The ceremony for the 77th class of Caroline Center was a special occasion as it was the start of the 25th anniversary celebrations for the Center. Nearly 30 women dressed in light blue scrubs were joined by the Center’s leadership and many SSND Sisters joined in prayer with Provincial Leader Sister Charmaine Krohe, who led the blessings of the graduates and the building.
To open the ceremony and draw everyone into a posture of prayer, Sister Sharon Kanis asked that the group create a circle of welcome and call upon the spirit of the SSND Foundress Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger and Mother Caroline Friess (for whom the Center is named) and all the women who had entered the building long before Caroline Center was there.
“At the heart of that circle is the Spirit of God that moves between us, in and among us and brings us together today to begin this awesome celebration of 25 years of Caroline Center,” Sister Sharon said, before she led everyone in the hymn, “This is Holy Ground.”
Sister Charmaine began leading the blessings, first for the women graduating that day and then for the building. A video of the blessings is available here.
Sister Patricia McLaughlin, who founded the Caroline Center and worked as the Executive Director for the first 22 years, was present for the festivities. “I was most amazed by how it has grown over the last 25 years,” Sister Patricia said. “Finding the right training was the most difficult decision we made. Settling on the curriculum was the break through.” Finding the funding was also a daunting task, but Sister Patricia made it sound as though that effort was secondary to the mission.
Caroline Center’s reach is what Sister Patricia said she finds most fulfilling and inspiring. “These women leave with a certification, find a job and bring this home to their families. The graduates benefit, and their children and families benefit. The gifts of the Center radiate out into the community.”
Sister Patricia, who currently serves as the Chair of the Board for the Notre Dame of Maryland University, said what she misses most from the Center is the women she served with, as well as the students.
Thirty women graduated that day - 15 from the certified nursing assistant program and 15 from the pharmacy technician program. Executive Director Lynn Selby said that the women graduating that day had a much more difficult course than those before the pandemic.
“We were serving 60 women each class, and now we’re at just 30. We had to decrease the class size to maintain the quality of the program,” Lynn said following the ceremony. “It was not just new for our students, many of whom did not even own a laptop, but also for the teachers.” Students are now loaned a Chrome Book for the duration of the 16-week class.
Lynn said that there are many lessons to be learned from the pandemic, including the fact that classes could permanently be a hybrid for both students and staff. “It just makes sense. This model makes us more flexible and nimble,” said Lynn, who has served in her position for the last 2.5 years.
She is also proud of the fact that despite the shutdown early in the pandemic, the Center still managed to graduate three cohorts and didn’t have to let go of any staff. “The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) was huge for us in being able to keep moving forward.”
Lisa Benson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said “I am so proud to be part of this team and board, and I am especially proud of the women who walk through these doors. I am all eternally grateful for the SSNDs, without whom none of this would be possible. What goes on here everyday is nothing short of a miracle.”