Beth Sammartino views Benedictines as extension of family
Beth Sammartino Emmaus Ministries Donor

By Liz Allen
“When you have landed on Benedictine soil,” you remain grounded in the charitable work of the sisters and their ministries.

That is one image that Beth Sammartino draws upon to explain why she gives back to the Benedictines by supporting Emmaus Ministries.

In particular, Beth likes to help out Sister Rosanne Lindal-Hynes, who works as the women’s advocate at Emmaus.

“She is so caring in such a dignified way with the poorest of the poor,” Beth says. Sister Rosanne likes to keep things in her purse to help the women she meets. “But she doesn’t have a purse full of stuff,” Beth says. “There aren’t unlimited supplies.”

Beth, who lives in Meadville, sends money at the end of every month but she also donates in other thoughtful ways. “I owed God a big favor, so I sent gift cards for restaurants in town.” She knew the gift cards would be welcomed by moms when their kids were out of school – and away from school food programs – for the summer and at times when the families couldn’t get to Emmaus for a meal.

Beth grew up in Jamestown, N.Y., the third of nine children, and she credits her parents, Paul and Elizabeth Blood, with showing by example how to help others. They taught Beth and her siblings that “you weren’t put here just to take,” she says. With a large family, their table was crowded, “but my parents always had room for somebody else.”

Beth moved to Erie to attend Mercyhurst College in 1968. After graduating in 1972, she was hired at St. Mary Catholic School, where she had a seventh-grade homeroom and taught youngsters in grades five through eight. At St. Mary’s, she met Sister Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski and soon discovered that the ministry of the Benedictine sisters was “an extension of the way I was raised and brought up. I was raised by a powerful set of parents, very Catholic and Christian,” she says. “This is exactly what the Benedictines do – (I was) being accepted into this other family of women who wanted to continue doing what I was raised to do.”

Beth taught at St. Mary’s for five years and was involved in the process that led to the decision to close the school. But even after leaving St. Mary’s, she remained involved with the Benedictines. “I stayed with them one way or another. They have walked many roads with me,” she said. The Benedictines stood with Beth as she adopted her son and daughter and as she battled breast cancer (she is a 24-year survivor). Today, she is the happy grandmother of four – two grandchildren in Erie and two step grandchildren in Tucson.

Seven years ago, Beth moved from Erie to Meadville to be close to her daughter, who lived there at the time, but she remains close to her Benedictine friends in Erie. “I knew I wouldn’t lose contact … because my connections are very strong,” she says. In fact, Beth helps to facilitate retreats for women and at the most recent retreat she facilitated, she collected diapers and women’s sanitary supplies to donate to Emmaus.

In Meadville, Beth serves on the board of St. James Haven, which serves the homeless, and is involved with an adopt-a-student program at Allegheny College, for Catholic students who “want to maintain their faith at a non-Catholic school by connecting with someone in the community,” she explained.

In speaking about her relationship with the Benedictines, Beth describes it this way: “I think there is a powerful energy out there among these women that we have to pay attention to.”

That current of energy is evident in the title of the book Beth is currently reading: “Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way,” by Jimmy Wayne. Beth highly recommends it.

LIZ ALLEN met Beth Sammartino in person when she drove to Meadville to see her granddaughter Molly, 14, graduate from Camp Cadet, held at Allegheny College, a few blocks from Beth’s house.