SISTERS OF THE HOLY GHOST
THE PRIMARY MINISTRY of the Sisters of Holy Spirit (originally known as the Holy Ghost Sisters) is in the field of health care of the elderly. Since 1942 they have provided staffing for Jennings Hall located in Garfield Heights, now a skilled nursing facility with a continuum of care for its elderly residents.
The community traces its origins back to Barbara Finatowitz, a young woman who converted to Catholicism from Russian Orthodoxy. Her original goal had been to establish a community whose members would devote themselves to working for the conversion of the Eastern Orthodox. Finatowitz's efforts had taken her and her followers to Italy and thence to the United States. Though Finatowitz was Russian, most of her religious came from a Polish background. The American branch of the community which was founded at Donora, Pennsylvania in 1913 became a diocesan community affiliated with the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Finatowitz, known as Mother Josephine, had returned to Russia but came back to the United States. Recognizing that the work was well-established at Donora, she and another sister left to begin a ministry elsewhere. There seems always to have been some canonical confusion regarding the exact status of the community whether it was Byzantine or Latin Rite. The Donora group became a Latin Rite community.
Mother Josephine answered the urgent plea of Father Joseph Hanulya, the pastor of the Byzantine Church of the Holy Ghost on West 14th Street in Cleveland, to establish a home for the children orphaned by the influenza epidemic of 1918. The home continued under her direction until approximately 1921 when various conflicts caused her to sever the relationship with Holy Ghost Parish.
She found support in Cleveland's Polish community and established an orphanage at 12217 Corlett Avenue in Cleveland. This home took in boys and girls and sheltered approximately forty-six children. Because of its unclear canonical status, the community faced some difficult years. Mother Josephine and her assistant, Sister Anthony, still continued to recruit women, mostly from a Polish background, who were willing to answer God's call to care for his little ones.
By 1928 it had become increasingly difficult to operate the orphanage. The young boys were sent to Parmadale while the girls went to Saint Joseph Orphanage. The community began the effort to discern a new ministry.
Advancing age and major health problems made it increasingly impossible for Mother Josephine to govern her community and supervise the formation of her sisters. Bishop Joseph Schrembs recruited sisters from the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Third Order of Saint Francis to assist in the formation of the Sisters. The Sisters were now working as housekeepers at Cathedral Latin, but they were seeking additional ways of service.
The solution came in 1941 through a bequest left by Monsignor Gilbert P. Jennings, pastor of St. Agnes Parish. Monsignor Jennings left his late brother's considerable fortune for the purpose of creating a home for the aged poor and disabled. In his will he had requested that the Notre Dame Sisters be put in charge, but they declined because they had no sisters who were qualified to establish a home for the aged.
The Holy Ghost Sisters had purchased property in Garfield Heights for a future motherhouse. They were very willing to take charge of the home for the aged (built with Jennings' bequest) on their property. The home opened in 1942 with a sixty-four bed capacity. Tragedy struck on February 2, 1946 when a fire of undetermined origin swept through the home. Twelve residents died from smoke inhalation and two others succumbed to their injuries.
The Sisters cared for the residents in their motherhouse until the new Jennings Hall was established in 1948. Over time the client population of Jennings Hall has changed, following the national trends. Those in nursing homes now represent an older, more fragile, and sicker population. Many have limited range of motion. The Sisters at Jennnings Hall have always strived to provide a home-like atmosphere rather than an institutional one.
In recent years the community has engaged in long-range planning efforts which have culminated in a state of the art nursing facility completed in 1995. A HUD grant has enabled Jennings Hall to consider the construction of apartments for low income elderly on vacant property adjacent to the building.