By Katie Mahon, Communications Manager
For nearly 50 years, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, have been serving the children of farmworkers in Orange County.
Located in Goshen, House on the Hill has served as an early childhood and migrant seasonal headstart center that provides education, family engagement, health, nutrition, and community partnership services.
Sr. Jean Graffweg, OP, the Migrant Head Start Director at House on the Hill, discussed her ministry and the upcoming anniversary of its founding on the latest episode of the Hearts Afire Podcast.
“It was the vision of Sr. Jean Marie Rathgaber, along with the community, that brought us to where we are this day,” shared Sr. Jean.
Throughout her 42 years of ministry, Sr. Jean, a Sister of Saint Dominic, has done “absolutely everything at House on the Hill,” from serving as a kindergarten teacher, bus driver, and even a cook.
Today, in her role as Director, most days for Sr. Jean start as early as 6:15 AM when children begin to arrive, and by 7 AM, House on the Hill is usually full of infants, toddlers, pre-school, and pre-kindergarten age children.
These children have given Sr. Jean some of the most rewarding moments in her ministry throughout the years.
“When the children come in the morning and run to hug you, that’s one of the most rewarding things. I say to my staff; there’s your salary, there’s your paycheck, getting love from the children.”
She also shared that when House on the Hill has visitors, “they will say I feel love as soon as I come in the door.”
Another rewarding aspect for Sr. Jean in her ministry has been seeing her former students grow up and bring their children back for childcare services to “experience the wonders of House on the Hill.”
As June approaches, Sr. Jean credits the upcoming 50-year milestone for House on the Hill and its legacy to the support of her congregation.
“(House on the Hill) passed on a positive and affirming legacy, and I am so grateful to my community, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, for their unending support for the past 50 years. It comes back to Sr. Mary Ann Sammon, our Foundress; when she saw the Eustice property in Blauvelt, she said, ‘Here we shall be.’ I know the same could be said broadly – here we shall be, and we are still here 50 years later.”
Along with community support, Sr. Jean also credited the success of House on the Hill to Saint Dominic.
“We read so many stories of Saint Dominic, and his gentleness is what stuck out to me. It said that anyone who came to speak to him went away happier than before, and this is what House on the Hill is. Not only education and all the services, but the gentleness here. Children thrive because of how they are treated, and I truly believe that.”