To walk into Educational/Family Services in West Terre Haute on a Wednesday after school is to walk into a bustle of activity. It is a place to find masters at work.
Volunteer tutors, mostly elderly Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, fill every available nook of the converted house, giving one-on-one tutoring to children. The skill and finesse with which these sisters teach is a testament to the years, for some nearly their whole life-spans, spent educating children.
As a result of these sisters’ efforts ministering at Educational/Family Services, the sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters. Established is 1986, the fund originates from the estate of the late hotel mogul in accord with the philanthropist’s stated wish that works of Roman Catholic Sisters be supported.
To qualify for funding, a project must directly serve the poor and disadvantaged and have at least one vowed member of an officially recognized Roman Catholic congregation of women religious directly involved in a full-time capacity.
In the case of Educational/Family Services, the full-time sister staff person is Sister Charles Van Hoy. The 78-year-old “retired” sister has volunteered full-time at the ministry for the past two and a half years.
“I say I do whatever. I serve as receptionist in the morning, and then whatever needs to be done, I do.”
This has included anything from arranging furniture, to answering phones, to putting away and organizing snacks, to tutoring children and adults.
Like most Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Charles started as a teacher. From1951 to1975 she taught, primarily in grades 5 through 8. Then from 1975 through 1983 she ministered in an adult education and literacy program through St. Patrick’s Parish in inner city Indianapolis.
“It was probably one of the most rewarding moves I’d ever made, because these people were just hungry for knowledge: just hungry to know.”
From there she went on to pastoral work before “retiring” home to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Going on three years ago, as Sister Charles was looking for a new volunteer ministry, Educational/Family Services seemed like a nice choice.
“That ‘no child left behind’ phrase kept coming to my mind. This is a way for me to answer that challenge,” Sister Charles said.
She said she sees herself coming back full circle to be working again educating children and adults.
“I really enjoy when a child achieves success – when they realize they know and they did it – especially those who don’t succeed very often. That is a high point for me,” says Sister Charles of her ministry at Educational/Family Services.
The grant money to Educational/Family Services will be used to cover rent, salaries for paid staff members, utilities and general operating expenses to allow the ministry, a program of Guerin Outreach Ministries, to continue to provide free tutoring services to school age children as well as GED preparation and tutoring for adults.
Since its inception, the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters has awarded over 7,000 grants totaling more than $70 million dollars. In 2007 the Sisters’ Fund supported projects in 78 countries; nearly half of the total giving was awarded to educational projects.
The one-on-one tutoring services provided by Educational/Family Services allow students individualized time with skilled teachers in a way that is not readily available in a classroom setting. And as all services are free, the programs are available to even the most needy.
Seven retired sisters volunteer right now at Educational Family Services. Many have been doing this ministry for years. Most come to the ministry’s main location, the house on 150 as it’s sometimes called, to volunteer. But some disabled sisters tutor children from their rooms in the SP health-care facility. Even age and ill health don’t seem to diminish the drive to give, to serve, to teach, from these women who have devoted a lifetime to just that.
Two salaried staff members operate and provide educational services through Educational Services. In addition to Sisters of Providence, students at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and other members of the community volunteer as tutors.
Guerin Outreach Ministries exists to extend God’s loving Providence to those most in need by providing programs and services to enhance the quality of life and the well being of individuals, families, and communities through performing works of love, mercy, and justice.
Last year Educational/Family Services provided tutoring for 84 children and adults. The not-for-profit ministry, located at 3850 Highway 150 in West Terre Haute, is always in search of further funding and donations in kind to continue to offer free tutoring to children and adults in West Terre Haute and surrounding areas. For more information on Educational/Family Services, call 812-535-4206 or visit www.GuerinOutreachMinistries.org.