Sister Jerome Corcoran Passes Away at Age 105

This story has been updated.
CANFIELD, Ohio — Sister Jerome Corcoran, an educator and tireless advocate for the poor, died Sunday at age 105. She passed away quietly at the Ursuline Motherhouse at 4260 Shields Road.

“She was very peaceful,” said Sister Mary McCormick, general superior of the Ursuline Sisters.

“The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown have been surrounding her with prayer for the last two weeks. We trust she is now rejoicing with all the Holy Ones and her Loving God,” said McCormick in a statement posted on the order’s Facebook page.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Sister Jerome, who celebrated her 105th birthday on April 21, is said to have been in relatively good health until she fell a few days before Memorial Day and broke her hip. She underwent hip replacement surgery and returned to the Motherhouse for convalescence.

Sister Jerome taught elementary school, high school and college and from 1953 to 1963 was supervisor of education for the Diocese of Youngstown. She held a baccalaureate, master’s degree and doctorate, all earned while she was working full-time serving others.

When most are beginning to slow down and prepare for retirement, Sister Jerome was getting her second wind. In 1976, at age 60, she founded the Millcreek Children’s Center on the South Side and in 1998 the related charter school, Youngstown Community School, for inner city children in kindergarten through grade six.

“She will be missed by all those she came in contact with. Her legacy will live on,” Mary Jane Gingher, executive director of Sister Jerome Schools Inc., said Monday morning. “She established this back in March of 1976 and truly left a lasting, living legacy to the children and families of the city of Youngstown.” 

When Sister Jerome left Millcreek Children’s Center after 36 years — and at age 96 — she launched Sister Jerome’s Poor.

Sister Jerome’s Poor provided emergency expenses to help working-poor families and, through its Mission College, help to college students with mentoring and expenses such as food, transportation and clothing. The program later became the Ursuline Sisters Scholars and was placed under the auspices of Beatitude House.

Cochran’s passing signifies “the end of an era,” observed Msgr. John Zuraw, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. She was a “strong-willed woman” who not only recognized the needs of others but took care of those needs. 

“Sister Jerome had the ability to not only be generous in spirit but call forth generosity in others,” Zuraw said. “When she asked for something, individuals generously gave to help her causes because her ministry was always authentic. There was noting fake about her or what she was trying to achieve, so people graciously gave from their needs in order to help the needs of others.” 

In October 2015, a “centennial celebration” of Sister Jerome’s life was attended by some 300 people who honored the woman who took her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1933.

“Her work has been for the least of us and those most in need,” said George D. Beelen, master of ceremonies at the event.

Sister Jerome’s talent for getting the financially comfortable to share their success with the poor, as Beelen noted, “has made her a local legendary figure. That’s no exaggeration.”

It’s a reputation Sister Jerome delighted in. At the tribute event, she recounted her support from powerful leading figures of a generation or two ago: Esther Hamilton, a longtime Youngstown Vindicator columnist and her annual “Alias Santa Claus” held at Stambaugh Auditorium; Marie DeBartolo, the wife of Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. and mother of Denise DeBartolo York; and Bill Lyden, a leader in the rebirth of Youngstown and former chairman of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

As Sister Jerome told the story that night, she was late to a meeting of the chamber and so stood in the back of room, trying escape notice.

Lyden, presiding over a meeting, nonetheless spotted her and loudly announced, “Well, what do you want now? Fellas, hold on to your wallets!”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.