Sister Jeanne Cigolle Celebrates 65 years of Service

UPSK Sr. Jeanne (1)Sister Jeanne Cigolle celebrates 65 years as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown in 2016. Throughout her varied ministries, her life has been filled with joy. Sister Jeanne walks us down her path in this installment of Vocation Stories.

In Sister Jeanne’s own voice

 I am an Ursuline Sister and very proud of it.

When I came to the convent, I just knew that was the place for me. I love the Mass. I love the prayer life. The words of prayers and the Mass have a beautiful meaning. As I’m getting older, those words have even more meaning for me.

The call to become a nun came in the summers between the 1st and 2nd grade, when my mother, two brothers and I would help the Sisters clean the school. Sister Virginia asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, ‘I’m going to be a nun.’ She told me that I’d change my mind 10 times before I did that. I looked her right in the eyes and said, ‘No I won’t.’ And I never did. I kept that dream all through my school years.

When I entered, I felt at home. I felt it was the place for me. God has his ways of doing things.

In the summers, we’d go to school to get our bachelor’s degrees. I also went to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., for five summers to get a Master’s degree in education.

My first 19 years I was a teacher at the old St. Ann School on Federal Street, at St. Columba, and at St. Patrick’s in Youngstown. Then I was asked by the Mother Superior to sew habits for the Sisters and did that for a decade.

When we needed a nurse in our healthcare wing, I volunteered. I went to nursing school for two years. I am still a licensed nurse today.

For six years I worked with our Motherhouse Pool ministry. I now tutor at Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten. In my spare time, I like to do crafts and sell the items to support ministries at The Ursuline Center.

If you are considering religious life, pray. Ask God to help you decide. Become associated with some Sisters so you can get to know what they’re really like. It makes discernment a little bit easier.

Walking In The Footsteps of Christ: Sister Julia Baluch’s Vocation Story

Imagine setting your feet on the actual ground where Christ Jesus walked. Few of us will ever have that opportunity. But not only has Sister Julia Baluch toured paths in the Holy Land where Jesus is believed to have traveled, she’s dedicated her life to following in the footsteps of Christ by continuing His mission to share God’s love with His people.
When Sister Julia first entered the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown community, she taught grades 1-8 at various schools in the Youngstown Diocese and served as a principal. She has fond memories of the bonds she forged, and in particular remembers a young girl from St. Rose in Girard whose mother and grandmother volunteered at the church baking bread. On the first day of school, the girl gave Sister Julia a rose bud. This gesture marked the beginning of an enduring friendship.
After 30 years as an educator, Sister Julia served as a pastoral minister, including at her home parish of St. Patrick in Youngstown. She visited the sick and families who lost loved ones. She prayed with them, listened to their stories, and attended funeral masses. “It was a gift to God,” Sister Julia says of those experiences. “They were so appreciative, and it was a beautiful thing to see.”
Sister Julia began contemplating a religious vocation during her years attending school at St. Patrick’s. A Sister of St. Joseph visited her school, and a classmate asked the nun how to know if one has a calling to vowed religious life. As Sister Julia recalls, the nun advised them to pray three Hail Marys before bed each night, and “when the time is right, you’ll know.” This piece of advice, Sister Julia says, “sparked” her desire to serve God, a longing which continued to grow.
Throughout her life, Sister Julia was blessed with Catholic mentors and role models. Her mother, an immigrant from Kassa (then part of Hungary), was very religious. Deeply touched by a community of Ursuline Sisters during her childhood in Hungary she even considered joining the community. Therefore, Sister Julia observes, her mother was supportive of her decision to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.
Another mentor was Sister Julia’s spiritual director, Sister Miriam Thompson, an Ursuline Sister of Brown County. “I read about spiritual relationships, but I didn’t know what that meant in my younger days,” she says, describing how their friendship grew in ways she had never imagined. Sister Miriam was a source of inspiration, she says, and also provided her with criticism when needed. Sister Julia remembers making several trips to Brown County, and Sister Miriam promised that there would always be a guest room available for her.
Sister Miriam also shared a quote from Marie of the Incarnation (1599-1607), an Ursuline Sister — recently canonized — who served the Iroquois and children of pioneers in an early French-Canadian colony: “Leave it all to God. He has his own time, this God of ours who is so full of love.”
To this day, Sister Julia keeps a copy of these words with her. Their meaning has evolved over time, she’s found.
Despite having retired five years ago from active ministry (60 years!), Sister Julia remains active and serves others. She is involved with the Antonine Sisters’ program for senior citizens, where she describes her ministry as sharing God’s love and providing a healing presence.
Once, when she was consoling a woman, Sister Julia placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “We continued to talk, and then I was realizing my hand was going over and back, over and back on her back. Actually, I was just massaging her back,” she explains. In that moment, though, Sister Julia discovered her new ministry.
Mary Clyde, Ursuline Associate and aide in Motherhouse Healthcare, has formed a close bond with Sister Julia. “She’s very prayerful with me,” Mary says, recalling the blessing Sister Julia gave Mary’s son before he left for basic training. “You feel good when you are with her,” she adds. “I think I am a better person because I’m with her.”
Ursuline Sister of Youngstown Nancy Dawson, executive director of The Ursuline Center and former general superior, admires Sister Julia’s commitment to reach out to others. “She is a gift of God to the Ursuline Sisters and the whole Church,” Sister Nancy says.
Sister Julia’s Hungarian background brings cultural diversity to the community, and she takes pride in her heritage. She also helped foster the extended Ursuline family, visiting communities across the United States and making two trips to Italy, where the Ursuline order was founded. Her involvement in the Jewish-Christian dialogue led by Father George Balasko and Rabbi Samuel Meyer, united people of different faiths and deepened her own spirituality.
Through life’s changes, Sister Julia remembers a piece of advice she received from her spiritual director: “When you knock on the right door, it will open.”

Search Your Heart

Sr. Jan CU

[su_quote]There’s just something special about the Ursuline Sisters that made a difference in my life.[/su_quote]

Spend just a few minutes with Sister Jan Gier and you’ll easily understand why children respond so well to her. Her kind, gentle voice and warm smile bespeak her love for them, her love of her vocation, and her love of the Lord.

“My personal relationship with the Lord through Eucharist, community prayer as well as my personal prayer, and my teaching ministry give meaning to my life,” says Sister Jan. “My community, family and friends also give my life meaning.”

The joy in Sister Jan’s heart radiates when she speaks both of her vocation as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown and her ministry as an educator.

Sr. Jan early teaching“Sometimes you don’t realize what an impact you have on children’s lives. Being a positive presence in the classroom promotes an environment of love and support,” Sister Jan says. She had many Ursuline Sisters as teachers when she was growing up, and notes, “There’s just something special about the Ursuline Sisters that made a difference in my life.

That difference was one of the reasons Sister Jan answered her calling to become a nun a couple of years after becoming a teacher. Since then, she’s spent more than three decades as a teacher a and administrator in schools and preschools throughout the Youngstown Diocese.

Sr. Jan St. Shephen's“I love teaching,” exclaims Sister Jan, now a kindergarten instructor at St. Stephen School in Niles, Ohio. “The children are so enthusiastic. They love being in school. They love to learn, and they get excited about simple things.”

The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown were originally a teaching order, but just a handful minister as educators today. Still, that was one of the original appeals about the community for Sister Jan – but not the only one.

“The Ursuline Sisters served primarily in the Diocese of Youngstown, and I felt called to be a part of their ministry to serve the local church.

Sr. Jan at Mass“Praying together and sharing Eucharist helped me to grow in my spiritual life and affirmed my decision to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.

“And then there was Sister Norma,” Sister Jan continues. “I would meet with her on a regular basis before I entered. Sister Norma was enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging.”

[su_quote]If you think you might be called to be a nun, Sister Jan advises, ‘Search your heart and respond to God’s love in the many ways that He reveals it to you.'[/su_quote]

And contact Sister Norma Raupple, who can offer you guidance as she did for Sister Jan. You can call her at 330-792-7636, or call or text her at 330-261-4729.

Sister Mary O’Leary Still Sharing Her Sweet Smile

If you are one of the lucky many to have known Sister Mary O’Leary, you’ll be glad to hear that her smile still brightens every room she enters.


Many people around the Mahoning Valley and beyond remember Sister Mary  from her days in education. For 30 years, she worked in various education ministries around the Diocese of Youngstown. She began teaching in 1953, working with elementary-school children – an experience that sparks fond memories.


“Oh I loved it. I just loved taking care of the little kids!” she says, her soft voice expressing utter joy. “They were so much fun. They would be coming into the school, they’d have their lunches in one hand and their books in the other, and they’d come running up to my desk. They wouldn’t even take their coats off, they’d just tell me what they did the night before. We were so friendly, and they were friendly to each other, too. It was so, so nice.”


Over the years, Sister Mary instructed every grade from 1-8 except 5th. She ministered at Sacred Heart and Immaculate Conception in Youngstown, St. Charles, Boardman, Holy Family, Poland, and St. Nicholas, Struthers. She also ministered as a principal at St. Charles and Our Lady of Peace, Canton, and as assistant principal and registrar at Cardinal Mooney High School, Youngstown. She’s remembered fondly by many former students and colleagues for her caring and gentle ways.


But Sister Mary’s ministry wasn’t limited to schools. She also served in the department of education for the Diocese, and for the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown in various leadership roles – treasurer, director of finance, as local superior, and in community service.


Sister Mary has slowed down since retiring in 2011, but she still enjoys greeting other Sisters, employees and visitors around the Motherhouse, often sharing stories from her childhood and about her family.


“She always tells me how when she was young, her brothers used to sneak her coffee because she liked it,” laughs Renee Harrison, receptionist and healthcare aide. “And she still loves to drink coffee!”


Sister Mary had three older brothers and one younger. “We had a great time growing up. We had such good times. We were just friendly with each other,” Sister Mary says, noting her family was very happy at their farm on the Southside of Youngstown until tragedy befell them; Sister Mary’s father, who worked in the steel mills, died of a heart attack when she was but 11 years old. “It was sad, sad, sad. Then we had to move from the country into the city. My mother had to get a job.”


With five children to provide for, Sister Mary’s mother went to work in the office for the Youngstown Police. But the job required long hours beginning early in the morning, so Msgr. Maurice J. Casey, who was pastor of St. Patrick Church, Youngstown, stepped in to help his parishioners. “He found out that my mother was raising five children,” Sister Mary says. “He said, ‘No let’s change it. You take care of the children until the evening, then you can come in when everybody’s home.’ Two of the children were older so they could watch all of us.”


Msgr. Casey gave Mrs. O’Leary a job at the parish that allowed her to spend more time with her children. Sister Mary’s aunt and uncle, she remembers, also helped her family. Her two oldest brothers came of age during World War II, and even after joining the service, they did what they could to help the family by sending home their pay each month to fund tuition for Sister Mary and her youngest brother to attend Ursuline High School, Youngstown. “We were the only ones who went. The three of them went to public school,” Sister Mary remembers of her older brothers.


Hearing Sister Mary tell that story has touched the heart of Patty Hackett, director of nursing for Motherhouse Healthcare. “Imagine having nothing but doing for others. How much better the world would be if more people were like that still.”


Perhaps it’s no wonder that with such examples of selflessness and kindness throughout her childhood, Sister Mary chose to become an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown shortly after her high school graduation. The Ursuline Sisters follow the charism, the mission and ministry of St. Angela Merici, who counseled hospitality and service to others.


“Sister Mary O’Leary is a role model for all of our Sisters,” says Sister Nancy Dawson, General Superior. “Her vowed, community life and service exemplifies what the Ursulines are all about. Her devotion to family captures Saint Angela Merici’s (our Founder) love and care for families.”


If you would like to send a card or note to Sister Mary O’Leary to say hello or relate treasured memories of your time under her tutelage, you can write her at the Motherhouse, 4250 Shields Rd., Canfield, Ohio, 44406. You can also send an email to [email protected].

Deepening Your Relationship With Christ: Sister Mary Alyce Koval’s Vocation Story

Sister Mary Alyce KovalIn our continuing series of Vocation Stories, short videos about the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Sister Mary Alyce Koval shares her experience on life as an Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, what inspired her to become a nun, and offers advice on what you can do if you feel called to religious life.
“I would encourage them to keep relationships with any religious women they know or establish some. I think that was the seed of my vocation – getting to know the sisters as individuals. Establish a relationship with a Sister or group for Sisters. Spend time with them, not just in prayer. Most people think we pray all day but we have very busy lives. Share meals with them. Do things socially with them.

I think the core relationship that has to be established is the relationship with God. I think God can work miracles in people’s hearts and minds. Keeping that communication open through prayer – not just formal prayer but spending time with the Lord and listening to the Lord’s side of the conversation. Listen to what Jesus is instilling in your heart to move you forward in your journey. It is a journey, it’s not a decision you make in one day. You move into it and grow into it. Keep that vision of what you want ahead of you and do what you can to nurture it.”


If you’re considering becoming a nun and would like to talk with someone about your thoughts and feelings, call Sister Mary McCormick or Sister Norma Raupple at 330-792-7636 or email them at [email protected].

To Be A Nun “A Wonderful Decision”

Sister Mary Ann Coz lives at the Ursuline Motherhouse at 4250 Shields Rd. where she has been engaged in hard work as well as enjoyment in caring for the gardens and wildlife.  Religious Life is a life-long way of life and a permanent commitment.  A woman brings herself as she is with her unique gifts and temperament and throughout her life she responds to many opportunities, changing needs and evolving situations.  Her  relationships along the way also shape her life.  Her life is enriched by being part of a religious community as she continues to respond to God’s love.  Sister Mary Ann tells about how she has experienced meaning and fulfillment as an Ursuline Sister.