Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester celebrate 2023 jubilarians - Catholic Courier

Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester celebrate 2023 jubilarians

The following Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester are celebrating jubilees in 2023.

75 Years

Sister McGill: Served in education, was first pastoral administrator

Sr. Anne Michelle McGill

Sister Anne Michelle McGill began her ministry as a teacher at St. Alphonsus School in Auburn before moving to St. Anne School in Rochester. From there, she helped establish new schools at St. Jerome Parish in East Rochester and St. Thomas More Parish in Brighton. She was named principal of St. Rose School in Lima and then of Holy Trinity School in Webster. Sister McGill served as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools and also as pastoral associate at St. Pius Tenth Parish in Chili.

In 1994, she became the first non-ordained minister in the Diocese of Rochester to lead a Catholic parish as the pastoral administrator of St. Gabriel Parish in Hammondsport. Following her retirement from pastoral ministry, she became director of resident priests at the SSJ motherhouse and worked on the Tanzanian Sister Exchange Program.

“I have learned so much from the ministries I have undertaken,” she said. “I love the children, parents and parishioners at every parish I served, and have found my service as an administrator to be rewarding and a source of growth for me.”

Sister McGill currently resides at the SSJ motherhouse and continues to pray for all who have touched her life.

Sister St. Peter: Served in education and congregational leadership

Sister Rosemary St. Peter
Sr. Rosemary St. Peter

Sister Rosemary St. Peter (formerly Sister William Mary) has ministered in education and congregational leadership. Following her entrance from Holy Rosary Parish in Rochester, Sister Rosemary taught at St. Joseph, Wayland; St Mary, Canandaigua; Blessed Sacrament, Rochester; and St. John the Evangelist, Greece. She was principal at St. Patrick, Seneca Falls; St. Ambrose, Rochester; and Holy Trinity, Webster.

After education, she served in congregational leadership as president. One of her responsibilities was overseeing the congregation’s move from East Avenue to French Road. She is currently the congregational transportation coordinator.

“As a young sister, I was called to move from convent to convent, almost on a yearly basis,” Sister St. Peter said. “Each move required me to learn how to teach a different grade level and do work that I never thought I would be able to do. Those early years taught me to be flexible and stood me in good stead, as a teacher, school principal, in congregational leadership, and now in continued service to the community.

“The call to religious life, just as the call to every other vocation, requires me to be faithful to a life of prayer. Each day I ask for God’s continued grace to be faithful to the call to religious life, and to the daily call to serve Christ in those who cross my path.”

70 Years

Sister Burley: Ministered in education and health care

Sister Melita Burley
Sr. Melita Burley

As a young woman attending Nazareth Academy, Sister Melita Burley’s great admiration for the Sisters of St. Joseph inspired a life’s vocation as a woman religious. “I know that this is where God has called me and is present to me in every event and situation in joy and in sorrow,” Sister Burley said.

After entering the congregation and graduating from Nazareth College, she became a teacher. “Nearly all of my 50 years of teaching were enjoyable and rewarding: grades 3, 4, 7 at St. Monica’s and 21 years at St. Agnes High School.” She also was a “teaching librarian” at Nazareth Hall Elementary School. “When I had the library at Nazareth Hall, the youngest children (preK-grade 2) used to come in for story time. I loved to ‘dramatize’ the characters — watching the little ones respond with wide eyes and rapt attention.”

From education, Sister Burley went to work in health care with the SSJ ministry, Sisters Care. The ministry helped care for people who were elderly or sick. “Sisters Care, also, put me in touch with beautiful people — my clients and their families.”

Sister Burley currently resides at the SSJ motherhouse. She continues to pray for all who have touched her life and for all the many blessings God has granted her throughout her life.

Sister Cameron: Served in education, social ministry and communications

Sr. Sienna Cameron
Sr. Sienna Cameron

“As a recent graduate of Mercy High School and parishioner of St. James Parish, Irondequoit, I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1952,” said Sister Sienna Cameron.

“I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph in grammar school. In these women I saw an aura of peacefulness, a quiet gentleness, prayerfulness and dedication. Even then I thought, ‘Someday I want to be one of them.’

“Teaching school-age children 5 to 12 years old for 12 years and then moving on to secretarial support services was challenging. My first assignment was in the SSJ public relations/communications office. Sister Mary John Van Atta and I did our own photography — from picture taking to developing; content and layout of publications, Dialogue and Contact; a weekly congregational newsletter and an updated version of the congregational ‘Mug Book,’ a photo album of all our sisters.

“In 1979, I joined the staff in the social ministry department for the Diocese of Rochester. Being the support person for very dedicated men and women (Father Bill Spilly, Lourdes Perez-Albuerne and many others), working with and for the most vulnerable in our society was rewarding.

“The privilege of traveling to Rome with Bishop Clark in 1983, celebrating at Mass with him at the tomb of St. Peter and walking with him to the Basilica of St. Maria Sopra Minerva, where the body of St. Catherine of Siena is buried, is one of the most memorable moments I have as a Sister of St. Joseph.

“Living as a Sister of St. Joseph has been a great blessing for me. I have benefited from the love, support, challenges and understanding of my sisters in community. I have learned the value of working together with those having the same goals and vision, trusting that God will always grace our way.”

Sister Riley: Relied on God’s strength during personal, ministerial challenges

Sr. Jamesine Riley
Sr. Jamesine Riley

“When I was 12 years old, I experienced the death of an older brother who was 24. This profoundly affected me, leading me to contemplate the fragility of life and ultimately to think about how I was going to spend my life,” said Sister Jamesine Riley. “In doing this, I was greatly influenced by the values my parents instilled in me, values of faith, honesty, fidelity and love. Then, during my early years as a student, I was impressed by the Sisters of St. Joseph. They were wonderful models for me, and I grew in my desire to choose a life such as theirs, totally dedicated to God and others. I followed the call to respond to this desire 70 years ago.

“Through a variety of ministries during these years, I always felt privileged to share in the lives of all who came into my daily life. Also, living in community with others who share the same mission and God-centered lives enriches me as a woman religious, especially as a Sister of Saint Joseph.

“All my years in religious life have been happy ones – no regrets. I faced enormous challenges, in my ministerial life and in my personal life, but God is and always has been my rock and strength. The love and support of my sisters and friends is a constant reminder of God’s love for me. It is impossible to have words to express my gratitude for all the blessings of these years.”

Sister Whalen: Served schools and parishes and in pastoral care

Sister Judith Whalen
Sr. Judith Whalen

“I entered the congregation from St. Louis Parish in Pittsford,” said Sister Judith Whalen. “I have taught or been principal at Sacred Heart, Christ the King, St. Thomas More, Our Lady of Lourdes and Seton Junior High in Rochester; St. Stephen, Geneva; and St. Mary, Auburn. I have also ministered as director of novices and juniors. After that, I was pastoral minister at St. Rita in Webster for 14 years. Following that I worked in volunteer pastoral care at Monroe Community Hospital for 16 years. Currently, in retirement at our motherhouse, I am grateful to spend more time in prayer and helping others. It has been a privilege and a joy to reach out to so many of God’s wonderful people in so many different settings.

“The friendships and opportunities for growth afforded me as a Sister of St. Joseph have been a blessing and have given rise to stretching out of my comfort zone, something that can be so easy to move into. Growing along — together with so many good women — from striving for perfection, as stated early on in religious life, to growing in love and responding to life out of love for God. This new way of walking with Christ and community is a daily inspiration and gives me energy to love God’s will in my life. Gratitude fills my heart!”

60 Years

Sister Carroll: Teacher, school administrator

Sr. Patricia Carroll
Sr. Patricia Carroll

Sister Patricia E. Carroll’s years of educational ministry span teaching and administration. Sister Carroll (formerly Sister Marie Margot) taught at St. Stanislaus, Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ambrose in Rochester, and St. Paul’s Academy in Oswego. Her work as an administrator began at St. Patrick Junior High and Holy Family Junior High in Elmira. Then she ministered at the diocesan Catholic schools office as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools for government services, administration and educational technology.

“I missed being a middle-school administrator, but soon learned that as assistant superintendent I had found another way to teach,” Sister Carroll said. “My coaching of school administrators and teachers made a difference for students and their families. I especially valued my leadership work with the Creating a Safe Environment program, a national effort to address and prevent child abuse in Catholic schools and dioceses. Educational technology was another area where I learned and led in our Catholic schools.” After diocesan service, Sister Carroll also served as president of Nazareth Schools and administrator of the congregational motherhouse.

Throughout her years of religious life, she has been thankful for the support of her family, her sisters and the generous people she served. She said they have kept her rooted in faith and God’s love, concluding, “God has shared amazing graces with us through times of family, congregational and church crisis.”

Sister Connor: Served in education and health care

Sr. Sheila Connor
Sr. Sheila Connor

“After 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I still feel pride and happiness with the life we live,” said Sister Sheila Connor (formerly Sister de Neri). “In these years, I have been privileged to minister as a teacher, principal, physician assistant, and an advocate for our elderly sisters. I have also had the opportunity to live in the city, suburbs and in small towns around Rochester. I thank God for the path he chose for me and look forward to more years of service.”

Sister Hasselwander: Spent many happy years as a music teacher

Sister Joanne Hasselwander
Sr. Hasselwander

Sister Joanne Hasselwander (formerly Sister Nathaniel) was drawn to the Sisters of St. Joseph at a young age. “I thought about being a sister since second grade,” she said. “The sisters were kind, loving and joyful.”

As a music teacher, Sister Hasselwander has many happy memories of her time teaching in local Catholic schools such as St. Agnes High School, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Christ the King, St. Anne’s, St. Thomas More, Queen of Peace, Guardian Angels and Nativity, Brockport. “I loved my 10 years as music consultant at SSJ schools,” she said. “Traveling and meeting so many sisters and children has enriched my life.” Many summers were devoted to ministering as a drummer liturgist for retreats at Stella Maris in Skaneateles.

Currently, Sister Hasselwander resides at the SSJ motherhouse and enjoys her prayer ministry and sharing her joy with her sisters and friends.

Sister Jongen: Began as a teacher and now serves as a receptionist

Sr. Rita Jongen
Sr. Rita Jongen

Real, smart, fun — those are some of the qualities Sister Rita Jongen (formerly Sister Theodosia) found attractive about the Sisters of St. Joseph when she was a student at Nazareth Academy. She wrote this for her 50th jubilee, and, 10 years later, it is still true.

Sister Jongen has fond memories of her teaching years at Corpus Christi, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Nazareth Academy, saying, “Those were the days, my friends.”

She continued, “God has been my stronghold, my refuge and my best friend all these years, and I trust that this will continue for the rest of my life.”

Currently, Sister Jongen is the receptionist for the SSJ leadership team, a position she has held since 2006.

Sister Kuhl: Serves as missionary in Brazil

Sr. Ellen Kuhl
Sr. Ellen Kuhl

Sister Ellen Kuhl, (formerly Sister St. Paul) has been serving in the Sisters of St. Joseph mission in Brazil for 50 years.

“After eight years as a teacher in parochial schools of the diocese (Geneva, Rochester and Auburn), I responded to the call for consecrated religious to serve in Latin America, becoming part of the SSJ Brazil mission in 1973,” said Sister Kuhl. “There I ministered as a pastoral agent among the people in small rural communities as well as outlying regions of two large cities. Our congregation began accepting new Brazilian members in 1983; Sister Mary Anne Turner and I opened the first SSJ novitiate community in 1984 in Goiânia, Goiás. Another ministry caught my interest in 2003; I trained and became a massage and craniosacral therapist, instructor of infant massage and doula, all of which still claim my passion to serve.

“Looking forward after 60 years as an SSJ in both Rochester and Brazil, I gratefully realize that God is always present, calling each of us to be present wherever we are and whatever we do.”

Sister Turner: Was transformed by work as missionary in Brazil

Sr. Mary Anne Turner
Sr. Mary Anne Turner

Sister Mary Anne Turner’s mission work in Brazil is a personal highlight as she reflects on her 60th jubilee.

Sister Turner (formerly Sister Dolores) was a pastoral agent in the SSJ mission in Brazil for almost seven years. Along with another 60-year jubilarian, Sister Ellen Kuhl, she helped open the first SSJ novitiate community in 1984 in Goiânia. “The experience of sharing life and faith with people who were struggling in their day-to-day existence was a transforming one for me,” said Sister Turner. Today, she is the director of technology at the SSJ motherhouse.

Her call to religious life began as a student at Nazareth Academy. “Sisters of St. Joseph were my teachers, mentors and friends throughout my years as a student,” Sister Turner said. “In high school I developed a strong interest in science, and thanks to an exceptional biology teacher, also began to discover the wonder of God at work in the natural world, and especially in the evolutionary process. This made me eager to join these dedicated women.”

What continues to give her inspiration and meaning? “Sharing daily life and mission with women who strive to respond to the call of the Spirit to further God’s ongoing work of unification among all people,” she said.

Tags: Religious Orders
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