The following Sisters of St. Joseph are celebrating jubilees in 2021 and reflected on their ministries in their own words.
Nothing but profound joy and gratitude fill my heart as I celebrate the countless ways God has touched my life over the past 75 years,” said Sister Joan Margaret Kunz. “Truly, these years have been graced beyond measure!
“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. Prior to all of this, I had already taught at Nazareth Hall and Sacred Heart, Rochester; St. Patrick’s School, Mount Morris; and Mt. Carmel High School, Auburn.
“With my retirement from Nazareth in 1992, and my teaching days behind me, I began to volunteer at the SSJ ministry St. Martin’s Place. For the next 18 years, I felt so enriched by this new ministry because it helped me to ‘put flesh on’ so much of what I had taught in the classroom about the importance of responding to those in need! Just mingling with our ‘guests,’ and getting to know them, was a constant source of grace for me!
“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 entered the convent in the fall of 1945. After graduating from Nazareth College in 1949, I began the first of my two careers,” said Sister Mary Lynch (formerly Sister Mary de Porres).
“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.’”
From educating children to caring for the sick, Sister Constance Mary Clarke says she has experienced “more the gift of receiving than of giving.”
Sister Clarke said thoughts of becoming a Sister of St. Joseph first emerged when she was a junior at Benjamin Franklin High School in Rochester.
“St. Therese was a saint who influenced my choice,” she explained. “I did not enter the congregation until I was 21, which confirmed for me my determination to give my life to the Lord.”
From 1952-73, Sister Clarke taught youngsters in grades first, second and sixth grades concurrently in five parishes in four cities — St. Augustine in Rochester, St. Alphonsus in Auburn, St. Francis de Sales in Geneva, St. John the Evangelist in Greece and St. Monica in Rochester. Then in 1974, she became an LPN at St. Ann’s Home until 1999, when she retired from nursing.
Today, she resides at the motherhouse in Pittsford and is active in the Office for Mission Advancement, preparing and distributing mailings to the congregation and motherhouse community, as well as serving in other community services.
Sister Marion Hoctor (formerly Sister Thomas Marion) said these seven decades represent an extraordinary time of change for women religious.
“From the distinctive garb of 17th century widows in France to American ‘contemporary dress,’ from group life at home to driving ourselves wherever we need to go, from our three principal works of teaching, nursing, and social work to a remarkable range of ministries, these decades have identified and met the needs of ‘the dear neighbor’ in new and wonderful ways,” she said. “I am happy and proud to be part of it all!”
Sister Hoctor has spent the past 70 years ministering in higher education both as a teacher and academic administrator at Nazareth College. “At the end of the fall 2010 semester, one of my students graciously thanked me for the way I had conducted their class, adding ‘you’re a lot of fun!’ If that is the case, I have created the kind of relationship with my students that they both need and deserve,” she said.
She also also counts the love and support of her congregation among the rewards of her life’s chosen path, saying: “What we have and hold in common — our ‘community of minds and hearts — is at the center of my daily living; in times of joy and of sorrow, as well as in ‘ordinary times,’ this gift of ‘family relationship’ with my sisters in community is a profound blessing.”
“The past 70 years have been rich with blessings, even if on occasion daunting with challenges,” said Sister Anne Nothnagle. “My first ministry was teaching in parish schools in our diocese, except one year in Oswego. I then went into nursing, first at St. Mary’s Hospital, then the Sisters of St. Joseph Infirmary, and then Penfield Place after retirement. I have helped at Daystar and Morning Star. I have undying gratitude to Mother Agnes Cecilia for her help and encouragement, and Sisters Jamesine and Sharon, who let me stay on this path. I remember Mother Rose Miriam telling us postulants that religious life was never dull, because God gives us grace upon grace as we go along. So, I thank God and all the sisters, priests, teachers, parents, children, nurses, patients, my dear, wonderful family, our motherhouse staff, our leadership team, for their confidence, patience, support, joyfulness and respect.”
Sister Patricia Pullman (formerly Sister Edward Lorraine) said she has never regretted saying “yes” to the call of religious life.
“The people I have met in school and pastoral work have given me reason to thank God daily for my vocation,” she said.
She became a Sister of St. Joseph shortly after high school and was soon teaching in Catholic schools. She taught at St. Monica, Sacred Heart, Corpus Christi, all in Rochester, and St. Mary in Waterloo. While at St. Mary she became principal. She spent several years in administration and was principal at Guardian Angels, Henrietta; St. Stanislaus, Rochester; St. Agnes, Avon; St. Stephen, Geneva; and Our Lady of Lourdes, Brighton. She also was consultant and then superintendent for religious education for the Diocese of Rochester.
“As the years evolved,” she noted, “I became more active in various parishes and was drawn to parish ministry.” That draw led Sister Pullman to becoming pastoral associate for St. Boniface Parish in Rochester.
Today, she continues her work in prayer ministry at the SSJ Motherhouse in Pittsford.
When Sister Clare Roland (formerly Sister Clare de Paul) entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1950, she said there was a need for teachers in Catholic schools. So, she became a teacher and worked in the classroom and in administration. Her work took her to Nazareth Hall, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Anne, St. Agnes High School and Corpus Christi, all in Rochester; Our Lady of Lourdes, Brighton; and St. Michael, Penn Yan.
“I left the education field in 1981 to begin ministry in Catholic Charities at the diocesan Pastoral Center,” she recounted. “As director of Chaplaincy Services, I coordinated the hiring of Catholic chaplains in the various institutions of the diocese.”
Sister Roland currently works at the motherhouse in various congregational services.
In reflecting on her jubilee, she is appreciative of her sisters in community.
“Over the years, I met and worked with many Sisters of St. Joseph. Some have passed away, but I’ll always remember and be grateful for the many happy memories we created,” Sister Roland said.
“When I entered in 1960, I never could have imagined where the years would take me,” said Sister Judith Greene (formerly Sister Leonardo). “To ministries in elementary education, hospital chaplaincy, EAP counseling, Holy Childhood School, congregational leadership and jail chaplaincy; to a variety of community living experiences with wonderful women and a dancing sabbatical in California; to visits in Brazil and El Salvador. I treasure the gifts of these experiences and try always to give them away.”
Currently, Sister Greene works as one of the coordinators in the motherhouse community.
“Being in ministry at this time in my life brings together so many threads of my life and ministerial experiences,” she reflected. “I see the patterns, the connections … each preparing for the next … and I am grateful.”
Sister Marciana Koesterer has spent these 60 years ministering in health care. She was an LPN at St. Ann’s Home and St. Mary’s Hospital, and she also worked in private-duty care. She has especially felt God’s presence in caring for people.
“The Lord has led me to families I would never have met, allowing me to be with them through very difficult times, which has created bonds of lasting friendship,” she explained.
Sister Koesterer will continue in her ministry of home care once she can do so safely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sister Margaret Kunder (formerly Sister Margarethe) taught for 18 years in elementary schools in the Rochester area, Canandaigua, and Selma, Ala.
“When I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph 60 years ago, most of us started out as teachers or nurses,” Sister Kunder explained. “As time went on, Vatican II opened doors of choice in religious life. In the area of ministry, I chose to work in pastoral ministry, serving at Holy Ghost, St. Michael’s Penn Yan, the Cayuga Cluster and St. Gabriel’s, Hammondsport.”
Sister Kunder recently retired after 15 years as chaplain at Rochester General Hospital.
“I have been energized by the people I’ve worked with in schools, parishes,and at the hospital,” she said. “I really have the best of two worlds. I live in a congregation with women who are women of prayer, always serving the needs of others, and I have worked in ministries with people who love God and desire to serve their neighbor with care and respect.”
“As a child in St. Monica’s School, I thought God was calling me to be a Sister,” said Sister Margot Mann. “This call became stronger through my high-school years.”
Sister Mann’s ministries started when she became a first-grade teacher at St. Thomas More in Brighton, followed by teaching at St. Lawrence in Greece. She then changed course as a guidance counselor at St. Agnes High School, Rochester, and guidance director at DeSales High School, Geneva. At the parishes of Our Lady of Mercy, Greece, and St. Patrick, Corning, she served as pastoral associate. After a chaplain residency, she became a chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Elmira. Returning to the Rochester area, she was appointed director of volunteers at the motherhouse.
She worked at receptionist at The Episcopal Church Home and took the opportunity to volunteer with several organizations. Through “Generation 2,” she volunteered at School No. 4 in Rochester, where she related to first-graders. In her words, “I came full circle!”
“I feel fulfilled as I recall my ministries. Each one has been challenging and grace-filled,” she reflected. “I am grateful that I answered God’s call 60 years ago to become a Sister of St. Joseph.”
“The call to religious life began in the seventh grade, when I attended St. Margaret Mary School in Irondequoit,” said Sister Carole Proia. “The desire continued throughout my high-school years at St. Agnes High School ,when I decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph.
“These 60 years have been a very rich and blessed time with various ministries. I have been a teacher, principal, caseworker, school counselor and parish minister. I have spent the last 19 very special years as a team member and spiritual director at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua.
“Our charism is reaching out to the dear neighbor and bringing the neighbor to God. I have tried to make this a priority during these wonderful 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph.”
Sister Barbara Staropoli (formerly Sister Francina) is a musician by training and credits her years as a singer for bringing her to an awareness of God as love through the music that she performed and taught.
Sister Staropoli served in the ministries of education, mostly at Nazareth College, for 32 years, as well as in congregational leadership for eight years. From 2012 to 2017, she established the Nazareth Neighborhood Arts Program, which provided an after-school curriculum for the children of the Maplewood Neighborhood on the Nazareth Academy property. This work allowed for immersion in the refugee population and has resulted in continuing joyful relationships with many of the families.
Most recently, Sister Staropoli served as novice director for the CSSJ National Federation Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Currently, she is a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. She also continues to serve in the music ministry at her parish, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Rochester.
Sister Monica Weis (formerly Sister Eugene) is professor emerita of English at Nazareth College, having for 39 taught years British and American literature courses, rhetoric and professional writing; supervised the English education program; and directed the master of arts in liberal studies program.
In the fall of 2011, Sister Weis was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Pannonia in Vesprém, Hungary. Professionally, she has been active in the College English Association as annual presenter and board member; active in the International Thomas Merton Society as presenter, vice president and board member; and is the author of multiple articles in scholarly journals as well as three books on Thomas Merton.
She currently serves on the board of directors for The Aquinas Institute in Rochester.
“Every day is a surprise from God,” she said. “I am grateful for the many daily invitations to identify God’s gifts and challenged to discover new ways to serve through volunteering at Bethany House and writing book reviews for scholarly journals.”
Sister Sheila Briody entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Sept. 3, 1969, and vowed her perpetual profession on May 12,1978. Sister Briody’s ministries included: teacher (St. Monica and St. Agnes High School, Rochester), chaplain (St. Agnes High School and SUNY Brockport), SSJ formation director and mental-health counselor (Catholic Family Center, Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center, St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, Rochester).
“Through each of these ministries, it has been my honor to serve the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph ‘uniting neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God,’” she said.
“When I entered this congregation, I never could have imagined the extraordinary blessings these 50 years would hold! God’s generosity knows no bounds, and I will thank God all my life,” said Sister Kathleen Weider.
“Perhaps the best part is all the wonderful people — the relationships and lasting friendships. It is all the people who patiently taught me, challenged me to do things I never thought possible, and who welcomed me into their lives and worlds. To each one I say, thank you and promise you my prayers.
“I began my ministry work in education, teaching at St. Agnes High School and Nazareth Academy. For 16 years, I served in campus ministry at Nazareth College. One facet of that included establishing the Center for Service Learning and working with faculty to incorporate service into the academic curriculum. I served the congregation in vocation ministry and as a member of the SSJ Leadership Team. Other ministries included spiritual direction, retreats and art.
“The most life-changing experiences were volunteer opportunities — first on the Sanctuary Committee, then making six trips to El Salvador during their civil war and protesting U.S. policies that repressed the country’s poor. After my first trip to El Salvador, I remember saying, ‘Once the suffering had names and faces, I knew I would never be the same.’”