By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Ursuline Sisters of Youngs-town are dedicated to the vision of the founder, St. Angela Merici. Her legacy, as described by the Ursulines, centers on “generating change, being concerned for families and having a spirit of adaptation.”
Through a myriad ministries, they accomplish that. Sister Nancy Dawson, general superior, and Sister Mary McCormick, a leadership team member, recently discussed the Ursulines’ past, present and future. The Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten and the motherhouse are marking 50th anniversaries.
Orders of Ursulines are located worldwide; seven are in the United States. St. Angela founded the Ursulines in 1535. The Ursulines arrived in Northeast Ohio in 1874. In Youngstown, they taught at the former St. Columba School. “There were 40 or 50 students in a class,” Sister Nancy recalled, noting classes were all-boy and all-girl.
Sister Nancy said the Ursulines have followed the advice of the founder, who said “change with the spirit of the times.” The sisters have a presence on the Internet, where the Ursuline website features nuns in videos.
The nuns started out as teachers and continue to work in education. The Ursulines developed corporations for Beatitude House, Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, Ursuline Education Center, Ursuline Senior Living and Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten.
The Ursulines moved into the motherhouse, located on 77 acres off Shields Road, in December 1963. The auditorium was added later, and there have been other renovations.
The order numbered about 200 at its highest; there are now 46 sisters. There are some 60 Ursuline Associates, women and men, who volunteer with Ursuline ministries and develop their own ministries. “They are not vowed community members but people dedicated to the [spirit of the religious community] of the Ursulines,” Sister Nancy said. “We support their ministries, and they are involved in ours,” Sister Mary added.
Sister Nancy said Beatitude House was the idea of the late Sister Margaret Scheetz, who saw a movie about a homeless mother. Founded in 1991, Beatitude House helps homeless mothers and their children by providing housing and supportive services and promoting education to attain self-sufficiency. The program is in Youngstown, Warren and Ashtabula.
In response to the HIV and AIDS crisis, the Ursulines initiated a program to help “those infected and those affected” by the disease, Sister Mary said.
A Comprehensive Care Clinic operates in Oakhill Renaissance Place in Youngstown. In 2012, 253 patients were treated and 239 tested. The Guardian Angel Cafe and Angela’s Place at the motherhouse provides a fellowship site for affected families. It provides meals, groceries, household and personal supplies and served more than 1,200 meals in 2012. Casa Madre on Youngstown’s South Side offers tutoring and support services to children affected by the disease.
“The need prompted the response,” Sister Mary said.
The Ursulines collaborated with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and lay people on the Dorothy Day House in Youngstown. It provides about 115 free meals daily from Mondays through Thursdays, Sister Nancy said.
In December, Sister Norma Raupple, a leadership team member, will take a group of young people from Kent State, Youngstown State and Walsh University on a mission trip to Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico. They will work on a water-purification project. “The idea is to teach a few women the purification process, then have them teach others,” Sister Nancy explained.
The motherhouse’s pool serves as a recreational and therapeutic site. “About 800 people a week are here taking swimming lessons and therapy,” Sister Nancy said.
The Ursuline Center also is home to educational and spiritual programs. “The labyrinth is used daily by people for prayer and meditation,” Sister Nancy said. A donation to the center, the labyrinth helps people grow spiritually.
Sister Nancy has been an Ursuline nun for 55 years and Sister Mary, 35 years. “Religious life has changed so much,” Sister Mary said. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we will continue to respond to the Gospel call.”
Sister Nancy added that the Ursulines, almost 500 years old, have adapted to the times and responded to the needs of the community and will continue to do just that.