Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill ends 63-year-ministry in Diocese of Phoenix

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The parish community of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Scottsdale, Arizona, bid farewell to Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lawrence, SC, at each of the Pentecost Masses on June 8-9. Sr. Mary Elizabeth is the last Sister of Charity of Seton Hill to minister in the Diocese of Phoenix. Her tenure at OLPH ended on July 3.

(courtesy photo)

The parish community offered a blessing to Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lawrence and to all of members of the Sisters of Charity present at the farewell liturgies in gratitude for the congregation’s 63 years ministry in the parish. In return, Sr. Mary Elizabeth and the sisters sang a blessing to the parishioners: “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you, the blessing of the Father and the Son, and may the Spirit of God, Spirit of Love be with you all your days.’

Sisters by the numbers

96 sisters have served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and Parish in Scottsdale

Other diocesan schools included at one time (click school name for archival photos and memories): St. Catherine of Siena (1949), St. Mary  in Chandler (1944), Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler (1954),  St. Theresa (957), St. Daniel the Prophet (1988)

330 sisters (30 percent of the community) has been missioned to the West

Arizona support at one time or another included 12 schools and many social service and pastoral programs

Sr. Mary Elizabeth spoke briefly at each Pentecost Mass, voicing thanks for her years of ministry to and with the parishioners and Ministers of Care. She recalled also the 96 sisters who lived, taught and/or worked there since 1956.

Sisters Claudia Rushlow, Jeanne Bartholomeaux, In Young Oh and Barbara Einloth joined Sr. Mary Elizabeth at the receptions that followed each Mass. A gallery of photos of sisters who ministered at OLPH lined the Padre Kino Room. Parishioners shared favorite memories of sisters they remembered and some sent wishes to others.

Bittersweet though it was, it was a weekend marked with appreciation and gratitude. The former convent, now named St. Elizabeth Seton Center, serves as a site for parish retreats and group meetings. The space allows the parish to host homeless families for a week at a time as part of Family Promise. It gratifies the sisters to know that the convent that was once home to them now offers “home” to people living in poverty and learning/growth opportunities to parishioners.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lawerence, S.C. (courtesy photo)

Sr. Mary Elizabeth began her ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix in 2000 as a pastoral minister at Our Lady of Joy Church. Stewardship, community outreach, and pastoral concerns were her responsibilities. In 2007, she was appointed as the first Eco-Justice Coordinator of the Sisters of Charity. In this capacity she has helped to raise awareness with the sisters, schools, and parish groups about everything from water use and light bulbs to local and international efforts to protect the earth for future generations. 

When she began her pastoral ministry at OLPH in 2011, Sr. Mary Elizabeth joined the ranks of four sisters who preceded her in responding to the needs of the church community’s aging population. In 1977 at the request of the pastor, Sr. Leona Dolle began and supervised “Ministry of Care,” a parish organization comprised of lay volunteers that provided support to the sick and homebound through home and hospital visits, Holy Communion calls, medical appointments, assistance with nursing home arrangements and medical equipment, as well as spiritual support and consolation at the time of death. Sr. Mary E. McClory joined Sr. Leona in 1986. Later, Sisters Laverne Cassidy and Esther Marie Phillips served as coordinators of the ministry. Sr. Mary Elizabeth was especially proud to be the fifth Sister of Charity to minister with and to Ministry of Care.

Now in her 40th year of religious life, Sr. Mary Elizabeth will move to Tucson where she will serve as the Guest Coordinator and Office Manager at the Desert House of Prayer, a center for contemplative prayer in the Christian, Catholic tradition. In that role, she will continue a ministry of care to retreatants and visitors who seek renewal and spiritual direction for healing, health, and greater wholeness.

(From our archives) Read more of the sisters history in Arizona from their archives

The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill is an international apostolic congregation of women religious who are present in three countries, four U.S. dioceses and one archdiocese. Sisters of Charity have traditionally ministered in the areas of education, health care, pastoral care and social services.