Friday, April 18, 2003

Seton High graduate serves as head of Sisters of Charity

Portraits of Faith

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Newly elected president of the Sisters of Charity Sister Barbara Hagedorn inside of the chapel at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Delhi Township
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
DELHI TOWNSHIP - If you met Barbara Hagedorn on the street, you wouldn't think she was a Catholic nun or the president of the largest employer in Delhi Township.

But she is both. Sister Hagedorn looks more like what she set out to be at age 18, a high school English teacher. She still carries many of the mannerisms of the work she did as a sister for 11 years, including the careful search for the perfect word.

Who she is today is a matter of choice and faith.

"It was just this urging inside me. You make that choice, and you grow into it as the call guides you," she said. "All I really wanted to be was a teacher. But the route I took was different."

Entering the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati was a decision Hagedorn made in the summer between her graduation from Seton High School and her first year at the College of Mount St. Joseph.

Sisters of Charity was founded in Emmitsburg, Md., by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as the first order of nuns native to the United States. The order is devoted to the education of children and the care of orphans, the poor and the sick.

In 1852, seven sisters in the Cincinnati area severed ties with the original group and founded an independent order of Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

The organization, which ministers in education, health care, pastoral care and social services, founded Good Samaritan Hospital, Seton High School, Marian High School (now Purcell Marian High School), the College of Mount St. Joseph, the Santa Maria Institute, Bayley Place and the Village of Bayley Place, Seton Family Center and Earth Connection.

Climbing the stairs
From 12:01 a.m. to midnight today, thousands of people will climb the steps to Holy Cross-Immaculata Catholic Church in Mount Adams. The church, at Pavilion and Guido streets, will be open, and Mass will be celebrated at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Community Cross Walk
At 6:30 p.m., the Community Cross Walk will march from Macedonia Living Word Fellowship Church, 353 W. Kemper Road, to the Forest Dale Church of Christ, 604 W. Kemper Road. The walk will be followed by a service at Forest Dale at 7:30 p.m.

The Sisters of Charity have been a part of her life since her birth at Sisters of Charity-founded Good Samaritan Hospital. She went to elementary school at St. William Catholic School.

Of the handful in her graduating class who entered the sisterhood, only Hagedorn stayed. Now, she's the first Seton graduate to serve as the order's president.

"It's about committing yourself each day to what I've said my life is about," she said of the sisterhood. "It calls me back to who I am and what God has called me to be.

"My faith is what sustains me."

Even so, there were times when her faith was tested.

The uncertainty of the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, when significant changes were made including the removal of the habits, led many to leave the order.

Only seven of the 59 in Hagedorn's class remain.

"We were finding our identities again when faced with uncertainties," she said. "That's when I started to learn that if you think you can control you're life, you're wrong. I spent a lot of time in silence and prayer."

Now as president, she'll lead 534 sisters and 120 lay associates in a merger with the 55 sisters of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity of Cleveland. She also hopes to raise awareness about the sisterhood and encourage others to answer the call.

"It's a choice that brings you a lot of life," she said.

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