Catholic Widows Have New Opportunities in Ministry
By DORSEY KINDLER
Staff Writer - The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV)
TORONTO, Ohio – Catholic widows and other older, single women now have a religious community to call their own thanks to the tireless efforts of local nun.
Kathleen Ann Marshall * now known as Sister Rose Catherine of the Triumph of the Cross * has received permission from the bishop of Steubenville to create the Family of Jacopa Association, an association of the faithful housed in the Mary, Ark of the Covenant Monastery in Toronto.
Marshall lives there with a laywoman and another nun. But there is room for nine women total. And there is talk of building an addition to house more if a benefactor can be found.
There are thousands upon thousands of Catholic widows, Marshall said. Nobody else has a specific commitment to widows in our area. So we need a lot of sisters. There is a lot of work to be done.
The special thing about the Family of Jacopa Association is that it is open to older women called to religious life. Many other, more established religious communities are open only to women aged 35 or younger for a variety of reasons.
To become a Sister of Jacopa you must be over 40 years old and have no impediments, Marshall said. Which means you are not responsible for children or other people. You must be of good health and able to commit yourself to a life of prayer and service to the church.
Women who do not feel a calling or do not qualify to become sisters can opt to become a dedicated member. And while they won’t be able to live in the monastery, they can still be part of the organization and help carry out its mission.
Born in Ohio and raised in Massachusetts, Marshall married a Bermudian and spent 20 years living and working on the British Overseas Territory. She became heavily involved in the Catholic Church there. Her husband died and she and her two sons moved back to Ohio in 1996.
Marshall felt the calling to become a nun, which was unusual because she still had dependents, but was given permission by the bishop of Steubenville to join a new type of religious community. That association eventually dissolved. So she joined a Franciscan community in Massachusetts only to return to secular life in Ohio in 2011 to care for a needy family member.
It was around this time that I started a research project about Catholic widows, Marshall said. I talked to women across the United States who had a desire to do something with their lives but could not find a religious community to join. And that was the underlying premise for the charism of starting the Family of Jacopa.
Three years of dedicated effort saw her dream come to fruition. The official founding day took place on Sept. 14 at the Holy Rosary Church in Steubenville where Marshall took her Temporary Vows and Wheeling native, Novice Ellen Tucker received her habit of probation and her new religious name, Sister Pia Teresa of the Blessed Sacrament. A chapel was constructed in their monastery and Holy Mass can now be held there. And calls from inquirers are pouring in.
I have a media background and a retail background,Marshall said. So I know how to use the Internet. We have a website, a blog and a Twitter account. If you type in religious communities that take older women, we are the first to pop up on Google. So theyáll call me or email me. And they discern whether they want to come for a three-to-five- day stay. Then they decide if they want to apply and go through an acceptance period.
Day-to-day running of the monastery will be done by the sisters themselves. And they will take turns doing various duties, such as cleaning, laundry, gardening and mowing the lawn. The household will be supported by the sisters outside jobs as well as from benefactors.
If the new community is successful, Marshall said there is the possibility for further expansion.
When we have three or four sisters in Permanent Vows, we will start having mission houses within the diocese, Marshall said. And maybe eventually out in the U.S. if it keeps growing. Our apostolate given by bishop is for service and prayer for widows. But there will be other things as we grow.
Donations can be mailed to Mary, Ark of the Covenant Monastery, 3100 County Rd. 56, Toronto, OH, 43964. For more information the sisters can be contacted at 740-314-4023 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catholic Widows Have New Opportunities in Ministry
I think it’s wonderful there are convents for older women with religious vocations.
The Sisters of the Visitation (I believe) they are called, are also an order for older women who have been widowed or never married. On sister just took her final vows at age sixty-nine!
Kathleen, you have persevered in the most marvelous way. May God continue to bless your efforts.
I am glad to see there are others out there forming orders that accept older and belated vocations . I am in the process for forming a Franciscan T.O.R. community. We are at the very beginning of this process and we are currently still a private association and are in the process of establishing a Public Association of the Faithful. Our Dioceses here has been very helpful and we pray to be approved shortly. We will have no upper age limit and will accept widows and women who have never been married. As long as the women is in good health upon time of entrance and has calling to the Franciscan way of life.
PAX the Peace of the Lord be with you