DAYTON — When they planned the Open House at Salem Heights, their Dayton convent, the Sisters of the Precious Blood were hoping for good weather, and that a few people would come to their 175th anniversary event on Sunday, April 26.
As it turned out, there were more than a few – many more! — who accepted the sisters’ invitation to spend this beautiful Sunday afternoon with them. Close to 300 guests — neighbors, first-time visitors and old-time friends, sisters’ family members, and members of several CPPS communities in the area joined officials from the City of Trotwood for the 2-4 p.m. Open House.
The celebration began with a welcome to guests in the Salem Heights rotunda and lobby area from CPPS president Sister Florence Seifert.
She noted that almost half of the Precious Blood Sisters’ existence has been in the Dayton/Trotwood area on Salem Avenue. The congregation’s motherhouse was established there in 1923 (in what is now the building that houses the Maria-Joseph Living Care Center), transferred from Maria Stein, Ohio, and in 1979 was moved to the current building, home to many retired sisters and also some offices of the congregation.
Trotwood City Councilman Rap Hankins was on hand in the name of the city to issue a formal proclamation honoring the Sisters of the Precious Blood and to declare Sunday, April 26, as “Sisters of the Precious Blood 175th Anniversary Day.” The proclamation (click here for text) was issued and signed by Trotwood Mayor Darreyl D. Davis.
Mayor Davis had planned to attend the CPPS celebration, but he and a number of other Trotwood civic leaders and service personnel were paying respects at a service honoring a deceased police officer.
In introducing Councilman Hankins, Sister Florence noted that he is no stranger to the sisters. As he also said in his own remarks, he was taught by CPPS at Resurrection School in Dayton, and his wife, Jan, at Assumption School, also in Dayton. And the ties continue with his role on the City Council. Three words characterize him, she said: presence, participation, availability. If you want something to get done, she said, everyone knows to “talk to Rap.”
Along with Councilman and Mrs. Hankins, the city was well represented with the presence of, among others, Marie Battle, Executive Director of the Trotwood Chamber of Commerce, and Ray Gartner and his wife, Dora. Mr. Gartner is popularly known as “Mr. Trotwood,” for his civic pride and support of residents and programs in the city.
Mr. Gartner elicited hearty laughter from assembled guests when he said, “You know, for being 175 years old, you sisters look pretty good!” He then wished that all present could “age as well as the sisters.”
After receiving the proclamation from Mr. Hankins, Sister Florence thanked all those present for being part of this CPPS anniversary event, and the sisters’ lives. She noted that the congregation is firmly committed to the area “as a sign of hope” and also to being a “place of hope.” With their presence at Salem Heights, she explained, the sisters aim to be a life-giving presence, a place of prayer for the community, the area, and the needs of all, and a place of peace – “Salem means peace” she noted — and welcoming.
Following the welcome ceremony, sisters served as tour guides, bringing groups of guests through the four-story convent. Tours included the main public areas of the building, including the chapel, dining room, library, and common areas. Along the way, guests heard explanations of CPPS history and viewed art pieces that are part of the convent’s permanent collection. Sisters who are residents were on hand throughout the building also, baking — fresh baked cookies were a popular item enjoyed by the guests — working on crafts and enjoying games of cards and Scrabble.
A new multi-paneled historical display of CPPS history offered a popular “virtual tour” of the sisters’ lives and history. The display area also featured some complimentary items – anniversary bookmarks, history brochures, a commemorative calendar and copies of the congregation’s newsletter.
After their tours, guests had an opportunity to socialize and enjoy refreshments in the Salem Heights dining room.
At 4 p.m., with tours completed, most of the guests made their way to the chapel to take part in the concert of sacred music, performed by the sisters’ choir under the direction of John Buehler. Visitors filled the chapel to overflowing, joining the choir in many of the popular hymn selections, which ranged from traditional to contemporary. The concert segued into the celebration of evening prayer, with many of the guests staying on to take part in the vespers service of shared song and prayer.
Thanks to wide media publicity, many first-time guests said they learned of the Open House in an excellent feature and photo story on the congregation the previous Friday in the Dayton Daily News print and web editions. (See “In the News” for a link to this print feature, web story, photo gallery and video clips.) Other area newspapers and churches of various faith traditions also gave helpful pre-event publicity.
The April Open House was just one in a slate of 175th anniversary events that include special Eucharistic celebrations, a lecture series, and other events.
The next major public event is an outdoor Mass and picnic at Maria Stein Center on Sunday, Aug. 16. All are welcome. Click on the anniversary logo on the News page for this and other coming events.
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