Sister Madeleine is happy to say: Mission accomplished

The Antonine nuns received donations from across the globe to build the center.
NORTH JACKSON -- When Sister Marie Madeleine Iskandar came to the United States from her homeland of Lebanon in 1989, she was given $200 and charged with the mission to begin an adult day-care center.
"We built a ramp outside the sister house and put an ad in the paper," Sister Madeleine recalled.
The second day the ad ran, one man called for their service.
"After two weeks, we had five!" Sister Madeleine said.
Outgrowing the space at the sister house on Lipkey Road in North Jackson, the nuns moved their adult day-care center to an empty apartment in the priest's house, which sits behind the convent. Before long, the sisters were serving 15 adults at the center.
"We were out of space again," Sister Madeleine said. "It was time to build a facility."
"I was relying on divine providence," the 5-foot-4-inch nun with a strong Lebanese accent said. "I knew that God would provide."
The Antonine Sisters received funds from across the globe. A sister house in Australia sent them money; other Maronite organizations did as well. The Maronite sect of the Catholic Church has origins in Lebanon.
The nuns also received interest-free loans from the Ursuline and Humility of Mary sisters. Catholic Charities and Youngstown foundations provided funds as well.
By 1995, Sister Madeleine had secured enough money to break ground. In May 1996, the multimillion-dollar Antonine Sisters Adult Day Care Center was opened at 2675 Lipkey Road, just down the road from the convent and next to the Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine.
A day's activities
Today, the Antonine Sisters serve 50 clients who are transported to and from the center by one of the facility's five buses. As the clients arrive for the day, they are served a light snack. Then they break up into groups for activities.
This day, one group is making butterflies out of felt and another is stringing beads to make jewelry.
"These activities are good for them because they use their fingers and keep them moving," Sister Madeleine explained.
Still another group is playing cards.
"Rum!" said Fay Untch of Boardman.
"I couldn't see it," said Florence Berg of Warren.
"Oh, if you couldn't see it you can have it," said Ethel Dorner of Boardman, as she explained the rules of their game.
Berg came to the day-care center because it was the closest to her house. Dorner, however, is there because of her doctor's orders. Untch chose the center because of the sisters and programs.
"These sisters love them," Sister Madeleine said. "And they serve them from their heart."
After activities, the clients enjoy a hot lunch, prepared on site, and then move into the quiet room for a quick nap or just to relax. The room is lined with comfortable lounge chairs, all with blankets draped across the back and stuffed animals on the seat.
"The ones who are here every day have their own chair," Sister Madeleine said.
"The card players don't nap after lunch," Untch said.
"We want them to do what they want to do," Sister Madeleine added.
'A very wide ministry'
Along with providing activities, a good meal and a quiet place to rest, the day-care center has a hair salon, a fully equipped physical therapy room, an ankle and foot care service and support groups for the families of clients.
"It is a very wide ministry," Sister Madeleine said. To illustrate that point, she revealed a separate wing of the day-care center.
Complete with a spacious kitchen, large sitting room and six sleeping rooms, this wing is designed for those who are looking for a place of rest and solitude. Families visiting residents can stay there or individuals who have come to the shrine.
Looking around the facility, this tiny woman from a foreign country smiles. She knows she has done what she was meant to do.
"I didn't do anything," Sister Madeleine insisted. "God did it. He used me."

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