Our Towns

Ursuline Sisters Reorganize as Nonprofit Corporation

By Michele Ristich Gatts
CANFIELD, Ohio — When Robin Finger’s twin daughters were young, their greatest ambitions were to become crew members at McDonald’s. Now freshman in college, one is pursuing a career in law, the other in medicine.

“It was going to Beatitude House that changed all that for us,” remembers Finger, who sought help from the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown ministry. “No one else was willing to work with me because of my past.”

Beatitude House, founded by the Roman Catholic nuns in 1991, has helped more than 3,000 homeless women and their children break the cycle of generational poverty through help with housing and guidance with education, parenting and life-skills. It also helps immigrant families and college students with their education goals.

When women come to one of the Beatitude House locations in Youngstown, Warren or Ashtabula, each receives an individualized plan designed to help her earn her high school diploma, if she hasn’t already, and pursue higher education.

Not only did Beatitude House help influence education and employment goals for Finger’s children, she was helped in earning a baccalaureate –graduating summa cum laude – from Youngstown State University. Today she’s a social worker and employed by the Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry.

“I couldn’t have done it without Beatitude House,” she says. I really couldn’t.”

The story of Robin’s family is special but not unique for those touched by the Ursuline Sisters’ ministries. The Ursuline religious order was founded in 1535 in Italy by St. Angela Merici and was the first to send sisters to North America. The Catholic nuns came to the Mahoning Valley from Cleveland in 1874 to educate the children of immigrants.

While local companies have come and gone, the Ursulines’ presence in the Valley remains strong and continues to grow. They have ministries that in some way touch all lives, but their focus is on helping the poor and disadvantaged, especially women and children.

The sisters recently created a strategic plan to lead many of their ministries. “We not only want to maintain our ministries for the future, we hope to find ways to ensure their vitality for gospel service,” says Sister Mary McCormick, general superior. “To this end we have established a new corporation – Ursuline Ministries.”

Ursuline Ministries is a nonprofit corporation that oversees many of the order’s outreach programs.

“This strategic plan will ensure that our ministries, which over the years have served thousands of people in northeastern Ohio, have the structure and leadership in place to continue their vital missions – not only for the present but the long-term,” McCormick says.

These ministries include Beatitude House, Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS, Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten, The Ursuline Center’s adult education, health and wellness programs, and Ursuline Sisters Senior Living. Brigid Kennedy is the newly appointed president of Ursuline Ministries.

“I am excited and honored about this opportunity,” Kennedy says. “I have been working with the Ursuline Sisters for over 20 years. I know how life-giving and transforming these ministries are and all the places Ursulines have served and can continue to serve for the Mahoning Valley.”

A board of directors was created to guide the new corporation. It comprises the sisters’ leadership team: Mary McCormick, board chairwoman, Patricia McNicholas, Norma Raupple and Regina Rogers, as well as Frank J. Dixon Jr., a CPA; Patricia Fleming, retired principal of Ursuline High School; Mary Beth Houser, vice president/senior

relationship manager at Huntington National Bank; Patrick Lowry, director of strategic initiatives, Youngstown City Schools; Scott Schulick, vice president/investments at Stifel Financial Corp.; and Shelia Triplett, executive director, Mahoning-Youngtown Community Action Partnership.

“We have a great team in our board of directors, who’ve been involved with and committed to the Ursuline Sisters over many years,” Kennedy says. “The leadership and staff of all the ministries are enthusiastic about the ways we plan to collaborate.”

These collaborations include shared resources, achieving efficiencies through scale and professional development.

“Our No. 1 goal is mission effectiveness. And we’re starting from a real position of strength,” she says.

Kennedy formerly served as co-director of the Ursulines’ HIV/AIDS Ministry, begun in 1993, which provides health services to more than 300 people annually through a clinic. Each year it also serves 1,200 meals and distributes 2,000 bags of groceries to local families, provides tutoring for 45 children either infected or affected, and recently added a housing component. Nearly everyone this ministry helps is living at or below poverty level.

Additionally, Kennedy formerly served as board president for Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten, now under the umbrella of Ursuline Ministries. The facility, which the sisters founded in Canfield in 1963, offers programs for ages two to six and educates more than 250 students each year.

The Ursuline Center, opened in 1993, offers health and wellness programs that serve about 800 weekly and presents a variety of adult enrichment classes among other programs.

In the context of assessing all the Ursuline Sisters’ efforts, McCormick says, the nuns also decided to expand their Senior Living ministry, which provides apartments for independent mature adults of modest income.

“We Ursulines have been very much in a planning mode,” McCormick says. “Construction was just completed on six new Ursuline Sisters Senior Living apartments on the second floor of the far west wing of the motherhouse.

“We also are reconfiguring the space on the first floor of that wing for the offices for the HIV/AIDS Ministry and storage space. When those are moved, we’ll begin renovation for three more senior living apartments,” she continues.

The Ursulines, McCormick states, are committed to the people of the Mahoning Valley. “Our nuns have been widely known by both the local church and the larger community throughout our history,” she observes. “We are being proactive to make sure our mission and ministry will continue to improve the lives of God’s people in northeastern Ohio well into the future.”

Pictured at top: Members of the Ursuline Ministries board are, top row from left: Sisters Patricia McNicholas, Mary McCormick and Norma Raupple. Middle row, Brigid Kennedy, corporation president. Front: Frank Dixon, Patricia Fleming, Scott Schulick and Shelia Triplett. Not pictured are Sister Regina Rogers, Mary Beth Houser and Patrick Lowry.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.