Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester reflect on their ministries - Catholic Courier

Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester reflect on their ministries

The following Sisters of St. Joseph are celebrating jubilees in 2022.

75 Years

“For most of my life as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have taught mathematics,” said Sister Ann Xavier Gantert. “I wanted my students to appreciate the logic and beauty of mathematics in God’s world and I hoped that they would look for that logic and beauty in their lives and use that awareness for a better world. When I began writing mathematical textbooks, I was aware that my love of the logic and beauty of mathematics could extend beyond my classroom to teachers and students who used these books in their classrooms.

“When I was no longer able to teach or write, my ministry changed. I am grateful to God for my ability to sew and to knit, skills that enable me to produce useful items that bring the beauty of God’s world of color and into homes.”

Sister Mary Christopher Kuchman entered the congregation from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Rochester.

“Now in my 90s and reflecting on my jubilee year, I recall that I always wanted to be a missionary and a nurse, and the Holy Spirit led me to the Sisters of St. Joseph. From my first assignment as a teacher at St. Michael’s School in Penn Yan, N.Y., to St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Elmira, N.Y., to Nazareth College, to director of Good Samaritan Hospital School of Practical Nursing in Selma, Ala., to the Seneca County Health Department in Waterloo, N.Y., and finally parish ministry at St. Mary’s in Waterloo, N.Y., I have carried Christ to God’s people and fulfilled my missionary and nurse calling. What a blessed wonderful world of adventure in God’s plan for me these 75 years.”

In her current prayer ministry, Sister Kuchman prays for all those who have been and are a part of her life today.

Sister Ann Regina Mitrano entered the congregation from her home parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Rochester. Sister Mitrano taught at St. Ambrose, St. Lucy, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Monica and St. Augustine in Rochester; St. Alphonsus in Auburn; St. John the Evangelist in Greece; and Our Lady of Lourdes and Seton Catholic School in Brighton. She also was assistant director of novices for the congregation and principal of St. Lucy and St. Jerome in East Rochester.

Speaking about her 75 years as an SSJ, she said, “Education was a primary ministry when I entered, and I was sent out to teach in 1948. I remained in that field for 45 years. After full-time retirement, I volunteered at Hope Hall. Teaching religion, encouraging self-confidence and instilling a love for learning in all my students were very rewarding. As the number of sisters decreased in the schools, the response by lay faculties and their dedication has added many new friends in my life.

“Each day is a gift with its challenges as I continue as a Sister of St. Joseph. Daily prayer, Eucharist and private devotions have sustained me and will continue as I praise and give thanks for my vocation.”

70 Years

“I am grateful to the Lord for calling me from a large, loving family to the Family of Joseph,” said Sister Beverly Baker (formerly Sister Aloysia). “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 Elementary School, Mt. Carmel High School, Auburn, and DeSales High School, Geneva, and for the students and staff with whom I worked there.

“I am especially grateful for the 35 years I spent coordinating the Migrant Education Program at SUNY Brockport and for the richness accorded me in working with a diverse multilingual staff. I am grateful for the families of various cultures and languages who have enriched my life with their religious celebrations as well as their friendship, hospitality, and staunch endurance of poverty and hardship.

“I am grateful for the love and support of my family and friends, for the 50 years of presence at Nativity BVM Church in Brockport, and the welcoming love of the ministers and people of the parish.

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

In 1987, she took on a new calling as a housing specialist with Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation. “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 disadvantaged 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, and now, I am ending my active ministry with the completion of our newest housing project located at Mackie Lane.”

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.

“A call to be a 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 70 years as Sister of St. Joseph, 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 said.

Sister Vay taught at St. Ambrose, Holy Apostles, Sacred Heart and Nazareth Hall in Rochester; St. Lawrence in Greece; St. Jerome in East Rochester; and Sacred Heart in Auburn. For 18 years, she spent summers in Alabama, teaching at the Fathers of St. Edmund mission in Pine Apple.

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

60 Years

Sister Sharon Bailey (formerly Sister Regina Marie) reflects on her life as a Sister of St. Joseph, thinking of her favorite song, “How Can I Keep From Singing.” “The words of the refrain reflect my deep gratitude for God‘s continuous 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 has had joy through her ministries in the health-care field to encounter many kinds of people in many different settings. She has had the opportunity to work one on one with countless individuals and has felt God’s presence in these encounters and felt the mutual recognition of the sacredness of the moment over and over.

Currently, she is a director for the SSJ Associates program. “I feel privileged to accompany these good women and men as they seek to deepen their relationship with God and serve others,” she said.

“To all that has been, thanks for all that is and will be yes!”

Sister Ann Patrice Carrigan is the director of Poetry In Motion, an artist management agency representing actor-playwrights who perform their works in colleges, universities, performing arts centers and theaters across the country and abroad (Hong Kong, London and Salzburg).

She is a member of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and the North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents Association. She was the literary director at Geva Theatre for 10 years and the coordinator of Geva’s national new play festival.

Further back were many grammar and high-school plays at Guardian Angels Grammar School in Henrietta, St. Stephen’s Grammar School and DeSales High School in Geneva, and St. Agnes High School in Rochester.

“Those schools and convents are gone,” she said. “Yet, those ‘armies’ of grammar and high-school students and the truly wonderful women in my congregation with whom I lived in Geneva and Rochester are among the core blessings and memories of my life.”

“I was so fortunate to have had a Catholic education myself, and even more blessed to have had the opportunity to be a Catholic educator as a Sister of St. Joseph over these 60 years,” said Sister Carol Cimino (formerly Sister Bernard).

Sister Cimino taught in elementary and high schools in the Diocese of Rochester from 1965 to 1987. In 1987, she moved to Albany to take on the role of associate director of the Catholic School Administrators’ Association of New York State, and eventually became that organization’s executive director. At that time, she also served as an associate professor at Manhattan College. In 2003, she became a national consultant for Sadlier Publishing in New York City and Catholic School Management in Madison, Conn.

In 2013, she became superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Buffalo and collaborated with 60 elementary and high schools. Retiring in 2018, she has taken on the roles of substitute principal and teacher, and she even did a stint as a kitchen helper for a local school’s lunch program.

In 2022, she published her third book, The Best Girls in the World, a history of the 80 years of the presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph in central Alabama.

“God is alive and well in my life and gives me major clues each day,” said Sister Maria Elena Mariani (formerly Sister Amelia).

With this awareness, she lives her life looking for God in the moment.

“As a Sister of St. Joseph I have been called and challenged to live in this manner,” she said. “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 and Immaculate Conception, Rochester.”

Today she is an integral team member of the SSJ Office for Mission Advancement. Sister Mariani helps maintain the SSJ website and social media, as well as doing graphic design. A Nazareth Academy graduate and former faculty member, she also provides a connect to former students who want to relate to the congregation.

“God could not have planned my life better,” said Sister Margaret Mary Ryan (formerly Sister Julitta) as she reflects on her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been a part of Sister Ryan’s life as long as she can remember. Growing up, she lived down the street from St. Augustine Convent 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,” Sister Ryan said.

For 32 years, she was the director of food services at the motherhouse kitchen preparing and serving meals for more than 100 sisters and any groups that came by. She also started “Sister Margaret Mary’s cookies,” which she delivered to local schools, hospitals, and businesses, and shipped all 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 the recipe is still a secret.

Sister Ryan also loves animals and over the years has cared for many, including her beloved horses, dogs and cats. Currently, she helps maintain the physical care of the motherhouse. During the warmer months, 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 currently works as part of a team meeting the needs of the sisters and priests residing at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse.

“As I reflect on these past 60 years, what has become deeply evident to me is God’s unconditional love permeating all of creation. In the midst of the terrible events happening in our world today, I remember a part of our mission statement: ‘We are empowered by God for our service through prayer, life in community and the people among whom we minister.’ All of us together make the difference,” she said.

Sister Elizabeth Theresa Sutter (formerly Sister Mary Joan) has served in many and varied ministries in her 60 years. A common thread throughout has been her years in education. She started out teaching first grade but then began an extended time teaching instrumental music in both grade school and high school.

Sister Sutter was then called to teach computer classes on the elementary- and middle-school level which ultimately led to becoming director of technology at Nazareth Elementary School.

Currently, Sister Sutter is part of the Leadership Team of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester. This ministry gives her special joy.

“As you know, religious sisters are known for serving others. In this ministry, I am able to serve the sisters. This is both a humbling and rewarding experience,” she said.

Sister Sutter also said that “being a part of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a group of dedicated women, is truly a source of inspiration and strength. The collective wisdom and generosity is astounding. I am grateful to God for calling me to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester.”

25 Years

“During most of my 25 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have served in pastoral ministry, beginning in Confresa, Mato Grosso, 1994-1996, then in Goiania, Goias, 1997-2000, then in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, 2001-2002, and again in Goiania, in 2003 until today,” said Sister Maria José Monteiro de Oliviera. “I began law school in 2001 and joined the prison ministry in 2003. I finished law school in 2005 and passed the bar exam in February of 2007.

“From 2003 to 2014, I ministered to the incarcerated, representing our SSJ congregation in the Brazilian prisons, where I saw and heard things that changed my life. The experience made me more sensitive to the suffering of others. Hence, I decided to divide my time between serving as a pastoral agent in my parish community of Jesus Christ Resurrected (part of the parish St. Peter & St. Paul, on the periphery of Goiânia) and to serve as a lawyer, particularly for those who don’t have access to the justice system through other means. I am grateful to God for having called me to be a Sister of St. Joseph of Rochester.

Sister Monteiro de Oliviera is ministering in the Sisters of St. Joseph mission in Brazil. She has been an integral part of her faith community, Jesus Cristo Ressuscitado (Jesus Christ Resurrected) in the city of Goiânia, ministering as a pastoral minister for more than 16 years.

She also is an attorney. She works diligently on behalf of the people she represents, many who are already in prison or dealing with many challenges in their lives. She works tirelessly in assisting them on the road to a better life and recently was pleased to receive a grant from the SSJ Ministry Foundation to continue her work.

The sisters with whom she ministers say she brings her enthusiastic spirit along with her knowledge and expertise, giving hope to people most in need.

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