In 1988, God worked mysteriously in the heart of Ursuline Sr. Margaret Scheetz as she watched a made-for-TV movie called "God Bless the Child." The film, written by Youngstown native Michael Nemec and starring Mare Winningham, told the story of a working poor mother with a child who became homeless when her apartment building was sold and she could not find affordable housing. She turned to shelters and rat-infested apartments and eventually ended up on the streets with her little girl. The heart-wrenching decision the mother made at the end of the movie not only touched a chord in the heart of Sr. Margaret, it motivated her to create a safe place for homeless women with children.
|Poster for the movie |
Sr. Nancy Paulen was with Sr. Margaret, studying at Kent State University at the time the movie aired. When Sr. Margaret shared her ideas with her, Sr. Nancy said, “Go for it, if you feel you have the call.” Other Ursuline Sisters were equally affirming, and Sr. Margaret kept nurturing and developing her dream.
If more encouragement was needed, Sr. Margaret found it at the Ohio Catholic Education Association Convention, where she met a nun who started a home—with nothing—for poor women. God brought her success. For the next year or so, Sr. Margaret did her homework and learned all she could about homelessness.
|Sister Margaret Scheetz, OSU|
Sr. Margaret could not make her dream a reality without support from her family, and they willingly offered it. Mary Lou and Jean, Sr. Margaret’s sisters, remember, “We had our doubts, but she had all the faith in the world.”
Faith meant working to build a dream with little or no money. Sr. Margaret wanted a house, but it had to be free. “God will provide if he wants me to do this,” she told her family. They were skeptical; she had faith. Faith went rewarded; someone donated a house free on the north side of Youngstown.
Members of the Scheetz family, the Ursuline Sisters, volunteers, Mahoning Bank employees and high school students helped paint, repair, clean and clean and clean the apartments to prepare them for their future occupants. Mary Lou was amazed at Sr. Margaret’s practical vision: “She could walk through the house and plan exactly what it would look like.”
When it came to appliances, tile, and carpeting, once again lack of money was not an obstacle. Mary Lou and Jean recall, “We would go with Peg to various stores and she would say, ‘This is what I need and I have no money.’” Stores donated refrigerators, stoves, countertops, and flooring.
The “begging talent” was not limited to Sr. Margaret. Her niece Patty went to a dollar store, filled a cart with needed household items, and asked the cashier how much the store would donate. The cashier got the manager. Patty told the story of Beatitude House to the manager and asked again, “How much can you donate?” The manager gave her the entire cartload of items.
Sr. Margaret worked hard and her family, Ursuline sisters, and friends worked alongside her. Her brother used his truck to haul supplies to the house.
By 1991, the house was ready for occupancy, but there were still some unwanted residents, including bats and bugs, all of which were removed and which became the topics of some humorous stories.
The dream became a reality and has grown from one house in Youngstown with four apartments to 31 apartments in two counties and an education and career preparation program. Beatitude House has continued to grow since Sr. Margaret’s death in 2001.
"If Sr. Margaret were still with us," Mary Lou says, “she’d be proud of Beatitude House.”