March 8-14 is National Catholic Sisters Week, an observance that celebrates and honors religious Catholic women and remembers those who have died. The celebration includes events that educate, inform and highlight the lives of Catholic sisters.
In the Diocese of Cleveland, seven of the more than two dozen congregations of women religious collaborated on a video (view below) to highlight the work of women religious in the diocese. The video was released in conjunction with observance of National Catholic Sisters Week. Sisters have had a presence in the diocese in numerous ministries for more than 150 years – since shortly after the erection of the diocese in 1847.
Fifty-two weeks a year, women religious stand with the poor and immigrants, teach children, fight injustice, heal the sick, share spirituality, empower women, defend the planet, promote peace, create community and offer hope.
The video, which features representatives from the Congregation of St. Joseph, Sisters of the Incarnate Word, Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of Notre Dame (Chardon), Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine and the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, highlights their charisms and ministries to shine a spotlight on the work they have done and continue to do throughout the diocese.
“We meet the needs we see in society,” said Sister Dorothy Bondi, OSU.
Sister Mary Ann Spangler, HM said the current sisters inherited the spirit from the early sisters, whom she described as having “a pioneer spirit. They creatively responded to the needs of the time.”
Sometimes that meant being bold, noted Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, explaining that the sisters could be risk-takers by getting involved in ministries that were on the margins. One example was in 1873, when the CSA sisters opened St. Ann’s Hospital in Cleveland to provide a safe place for unwed mothers to deliver their babies and the DePaul Maternity and Infant Home, which provided shelter for unwed mothers. The sisters also staffed St. Vincent Charity Hospital in downtown Cleveland beginning with its opening in 1865. Although the hospital closed last November, the Sisters of Charity Health System transformed the campus into St. Vincent Charity Community Health Center. The Sisters also were instrumental in opening Rosary Hall, an early center for the treatment of addiction and substance abuse.
Since their arrival in the diocese, religious sisters have opened colleges, staffed elementary and high schools, served as nurses, social workers, educational leaders, assisted HIV positive patients, staffed parishes, supported immigrants and refugees, worked with those experiencing mental health issues, provided awareness of and support for victims of human trafficking, encouraged care for the planet, worked as missionaries and in numerous other ministries.
“There is so much we can do – as long as we don’t think we can do it alone,” said Sister Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF.
Collectively, the sisters said their work helps them grow closer to God and to experience his goodness.
“You can never be too close to God,” said Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND, retired director of the diocesan Secretariat of Parish Life.
“We sisters are not the only ones called to be the face of Jesus. We’re all called to be the face of Christ here and now in this time in history,” said Sister Jacinta Benavides, SIW.
The celebration of National Catholic Sisters Week began in 2014 to honor and celebrate the lives and legacies of Catholic sisters as well as to educate and encourage girls and young women about religious life and to encourage them to discern their vocation.