Sisters mark decades of ministry - Catholic Courier

Sisters mark decades of ministry

The following Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester are celebrating jubilees of 80, 75, 70, 60 and 50 years in 2016. Many of the sisters have recalled their decades in ministry in their own words.

80 Years

Sister Genevieve Borgyon (formerly Sister Mary Elizabeth) said as a young woman she was drawn to becoming a Sister of St. Joseph because it would mean she could be a teacher and be close to God.

Her ministry was education. She taught at St. Patrick, Corning; St. Mary, Elmira; St. John the Evangelist, Greece; St. Stephen, Geneva; St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Nazareth Hall Cadet School and Nazareth Academy, St. Anne, and Trinity Montessori, Rochester; St. Thomas More, Brighton; and St. Pius Tenth, Chili.

“I am grateful and have pleasant memories about ministering in Corning, Elmira, Geneva and Rochester,” Sister Borgyon said.

Sister Borgyon is retired from teaching and devotes her time to prayer ministry.

75 Years

“My religious life of 75 years has incorporated many of the charisms of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” Sister Maria Pacelli Bernardo said in reflecting on her ministry.

She spent nearly 40 years as an educator, teaching at Nazareth Academy in Rochester and DeSales High School in Geneva. She also was director of the Nazareth Academy Alumni Office. After her ministry in education, she said she found her work as a pastoral visitor quite fulfilling. She spent many hours visiting Dunn Towers located next to St. Theodore Church in Gates, St. Mary’s Hospital (Unity), Rochester General Hospital and countless nursing homes in the area. Sister Bernardo is currently involved in prayer ministry, telephone ministry to shut-ins and the sick, and staying connected to seniors in our community.

She said her faith was nourished by her family. “My parents were deeply spiritual and faithful parishioners of St. Anthony’s Church in Rochester,” she said.

Sister Teresina Curran entered the congregation when she was 14.

“I was impressed with the sisters’ teaching, nursing and church work,” she said.

After her studies she taught at St. Alphonsus, Auburn; Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Sacred Heart, Rochester; Mother of Sorrows, Greece; St. Pius Tenth, Chili; Sacred Heart, Perkinsville; St. James, Waverly; Ss. Peter and Paul, Elmira; Immaculate Conception, Ithaca; St. Paul, Oswego; and St. Joseph Convent Infirmary, Pittsford.

“My favorites were the children in first grade,” she said.

After a well-loved career in education, Sister Curran’s aunt introduced her to the field of health care.

“She started me off as a nurse’s aide — a ministry that I’ve dearly loved for more than 20 years,” she said. “I worked at the Brightonian, Valley Manor, private duty and met the needs of many of our sisters, especially in the wee hours of the morning.”

Sister Curran is now retired and having her needs met at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford.

“I taught for 29 years. I did pastoral works for 10 years. I did home health aide work for 16 years, and I loved every minute of it of each area of service,” said Sister Dorothy Quinn (formerly Sister Bernice).

During her long career in education, she taught at St. Anthony of Padua, St. Agnes Institute, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph’s Villa, Rochester; St. Mary, Auburn; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brockport; St. Mary, Elmira; St. Francis de Sales, Geneva; St. Mary Our Mother, Horseheads; and St. Anne, Palmyra. She also taught in Selma, Ala., during the tumultuous times of the civil rights era.

Following teaching, she moved into pastoral work. She was a parish assistant at St. Mary in Auburn and a home health aide in Monroe County.

Sister Quinn said that her 16 years of being a home health aide “opened my mind to the needs of the elderly — their wanting someone to look at them, be with them and help them.” She said she delights in her memories and would do it all again.

Now, she devotes her energy to prayer.

70 Years

“Nothing but profound joy and gratitude fills my heart as I celebrate the countless ways God has touched my life over the past 70 years,” said Sister Joan Margaret Kunz.

“Among God’s many blessings are, first and foremost, all those persons — both within and outside the congregation — who have been the focus of God’s presence in my life, living reminders of who God is for me.

“One of the most grace-filled experiences of my life was the privilege of teaching Scripture, first at Nazareth College for almost 30 years, then in the SSJ Spirituality Program for another 10 years. (She also taught at Nazareth Hall and Sacred Heart, Rochester; St. Patrick, Mount Morris; and Mt. Carmel High School, Auburn.)

“In recent years, my ministry has shifted away from teaching Scripture to volunteering at St. Martin’s Place. This ‘new’ experience proves equally rewarding and personally enriching as teaching Scripture, since it provides for me a meaningful way to put flesh on much of what was heretofore confined to classroom teaching.

“Profoundly aware of how graced my entire life has been, I can only respond with the Psalmist: ‘What return can I make to the Lord for all that He has given to me? (Ps 116:12).'”

“I graduated from St. Theodore’s School’s eighth grade in a class of 11 students in 1941; next were four wonderful years at Nazareth Academy,” recalled Sister Mary Lynch (formerly Sister Mary de Porres Lynch). “I entered the convent in the fall of 1945 and was sent to major in mathematics at Nazareth College, where I graduated in 1949. Then I began the first of my two careers.

“I taught high-school math at Nazareth Academy and St. Agnes High from 1949 to 1973. At Nazareth College ’67-’68, I taught four math courses, and then became registrar for two years. I finished an MS in math in ’56 at Notre Dame U and from ’59-’60, I went back on an NSF grant for further study in math.

“In 1970, I felt called to go into theology, religious education, spirituality. Mother Agnes Cecilia suggested I go back to NDU for theology with an emphasis on Scripture; I finished the MA in ’75. I was religious-education director in parishes in Corning, Penfield and Phelps. An invitation to be field consultant for the diocesan Religious Education Department came — 12 counties, and I put many miles on my car!

“I’ve tried to live by one of Mother Teresa’s sayings, ‘Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.'”

60 Years

“When I told my parents that I was thinking of entering the Sisters of St. Joseph, they were very supportive, said Sister Yvonne Blind. “I was very impressed by the joy and dedication of the sisters both in grammar school (St. Charles Borromeo) and high school (Nazareth Academy).

“Most of my 60 years have been in the ministry of education in our diocesan schools as a classroom teacher and, later on, as principal. I enjoyed working with these children and getting to know their families. I especially enjoyed preparing children to receive the sacraments.

“The parishes in which I served are St. John’s, Greece; St. Michael’s, Penn Yan; St. Patrick’s, Seneca Falls; Sacred Heart, Auburn; Christ the King, Irondequoit; and Sacred Heart Cathedral. For the past six years I have been doing artwork, which is sold in our motherhouse gift shop as well as at art shows. I’m grateful, not only for the years I have been able to serve but also for the relationships formed over the past six decades.”

“Imagine 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph: what graces, friends, opportunities! Fifteen of our original ‘band’ remains today,” said Sister Anne Marie Burns (formerly Sister Thecla).

“My ministries can be put in three areas. I taught grade school in these parishes: Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Corpus Christi, Guardian Angels, St. Mary’s, Canandaigua; Holy Trinity, Webster; St. Patrick, Corning; and St. Francis Xavier. Wonderful children, parishioners, some of whom I see yearly.

“I was fortunate to then study nursing at St. Joseph’s in Elmira and joined the nursing staff for 12 years. Returning to Rochester, I ministered in the STARS program at Catholic Family Center. I joined the hospice staff of Genesee Region Home Care housed at St. Mary’s Hospital for 10 years — a humbling and grace-filled time. I was staff nurse at both our old and new motherhouses, which was the first time I primarily served our sisters.

“Retirement ministries have varied. I joined Sisters Care to serve adults in their homes at the same time as becoming a clinical nurse at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center.

“Now as a member of the motherhouse community, many opportunities have been presented to offer caring help to sisters.”

“From kindergarten through eighth grade at Sacred Heart School, followed by four years at Nazareth Academy, I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester,” noted Sister Marian Dimino (formerly Sister Lucina).”Their dedication led me to follow the call to be a Sister of St. Joseph.

“Music was the thread that wove together my career. Violin and piano lessons with Sister Jeanne Troy in grade school and the strong music programs at Nazareth Academy and Nazareth College developed the gift of music inherited from my musically gifted family.

“I have taught at St. Ambrose, St. Anne, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. John the Evangelist (Greece), Cardinal Mooney High School, Eastman School of Music, Bishop Hogan Jr. High, and Bishop Kearney High School.

“Presently, I have come full circle. I am teaching at St. John Neumann Elementary School — formerly St. Ambrose School. I have been blessed with family, friends, colleagues, students and my congregation as I continue to weave this mosaic, called life.”

“Thinking back on my 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I am filled with gratitude,” said Sister Patricia Flass (formerly Sister Petrine). “It has been more than I could ever have imagined when I was growing up in Webster and attending Holy Trinity School.

“I have had the opportunity to serve in many schools and parishes. (St. Paul, Oswego; St. Theodore, Gates; Corpus Christi, Blessed Sacrament and Ss. Peter and Paul, Rochester; Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece; DeSales High School, Geneva; St. Helen, Gates; St. Mary, Corning; and Cayuga Team Ministry, King Ferry.)

“I have also served God’s people in Alabama for 11 years. Wherever I was, I have been inspired by so many people I have met along the way and pray daily for all of them who have given so much to me.”

Sister Flass currently volunteers at the SSJ Motherhouse and Bethany House.

“I entered the congregation Sept. 8, 1955. Life-long members of St. Ambrose Parish, my parents John and Bernadette instilled the faith in each of us,” said Sister Mary Louise Heffernan (formerly Sister Jean Baptiste). “I knew the Sisters of St. Joseph all my life.

“Teaching at Blessed Sacrament was my first ministry. I thought teaching would be my ministry for life. Within a few years of teaching I was appointed principal of St. Lawrence School, a new school opening in Greece in 1963. St. Theodore’s in Gates was my next home. While at St. Theodore’s I felt called to pastoral ministry and became pastoral associate at St. Ambrose and later at St. Joseph’s, Penfield.

“During the past 25 years, and presently, spirituality ministry is where I am called. Each ministry has been life giving and enlivened my life as a Sister of St. Joseph. ‘Grace is holy energy …’ (Bernard Lonergan, SJ) and I believe it is this that continues to give me the love and serve the dear neighbor wherever I am called.

“It is with great joy and thanksgiving that I celebrate this jubilee year and give thanks to all those who have graced my life with love and joy.”

“I have enjoyed a varied career in teaching, administration, religious education, and congregational administration,” said Sister Catherine Judge (formerly Sister Roselle).

“A native of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, I taught at St. Thomas More, Nazareth Hall, St. Paul, Oswego; and St. Mary, Waterloo, schools; and served as principal in Waterloo and St. Stephen’s in Geneva. Other ministries included Holy Childhood School, religious-education director at Assumption, Fairport; and coordinator at the motherhouse and infirmary. I currently serve in the motherhouse library and archives.

“Catholic-school education, combined with my home life where religion played a major role, formed the backdrop for my future vocation.

“At Nazareth Academy, I met the Sisters of St. Joseph, and knew then my future would be with them. ‘Meeting the needs of the day’ as these Sisters did, encouraged me to become an educator. For 35 years as a teacher and administrator, I enjoyed happy and rewarding days.

“I am grateful for the many dedicated persons who have graced my life. I ask God’s blessing on each as I celebrate 60 years of religious life.”

Sister Kathleen Lurz (formerly Sister Rosaire) is principal of St. Kateri School in Irondequoit. She has also been principal of Seton Catholic School as well as St. Thomas More/Our Lady Queen of Peace in Brighton. She entered the SSJs from Holy Rosary Parish and taught at St. Anne, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Ambrose and Holy Rosary, Rochester; Holy Trinity, Webster; St. Jerome, East Rochester; and St. Stephen, Geneva. She also served as administrative assistant at Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece.

“My ministry has enabled me to form another ‘community’ in my academic setting, to touch and be touched by the lives of children, teachers and families,” she said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way.”

She thanks her parents for the gift of faith.

“To my dad, who after my baptism, placed me on Our Lady’s altar in Holy Rosary Church and gave me to God; to my mom, who sacrificed for me and my siblings as we grew up. God has directed my path from the very beginning.”

“Once a teacher, always a teacher” is an adage that holds so much truth for Sister Dorothy Meisenzahl (formerly Sister Robertine). Teaching has always been her great love, and today she finds herself back in the classroom at Nazareth Elementary in Rochester as a tutor for students who need individual attention.

Throughout her religious life she has taught and been principal at various diocesan schools: St. Monica, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Most Precious Blood, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Corpus Christi, Blessed Sacrament and St. Ambrose, Rochester; Mother of Sorrows, Greece; St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport; and St. Mary, Auburn. She also served as congregational secretary for many years.

“Throughout these 60 years, my community life has been a sustaining grace and treasure. It has supported me in my prayer, ministry and living the Gospel message,” she said. “I can freely express after these 60 years of living religious life that I am deeply grateful to God for my religious vocation. It is truly a precious gift.”

Today Sister Meisenzahl lives and worships in her native parish, Sacred Heart Cathedral.

“As this year of jubilee approaches,” said Sister Myra Monaghan, “I continue to be reminded of the prayerful words found in our SSJ vow formula, ‘I ask your grace and the help of my sisters in community, my family and my friends to be faithful to this commitment … .’

“For six decades in community and ministry as teacher (St. Anne, St. Joseph Convent Infirmary, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Genesis Catholic Jr. High School and Daystar, Rochester; St. Pius Tenth, Chili; and St. Agnes, Avon), foster parent, rural ministry and currently in Sisters’ Care, I have been surrounded and nurtured by God’s grace and each of you who have accompanied me and blessed my life, making for an enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

“I remain very grateful, and in the words of St. Paul continue my mantra from Philippians 3:1, ‘I thank God for you each time I remember you.'”

Sister Janice Morgan entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from her home parish, Ss. Peter and Paul in Elmira. She taught at St. Thomas More, Brighton; Immaculate Conception, Ithaca; St. Agnes, Avon; and was principal at St. Francis Xavier, Rochester and St. Theodore, Gates. She also served as diocesan assistant superintendent of schools.

She then served as director of religious education for Church of the Assumption in Fairport, and as congregational president for eight years.

“Many times I am asked, ‘Is there life after serving as president?’ My answer is, ‘Yes!'” she said. “From my earliest days, I understood that our SSJ mission is to serve the neighbor, wherever the need.”

Sister Morgan said she is grateful to have been gifted with the energy and enthusiasm to then serve as interim superintendent of diocesan Catholic Schools, followed by director of educational ministries for the congregation at Nazareth, Nativity and Hope Hall.

Her latest adventure is working in the congregation’s Office for Mission Advancement as senior development officer.

“My religious vocation has taken me to places I never would have imagined,” she said. “I have met incredible people and formed wonderful relationships. These have enriched and inspired my life. I hope I have done the same for them.”

Sister Francella Quinn entered the Sisters of St. Joseph as a student at Nazareth College. She was a teacher and administrator in the Diocese of Rochester for 58 years.

She also worked for the Rochester City School District in the New York State Workforce Retraining Program at Delco Products and the RCSD Adult Education Program. During her work with the latter program, she was named the Adult Education Teacher of the Year. When she “retired,” sister was a teacher and consultant for the Victor Central School District, where she helped students seeking an alternative high-school diploma.

“Each of my assignments was fulfilling and happy despite some hardships,” Sister Quinn said. “Hardships were encountered when a school closed or lost a child to terminal illness or serious accidents, but I also had experienced great moments when I risked my life to rescue three students from their burning home during lunch hour, witnessing students become successful in their careers, and receiving visits and messages from students now adults.”

She also has volunteered for 30 years at Camp Good Days and Special Times, a camp for children and adults with cancer and life threatening challenges. She calls the experience life changing.

“I witness God giving strength to those needing faith in their God each day to have courage to live each day to the fullest in his love and mercy,” she said.

Currently Sister Quinn is ministering at the diocesan Catholic Schools Office in records retention and disposition.

“I was born into a supportive, loving and religious family,” recalled Sister Stephanine Riley.

“The Sisters of St. Joseph taught me at St. Monica’s School and Nazareth Academy High School. I was impressed with their dedication and friendliness.

“For 47 years I had the joyful privilege of serving as a teacher and later as administrator in the diocesan Catholic schools Nativity in Brockport, St. Casimir in Elmira, St. Patrick in Mt. Morris, St. Stanislaus in Rochester and Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. During these years I worked with very dedicated teachers and parents, and I still often hear from them.

“In 2005 I began working in our Sisters Care ministry. I have met some wonderful seniors and their dedicated families. I found that I receive more than I give to them. I am so impressed with their deep faith and acceptance.”

“I’ve reached the 60-year jubilee mark. It seems impossible. But when I press the recall button, I know it’s true,” said Sister Marlena Roeger (formerly Sister Boniface).

“My first mission was Our Lady of Lourdes in Brighton, in 1958. I remained until 1966, teaching one group four years in a row. We all survived in spite of that.

“In 1966 I went to Nativity in Brockport, where I also became a principal. I returned to Our Lady of Lourdes as principal in 1971 and then on to the Diocesan Education Office in 1973 until 1978, when I began the process for coming to Brazil.

“After waiting a year for a visa, (Brazil was under military dictatorship), I finally got to in 1979. I’ve been here ever since, with the exception of five years in the USA to help care for my mom. During those years I worked in Hispanic Migrant Ministry in the Buffalo Diocese.

“These have been amazing years of God’s faithfulness, love and joy. And I have been so blessed and enriched by those who have journeyed with me! OBRIGADA!”

“I attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Rochester and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph after graduating from Nazareth Academy,” said Sister Pius Streb.

“My assignments included Blessed Sacrament, Nazareth Hall Cadet School, St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads and the School of the Holy Childhood (a place that will always be dear to my heart).

“Sixty years filled with joy, laughter and many good friends. I have memories to last a lifetime.

“I thank God every day for his gift to me — the call to come and follow.

“Now I am living at our motherhouse and loving every day spent with our dear sisters. I am grateful to all whose lives touched mine through the years.

“I pray for God’s blessing on each of you in this jubilee year.”

“The seed of my vocation was planted by the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me at St. Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls,” recalled Sister Anne Urquhart.”With the support of family and friends, I answered the call to religious life 60 years ago. I have had many wonderful and rewarding ministerial opportunities through the years, including several years of ministry in Selma, Ala. I have been truly blessed these past 60 years and am grateful for the support of my sisters in the congregation. Together we look forward to a ‘future full of hope.'”

50 Years

“I was born in Utica, the oldest of five children,” said Sister Christel Burgmaier (formerly Sister Marie Barbara). “After completing high school, I was accepted at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester for their three-year nursing course, where I graduated in 1962. It was at the hospital I first got to know the Sisters of St. Joseph, as patients.

“I entered the congregation in 1965 and graduated from the University of Rochester in 1966. In 1968, two months after my first vows, I was chosen to go to Brazil for three years and have been there ever since.

“My first and only mission was and is Paranaiguara, Goi√°s, the town in which we began our mission in Brazil. Since I was not a teacher by profession, I immediately started working with the sick and with the poor.

“For the last 47 years I have had the wonderful privilege of working among the poor of Brazil, helping in times of sickness and suffering, and also participating in their celebrations and moments of joy. Among the things I have enjoyed the most are visiting people in their homes, doing prenatal care, and working in surgery and the delivery room.”

“In my 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have been blessed to be in the health field, first as a medical technologist in microbiology and then eventually in surgery,” said Sister Marguerite Dynski (formerly Sister Marie Kostka). “Teaching has been important ministry from the days I taught in the GED program in Elmira, to teaching residents, medical students from the University of Rochester and the University of Saba as well as physician assistant students at RIT.

“I particularly enjoy supporting my patients through the process of treating their breast cancer as well as performing surgery. The Rosebud Indian Reservation, S.D., was an unexpected gift/challenge in treating breast diseases. Earning a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from the University of Liverpool was a cross-cultural experience. Classmates attended from all continents. My international connections have continued, as I have been the editor of the Directory of Sister, Brother and Priest Physicians for almost 30 years. My spiritual life has been nourished as a prayer partner for the Busy Person’s Retreat at local colleges for the last 12 years.”

“My love for children drew me to teaching at Nazareth Hall, St. Mary’s, Elmira; Our Lady Queen of Peace, St. Lawrence and Montessori,” said Sister Jeanne Morreall (formerly Sister Jean Therese).

“Feeling a call to be more fully engaged in lives of children and motivated by Isaiah’s words to ‘bind up hearts that are broken,’ I became a foster mother through Monroe County Department of Human Services 30 years ago, and as a result SSJ Morning Star continues to be my ministry.

“Assisting children as they face many physical and emotional challenges has added great perspective to my life and increased my trust as I witness God’s plans unfolding for each precious child in my care.”

“My 50 years as Sister of St. Joseph has brought me many blessings and treasured moments,” noted Sister Mary Ann Sutera (formerly Sister Philip Neri). “I am grateful for all the children and families that touched my life during my 33 years as a teacher. (She taught at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester; St. Lawrence, Greece; and Christ the King, Irondequoit.)

“I have had the privilege of ministering to the elderly for eight years as a recreation therapist at St. Ann’s Home. My ministry continues to be enriched as a volunteer at St. Ann’s Home, as well as a Sisters Care volunteer. I rejoice in the gifts that God has given me these past 50 years.”

“I met the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester as a student at Nazareth Academy,” recalled Sister Patricia Trovato (formerly Sister Anne Michael). “My heart was touched by their joy, love of God and dedication to their students.

“Fifty years later, my heart continues to be touched by these women of God, and I am humbled and happy to be one among them.

“My journey as an educator has been deeply enriching and rewarding. I began my teaching at Blessed Sacrament. I then moved on to Corpus Christi, St. Monica’s, Oneida Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, St. Augustine’s, Park Ridge Chemical Dependency for Adolescents and Holy Cross. My present ministry is at St. Kateri School.

“I consider myself immensely blessed to have played a small part in the life of each child I have taught. I am grateful to God, the children I have taught, their families, the staffs I have worked with, my family and friends that have gifted me with their love and support, and the Sisters of St. Joseph, whose presence and love have brought me on the road to where I am.”


Tags: Religious Orders
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