BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
Sister Catherine Feeney’s life as a sister is what she calls a “deep call from God to serve humanity.” She has spent many years in teaching and school administration, preparing young women to succeed in their religious, professional and personal lives. All of these experiences have prepared her well for her present role as executive director at the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) Educational Center in Woodhaven, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women reach their potential and break out of the cycle of poverty.
Feeney is originally from Brooklyn but has adopted Queens as her home. She is a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, an international congregation of sisters through which she has made many fulfilling connections. Her most memorable experience has been travelling the world and meeting her fellow sisters across the globe.
Speaking about her greatest achievement, Feeney remains humble, stating that “none of the successes in which I was involved were accomplished alone.” For her, founding the Educational Center with Sisters Jean and Janice was an accomplishment in teamwork. In her efforts to grow the center, Feeney recalls the importance of her decision to call upon others for assistance in addressing areas she was unfamiliar with, a “hallmark of the center’s success.”
Feeney was directly involved in the center’s recent move from South Ozone Park to Woodhaven. In the goal of meeting the needs of a new neighborhood, the administration at the center had to quickly adapt their program to best accommodate its population. Despite this demanding transition, the entire phase became a valuable learning experience for Feeney: “What could have been a difficulty became a time of great growth for the center.”
MOTIVATION TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMUNITY
Feeney’s greatest call to serve the community came during her time on staff in a South Jamaica church: “The experience made real to me the urgent need to offer a space where women’s educational, spiritual and emotional needs might be met.” This urgent call to action occurred again when the center made the move to Woodside where a rapidly growing immigrant population is in need of assistance.
SSND Educational Center has a staff of nine with a wide network of dedicated volunteers. The center currently serves more than one hundred women through their multi-level ESL and GED programs.