Posted September 27, 2022
Sister Corita entered the Congregation of St. Joseph in 1954, and from the outset exemplified the teachings of the Gospels and service to the Church:
“Eyes open, ears attentive to the sufferings of the world, spirit alert, sleeves rolled up for ministry, without excluding the more humble, in the service of Jesus Christ—and all in a spirit of gentleness, peace, and joy.”
Her ministry began with Catholic Charities office of Disability Ministries 52 years ago, devoting herself to persons with disabilities: the blind, the deaf, the hard of hearing, and persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She carried out her ministry focusing on every individual she encounters.
She helped develop religious education centers throughout the diocese for children with disabilities; a youth retreat program; a home visitation program and an emergency responder program for those with extreme emergency needs.
One of Sr. Corita’s great achievements was beginning the first deaf choir in the country, giving those with hearing impairments the opportunity to express in sign language the hymns of the Church.
For about 10 years Sr. Corita organized a home for youth with special needs in struggling families, and took in 55 young people herself.
In 1973 she helped establish the St. Augustine Rainbow Camp, a place where children with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities can thrive, learn, enjoy themselves, and feel the same sense of wonder and inclusion that should be the right of all children, disabled or otherwise.
In 1990 she helped bring the LINKS program for persons with mental illness to the St. Augustine Church and made it a part of the disability ministry program. LINKS Cleveland is a ministry that provides a social gathering place three times a week for persons with mental illness, providing the opportunity for social, recreational, educational, and personal growth experiences.
In addition to her ministries for persons with disabilities, Sister Corita reached out to the poor and homeless populations by establishing the St. Augustine Hunger Center and all the programs associated with it. She loves nothing more than spending time with those in need.
It didn’t take her long to realize that the needs of those she served at the Hunger Center far exceeded the shelves of the parish food pantry. Thus began her decades of reaching out to donors and volunteers to bring food to the hungry. Her experiences of being transformed by the poor have inspired multitudes of volunteers, year after year, to participate in and live the mission of Jesus.
Sister Corita’s humility and deep sense of gratitude to her staff, volunteers, and guests has helped the hunger center grow into a 365-day-a-year operation that feeds tens of thousands of people each year, including meal services and deliveries on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. The Thanksgiving meal service has grown to be the biggest in the region, bringing hundreds of volunteers together to prepare thousands of meals served on-site and delivered to the residences of those who are homebound.
For those who have seen Sister Corita in action at the St. Augustine Hunger Center, the extraordinary impact she’s made on the community is clear and immediate. She greets everyone with the same warmth, oftentimes a hug, and the inimitable candor that has made her so popular and beloved by those she’s dedicated her life to serving. Sister Corita knows no strangers, and it’s this radical openness that continues to animate the Hunger Center, even after her retirement.
Those countless lives Sister Corita has touched know her to be the “compassion of God in the world.” After a long and immeasurably fruitful life spent serving the most vulnerable, Sister Corita is now enjoying an active retirement.
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