Committed to healing our global home; learning from and in solidarity with the poor; risking being prophetic in church and society; imbued with a deep faith in the active presence of God – these words are found in the vision statement of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. The St. Joseph Home is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity for over 140 years. This visionary band of women serves as our founder; created our heritage and point us to our future work.
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, an apostolic Catholic community of women religious, exist to carry out the Gospel of Jesus Christ through prayer and service in the world. Their mission is to live Gospel values, act justly, build loving relationships, share resources with those in need and care for creation.
In their official charism statement they claim – “we vow our lives to our God with whom we walk in humility, simplicity and charity. As pilgrims we pray for wisdom to know the needs of our sisters and brothers and we dare to risk a caring response.” The Sisters of Charity’s charism and values can be seen in so many ministries serving the poor, homeless, hungry etc. In fact – St. Joseph Home is one of the purest expressions of that charism.
According to Catholic writer Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, “charism means the founding inspiration or impulse initiated by the Spirit and active at the community’s origins through the life and experience of the founder. Charism not works focuses our mission and directs our planning, discernment and decision-making.”
The SC Charism is fully present in the people and institutions the sisters’ sponsor. Pellegrino continues, “We [women religious] are stewards of the charism, not owners. We know now that our charisms are not confined to vowed, religious life. They are found and flourish among” …. those continuing the ministry.
In fact, the works change to meet the changing world but the charism continues and will continue through the ministries of the sisters. What does that mean? SJH is a perfect example. From our history over 140 years ago the services we provided came from dedication to respect and compassion. The values never changed but the works did. Why? The needs of 1873 changed to the needs of 1976 and so on. The work and service of SJH will always meet the needs of the time but our vision and values will be constant. That is our promise. That is our faith. That is our integrity.
One thing is sure – the heritage of the Sisters takes us to the margins. We meet the needs where people who live precariously live, as Pelligrino says, “at the margins of the church and the culture.” We attempt to do what is right no matter the cost, to fill the gap in medical needs for families with no other alternative. By doing so – we have established a unique model of care in Hamilton Cty and across Ohio. This is not always comfortable. We take the risk – the risk challenged by the sisters – risking a caring response to the underserved – risking a prophetic stance in a field with bureaucracy and government oversight.
What does a risky caring response to the underserved look like? It looks like Cottage 1 – the Pediatric Vent Unit serving children with acute medical fragility. It looks like The Schott Respite Center supporting 80 families who care for loved ones with profound developmental disabilities in their homes. It looks like the Day Program advocating for adults with disabilities to reach his or her full potential. It looks like the St. Joseph Home residential cottages caring for 48 individuals, meeting their physical, spiritual and social needs and desires. This caring response happens every day by the hands, hearts and minds of the 240 staff who create the SJH team.
Noted author and blogger, Amy Rees Anderson says, “Success may come and go but integrity is forever.” We agree, so do the sisters. Though we celebrate our success – we know more importantly – we live up to the integrity established by the sisters many generations ago and for that we take pride in the SC heritage. Thank you for all who support that heritage by continuing to live and grow in the challenging and risky charism of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Each of you as friends of SJH have taken on the mantle of the sister charism and make it alive in our world – and ministry – today. We, with you, are grateful partners and humble heirs to this heritage!
Written by: Eunice Timoney Ravenna