The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland knows that Catholic sisters have long been at the forefront of identifying and serving unmet community needs. In 2015, we launched Generative Spirit to grow the capacity of Catholic sisters and their ministries to develop the next generation of lay leaders. We are committed to uplifting the stories of sisters throughout Northeast Ohio, recognizing their role in the social fabric and their unique way of being, ministering and leading. Today, we highlight Centering Space, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, as well as its co-leaders, Sr. Carol Kandiko, CSA, and Betsy Nero.
Hidden behind Lakewood Catholic Academy, guests of Centering Space’s weekly reflective prayer circles might hear the laughter of school children break through during silent meditation, a gentle reminder that the future of spirituality is intergenerational.
Nearly 20 years ago, a group of Catholic sisters and lay leaders collaborated for more than two years to identify and respond to unmet needs in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. One of the most notable outcomes was Joseph’s Home, a health care ministry of the Sisters of Charity Foundation that’s still the only service provider in Northeast Ohio to provide medical respite care and ongoing support to men who are acutely ill and homeless.
The second need identified by the group was for a “house of discernment” or a spiritual center where everyone would be welcome, regardless of their age, race, gender or faith tradition. “God speaks to everyone,” said Sr. Carol Kandiko, CSA, co-founder and co-anchor of Lakewood’s Centering Space, where she describes her ministry over the past 16 years as “vigil hospitality.”
Visitors from across Northeast Ohio are welcomed for centering prayer, spiritual reflection and retreat from the pressures of modern life in the welcoming, century-home setting of Centering Space, a place where people can “listen to their own heart and hear the voice of God.” Originally a collaborative effort with two Catholic sisters living and working in the home, Sr. Carol is now the last resident sister, leading to a 2017 collaboration with Betsy Nero, a lay leader and retreat facilitator. Together, they hope to shepherd the house and its programs into the next phase of ministry, each learning from the other along the way.
With more than 30 years of experience in ministry and education, Betsy brings organizational and leadership experience that complements Sr. Carol’s decades of hospitality, community building and spiritual direction. Together, they “anchor” the space and manage programming and day-to-day operations with a commitment to helping people of all ages recognize the presence of God.
Sr. Carol, a Sister of Charity of St. Augustine for more than 60 years, spent more than half of her vocational service in schools and parish ministry. Like many sisters, she reflects on how the relationship between clergy and the communities they serve has changed considerably since she first took her vows at 18 years old. “Oh the sisters will take care of it!” said Sr. Carol about the beginning of her career, when nuns and priests were expected to lead the way in times of change.
Now, the response is different, with secular organizations and young adults increasingly committed to community building and service. Sr. Carol said a deep spiritual foundation and shared sense of community are what sustains programs like Centering Space for as long as there have been Catholic sisters building them.
Through monthly programming Betsy helped develop for young adults, Sr. Carol has met many millennials who recognize God’s presence in their lives but are responding differently than previous generations might recognize. “There are many ways for young people to live out their spirituality, and once they do it for a while, it becomes part of them,” said Sr. Carol. With an open heart and mind toward the future, she and Betsy welcome the energy and ideas the next generation will bring to the community and programs like hers.
“This is everybody’s house,” she said, with full faith that God’s presence and calling is equally inclusive and available to all its visitors.