end the day. On one particular evening, I found myself falling into the routine, and when it came time to say the “Our Father,” I clasped my hands together as I’d been taught to pray from a young age.

As I unfolded my hands, Sister Dorothy mentioned that she prays the “Our Father” with her hands open, whether raised in church or laying on her lap in private prayer. It’s a way to show that you are open to giving and receiving God’s love rather than holding onto it too tight.

Ever since that evening, I have made sure to pray the “Our Father” with open hands and let the rest of my being follow, and I am still amazed at how different the words feel when I let myself go. Read on….Turning Downs to Ups_ A Companion in Mission Reflection

Companion in Mission

The following reflection was written by Mary Ann,a  Companion in Mission

When I was in elementary school, I remember my PSR (CCD) teacher once saying that faith is not something that you can pick up when you go to mass on Sunday and then forget about the rest of the week.  While I had found occasional ways of integrating my faith into the course of a week, I was still locked into the routine of distinguishing Sunday from the days when I did not attend mass.  As a part of the faith community at the Motherhouse, however, the routine of a faith-filled life gives me the feel that every day is a Sunday, and time itself seems to take on a different rhythm.

When I reached the one-week mark of my stay, I had a hard time trying to conceptualize the amount of time I’d spent here.  In some aspects, I couldn’t believe that a full week had passed.  Between spending time with the sisters, fulfilling the commitments of my internship, and taking time for personal reflection, I lost track of the time slipping away beneath me.  In other aspects, I felt as though I had been here much longer than a week.  I was surprised by how quickly I fell into the routine and became familiar with the sisters and staff at the Motherhouse and the other volunteers and students I worked with off-site.
I enjoy the group of children that I work with at Potter’s Wheel on Tuesday and Wednesday and at Villa Maria on Thursday.  When I first met the children on a Thursday morning, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the new faces in the room and all of the names I would have to learn.  I walked over to a group of them, knelt down at their level, and began talking to them.  I asked them their names and ages and told them a little about myself, and at that point, one girl came up to me and said, “I want to help you.”  There wasn’t any particular task at hand, but it was good to be reminded of that sense of cooperation between the kids and the counselors.  They all had stories they wanted to share with me, and between the initial drop-off and the van ride to Villa Maria, I did my best to just listen.  By the end of the day, another one of the girls gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Since I have such a passion for the natural world, I have enjoyed watching that same passion emerge within the kids at GROW Camp.  On the second Thursday at GROW Camp, we spent the morning visiting the various farm animals.  The sheep weren’t outside when we first sat down outside of their gate, but they began filtering out when they heard our voices.  One of the staff members suggested that we sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for the sheep, so I joined along in their chorus.  As soon as we finished the song—as if on cue—the little white lamb hopped out of the barn and stood by its mother.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I came for my first Tuesday at Potter’s Wheel.  At Grow Camp, I was their counselor, but here, I’d be their teacher.  On the first day, I had the challenge of trying to figure out their skill levels, so the lessons I had prepared didn’t go as smoothly as planned.  The older children carried out the lesson well, but I hadn’t adapted it well enough to the younger children.  I faced the same challenge when I went to the Beatitude House apartments later that afternoon.  I hadn’t quite adapted my lesson plans to their level, and when they thanked me at the end, I wondered whether I had actually taught them anything and whether I deserved their appreciation.
I ended the day feeling discouraged, but when I came back to the Motherhouse, Tessa the cat came running over to greet me.  I don’t know how she knew I needed some animal therapy, but I was grateful for her affection.  We spent some time sitting on the bench (she even put her front two paws on my legs for a little while), and by then I was ready to put the day behind me and start the next day fresh.
Wednesday did, in fact, go much more smoothly.  One of the mothers came to teach the children Spanish, and I enjoyed learning along with them.  At the end of the day, we gave the children time to read, which was a good way to unwind after a busy—and hot—day.  One of the boys came over to read to me, and even though he’d struggled with some of the other activities, I was impressed by his ability to read.  He insisted on reading one book after another, and he always made sure to pause at the end of each page to make sure that I had seen the picture, which he must have learned from one of his teachers.  I enjoyed being able to lose myself in the moment and share his passion for reading, but I felt bad cutting him when we reached the end of the class.
My time at the Motherhouse has also been filled with stories—that is, in the sisters’ willingness to share their stories with me.  After helping Sisters Gertrude and Germaine sort through their closets one morning, Sister Germaine invited me back to her room to give me a “tour of music land.”  She showed me the photo albums of her former piano students, and as I listened to her talk about them, I could feel the pride that she still had for her students.  Above all, she emphasized that she’s had a wonderful life, and if she could do it all over again, she would do it exactly the same, mistakes and all, “because that’s how you learn!”
The sisters have been understanding of me and my current position in life, and I am so grateful for their willingness to share their experience and wisdom with me.  As a recent college graduate, I have so many options and opportunities before me, but I’m not sure which path I want to take.  Sister Mary Ann shared with me her belief in the Spirit, and she talked about various moments in her life when she felt the Spirit working within her.  She stressed the importance of listening to God’s will, and she also told me about the importance of responding to the needs of the time, which is what the Ursuline Sisters have done in their own ministry.  Sister Julia and I had an opportunity to chat one Sunday afternoon.  As we sat on the bench out front, I admitted that I was still trying to figure out where my life was headed.  She reassured me that you can’t push it; all you can do is knock on doors and wait for God to open one for you.
I also had an opportunity to reflect on my future when I attended a Theology on Tap meeting with one of my fellow volunteers, Mary Rizzo.  The guest speaker for the evening was Bishop Murray, and he gave a wonderful talk about discernment.  I had never heard of that term before, but he defined it as a strategy of making any directional “life” choices where you not only consider what you want to do but also what God wants you to do.  I had never thought about it from that perspective, and since the question of “What do you want to do with your life?” has always felt so isolating and intimidating, I liked the idea of sharing part of the burden with a force greater than my own.  While I listened to the bishop’s words, I looked around the room at everyone who had come for this event.  They were all young adults facing decisions about college or careers, and it was comforting to know that they all had the same concerns and questions that I did.
Here at the Motherhouse, there is always someone to be with.  The sisters have introduced me to Handel’s ice-cream, and with the hot weather we’ve had this summer, it’s been a real treat.  Most evenings, Sister Dorothy and I enjoy going on bike rides and walks together, and she has even invited me to pray with her, which no one else has ever invited me to do.  Sister Julia and I have gotten together a few times and played Scrabble, which is one of my favorite games and I’m glad to have found a companion.  On my first Saturday morning here, Sister Norma invited me to go bird-watching with her and a group of adults at the Mill Creek Park.  I have found so many ways to connect with the sisters through our various shared passions, and I feel as though they have become my friends.
I hadn’t realized how deep the connection had become until I attended the funeral of Sister Marie-Helene.  It was my first chance to meet the sisters who live off site and be together with everyone, and as I walked into the chapel with them, I felt so moved by their sense of community.  I hadn’t expected to feel the loss as strongly as I did.  While Sister Marie-Helene was ill, I accompanied our Faith-Sharing prayer group to say the Our Father with her.  I had never had the opportunity to meet her personally, but though our one shared prayer, I met her spiritually, and I felt the pull of that bond deep within me during the service.
Even though my experience at the funeral moved me to tears, I shared many good laughs during my time here as well.  Sister Bridget has given me a nickname, Lady Long Legs, and she has taught me the nicknames she’s given to some of the other sisters as well.  As Sister Dorothy put it, Sister Bridget  has her own special language, and I feel honored to be a part of her vocabulary.  I love the feeling of walking through the halls and eating my meals at the Motherhouse because wherever I go, I pass smiling faces who greet me by name, or I hear a familiar voice call out, “Hey, Legs!