By William K. Alcorn
Sister Janet Gardner says leaving Beatitude House after nearly four years as its executive director to become general councilor for the Sisters of St. Francis is bittersweet.
“I am honored to have been elected as the general councilor for my order, but I will miss Beatitude House and working with its staff and supporters, not to mention the women and children we serve,” said Sister Janet before starting her new mission April 1 at the Sisters of St. Francis U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh.
Sister Janet said her time with the Beatitude House program “has been a graced experience for me” under the auspices of the Ursuline Sisters and oversight of the Beatitude House Board of Directors, serving the needs of its many women and children alongside a competent and compassionate staff.
Born in Denver, Colo., Sister Janet has been a Catholic sister for 50 years, belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God, which was based in Pittsburgh until September 2016, when the headquarters was moved to Brazil where she said there are “more and younger sisters.”
Sister Janet said there are just 27 sisters in her order in the U.S. and 49 in Brazil.
“Our median age is 76. We are not recruiting, but we are caring for the needs of the remaining sisters and staying vibrant and active and involved for as long as we can,” she said.
Before Sister Janet came to Beatitude House, which serves homeless women and children in Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, her ministry experiences included teaching and social service work in New York City, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Brazil, and serving in leadership roles in her religious congregation for a combined 20 years.
“I can assure you that Beatitude House remains in strong hands,” Sister Janet said in her letter of resignation.
Beatitude House is in the final stages of crafting a three-year strategic plan to ... sustain and enhance its programs,” she said.
Among the areas of focus are:
A House of Blessing Youngstown – Convert 12 apartments from transitional housing to permanent supportive housing, a move made necessary by changing priorities in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for supportive housing programs.
A House of Blessing Warren – Continue to work closely with Someplace Safe, a domestic violence facility for women and children, which refers nearly 80 percent of families in Beatitude House’s transitional housing.
A House of Blessing Ashtabula – Continue to provide 10 transitional housing for homeless families.
Also, Sister Janet touted Beatitude House’s new venture, its emerging Scholars Program.
Working with Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College and the Ashtabula and Trumbull campuses of Kent State University, Beatitude House plans to begin to help financially struggling scholars in Ashtabula, Trumbull and Mahoning counties in the next few months.
“We’re excited about this new program,” she said.
In addition to teaching in Catholic schools and holding congregation leadership positions, Sister Janet served from 2000 to 2004 in the rural Brazilian state of Alagoas, where sugar cane is the primary crop.
“It was the strangest experience. It is a feudal culture where the land barons and city officials rule the roost,” she said.
“We tried to help the conditions of the people. Infant mortality is a serious problem there,” she said.
“Given my administrative experience and working with women and children, Beatitude House seemed to be a good fit,” Sister Janet said of her coming here.
The needs of homeless women and children here are clear, she explained. The poverty rate in this part of Ohio is high as is the incidence of domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction.
“Our hope at Beatitude House is to offer our families life and parenting skills and connect them to community resources to help get them back on their feet,” Sister Janet said.
“I really am going to miss the Youngstown-Warren area and the Beatitude House. The community is caring and concerned and generous. People find ways to involve themselves through financial gifts and donated items and time,” she said.