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2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice

Friday, August 2, 2019 - 7:00pm
Providence Heights

For their faithful dedication to the clients of La Posada Providencia—a ministry for people in crisis from around the world, who are seeking legal refuge in this country—the Sisters of Divine Providence presented the Ketteler Award for Social Justice to Sister Hilary Hooks, Sister Margaret Mertens, Sister Zita Telkamp, Sister Therese Cunningham, and Associate Marlene McClain.

Sister Hilary Hooks, CDP
2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice Recipient
Sister Hilary Hooks, CDP, entered the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1961. She chose the name of Frances Cabrini as her confirmation name, inspired by the story of this young girl making paper boats and sending them off in the creek behind her home to faraway lands, spreading the word of God to those who had not heard it before. Sister Hilary dreamed then of becoming a missionary. 

With other members of the St. Louis community, Sister Hilary opened La Posada Providencia in 1989. She served as its first Program Director from 1989 until 1995. Following this ministry, Sister Hilary was a liturgist and worked in a faith renewal program in St. Louis, MO until 2007. At that time, she answered the call to become Director of the Senior Center at Ascension of the Lord parish in the Dominican Republic.  

In 2009, Sister Hilary returned to the States to work in various ministries. In 2010, she served as associate pastor in St. Helen Parish in Jackson, MS. She began teaching as an adjunct instructor of English as a second language at St. Vincent College in 2011 and at La Roche University in 2013. Most recently, Sr. Hilary has served as Program Coordinator for Charity House – a ministry that provides safe shelter, food and basic services to legal asylum seekers – located in Pittsburgh, PA.

Sister Margaret Mertens, CDP
2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice Recipient
Sister Margaret Mertens, CDP, entered the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1953. She credits the Sisters who taught her in school with influencing her decision to enter religious life. Sister Margaret’s ministry as an educator began in 1956, teaching in Catholic schools in the St. Louis, MO area for nearly 30 years. Sister Margaret also served as local superior, co-director and formation/vocation director at the Mount Providence motherhouse.

In 1995, Sister Margaret became the Director of La Posada Providencia and remained in this position until 2008. To prepare for this ministry, Sister Margaret learned the Spanish language and Mexican-American culture by studying at the local community college and entering a language immersion experience in Guadalajara, Mexico. As a result of her language education and ministry experience, Sister Margaret is fluent in Spanish and international and intercultural communications.

After a sabbatical to serve the needs of the community, Sister Margaret returned to La Posada Providencia in 2012 as the site coordinator, where she continues to “welcome the stranger” today – meeting the needs of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers.

Sister Zita Telkamp, CDP
2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice Recipient
Sister Zita Telkamp, CDP, entered religious life in 1949, influenced by her teacher Sister Mary Innocent, CDP – a missionary who worked in one of the poorest areas of Puerto Rico. 

Sister Zita ministered in education for 49 years as an elementary teacher and principal at Catholic schools in the St. Louis, MO area. From 1995 through 2001, she served on the provincial council for the St. Louis Province of the Sisters of Divine Providence. Beginning in 2001 through 2007, she ministered at Room at the Inn, a shelter for homeless women and families and sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Divine Providence.

Sister Zita became Program Director of La Posada Providencia in 2008 and continued in this position until 2017. Under her direction, the emergency shelter greatly expanded its capacity, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and welcoming its 8,000th client in 2014.

In 2013, Sister Zita received the prestigious Catholic Extension Lumen Christi (Latin for “Light of Christ”) award. This award is presented to an individual working in one of America’s mission dioceses who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.

Of her work and her ministries, Sister Zita is at peace no matter where or in what ministry she is invited to serve.

Sister Therese Cunningham, SHsp
2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice Recipient
Sister Therese Cunningham, SHSp, became a professed Sister of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate in 1962. Her early years of ministry in San Antonio, Texas, included 23 years of teaching in Catholic schools and 14 years as a Director of Religious Educations. In 2000, Sister Therese joined other members of her community in Mexico advancing literacy for women, at which time she became a facilitator with the National Institute for Adult Education. 

Upon her return to the U.S., Sister Therese was drawn to serve her immigrant brothers and sisters, and set out for La Posada Providencia in 2005, in search of a job. When meeting with Sister Margaret Mertens, CDP, then the Program Director of La Posada Providencia, Sister Therese quoted her community’s foundress, Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy: “Why should we fear our treasury is Divine Providence which supplies the Universe and never is exhausted?” Inspired by the bond between her community and the Sisters of Divine Providence, Sister Therese began her ministry as a Client mentor and Coordinator of English as a second language.

Sharing in La Posada Providencia’s mission for the past 14 years, particularly the joys and sorrows of her immigrant brothers and sisters, has been Sister Therese’s most challenging yet rewarding ministry of her religious life.

Associate Marlene McClain
2019 Ketteler Award for Social Justice Recipient
Marlene McClain, an Associate with the Sisters of Divine Providence since 1993, was introduced to the Sisters in her home parish of St. John the Baptist, Monaca, PA, through her catechism classes, organ lessons, and participation as a church organist and choir member.

Following her high school graduation in 1955, Marlene earned a degree in Physiology from Duquesne University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Marlene began her teaching career at Carlow University (formerly Mount Mercy College,) and eventually accepted a teaching position at Monaca High School, where she taught math and science for 27 years.

In 2015, Marlene visited La Posada Providencia for the first time. Since then, she has spent six months of each year, from October through April, volunteering as an English tutor, chauffeur for clients, and member of the Fundraising committee. Affectionately referred to as the “Jill of all trades” by La Posada Providencia staff and volunteers, Marlene is honored to be a recipient of the 2019 Ketteler award.

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