For over a century, the motto of the Community of the Transfiguration has been ‘Benignitas, Simplicitas, Hilaritas, or Kindness, Simplicity, Joy.’ Founded on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) in 1898, the vision of foundresses Mother Eva Mary and Sister Beatrice Martha was to pattern the Community after the life of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Since then, the Sisters and those who are part of the extended Community have focused their lives of service on underserved areas of the world.
The first home of the Community was in the city of Cincinnati, not far from St. Luke’s where Mother Eva’s brother was rector. They worked with mothers and children and it was from this ministry that Bethany Home grew. In the summer of 1898, the present Convent property was purchased in Glendale – ‘out in the country’ and away from the city’s polluted air – and the Sisters and children moved.
In the early years the children at Bethany Home attended public schools, until the Sisters added a school building, St. Faith, on the Glendale property. Later, Bethany Home became Bethany School, a boarding school for girls, and in 1976 it became a day school for girls and boys. Today Bethany School is the only Episcopal Day School for ages K – 8 in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
Throughout the years the Sisters who have been part of this Community have extended the love of God across the globe. As the community grew, branch houses furthered the work of the Community. From China and Japan to the Dominican Republic and Lincoln Heights in Cincinnati, the Sisters have engaged in the ministries of education and health.
Although Sr. Priscilla and Sr. Jean Gabriel recently returned to Cincinnati as year-round residents after more than two decades of branch-house service, the Sisters’ school and children’s health ministry of Centro Buen Pastor in San Pedro de Marcoris, Dominican Republic, still thrives. Now under the leadership of local clergy and laity, it receives ongoing support from the Sisters. Many of the children, who have grown up in the challenging neighborhood where Centro Buen Pastor is located, have grown up to finish high school and college.
Closer to home, the Sisters have had a ministry in the Lincoln Heights area since the 1930s. The Sisters of the Community of the Transfiguration support and sustain St. Monica’s Recreation Center in Lincoln Heights. Over 300 children are given a safe place where they can gather under supervision after school and during the summer. Youngsters have an opportunity to play, learn and grow; and during the summer, small groups of children go to Tabor Cottage in Butler, Ohio, where Sisters Nadine and Rachel oversee a week of country living with their young guests.
As part of the ministry of hospitality offered by the Community today, the Transfiguration Spirituality Center (TSC) opens its doors to individuals and groups from all faith traditions as well as to secular groups who seek a place apart for meetings or workshops. Two or three times a year TSC sponsors retreat leaders (The Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori is coming in the fall) and welcomes both overnight and commuting guests to participate in reflection and conversation. The Sisters are delighted when
local clergy take advantage of the ‘priest apartment’ on campus to come away for a few days of quiet or study. When diocesan or congregational groups come to the Spirituality Center for retreats and time away from the busy-ness of life, they often participate with the Sisters in their daily prayer and worship, enhancing the experience for the Sisters as well as the guests.
From the beginning, Associates of the Community have been supportive of the Sisters’ ministry through their prayer and fellowship. In 2004 after prayer and consideration, the first Oblates were received. Oblates are men or women, married or single, who have a call to the religious life but live in the world. Associates and Oblates continue to be received, and encompass individuals from all walks of life. Sr. Jacqueline oversees the connections with the Associates, and Sr. Diana and Sr. Priscilla engage with the Oblates and those actively engaged in and considering the Oblature.
In all aspects of the Sisters life and ministry, the unifying theme is the love of Christ. The essential work of the Sisters is the work of prayer. No matter how the works vary, the life of each Sister and of the Community as a whole is centered around the daily Eucharist, the Offices and times of private prayer, meditation and study. As Mother Eva wrote so long ago, “The vision of the King in his beauty is given that the light may shine through us and guide others to know, love and glorify him.”
For information about upcoming Transfiguration Spirituality Center events, visit www.ctretreats.org, or call 513.771.2171.
For information about the Community of the Transfiguration, visit www.ctsisters.org, or call 513.771.5291.
Photos by Faith Lang.
The Rev. Anne Reed serves as Director of Engagement at Transfiguration Spirituality Center. Contact Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.