Sisters’ impact marked at mass tonight

FOR NEARLY 200 years, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have dedicated their lives to education, health care and social work. With an emphasis on simplicity, humilityand charity the Sisters live out the motto – “The Love of Christ Impels Us. “

And for almost 100 of those years, the Sisters have had a presence in parishes in the Diocese of Steubenville, providing those same services. They taught in schools in Our Lady of Angels, Barton, St. John Grade and High Schools, Bellaire, St Anthony, Bridgeport, St. Mary, Martins Ferry, St. Stanislaus, Maynard, St. Joseph, Tiltonsville, and St. Joseph, Wolfhurst. And sad to say, the Sisters began leaving the valley in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of a decline in vocations and because of the closing of several schools due to decreases in enrollment. However, their influence will be felt for years to come.

Some parish records show that the Sisters arrived in Bellaire in 1879.

They came to Martins Ferry in 1889 and started St. Mary’s School, and in 1892 the came to St. Anthony in Bridgeport. They began teaching at St. Joseph School in Wolfhurst in 1912 and in St Joseph Church School in Tltonsville, in 1950.

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. a Mass will be celebrated in St. Anthony Church, Bridgeport, commemorating the important part the Sisters have played in the lives of the people. A social will follow in the school hall.

The Most Rev. Jeffrey Monforton, Bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville, will be the celebrant. Others at the Mass will include The Rev. John Mucha, pastor St. Joseph and St. Anthony Parishes, Bridgeport, Rev. Daniel Heusel, St. John Parish, Bellaire, Rev. Tom Marut, St. Mary, Martins Ferry, Rev. Dale Tornes, St. Frances Cabrini, Colerain, and Monsignor George Coyne and Monsignor Tom Petronek, both retired, who were taught by the Sisters, Monsignor Coyne at St. Anthony and Monsignor Petronek, at St. John.

Students from St. John and St. Mary elementary schools will provide music for the Mass. Students from St. John Central High School, Bellaire, will be the altar servers, and will assist with the serving of food at the reception. The Fourth Degree, Knights of Columbus will provide an honor guard at the Mass.

The committtee for the celebration have accumulated pictures, stories and other memorabilia to be used in a slide show at the reception in the shcool hall.

In 1812. in the newly formed Diocese of Bardstown, Ky,, Bishop Benedict Flaget was overwhelmed by the responisbility of providing a religious education for the children of more than a thousand Catholic families who migrated to Kentucky from Maryland. In response to the need, Bishop Flaget called for young women willing to devote their lives to the service of the church. From among a grop of six women that responded, Catherine Spalding, originally from Maryland, was eleced first superior of the Congregation. For 45 years, Mother Catherine guided the young congregartion, ever mindful of striving to respond to the needs of the time

In 1814, the Sisters opened a one-room school at St. Thomas Farm near Bardstown,. A a few years later, the sisers moved to Nazareth and built a new school, Within a decade, the school known as Nazareth Academy could accommodate 100 boarders at its new location.

In 1831, Mother Catherine opened Presentation Academy. Later, the sisers opened St. Vincent Orphange and St. Joseph Infirmary, the first among their institutions of social work and health care. By the middle of the 20th century, the members of the congregation w re engaged in two colleges, more than 30 high schools and over 100 elementary schools. Countless children were given homes in six oprhanages,and thousands of patients received car e in 12 hospitals.Six nurses’ training schools extended the congregation.

Over the centuries the Sisters have earned a reputation for a readiness to respond and willingness to take risks. The have cared for patients with choleras, typhoid yellow feveer, and the victims of natural disasters includng floods and hurricanes. In 1980, the sisters were among the first organizations reach out to thosse with the HIV/AIDS infection.,

The Sisters have “gone global” in recent years, and have embraced diversity. Ministries beyond the United States began to take root in the 1940s. Currently in additin to ministry in the United States, the sisters live and minister in India, Nepal, Belize and Botswana. In each of these countries, the sisters are working in health care, education, social work and advocacy.

Many young women from the Diocese of Steubenville have joined the Sisters of Charity. Beginning in 1883, 39 of them from St. John Parish, in Bellaire have become Sisters of Charity. Nineteen from St. Anthony in Bridgeport have joined, Other parishes who have contributed to the growth of the Sisters are St. Mary’s Martins Ferry, 18, St. Casimir, Adena with one; Barton Our Lady of Angels,one; All Saints, Blaine, two; St. Teresa Cadiz, one, St. Stephen Caldwell, one’ St. John Chruchtown, one; Ironton, one, Lafferty one; Marietta, one; St. Stanislaus, Maynard, four; Sacred Heart, Neffs, three, St. Mary St. Clairsvlle, one; St. Mary, Shadyside, two; Seubenvile, one; Temperanceville one, Ttitonsville one and Wolfurst St. Joseph, four.

The history of St. Anthony Parish, Bridgeport, states the Sisters came to Bridgeport in October 1892 ,and started to teach in the new school. They started a school in Maynard and the sisters made the trip each day, walking half a mile to catch the train to Maynard. Later, a school was built in Barton, also staffed by the Sisters.

In 1912, the pastor of St. Anthony built a school in Wolfhurst, and during the World War I flu epidemic, schools were closed, but the sisters became Angels of Mercy and ministered to the sick.

The Sisters who were stationed in Bellaire, also traveled to St. Mary, Shadyside, to teach the children. In 1971 a convent was built to accommodate two sisters who did catechetical work in the paish. They ministered to the sick and the needy..

According to the history of the Congregation, “As the SCN’s near the end of a second century and prepare to celebrate 200 years of ministry, the motherhouse and central offices at Nazareth are still located on the property Mother Catherie purchased around 1822. The SCN family has grown to include Associates, SCN volunteeers, employees, friends, donors and people aroun d the world working in ministry. Ever mindful of the SCN misson, the SCN Family memberers aroud the world are committed ” to work for justice in solidarity wth oppressed people, especially the economically poor and women, and to care for the earth. We risk our lives and resources both personally and corporately, as we engage in diverse minisersies in carrying out this mission.”