Leaders and citizens of the community gathered together at the Our Lady of Victory Missionary (OLVM) Sisters Victory Noll on Tuesday, July 13, to celebrate the blessing of the brand new O’Donnell Center at Victory Noll, which was officially transferred from the OLVM to Huntington County on Friday, April 23.
Now, Huntington County Community Corrections and Parkview Behavioral Health Institute will call the O’Donnell Center home and will provide programming and opportunities to improve the lives of Huntington County residents in need.
The opening of the O’Donnell Center began with the question of meeting critical needs within Huntington County. Eventually, the trouble of drug addiction became a main topic of discussion.
During the summer of 2020, Mayor Richard Strick, Superior Court Judge Jennifer Newton and Huntington County Community Corrections Executive Director Leslie Rentschler presented a detailed proposal for the use of the Victory Noll buildings. The Sisters needed to know how Huntington aligned with the OLVM mission, how Huntington’s proposed programming could be kept sustainable and how compatible all the entities occupying the Victory Noll campus were - those entities include ACRES Land Trust, Saint Anne Communities and the OLVM Sisters.
According to Sister Mary Jo Nelson, the new use of these buildings continues the mission of the organization’s founder, Father John Sigstein, who began his priesthood by serving those who were addicted to drugs in the streets of Chicago.
“Father John Sigstein had a heart for those living in oppression and poverty,” Sister Nelson said. “And this will continue in these buildings.”
The O’Donnell Center is named after Julia and Peter O’Donnell - who, along with Archbishop John Francis Noll - helped to build the Victory Noll training center for women in this community nearly 100 years ago.
“Today, we have a new venture,” Sister Nelson said. “And I dare say that this is a ministry of service for those in great need.”
Sister Nelson welcomed the new tenants to the building and also introduced Huntington County Commissioner Tom Wall to speak.
Wall spoke to the fact that the idea to open the O’Donnell Center started while former County Commissioner Larry Buzzard was still in office, and that Terry Stoffel, who took his place, believed in the importance of the program just as much as Buzzard did.
Before giving his full speech, Wall introduced County Commissioner Rob Miller to say a few words. Miller spoke to the dedication that the Victory Noll Sisters show to the community and those who are part of marginalized groups.
“We’ve been handed the torch to the next century… and it certainly isn’t easy to follow an act like that,” Miller said. “They’ve done an unbelievable job for our community and this country. We are certainly honored to be able to partner with you… and give people the help they need as we move forward.”
After Wall took the floor again, he introduced the OLVM Sisters to the crowd, thanking them for their involvement.
“We really appreciate you believing in us,” Wall said. “This is going to be a game changer for our community, you just wait and see.”
Wall also spoke to the amount of dedication and team work that was needed to get the program going. He named several community leaders that were involved in the success of creating the O’Donnell center, such as Sister Nelson,
Judge Newton, Mayor Strick, Judge Davin Smith, Prosecutor Amy Richison, Sheriff Chris Newton and others.
“We had quite the lineup of individuals that care about people in our community,” Wall said. “They all know that we need to do something else besides put people in jail - that they need to have some kind of treatment in this community.”
Another major part of the O’Donnell Center will be that an antenna will be added to the campus that will serve the 9-1-1 Dispatch center for Huntington.
The new radio antenna will ensure that firefighters and officers will be able to have further communication reach throughout the county and will mean that law enforcement and firefighters won’t have to worry about ‘dead’ spots of communication in the county.
Wall then introduced Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who spoke to the importance of the new mission that the O’Donnell Center will have, and spoke to the victories that those who come to the O’Donnell Center might have.
“The patron of the Sisters is Our Lady of Victory, and I was thinking she can watch over those who come here - that they will have victory over the demons, the demon of addiction, that they have,” Bishop Rhoades said. “So, we entrust this place, this holy ground, to you. I know the Sisters will be praying that your work is successful, and that it will bear abundant fruit like the ministries and prayers of the Sisters have born abundant fruit for the past 100 years.”
Bishop Rhoades then conducted a blessing of the O’Donnell Center.
After he was done with his blessing, the mission bells in the courtyard were rung - as it once rang as Sisters left to minister in other places. The ringing of the bells marked the new beginnings brought to Huntington by the O’Donnell Center.
The O’Donnell Center is located at 20 Victory Noll Drive, Huntington.