When Sister Mary Hoffman, OSB, and Sister Phyllis Schleicher, OSB, first opened the home base of the Catholic Rural Ministry in Port Allegheny, they had no idea the magnitude of the impact their presence would have on their local communities. Their presence in the Allegheny Mountains – dubbed by the Potter County Visitors Association as “God’s Country” – has allowed them to serve McKean and Potter County residents in ways they could never have planned.
Catholic Rural Ministry (CRM) of the Diocese of Erie started with the mission to bring a permanent presence of women religious to the rural areas and has since helped hundreds of people through a variety of programs which share the work of the Catholic Church and demonstrate what it means to be Catholic.
Sister Mary and Sister Phyllis, both Benedictine Sisters of Erie, were tasked with being present and available to the people of these rural towns. As the faces of Catholic Rural Ministry they do so much more. From visiting hospitals and nursing homes, caring for the elderly, conducting prayer gatherings and facilitating youth events to supporting ecumenical activities, the Sisters are busy working for the people they serve.
Throughout the year, the Sisters perform many acts of kindness as part of the Catholic Rural Ministry program. One project is tending a large garden that yields a variety of vegetables and produce which are then donated to area food pantries.
Sister Phyllis finds inspiration in serving others, “This is what brings us joy: showing concern for those who feel lost and helping those most in need of support, peace of mind and an invitation to community.”
The mission of the Catholic Rural Ministry is reflected in Pope Francis’s Joy of the Gospel: “Life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means.”
The Sisters’ work will never be finished in McKean and Potter Counties. CRM is an official Catholic Charity agency affiliated with the Diocese of Erie. With the help of grants and donations, CRM has been able to sustain its efforts but the ministry could always use more support.
Catholic Rural Ministry is one example of the services Catholic Charities provides across the state of Pennsylvania. Over 500,000 people of all faiths are served every year in Pennsylvania thanks to Catholic Charities.
For more information on the Catholic Rural Ministry, visit http://www.eriercd.org/rural.asp.