By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter
A servant of God is anyone who chooses to be one.
The Call is universal. Many hear It, but few will answer.
When God calls you it’s a gift, an invitation into a deeper relationship with Him. For Sister Virginia Welsh of St. Martin de Porres Church in Toledo, this relationship includes a loving vocation to support the health and happiness of a community one person at a time.
A native of Carey, OH, Sister Virginia was raised with humble principles in a small town where everyone knows you by name. Aside from being a small community with a slower pace of life, Carey, OH is halfway between the state capital, Columbus, to the south and Toledo to the north. There she attended Catholic grade school and later graduated from St. Francis High School in nearby Tiffin, Ohio.
By the time Sister Virginia Welsh was grown, a faithful community of Franciscan Sisters had developed around her. “This Sisterhood is known for simplicity and poverty, a love for creation and a deep love of Jesus Christ crucified,” shares Sister Virginia Welsh. “That’s what attracted me initially. I love how we connect our particular God-given gifts to the communities we serve.”
After secondary schooling Sister Virginia entered the novitiate, also called the noviciate. “This refers to the period of training and preparation that a member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows,” Sister explains. “Much discernment is involved in whether or not one feels called to vowed religious life and after much prayer I was certain.”
Thankfully Sister Virginia Welsh did answer The Call — and it led her here to The Glass City. She attended Mary Manse College, a Catholic institution of higher education operated by the Ursuline Order of Nuns located in Toledo from 1922 until 1975. Sister Virginia would later attend Loyola University of Chicago earning a Masters of Pastoral Studies.
Here in Toledo she is affectionately nicknamed “Sister Ginny.” To know her is to love her. She is the Pastoral Leader at St. Martin’s de Porres Church and the Director of the Padua Center, a sponsored ministry of St. Martin’s Parish.
Sister Ginny has been working in Pastoral Leadership for the past 54 years. She initially began this role at St. Mary’s Church on Page Street. Years later, the Sisters of St. Frances Parish in Tiffin, Ohio elected Sister Welsh to leadership there, where she served two terms. “I was then invited by the Archdiocese to open an outreach center on Nebraska Ave. named the Padua Center,” says Sister Ginny. “It was a special opportunity.”
The Padua Center is named after St. Anthony of Padua and is located in the rectory of the former St. Anthony of Padua Church at 1416 Nebraska Ave.
The Center meets all the challenges of our current day times with confidence, assured that they can do anything through God. The mission of Padua Center is to be a Christian community-based presence empowering people at all stages of life to achieve their maximum potential through education, counseling, support and community involvement based on the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-determination, Collective work, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.
Padua empowers the underserved community of Kwanzaa Park with programs for all ages. They host an after-school program called Tutor Smart to assist students who need extra help. They are also proud of both their Emerging Young Ladies and Grooming Great Gentlemen programs developing self esteem, mental health and etiquette skills for local youth.
The Padua Center also has an array of summer camps. From financial literacy, health, environmental gardening, to vacation Bible school or sports camp — you name it, for seven weeks, your kids will be learning in the midst of some great summer fun.
Drive down Nebraska Ave by the Padua Center and you will see a plastic greenhouse with crops growing right now and a flock of five chickens, too!
“We have a warm box for composting and a beehive. We are teaching kids about caring for the earth and how everything works together as a circle of life. We plant the flowers so the bees have something to eat. They pollinate the vegetables, the chickens provide eggs and the worms take care of the leftovers,” says Sister smiling.
The Padua Center also rents spaces within the center to schools, a local chess club, sign language learning, and will possibly be building a daycare center this upcoming year. “We welcome everyone and want the community to always feel comfortable here,” says Sister Ginny. “No More Domestic Violence and Violence Interrupters w/JoJuan Armour on the Mayors Initiative Against Gun Violence are two of our newest welcomed organizations working out of our center.”
St. Martin de Porres is also working in conjunction with Englewood Southwest and Robinson Hub to teach job training and leadership development for the community this year. And as always, Clover House provides hot breakfast every morning five days a week at the Detroit Avenue parish.
Working as Pastoral Leader at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Sister Ginny mentions “St. Martin is very unique with a proud cultural heritage and a predominant African-American congregation. We emphasize all the wonderful contributions the African-American and Hispanic communities make in our worship services by inviting guest bishops, deacons and preachers throughout the year.”
Held on the last Sunday in February, St. Martin de Porres Church also celebrates Black History month annually with a live concert featuring our very own renowned Toledo Orchestra. It is the biggest event St. Martin de Porres hosts. The annual event is an opportunity for the community to come together to celebrate the rich diversity within African-American culture. The music is hand selected reflecting the resilience of African-American art.
“This event has been an important part of celebrating our own local African-American talent for more than 30 years. We always want our church to reflect the quality of life our community deserves to have,” shares Sister Ginny.
Being a model means being a benchmark, someone whose beliefs are worthy of being imitated. Sister Virginia Welsh certainly fits the bill.
Good leaders don’t define success in what benefits them personally. They view success on how well they have done in building other people up within their circles of influence. “Once you help build leaders, you make sure to inspire them to do the same for others. With every new generation, you will no doubt achieve exponential results,” says Sister Ginny.
It’s not hard to see why Sister Virginia Welsh is an indispensable gem —her service to the greater Toledo community is simply beautiful. It clearly comes from a soul in an intimate union with God. Please join us in celebrating our very own Sister Ginny this Women’s Month for her amazing contributions to our children, our families and society as a whole. Thank you.