Small Community, Big Plans

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Assumption Center, a project of the Religious of the Assumption in Worcester, MA was featured in the Catholic Free Press issue of March 4th. We reprint the article here below:

Religious of the Assumption:

Small community, Big plans

By Tanya Connor
Catholic Free Press


What can a small religious community and its collaborators do with an old rectory?

A number of ministries, the Religious of the Assumption have shown. They are an international congregation of more than 1,300 women in 35 countries, says their website Six of the sisters live in Worcester, one of their four United States communities.

They bought St. Andrew's Rectory, 16 Vineyard St., in 2007, and named it Assumption Center, said Sister Nuala Cotter, local superior. St. Andrew Parish had become a mission of St. Peter Parish in 2006.

The Sisters wanted to honor in action the recent canonization of their foundress, Blessed Marie Eugenie Milleret, she said.

"This Assumption Center was a desire that we Sisters had to have a presence in Worcester that would be ours," she said.

They live near Assumption College, where they collaborate with their brother congregation, the Augustinians of the Assumption, and they minister at St. Peter's. But the center gave them space for additional ministries, and an office and housing for their lay volunteers, the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption.

"It's a great witness to see people who are giving their life in service for the church for a year," Msgr. Francis J. Scollen, St. Peters pastor, said of the associates, who collaborate with the e Sisters in their mentoring and English as a Second Language programs at St. Peter's, started by Sister Mary Ann Azanza, now provincial, in the 1990s.

"Space used for ministry.  It's a win-win situation," Msgr. Scollen said of the Sisters buying the rectory. "We didn't need it."

Sister Nuala said they were drawn to its location, near the Lakeside Apartments housing development.

"We thought maybe we could reach out to them," she said of the residents there. "We saw a need."

Kirsten Penkala, former AMA and now the center's program coordinator, said they talked to people who live or work in the neighborhood, learned their needs and interests and started programs from those conversations, beginning in 2008.

Among residents they serve are girls ages 11 to 14, through Girls with DREAMS (Determination, Respect, Energy, Action, Motivation, Spirit).

"In a way it's a little like scouting, not quite as complicated," Sister Nuala said. The girls also attend summer camp.

Another summer program is the Vietnamese Club, for Vietnamese-Americans ages 6 to 10 to learn the Vietnamese language and culture, Sister Nuala said. She said Sister Nha Trang Nguyen, a Vietnamese now at the Sisters Lansdale, Penn., community, started it two years ago, and plans to run it again this summer.

Sister Therese Duross is librarian for the center's Kate ONeill Spiritual Library, named for the Sisters co-founder, Sister Nuala said. Anyone interested can borrow books or read there.

Sister Therese said anyone is welcome at her weekly Knitting Circle, where knitters make items for local agencies and people the Sisters serve in Chaparral, NM.

An AMA started the center's community garden, Semillas de Vida (Seeds of Life), and the Regional Environmental Council provided compost, seedlings and technical information, Sister Nuala said. Sister Catherine Soley expanded it, with help from others, who use the produce.

Co-sponsored by the center and St. Peters-St. Andrews is the periodic GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) lecture series covering various topics, usually held in St. Andrew's hall, Sister Nuala said.

"We could not do this without the help of many, many people," she said.