Catholic Mission 25 Years Old
Sisters Martha Burbulla and Margie Monahan would tell you they frequently call upon their God-given gifts and talents as they complete and check off countless service projects that range annually from giving local families in need a Christmas to remember to outfitting residents with coats and school children with backpacks. With a smile on their faces and a willingness to embark on new adventures, the sisters have proven to be the backbone, heart and soul of the Fulton County Catholic Mission that is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Catholic Mission got its start here in 1988 under the direction of Bishop Joseph Adamec in hopes of “strengthening and complimenting” the Catholic presence and visibility in this rural county. Sisters from Carmelite Community of the World were invited to assist Bishop Adamec in his vision, and two sisters promptly moved onto the property belonging to St. Stephen Church along Lincoln Way East in McConnellsburg to follow a “mandate to live and do works of service among, and along with, the people of the area, whether Catholic or not.”
It would only be one year later that Sister Margie joined the Catholic Mission to be followed almost a decade later by Sister Martha, who together have a combined 39 years of service to Fulton County and its residents. Supported by the Diocese of Altoona- Johnstown, which covers an eight-county region, the Catholic Mission and its sisters are renowned for their acts of kindness and goodness.
Initially falling back on their contacts with the Diocese, the sisters have watched their mission grow and evolve into a true “community project” with help only a telephone call away. Area teachers render aid for the backpack project that saw 452 packs fullystocked for back-to-school needs. Meanwhile, local businesses, residents and even Girl Scout troops lend a hand in purchasing and wrapping presents for approximately 700 area children over the Christmas holiday.
Sister Martha said the process involves one project after another, which Sister Margie adds has turned out to be “very giving and rewarding.”
According to the sisters, the members of Good Shepherd and Our Lady of Victory parishes located in State College have a “long-standing” relationship with the Fulton County Catholic Mission, while Good Shepherd’s Peace and Justice Group, Matthew 25, often lends “material assistance” during the Christmas season. With their assistance as well as donated goods from Walmart, the mission is able to distribute free clothing through its “Clothing Room.”
“We don’t want junk for Jesus,” adds Sister Martha, who noted the mission continuously strives to offer good-quality items to area residents in need.
In fact, the mission’s next scheduled event on October 8 between 9 a.m. and noon will allow adults and children alike the opportunity to pick out a new or gently used coat. Their next project will be the implementation of “Project Gabriel” that will outfit the infants of pregnant women and new mothers with clothing sizes ranging from newborn up to 2T.
“Sometimes women will come in, and they have nothing for their babies, which may be due in just a week,” said Sister Margie, adding that financial donations are always welcome to offset the costs of other necessities such as playpacks and car seats.
In addition to much-need clothing, bedding and household goods, the Catholic Mission works side-by-side with fellow human service agencies in the area to offer assistance with basic living needs such as utilities, rent and fuel.
“Although the mission works closely with local human service agencies and must abide by the regulations of various funding sources, including paperwork, the mission is not just another agency. Donations to the mission work, and a monthly grant from Catholic Charities’ main office, allow the mission to provide for real needs that do not fall under governmental agency guidelines, but do fall under Christ-centered ones,” the sisters said.
With so many years logged with the Catholic mission, Sister Martha concluded the biggest benefit of being in Fulton County for such a long period of time is getting to know the local residents and helping fulfill their needs.
Even though many years have passed since the mission was established and their project list has increased two-fold, the sisters’ mission of helping all the people of Fulton County is unwavering.