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.

An Ash Wednesday reflection

By Vicki Vicars, Mission, Equity & Resilience Dir.

The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday reminds us to give alms without blowing a trumpet, pray in the privacy of our rooms so that we don’t stand out before others, and fast without looking gloomy. 

This gospel message reminds us that the work that we do, the prayers that we offer, and the fasting that we commit to is really meant for God. These three spiritual practices are meant to deepen our union with the God who created us.

That’s the goal I believe we’re called to seek on this Lenten journey — union with God over accolades from others. Perhaps this gives us insight into what St. Angela Merici may have been thinking when she said, “Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve the poor than they have of your service.”  She knew what God calls us to in this gospel reading. 

The Ursuline charism of respect gently challenges us to uphold the dignity of those we work with and walk with. When we’re grounded in the message of the gospel, St. Angela Merici, and the Ursuline charism, we clearly can become a witness to God’s kingdom of mercy, goodness, and justice.  

For nearly 150 years the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and all those involved in their many ministries have been faithfully giving alms, praying, and fasting to serve God and His people. May our work as staff, employees and Associates continue to do the same.

God bless your Lenten journey. 

World AIDS Day

Ursuline Sisters Mission is sponsoring a Red Ribbon Display in downtown Youngstown, Ohio to honor the roughly 800 people in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties living with HIV as part of local commemorations for World AIDS Day.

Each of the 80 ribbons on Federal Square represents 10 people.

Thurs., Dec. 1, 2022, World AIDS Day, the public is invited to an event at that location beginning at 4:15 p.m. Rev. Joseph Boyd of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown will lead the group in prayer, followed by remarks from Mayor Jamael Tito Brown on the work to end HIV and overcome the stigma experienced by those touched by the epidemic.

Also speaking will be Laura McCulty Stepp, Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry director, Erin Bishop, Youngstown Health commissioner, and Tim Bortner, founder and president of Full Spectrum Community Outreach.

Shelley Turner of Equitas Health and Bortner will lead “A Walk of Remembrance” to Wean Park, where Full Spectrum Community Outreach will host a candlelight vigil to remember those who we have lost to the disease. Equitas Health also will provide warm drinks and snacks from Mocha House.

The Premier Bank Tower Clock, Market Street Bridge and the walkway from Wean Park to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater will be lit in red that day in support of World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day was established in 1988 to reflect on the lives lost to HIV/AIDS, and to honor the more than 38 million people worldwide living with HIV.

Advent begins today!

Lord, during this Advent season, increase your peace in our hearts and allow your promise of rest and refreshment to lighten the labors and burdens in our busy lives.

Teach us how to practice silence, solitude and simple living, and how to slow our pace, so we can hear the silence of Christmas around us.

Let us empty our hearts of material wants to make room for the real meaning of the birth of the Christ Child. And when we are weary and anxious, may we always find rest in you.


Listening to Christmas

By Alan Harris

Have you ever heard snow?

Christmas at the Motherhouse

Not the howling wind of a blizzard, not the crackling of snow underfoot, but the actual falling of snow?

Have you ever heard Christmas? Not the traffic noises in the city, not the bells and hymns and carols, beautiful as they are, not even the laughter of your children as they open their presents — but Christmas itself?

Have you been by yourself and just sat and listened to the silence within, patiently, without letting the mind race to the next Christmas chore?

Perhaps if you have, you felt the pulse of all humanity beating in your own heart.
Perhaps you noticed an outflowing of love for all your brothers and sisters on the earth, a soft sense of Oneness with all that lives.

In the silence of a snowy night, listen intently, holding your breath, and you may hear snow on snow.
Serene, alone, undisturbed by thought, listen to the silence in your heart, and you may hear Christmas.


Who Do You Say I Am?


I often say things, the implications of which only become clear as time passes. I might promise to help someone move to a new home, only later to find out how much stuff they have, how much packing still needs to be done, how much more time-consuming my offer is than I originally thought. I might say that I will stick by a friend no matter what, only later to discover that to do so might entail jeopardizing my values. When Peter in today’s gospel said to Jesus that he is “The Christ of God,” did Peter really understand the implications of what he was saying?
The exchange between Jesus and his disciples took place within a very significant context: “Jesus was praying in solitude.” It was out of this prayer that he asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and revealed that his very identity entailed suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. Our own prayer is to lead us to clearer understanding of who we are, and to the revelation that our very identity as disciples entails denying self, taking up our daily cross, and losing our life for the sake of others. Dare we pray? Dare we ask Jesus, “who do you say that I am?” Dare we accept the identity. Jesus offers us and the implications of being faithful to that identity? [Living Liturgy, 2013]
In honest prayer we stand before God, stripped of false self-images and misleading life goals. In prayer we come to know who we are as Jesus’ disciples and accept the demands of following him faithfully. In prayer we encounter the God who never forsakes us, who
strengthens us to face our daily crosses, and who encourages us to be faithful. Dare we pray? How can we not? Dare we ask Jesus, “who do you say that I am?” Why would we not?

Adapted Renew International

Welcoming the Immigrants We Once Were

Communities of Catholic Sisters based in Ohio and Kentucky are calling on President Obama and Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and on State legislators to refrain from passing laws that would restrict the human rights of immigrants. The collaborative effort comprises the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Region 6 and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center. Local sponsors of the project are the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, Humility of Mary Sisters and Notre Dame Sisters of Chardon.
To make their point, the collaborative has rented billboards in cities and towns throughout Ohio and Kentucky with the message: “I was a stranger an immigrant and you welcomed me”. The message, based on the words of Jesus, is taken from the Gospel of Matthew and will remain for a month or more. Billboards locally will be located at the corner of McGuffey and Albert streets and at 927 Market St. in Youngstown beginning Oct.22.

The public is invited to a prayer service regarding this issue at the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Motherhouse Chapel, 4250 Shields Rd., Canfield, Wed., Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. After the ½ hour prayer service, refreshments will be offered in the Motherhouse dining room. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP to Sister Bridget Nolan, Motherhouse Administrator, at 330-792-7636.

The Catholic Sisters pledge to be welcoming communities and challenge their neighbors to be the same. They encourage people of faith to join them through prayer, reflection, education and action.

The Sisters note that the deferred action policy initiated Aug. 15, 2012, does help many young immigrants who came to the United States as children. However, much more must be done. Comprehensive
Immigration reform is needed on the federal level to fix a system that is now broken and causing pain and suffering to families.

The failure on the part of the federal government to reform the present unworkable immigration system has resulted in some states passing legislation that is punitive and harmful to human rights.

The Sisters call on their state legislators to refrain from enacting such harsh laws.

The Sisters understand that enforcement of law is part of any immigration policy. One can find more such details on this imp source. They note, however, that the present policy of involving state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration law is not achieving that goal. They believe that true security lies in building relationships and respecting human rights and only true, comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform can deal with the crisis in our nation.

For more information, visit

Be Ready for Big Surprises!

The following quote from the Hobbit describes my Journey as an Ursuline Sister.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

(The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkiein) p.300

I started traveling this road when I was in the 4th grade in St. Dominic’s school in Youngstown. The moment wasn’t dramatic. It came to me one day as I sat in the 4th grade classroom that someday I would become a nun. It was a feeling deep inside of me. Yes. I was positively sure that I would be a nun. My parents didn’t know about this until I was in high school. My mother was very unhappy. My father liked the idea. After much discussion my parents and I reached a compromise. My mother said, if I would go to the Ursulines in Youngstown where our family lived, then I could go tomorrow. I took that as a sign from God that I was doing the right thing. God was really calling me to become a nun and live my life as a religious.

June 1956 I graduated from Ursuline High School in Youngstown. September 9, 1956 I entered the Ursuline Sisters in Youngstown. In 2007,  I celebrated 50 years as an Ursuline Sister.

When I was in high school I knew that I wanted to be a classroom teacher. Perhaps an English teacher. I wasn’t surprised when those of us who entered together started right away going to Youngstown State University for education courses. I thought that was natural. I didn’t realize that teaching is what we did as our Ministry. Ursulines were known to be teachers. Many people at that time put entering a religious community and teaching in the same category. Living religious life is a Way of Life/Teaching is a career choice. If I was married I would be living out the gospel message as a married woman.

Teaching would be my career.

Entering religious life wasn’t too different from living at home. The authority in my life switched from parents to a superior. Instead of two sisters I had 200. My days were divided between prayer, study for college courses and learning what it meant to live as and become an Ursuline Sister in a religious community. Time passed quickly and then it was 1959 and I was taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. That year marked the first time that I lived the life of a vowed religious. It was also the year that I began teaching and ministry in the church. This September of 2011 I celebrate 52 years of service to the church.

During the next 30 years I taught everything from 2nd grade through Senior in High School. I received a BS in Ed from Youngstown State, and an M.A. in Education with a specialization in Reading from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Later on I received state certification from Ohio to teach English by taking courses at Youngstown State. While teaching at Ursuline High School I took courses from Ursuline College in Cleveland that helped me to update my faith. I was certified to teach religion in the Youngstown Diocese. It laid the foundation for my work here at St. Hilary as a Pastoral Minister.These words from St. Angela, the founder of our community began to speak to me:

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

After my mother died in 1982 I found myself getting drawn into parish work at St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown. Bringing the Eucharist to my mother while she was sick helped me to feel comfortable ministering to the elderly. On Easter Sunday in 1982 she told me that I was her Easter Sunday. The associate pastor at the Cathedral asked me if I would teach some classes to the RCIA. I did and found that I could still build the kingdom but in a different way: working with adults who were the parents of children.



I taught for 30 years; 15 in grade schools and 15 in high school. In 1990 I decided to hang up the role of teaching in a classroom; I went to Loyola University in Chicago on a Sabbatical to prepare for work as a Pastoral Minister. The professors remarked, 30 years of teaching, what a resource for becoming a pastoral minister.

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

While in Chicago I started to look for a job and to make a long story short through Fr. Koegel who was the pastor of St. Hilary, I came here to Akron. I began my journey here at St. Hilary in August of 1991. I have grown into many roles. I’ve learned things that they don’t teach in college courses or text books.

I began as a volunteer coordinator for parish groups. This grew through the years to being a Spiritual Director for the Joy Renewal; coordinator for baptisms, which includes teaching the parent classes, contact person for Stewardship weekend, coordinating the efforts of the Eucharistic ministers to the Homebound parishioners in 8 nursing homes and residences and in private homes. All of my life experience as well as the opportunities for education has become a resource for the ministries I am involved with at St. Hilary. In 2005, the Lord asked me to take on my own family ministry; my sister Loretta was diagnosed with front lobe dementia. Ministry to families was part of the ministry of St. Angela.



My community, the Ursuline Sisters in Youngstown is comprised of 52 people. If you think of that number as a total then it seems very small. But consider this…at one time our community served the Youngstown Diocese as teachers in the parish schools. Today we still have this ministry; but we’ve expanded into a program for mothers who are struggling to get off welfare, an aids ministry, a prison ministry: yes some are pastoral ministers and directors of religious education. The ministries have brought us into contact with many people who are on many different journeys. Faith and the call to build the kingdom came in the Sacrament of Baptism. Call to all ministry comes from the sacrament of baptism; we are anointed for service. There will always be people who are called to make the building of the kingdom by walking with the Lord as the central focus of their lives. It is a grace.



Matthew says it this way in Chapter 19 vs. 11-12, This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God had given it. For there are different reasons why someone cannot marry; some, because they were born that way; others because someone made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. This is the passage where I found myself when I was 25 years in religious life.


When I think of religious life I think of an overgrown plant or bush. Throughout the experiences of Vatican II; cultural experiences, and just plain changes in society; it got pruned. Plants that are cut back are not destroyed but come back being much stronger. They have a richer color. Yes, religious life has changed since the 1950’s; it lost some of it’s old leaves but new ones are growing in its place. You and I; the prayers we pray for vocations are the water which the plant needs. The call is out there; just pray that the people who receive the call to live a vowed life will respond with a yes. Thus they will become a new branch on the plant.

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

An Annual Celebration of Community

Ursuline Sisters, Members of the Company of St. Ursula and Associates throughout the world remember their “Mother” and Founder, St. Angela Merici on January 27th each year. In Youngstown, Ohio, the Spirit was alive and well as the entire Community of Sisters and Associates gathered for Mass and Dinner. After Sister Nancy Dawson’s challenging words to us, seven men and women came forward to enthusiastically announce their decision to be associated with the Ursuline Community. The Sisters proudly responded by expressing their intent to share their lives, their prayer and their ministries with the Associates. Angela was among us as we enjoyed each other with hospitality,encouragement and renewed energy.

Saint Angela Today – Alive in Us

The entire Community of Ursuline Sisters and Associates gathered to celebrate the gift of St. Angela, their Founder. They celebrated their lives and their faith with the Eucharist and a special meal. They were inspired and challenged by the message of their Superior, Sister Nancy Dawson. Seven new Associates were welcomed. They brought new life and energy to the enthusiastic gathering.

Ask and You Will Receive

Over the past few Sundays, our Gospels have focused on what it means to be a disciple and a follower of Jesus. Today we look at the depth of that discipleship in how that relationship works through prayer.

People who claim to have a relationship with God often act as if they discovered it. But the truth is that God found them and led them to their creator.

There are countless Christians who have experienced God’s forgiveness and the reconciliation in Christ’s dying and resurrection. Convicted felons on death row, white-collar executives who have broken trust with their companies, addicts, and just ordinary folk testify to the glorious new life that comes from this relationship.

As disciples of Jesus through our baptism, we are given the outline of how we should pray: the Lord’s Prayer. Many good books and sermons have unpacked this prayer that almost everyone knows by heart. It is prayed in many languages around the world, a continuous offering going up from the hearts of the faithful, and even from those who may not be sure about their faith.

Then Jesus tells his disciples, and us, through Luke, to take the actions expected of this relationship: ask, search, knock. Prayer is more about searching than finding.  The words Jesus gives us in the Lord’s Prayer express exactly the way Jesus lived and prayed: in intimate union with and trust in the Father, in furthering God’s kingdom and in surrender to God’s will which brings life.

Prayer is more about searching for God and divine presence than about finding answers to specific needs.

Asking, searching, and knocking are actions disciples should take every day. We should say the Lord’s Prayer, then get up and begin our day with action. Be a disciple, pray the prayer our Lord taught us to pray, then search for the things God has in mind for you. You will find them, because we worship a God who always keeps promises.

A Cabin In the Woods

Journey Women is a unique spiritual ministry quietly celebrating its 10th year of periodic getaways to a cabin in the woods. Marked by periods of quiet reflection, walks in Sand Run Park [Summit County], inspirational reading and sharing, Journey Women is a one-day gathering open to women of all ages.marlene “This mini-retreat started at the request of two parishioners who had only one requirement—to have a brief retreat that did not involve lectures,” explains Sr. Marlene LoGrasso, Pastoral Minister St Hilary Fairlawn OH. “They wanted time to go off by themselves for a quiet period of reflection.

“At the retreat, I provide several articles to reflect on and to discuss, if they choose. We plan time for a brief introduction, some questions or sharing, a quiet time, lunch and a closing prayer. Some women enjoy journaling their thoughts on the materials we read, while others enjoy walking in the woods or sitting by the fireplace.  You can find good quality wood at www.dkbræ which can be used at bonfire, for cooking in camping. We meet during the day on months that contain a fifth Monday, which occurs about four times a year.”

When asked what kind of feedback she receives from those who have participated in Journey Women retreats, Sr. Marlene said: “One woman said basically what many say after the retreat—‘I took the time to come here where there is no phone, no doorbell, and where I can have time for myself.’ Another woman said, ‘It made me realize that all my life I have been opening doors, and now I see that some of those doors are shutting.’ Another common reaction I hear is, ‘I can’t believe how great this has been. I wish I could take time for myself like this more often.”

“I hope whoever feels moved to come will try the experience,” Sister Marlene continued.

We laugh, we talk, and the environment is great!

Rest Awhile

Having trouble sleeping can have wide-ranging, negative effects on your health, so it’s something that you should take seriously. For instance, it makes you less safe behind the wheel and increases your long-term risk of medical conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Though medical sleep aids may work quickly to help you drift off, they can have side effects and aren’t good to use in the long term. Luckily, there is another treatment for sleepless nights that’s cheap, isn’t habit-forming, and has absolutely no negative side effects: music.

Music is more than something that’s simply enjoyable to listen to. It has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax and prepare for sleep. Older adults who listen to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster, sleep longer, wake up less during the night, and rate their nights as more restful than when they don’t listen to music. Similarly, when younger adults are given the option to listen to classical music, books on tape, or nothing before bed, the ones who relax with music see the greatest improvement in sleep quality. Get better results by using one of the best true wireless earbuds.

If you feel calmer when you’re enjoying good music, it’s not your imagination. Music has the power to slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure, and it may even trigger your muscles to relax. These biological changes mirror some of the same changes that your body undergoes when you’re falling asleep, making music the perfect preparation for restorative slumber.