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Valley author writing about Ursuline Sisters

YOUNGSTOWN — Local author Thomas G. Welsh is engaged in putting together a book about the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown.

His goal is to have it completed by September 2024, which will be the religious order’s 150th anniversary.

Welsh grew up with a deep Ursuline influence. He graduated from Ursuline High School in 1979, and at the time, was unaware he would be in the writing field. He said he had a knack for art and was encouraged to go that route.

After graduation from Ursuline, Welsh went on to attend Youngstown State University to pursue a degree in professional writing and editing, and unexpectedly received a graduate assistantship in English. He possessed artistic skills, but through the pressure of pursuing art, he lost the passion for it.

“My mother (Elaine Welsh) nudged me into journalism at age 25,” he said. “So I returned to YSU for a degree in that field.”

He said his mother, a 1950 Ursuline graduate, played a big role in encouraging his move to writing. She had served as co-editor of the Ursuline High School’s “Irish Times” newspaper. She went on to attend Youngstown College and was the student editor of “Newman Club” newspaper, which served Catholic students at the university.

She graduated in 1954 with a B.A. in English. She went on to work as an advertising manager for JCPenney, served as a copywriter at Cleveland-based ad agency Fuller, Smith and Ross, then returned to Youngstown and YSU to complete her post-graduate studies in elementary and secondary education.

She held several other positions, including teaching English at St. Brendan Elementary School and at Ursuline High School, before coming to the Tri-County American Heart Association to serve as communications director. She was with the AHA for 30 years.

She died May 13, 2022, at age 89. Welsh said his mother always had a passion to someday write books, but she never got the time to pursue that desire.

WRITING LIFE

For Welsh, his writing life began with a dissertation, titled “Closing Chapters: Urban Change, Religious Reform and the Decline of Youngstown’s Catholic Elementary Schools, 1960-2006.”

The completion of his first book was surrounded with loss. His father, Thomas Welsh Sr., died in 2010, the year before the book came out. The following year (2012) he lost his youngest sister, Susan, who died in a car crash that also injured his mother. It was a rough time for Welsh, who was struggling to find his niche.

“I had to find a way to turn my writing skills into a career,” he said. “It was suggested that I refocus as a local historian.”

In taking that route, he soon found himself being commissioned by the local Jewish community to write a book on Jewish history in Youngstown. He approached The History Press of Charleston, S.C., on the book idea.

“To get the History Press to take on the project, they demanded I write two other books first,” Welsh said. “One on restaurants in Youngstown, and one on the Strouss store in Youngstown.”

Welsh was enjoying the research and history he was uncovering. He finished “Youngstown’s Dependable Store: Strouss” in 2012, “Classic Restaurants” in 2014, and finally “A History of Jewish Youngstown and the Steel Valley” in 2017.

CAFARO BOOK

That led Welsh to his most challenging work when he was asked to write a book for Anthony Cafaro regarding his father. The project took three years and involved more than 80 interviews. The book was privately published in 2021. It was titled “The Life and Legacy of William M. Cafaro, A Man For All Seasons.” Welsh said Cafaro printed about 500 copies, and they were distributed to relatives, colleagues, friends, and employees. Cafaro hasn’t yet made the book available for sale, but Welsh said it’s possible in the future.

With five books under his belt, Welsh was ready for his next project. He was asked to write the history of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown for the 150th anniversary in 2024. Welsh knew he was the right person for the project as his entire life was influenced by the Ursuline Sisters.

“I grew up knowing a lot about the Ursuline community,” he said. “My mother was supportive of the ministry. My cousin Martina Casey served as General Superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, and my aunt Sister Marcia Welsh taught math at Ursuline High School and later focused on social issues in the Youngstown area and Washington, D.C.”

He said his ties are helping as he lines up interviews, some with elderly sisters who have played a big role locally. He has submitted the first draft introduction and overview of chapters. He said the book doesn’t yet have a title.

“I hope to wrap this project up within a year,” Welsh said.

He said this book will parallel his other books and will show the Youngstown area’s decline in local culture and rebound through ingenuity. One example he gave is the growth of the Ursuline Motherhouse in Canfield.

“When the Ursuline Sisters moved to Canfield in 1963, the facility was made for 115 sisters,” he said. “Today there are 29, but they continue their mission without skipping a beat.”

He said the Ursuline Sisters support the Beatitude House for women. Welsh said they have met today’s challenges by working with young mothers to get a college degree and a good job to be able to support their family.

“People in Youngstown have always found a way to keep moving forward,” Welsh said.

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