PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Two staff members of Seton Center, Sisters Cecilia McManus and Eileen Eager, have bid farewell to the program they founded in 1983.
Seton Center serves thousands in this community with food programs, counseling, a thrift store and a multitude of services, many of them geared toward Hispanic, migrant and immigrant communities.
A farewell event was held Dec. 21 to honor the sisters and their legacy of service.
“Catholic Charities thanks the sisters for their 38 years of dedicated service to the most vulnerable on the Eastern Shore,” said Richelle A. Vible, executive director. “Sister Cecilia and Sister Eileen have created, through their steadfast commitment to our neighbors on the Eastern Shore, a legacy of caring service. Their shoes will be difficult to fill.”
“Catholic Charities will continue their legacy for generations to come, keeping as our guide star the themes of hospitality, service, and advocacy that served as the foundation of Seton Center,” Vible said.
Seton Center provides basic needs services, behavioral health counseling, food assistance programs, thrift services, and immigration services. Recently, a mobile office has been commissioned to serve clients who cannot get to the center.
The Sisters of Charity, from Convent Station, N.J., opened Seton Center in Princess Anne in 1983. Sisters Cecelia and Eileen were joined by Sisters Regina Hudson and Diane Moore and created a neighborhood community center. The program became a part of Catholic Charities services in 1989.
Sister Cecilia said they were allowed to search out areas with needs which needed to be met. That meant they traveled to Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia. “Then we came over the bridge and realized that from Cape Charles to Salisbury, there were only about five religious women,” she said.
Sister Cecilia said they were welcomed from the very start. “Right from the beginning, people did not treat us as outsiders. We were accepted pretty readily.”
She said that she and her fellow sisters tried to not come with preconceived ideas, instead deciding “to listen to the people and what their needs are.”
At one time, she said there was a migrant labor camp in Somerset County with perhaps nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest on the East Coast. “It was an invisible group of people,” she said.
Since then, much of the Hispanic community has become more permanent, but it remains a community in need. “We made it very clear we wanted the Hispanic community to access us,” she said. “Thank God, the church has reached out.”
Although part of Catholic Charities, she said the work of the center has benefited from the efforts of Baptists, Presbyterians and many other denominations. “It’s a wonderful testament to people willing to be of service,” she said.
Now, she said the center is actively reaching out to other immigrants, many of them from the Middle East. Many of those new arrivals are associated with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), she said.
“We’re very intentional about welcoming people,” she said. “It is a bridge to some of the newly arrived immigrants.”
Sister Cecilia has accepted a leadership position with the Sisters of Charity. Sister Eileen will be retiring from active service. Sister Regina retired from service several years ago, and Sister Diane is serving her religious community in Haiti.
Some of the existing services available at Seton Center include:
• Three food distribution programs – a food cooperative, an emergency food pantry and a government surplus program.
• Basic needs program, supporting households at risk of becoming homeless.
• Family strengthening services and case management.
• Immigration assistance.
• Thrift center.
• Health prevention advocacy.
• Women’s support groups.
• Information and referral services.
There are also Christmas programs, Easter baskets, coat drives, a pharmacy program and Angel trees in what is a comprehensive community center. “There is so much goodwill,” she said.
At its 30th anniversary celebration in 2014, Bishop Malooly discussed the number of people helped by Seton Center.
“Many of these individuals would have nowhere else to turn for help, if not for the Seton Center,” he said in an article published that year in The Dialog.
A proclamation from Princess Anne read by town commissioner Garland Hayward at the 30th anniversary celebration quoted St. Matthew, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
“All will be well. It’s going to move forward just fine,” Sister Cecilia said.
For more information, contact Seton Center at 30632 Hampden Avenue, PO Box 401, Princess Anne, MD 21853 or (410) 651-9608.