Sisters of St. Joseph mark jubilees - Catholic Courier

Sisters of St. Joseph mark jubilees

85 Years

 The smiling face and cheerful disposition of Sister Angela Sutula (formerly Sister Angela Therese) are hallmarks of her personality. These attributes earned her a few nicknames. Her students in Mount Morris called her "Bouncy," and the late Bishop Joseph Hogan called her "Bubbles." Sister Sutula said such a line-up of names has given her many joyful years in religious life.

"I have had so much fun, and enjoyed all the people in my life," she said.

Much of her 85 years of religious life has been devoted to education. She taught elementary school at St. Stanislaus in Rochester, St. Alphonsus in Auburn, St. Casimir in Elmira, St. Paul in Oswego and St. Patrick in Mount Morris. She also worked as a pastoral assistant at St. Patrick Parish in Mount Morris and St. Joseph Parish in Wayland. She retired in 1994 and now focuses on prayer ministry.

80 Years

 Sister Mary Bernadette Aselin has a favorite prayer she likes to say every day. "Tu per vous, mon Jesu. Tu per vous." Translated from French, it means "All for you, my Jesus. All for you." When she was a child, she and her family would recite this prayer together every evening. She said this ritual encouraged her love of God, and the prayer continues to sustain her.

Throughout her 80 years of religious life, Sister Aselin has participated in a variety of ministries from education to spiritual ministry to social service. She taught at Immaculate Conception, St. Monica and St Anne, all in Rochester. She also was principal at St. Anne and St. Anthony in Elmira; vice principal at Elmira Regional Junior High; and principal at Blessed Sacrament and Holy Rosary in Rochester. She also volunteered every Friday for many years at St. Martin’s Place, a soup kitchen, and SSJ ministry in the city of Rochester. She is retired now and enjoys the prayer ministry.

 When Sister Catherine Teresa Martin entered the congregation she pictured herself as a teacher for the rest of her life.

She did teach and for 35 years. Then there were new assignments — assisting in the congregation’s novitiate, followed by secretarial service and work with adults. These ministries were followed by 14 years in Selma, Ala., where she worked in the office of the Edmundite Missions. In off hours she was able to visit and give assistance to needy families. She also was instrumental in helping organize the women of the now famous Freedom Quilting Bee Cooperative.

"As I look back over my checkered career," said Sister Martin, "I can truthfully say I’ve had an interesting and challenging life. I give thanks to God for his blessings along the way."

Sister Martin just celebrated her 100th birthday this past fall. She is an active centenarian, regularly contributing to the life of the congregation by editing the SSJ newsletter.

75 Years

 Based on the example of her parents, Sister Teresa Auberger entered the congregation to help others. Her religious name is in honor of St. Theresa, "The Little Flower," to whom Sister Auberger has great devotion.

Throughout her time in religious life, she has taught school (Our Lady of Victory, St. Augustine and Immaculate Conception in Rochester; and St. Patrick, Dansville), served as principal (St. Anthony in Elmira and Blessed Sacrament in Rochester), and worked in various roles within the congregation, including secretary to the congregational president.

Prayer has always been important to Sister Auberger, and she continues to pray for world peace, friends, relatives and all who request her prayers. In her prayer ministry, she also prays for Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Greece.

During her religious life she had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Europe, where the majestic beauty of God’s gifts spoke to her of God’s goodness and the beauty of nature.

 Sister Bernadine Freida’s (formerly Sister Martoni) ambition even as a child growing up was a desire to help others.

"I found the Sisters of St. Joseph perfect for my dream," she said. "I became both a teacher and a health-care provider."

As a teacher she worked in various schools. Her last assignment was DeSales High in Geneva.

In health care, she was executive director of the American Red Cross in the Clara Barton Chapter No. 1 in Dansville.

"I was given the opportunity to see the comprehensive service offered to citizens and I was honored to be a part of it," she said.

She also was an EMT ambulance worker in the Geneva and Dansville areas. At that time she also was a teacher and trainer for EMTs.

On retirement she worked as a nursing assistant in the congregation’s infirmary.

"I am now retired, live with my memories of the past 75 years and thank God for every one of them," Sister Freida said.

70 Years

 At age 10, Sister Anne Helene Brien knew she wanted to be a woman religious.

"I wished to follow in the footsteps of my aunt who was a religious," she said.

In high school she met the SSJs: "At Nazareth Academy, I experienced how the sisters related to people: their friendliness, their care and concern."

She taught for 29 years (Corpus Christi, St. Francis Xavier, Nazareth Academy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Agnes High School, Rochester; St. John the Evangelist, Greece; St. Theodore, Gates; St. Michael, Penn Yan; Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Thomas More, Brighton; St. John, Clyde; St. Gregory, Marion; and St. Patrick, Seneca Falls) then made a change to pastoral work. She ministered at St. Patrick in Seneca Falls and Church of the Epiphany/St. Rose in Sodus. She found working with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program to be meaningful.

"I witnessed the gift of God’s grace actively working in persons’ lives, their growth in understanding the richness of our faith," she said.

Most recently she volunteered at St John’s Meadows, reaching out to those who could no longer be active in a parish.

"I taught Scripture classes, and brought the Eucharist to them to enrich their spiritual lives; while I celebrated birthdays and shared a lunch with them to enrich their social lives. I was able to know each one on a personal basis and continue to pray for them in my prayer ministry," Sister Brien said.

 Sister Irma Coccia remembers with fondness her home parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Rochester and the sisters who sparked her interest in religious life.

"When I was a girl I was always helping the sisters at St. Anthony’s — Sister St. Anthony, Sister Philomena and Sister Leander," she recalled. "I wanted to teach and help the children in school as they did."

She followed her dream of becoming a sister and then taught for 38 years: "I liked teaching, especially at my first mission at Sacred Heart."

She also taught at St. Bridget, Holy Apostles and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Rochester, St. Francis de Sales in Geneva and St. Patrick in Mount Morris.

"After I retired I worked at the motherhouse and then at St. Joseph’s Convent Infirmary, a happy assignment as assistant coordinator for 11 years," Sister Coccia said. "I retired in 1995 and moved to the new motherhouse in 2003 where I have been living happily ever since."

Sister Karen Considine was one of the first graduates of the Nazareth College nursing program. She went on to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira for 30 years, serving as nurse, supervisor and instructor. She fondly remembers her role as night supervisor.

"For seven nights each week I was a present and strong support for staff and for patients and their families," she said. "I was able to create a peaceful, prayerful atmosphere for them during the long hours of night."

She continued her nursing career as an instructor in the Nazareth College Nursing Program. Then she was called elsewhere.

"The congregation needed a qualified person to oversee the move of St. Ann’s Home from Lake Avenue to the larger establishment on Portland Avenue," Sister Considine said. She continued at St. Ann’s for nine years as director of nursing service.

The late ’70s saw another change for her.

"My retreat experiences led me to new ministry," she explained. "I delighted in many activities with parishioners of St. Thomas More as pastoral associate, and as parish administrator."

Enriched by her life’s work in health care and pastoral ministry, Sister Considine continues to cherish her vowed life as a way of loving God. She also acknowledges the importance of her sisters in community.

"The support of these women whose basic values are my own continues to inspire my life of prayer, and to strengthen my commitment to religious life," she said.

60 Years

In celebrating her 60th jubilee, Sister Beverly Baker (formerly Sister Aloysia), is filled with appreciation.

"I am grateful to the Lord who called me from a loving family into the congregation of St. Joseph," she said. "I am grateful to the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me as a child and encouraged me on the journey to my vocation. I am grateful for my teaching years at Mother of Sorrows, Mt. Carmel High School, Auburn, and DeSales High School, Geneva, and for the students and staff with whom I worked there."

Sister Baker also is thankful for her years spent ministering in Brockport. Since 1971 she has coordinated the migrant education program at SUNY Brockport.

"Families of diverse cultures and languages have enriched my life with their religious celebrations, as well as with their friendship, hospitality, and staunch endurance of poverty and hardship," she said. "I praise the Lord for his goodness to me and to all who have touched my life."

 Sister Rosemary Mackie (formerly Sister Columba) was drawn to the Sisters of St. Joseph as a student at Nazareth Academy.

"I saw the spirit of the sisters in their commitment to education and service to the most needy," she recalled. "Integrity mattered to them. I soon wanted to follow in their footsteps."

Sister Rosemary taught at St. Mary, Auburn; St. Monica, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Stanislaus, St. Lucy and St. Agnes High School, Rochester; St. Mary, Waterloo; St. Mary, Dansville; and St. Rose, Lima.

In 1987 she took on a new calling as a housing specialist with Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation Inc.

"My life took on a deeper meaning when I started working in the homes of the most vulnerable families in our local communities," she said. "Through my ministry I have aided in the establishment of housing programs throughout the diocese to meet the needs of lower income families and seniors. This seems to have brought me full circle back to our roots as Sisters of St. Joseph going out among the neighbor and assisting in whatever way possible."

Sister Mackie is thankful for the support of her fellow sisters.

"The Sisters of St. Joseph offer the flexibility and result-driven focus that give support for my ministry. I value our community and the balance of life it offers. We are building hope together for all in our community," she said.

 Sister Shirley Pilot (formerly Sister Mariana) is a codirector at St. Martin’s Place. The SSJ ministry helps individuals and families in Rochester who are in need with a daily meal and many other resources to help get them back on track. When asked how she maintains her steadfastness in meeting the needs of the day, Sister Pilot credits prayer and the support of her fellow sisters.

"It has helped me to know so many wonderful women of the Sisters of St. Joseph who guided me from 1952 to today’s ministry in 2012," she said.

Sister Pilot has spent much of her 60 years as a woman religious devoted to education and pastoral ministry. She taught at St. Anne, St. Monica, Most Precious Blood, Sacred Heart and Nazareth Academy in Rochester and St. Rose in Lima. She also worked in the SSJ mission in Brazil for several years and continued her pastoral work back in Rochester at St. Anthony of Padua and St. Patrick in Rochester. She then served as the diocesan director of campus ministry at Rochester Institute of Technology, followed by work with Sheila Walsh Realty and as a graduate adviser at Nazareth College.

 "I don’t think there has ever been a day in this journey of 60 years that I haven’t thanked God for the call to be a Sister of St. Joseph," said Sister Virginia Schmitz (formerly Sister Loyola). She said the call to religious life has offered many blessings. She spent 11 years in education, teaching at St. Michael in Penn Yan, Sacred Heart in Rochester and Mother of Sorrows in Greece. She then went to Brazil, working as pastoral agent in the SSJ mission. Back in the U.S. she was a pastoral assistant at St. Paul in Oswego, then became a case manager at School of the Holy Childhood in Henrietta. Today, she is a chaplain at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

When asked to share some of the happiest and most memorable moments of these grace-filled years, she said there have been many.

"My years of teaching, though only 11, were very happy and energizing, my years in parish/pastoral ministry both here and in Brazil were very enriching, and my many years in hospital chaplaincy, of which I am still about, very fulfilling. In a word, I have always loved, enjoyed and appreciated being a Sister of St. Joseph," Sister Schmitz said.

"A call to be Sister of St. Joseph challenges me to be a sign of Christ’s healing presence and love among all God’s people wherever I serve," said Sister Concepta Vay.

In her 60 years as a religious, she has found a special calling in education.

"My greatest joy has been teaching young children to love God and to do their best for him," she explained. "This strong desire continues as I work at St. Lawrence School (Greece), Holy Cross School (Charlotte), reading to children at Mary’s Place in Rochester and ministering to the needs at Bethany House (in Rochester)."

For the past 18 years, Sister Vay has spent summers in Alabama, teaching at the Fathers of St. Edmund mission in Pine Apple. She also has served at St. Ambrose, Holy Apostles, Sacred Heart and Nazareth Hall, Rochester; St. Lawrence, Greece; and Sacred Heart, Auburn.

"A prayer rises each morning in my heart for God’s blessings on all the thousands of children in my life," she said.

50 Years

 As Sister Sharon Bailey (formerly Sister Regina Marie) reflects on her religious life, she thinks of her favorite song, "How Can I Keep from Singing."

"The words of the refrain reflect my deep gratitude for God’s unconditional love and presence to me over all these years," she said. "’No storm can shake my inmost soul, while to that rock I’m clinging. Since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?’"

Sister Bailey continues to be filled with joy as God guides her in her current ministry as a massage and polarity therapist. Allowing God to work through her to bring healing to people has been a part of all her ministries. She was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, a pediatric nurse practitioner in a pediatric practice, a clinic nurse for the migrants and a nurse at Corpus Christi Neighborhood Health Clinic.

"I have loved the chance to work one to one with countless individuals," she said. "I have felt God’s presence in those encounters and have felt the mutual recognition of the sacredness of the moment over and over."

She also serves as the congregational formation director, guiding young women in the beginning stages of their religious life.

"I feel privileged to have accompanied the new members through this phase and with them experience God’s Spirit at work again and again," Sister Bailey said.

 Sister Ann Patrice Carrigan is the director of Poetry In Motion, an artist management agency that represents artists and promotes productions all over the world.

In explaining what drives and inspires her life, Sister Carrigan speaks from a background in theater. "A ‘throughline’ is a term used in playwriting. It is the particular insight about life which a playwright communicates through the various actions and motivations of all the characters. In the play of my life there has been a single ministry ‘throughline’ endorsed and empowered by the Sisters of St. Joseph. From mounting plays in grammar school, to directing them at DeSales High School in Geneva and St. Agnes High School in Rochester, to working as literary director at GEVA Theatre and later as coordinator of a national new play festival, and now as director of Poetry In Motion, this ‘throughline’ has threaded my ministry and my life."

How does she explain her commitment of 50 years?

"Life accumulates. What is a calling at age 18 becomes more a state of being 50 years later," she said. "What has accumulated in my life is a sense of God beyond all human knowing and a wealth of relationships in community, theater, business and my neighborhood. Along with those blessings there have been life-altering failures, successes, realizations and a few revelations. The vocation initially embraced at 18 not only gives my life context, it continues to empower it."

"As a teenager, I wanted to do great things with these great women, and, 50 years later, I still marvel at what the Sisters of St. Joseph do," said Sister Carol Cimino (formerly Sister Bernard).

Sister Cimino met the SSJs as a Catholic-school student. She said they provided great models of community, spirituality and professionalism. She followed in that model, ministering in education on many levels.

She taught at Sacred Heart, Auburn; King’s Prep, St. Agnes and Nazareth Academy high schools; and was principal at St. Anthony of Padua, Rochester.

Today she finds herself working several jobs, all having to do with Catholic education on a national level. She is a national consultant for William H. Sadlier, a publishing company. She also works with Catholic School Management Inc. The Connecticut-based firm helps schools and dioceses all over the country with marketing, strategic planning, enrollment management and board formation. In addition she is an associate professor at Manhattan College.

"I started out as a teacher, and still consider myself to be a teacher," Sister Cimino said. "As the Catholic education world has changed, my own ministry has broadened to include all parts of the country. It has given me the privilege of seeing committed, generous, visionary people dedicated to helping people realize their full potential."

 Sister Diane Dennie’s (formerly Sister Eileen) earliest memories of church are happy ones.

"My family placed a high priority on being involved in our parish at Holy Trinity, Webster," she said. "My dad’s sense of humor, sometimes even imitating the way the priest talked, helped us enjoy the trip!"

Two Sisters of St. Joseph greatly influenced her vocation.

"In seventh grade, Sister Marie Vincent Kimball (Holy Trinity) openly showed us love and respect. She called the most ‘impossible’ boys ‘Billy dear’ and ‘Johnny dear.’ Never before did they have nicknames — and they certainly weren’t ‘dear’! I began to think, if I could be like her, I would like to be a sister."

The other sister was her theology teacher at Nazareth College.

"Sister Mary Lourdes MacCarthy’s lively faith, quick wit and loving manner opened my heart to the invitation I had known for a long time," she said.

Sister Dennie ministered in Catholic education for 34 years, including 21 years as principal at St. Lawrence School in Greece.

"I give a special thanks to those wonderful people who supported my ideas and offered their counsel, talents, energy, and friendship," she said.

She also remembers her pastoral work at St. John of Rochester, Fairport; St. Bridget/St. Joseph, East Bloomfield; and St. Michael, Lyons/St. John, Clyde/St. Patrick, Savannah.

"With my love of parish ministry, I have been happy to spend 11 years as a pastoral administrator — supported by wonderful parishioners, staff, and generous priests," she said.

 "Some of my most memorable moments as a Sister of St. Joseph include celebrations and gatherings with the congregation and in parishes where I had the opportunity to minister and celebrate Eucharist," said Sister Kathleen Klier (formerly Sister Frederica) as she reflects on her 50th jubilee.

Sister Klier was an educator for more than 20 years. She taught at St. Monica, Mother of Sorrows and Nazareth Hall, Rochester; St. Alphonsus, Auburn; and St. James, Waverly. She also was principal at St. Francis de Sales School in Geneva, where she was recognized as a strong proponent of Catholic education and a spiritual leader who inspired her faculty, staff, students and families.

Sister Klier’s organizational acumen also served her well in her role as secretary general for the congregation’s leadership team. She currently applies those same skills at the SSJ Motherhouse, attending to scheduling for the motherhouse receptionists. As she reflects on her 50 years as a sister, she sums it up this way: "Each day is an opportunity to serve God and minister to those whom I encounter."

 Sister Mary Anne Laurer (formerly Sister Laurene) was drawn to a religious vocation at a young age.

"The seed of my vocation was planted at the age of 3 when my family ‘ferried’ the sisters at St. Monica Convent to appointments, banks and grocery stores," she said. "I experienced women whose lives appeared joyful, simple, prayerful and dedicated to service. By the time I reached kindergarten, I felt pretty certain that I wanted to follow in their footsteps."

Over the course of the years, Sister Laurer has engaged in various ministries.

"Each ministry seems to have flowed one to the next, allowing me to use my God-given gifts for a particular need at a particular time … teaching, school administration and now the Office for Mission Advancement," she said. "In each profession I was graced to meet people who changed my life, and hopefully for whom I made a difference."

Sister taught at St. Ambrose, Rochester, and St. John the Evangelist, Greece. She also was principal at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brockport, and at Nazareth Hall, Rochester.

Currently, she is director of the SSJ Office for Mission Advancement.

"My work provides the opportunity to support the mission and ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph. While not in the front lines of the work our sisters do," she explained, "I try to serve as their herald and champion, and find people of like mind who believe in and support the work of our sisters through their gifts of time, talent and finances."

 Sister Maria Elena Mariani (formerly Sister Amelia) lives in community at St. Rose’s Parish House in Lima and commutes each day to the SSJ Motherhouse for her ministry.

"God is alive and well in my life and gives me major clues each day," she noted.

With this awareness she said, "I live my life looking for God in the moment. As a Sister of St. Joseph I have been called and challenged to live in this manner. This way of living has permeated my life and ministry."

Sister Mariani has answered the call of ministry joyously.

"I have been fortunate to have had many wonderful mentors in my ministry assignments at Nazareth Academy, Women’s Place, St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, St. Joseph Convent Infirmary and teaching religious education at St. Lawrence (Greece) and Immaculate Conception, Rochester."

Today she continues to grow and challenge herself in her role with the SSJ Office for Mission Advancement. Sister Mariani organizes, edits and designs a biweekly SSJ newsletter. In addition, she contributes to external SSJ communications such as the website, Facebook, Twitter and "Blessings." In these past years, she also has discovered a skill for design. She is responsible for the graphic detail of the letters, brochures and mailings sent from the Office for Mission Advancement. She also creates greeting cards that can be found at the SSJ Gift Shop.

 The Sisters of St. Joseph have been a part of Sister Margaret Mary Ryan’s (formerly Sister Julitta) life as long as she can remember. Growing up, she lived down the street from St. Augustine Convent in Rochester and attended school there, and then moved on to St. Agnes High School. There, she especially remembers her teacher Sister Marie Vincent Kimble.

"She accepted my free spirit and guided me to enter the congregation," she said.

For 32 years Sister Ryan worked in the motherhouse kitchen preparing and serving meals for more than 100 sisters and any groups that came by. She also started making "Sister Margaret Mary’s cookies," which she delivered to local schools, hospitals and businesses, and also shipped around the country.

"Even though I no longer bake the cookies, to this day people still talk about them and ask for the secret recipe," she said, noting that she still keeps the secret!

Currently, she helps maintain the physical care of the motherhouse. During the summers, you can find her mowing and trimming, keeping the grounds in good order.

"This ministry brings me in direct contact with my lifetime loves — the great outdoors and animals," she said.

In the winter, she heads inside where, among other tasks, she repairs and paints walls.

"The best part is that I have freedom as I move through my day to stop and visit the sisters who may need a little extra kindness. I love to see them smile and brighten up when I drop by," she said.

 "Being in love with God is the thread that has woven and continues to weave the pattern of my life," said Sister Jacqueline Stephens.

Sister Stephens has ministered in health care for many of her 50 years as a religious She was head nurse at St. Ann’s Home in Rochester and worked as an RN in the Sisters of St. Joseph Infirmary. She also was a foster parent at Morningstar and director of Sisters Care. Currently, she is a nursing unit secretary at the motherhouse. She said most of her years of nursing were "dedicated to caring for the elderly. The love I experienced flowing out of their wisdom and grace has nourished me in so many ways. As I have stepped out of active nursing and experience other ministries, their presence continues as a source of great grace and growth for me."

As she reflects on her jubilee, Sister Stephens finds "my spiritual journey is a continual ‘waking up to the nearness of God,’ as German philosopher Meister Eckhart says, ‘A God who creates the entire universe with unbelievable mystery and wonder.’ As I age and step back from the busyness of those more active years in ministry, I am called to follow other words of Eckhart, to ‘cherish in yourself the birth of God.’"

 Sister Elizabeth Theresa Sutter (formerly Sister Mary Joan) remembers the first time she met a sister.

"My mother visited her former teacher, Sister Grace, at D’Youville College in Buffalo and she took me along," she said. "Sister Grace told my mother that, as a female, I should learn karate. I was a ‘tomboy,’ so sister became my new hero!"

Sister Sutter has served in many and varied ministries in her 50 years. A common thread throughout has been her years in education and love for music. One ministry in particular gave her special joy.

"I was the director of personnel for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Latham, N.Y.," she said. "As you know, religious sisters are known for serving others. In this ministry I was able to serve the sisters. This was a humbling and rewarding experience."

Currently, Sister Sutter is director of technology at Nazareth Elementary School in Rochester.

"Being a part of this group of dedicated women is such a source of inspiration and strength. The collective wisdom and generosity is astounding. I am truly grateful to God for calling me to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester," she said.

Tags: Religious Orders
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