The following Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester are celebrating jubilees of 75, 70, 60 and 50 years in 2015. Many of the sisters have recalled their decades in ministry in their own words.
Sister Concetta Mitrano said her family was blessed. "We were nine children and four are religious — one priest and three sisters."
Her sisters are Sister Ann Regina Mitrano, SSJ, and Sister Cora Marie Mitrano, SSJ. Her brother is Father Joe Mitrano, CSB.
Sister Mitrano credits her mother for inspiring her children’s calling. "My mother had great devotion to St. Theresa, the Little Flower of Jesus."
Sister Mitrano’s home parish is St. Anthony of Padua in Rochester. After graduating from Nazareth Academy in 1939, she entered the congregation and taught first grade. "All through the years, the children, as well as their parents, were beautiful, caring and loving people," she recalled.
She taught at Corpus Christi, St. Joseph’s Villa, Holy Apostles, St. Anthony of Padua and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rochester; St. Patrick, Corning; St. Michael, Penn Yan; Holy Trinity, Webster; St. Patrick, Mount Morris; and St. Joseph, Wayland.
Since retiring, Sister Mitrano has been involved in the prayer ministry at the motherhouse in Pittsford.
"Someone once said, ‘We live our lives forward, but we understand them backwards,’" said Sister Marie Albert Alderman.
"My mother believed all children should have some religious upbringing and, at the age of 21, make their own choice about religion. And so it happened that I became the only Catholic in my family. I realized at an early age that to have any experience of faith, hope and love, I needed to understand and share who Jesus is in my life.
"When I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, I hoped to have the opportunity to work amongst the poor in Selma, Ala. I was blessed to have this wish come true and spent many years in rural Alabama, most recently from 1992-2002. I continue to be shocked that in one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the world, we still have people who live without water and electricity. There is still much to be done.
"Now, 70 years later, I am still holding true to my belief, ‘Just trust in Jesus and you will know the way. Listen and God’s words will lead you.’
"I often think of all those who had dreams but were unable to fulfill them. Through the grace of God I have truly lived my dream."
"It was while praying at Immaculate Conception Church, Rochester, that I remember I first heard God calling me to live a consecrated life," said Sister Mary Dorothy Burnett. "This was a strong, personal experience I have never forgotten. I answered yes to that call and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. Daily, I thank my loving God for calling me.
"For 38 years I had the joyful privilege of serving as teacher and later administrator in diocesan Catholic schools: St. Ambrose; Nativity, Brockport; Sacred Heart Cathedral; Most Precious Blood; St. Mary, Elmira; St. Alphonsus, Auburn; St. Thomas More; and Holy Trinity, Webster.
"Ministry then took me to St. Ann’s Home, where I served as receptionist. How life-giving it was to greet the many people of God who visited their loved ones.
"Along the way, both in community and ministry, I have been blessed to walk in the presence of people who witness to the love of God and serve to bring about God’s reign."
"My life as a Sister of St. Joseph has been quite ordinary — at the beginning — and a bit different toward the present," noted Sister Catherine Foos (formerly Sister Barbara Ann).
"I was born in Rochester, attended Holy Rosary School and Nazareth Academy. Right after high school, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
"My first assignment was at St. Lucy’s, teaching first and second grades for four years. I have never regretted those years. I learned a lot from the children and loved teaching there. After that I taught at Nazareth College for 25 years.
"Then I served four years on the SSJ Leadership Team, followed by a year’s study (now called sabbaticals). After this I asked if I could go to Brazil and work with our sisters there. I stayed there for 17 years (having planned on staying just six years!). When I came back, I worked as office manager at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center for five or six years and then "retired," doing some volunteer work at times.
"I have enjoyed each experience as it came along. I could not say which I liked best. I am now retired and enjoy reading and participating in the reading group, ‘Tea and Books,’ and the Shawl Ministry Group. There is always plenty to do and learn and enjoy."
"I was born into a large Catholic family, and my mother and dad taught the 10 of us our prayers long before we went to school," recalled Sister Grace Noël Gleichauf. "I truly believe my call to religious life came as early as first grade.
"As a sister, I taught young children in Catholic elementary schools for 17 years (St. Anthony of Padua, Corpus Christi, St. Stephen, St. Bridget). My next assignment was St. Joseph’s Villa, where I worked in purchasing and as a cottage relief mother. Following this, I was on the staff of our prayer center while having the privilege of being a eucharistic minister at Highland Hospital.
"I returned to education, teaching religion at Immaculate Conception School in Ithaca, N.Y. In 1998, I became the sacristan at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, and since 2010 have worked in a variety of congregational services.
"All my days have been filled with blessings and graces, and for this I am most grateful."
"When I was young, my family moved to Interlaken, N.Y., where I spent many happy years," said Sister Beverly Jones (formerly Sister Agnes Louise). "After graduating from high school I went to Nazareth College, where I majored in music. While there I felt drawn to serve God in religious life, and I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1944.
"I studied at the Eastman School of Music for my master’s degree in music education. My major instrument was organ, and for many years I was organist at our motherhouse and at Nazareth Academy.
"My first teaching assignment was at Nazareth Academy, where I taught for 49 years. Primarily I taught piano and band instruments. The girls especially enjoyed playing in the band.
"My second ministry was at our SSJ infirmary as coordinator of volunteers. The volunteers were invaluable, and to this day I treasure that experience.
"Now retired, my prayer ministry is foremost. I am very grateful for all the blessings and graces God has given me through the years, and all the wonderful people, young and old, who have enriched my life.
"It’s a wonderful life!" exclaimed Sister Cora Marie Mitrano about being a Sister of St. Joseph.
"I grew up in St. Anthony of Padua Parish and attended grammar school there. After graduating from there, I went to Nazareth Academy.
"My first teaching assignment was at Holy Apostles School, where I taught for five happy years. Next, in 1952, I was assigned to teach at my alma mater, Nazareth Academy. I enjoyed seeing generations of students graduate from Nazareth Academy in my 62 years there.
"God has blessed me with good health, and I am now enjoying my volunteer work at the motherhouse in our Office for Mission Advancement, where I keep in touch with Nazareth Academy alumnae and our SSJ donors.
"I pray every day for my family and for all the wonderful people God has sent into my life."
Sister Mary Kevin Moynihan initially entered a Benedictine order but later chose the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her mother’s response the second time: "You’ll be home!" Sister Moynihan’s response today: "Not for a single second in all these years have I ever had a doubt!"
The early years of her teaching career were spent in Rochester at St. Monica and St. Francis Xavier; in Gates at St. Theodore; in Dansville at St. Patrick and St. Mary; and in Elmira at Ss. Peter and Paul. After receiving a master’s degree at Boston University, Sister Moynihan taught in the business department at Nazareth Academy for 22 years. She continued on in the school in auxiliary positions for another 27 years. In total, she lived and worked for 50 years at the academy. "My favorite years," she recalled.
Throughout Sister Moynihan’s life, visiting with her large family and helping with "baby-sitting and dog walking" gave her much joy. Until recently, Sister Moynihan was an avid gardener and now looks forward to celebrating 100 years of life in June.
"When I became a Sister of St. Joseph in 1944, I wanted to attain a closer relationship with Jesus," recalled Sister Julia Clare Richards. "My parents, parish, and teachers sowed the seeds of this relationship."
This relationship has been evidenced as Sister Richards served in Catholic schools, religious-education programs and elder care all around the diocese: Holy Rosary and Nazareth Academy, Rochester; St. John the Evangelist, Greece; St. Mary, Canandaigua; St. Mary, Dansville; St. Agnes, Avon; St. Mary, St. Patrick Junior High and Sister Care, Elmira; and St. James, Waverly. She now manages the religious life library at the motherhouse.
"Throughout these 70 years, I have been blessed to enjoy the growth of many friendships with those young in life as well as those in their golden years," Sister Richards said.
"The sisters at Nazareth Academy, where I attended high school, were powerful witnesses to religious life, and it was there that I felt the call to religious life," noted Mary Catherine Shay (formerly Sister Marie Gregory).
"World War II was in process when I entered the congregation. My father was an air raid warden. Food and other goods were being rationed, and we all had Victory Gardens to help supplement our food supply. As students at Nazareth Academy, we were involved in war support projects, such as wrapping bandages, writing to the soldiers and praying for them. I think all of this indirectly influenced my desire to be a Sisters of St. Joseph.
"I was initially trained to become a teacher, but when Reverend Mother asked me about being a nurse, I agreed — and I loved it! I studied and graduated from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, where I went on to become a nurse and teacher. I especially loved obstetrics — sharing in the joy of bringing new life into the world!"
For 18 of her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Barbara Gulino (formerly Sister Fidelis) was an elementary educator. Her first mission was the newly opened Christ the King School in Irondequoit. Following that she worked at the cathedral parish; St. Mary, Dansville; Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Immaculate Conception, Rochester; St. Anthony, Elmira; and St. Thomas More, Brighton. Through these positions she ministered to people of many economic levels and became familiar with Rochester’s urban culture.
A desire for working with adults in pastoral ministry then drew her into hospital chaplaincy. At St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira she worked with the Discalced Carmelites as the hospital’s first woman chaplain. Returning to Rochester, she served at Blessed Sacrament as a pastoral associate and outreach minister to the sick and those lacking housing or other basic needs.
She also served with the Daughters of Charity at St. Mary’s Hospital as a chaplain, and continued her ministry for the next 10 years during the merger with Park Ridge Hospital. Today, she continues as a volunteer at Unity Hospital, Bethany House and the SSJ Sisters Care agency.
"I first met the Sisters of St. Joseph when I received a partial scholarship to Nazareth College in 1950, a year after emigrating from Germany," said Sister Maria Kellner." I was inspired by the sisters’ kindness, generosity, simplicity and care for the individual as well as their competence in their respective fields.
"Sister Marie Augustine Smalt, my major professor in chemistry, helped me enter the convent in 1954, after I had worked in a research laboratory at Strong Memorial Hospital for a year. One time when I said I was doing things FOR Jesus, she replied: ‘Do everything WITH Jesus.’
"I am most grateful to God for giving me a happy life in community and the ability to spread his kingdom by teaching the sciences and religion at St. Agnes High School and at Nazareth Academy. After I contracted MS, I asked to work as pastoral care minister with our elderly sisters at our infirmary, trying to let them know how much God cared for them. Now I am a well-taken-care-of patient myself, looking forward to seeing God’s face."
"One of the many times I have been surrounded by the majestic Adirondack high peaks, I felt especially moved. I sensed the ‘Spirit of the Lord was — upon me.’ A desire arose in me to live my life in the Divine Presence of the Creator of this beauty," explained Sister Loretta Poole.
"The trail head that beckoned led to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Happy trails that followed have led me into ministries, mainly with elder persons and in geriatric health care.
"At the outset of my religious life, I thought about serving others. It soon became clear that others were extending support and care for me! This helped me to realize the value and importance of loving relationships and mutuality.
"Living in community, I thrive on the atmosphere of spiritual encouragement, which instills an interior freedom, peace and gratitude. These experiences lead me into a ‘future full of hope.’"
"I was born, brought up and educated in Rochester, N.Y.," said Sister Jeannine Scheg. "Following my graduation from Nazareth College, I began teaching in Webster and started graduate studies at the University of Rochester.
"In 1954, I decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester. In these 60 years, I have had many types of work and have enjoyed each one. I taught elementary, high school and college, and was administrator in several high schools. I was chaplain at the maximum security prison in Elmira and supervised the health clinic at Holy Childhood. For a few years, I was administrator of our former SSJ Motherhouse Infirmary, and then became librarian for a local elementary school. In my mid-’70s, I began volunteering several days a week in our Sisters Care program and at St. Martin’s Kitchen.
"As you can see, I have been blessed many times over in my life, first of all with loving parents, a wonderful family and many good friends, and then with a vocation which brings me rich graces every day."
"My childhood years were spent on a farm. My exploration of the fields and woods was the beginning of a love of the natural world. I learned about listening, observing and quiet during those years," recalled Sister Constance Mary Bickford (formerly Sister Mary Alma).
"I attended high school at Immaculate Heart Academy in Watertown. The idea of being a sister was sown there. However, I was intent on becoming a veterinarian and suggested to God that he look for someone else! God is patient and persuasive. I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Watertown and later transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester. My first 22 years of ministry were in education. In the Diocese of Rochester, I taught at St. Pius Tenth, Rochester; St. Mary’s, Canandaigua; Holy Family Catholic School System, Elmira; and Nazareth Academy. This was followed by 19 years in the finance office of the congregation. I currently serve at Cobblestone Springs, a retreat center in Dundee.
"I am grateful for God’s faithful love through these years, especially in the relationships and opportunities with which I have been blessed. All is(a) gift."
"The Sisters of St. Joseph have been a part of my life since I was young," said Sister Kathleen Fletcher (formerly Sister Thomas Ann). "I was taught by the sisters in grammar school at St. Augustine and in high school at St. Agnes. When I was in high school, I decided to enter the convent. From the time I was young I wanted to be a teacher. I loved my years of teaching, over 30 years in many of our elementary schools. Then I worked for several years at Morning Star and Daystar with medically fragile infants and children. Now I am working with elderly people at our ministry of Sisters Care.
"I have been blessed over the years with wonderful support from family, friends and many sisters."
"I am grateful that my childhood and teen wonderment about God expanded at Nazareth College and through these many years in and with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester," said Sister Elizabeth Anne (Beth) LeValley. "We, with so many others, care and struggle with things of God and value and service. I am also grateful to the hundreds of people who have supported my various ministries and projects over these years, with more to come."
"I can truly say that my life as a Sister of St. Joseph has been marked by joy," noted Sister Anne Marvin (formerly Sister Christian). "I actually even enjoyed most of the novitiate experience! For 29 years I taught in diocesan Catholic schools in St. Patrick’s, Mount Morris; St. Francis de Sales, Geneva; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rochester; and St. Mary’s, Waterloo. I spent so much time teaching in seventh grade that I still feel like a 12-year-old!
"Then, I felt another vocational call, much like the first and lasting several years. The result this time was that I found myself on a plane going to Brazil. During these years, my understanding and love of religious life has grown. In 2009 Sister Suzanna Wills and I answered a request to join two sisters from two other religious congregations to live in a remote part of Brazil that has never known women religious. One day, speaking at an assembly of religious about this experience, I heard myself say, ‘If religious life had never existed, I would have had to invent it.’ So much joy!"
Throughout her years of vowed life with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Susan Schantz (formerly Sister Robert Marion) has been thankful for the support of her sisters and her family. She said they have kept her rooted in faith and love. "God has shared amazing graces with us, especially through times of family, congregational and church crisis," she said.
Sister Schantz has ministered in education, teaching at St. Alphonsus in Auburn, St. Ambrose and St. Agnes in Rochester, and Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton. She also was the chaplain at Highland Hospital in Rochester.