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Casa Ursulina

The Dianna Ortiz Ursuline Center for Women

We welcome you to Casa Ursulina!

Gathering in the kitchen at Casa Ursulina

Community and solidarity are fundamental to the spirit
of Casa Ursulina. Here a group of women from Sister Mimi's
rural ministry enjoy a late breakfast with women from Chillán.
All of these women are working together in producing beautiful spun wool for sale in the United States.
(See for more information on this project.) 
The photo is taken in our kitchen, which also serves as a classroom and all-purpose room. Sister Mimi is in the center front.


began with a dream — a deep desire in the hearts and minds of Ursuline Sister Mary Elizabeth Ballard and seven Chilean women who worked to build a place for women to come together to work, learn, and find community and mutual support.

These are women who live in the Población Vicente Pérez Rosales in the city of Chillán in central Chile. It's a sprawling place that to American eyes might look like a vast government housing project, including some neighborhoods of extreme deprivation. For some 17,000 persons who live here, poverty and struggle are a daily fact of life. Many are unemployed or underemployed. The minimum wage in Chile is about $2.50 per hour, and seasonal, domestic and part-time workers make much less than that.

In the mid 90s, while serving as a pastoral minister in Chillán, Sister Mary Elizabeth — "Mimi" to her family and friends — began to teach women to crochet and to make and other kinds of needlework. The eager women learned fast and began teaching one another. In fairs in and around Chillán, they found a market for their beautiful creations. For many, this was the first time they had been able to earn anything to help support their families. They were encouraged by their success and enriched by the spirit of community that was growing among them.

The first workshop was a crowded room in the home of Carola Pulgar, who from the beginning had worked with Sister Mimi. The women dreamed of a house, a center — a place with more space for more activities for more women. By 1997, with support from Sister Mimi's home parish — St. Joseph, Bardstown — and a campaign led by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, the Ursuline congregation was able to purchase half of a duplex house in the población. Sister Mimi and the core group transformed this limited but promising space into the Dianna Ortiz Ursuline Center for Women — Casa Ursulina.

During the past 16 years, Casa Ursulina and its ministries have never stopped growing. Physical expansion has included the purchase of the second half of the duplex and the replacement of attached wooden shacks with sturdy additions to the house.

From the original eight, the number of women coming to the center has increased to near 200. More than 30 of these are volunteers who give their time, energy, and talents in teaching, providing childcare for children of women in classes, extending hospitality, and other tasks that keep the work of Casa Ursulina going.

Freeing and nurturing women and children, the primary focus of the ministries of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, is at the center of the ministry of Casa Ursulina. Now we invite you to come in, to get to know the women of Casa Ursulina, and to be amazed at the many ways in which God's love is shared among them.

You will also learn more about Chile and Chillán, and about the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, who also serve God's people in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Louisiana, Tennessee, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Casa Ursulina building

This typical duplex house welcomes over 150 women every week.
In this area, a structure like this normally houses two families.
At its beginning, Casa Ursulina occupied only the portion at the right.
As the ministry grew, so did the house, providing space for classes and workshops, production activities, group reunions and (upstairs) living quarters
for Ursuline Sisters Mimi and Ruth.


We welcome you to Casa Ursulina. Come to visit us often!



To get in touch ... to learn more ... to help in any way ... click here!

To support our ministry financially or to make in-kind donations,
click here!