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Bittersweet news from Educational/Family Services

Crystal Maners, right, at her GED graduation ceremony with Educational/Family Services Director Penny Sullivan.

Educational/Family Services Director Penny Sullivan with Crystal Maners, right, at Crystal’s GED graduation ceremony. EFS had helped Crystal prepare for the exam. See more photos from EFS through the years in the slideshow below.

Many lives have been changed, one individual at a time, through the Sisters of Providence ministry Educational/Family Services (EFS). The small white house just outside the north gates to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods offered an oasis to people wanting to improve their lives for more than 18 years.

It is with heavy hearts that we approach the ministry’s closing at the end of the month.

Educational/Family Services was officially founded in 1996 as a way for the Sisters of Providence Congregation to reach out and meet some unmet needs of their neighbors in the surrounding areas.

Sister Margaret Quinlan, one of the founders, said in 1996, “The need we propose to address is poverty in general and, in particular, illiteracy, which results in unemployment and underemployment, and in a lack of personal choice, a lack of personal empowerment and poor health.”

So the ministry began. Adults in the area were helped with basic education, literacy and GED preparation. Children struggling in school or just needing an extra boost would meet regularly with a volunteer tutor. Early in the ministry, counseling services were also offered.

For nearly 20 years, retired Sisters of Providence offered their lifetime of acquired prowess in teaching as volunteer tutors. Alongside them local residents and area college students volunteered their time.

Sister Jean Arkenberg (RIP) helps a little girl with her reading in 2006.

Sister Jean Arkenberg (RIP) helps a little girl with her reading at EFS in 2006. See a slideshow below for more photos from EFS through the years.

And the time given was well invested. Lives changed. Adults learned to read their mail for the first time. Others passed their GED, opening opportunities to them. Still others learned to read well enough to pass their driver’s license test for the first time.

Struggling children found success in school they had never known before. Self-esteem improved. They found adults who cared about them and had the skills and time to help them succeed in school.

Over the years there were changes. The ministry moved from a part of Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries to being under Guerin Outreach Ministries. Sister Margaret Quinlan retired as director in 2006 and Penny Sullivan continued in her stead.

And more recently we’ve seen need for even more change.

An EFS report from 1999 showed 30 volunteers, including SPs, area community members and SMWC students. A total of 108 people received GED training, tutoring or counseling. A second site at Bethany United Church of Christ in West Terre Haute was set up to accommodate those who could not travel to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

In recent years, other organizations have been able to step up and take on some of the need EFS had been addressing. Local schools are offering after-school tutoring. More opportunities for help with GED preparation have opened up in the local community. At the same time, the number of our volunteers has been dropping. In fiscal year 2013 only 23 children received tutoring and 15 adults.

Sister Charles Van Hoy tutors a child after school at Educational/Family Services.

Sister Charles Van Hoy tutors a child after school at Educational/Family Services. See below for slideshow of photos of the EFS ministry through the years.

The cost for running the ministry has remained constant.

“I am saddened by the closure of EFS, but a realistic assessment of the financial situation shows that EFS can no longer maintain itself in the coming years,” Sister Mary Tomlinson, development director for Educational/Family Services said. “I know it has been a vibrant ministry for these years, but the time comes for all ministries to complete their mission.”

And so we ask you to join us here as we reminisce. Check out the photo album below for photos from the ministry through the years.

We would like to celebrate all of you who donated time and resources to join us in improving the lives of people who were struggling.

And we raise up all of those whose lives were made better because of what they learned at EFS.

At this bittersweet moment, we remember the words of our Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. “We are not called upon to do all the good which is possible, but only that which we can do.”

“The work that has been done at Educational/Family Services has been very effective over the years and it has helped many people to further their goals in life. The work that has been done at EFS is something that will live on in ways we will never know. We are grateful to all those who have given of their time and talent here. We are all blessed because of your generosity,” said Sister Patty Fillenwarth, president of the Guerin Outreach Ministries board of directors.

We thank each of you who have supported Educational/Family Services over these many years. The world is indeed a better place because of each of you.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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  1. Avatar S. Marsha Speth on January 27, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you to all who made this wonderful ministry possible over the years! One by one you changed lives and made a difference.

  2. Avatar S. Susan Paweski on January 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I fondly remember tutoring at the then “150 house” during my canonical novice year. I loved ministering to the students. So many sisters and volunteers made this a joyful and life-changing experience for both the teachers and the students.

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