ROCHESTER— On March 11, the day that Mercy Sister Mary Dismas Foster turned 100 years old, she gladly shared the spotlight with a friend — an older one.
Sister Foster is united with Ludwika Kardela by both age and parish affiliation. Kardela, who turned 100 three days before Sister Foster, is a longtime parishioner of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Meanwhile, Sister Foster has lived in the St. Stanislaus convent for more than 10 years.
The two women were the featured guests at a five-hour celebration March 11 in the parish hall. A sizable crowd gathered, feasting on a variety of foods and drinks, including many Polish dishes. The reception closed out a birthday week that had started with Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrating the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Stanislaus March 5 in honor of the two centenarians.
Sister Foster and Kardela, who are good friends, joined hands as they posed for photographs during their March 11 party. Both said they were elated to share their 100th birthdays with each other and so many well-wishers.
“I feel very good,” Kardela exclaimed.
“I think it’s marvelous. I didn’t expect it,” Sister Foster added.
Polish immigrant has lengthy association with her parish
Kardela, whose maiden name is Tomczyszyn, was born March 8, 1923, in Poland near the Russian border. She and her family relocated in 1963 to Rochester, where she was reunited with a brother whom she hadn’t seen since he was called into military duty during the Russian and German occupation of Poland in World War II.
“It felt really, really good,” she said of the reunion. “I thought I’d never see him again.”
For many years, Kardela attended another predominately Polish church in Rochester, St. Theresa, which closed in 1997. In fact, the funeral of her husband, Piotr, was the last one to take place at the church. She has belonged to St. Stanislaus ever since.
Kardela lived near St. Stanislaus for most of her 60 years in the Rochester area. She now resides in Webster with her daughter, Anna Bachner, yet remains a steady presence at St. Stanislaus, attending Mass regularly and volunteering as well.
”She comes every single Sunday. She won’t miss it unless she’s really sick,” Bachner noted. “She believes in her faith, and she’s thankful God has kept her here for this length of time.”
Bachner added that her mother still volunteers as well, baking and cooking at the annual parish festival.
“I like the parish, I like to help the parish,” said Kardela, whose birthday is the same day as St. Stanislaus’ pastor, Father Roman Caly. “I always thought it’s best to be Polish Catholic. We’ve got a big parish. People come, and I’m glad.”
Kardela has two daughters, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She noted that her guests at the March 11 party came from as far away as California and even Poland.
Rochester Sister of Mercy enjoys urban ministry
Whereas Kardela hails from Poland, Sister Foster is a native of Rochester, having grown up in St. John the Evangelist Parish.
She graduated from Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton in 1941, then entered the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Foster taught for 41 years, serving at Greece’s St. Charles Borromeo School and her alma mater, Our Lady of Mercy. She also volunteered for four decades at Rochester Psychiatric Center, where she taught sewing, organized celebrations and encouraged her students to befriend the patients.
Sister Foster said that when she retired from teaching, her vocational focus shifted. She obtained her driver’s license at age 65, moved to the convent at the former Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Rochester’s inner city, then drove a truck to pick up and deliver furniture for those who had none. She also oversaw a clothing closet at the parish.
“I love the city. I got to know the people, and the people are beautiful,” Sister Foster said. “They talk about God as if he were part of their family, not a visitor you say hello to on Sunday morning.”
A Sister of Mercy for nearly 82 years, Sister Foster said she remains active in the parish community at St. Stanislaus.
“I go to Mass. I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I still have associations with people from my former life,” she said.
Indeed, the turnout at the March 11 party included many of Sister Foster’s family members, friends and fellow Sisters of Mercy.
Sister Foster said she considers her purpose in life “to give to the community what God has given me. And he’s given me a lot.”Tags: Monroe County East