Jackie Prigge ’14 prepares a meal at St. Elizabeth House.


Living the USJ Mission

The University of Saint Joseph has always maintained strong ties with the Greater Hartford community, but the relationship has strengthened in recent years due to its work with the Wellness Center on Church Street in downtown Hartford. Eight years ago, the University formed a partnership with the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, an outreach ministry of Saint Patrick– Saint Anthony Church where the Wellness Center is located.

By Caitlin Fitzgerald

“The experience for the students is transformative, when you meet someone face to face, heart to heart, you experience something that you will not get out of a textbook or lecture. The students not only bring their expertise, but also bring mercy & compassion to those they care for.”
Sister Beth Fischer, ’76 assistant dean of student affairs and community and civic engagement

Sister Beth Fischer ’76 works with Chelsea Alves ’14 and Meghan Toth ’15 to provide
health counseling to women at Catherine’s Place.

“They trust us. They see Nursing students from USJ and immediately, a sense of calm comes over them. They truly care about their health. They ask questions, they're open to education, and they listen … I became so inspired by the work done at my clinical placement that I began volunteering at the Sandwich Ministry, performing the same services for the homeless population.”
Chelsea Alves ’14


Nicole Chaput ’14, Ms. Kay, Cheryl Maciorakowski ’14,
and Jackie Prigge ’14 work in the kitchen of St. Elizabeth
House preparing meals for the residents.

USJ undergraduate Nursing students at MANNA
Community Meals.


Under the guidance of Sister Beth Fischer ’76, assistant dean of student affairs and community and civic engagement, the program has grown to include students and faculty from Nursing, Nutrition, Counseling, and Social Work. Each week they live and breathe the Mercy mission as they serve food, provide health screenings, dispense nutrition advice, and form lasting relationships.

“Being at the Wellness Center, I am able to use my skills to help the men and women who choose to reach their own states of wellness. However, they are not the only ones benefitting from the interactions … I have learned the value of human dignity and respect, as well as the resilience of mind, body, and spirit through my time volunteering.”
Ashley Gall ’14

Ashley Gall ’14 treats a resident at Catherine’s Place.

Allison Sprafke ’14, Cristina Acevedo ’14, and Nidhi Patel ’15
lead the group in prayer before serving meals to visitors at
MANNA Community Meals.


This past year alone, USJ students completed 2,760 volunteer hours at various Wellness Center programs – MANNA Community Meals, Malta Food Pantry, Catherine’s Place, and the Sandwich Ministry. All programs are geared toward serving the underserved members of the Greater Hartford community.

“As nursing faculty, I want students to have the experience of working outside of the hospital. It gives them a unique learning experience and they provide a service that is needed. The family nurse practitioner students in my women's health course run educational workshops on health topics selected by the women. As a nurse-midwife, I also lead workshops.”
Lucinda Canty,
MSN Assistant Professor of Nursing

During a typical week, Nursing students conduct blood pressure and glucose screenings while APRN students engage women in the transitional housing unit in a health-related Q&A session. Across town at St. Elizabeth House, Dietetic interns work with staff to prepare and serve meals for residents and soup kitchen guests.

Assistant Professor of Nursing Janet Knecht, MSN,
instructs Allison Sprafke’14 in the kitchen at MANNA
Community Meals.

Sarah Marshall ’14 serves visitors at MANNA
Community Meals.



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