YOUNGSTOWN – Being in existence nearly 150 years, the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown have much experience in weathering bad times. Sister Mary McCormick, general superior of the religious community, says adaptation has always been part of the Ursulines’ mission.
“When St. Angela Merici founded our order of Catholic nuns in 1535, she counseled we should ‘change to meet the needs of the times.’ While the current situation has been challenging, we’ve worked diligently to be proactive rather than reactive in our responses to the difficulties.”
To that end, Brigid Kennedy, president of Ursuline Ministries, McCormick and the Sisters’ Leadership Team began working on a plan to confront COVID-19 in February. That work enabled the Ursuline Sisters and their ministries to protect employees and their jobs, safeguard volunteers and maintain most services.
“Brigid established an early pace of planning, providing protective and educational materials for our employees, volunteers and clients, and keeping the ministry directors and other stakeholders informed,” McCormick says. “While we can’t hold programs like our exercise classes, we’re working to offer as many services as possible and stay in touch with the people we can’t see on a regular basis.”
Examples of changes in services, McCormick says, include smaller classrooms and fewer class offerings at Ursuline Preschool & Kindergarten, and establishing telehealth services for clients of the Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry.
Finding the silver lining in the dark cloud that is COVID, the Sisters used the down time to focus on improvements to property and equipment.
“Since we already had to curtail public offerings, this was a good time to tackle upgrades with the least disruption to services,” McCormick says.
One project added more than $41,000 in upgrades to the pool. Nearly $10,000 more is being invested in improvements to the main Motherhouse entrance. The Sisters also completed a $325,000 repaving project for driveways and parking areas.
In the last nine years, McCormick says, the Ursulines invested more than $8 million in upgrades and expansions at the Motherhouse campus.