As an apostolic congregation of women religious, Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill serve primarily in the areas of education, health care, pastoral care, and social services. The Sisters of Charity continue to maintain a presence in long-term ministries and direct their action and attention to the to the needs of a changing world through newer inter-generational ministries that serve the poor and vulnerable. These ministries include Seton Hill University, DePaul School for Hearing and Speech, Elizabeth Seton Center, Rendu Services, and Seton Arts Service Corps. Click on the images below or the links to the right to learn more about how the Charity of Christ urges us.
Featured Ministry: Books for Babies
As Coordinator of Vocation Ministries, Sister Barbara Ann Smelko finds creative ways to engage young people in the activities and ministries of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. In the Fall of 2013, she contacted the United Way of Westmoreland County to explore programs that would make it possible for Seton Hill University students to collaborate in volunteer ministry with the retired Sisters of Charity residing at Caritas Christi. Jan Fox, United Way Program Assistant, invited the sisters and students to help with the “Books for Babies,” a program that promotes literacy by providing books for newborns that the whole family can enjoy together.
Sister Barbara Ann (right) helps with book delivery at Excela Westmoreland Hospital.
United Way’s education initiatives support parents by helping them to make good early learning choices for their children, an initial step in preparing youth for success in school and life. The Books for Babies program encourages early interaction between parents and newborns by providing suitable family reading material to new parents at the two birthing centers in the Greensburg area, Excela Westmoreland Hospital (Greensburg) and Uniontown Hospital (Fayette County). Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their newborn in the hospital and continue throughout the child’s infancy and early years. In addition to quality hands-on baby books, parents are provided with educational resources with inter-active parent/child experiences for the important developmental years.
This program seemed to be a perfect intergenerational project for the retired Sisters of Charity––one where the elderly connect with young adults preparing for professional careers in order to enrich the lives of the very youngest members of society. Consequently, Sister Barbara Ann made arrangements with Apryl McKinzie, Supervisor of Programs at the sisters’ motherhouse, Caritas Christi, to include Books for Babies as a regularly scheduled event on the monthly activity calendar. In February 2014, the United Way made its first monthly delivery of books, educational materials, and packaging supplies to Caritas Christi where the first group of volunteer sisters and students prepared literacy bags for delivery to the two hospitals.
Each month since then, Sister Barbara Ann has gathered a group of volunteer sisters and young men and women from the University to prepare Books for Babies at the motherhouse. The assembly line style process requires varying levels of physical activity, enabling sisters who use wheel chairs and walkers to participate, and requiring stronger able-bodied students who can perform heavier work. First, United Way labels are affixed to the 400 gift bags and the small books that will be presented to the new parents. Then the books and educational resource materials are bagged. After the volunteers box the literacy bags, they are ready to be picked up by United Way personnel, who distribute the gifts at the hospital.
On April 15, 2015, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill were recognized at the annual United Way Celebration Luncheon for the community impact made by Books with Babies. Jan Gebicki, Director of Education for the United Way of Westmoreland County presented the Children’s Champion Award to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill “for their tireless support of our children’s programming and their countless volunteer hours dedicated to the United Way’s Books for Babies program.” Sisters Marie Patrick Sullivan, Rosmary Fleming, and Nancy Jane Gerkin accepted the award on behalf of the congregation.
The Books for Babies ministry has been so successful that enough literacy packages have been assembled for the entire Summer of 2015. Work will resume when students return to the “Hill” in the Fall. Kuddos to Sister Barbara Ann Smelko for coordinating this ministry that helps parents, the first teachers of their children, provide early learning opportunities that will enhance family life, academic success, and social development.
For more information on the Sisters of Charity Books for Babies program, contact Sister Barbara Ann Smelko at 724-8936-0406, ext. 6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.