ST. MARYS – In an effort to have the opportunity to show a gesture of appreciation, a small group of individuals recently gathered to plan a community celebration to honor the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County and their 162 years of faithful and dedicated service.
Copyright 2014 Ridgway Record
Benedictine sisters to be honored at community service
by Amy Cherry
St. Marys, Pa. – In an effort to have the opportunity to show a gesture of appreciation, a small group of individuals recently gathered to plan a community celebration to honor the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County and their 162 years of faithful and dedicated service.
The celebration is taking place on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Queen of the World Church in St. Marys. The catalyst behind the event is in response to the recent announcement of the closing of the St. Joseph Monastery.
A vesper service will be held followed by a social in the adjacent St. Marys Catholic Elementary School cafeteria. This type of service was chosen due to its flexibility and ecumenical aspect in welcoming all faith denominations to participate.
"It's an expression of our gratitude collectively from eight generations of St. Marys people," said Ray Beimel, local historian and planning committee volunteer.
Brief presentations by representatives from the City of St. Marys, state and federal legislative leaders, Elk Regional Health Center and the Elk County Catholic School System are planned for the event.
Community members of all faith denominations may show their thoughts and support for the sisters through submitting a spiritual bouquet card, also known as a collection of prayers.
A thank you note may also be submitted on the cards which are available in the three Catholic churches in St. Marys, the Elk Regional Health Center lobby, the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce and various businesses in the community. Completed cards may be returned to collection basket at area churches, any of the schools in the Elk County Catholic School System, the Chamber of Commerce or mail them to Queen of the World Church, 134 Queens Rd., St. Marys, PA 15857.
"Prayers you can always take with you," said Sister Rita Brink, administrator at St. Joseph Monastery.
Music will be performed by combined parish choirs and a children's choir.
Fr. Alfred Patterson of St. Mary's Parish is working with the sisters on service prayers. As suggested by Fr. Eric Vogt of Sacred Heart Parish, one of the sisters will offer the reflection portion of the service, similar to a sermon. One of the statues from the convent may also be on display at the service.
Following the reflection, brief comments will be offered by a representative of St. Vincent and the Diocese of Erie. The vesper service does not include the Communion portion of the Mass.
Beimel is planning a 15-minute presentation about the sisters and the convent during which time he will touch on such topics as their involvement in local healthcare, education and other services the sisters provided to the community and how St. Joseph's like St. Vincent's is heavily staffed by St. Marys sons and daughters which is uncommon in other religious communities and leads to a special bond between residents and religious personnel.
"These are our sisters. We are what we are because of them. They educated the first five generations of St. Marys and the next generation was educated by people who were educated by the nuns. Whatever civic virtues we have are Benedictine virtues," Beimel said.
The planning committee included representatives from various religious and community entities including the Benedictine Sisters, the three Catholic parishes, the Elk County Catholic School System, the City of St. Marys, Elk Regional Health Center and a community organization recently gathered to brainstorm on creating the event which pays tribute to the sisters.
The 2 p.m. service time will result in an earlier confirmation practice time at the church.
Queen of the World was chosen due to its ability to seat the most attendees at 1,100 with additional chairs, its open air design, handicap accessibility to the church and attached social area, and parking accommodations. St. Mary's Church was also an option, but only accommodates a capacity of 750 people.
Fr. Eric noted in 2002 when the St. Mary's Church hosted the Benedictine Sisters' 150th anniversary there were 200 to 300 people situated outside the church during the ceremony presided over by the former Diocese of Erie Bishop Donald Trautman.
The social is also a joint effort among Catholic parishes. Refreshments are being offered such as vegetable and meat/cheese trays, finger sandwiches, cookies and beverages.
Many of the sisters will be in attendance at the service and the social.
Information about the event can be found in parish bulletins including those in surrounding areas of St. Joseph Parish in Warren, Force and Lucinda, Holy Rosary in Johnsonburg, St. Marks in Emporium and St. Callistus in Kane, as many sisters taught in these schools.
Overflow parking for the event is permitted on Queens Road, which will become a one way street with the entrance on South Michael Road. Parking will also be available at the nearby parking lot of the former Municipal Building on the corner of South Michael and Wehler Roads. Carpooling is encouraged.