Celebrating 20 years….Bethany Hill School at Twenty
Reflections by Betty Cawley, CSJ
The coincidence of BHS’s celebration of twenty years of service to the “dear neighbor,” and the 140th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s arrival in Boston stirred in me some reflections about the beginnings of BHS. Back in the early 1990’s when the Sisters realized that homelessness, especially among women and children, was a serious issue in MetroWest, and as the idea of housing with educational support began to take shape, we did not envision direct involvement of the Sisters in this new enterprise. While we are experienced educators, we did not have the same experience in housing. So we knew we would need to engage the expertise of professionals, and so partnered with SMOC and (since 1995) with Maloney Properties as property managers. However, as the project moved closer and closer to opening day, we realized that we wanted this new enterprise to be supported and guided by our CSJ values: gracious hospitality, love and service of the “dear neighbor” without distinction, peaceful resolution of conflict, care for all God’s creation.
So we decided to establish a position called “Mission Effectiveness Coordinator” for a Sister of St. Joseph to find ways to model and share our values with all the residents of BHS. The pioneer in this position was S. Roberta Ristuccia, followed by S. Mary Gowern, and—for the past 17 years—by S. Denise Kelly, who eventually assumed the dual role of Mission Effectiveness Facilitator and Program Director.
But that was not the limit of CSJ involvement.
For nearly seventeen years, Sister Betsy Conway was Director of New Beginnings, a program that is an integral part of the BHS community. Each summer, several Sisters help to staff the summer camp for children. Numerous sisters, including some who live “on the Hill,” have volunteered at BHS, especially in tutoring and building self-esteem. Over the years, more than a dozen sisters have served on the Board of Trustees. Sisters in other ministries, such as schools and parishes, have connected with BHS in a variety of ways, establishing ties and connections that have been mutually enriching.
For me, as one of the CSJ’s who has been connected with BHS since its inception, it has been thrilling to experience the embeddedness of the CSJ charism of unity and reconciliation and the CSJ values in the residents and staff of BHS. You feel these as soon as you step on the grounds or enter the building, and you experience it at community events, in the interactions of residents and staff, and in the many ways that the residents care for one another with a genuine sense of community.
As BHS enters a new decade, and as the CSJs do the same, my prayer is that the mutual benefit that flows from our interconnectedness will flourish for many years to come.
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