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The Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh were established in 1870 in Carrolltown, PA, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. Eventually, these women educators spread throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and Ohio. Upon their arrival on the Northside of Pittsburgh in 1885, they founded a monastery and opened a school nearby.
In 1927 the Sisters moved their monastery to Ross Township, a suburb to the north of Pittsburgh. Mount St. Mary’s High School for Girls opened in 1931 which evolved into St. Benedict Academy, which the Sisters owned and staffed until 1985.
When St. Benedict Academy closed, the building was used by several non-profit service agencies with whom the Sisters collaborated, including Meals on Wheels, Easter Seals Adult Day Care, and Benedictine Place-- apartments for women with children in transition. Sisters served as staff and helped these programs in numerous ways from 1985 through 2012.
The cost of maintaining large buildings prompted the Sisters to construct a smaller, environmentally-friendly monastery that would be more appropriate to their needs. Now the Sisters continue their monastic way of prayer, community life, and ministry at the new St. Benedict Monastery in Bakerstown, PA, a little further north of Pittsburgh, where they moved in 2013.
Spiritual Spas: For more than 15 years, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh have offered women the opportunity to step back from their busy schedules and breathe deeply. Just as there is a need to refresh and renew the body, so there is a need to revitalize and recharge the spirit. In addition to candles and music, prayer and meaningful discussion on spiritual themes, friendship and good food bring peace and strengthen the whole person—body, mind, spirit. The Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh refer to such an experience as a Spiritual Spa. Participants come from various religious backgrounds and different walks of life. The Spa is offered at the monastery two or three times a year for women and has included the Sisters’ family members, oblates, friends, former students, and women from surrounding parishes.
Guatemala Mission: When the Sisters relocated to Bakerstown in 2013, they made a point to become involved in their new neighborhood. Within a short time, Sister Corrine Moeller, Sister Linda Larkman and Sister Jeanne Ubinger began volunteering at nearby Saint Richard Parish. They serve on the Guatemala Mission Group committee which supports an orphanage in Guatemala. The mission also includes a clinic, hospital, nutrition center, and preschool. Providing resources for the mission is a continuous effort, so the Sisters help with all the necessary fundraising activities, including parish breakfasts, bake sales, a Mother’s Day basket raffle, and an annual 5K race.
Peace and Justice Ministries: Benedictines for Peace is a committee within the Community which prays for and promotes peace and justice. Chaired by Sister Susanne Chenot, the group’s main activity is an annual New Year’s Eve Peace Vigil which is open to the public. The vigil features dinner, a musical concert, prayer service, speaker, and fellowship. During Lent, the Benedictines for Peace lead a special service of the Stations of the Cross at the monastery in which the prayers relate to current social justice issues. Sister Susan Merrie English volunteers as secretary Benedictines for Peace as well as Casa San Jose which is a community resource center that advocates for and assists individuals and families of Latino descent in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
Bereavement Ministry: For the past two years, Sister Michelle Farabaugh has been coordinating a monthly bereavement support group that meets at a nearby parish. This small group is open to anyone who has experienced grief, either recent or long term. The unstructured format allows people to share their feelings with people who are facing similar issues. The members help each other deal with the everyday issues of life, such as cooking for one person, or working out the new family dynamics that often occur after the death of a spouse, parent, or child.
Angels in Overalls: This program provides furniture for homeless or low-income families through various nonprofits. Directed by Sister Florence Lynch using a handful of volunteers, Angels in Overalls work is done in the evening and on weekends. Sister Florence picks up, refurbishes and stores donated furniture until it needs to be delivered. For instance, when Catholic Charities calls to for a “set up” for a refugee family, the necessary items include a bed, night stand, lamp, drawers, a table, couch or loveseat, armchair, lamp and coffee table so the family will have a place to call home when they arrive.
Food Bank Ministry: Located just a few miles north of the monastery, the Lighthouse Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps impoverished individuals and families with housing, food, employment, and more. Every Friday, you can find several of the Sisters serving breakfast to people who are coming to pick up items at the food bank.
“Each time I walk into Lighthouse I seem to receive another blessing,” says Benedictine Prioress Sister Karen Brink. “To be on board with many other volunteers encourages us and allows to be part of the bigger picture. Through our efforts there I believe we are the hands of Christ, as we have the privilege of serving our brothers and sisters.”
Greene County Mission: After St. Benedict Academy closed in 1985, Sister Audrey Quinn and Sister Sue Fazzini began the Greene County Mission in 1989. Greene County, located to the south of Pittsburgh, is one of the two most impoverished counties in Pennsylvania, and the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh reach out to help the residents in various ways. One of the many Greene County programs is called Heart and Sole which provides new tennis shoes for school-age children. They work year-round to collect 300-400 pairs of shoes with the help of several Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh and local civic groups.
In addition to these ministries, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh also work or volunteer in:
We, the Sisters of St. Lucy’s Priory, are a Benedictine community of prayer, work and hospitality. We continue to embrace, expand and share our consciousness of God through our corporate educational commitment and ministries.
We are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Mall Villa which became St. Lucy’s Priory in 1952. A local citrus pioneer, William B. Glidden, founder of the Glendora Heights Orange and Lemon Association, built the house described in the real estate brochure as “this extremely picturesque 5 1/3 acre estate.”
The main sponsored ministry of the community has been St. Lucy’s Priory High School since it was established in 1962. The school recently completed the transition to solar power. The monitoring equipment was installed in the science wing to allow student observation of the energy conversion process.
The faculty have introduced students to the Benedictine Hallmarks, developed by the American Benedictine Colleges, in a variety of ways including art projects.
(additional information at stlucys.com)
A newer ministry is the Blue Mountain Court Retreat House in Grand Terrace (Riverside) coordinated by Sister Joan Marie Sasse. Sister Joanie facilitates weekend retreats as well as evening prayer groups during the week. Unique to this property is an 80-foot handicapped accessible labyrinth available to retreat participants and the public.
From the beginning of the community there has been a Benedictine Guild, women who came together in support of the community. One of the Guild’s traditional events is an Ash Wednesday retreat. This year’s theme was Our Purpose in Life is to Shine LIGHT in Dark Places and was attended by approximately 130 women.
The oldest community member, Sister Colette Smith, (95) died December 29, 2017. S. Colette was one of the original Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison volunteers who came to San Diego to help staff newly established parish schools in this newly established diocese. S. Colette arrived in California in 1948 and stayed to become a founding member of St. Lucy’s in 1956.
Federation of St. Scholastica
916 Convent Rd NE,
Cullman, AL 35055
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