IN LOVING REMEMBRANCE
DECEASED SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH – 2006-11
September 11, 2011
September 9, 2011
September 8, 2011
August 4, 2011
July 28, 2011
July 27, 2011
July 18, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 12, 2011
July 8, 2011
June 9, 2011
June 7, 2011
June 3, 2011
May 18, 2011
May 13, 2011
March 15, 2011
March 11, 2011
March 10, 2011
February 22, 2011
February 17, 2011
February 1, 2011
January 25, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 19, 2011
January 2, 2011
January 2, 2011
December 30, 2010
December 27, 2010
December 24, 2011
November 24, 2010
October 29, 2010
October 29, 2010
October 5, 2010
September 14, 2010
September 14, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 15, 2010
August 8, 2010
July 29, 2010
June 27, 2010
June 23, 2010
April 29, 2010
April 18, 2010
February 24, 2010
February 8, 2010
January 25, 2010
November 29, 2009
November 18, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 22, 2009
October 19, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 10, 2009
September 17, 2009
September 14, 2009
August 7, 2009
August 2, 2009
July 8, 2009
July 3, 2009
June 26, 2009
June 22, 2009
June 9, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 17, 2009
March 10, 2009
March 9, 2009
January 13, 2009
January 8, 2009
December 22, 2008
December 16, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 15, 2008
October 14, 2008
August 28, 2008
August 27, 2008
August 7, 2008
August 7, 2008
July 17, 2008
July 15, 2008
July 13, 2008
July 7, 2008
May 13, 2008
April 10, 2008
April 2, 2008
March 23, 2008
March 20, 2008
March 4, 2008
February 28, 2008
February 19, 2008
February 1, 2008
January 29, 2008
January 18, 2008
January 8, 2008
January 6, 2008
December 27, 2007
November 22, 2007
November 20, 2007
November 19, 2007
November 12, 2007
Sister Mary Scanlon (Sister James Anthony)
November 8, 2007
November 8, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 11, 2007
September 6, 2007
September 3, 2007
August 23, 2007
August 16, 2007
August 6, 2007
July 17, 2007
July 1, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 22, 2007
June 21, 2007
June 11, 2007
May 24, 2007
May 24, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 17, 2007
May 12. 2007
May 10, 2007
April 29, 2007
April 24, 2007
April 5, 2007
March 5, 2007
March 2, 2007
February 5, 2007
February 4, 2007
January 22, 2007
November 23, 2006
November 8, 2006
November 1, 2006
October 29, 2006
October 6, 2006
September 29, 2006
September 26, 2006
September 15, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 18, 2006
August 16, 2006
August 11, 2006
August 2, 2006
July 21, 2006
July 17, 2006
July 14, 2006
June 24, 2006
May 27, 2006
May 19, 2006
April 24, 2006
April 12, 2006
April 5, 2006
April 2, 2006
April 1, 2006
March 25, 2006
March 24, 2006
March 6 , 2006
March 5 , 2006
February 22 , 2006
February 22 , 2006
February 13 , 2006
February 7 , 2006
February 4 , 2006
January 28 , 2006
January 21 , 2006
January 15 , 2006
January 11, 2006
January 11 , 2006
January 6, 2006
Sister Helen Veronica (Mary F. McKenna) 87, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 69 years, died on January 6, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on January 11, 2006.
Sister Helen was born in Philadelphia, PA and her early education was in parochial schools there. She graduated from John W. Hallahan High School, Philadelphia, received a bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College, a master’s degree from The Catholic University of America, and a doctorate from Fordham University.
Early in her apostolic life, Sister Helen ministered in elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Camden. Later and for nearly forty years, Sister Helen served at Chestnut Hill College as a professor, Academic Dean, and as a volunteer. During her time at Chestnut Hill, she witnessed significant events and major changes.
In 1997, Sister became a resident of St. Joseph Villa. In an interview with her while she was a resident at the Villa, she shared that as a child, she wanted to be an altar server and could not understand why this was not possible. She decided that it had something to do with carrying the heavy books; it never dawned on her then that it was because of gender. Since she could not be ordained a Catholic priest, Sister Helen decided to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph as a second choice. She joined her sister and good friend, the late S. Pierre Marie, in the congregation in 1937.
At her funeral, her friend S. Mary Helen Kashuba shared with those present “Sister Helen Veronica always knew when it was time to move on, and she did it graciously and without a fuss. … In my conversations with her in the past few months preceding her sudden death, I knew that it was time to move on for one final step. Once again, she moved quietly and graciously to a new and certainly better life, where she now sees what eye has not seen, the glory of God bright as the noonday sun.”
Sister Francis Daniel (Catherine Brady) 95, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 75 years, died on January 11, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 16, 2006.
Sister Francis, one of eight children, was born in Philadelphia, where she attended parochial schools before entering the Congregation in 1930 from St. Michael’s Parish in Philadelphia. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Villanova University.
For more than 60 years, Sister ministered in elementary schools in the Archdioceses of Newark Philadelphia and Washington DC as well as in the Diocese of Camden. “Children always added to the joy of my day”, said Sister Francis, and she dedicated her entire years of ministry to teaching elementary school students, primarily those in the middle grades. In later years, she served as school secretary, receptionist and as an aide to the school nurse. Upon her retirement, Sister served the members of her local community as a convent helper before moving to St. Joseph Villa in 2000.
If education was her primary ministry and love, shopping was a favorite avocation. For Sister Francis, one of the benefits of being missioned at St. Callistus in Philadelphia was its proximity to 69th Street where she could window-shop and enjoy her favorite ice cream! While a resident at the Villa, Sister Francis still liked to dress up, go shopping and eat out with friends.
When asked what advice she would give to new members of the Congregation, she said:
“God loves all of us and keeps us daily in His loving care. Try not
to fret or worry. Seek advice from your mentors; they are always
glad to help you. Be not timid about asking; we were all young once
and we all want to learn the best way to use our talents”
What made her words so powerful was the fact that she had lived them so many years with fidelity and grace.
Sister Margaret O’ Donnell (formerly Sister Flavian) 90, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 72 years died on January 11, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 18, 2006.
Sister Margaret lived most of her young life in Bayonne, NJ where she met the Sisters of Saint Joseph at St. Mary’s Grammar School and continued her education with them at Holy Family Academy, Bayonne. Soon after graduation in 1934, Margaret entered the congregation. In preparation for her ministry of education, Sister Margaret received a B.S. in education from Villanova University.
For 46 years, Sister Margaret taught students in elementary schools and learning centers in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia, as well as in the Diocese of Harrisburg. She loved working with children and she continued to do so until later in life when she became a local community helper in her beloved Bayonne, her Camelot.
S. Margaret learned about the importance of prayer from her mother. Her mother believed in the power of prayer and once journeyed to the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre for the sole purpose of asking God to have one of her girls enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph. God heard her prayer and called not one but two of her daughters, Margaret and Betty, to the community! Betty followed Margaret into the community and became Sister Helena.
While a resident at St. Joseph Villa, S. Margaret was asked what advice she would offer to the younger members of the congregation. Her response was quite simple, “I’d tell them to always be prepared for the given work at hand, and constantly offer to do for others.” That was how she desired to live her own life.
S. Margaret O’ Donnell was a no-fuss, private person who lived her life with humility and great-heartedness- a gift to her family, her friends and her community and a model for us all.
Sister Grace Agatha (Marie Elizabeth Rogers) 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 70 years died at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on January 15, 2006. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 19, 2006.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Sister Grace was born in Philadelphia where she attended St. Francis of Assisi School and graduated from John W. Hallahan High School, Philadelphia, before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1935. Sister Grace received a B.S. from Villanova University and M.A. in Educational Administration from Seton Hall University.
Throughout her life, it was characteristic of her self-effacing and humble posture to enhance the gifts and goodness of others rather than her own.
In her over 60 years in active ministry, Sister Grace served thoroughly and graciously in a variety of ministries: teacher, principal, assistant librarian, office helper, healthcare provider, supervisor, academic and congregational leader, and convent helper for her local community. For more than fifty years Sister Grace ministered in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and spent a short time serving in the Archdiocese of Newark.
In 1998, Sister Grace moved to the Villa as a resident where she spent her days visiting other residents and faithfully attending to many sisters and friends. Sister Patricia Kelly, Congregational President, noted at her funeral, that “ For seventy years, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, along with all whom Sister Grace loved and served were blessed with the presence of a woman religious ,quietly receptive and responsive to every experience God’s loving will unwrapped for her.”
Sister Jane Immaculate Matsinger,SSJ
Sister Jane Immaculate (Marie E. Matsinger) 86, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 69 years, died on January 21, 2006 at the Woods Rehabilitation Center, Norristown, PA. Sister Jane’s funeral liturgy was celebrated on January 25,2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA.
Sister Jane grew up in Corpus Christi Parish, Philadelphia. Her association with the Sisters of Saint Joseph who taught her at Corpus Christi School and Holy Souls Commercial influenced her in her vocation. Prior to entering the Congregation in 1937, Jane worked as a secretary for the WPA for two years. Sister Jane received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College.
The education of children was her primary ministry focus for more than forty years in the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC and the Dioceses of Harrisburg and Trenton. Just prior to Sister’s death, a former student from her first mission called the Villa to inquire about Sister Jane’s health. During that telephone call, the student told how she loved Sister and remembered her treating her and the children so kindly.
Immediately before becoming a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 2001, Sister Jane enjoyed living in an active senior house, St. Bartholomew in Philadelphia, from which she drove to the Villa each day to chauffer the sister residents to doctors’ appointments.
Sister Jane was an outgoing, friendly person who enjoyed conversation, the company of other sisters and sharing stories with others at the Villa. During her latter years, she especially appreciated being at Saint Joseph Villa with her dear sister, Sister Helen Christi, who was so faithful to her.
Sister Leah Marlene Jones (formerly Sister Mary Eunice) 67, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 49 years died at Delaware County Hospital, Drexel Hill, PA on January 28, 2006. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on February 1, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA.
Born in Scranton, PA, Sister Leah attended grammar and high schools in Newark, NJ at St. Peter School and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Three years before her entrance into the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1957, Leah was initiated into the Catholic faith community. Leah had the unique privilege of sponsoring her father at his baptism a short time later.
After attending Montclair State, Sister Leah received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and her M.A. in Secondary Science from Villanova University. Sister Leah was well prepared to become the teacher that she wanted to be. Her preparation, study and enrichment choices for the teaching of secondary science were abundant. An administrator wrote of her: “She challenges her students; creates a healthy atmosphere; is positive with her students—and I do not believe that anyone in our school is better prepared on a daily basis.” Her commitment to Catholic education led her to teach on the elementary and secondary levels for more than forty-five years in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia as well as in the Dioceses of Allentown and Wilmington.
At her funeral liturgy, Sister Pat Kelly offered this prayerful farewell to Sister Leah: “You have dismissed your servant, Leah, in peace, O God. We thank you for her life among us. May she see your glory and unfold the beauty of your love always.”
Sister Joan Miriam (Marie Dolores Mullin) 75, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 56 years died on February 4, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on February 8, 2006.
Born on Christmas Day, Sister Joan was one of four Mullin children raised in Southwest Philadelphia. Sister attended Transfiguration School and West Catholic High School before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1950. Chestnut Hill College awarded her a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
For more than 40 years, Sister Joan served as an elementary teacher and school librarian in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Sister knew the joy of good relationships with her students. Little ones desired her attention and one group of older students protested when Sister was transferred! At different points, she coached a
school basketball team and even practiced roller-skating in the evening so that she could join the skaters on Saturday afternoons in the school auditorium! When her health declined, Sister Joan moved from an active senior house at St. Bartholomew’s in Philadelphia to become a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 1999.
Sister Joan’s seven-year Villa experience was graced. She described herself changing from being reluctant about being at the Villa, to being content with things, and finally, to loving the Villa. Sister Joan took advantage of the gift of time and learned to use the computer in order to write thank you notes and make cards for her family. At the Villa, Sister Joan continued her joyful spirit and her interest in new things. Her wants were simple. What made this self-declared introvert happy? She appreciated it when people smiled at her. Sister Joan rewarded the giver with a broad smile of her own!
Sister Joan bore her illness with a holy and humble generosity of spirit. She now rests in the arms of a loving God who probably welcomed her home with a huge smile she so enjoyed receiving.
Sister Consolata Currie, SSJ
Sister Consolata (Rita M. Currie) 90, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 74 years died on February 7, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on February 13, 2006.
Sister Consolata was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended parochial schools there. Sister’s mother, Ida, was a Quaker when she married her husband and she practiced her religion very faithfully. One day, Mrs. Currie called her family together to tell them that she wanted the family to be one and that she had begun to take instructions to become a member of the Catholic faith community. One of Sister’s most vivid memories of her childhood was the day that her mother was received into the church!
Drawn to the Sisters of Saint Joseph who taught her, Sister Consolata entered the congregation from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Germantown in September 1932. Sister received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and an M.S. in Library Science from The Catholic University of America.
For the entire 64 years of her active ministry life, Sister Consolata served the children of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. What a gift she was to them! A lover of music, Sister began her ministry as a piano teacher. Eventually she moved into her role as a classroom teacher, a vocation that she came to love. She was a thorough and conscientious teacher who encouraged her students to become self-disciplined and critical thinkers. In her later years in education, she taught small groups of students honors mathematics. In 1998, Sister Consolata became a resident at St. Joseph Villa.
During her long life, Sister lived through many changes in our world, in the church and in the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She humbly noted, “I have tried to accept any changes approved by the Church and our community.” She lived her life that way. In 1932, her pastor recognized something special in her when he wrote, “Miss Rita M. Currie is very anxious to become a sister and I can recommend her most highly to your good care, feeling certain that she will be a great asset to whatever sisterhood she may belong.” The Sisters of Saint Joseph are grateful that she chose them!
Sister Marie Antoinette (Catherine M. Jeffers) 90, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 71 years, died on February 13, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on February 17, 2006.
The oldest child of Irish immigrants, Sister Antoinette was born in Philadelphia where she attended St. Columba and St. Francis of Assisi elementary schools and St. Francis of Assisi Commercial School before entering the Congregation in 1935. Sister Antoinette received a B.S. in Education from Villanova University.
Because she loved children, Sister Antoinette spent almost 60 years, her entire time in active ministry, in the service of elementary schoolchildren in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg and Wilmington. She had a tender spot for fourth graders, her favorite grade to teach, and took great pride in their learning the times tables before the end of the year.
In 1994, when it was time for her to retire, Sister Antoinette became a resident at St. Joseph Villa where she spent a great deal of time visiting the other sisters there. She loved to talk and it was not easy to end a conversation with her but she was always interested in what the other sisters were thinking and feeling. Possessing a grateful spirit, she was appreciative for even the smallest kindness that was extended to her at the Villa.
Sister Antoinette maintained a positive spirit and gracious manner until God called this woman with a queenly name home on February 13.
Sister Elizabeth A. Daley (formerly Sister Elizabeth James) 71, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 44 years, died on February 22, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on February 24, 2006.
Sister Elizabeth was born and raised in Heckschersville, PA. She attended St. Kieran Elementary School there and Pottsville Catholic High School before entering the Congregation in 1961 at the age of 27. Sister received a B. S. degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College.
In ministry, Sister Elizabeth served in several different positions, elementary school teacher, classroom assistant and social worker, in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Newark and Philadelphia, as well as in the dioceses of Allentown, and Metuchen. For her, teaching was the most fulfilling ministry. In exit interviews with graduating eighth graders, the students often named Sister Elizabeth as their favorite teacher and suggested that other teachers could learn from her methods.
Though she had a quiet demeanor, Sister Elizabeth had a spirit of adventure and once drove cross-country, sleeping in a tent and experiencing lightning storms, tumbleweeds, animals and all the things that came with roughing it. She liked to fish and was very successful in snaring a catch. Bingo was a favorite pastime and often this seventh child of a seventh child won!
In 1999, Sister Elizabeth received the news that she had Alzheimer ’s disease. At that time, her response was” Well, it’s the will of God.” Throughout her seven-year illness, she was the beneficiary of much love and attention from her friends, members of her local community at St. Ambrose, Old Bridge, and her dear family members. That attention and faithful care continued when she became a resident of St. Joseph Villa in 2002. On February 22, 2006, God called Sister Elizabeth to a new adventure and the promise of continued unconditional love.
Sister Catherine Lengle,SSJ
Sister Catherine Lengle (formerly Sister James Laboure) 68, a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 50 years, died on February 22, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on February 27, 2006.
A native of Lebanon, PA, Kitty attended St. Mary’s School there and was a graduate of Lebanon Catholic High School. Born on her mother’s birthday, Kitty was a great gift to her parents and her family. She became a gift to the Sisters of Saint Joseph who welcomed her after her graduation.
With an enormous love for children, it was no surprise that Sister Catherine would be an excellent teacher and a competent principal. She received an A.B. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. from the University of Delaware that enabled her to meet the needs of the children she encountered in elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Harrisburg. For five years, Sister Catherine taught students at the Catholic Mission, Liberia, West Africa. When asked about her memory of Africa, her face lit up as she responded,” The people-the people were so beautiful just like the country. They were happy, friendly and full of gratitude for even the smallest thing.” Sister Catherine was an assistant in the Dream Catcher, the SSJ Literacy Project, and most recently served as a parish CCD coordinator.
Although Sister Catherine was an extremely simple person, there was depth and wisdom in her that was special. Sometimes that wisdom and depth evidenced itself in quiet conversation, faith sharing, or a moment of serious conversation. However, much of wisdom and good common sense was experienced over a cup of coffee in the kitchen while she chopped vegetables for a pot of homemade soup.
In recent years, Sister Catherine’s increasing physical limitations seemed to be matched by an increasing ability to know what the important things in life are. Daily prayer, retreat, quiet and solitude were core parts of her life. These empowered her to be among God’s people in very ordinary situations with extraordinary love. It was fitting that she chose for her funeral a gospel hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow. Now, Sister Catherine too “sings because she’s happy. She sings because she’s free.”
Sister Mary Audrey O’Connor (Rita M. O’Connor) 83, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 66 years, died on March 5, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on March 8, 2006.
Born in Bridgeport, PA, Sister attended St. Matthew Elementary School and graduated from St. Matthew High School, both in Conshohocken, PA, before entering the congregation in 1940. Sister Mary Audrey received a B.A. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. from Columbia University.
In ministry, Sister Mary Audrey shared her gifts with those in the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC as well as in the dioceses of Allentown and Trenton. Sister had a very rich ministry experience and served in a variety of educational ministries including elementary and preschool teacher, tutor, diocesan Religion Coordinator for elementary schools, and diocesan Director of Elementary and Early Childhood. As she reflected back on her years in active ministry, Sister shared, “There were so many wonderful adults from so many areas whom I encountered, so many little children-and not so little-who helped to keep me young-each one bringing joy into my life!”
In 2001, Sister Mary Audrey decided to go to St. Joseph Villa where she made herself responsible for several small but important tasks. She gave time to being a receptionist and was very faithful to visiting the sisters who were unable to leave their rooms. She also enjoyed spending five years with her little sister and best friend, Sister Daniel Margaret.
While a resident at the Villa, Sister was asked what advice she would offer to newer members of the congregation, Sister stated, “I would tell them to look on each day as a journey of faith. My experiences have led me far, but as I traveled along in faith, I have been strengthened, graced and rewarded.” Sister Mary Audrey now enjoys her eternal reward.
Sister Patricia Ann Brennan (formerly Sister Robert Loretta), 71, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 53 years, died on March 6, 2006 in Naples , Florida. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on March 13, 2006.
A native of Heckschersville, PA, Sister Patricia entered the congregation from St. Patrick’s Parish, Pottsville, PA. There, she attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School and Pottsville Catholic High School. Sister Patricia earned a B.A. degree from Chestnut Hill College.
Early in her ministry life, Sister Patricia taught elementary and high school students in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Allentown and Harrisburg. She then felt drawn to move into retreat work, which she expected to be nice and calm. Instead, she moved to where she thought that God was calling her to serve. Her life became a bit more messy and chaotic as she began shelters for homeless women and children. She established homes for the elderly, and for women and children. Sister Patricia advocated for the poor and raised money for city shelters and soup kitchens. Later, her pastoral work included visiting the sick in their homes and in hospitals. From her life, we learn about being open to the transforming power of God’s grace, which is often full of surprises and takes us where we least expect to go. Illness forced Sister Patricia to retire in 2005.
In the final stages of her illness, Sister Patricia continued to live with a heart open to the voice of her God, and she was comforted by this relationship. In the Scripture reading on the day that she died, it was so appropriate that Jesus talks about final judgment. “Come you have my father’s blessing; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me to drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, ill and you visited me. I assure you that as often as you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters you did it for me.” She taught us well.
Sister Mary A. Gillespie (formerly Sister Thomas Catherine) 83, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 64 years, died on March 24, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on March 28, 2006.
One of ten children of Irish immigrants from Donegall, Sister Mary was born in Philadelphia, where she attended parochial schools. She graduated from John W. Hallahan High School in 1940. Though she felt called to religious life, the death of her mother, and the ominous world situation delayed her entrance into the Sisters of Saint Joseph until September of 1941. Subsequently, Sister Mary received a B.S. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. from Kutztown University.
For more than 60 years, Sister Mary’s ministries introduced her to many diverse people in many different geographic locations. As an elementary school teacher and principal, she served in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC in addition to ministering in the dioceses of Arlington and Harrisburg. When the principal at her first school heard that she had six brothers, she immediately assigned Sister Mary to a first grade class of nearly 100 boys! She survived and so did they. Sister Mary also spent six summers working with postulants and novices at Fontbonne Hall. Again, she dealt with large numbers well. In her later years, she served as a school librarian before becoming a resident of St. Joseph Villa in 2003.
Sister Mary had a friendly manner and a contagious laugh that endeared her to her family, her students, to children and adults, and to her sisters in community. Her welcoming manner helped to put others at ease and enabled her to draw forth the best in them. She spent hours in prayer for so many intentions. Her last days were spent reminding God through her continuous prayers to Jesus that she was ready, ready to go home. God took her home on March 24.
Sister Kotska Brady, SSJ
Sister Kotska Brady (Helen Marie Brady) 93, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 73 years, died on March 25, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on March 30, 2006.
Born in Baltimore, MD, Sister Kotska completed her elementary and secondary school education at the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore. In 1932, she boarded a train to Philadelphia and began her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph. She continued her academic life and received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and a M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary.
For 59 years, Sister Kotska served as a dedicated and caring educator in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC and in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg and Wilmington teaching both elementary and secondary students. In her own words,” Teaching was a fulfilling ministry because I was able to live my desire to be kind and helpful, in this instance to the students.”
Later in her life, she returned to her beloved Baltimore area and became “the sister in charge of attendance”. Her principal later wrote in tribute,
” You have given admirable service as a model Christian educator, a woman of principle, skill, energy, organization and compassion.” In her attendance office position, she was beloved by parents who trusted her judgments and students who tried to get away with things but were delighted when she caught them! Into her eighties, she was open to change and involved in many activities. She might be found at an evening prayer service to honor slain Salvadorian churchwomen or cheering on the school basketball team at a tournament. She became a resident of St. Joseph Villa in 1996.
On the feast of the Annunciation, Sister Kotska Brady began another leg of her journey, the reward for a life lived in attentiveness to God’s commandment to choose life and to connect in love.
Sister Ann Ignatius Wagaman, SS J
Sister Ann Ignatius (Gladys Wagaman) 93, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 74 years, died on April 1, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on April 4, 2006.
Born in McSherrystown, PA, Sister Ann attended elementary and secondary school at St. Mary’s School there before entering the congregation. In support of her application to the congregation, her pastor wrote, “Gladys M. Wagaman is known to me as a young lady of excellent character. She was always faithful in the performance of her religious duties and was an excellent student while in high school.” How blessed the congregation was to have her leave her beloved McSherrystown and journey to Chestnut Hill!
Sister Ann received a bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College that prepared her for her life long ministry as an educator. For more than 60 years, Sister taught elementary school students in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Washington, DC and in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Her many years in active ministry were dedicated to teaching all types of students, those who learned quickly and those who needed to learn differently because of physical and mental handicaps. She was a beloved teacher and her students remembered her with gratitude and described her as kind, firm, challenging and patient.
In 1996, Sister Ann became a resident of Saint Joseph Villa where she continued to pray for the intentions of all those whom she loved, especially for those in her beloved McSherrystown, a place that she described as “a neighborhood full of love and respect for one another and all of earth.” On April 1, 2006, Sister Ann Ignatius found a new neighborhood of love where for sure “she will see the face of God face to face.” (Revelations 22)
Sister St. Colette (Anna Louise Grier) 92, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 73 years, died on April 2, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on April 6, 2006.
Born in Philadelphia, Anna and her family lived in North Philadelphia and then moved to St. Francis deSales Parish in the southwest section of the city where she completed elementary school. Her first attraction to religious life occurred while she was still in grade school but it was while at West Catholic High School that she gave it serious thought. She felt called; but where- the Sisters of Saint Joseph or the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart? At one point she thought:”If I step on the lines, I will enter the IHM’s , but if I step on the spaces, I’ll enter the SSJ’s. She later said, “I believe that I made myself step on the spaces.”
On her reception day, Anna received the name Sister St. Colette. Her father’s aunt had been Mother Colette, SSJ and the family was delighted with her new name! Her dad had a great love for the Sisters of St. Joseph who raised him at St. John’s Orphanage. It was ironic that by profession he was a carpenter and he died on March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph. So many connections!
Sister St. Colette received an A. B. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. from Villanova University. During her many years of ministry, Sister taught mathematics to elementary and secondary students in the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC and Diocese of Trenton. When poor health caused her to stop teaching, she assumed responsibility for a school bookstore and turned it into a gift shop!
In 1992, Sister St. Colette requested permission to move to the Villa. While there, she was determined to remain active, always planning what to do next. In her words, “We all make our own happiness.” It was her great faith in our loving God and devotion to prayer that enabled her to say before she died, “I have never been unhappy”. What a wonderful, full life Sister St. Colette enjoyed!
Sister Paul Anthony Kronberger, SSJ
Sister Paul Anthony (Mary Kronberger) 98, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 77 years, died on April 5, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on April 7, 2006
Born in Philadelphia, Sister Paul’s father died when she was very young. One of six children, she went to live for a while at Catholic Home where she met the Sisters of Saint Joseph for the first time. Later she attended John W. Hallahan High School in Philadelphia. Before entering the congregation at 22, Sister Paul worked as a stenographer at a company that was close to St. Agnes Church that housed a shrine to St. Anthony. There she prayed every day on her lunch hour and was inspired to enter religious life. It was fitting that she received the name Anthony as part of her religious name!
Sister Paul Anthony received a B. S. degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College. For most of her life, Sister Paul taught and tutored young children in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Arlington, Camden, Harrisburg, and Trenton. For a nine-year period, Sister Paul was a member of the staff that oversaw the formation of congregational postulants at Fontbonne Hall. Sister Paul served as the infirmarian and even after many years, she greeted former postulants by name. No easy task when hundreds passed through her life at that time! After that, Sister became a Technical Aide at St. Joseph Villa before becoming a resident there in 1992.
In her own words, Sister Paul described her life as one that had been richly blessed and mostly prosaic. She lived a simple life extraordinarily well. Sister Paul’s friends on the fourth floor of the Villa held her in great esteem for her goodness and kindness to everyone. Perhaps God welcomed her on April 5 with words similar to these: “Welcome home, my chosen one in whom I delight. Come and enjoy the place that I have prepared for you.”
Sister Sally Daly(formerly Sister Michael Denise) 62, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 44 years, died on April 12, 2006 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.
Funeral liturgies were celebrated on April 17, 2006 at St. Timothy Church, Philadelphia and at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on April 18, 2006.
The daughter of Irish immigrants from County Mayo, Sally was born in Philadelphia where she attended St. Callistus Elementary School and West Catholic High School. After graduation, Sally entered the congregation and received a B.S. from Chestnut Hill College. Her entire forty-two years in ministry were spent serving the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in just four schools, an unusual occurrence for a Sister of Saint Joseph!
For most of her life, Sally ministered to God’s people as a school librarian. And serve she did! Sister Sally was a very simple, unassuming woman, always in motion. A ten-minute nap got her ready to attack the next task on her endless list of things to do. As an educator, Sally’s motto might have been ”children first”. Besides working to put a poem in every child’s pocket, she worked to put the love of reading into every student’s education, every child’s heart. In the evening, she would preview each of the new library books before she put them on the shelves for curious minds to read. She said that she was happiest when ” I am in the library teaching my students how to navigate in a sea of information.”
For many years, Sister Sally was a dedicated member of the Catholic Library Association and was honored just this year with the prestigious national Mary A. Grant Volunteer Service Award in recognition of her involvement and contributions to the CLA over her many years as a librarian.
Sister Sally wanted to live life to the fullest; she wanted to do God’s work. This very generous woman had a sense of compassion for all suffering people-poor persons, the elderly, the sick, and anyone who needed help of any kind. Sister Sally truly embodied the virtue of generous hospitality, always welcoming folks with a smile. On April 12, perhaps God greeted Sister Sally with the words that she used so often to welcome others: “Thanks for coming; thanks for caring.”
Sister Mary Joseph Walsh (Mary H. Walsh) 86, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 66 years, died on April 24, 2006 at Chestnut Hill Hospital, Philadelphia. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on April 26, 2006.
Born in Philadelphia, Sister Mary attended the parish school of Our Lady of Victory in West Philadelphia and graduated from West Catholic High School in Philadelphia. Very early in her life, Sister Mary felt a call to religious life. However, her father advised his only child “to live and work in the world” before entering the convent. Mary heeded his advice and waited until her twenty first birthday to enter the congregation. Sister Mary continued her education and was awarded an A. B. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. in religion from The Catholic University of America.
For more than 60 years, Sister Mary served the people of the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and the Dioceses of Camden and Harrisburg. Sister Mary began her active ministry as an elementary school teacher. After a time, she was missioned to teach at a high school boarding school. Though initially afraid of that age group, Sister Mary grew to love the school and its students. This live-in experience prepared her somewhat for a new position as staff member at Mt. St. Joseph Novitiate and at the newly opened Postulate, where she taught the novices and postulants for several years. Sister Mary also served as a Director of Religious Education and as an office volunteer before becoming a resident of St. Joseph Villa in 1996.
While at the Villa, Sister Mary was asked what advice she would offer to the newer members of the congregation now and she offered, “Be willing to do anything the community asks. Make the changes necessary and do it with a whole heart.” She was keenly aware of how difficult some changes were for her-in the Church, in religious life and in society- but she was also aware that God provided the grace to move through them. The words from the Gospel of John that Sister Mary chose for her final farewell “ I have come, not to do my own will , but the will of the one who sent me.” tell us how this woman chose to live her long life.
Sister Teresa Hassett, SSJ
Sister Teresa Hassett (formerly Sister Daniel Teresa) 85, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for 67 years, died on May 19, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on May 24, 2006.
A Philadelphia native, Sister Teresa attended various parochial and public schools in that city before graduating from Cecilian Academy High School where she encountered and admired the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Having grown up in a home with a very strong faith component fostered by her parents, Sister Teresa was drawn to enter the congregation in 1939.
Having graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College, Sister Teresa taught elementary school children in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Washington, DC and in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Although teaching was rewarding and fulfilling for her, she felt drawn to a different type of ministry after teaching for 38 years. Sister Teresa studied Clinical Pastoral Education to become a certified Catholic hospital chaplain, serving in that capacity for more than 20 years. She found the work challenging, but she loved the patients that she met. She enjoyed being with maternity patients, working with young people struggling with addictions and helping abused children.
Sister Teresa’s many years as a Sister of Saint Joseph were marked by unswerving faith in God-and a strong sense of self. She had a personal maxim that inspired her resilience and interior courage: “Active faith in God; active faith in self creates love and faith for all.” After she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 2003, Sister Teresa prayed daily and intentionally for so many needs and persons. In her last days, she longed to see the face of God and said,” I have work to do. I have to intercede for all of you on earth.” On May 19, she got her wish is certainly now certified to intercede for all.
Sister Irma Catharine Leicht, SSJ
Sister Irma Catharine (Irene C. Leicht) 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 71 years, died on May 27, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on June 1, 2006.
Born in Philadelphia, Sister Irma attended Our Lady of the Rosary School and West Catholic High School there before entering the congregation in 1935. She received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College.
For more than thirty years, Sister taught elementary and secondary school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Harrisburg. In 1973, while teaching high school, Sister Irma noticed a letter on a bulletin board asking teachers to volunteer their services with Catholic Social Services. Responding to that invitation would change the course of Sister Irma’s ministry life and the life of so many others. Immediately, she began to work with and for senior citizens. At first, she organized programs for senior citizens in local parishes and then assumed responsibility as Diocesan Coordinator for Seniors in the Diocese of Harrisburg. This ministry led her to develop “Over 50” Clubs, arrange retreats, and organize an annual concert given for seniors. Later, Sister shared her enthusiasm and expertise in the Diocese of Allentown where she coordinated parish support for those who are poor, gave religious instruction to the incarcerated and expanded the widows program.
In 1979, Sister Irma wrote a book called You Are the Light of My Life. It was born of her experiences of organizing Project HEAD, that is, Help Elderly Adults Direct. In the forward, Victoria Peralta, the foundress of HEAD, wrote of Sister Irma: “Hers was a spiritual journey-one that was filled with joy and happiness all along the way. But there were times she felt tired, drained, hurt and lost…yet at the beginning of each new day, she found the strength, the courage and the joy to carry on in a much better way.”
In a letter to members of HEAD, Sister Irma Catharine penned, “In recognizing you, I have recognized myself, and in recognizing myself, I have recognized God.” Her work accomplished, Sister Irma went home to God on May 27.
Sister Alice Rose Schilling (formerly Sister John Catherine) 72, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, died on June 24, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on June 28, 2006.
One of five children, Sister Alice was born in Bayonne, NJ and attended St. Mary Elementary School and Holy Family Academy, both in Bayonne. Alice had only the best memories of her interaction with and education by the Sisters of Saint Joseph and decided to enter the congregation in 1952. Her parents were distraught when their youngest child told that them that she wanted to be an SSJ. Her mother could not bear the thought that she would no longer be living with them. In fact, when Alice did leave for Chestnut Hill, her parents could not live in their family home without her. They moved to a different house!
Sister Alice received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College. For 27 years, she taught elementary school students in various grades in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Allentown. While teaching, Sister Alice volunteered at St. Joseph Villa for many summers, doing any work that was needed. In 1983, she asked to minister full time at the Villa and served there as a Nursing Assistant. Health problems, however, prevented her from remaining in the work that she loved. For a brief time, Sister Alice returned to working with children, serving as a school librarian and library aide until she retired to the Active Senior House in her beloved Bayonne. Sister Alice became a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 2001.
This time she was the one needing care. Despite her physical limitations, she never lost her spirit and great zest for life. Sister Alice liked to participate in all of the activities that the Villa had to offer. There, Sister Alice was asked, “How do you feel when you wake up each day?” Without hesitation, she responded, “I look out the window, see the sunshine and just thank God for another day!” This is the attitude that she took to her meeting on June 24, 2006 with the God who had known her and loved her each day of her life!
Sister Caroline Poot, SSJ
Sister Caroline Poot (Ruth Poot) 84, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 62 years, died on July 14, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on July 18, 2006.
A native of Philadelphia, Sister Caroline attended public elementary and high school in that city. In 1944, Sister entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in South Philadelphia at the age of 22. At the time of her entrance, her pastor, Father William Kane wrote, “I am glad to recommend Ruth to the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She has had a very clear record; is most devoted inner spiritual life; has received Holy Communion daily for many years; and has kept her desire to enter religion very steadily through the years.”
For some years, Sister Caroline taught in schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Allentown before becoming a resident at Saint Joseph Villa in 1970. Due to a debilitating stroke early on, Sister Caroline spent more than half of her religious life at the Villa. Despite her physical limitations, Sister Caroline never gave up her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and her faithfulness at attending daily Mass. Sister Caroline was grateful for the kindnesses that she received from so many while a resident at the Villa and expressed her gratitude frequently.
In Sister Caroline’s eulogy, Sister Pat Kelly, Congregational President, commented, “She accepted her limits and so her possibilities for mission were limitless. She concentrated on the “better part”-a contemplative life with God in union with all of us. Who can ever know the effect of her prayer for us, for her family, and for all of the church and world?”
This simple and childlike woman, who tried her whole life to live and act according to God’s will for her, now delights in the loveliness and mystery of our loving God. No doubt, Sister Caroline will continue to pray for all that she held so dear.
Sister Catherine Brennan (Sister Saint Johanna), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for 63 years, died at Chestnut Hill Hospital on July 17, 2006. Sister was 83 years old. Along with her religious community, Sister Catherine is survived by a host of devoted family members.
Sister Catherine was born in Philadelphia and attended Immaculate Conception Elementary School and both Hallahan and Little Flower High School. Sister also earned a degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and worked most of her life as an elementary school teacher. Sister Catherine ministered in the dioceses of Philadelphia, Newark, and Camden. She has been described as an excellent teacher, appreciated by her students and admired by the young teachers whom she generously mentored.
After five years of living at Saint Bartholomew Convent, an active senior house in Philadelphia, Sister Catherine became a resident of St. Joseph Villa. As she had accepted change in the Church and in her congregation, she accepted the challenges that age and infirmity brought her.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on July 19, 2006. Sister Catherine was remembered as a “down to earth, direct person, blessed with common sense and a grateful heart”. May she rest in peace in the presence of God whom she so generously served. .
Sister Ann Christopher (Gloria Terese Carey), 81, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 61 years, died on July 21,2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on July 25, 2006.
Born in Philadelphia, Sister Ann attended public schools in that city before entering the congregation in 1945 from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Germantown. Her parents were not thrilled with the idea of her entering religious life but when she received her father’s name, Christopher, as her religious name, it may have softened them a bit.
Sister Ann was awarded a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and a M.A. in Educational Administration from Villanova University. Sister served elementary and secondary students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg and Trenton as a teacher and administrator. After completing 33 years in educational ministry, she embarked on a new ministry as Religious Education Coordinator and Pastoral Associate in several parishes. Prior to moving to St. Joseph Villa, Sister Ann also served as a Director of Parish Services. She became a resident at the Villa in 2003.
For her funeral liturgy, Sister Ann Christopher chose a reading from Paul’s letter to Timothy:
“The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. God will reward me with the crown of righteousness.”
Sister Ann Christopher certainly lived a lifetime of generous service and we trust that, having finished the race, she now wears the crown she was promised by a loving God!
Sister Jane Veronica (Cecilia A. Walsh) 85, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 66 years, died on August 2, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on August 7, 2006.
Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Cecilia attended St. Mary’s Grammar School in Bayonne and St. Joseph Academy High School in McSherrystown, PA. The Sisters of Saint Joseph taught Sister Jane throughout her school days but her strong connection to them was deepened by her closeness to her beloved sister, Sarah, who became Sister Mary Annice. Sister Mary Annice entered the congregation when Cecilia was just three years old and had a major influence on Cecilia’s vocation. The combined service of these two women of eighty-seven years was a gift to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and to the Church.
Sister Jane received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Chestnut Hill College and a Master of Arts degree from St. Charles Seminary. Throughout her forty years in the educational ministry, Sister Jane taught students in various grade levels in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia, and in the Dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg, and Raleigh. Because of a sight loss due to macular degeneration, Sister Jane entered a new world of ministry as a Pastoral Minister. Reflecting on her life in ministry, Sister Jane shared, “This disease of the eyes opened my eyes to the beauty of many people and let me know the gift God had given me to bring Him to them as a parish minister in their home, nursing home or hospital.” After ministering to sick persons for many years, Sister Jane became a resident of Saint Joseph Villa in 2004.
Sister Jane always felt that with God’s help she could make a difference. At the Villa, her relationship with God became more personal and she grew to see God, not only as her creator and redeemer but as her providential friend. She now enjoys that friendship with God in ways that she dared not dream!
Sister Jane Teresa(Mary McDonnell)96, a beloved member so the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 77 years, died on August 11, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on August 16, 2006.
Born in Ireland, Mary left her parents and seven siblings and followed her beloved sister, Jane, to the United States. Like many other young Irish women at that time, Mary settled in Our Mother of Consolation Parish in Chestnut Hill. While living there, Mary met Sister Tolentine whose friendship and sense of humor made Mary think seriously about becoming a Sister of Saint Joseph. In January of 1929, Mary entered the Novitiate and received the name, Sister Jane Teresa in August of that year.
For the next forty years, Sister Jane cooked for sisters in various convents in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Harrisburg. Sister Jane was a wonderful cook. She faced some huge challenges when rationing was a part of American life during World War II but she always had a handle on things. Often she cooked in convents when there were forty and fifty sisters to feed but there was no doubt about who was the boss in the kitchen! Sister Jane taught many younger sisters how to cook. No doubt, her recipes, especially her delicious pies, continue today in some of our convent kitchens!
Sister Jane was not learned by today’s standards. She had no college degrees but she had natural abilities and talents, and an avid thirst for reading that kept her abreast of all that was happening. When Sister Jane was cooking in one of the convents in Philadelphia, she befriended a poor man whom she always called “St. Joseph”. In her quiet way, she would bring him in the back door and set a plate before him. He was the dear neighbor, the St. Joseph of North Philly.
Most importantly, Sister Jane knew God and spent hours in prayer and conversation with her God, especially after she became a resident, first at Sacred Heart Hall in 1970, and then at St. Joseph Villa in 1972. Sister Jane is now reaping the benefit of God’s invitation” Come to me all you who labor …and I will give you rest.” Having lived a long life, she now rests in the arms of her loving God.
Sister Gertrude Bernadette Smith, 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph for 71 years, died on August 12, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa where she had resided since 1999. A Memorial Mass for her was celebrated there on August 16. Sister Gertrude Bernadette had made the decision to give her body to science; at a later date she will also be included in a special rite of remembrance conducted annually by the University of Pennsylvania to honor those who choose to give this gift of themselves.
Raised in Philadelphia, Sister Gertrude had one older sister and four younger brothers. She began her elementary education at Edgar Allen Poe Public School and completed it at St. Monica’s Parochial School. She went on to West Catholic High School where she was particularly impacted by her senior English teacher, Sister Franceline, SSJ. In 1935, a year after graduating from West, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. It was the depression era and Sister Gertrude reflected later that she was very grateful that she heeded her father’s advice to stay home that year to help her mother.
For her “Living History,” recorded by Sister Anna Josephine in 2001, Sister Gertrude reflected on her own education and on her ministry as a teacher for over 60 years. Though she had a double major (English and Physical Science) as well as a double minor (History and Math) when she graduated from Chestnut Hill College, she was delighted to pursue a Master’s degree in English, her first love, at Penn State. “I enjoyed the academic life,” she said. “I worked hard at it.”
She enjoyed too her teaching ministry that brought her to the dioceses of Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Newark, NJ and which was spent primarily at the high school level but also included elementary grades and teaching summer session classes at Chestnut Hill College. In the “Living History” interview, Sister Anna Josephine referred to Sister Gertrude as versatile and resilient—one striking evidence of this was the range of secondary subjects she taught over the years: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and her beloved English.
Sister Gertrude passed on so much with great zeal and generosity. Her dedication to and lively interest in the Congregation as well as her gentle attentiveness to individuals were felt and appreciated in a special way at the Villa by residents, staff and visitors alike. A testament to her love of learning and openness to new opportunities was her enthusiasm about the Hospital Ministry course which she took from Sister Mary McGrath. “It taught me a lot about listening,” she said. In describing her prayer in her later years, she explained, “In prayer I try to listen in my heart.”
After years of loving service and compassionate presence to others, Sister Agnes Celeste died at Saint Joseph Villa on August 18, 2006. Sister was one of seven children born to Margaret (Flanagan) and Frank Middleton and was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for sixty-nine years.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Sister Agnes spent sixty-one years of her religious life in generous service to the people of that Archdiocese. She earned her Bachelors degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and a Masters Degree in Education from Seton Hall University. Her studies together with her personal gifts of compassion and creativity prepared her well for dedicated educational ministry. She loved especially her role as academic leader and the opportunity it provided for innovation, allowing her to see and respond to the needs of teachers and students.
That same spirit of creativity allowed Sister Agnes to accept the many changes that she saw over her lifetime. She was proud to say that she had lived through six wars, thirteen presidents, and eight changes of congregational leadership.
Sister spent the last four years of her life at the Villa where she continued to share the kindness and peacefulness that had characterized all of her life’s relationships. The loving care and concern she had received from her parents were the very gifts that she shared with all whom she met.
Sister died as she lived surrounded by her loving family and friends. At her funeral liturgy, Sister Agnes was remembered as one whose gift of life had nourished and strengthened the lives of others and graced the history of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for so many years. May Sister Agnes Celeste rejoice forever in the loving presence of the God she so generously served!
Sister Theresa Connor (formerly Sister Martin Therese) 76, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 58 years, died on August 26, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on August 31, 2006.
Born in Philadelphia, the only daughter of Irish immigrants, Theresa attended Resurrection School and graduated from St. Hubert High School in Philadelphia. Before entering the Novitiate in 1948, Theresa worked as a secretary for one year. Upon entrance, Sister Theresa continued her education and received a B.A. Degree from Chestnut Hill College and an MBA from Temple University.
For ten years, Sister Theresa taught students in elementary schools in the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Philadelphia. After that, she taught high school students math and science. In addition to her educational ministries, Sister Theresa served as Assistant Treasurer and Treasurer of Chestnut Hill College for almost fifteen years. For one very long year, she was both the Treasurer at Chestnut Hill College and the Treasurer for the Sisters of Saint Joseph! After that, Sister Theresa served as Congregational Treasurer until 1989. The Congregation is indebted to her for providing the direction and resoluteness for financial planning that continues to serve its needs. Her final years in ministry were in parish services and as a staff member in the Finance Office. She became a resident of St. Joseph Villa in April of 2006.
Sister Theresa realized that her greatest lifelong education came from the experience of working in her father’s corner grocery store. Despite the intrusion into her playtime, she learned some valuable lessons including graciousness to others, organization and patience that stayed with her and benefited her in her professional ministry throughout her life.
In all that she did and accomplished, Sister Theresa desired no accolades or center stage, to say the least. She never lost her connection and sensitivity to each person, especially to those who needed her assistance. For her, there were no dumb questions. She treated all inquiries with the respect that she learned from her dear parents. May she now be receiving the reward promised by our loving God!
Sister Mary Charles Bradley (Agnes I. Bradley) a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph for 69 years died at St. Joseph Villa on September 15, 2006. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on September 20, 2006.
In 2002 Sister Mary Charles recorded her living history and reflected on her full life which included 53 years teaching business in various high schools in Philadelphia, McSherrystown, and Lebanon, PA and in Orange, NJ. Practical preparation for this ministry as an SSJ came before she entered the congregation. After graduation from Hallahan Catholic High School she made the decision to help her mother who had valiantly taken care of her and her two sisters and a brother following her father’s death when she was only nine. She spent 11 years working as a stenographer before entering the congregation in January, 1937 at the age of 28.
Sister Mary Charles first met the Sisters of St. Joseph as an elementary student at St. Michael’s and that relationship continued during her high school years at Hallahan. She made special mention in her living history of Sister Clare Joseph, her English teacher at Hallahan, whom she greatly admired.
Sharing her experience of Sister Mary Charles shortly after she died, a friend noted that Sister Mary embraced our founder, Fr. Medaille’s challenge to strive for “the more.” “I think Mary took this seriously in every area of her life.” She remained in fulltime ministry until age 77 and when she first went to the Villa in 1986 she helped in the business office.
Sister Mary Charles was well known for her hobbies. She enjoyed doing anything with her hands: art, design, lettering, crafts, sewing, typing-- as well as loving to plant and tend a garden. She also pursued enrichment courses in computer, calligraphy and religious studies at Chestnut Hill College. Most importantly by her very being she lived the SSJ mission of striving to unite people with God and with one another.
In her living history recorded when she was 93, Sister Mary concluded, “I enjoy each day as a grateful recipient of wonderful nursing care. Too, I am looking forward to joining my family who have preceded me to heaven, where I hope to partake of the hundred-fold.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate Sister Mary Charles Bradley, the wonderful work of God’s hand and give thanks for her long life of wonderful works, rejoicing that she now partakes of that hundredfold!
Sister Rose Patricia, formerly Mary Hannon, died on September 26, 2006. She was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for sixty-nine years and will be grieved by them as well as by devoted members of her family.
Sister was born to Mary Agnes and Michael Hannon and was one of nine children. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sister Rose spent most of her life there. Her entire ministry as a Sister of Saint Joseph was devoted to elementary education in the Philadelphia and Washington Archdioceses. One of her co-workers described her as a “wonderful woman and a terrific primary grade teacher”. Another reported that “no matter how many students she had in her class, there was always perfect order and organization”.
Throughout her ministry, Sister Rose Patricia lived the gospel that was proclaimed at her funeral liturgy. “Truly unless you change and become like a child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
When Sister Rose retired to the Villa in 1988, she brought the same dedication and zeal to her new role as a volunteer serving the elderly and the infirmed. She was always generous with her time and focused on the needs of others. Her welcoming presence helped other sisters as they transitioned to life at the Villa.
Sister’s concern for others and for the common good was always accompanied by a joyful and light spirit which she learned early on in the Hannon family. Such was their family spirit that at the time of Sister Rose’s Silver Jubilee, her family hired a bus so they could travel together. They knew that they would have more fun traveling together than driving separately. When they arrived at the celebration, they invited the bus driver to join the party. Like the rest of her siblings, Sister Rose loved parties and she loved to dance Imagine her great joy as she danced into the arms of the God whom she had welcomed so many times in the people she had so generously served in God’s name..
Sister Kathleen McDonough (formerly Sister James Robert) 81, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, PA for 62 years, died on September 29, 2006 at University Hospital, Newark, NJ. A Memorial Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on October 10, 2006.
Born in Montclair, NJ, Sister Kathleen lived most of her life before and after entering the congregation in North Arlington, NJ. At age six, she began her formal education at Queen of Peace Elementary School there and graduated from Queen of Peace High School in the same town. In 1944, Kathleen entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the sisters who had taught her in both of the above-mentioned schools. Sister Kathleen earned an A.B. from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. in Religious Studies from La Salle College (now University).
For 60 years, Sister served elementary and secondary students both as a teacher and as a library assistant in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark and in the Diocese of Wilmington. However, her real love was her alma mater, Queen of Peace High School where she served for the last 33 years of her life. During part of that time, Kathleen cared for her mother, then her father, while maintaining a full teaching schedule. When it was time for her to leave teaching, Sister became an assistant in the high school library.
In her simplicity, Sister Kathleen would not have expected that her picture would be first on the website for Queen of Peace High School and Church. In doing so, her beloved parish honored her for her love and dedication. She had given so much to the people there.
Sister Kathleen was a teacher for the sixty years of her ministry and her plan to donate her body to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School was a desire to continue teaching, even in death.
To quote the Book of Proverbs, “Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.” In Kathleen’s spirit, we ask the Queen of Peace to ease our cares, to protect all peoples and to bestow peace on all of earth. May our dear sister, Sister Kathleen, rest in peace!
Sister Rose Therese Ormsby
Sister Rose Therese Ormsby, 84, a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph for 65 years, died on October 6, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, where she had resided since January, 2006. A Memorial Mass was offered for her there on October 13, 2006. Sister Rose had chosen cremation; at a later time her cremains will be buried with her sister, Sister Ernestine, who died in 1973.
For 14 years previous to her move to the Villa, Sister Rose had lived at St. Andrew’s Senior House in her beloved hometown of Bayonne, NJ where she had attended St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School and Holy Family Academy. In her years at St. Andrew’s she served as secretary for the parish Religious Education Program. A second Memorial Mass for her was celebrated at St. Andrew’s Church on October 21, 2006.
In recording her living history some years ago, Sister Rose identified a number of Sisters of St. Joseph who impacted her decision to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph. First and foremost was her own sister, Sister Ernestine who entered the community nine years before her. There were also Sisters Maria Cecilia and Vera Theresa from St. Vincent’s, Bayonne as well as Sisters Gertrude de Lourdes and Clare Leona of Holy Family Academy who were, she noted, especially compassionate and helpful to her when her mother died during her junior year.
Sister Rose spent almost her entire congregational life in education ministry. Her first 17 years on a mission were at Ascension in Philadelphia. After that, except for six years at Severna Park, MD and three years as Coordinator of Housekeeping at Mt. St. Joseph Convent the rest of her years were spent in New Jersey, including serving as principal at St. Vincent de Paul, Mays Landing and Queen of Peace, North Arlington.
In her living history part of Rose’s advice to new SSJ members was, “Keep a healthy sense of humor and develop love of God and love of neighbor.” These were traits that endeared Rose herself to so many sisters, students, co-workers, friends, and cherished family members. Her sense of humor—she loved to tease and be teased—her gift for storytelling, and her love of song and fun were hallmarks of her unique and inclusive love.
Sister Dorothy Urban, in her reflections at the Memorial Mass for Sister Rose on Oct. 13, noted that “it is her depth of spirituality that is the greatest legacy of Sister Rose Therese.” St. Therese of Lisieux held a most special place in Rose’s heart and she referred to her as “my prayerful companion.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice that Sister Rose Therese Ormsby is united forever with her companion, St. Therese, as well as with all her beloved family members and friends who have gone before her. We cherish the gift of her fun loving spirit and her spiritual depth so wonderfully combined in her life lived to the full!
Sister Anne Horan (formerly Sister St. Philomena), 86, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 63 years, died on October 29, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on November 2, 2006.
Anne, the daughter of Jennie and James Horan, attended St. Michael Grade School and John W. Hallahan Girls High School, both in Philadelphia. Anne was very involved in parish life long before her entrance into religious life in the fall of 1943. As a young girl, she organized and moderated the parish Girl Scout troop. She was an outstanding leader who won the respect and admiration of her scouts. Her example and kindness inspired six of them to follow her not only in the scouting program but also directly into the Sisters of Saint Joseph!
Sister Anne received a Bachelors of Science degree from Chestnut Hill College and her Masters of Arts degree from Villanova University. Her ministry experience was quite diverse. Sister Anne began her teaching career in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and taught students in the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington, DC, as well as in the Diocese of Raleigh. Over time, she served as an elementary school principal, school librarian and parish minister. In addition, Sister Anne served as a Regional Superior for the Congregation. Her last ministry assignment was as local coordinator at St. Joseph Villa. Sister Anne became a resident at the Villa in 1995.
Sister Anne was gifted with a magnetic personality and smile that drew people to her; whenever she organized an activity, her contagious enthusiasm drew support for whatever the task.
Throughout her life, Anne walked humbly with God. Sister Anne certainly knew herself. She was aware of her gifts and limitations. She knew that God was with her. No wonder she moved with such joy! She trusted herself. She had great common sense and was not afraid to laugh at herself.
During the many years of her illness, despite the slow dementia that came upon her, she remained a woman of great love and joy. On Sunday, October 29, Sister Anne had a new beginning, a beginning where now her heart burns in some mysterious way as she moves with her God in gentleness, zeal and joy! We are grateful to God for the gift of Sister Anne to all whose lives she touched.
Sister Elizabeth Mary Krimm
Sister Elizabeth Mary, formerly Dolores Krimm died on November 1, 2006 at Saint Joseph Villa. Sister was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for 75 years and will be missed by members of her community as well as by her devoted family and friends.
Sister Elizabeth Mary was one of thirteen children born to John and Elizabeth Krimm. She was a member of Saint Peter’s Parish in Philadelphia formerly a German stronghold, now the shrine of Saint John Neumann. The Krimm home was a house of religious formation. When the Angelus bell rang, the family gathered around the table to pray the Angelus in German. Weekly confession was an essential part of family life. No wonder that Sister Elizabeth was not the only vocation to religious life. Her brothers John and Bernard became Redemptorist priests. Her sister Loretta (Sister Walburga) was also a Sister of Saint Joseph. The faith that Sister learned in her home supported her all her life.
In her family, Sister Elizabeth also discovered her love and talent for music. She played for her brothers and sisters. Her gift for music developed through her studies at Chestnut Hill College and West Chester College and it bore fruit in many years of music ministry. She was a traveling musician who taught music in ten elementary and seven secondary schools in five different dioceses. At one point she spent her summers at Little Flower High School teaching students from archdiocesan high school orchestras who came to learn and to practice. Her welcoming way and her dry sense of humor made the daily trips on the Broad Street Subway well worth the ride. Sister never forgot the students she taught. Years later she would greet them and remember where and when she had taught them. At one high school, she taught religion. The principal wanted “a religion teacher who could do music”. Sister Elizabeth Mary replied that she was a “music teacher who could do religion”.
In her last years of active ministry, Sister made pastoral visits to the aged and infirmed. She shared with them the same gifts of care and encouragement which she had shared with so many others during her lifetime of ministry. In her six years at the Villa, she continued her ministry of prayer and presence.
Sister Elizabeth witnessed and experienced so many changes in the world, the Church and her religious community over her long and fruitful lifetime. The Vatican Council occurred about half way through her seventy-five years in the congregation. In times of difficult transitions, Sister relied on her faith in God, her devotion to Mary, and her close personal relationships with the people she had served.
This resilient spirit enabled her to attend the celebration of her 75th Jubilee just two weeks before her death. She came to the Chapel enduring all her physical limitations to celebrate all that God had given her and to ask God’s comfort and healing.
Sister Elizabeth Mary died on November 1st, the feast of All the Saints. Imagine heaven’s delight in welcoming to the celebration one who had made music all her life.
Sister Agnes Imelda Driscoll, age 86, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 68 years, died on Nov. 8, 2006 at St. Joseph Villa where she had resided since 2002. Her funeral Mass was celebrated there on November 14, 2006.
Sister Agnes, a Bayonne, NJ native and the second youngest of nine children, was educated there by the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School and at Holy Family Academy. She recalled in later years wonderful memories of gatherings of extended family members and friends at her family home, which was always a center of activity both when she was growing up and in her adult life. Among her extended family are SSJ cousins Sisters Anne Winkleman and Pat Finnerty who recount being inspired from their earliest years by Agnes’s infectious love for life and joy in being a Sister of St. Joseph.
Sister Agnes’s love for life touched many others in her many years in educational ministry, most of them spent teaching very young children. She served at St. Timothy’s, St. Columba’s, Cathedral, and St. Ann’s in Philadelphia and in New Jersey at Our Lady of Mercy, Jersey City, St. Andrew’s, Bayonne, Our Lady of the Valley, Orange, and St. Rose’s, Belmar. Sister Agnes often shared stories about her years at Cathedral during the 1950’s and early 60’s; she was happy to return there as principal in 1978.
In their later years Sister Agnes helped to care for her parents and older siblings. She experienced deep personal loss as each of her immediate family members passed away.
Throughout her life Sister Agnes loved the seashore; her niece Margie recalls wonderful “mystery tours” with her Aunt Agnes which would always end up at some shore resort –one being the SSJ Retreat House at Cape May Point. Margie remembers, too, sharing in Agnes’s joy when she “finally made it to a seashore mission.” In 1991 she went to St. Rose, Belmar where, until becoming a resident at the Villa in 2002, she continued to enjoy the ocean she loved so much and to share her laughter and infectious love for life.
The Sisters of St. Joseph are grateful for Sister Agnes Driscoll’s life lived to the full and shared so generously with our Congregation, our church, and our world.
Sister Isabel Friel
Sister Isabel Friel, formerly Sister Joseph Isabel, died on November 23, 2006 at Saint Joseph Villa, in Flourtown, Pennsylvania. Sister is survived by her sister-in-law, Sue, and two generations of nieces and nephews. She is remembered fondly by members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph with whom she lived and worked through sixty-eight years of religious life.
Isabel was one of four children born to Joseph and Edith (Berkheiser) Friel. She was born and raised in Philadelphia. Two years after graduating from West Catholic High School, Isabel joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph. In joining the community, Isabel followed in the footsteps of her aunt, Mother Saint Leo Friel, and prepared the way for her cousin, Sister Judith Oliver.
Sister Isabel continued her studies earning a Bachelor Degree in Education from Villanova University and a Masters Degree in Religious Education from Saint Charles Seminary. She spent most of her life ministering to Junior High School students in the dioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Trenton, Wilmington, Delaware and Charlotte, North Carolina. After almost 40 years in fulltime teaching, Isabel launched a second career as a school librarian. She took courses in library science and spent her summers and free time processing books. Using all the skills she had refined as a teacher, she organized a library that became a wonderful learning space for the entire school.
Isabel had many facets to her personality. She loved a good time and had a contagious laugh. There was also a great deal of introversion and introspection in Isabel. Although she never did serious art, she had many artistic traits. She had an artist’s eye and an ability to create with her hands. Crocheting and hairdressing were favorite hobbies. She is remembered for her sensitivity, her kindness, and her welcoming spirit.
Isabel loved her summer retreats at Cape May. The ocean helped her feel close to God. She loved its beauty and strength, its calm and quiet. She described her spirituality as one of surrender to God. She felt called to a life of simplicity. She wanted “what you want, dear Lord”.
The following poem by Sister Madeleva, a Sister of the Holy Cross, was read during a Remembrance Service for Sister Isabel and again at her Funeral Liturgy. The poem seems so fitting for Isabel, the life she lived, and the God she loved.
Know you the journey that I take?
Know you the voyage that I make?
The joy of it – one’s heart could break.
No jot of time have I to spare,
Nor will to loiter anywhere,
So eager am I to be there
For that the way is hard and long,
For that gray fears upon it throng,
I set my journey to the song
And it grows wondrous happy so
Singing I hurry on for –oh!
It is to God, to God I go.
Sister Margaret Rosarii Queenan
Sister Margaret Rosarii (Margaret Queenan) 86,a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 68 years, died on January 22, 2007 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 26, 2007.
S. Margaret attributed the influence of her family for enhancing her faith and drawing her to accept a call to religious life. The daughter of John and Margaret, Irish immigrants, Margaret was born in Philadelphia, where she attended Visitation Elementary School and John W. Hallahan High School. After entering the congregation in 1939, Margaret received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and a M.A. in Education from Seton Hall University.
For 60 years, Sister Margaret ministered to elementary school students, serving as teacher and principal in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark and in the Diocese of Allentown. Margaret said that the years that she spent with little ones were her Camelot. Among her many accomplishments during those active years included founding a new school and being a national delegate for primary education. She received a commendation from the Archdiocese of Newark for her “Christ-like zeal and devotion” toward the establishment of an educational organization unit for teachers.
When it was time for her to leave the educational ministry, Margaret offered service in the Saint Joseph Guild office and in the Congregational Finance Office where she was always a healing presence. Courageously she said,”To change is to grow” and she attributed all of her abilities to embrace such challenging works to God’s Providence always at work in her.
Gifted with a pleasant disposition, Sister Margaret was loved by those who lived with her, those who had the privilege to minister with her, and most especially by her family who were so present to her in life and in her illness.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph celebrate the life of Sister Margaret Rosarii and thank God for the witness of faithful love that she so willingly offered throughout her life. Rest in the arms of our loving God, dear Margaret!
Sister Rose Veronica Kotzman
Sister Rose Veronica, 91, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 73 years died on February 4, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa where she had resided since 1994. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on February 8, 2007.
Mary Jane Kotzman, born in West Virginia, was the third of ten children. After her family moved to York, PA she encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Rose Parish there. In her own telling she said that she “had a yearning within for more fulfillment in life” and at the age of 19 that yearning led her to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph in January, 1934. A great joy and surprise of Sister Rose’s life as a Sister of St. Joseph came many years later when her own sister Barbara, who was only 2 yrs. old when she had left home, joined her and entered the community in 1952.
Speaking of her 42 years in teaching, Sister Rose described her experiences as exciting and fulfilling. Twenty-two of those years were spent teaching first graders. All of her places of ministry as a teacher were in Pennsylvania and included Sacred Heart, Conewago, St. Vincent’s, Hanover, St. Gabriel’s, Norwood, Epiphany in both Philadelphia and Plymouth, O.L. of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem and Annunciation, McSherrystown.
Sister Rose also spent close to four years at home caring for her father, meeting and learning from the challenges of this new experience. It was following this that she began ministering at St. Francis Inn, spending ten years there witnessing the daily life and struggle of the poor and serving their needs. In reflecting on this time she said, “The time at St. Francis was growth-filled. This is where I really learned to let go and let God in my life even more. There I met God’s poor.”
She, along with Sister Mary Flora, in a commendation received for their work at the Inn were described thus: “They are an integral part of our work…they are so faithful, so caring, and both so full of love for the homeless, the poor, and, of course, for us Franciscans.” (Rev. Michael Duffy, OFM)
Again “ready for any good work” Sister Rose, after her ministry time at the Inn, continued at St. Ann’s Convent offering services to support the life of the community there. It was from there that she moved to the Villa in 1994—another new beginning in her life. In reflecting on her years at the Villa she saw them as an “opportunity to share, listen, help, and grow in my life.”
At the time of recording her living history, Sister Rose was asked what advice she would offer to new members. Her reply: Pray for perseverance and gather your strength from all those who have gone before you…Most of all, stay as close to God as fish to water.”
This is cherished advice for all Sisters of St. Joseph. We gather strength from the example of openness and care and the generous response to all God’s invitations throughout the long and fulfilling life of our dear Sister Rose Veronica Kotzman.
Sister Margaret Ann Rothwell, formerly Sister Saint Margaret died at Saint Joseph Villa on February 5, 2007. She was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for sixty-nine years and will be missed by members of her community as well as by her devoted family and friends.
Margaret was born in Philadelphia to Thomas and Marie (Brennan) Rothwell. From them she learned to appreciate beauty and to love learning. In her family, Margaret first experienced the values which would shape her life: her dedication to growth and study, the sharing of faith and beauty, and the willingness to embrace new adventures.
Sister earned two degrees from Chestnut Hill College. After earning a masters degree in the Philosophy of Education from Catholic University, she taught there for several summers. Sister spent sixty years in the ministry of education, first as an elementary school teacher and then she was among the first to assume the role of Director of Religious Education. Sister served in the dioceses of Allentown, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. She was one of the first Coordinators of the teaching of religion in elementary schools for the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Through these ministries and through the text, Life, Love, and Joy which Margaret authored, she influenced many lives and expanded the field of religious education.
The message of Jesus was at the heart of her mission and she shared her faith with children, adolescents, parents, and teachers. She had the special gift of relating to everybody, young and old in a cheerful, faith-filled way. She taught by word and example and inspired others to do the same. The integrity with which Margaret lived her life as a woman religious in a changing church was both a comfort and a challenge to those whom she mentored.
Margaret became a resident of Saint Joseph Villa in 1997. There she continued to teach by word and example. She was happy to help in any way she could. Hers was a gentle, faith-filled presence.
At her funeral Margaret was praised as a living document of this quote from her congregation’s Constitution: “To make Christ visible to the world, we embrace our contemporary situation at that moment of salvation history in which God makes us responsible for participating in the life and mission of the Church”. Well done, Margaret, faithful servant!
Sister Catharine T. Fee (formerly Sister M. Consilii) 73, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 53 years, died on March 2, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on March 6, 2007.
There are very few SSJ’s who have spent their entire lives in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia but S. Catharine Theresa Agnes Fee was one of them! A true Philadelphian, Catharine, the daughter of John and Rita Fee, was born there. She attended Our Mother of Sorrows Elementary School and West Catholic High School for Girls, both in West Philadelphia. After entering the Congregation in 1953, Catharine earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in mathematics, the first from Chestnut Hill College, the second from Villanova University. In ministry, she taught elementary school students and then for a number of years she taught young women in high school in several schools. In 1988, Cass began her service at Chestnut Hill College. During her almost twenty years there, Cass served first as Registrar and then as Associate Dean for Academic Advising.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph believe that being an SSJ is all about relationships, about the quality of our presence in any and all situations.
S. Catharine was about relationships on all levels-within the Congregation, with her family, with those she encountered in ministry. She connected with people wherever she went. Cass treasured her time with people, especially with her sisters, Rita, Fran and Sister Mary. She was most interested in what was happening in the lives of her nieces and nephews and her happiness was increased with the arrival of her grandnephews and grandniece. Cass was happy that her niece, Theresa Hayburn, joined her and her sister Mary as a Sister of Saint Joseph.
This avid sports fan was a long-suffering Philadelphia Phillies fan and a Villanova Wildcats supporter but she had a true love for the Emerald Isle. Cass had an affinity for everything Irish and was surrounded by symbols of that land when it was time to greet the God she had lovingly served for so many years. In the words of the Irish songwriter, we ask God to “bathe her in your love” forever.
Sister Ann Edward Bennis
Sister Ann Edward, formerly Anna Marie Bennis, died on March 5, 2007. Sister is mourned in death by all those who loved her in life: her sisters, Madeleine Degnan and Sister Anna Josephine, three generations of nieces and nephews, a wide circle of friends, and members of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Sister Ann Edward was one of six children born to Edward and Anna (Normile) Bennis in the Immaculate Conception Parish in Germantown. From the beginning hers was a missionary spirit, but she lived most of her life in Philadelphia. Through her experiences of life, literature, and travel she became a citizen of the world.
In 1930 at seventeen she cast her lot with the Sisters of St. Joseph who had taught her at Hallahan High School. Sister Ann Edward received her undergraduate degree from Chestnut Hill College and her Masters from The Catholic University of America. She also had the opportunity to study in Europe and traveled extensively.
Sister spent her life in the ministry of education, first teaching at St. Mary’s Academy and then for short stints at Hallahan and Cecilian. In 1945, Sister joined the faculty of Chestnut Hill College where she nurtured generations of women to be leaders, writers, and thinkers. She especially enjoyed teaching young sisters who would come to her class on Saturdays and for summer-school sessions. She was a challenging teacher who encouraged students to know more, do more, and be more. For many, Sister Ann Edward’s name became synonymous with the mission of the College, which she loved for over fifty years.
Her teaching was not confined to a classroom. For three years, Sister Ann Edward taught both men and women at Holmesburg Prison. Beginning in 1993, she traveled each week to the Southwest Philadelphia Community Center to read to the elderly people gathered there. She received an award for her generous and gracious service to this retirement community.
Sister Ann Edward was also a brilliant scholar. Awards for scholarship dotted her career. She published numerous articles and translated from the French, The Martyrs of Privas, the story of the early Sisters of St. Joseph who were martyred at the guillotine. She was the first woman to have an article published in Homiletic Review. She gathered wonderful anthologies of Black, Irish, and Women writers.
Sister Ann Edward’s life was all about relationship. She saw beauty in each person. Those who were rich and famous, those poor and forgotten, all had a share in her life and her ministry. Her sister, Sister Anna Josephine describes her as one “whose unique personality radiates to all she meets. She makes people feel welcome, fusses over guests, tells great stories and enthralls her listeners. She is dynamic with a flair for the fabulous. She has a five-track mind with heavy traffic speeding in every lane. She never, ever complains about her health or her age. She has perennial youth.”
Sister Ann Edward Bennis, who loved life and lived it to the full, now enjoys eternal life. Imagine the stories she’ll tell!
Sister Letitia McBride (Eleanor Mary McBride), died at St. Joseph Villa on Holy Thursday, April 5, 2007 just days after the 70th anniversary (March 30) of her reception into the congregation. Her funeral Mass was celebrated there on April 10, 2007.
Eleanor Mary was the only daughter of William and Ellen McBride and, along with her two older brothers, attended St. Robert’s School, Chester, PA where she fondly recalled being taught by Sister Francis Xavier in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7. The tragic loss of her brother
Bill, who was struck by lightening and died at age 14, brought Sister Catherine Regina into the life of the McBride family in a very significant way as she reached out to them with loving care and support. She also became Eleanor’s teacher at St. Robert’s High School.
In her living history she recalled these early influences and how she would pray at the grave of her brother that she would become a Sister of St. Joseph. So it was that Eleanor McBride, with the proud recommendation of the pastor, became in 1936 the first graduate of St. Robert’s High School to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Sister Letitia, fondly known as Letty, was in a variety of ministry settings over the years spanning 1938 to 1999 when she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa. Her undergraduate degree from Chestnut Hill College was in Music and she earned a Master’s degree in Religious Studies at LaSalle College. In five elementary schools as well as six high schools she proved herself a dedicated teacher. One of her former principals noted that she was “cooperative and friendly with her co-workers and always open to ministry ideas.” She extended her presence to various parish involvements and was always “ready for any good work.” Sister Letitia was diligent about obtaining frequent updating in both music and religious studies. Along with the knowledge and skills that she brought to her students, the values of prayer and respect were an integral part of her teaching.
After 50 years in diverse teaching assignments, Sister Letitia joined the office staff at Archbishop Ryan High School where she continued to minister with love and faithfulness until her move to the Villa in 1999. Her death there on Holy Thursday, 2007 was truly God’s embrace of one who had held fast to God’s call and followed it unreservedly. May
Sister Letitia McBride ever glory in the cross of Christ and the triumph of God’s great love!
Sister Mary Aquin O’Keefe
Sister Mary Aquin (Catherine M. O’Keefe) 88, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 70 years, died on April 24, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on May 1, 2007.
Born in Philadelphia, Catherine was the daughter of Thomas and Mabel O’Keefe. In the first grade at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catherine first encountered the Sisters of Saint Joseph. When her family moved, she attended and graduated from, St. Joan of Arc School. From there, it was on to John W, Hallahan High School where she again met up with the SSJ’s. These women had been extremely kind to her family and she often repeated what she described as the loving kindness of the Sisters, particularly at the death of her mother.
In 1936, Catharine entered the Congregation and soon began her teaching ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where she spent all but four years of her life. Sister Mary enjoyed teaching elementary school children but she really found great satisfaction teaching young women in high school. In her later years, Sister Mary volunteered doing office work. With conviction, she eagerly passed on to students, family and other SSJ’s what was important to her and beneficial to others. In all of her ministries, she offered the youth that surrounded her joy, direction, blessing and support.
Her education at Villanova University and The Catholic University prepared her well for her ministry but other events prepared her for life. Throughout her life, Sister Mary relied heavily on God’s Providence and responded to all that she was asked to do with a deep faith. For her, nothing was impossible with God’s grace. In a reflection that she wrote on her life, she quipped “Who could be richer?” She counted among her treasures her family, her friends and her congregation. She also wrote that daily she thanked God that His push was stronger than her pull and that she answered a call. The last line in her autobiography reads ”Thanks again, God, for calling me to be a Sister of Saint Joseph.” How grateful so many are that she did! Thank you, Sister Mary Aquin, for your life and love among us.
Sister Annmarie Regis Ferry
Sister Annmarie Regis Ferry, age 73, died at St. Joseph Villa on April 29, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on May 3. 2007.
Annmarie’s roots trace back to Ireland where both of her parents were born and to Bayonne, NJ where she was born and raised. Her SSJ connections began at St. Andrew’s, Bayonne where she attended elementary school and were deepened during her four years at Holy Family Academy. Shortly after graduating from Holy Family she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1951. She always remained very proud of both her Irish and Bayonne roots, treasuring family and especially in recent years, her nephews Jackie and Bill, her niece, Annmarie, and her SSJ cousin, Sister Mary Rose Dugan.
For 56 years Annmarie lived a full life of commitment serving the “dear neighbor” primarily through her ministry as a classroom teacher in many elementary and secondary schools in both NJ and PA. She also served as librarian, first at Sacred Heart High School, Vineland and then for six years at Northeast Catholic High School, Philadelphia. Annmarie’s years as librarian and 20+ years of teaching high school English gave her a venue for sharing her great love of literature and inspiring others to a similar appreciation.
Well read and gifted with a keen intellect and wit, Annmarie especially enjoyed lively conversation and her favorite TV show, “Jeopardy.” She was not limited as a viewer from entering –and often excelling—in the competition! A highlight of Annmarie’s life was her 1983 experience of participating in a two week Irish Literature course at Trinity College, Dublin. This also provided her the opportunity to visit some of her Irish relatives.
After one year at her first mission, Corpus Christi, Annmarie then spent four years at Ascension, Philadelphia in her early years of religious life. Her last 11 years were also spent at Ascension, the first six of those while she was ministering at Northeast Catholic.
Having traveled full circle, illness brought Annmarie to the Villa at the beginning of Advent, 2006, just five months before her death. In the fullness of the Easter season God called her to her final home.
In living the Paschal Mystery, Annmarie embraced again and again, the call of our community prayer which she so deeply loved: “…to surrender, to stand open and powerless, completely dependent upon Jesus.” The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice that Sister Annmarie Regis Ferry now experiences the peace of one who has surrendered finally and forever; the blessed peace of one who resides eternally in the love of the Risen Jesus.
Sister Helen Christi Matsinger
Sister Helen Christi (Helen Matsinger) 85, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 68 years, died on May 10, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on May 15, 2007.
Born in Philadelphia, Helen attended Corpus Christi School and Holy Souls Commercial School both in that city. Helen became a competent secretary, working for two years before following her sister Marie (S. Jane Immaculate) into the Congregation in September of 1939. On her Reception Day, Helen and her family were delighted that her religious name contained both the name of her beloved home parish, Corpus Christi, as well as her baptismal name. Often, as children, Helen and her sister, Marie, could be found doing whatever needed to be done in the convent at Corpus Christi. She had close ties to the many girls who entered the Congregation from that parish and bonded with them throughout her life in community.
A graduate of Villanova University, Sister Helen taught elementary school students for 50 years. She shared her gifts as an educational specialist with students of the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and the Dioceses of Allentown, Trenton and Paterson. At different points in her years in ministry, S. Helen was a teacher, reading specialist, tutor, and principal. In the latter years of her ministry, she visited the sick and brought Communion to the homebound in Ambler. At the Villa, she continued to meet the needs of others by helping the residents get to the hairdressers and by delivering mail to them. Both of these jobs helped to lift the spirits of the Villa residents.
Relationships were important to Helen. She was very close to her sister Jane, her brother-in-law Jim and their children. She never tired of talking about them and their accomplishments. However, Marie and Helen shared the bond of community. Both S. Jane Immaculate and S. Helen were missioned to the Villa in 2001. Helen was very faithful and attentive to the needs of her sister until her sister’s death in early 2006.
Truly, S. Helen Christi was ready for any good work! Thank you, Helen, for your wonderful example, and for living a life of love, prayer and service these many years!
Sister Rita Eileen (Catherine T. Cavanagh) 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 70 years, died on May 17, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on May 23, 2007.
Catherine, the middle daughter of Irish parents, John and Cassie Cavanagh, was born in New York City. The Cavanagh girls began their education with the Newburgh Dominicans in New York but enrolled at Our Mother of Consolation School, Chestnut Hill when the family moved to Philadelphia.
It was there that Catherine met Sister Divine Child and the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the seed for her vocation was planted. It was on to John W. Hallahan High School, also in Philadelphia, where “Boots”, as she was affectionately known, was very involved with the activities of the school, especially sports. After working at Sears for a year, Catherine entered the Congregation in 1937 where she became S. Rita Eileen.
S. Rita received a Bachelors of Science degree in Education from Villanova University. Throughout her years in active ministry, she used her skills in elementary classrooms throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the Dioceses of Allentown, Trenton and Wilmington. S. Rita enjoyed teaching children of different ages in various settings. She was comfortable in the city, in the suburbs and especially at the seashore. Rita once taught 95 children in a double grade class!
When her days as a classroom teacher ended, S. Rita made herself available to assist high school students in the library. As the health of her two beloved sisters declined, S. Rita was there to help and support them until their deaths, which were only three months apart. Shortly after those significant losses, S. Rita, after prayer and discernment, requested to become a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 2000.
Never one to be idle, Rita rendered whatever service she could at the Villa and made afghans and other items for the Villa Gift Shop. In reflecting about her life at the Villa, Rita quoted from the gospel of the Transfiguration, “Lord, it is good for me to be here.” We trust that at her death, her beloved sisters, both her blood sisters and her sisters in community, along with the God she served so lovingly, welcomed her with open arms to her reward for a life of generosity and faithfulness.
Sister Leonore Bauer
Sister Leonore Bauer, formerly Dolorosa Venantia Bauer, died on May 12, 2007. Sister is survived by her siblings: Mary, Dorothy, Charles, William, and Edward and nieces and nephews to the second generation. In addition to her family, she is mourned by many friends, former students, and members of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Sister Leonore was the seventh of eight children born to Joseph and Mary (McCool) Bauer. Along with her parents, she is predeceased by her brothers, Joseph and Paul.
Sister entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 12, 1947 and died in the 60th year of her religious life. Sister earned a degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and spent all her life ministering to God’s little ones. Her presence and ministry enriched the dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg, Newark, and Philadelphia.
Sister Leonore loved her ministry with little children. She enjoyed their simplicity, their questions, and their sharings. “These children”, she said, “energize and confirm for me God’s great love for them, for myself, and for all of us.” Sister worked to help children balance their individual needs with the common good of all their classmates. This was the balance that Sister herself lived in many ways. Simplicity, faithfulness, dedication, and kindness shaped Sister Leonore’s life and nurtured and sustained all her relationships.
During the funeral Mass celebrated at St. Joseph Villa, Sister Ethelyn Tucker, C.P.S. quoted from St. Mark’s gospel. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them for it is to such as these that the Reign of God belongs.” Sister Leonore spent her life welcoming children in Jesus’ name. Now may she truly experience God’s touch and embrace as she is welcomed into God’s presence by all who have gone before her.
S. Pierre Madeleine Kiernan, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 65 years, died at St. Joseph Villa on May 19, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on May 24, 2007.
Helen Rose Kiernan was born on July 2, 1923 to John and Alma Kiernan in Newark, NJ. Her family, including brothers George and Jack and sister Madeleine, moved to North Arlington, NJ when Helen Rose was eight years old. It was there that S. Pierre met the Sisters of St. Joseph when she was enrolled at Queen of Peace Elementary School. In later years S. Pierre remembered fondly S. Rita Dolorine, her first SSJ teacher and attributed the seeds of her vocation to these early years.
Another favorite childhood experience that S. Pierre recounted was her mother’s conversion from the Dutch Reformed Religion to Catholicism when S. Pierre was five years old. “I was present when she received all the sacraments,” she happily recalled.
S. Pierre earned a degree in education from Villanova University; all of her 45 classroom years were spent teaching first grade. Except for eight early years in Philadelphia she ministered with great dedication in schools in various central and north Jersey locations. When asked about her life’s work she responded, “I found teaching most fulfilling!”
Her fulltime teaching years were followed by serving for five years as cook at St. Andrew’s, Bayonne—a skill she had honed with great delight to the pleasure of many over the years—sisters, family, friends and the homeless for whom she had prepared meals weekly when serving in Bayonne, NJ.
A very significant time of S. Pierre’s life were the years she spent caring for her sister Madeleine from 1992 until her death in 1998. It was following Madeleine’s death that she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa. In her 9 ½ years there S. Pierre brought her gifts of prayerfulness, generosity, and good humor to all at the Villa. “Her optimistic outlook on life is quite evident and wherever she is you are sure to hear laughter,” was the way one fellow resident described S. Pierre’s caring presence.
S. Pierre was an integral part of the Chapter House of Prayer experience from its inception for the 1979 Chapter to the most recent Chapter 2004 House of Prayer—five chapters spanning 25 years. It was a most precious and meaningful form of participation for Pierre.
When asked what advice she would give to our newest members, S. Pierre responded, “I would tell them not to look ahead but learn to live in the present moment with a joy-filled heart and thanksgiving to God for calling them.” These words as well as the lived witness of S. Pierre Madeleine Kiernan’s full and dedicated life are a wonderful legacy and inspiration to all Sisters of St. Joseph!
Sister Dorothy Emig
Sister Dorothy Marie Emig, formerly Sister Euphrasia, died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown on May 24, 2007. Sister is mourned by her family, friends, former students, parishioners, and members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Dorothy was born in Philadelphia to George and Louise (Spang) Emig. She grew up in Saint Stephen Parish and attended both Hallahan and Little Flower high schools.
A year after graduation, Dorothy joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph who had been her mentors. At that time her pastor, Reverend William McNally, wrote: “Dorothy is a devout, intelligent and cultured person and enjoys a splendid reputation. She is most attentive to her religious duties, and is at all times willing to help in parish activities.”
That same spirit of ardent faith and generous participation shaped the way Dorothy lived her religious life and ministry for sixty-five years. Her ministry included fifty years of teaching students in elementary and secondary schools in the dioceses of Camden, Newark, and Philadelphia. In later years Dorothy continued to share her gifts and talents through academic support services, parish services, and ministry in her local community.
Throughout her life, Dorothy pursued her own academic development by earning her undergraduate degree from Chestnut Hill College and a Masters Degree in Religion from Saint Bonaventure University.
Dorothy lived her life with fidelity, patience, and generosity. May she be welcomed by all who have gone before her and remembered by those she leaves behind.
S. Frances Bernadette Dolan (Grace Dolan), a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 72 years died at St. Joseph Villa on May 24, 2007. She was just one month away from her 90th birthday. Her funeral Mass was celebrated there on May 29; Msgr. Joseph Di Mauro, a former student of S. Frances at Wildwood Catholic, presided at the Mass. All present who have served at St. Mary by the Sea formed an honor guard as S. Frances’s body was brought from the chapel to the cemetery.
S. Frances Bernadette spent 36 summers at St. Mary’s by the Sea, Cape May Point, beginning in 1967 when S. St. Emily requested that she join the summer staff. For 17 of those years she was house director. In a “living history” interview in 2002 she succinctly summed up her ministry there by stating, “I am most grateful to both God and my Community for this haven of spirituality, beauty, and place of service.”
As classroom teacher for 40 years and as fulltime librarian for 20 years, S. Frances devoted herself with zeal and great love to the ministry of education. After her early years in elementary school, she served as a home economics teacher and librarian in high schools in Wildwood, NJ, Easton, PA, Wilmington, DE, and Bethlehem, PA. She was a resident at St. Joseph Villa for less than a year having moved there on June 28, 2006.
A cancer survivor, S. Frances recalled that a doctor once told her she had nine lives. “The only trouble is he didn’t tell me which one I was on!” she quipped. She added that both of her sisters had died at age 65. Her nieces and nephews remained bonded to her and they and her great nieces and nephews kept vigil with their Aunt Grace in her final days. Along with villa staff and residents they too were an “honor guard” as S. Frances achieved her “ninth” and everlasting life.
At her funeral mass, Council member S. Dot Urban, reflected on the life of S. Frances Bernadette: “Frances was consecrated to God through her vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. She lived the daily grace of vows, and her gratitude for such blessing spilled over into every action. Sisters who lived with her through the years, coworkers in schools, parishes, and at Cape May were lightened and brightened by her sense of humor, beautiful smile, and thoughtful concern for every aspect of life.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate the living, dying, and rising of S. Frances Bernadette Dolan and all the ways she made the SSJ charism come alive through her faithful and full “nine lives!”
Sister Lawrence Joseph (Kathleen Murphy) 83, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 64 years, died on June 11, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on June 14, 2007.
Born in Bethlehem, PA to Lawrence and Elizabeth Murphy, Kathleen came from a loving family with four sisters and one brother, Father Larry. Kathleen attended Holy Infancy Elementary School and Bethlehem Catholic High School before entering the Congregation in 1943. In a reflection, S. Lawrence noted that her mother had had a significant impact on her vocation. She prayed for Kathleen’s vocation and God acted in her daughter’s life. Her decision to become an SSJ was solidified returning from a basketball game when she saw the sisters praying quietly in the back of the bus. “So it came to me on a bus!”, she shared.
With a Bachelor’s Degree from Chestnut Hill College, S. Lawrence served in diverse ministries and each brought her joy and satisfaction. For 31 years, S. Lawrence taught elementary and secondary school students in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Newark and Philadelphia as well as in the Dioceses of Harrisburg and Wilmington. In 1976, S. Lawrence became the sacristan at Mount Saint Joseph Convent. During that time, she began taking workshops to prepare her to become the Congregational Archivist. In 1989, she was appointed Archivist and served in that capacity until becoming a resident at the Villa in 2001.
This woman of prayer was devoted to St. Patrick. In addition, she had a great love for St. John Neumann and was so proud of his close connection to the Congregation. She believed that if you trusted, God would lead you. That is how she lived her life, trusting in God and God’s leading. We trust that she went home to God with a heart filled with peace, love, gratitude and deep trust!
Sister Florence Bentivoglio
Sister Florence Bentivoglio, formerly Sister Joseph Elizabeth, died at St. Joseph Villa on June 21, 2007. She is mourned by members of her loving family and by the Sisters of Saint Joseph with whom she lived and worked for sixty-eight years.
Florence was the sixth of seven children born to Joseph and Mary (Bonan) Bentivoglio. Her parents were Austrian immigrants who settled in Branchdale, Pennsylvania. Here, they and their children became active members of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish. When Florence joined the Sisters of St. Joseph, she brought with her the high praises of her parish priest who wrote: “I feel no hesitation in recommending Florence as a candidate for your order. I am convinced that she has what it takes, good common sense and a solid piety. I can speak for her generosity and her special unselfish devotion”.
Generosity and devotion shaped Florence’s life and ministry. She dedicated over 50 years of her life to primary school students. She taught in the dioceses of Allentown, Baltimore, Charlotte, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. Along with the curriculum, her children learned valuable life lessons. One of her principals remembers how Florence always encouraged her students to share a piece of whatever pretzel or candy they had with another child. What a profound lesson to learn at such an early age!
Florence’s influence was not limited to the classroom. She reached beyond the students to touch their parents. Sometimes this meant crossing the frontiers of language and culture. Parents always understood the love and concern that Florence had for their children. Florence knew the members of the parish and the people in the neighborhood. When Florence returned to a former mission, she had a list of friends to visit. People never forgot her kindness and generosity.
In December of 2006, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Minersville, Pennsylvania, Florence’s last mission, published this in the parish newsletter. “Among our singular blessings in the greater Minersville area is one Sister Florence Bentivoglio. She has served us for over 60 years. Such is the Lord Jesus’ way of showing in Sister Florence His own providential love and care for us. Sister Florence, we love you. We thank you. It is impossible to repay the gift you have given us and so many of God’s people – a life of service – except to imitate your generous service with our own”.
Florence’s love for the Congregation of St. Joseph and for the People of God was an extension of her great love for her family. She loved being with them. Together they shared great joys and deep sorrows. The day before she died, Florence had her suitcases packed to attend a family reunion. That evening she was taken to the hospital. When offered consolation for her disappointment she replied: “Whatever God wants, I’m all right with it”.
Florence, our best tribute to you is to imitate your great service and generosity May you experience a family reunion far beyond what you imagined – with your dear parents, Joseph and Mary, your brothers Joseph, Henry, Isadore, and Father Louis. May you be welcomed by your dear friend, Sister Margaret Rosarii and all the Sisters of Saint Joseph who have gone before you!
S. Clare Michael (Frances M. Keating), age 88, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 69 years died at St. Joseph Villa on June 22, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on June 25, 2007.
The daughter of Michael and Mary Keating, S. Clare Michael was born in Philadelphia and grew up as the only girl in a family that included her four brothers. Her connections with the Sisters of St. Joseph began at Ascension parish where she attended grade school and the association continued at West Catholic High School. She entered the Congregation on January 6, 1938 and went on to spend her entire life as a Sister of St. Joseph in the city where she was born and raised.
In the 62 years of her apostolic work, S. Clare Michael was teacher, principal, supervisor, author of several text books, Education Director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as for Chestnut Hill College, director of reading programs and learning center coordinator. She is remembered by many sisters for her extremely helpful classes in teaching methods. She also had the experience of being a storyteller on the radio and enjoyed telling her own story of this unexpected opportunity. In addition to all of her academic leadership and endeavors she served the Congregation as a member of the General Council from 1974-1979.
Immediately preceding her move to St, Joseph Villa in 2001, S. Clare had completed 20 years of ministry at St. Columba’s (now St. Martin de Porres) in Philadelphia. First as Learning Center Coordinator and later as tutor and coordinator of the after school and lunch programs, S. Clare Michael touched the lives of hundreds and hundreds of children and their family members in her time of ministry there.
At her funeral Mass, S. Nancy Fitzgerald who went to St. Martin de Porres in 1993 and who continues as principal there today, reflected on S. Clare Michael’s impact. Some highlights of what she shared describe the unique Good News that S. Clare Michael embodied: “Regardless of what she was about, Clare always had a quick smile and a positive word to any and all. As her service at St. Martin de Porres grew to embrace the lives of many academically and economically challenged students and their families, she grew to be their friend, confidant, and champion. Those of us who lived or worked with Clare were especially struck with her keen mind which caused her to continue to read, learn, question and enlighten—and indeed to challenge us to be broader thinkers and more perceptive educators. Sr. Clare’s wit, humor, and endless facility in accentuating the positive refreshed the minds and spirits of us all.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph give thanks for the beauty and energy of the life of S. Clare Michael Keating –a great lady of her time and ahead of her time. We rejoice that she now intercedes for us for all time!
Sister Frances Celine (Mary Theresa Bennett) 90, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 69 years, died on June 24, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on June 28, 2007.
Born in Hanover, PA, Mary was the first daughter born to John and Adelaide Bennett, after the arrival of four sons. This status as the first daughter convinced Mary that she was the definite “pet” of the family until she and her brothers welcomed ten more siblings into the family! Because of the give and take required in such a large family, Mary and her beloved sister, Ruth, who became Sister Adelaide, SSJ, were well-prepared for community life! The Sisters of Saint Joseph are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Bennett for the gift of their two daughters to the Congregation.
S. Frances received a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from Villanova University. She spent 60 years in active ministry in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the Dioceses of Allentown and Harrisburg. As a teacher, tutor and pre-school classroom aide, S. Frances met the needs of elementary and pre-school children with enthusiasm and grace. She loved children and they knew it. At the Villa, visiting children gravitated toward Frances for she would give them her wholehearted attention.
Those who know the Bennett family realize how important card playing was in their lives and God help you if you cheated! Each night, after banking the fire and doing the dishes, the family would gather to play cards. Frances took this love of cards and all games to each of her missions. At the Villa, S. Frances and S. Adelaide played pinochle nearly every night to keep them sharp and a step ahead of the rest of the family, who would always be ready for a game or two when they visited.
It was in their family that the Bennett children first learned the importance of relationships. Within the community, Frances deepened her understanding of what living in relationship with God and others meant. Throughout her life, S. Frances, possessing a gentle disposition and an engaging sense of humor, was easy to love She helped create fun and got along well with people. In her new life, we trust that Sister Frances Celine is now reaping the rewards for a life well lived!
Sister Mary Ellen Gavitt
Sister Mary Ellen, formerly Mary Helen Gavitt, died at St. Joseph Villa on July 1, 2007. Sister is mourned by her devoted family, former students and parishioners, by friends, and by the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for almost sixty-two years.
Mary Ellen was born to Ignatius and Mary Prophet Gavitt in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her parents, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews were always an important presence in Mary Ellen’s life. Family memories reveal the mutual love and devotion that characterized their relationships.
After graduation from high school, Mary Ellen worked in New York City until she followed God’s call to enter religious life in 1945. She received her degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and spent most of her life in the ministry of education. As a dedicated teacher she touched the lives of many children and their parents in the dioceses of Newark, Paterson, Philadelphia, and Trenton. She devoted her summers to teaching remedial reading to children and classroom methods to novices.
Sister never forgot her Jersey roots. Once she returned there in 1967, she never left. She made her way from north to south, from the mountains to the shore. When the time came for Mary Ellen to leave the classroom she offered her talents first as a school librarian and then as an office volunteer.
Mary Ellen had a great sense of humor accompanied by a twinkling Scottish smile. Hers was a quiet manner and a gentle spirit which made her a good companion and a faithful friend to many. Family, friends, students, parishioners, and sisters in community found in her a steady, supportive, and encouraging presence.
Mary Ellen seldom spoke of her spiritual life but many saw the fruit of her prayer in the way that she lived. Her daily guides were the Scriptures and the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She had a lifelong love of the Eucharist and that spiritual nourishment kept her heart burning with a desire to love Jesus and to spread that love to all the people she encountered.
Well done, good and faithful servant. May you be welcomed by your parents, your brothers Harold and George, Sister Rose Therese and all your friends who have gone before you in faith!
Sister Catherine Imelda Gerle
S. Catherine Imelda (Julia Gerle), age 89, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 72 years died at Chestnut Hill Hospital on July 17, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on July 23, 2007.
S. Catherine, a native of Philadelphia, was one of five children. Her parents, Frederick and Margaret (Murphy), settled in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Philadelphia and it is there that Catherine attended elementary school and was introduced to the Sisters of St. Joseph. She entered the Congregation on September 11, 1935 just a week after her 18th birthday.
While her entire life in ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph was given to elementary education, S. Catherine had a rich variety of assignments. Her experience covered all the grades except first grade and she served in 13 different parish schools. Throughout the years, S. Catherine lived in every section of the city of Philadelphia. She also served in several Philadelphia suburbs as well as in Washington, DC, Newark, NJ and Minersville, PA. Her last teaching assignment was at Stella Maris, Philadelphia and it was during her time there that she moved from fulltime classroom teacher to tutoring children in computer skills.
On becoming a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 1995, S. Catherine offered her service in the Activities Department and was noted for her creative, artistic talents, particularly in designing and making angels. Throughout her years at the Villa, Catherine enjoyed her peaceful life there and continued to be grateful for her two brothers and two sisters and their goodness to her.
S. Catherine leaves a legacy of fidelity, creativity, and great joy. Those sisters who lived with her and those who were her friends valued her unassuming nature, her great wit, her artistic gifts; her quiet, gentle ways made a difference in the lives of many, including family members, students, and sisters.
As we celebrate her risen life in Jesus, the Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in the gift of S. Catherine Imelda Gerle’s long life among us. We pray to heed her advice to “enjoy what God has given us in this beautiful world!”
Sister Maria Josita Perret
S. Maria Josita, formerly Philomene Marie Louise Perret died at St. Joseph Villa on the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6, 2007. Sister. was born in Philadelphia to Joseph and Mary Martin Perret. She had three brothers, Francis, Gene and Joseph, whom she loved, admired, and remained close to all her life.
Sister’s faith was a seed planted early on in her childhood in the midst of her family and developed through her years at St. Edmond School, Hallahan High School, and St. Monica’s Commercial School. After graduation, Sister worked for years at Girard Trust Bank. In 1952, at the age of 31, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and was a faithful member for almost 55 years.
Sister. earned a degree in Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and spent all her years of active ministry teaching elementary school children. She touched the lives of students and their families in the dioceses of Allentown, Baltimore, Newark, Philadelphia, and Trenton.
Because of illness, S. Maria Josita lived as many years at St. Joseph Villa as she had lived in active ministry. She bore her infirmities with love and generosity and was loved by the aides and nurses who tended to her care. Sister had a sensitive and grateful heart which recognized grace in the ordinary events of life. She once said: “When you are sick, a kind word is like a diamond and this place around me glistens from the sparkle of all the diamonds”. In gratitude for successful heart surgery she remarked: “If I felt that I was worthy of a miracle, I would say that this was one. I felt like a new person overnight. I am in awe of what the doctors have done. God has certainly blessed me.”
S. Maria Josita claimed St. Joseph, Padre Pio, and S. Joseph Dolores as special companions on her spiritual journey. Hers was a life of fidelity and appreciation which made her a treasured companion to those whose lives have been touched by hers. May we who mourn her passing open our minds and hearts to God’s transforming ways so that we also may be faithful people, full of hope and gratitude.
Sister Thomas Therese Catterall
S. Thomas Therese (Mary Margaret) Catterall, age 86, a beloved sister of St. Joseph for 69 years died at St. Joseph Villa on August 16 , 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on August 20, 2007.
The daughter of William and Mary Catterall, S. Thomas Therese was born in Harrison, NJ and after graduating from Our Lady Queen of Peace High School she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1938. From her first mission in leaving the novitiate until the time of her Golden Jubilee, S. Thomas Therese spent 46 years involved in elementary education. “I was in congregational and educational leadership for 23 of those years and I found my varied assignments involving different archdioceses and dioceses to be exciting, challenging and fulfilling,” she noted in her living history recorded in 2003. In addition, within that same time, S. Thomas Therese, with others, opened three new missions: St. Jerome, Philadelphia in 1956, Our Lady of the Valley, Wayne, NJ in 1962 and St. Margaret, Little Ferry, NJ in 1970.
In 1988 S. Thomas Therese began her second apostolate at St. John the Baptist Parish, Hillsdale, NJ as pastoral associate for the sick and homebound. In speaking of this ministry she reflected, “This was the epitome of all my years of experiences…bringing the Eucharist daily to those in need. I was deeply touched by their great gift of faith and resignation to God’s will. I am very grateful for all I learned from them. It was a very beautiful and rewarding apostolate.”
When S. Thomas Therese came to the Villa as a resident in 2000 she continued her pastoral care and presence to others. She reached out to other residents to encourage them to let go of worries and fears and to rely on the grace of God ever present and at work in them. She strove wholeheartedly for that faith herself especially as she experienced increased physical diminishment.
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in the risen life of S. Thomas Therese Catterall and give thanks for her life lived among us as one who loved St. Joseph and loved being a Sister of St. Joseph. As such, she impacted many—for the life of our congregation and the life of our world!
S. Francis Adelaide, formerly Eleanor Joan McDonnell died at St. Joseph Villa on August 23, 2007. She is mourned by family members to the third generation and by the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for over 70 years.
Sister was youngest of five children born in Lowell, Massachusetts to Terence and Ellen (McElroy) McDonnell. Her father died while S. Francis was still a small child and her mother brought the family to Philadelphia when she was eight years old. After attending St. Matthew’s Parish School and West Catholic Girls High School, S. Francis answered God’s call and joined the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her sister Rita, S. Maria Beata, had entered the congregation just eight months earlier. The two sisters who were formed in faith by their mother’s care and devotion, and shared their novitiate experience, would eventually reside together in their later years at St. Joseph Villa. S. Francis’ devotion to her sister was legendary. When Maria Beata became ill, Francis cared for her with tenderness and great fidelity.
S. Francis earned her Degree in Education from Villanova University and taught elementary school children for 28 years. During those years she served God’s people in the dioceses of Camden, Harrisburg, Newark, and Philadelphia. When the congregation had a need for nurses, Francis earned a degree as an LPN and was among the distinguished staff of nurses who opened St. Joseph Villa in 1968. For many years she served those who were elderly or infirmed with attention, care, and devotion.
When S. Francis retired from nursing, she continued her dedicated service to others as a seamstress, stitching and patching all kinds of garments and returning them quickly to Villa residents. She made room deliveries on her famous motorized wheel chair.
During her many years as a vowed religious, S. Francis grew in her relationship with God. She found strength and spiritual nourishment in the Eucharist. She faithfully led others in Morning Prayer and with her sisters prayed for the needs of all God’s people throughout the world. In prayer as in the rest of her life, she was attentive to the needs of others.
S. Francis was a person faithful to her promises. She was a devoted member of her family, a dedicated teacher, an attentive nurse, and a thoughtful friend. After a life of prayer and service, may she find rest and joy in the arms of our faithful and loving God.
S. Agnes Helene (Kathleen M. Bailey) 95, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 77 years, died on September 3, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on September 6, 2007.
A native of Bayonne, New Jersey, Kathleen was one of four children of Ellen and Michael Bailey. It was at St. Mary School in Bayonne that she met the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Before the Bayonne Bridge was completed, Kathleen traded the Kill Van Kull for the banks of Wissahickon Creek and began her life as an SSJ in September 1930.
Young children were dear to her heart and S. Agnes spent most of her active ministry years as an elementary school educator. For nearly 60 years, this Villanova University graduate met the needs of students in elementary schools as a teacher and then tutor in the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC and in the dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg and Wilmington. After she retired from teaching, Agnes was excited to learn to use the computer so that she could input parish records. Before moving to St. Joseph Villa in 2006, she helped with various tasks around the convent.
On her life journey, S. Agnes saw many, many changes in our world, our Church and in the Congregation. She admitted that she found some of the changes very hard but they did not paralyze her. The week before she died, she looked up from the America magazine that she was reading and said to a visitor” I learned what you have to have----perseverance.” At her funeral liturgy, S. Pat Kelly offered “Given that she was ninety-five years young, seventy-seven years in religious life, and almost sixty years an educator, I’d judge her perspective on perseverance to be most credible.”
More than 70 years ago, Father William Lawler, Sister’s pastor at St. Mary’s Bayonne, wrote to Reverend Mother Mary James Rogers: “I think that you will find Miss Kathleen Bailey a very pious and tractable person indeed. I feel that she will prove a valuable addition to your Community. I hope that she will be happy with you and you with her.” With great gratitude, the Congregation can say that those hopes were realized beyond measure. Thank you, S. Agnes for the gift of your life!
S. Charles Bernard (Elaine Corbett), 86, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 64 years, died on September 6, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on September 10, 2007.
Born in Philadelphia, Elaine was one of eight children welcomed into the family of Charles and Henrietta Corbett. After attending elementary and secondary parochial schools in Philadelphia, Elaine entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1943 and soon became S. Charles Bernard, a strong family name.
A fine student, S. Charles received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Chestnut Hill College and held two Masters Degrees, one from Western Reserve University and another from Villanova University. Her studies prepared her well for the varied ministries that she held in the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Charlotte and Harrisburg.
While teaching at Cathedral Elementary School in Philadelphia, S. Charles welcomed many students who had recently arrived from Puerto Rico. She desired to meet their needs and her call to learn and teach Spanish began. For the next thirty-five years, S. Charles taught Spanish and held several positions in high school administration. In later years, her well-developed secretarial and organizational skills came in handy in school offices as well as at the Motherhouse. In 2002, Sister became a resident of St. Joseph Villa where she continued to be helpful in whatever way she could.
Sister cherished wonderful family memories and enjoyed special relationships with all of her siblings. One of her greatest joys was that her younger sister, Mary, joined her as a Sister of Saint Joseph! The next generation of Corbetts was blessed with new life and S. Charles was devoted to her nieces and nephews and delighted in their many accomplishments.
S. Charles Bernard’s life was characterized by a strong and faithful commitment to God, to the Congregation and to ministry. Those who mourn her passing can say with confidence- Blessed are you! Holy are you! Certainly, yours is the kingdom of God! Gracias, Hermana Carlos!
S. Alice Bernadette (Catherine) Lowry, age 81, died at St. Joseph Villa on September 11, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on September 14, 2007.
Born in Philadelphia to Joseph and Mary Lowry, Catherine had four older brothers and one younger. She attended Visitation Grade School and shared vivid memories of the Sisters she encountered there who first attracted her to the Sisters of St. Joseph. After attending Little Flower High School, S. Alice worked briefly for Bell Telephone and a pharmaceutical company before entering the Congregation in 1944.
S. Alice ministered as an elementary school teacher for a full 50 years then continued to tutor students. She spent most of her teaching career in the primary grades and was especially happy for the opportunity that this gave her to prepare children for First Penance and First Holy Communion.
In a living history interview recorded after she had moved to the Villa in 2003, S. Alice in commenting on her various missions said she had no favorites—she liked them all! She enjoyed her relationship with co-workers, especially the faculty of St. Helena’s, Philadelphia, where she spent the last 21 years of her active ministry. Her optimism, sense of humor, and kindness were appreciated by many and she was also known to enjoy all kinds of sports.
S. Anne Myers, in reflecting on S. Alice’s life at her funeral mass observed, “From the very beginning of her religious life, S. Alice’s disposition of mind and heart were a perfect fit with the Sisters of St. Joseph. She was blessed with a spirit of simplicity and was a kind, loving, joyful, and unassuming person.”
During her four years spent at the Villa, S. Alice continued to be a positive presence, accepting her illness graciously without complaint. In her final days she expressed a desire for simple comfort care. “All I want is peace,” she said.
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in the living, dying, and rising of S. Alice Bernadette Lowry—what joy is hers in the gift of eternal peace in the presence of God and all her loved ones who have gone before her!
Sister Baptista McShane
S. Baptista, formerly known as Catherine McShane died on September 29, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa. She is mourned by her sister, Josephine, and nieces and nephews to the third generation, as well as by the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for over sixty-six years.
S. Baptista was unique in many ways. She and her twin sister, Josephine were born in Glasgow, Scotland. They were the eleventh and twelfth child of John and Margaret (McCann) McShane. They were five years old when they left Scotland, crossed the Atlantic, and arrived at the port in Philadelphia. The family settled in St. Leo’s Parish and Catherine attended St. Leo’s Elementary and Business School. Ten days after graduation her father died and she realized that she would be needed to help financially for awhile.
At age twenty-two Catherine followed the example of her older sister Agnes, S. Andrew Joseph, and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. She earned her Bachelor Degree in Education from Villanova University. She spent fifty years of her life in the ministry of education in the dioceses of Arlington, Camden, and Philadelphia. She worked as teacher and principal. In the course of that time she spent eleven years at the Catholic Home and she said “that’s where I learned to be kind, compassionate, and understanding”. Here she was a teacher and house-mother at the same time.
Baptista spent nine years as a receptionist and four years as a convent helper. She lived on a mission until she was eighty-seven years old. At that time her health was deteriorating and that need brought her to St. Joseph Villa after sixty-three years of ministry.
In her final hours a priest visited Baptista and asked her if she would like to receive Holy Communion. While he went down to the chapel to get the host, Josephine came in to visit her sister. He returned with one host and was seeing double. Without hesitation he broke the host in two and gave each of them half. Josephine and Catherine who began life together in the womb and shared everything in life, shared this last communion as Catherine rested into the arms of her loving God.
Baptista, you lived your life in joy and gratitude. May you be welcomed now into the heavenly feast of joy and thanksgiving!
Sister Mary Scanlon (formerly Sister James Anthony), 86, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 67 years, died on November 8, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on November 13, 2007.
As a child, Mary and her four siblings attended three Catholic elementary schools in Philadelphia, all staffed by SSJ’s. Mary went on to West Catholic High School where again she encountered the sisters that she would join in the fall of 1940. After she entered the Congregation, she received her Bachelor’s Degree from Chestnut Hill and a Masters Degree from Fordham University.
A true Philadelphian, S. Mary spent her entire active ministry years in that Archdiocese. Her first move outside the city limits was not until she was almost ready to celebrate her golden jubilee! What a full and rich ministry life she had! Mary served as teacher, principal, curriculum consultant, Coordinator of Ministry for Elementary Schools and parish minister before becoming a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 2001.
Although she invested herself wholeheartedly in each of her ministries, Mary’s true love was Norwood Fontbonne Academy. Like a proud parent, she watched the school evolve from Norwood Academy to NFA. In return, the academy family loved her and Sister James Anthony Hall stands as a tribute to her dedication. For thirty-three years, she gave of herself in so many ways to the faculty and staff but especially to the young men and women she met there. After she left, she often would drive through the grounds just to see how things were progressing. At one point, while being transported by ambulance from the hospital to the Villa, she asked the ambulance driver to drive through the grounds so she could see the progress of the new construction!
Mary was capable, competent, and professional, but what made her special was her manner. She approached students, colleagues and sisters with a deep respect for their individuality. Mary looked at life and at every person she met through the eyes of love. She had a way of making those who experienced her feel loved, valued and valuable. The Scanlon family, her childhood friends, her religious family, all those she met in ministry, and especially her God were the beneficiaries of her faithfulness. In a reflection offered by her friends, Sisters Cyrilla, Cathy and Roseann, they shared that Mary had taught them well the meaning of the words “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Thank you, Mary for your genuine, active, inclusive love!
“I will bless you, O God, as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.” These words of Psalm 63 were loved and lived by S. John of the Cross who died at St. Joseph Villa on November 8, 2007. Sister was a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph for eighty-two years and is mourned by her sisters.
S. John of the Cross, formerly Margaret Kirby, was born in Washington DC to Alex and Bertha (Schaefer) Kirby. She had a brother Norman whom she adored. From her childhood, Margaret showed a gift for the arts. She began to dance at the age of three and played the piano from the time she was eight.
One day, young Margaret heard S. Agnes Anita play the organ and decided that she wanted “to be just like her”. In 1925 she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. Sister earned a degree in Music from Chestnut Hill College and spent the rest of her active life sharing her gifts and talents with others. Sister brought music to students in the dioceses of Baltimore, Harrisburg, Newark, Philadelphia, and Trenton. Sometimes, she traveled from school to school sharing her love for music. Eventually, she became a music supervisor, helping other musicians to share their gifts with their students.
Even in her “retirement” S. John of the Cross was a major player in a parish stage production and continued to participate in other musical activities. Her picture appeared in printed materials as well as radio and television ads for the 1991 Retirement Fund for Religious.
S. John was an accomplished musician who said: “I have been called to share what I have been given, especially the gift of my music to teach God’s children to praise Him”. She was a Sister of St. Joseph who was in love with God and who had great devotion to her patron John of the Cross. When she moved to the Villa in 1995, she discarded many treasures gathered over a long life in order to “fill life more with God”. Throughout her life she expressed gratitude for her life, faith, and vocation to religious life.
“All I ask of the Lord is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” This was a favorite prayer of S. John of the Cross. Imagine the joy of angels and saints as God welcomes into her heavenly home one who praised God with music all her life.
Sister St. Philip Neri Brophy
S. St. Philip Neri (Helen) Brophy, age 93, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 75 years died at St. Joseph Villa on November 12, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on November 16, 2007.
S. St. Philip Neri was raised in Newark, NJ, the second oldest of five children of John Brophy and Ellen Long, both natives of Ireland. She attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Newark where she first encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph. By the time she had graduated from Good Counsel High School, Newark she had come to know many Sisters of St. Joseph and she also knew that she wanted to become one of them. Thus it was that in September, 1933 just a few months after her high school graduation she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
For her entire life in active ministry S. St. Philip Neri was engaged in the field of education. She was a classroom teacher in elementary school for 10 years and in high school for 12 years before beginning her administrative roles in several high schools.
In 1956 S. St. Philip was assigned as Prefect of Discipline at the newly opened Archbishop Prendergast High School for Girls. Her 11 years at “Prendie” spanned a time of great growth and in a living history interview in 2002, S. St. Philip commented on these years: “To me, being disciplinarian in an all girls high school of 3,000 proved a challenge—especially when it was located on the grounds of an all boys high school!” Assignments as activities director and vice principal at other high schools followed.
In 1983 S. St. Philip joined the staff at St. Rose High School, Belmar, NJ and remained in various clerical and support services there until becoming a resident at St. Joseph Villa
in 2000. In her 2002 interview she reflected on her adjustment to the Villa: “Since I have been here I have learned to accept the Lord’s will in whatever way I can be of use to our ill Sisters. They have taught me much in so little time. I could never repay all that is being done for us and I still marvel how they do it. Only the Lord knows how grateful I am to be here.”
S. St. Philip Neri Brophy celebrated her 75th Jubilee at the Villa just three weeks before she died. The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice that she now delights in the eternal jubilee of being reunited with family and friends forever in the joy of God’s presence!
Sister Febronia Stanton
S. Febronia (Anna Rita Stanton), 91, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 74 years, died on November 19 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on November 23, 2007.
Born in Philadelphia, Anna, the daughter of Anna and William, was one of three Stanton daughters. The girls received their elementary education in parochial schools in Philadelphia, and Anna attended both West Catholic High School and St. Charles Commercial before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in January 1933 at the height of the Great Depression.
Having received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Villanova University, S. Febronia was well prepared to meet the needs of little children in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark, and in the Diocese of Allentown. For more than 60 years, she dedicated herself as teacher, tutor and executive secretary to those she encountered each day. In her later years, S. Febronia helped around the convent and was most attentive to the little things, adding a touch of home. Often she sat in a rocker, a warm personality, listening to and giving the news of the day to the sisters who returned home from ministry. In July of 1995, S. Febronia became a resident at St. Joseph Villa.
People of all ages loved to meet S. Febronia and to remember her again and again. Her family was devoted to her and was present to her throughout her life. It is impossible to measure, or know, the profound difference that her faithfulness and joy in God’s call has made for so many people.
S. Febronia was lighthearted and wholehearted in her approach to life and to all she met along the way. On the day of her death, when one of the Sisters was leaving her room after a visit, S. Febronia told her, “Drop a note to God.” Apparently, God received that note and answered that same day.
May all who come behind us find our lives as faithful as the life and mission of S. Febronia Stanton!
S. Raymond Joseph Murphy, a beloved sister of St. Joseph for 76 years, died at St. Joseph Villa on November 20, 2007. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on November 26, 2007.
The daughter of Joseph H. Murphy and Mary Ellen Shortall who were both born in Minersville, PA, S. Raymond Joseph was also born and raised in Minersville where she graduated from St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School and Minersville Public High School. In 1930 at the age of 19 she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Over the span of 67 years S. Raymond Joseph served at only seven missions before becoming a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 1998. Forty-two of those years were spent at Chestnut Hill College where she taught Chemistry for more than 25 years. Following retirement from teaching, she embarked on a new role in coordinating the Central Purchasing Office. “Her faithfulness to the College is legendary,” noted S. Merilyn Ryan in her reflections shared at S. Raymond’s funeral mass. Of her ministry in the purchasing office, S. Raymond Joseph commented in a 1999 interview, “This was a very enjoyable time also because I met with people from every department and every office. It was really a nice situation which I enjoyed!”
S. Raymond Joseph earned an AB degree from Chestnut Hill College and an MS degree from Catholic University of America. In addition to her career as a college professor of chemistry, S. Raymond also spent 14 years as an elementary school teacher and 10 years teaching math, science, and religion in two high schools.
In her reflections at S. Raymond’s funeral mass S. Merilyn also highlighted how S. Raymond lived Jesus’s invitation to be “salt for the earth” through her relationships: “S. Raymond Joseph was devoted to family, friends, congregation, students and all her ‘connections.”
Among those connections were members of a class she had taught for four consecutive years at her first mission in Hanover, PA where she served from 1932-36. These were special among the many former students who kept in touch through the years both by writing and by visiting.
In her eight years at the Villa, S. Raymond Joseph continued to be as she described herself, “a good listener.” She loved visitors, smiled brightly, and laughed heartily. Through her prayer and presence and gift of gratitude she brought light and life with the same generous spirit that marked the entire life of this remarkable woman. The Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate the legacy of S. Raymond Joseph Murphy and rejoice in her special place in the communion of saints!
Sister Anna Josephine Bennis
S. Anna Josephine, formerly Bernadette Bennis, died at St Joseph Villa on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2007. She died just eight months after the death of her beloved sister, S. Ann Edward. S. Anna is mourned by her sister Madeleine Degnan, her many nieces and nephews, family, friends, and the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for over seventy-two years.
S. Anna was the fourth of six children born to Edward and Anna Josephine (Normile) Bennis. Sister attended Immaculate Conception School in Germantown and Hallahan Catholic High School. After graduation, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. S. Anna went on to earn an A.B. Degree in English from Chestnut Hill College and graduated with honors from Columbia University, earning an M.A. in English.
S. Anna’s ministry centered on education. She taught elementary, secondary, and college students. She served as principal, supervisor, parish coordinator of professional education, and as educational consultant. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia selected S. Anna Josephine as its first woman vice-principal of a secondary school. Three years later she became one of three women chosen to be principals. She was honored as one of the sixty effective Secondary School Principals in the United States.
For more than twenty-five years, S. Anna taught Sisters of St. Joseph in “Saturday School” and summer school at Chestnut Hill College. She saw this as a great opportunity to share with young teachers the joy and fulfillment that comes with learning and teaching. One sister student wrote: “Anna made us care about the quality of our work. She made us feel that we could do more than we thought we could do”. S. Anna’s love for God and her community, her prayer and spirituality, her warmth and good humor, made her a mentor for many especially in times of transition.
In all of these ministries and so many others, S. Anna led, lived, and labored with deep down desire and passion for the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph –“that all people may be united with God and one another”. Her prayer was that “the Holy Spirit will inspire us all each day to love God, neighbor and all creation wisely in action”.
S. Anna was a prolific writer of poetry, educational articles, short stories, and curriculum courses for those who struggle with learning. Her gifts of beauty and eloquence also expressed her compassion and sensitivity for those who suffer. She wrote: “Still we bear the Cross in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, and in the hovels of the hungry poor all over this marvelous creation. When will we learn to live God’s love, oh when?”
S. Anna Josephine’s whole life was about relationships. She reflected on her life and death and left us the following words:
“But what do we really take with us? Leave behind?
I hope to take and leave
These five senses for here and hereafter:
Love. Prayer. Humor. Beauty. People.
These treasures for all seasons
Fly on my mystical carpet
Between heaven and earth.
Sister Consuelo Maria Aherne
Sister Consuelo Maria (Elizabeth T. Aherne) 92, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 75 years, died on December 27, 2007 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on December 31, 2007.
Born on March 3, 1915, Elizabeth spent her childhood in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, with her late parents, Anna and John, and her siblings, John (Rev. John Aherne, OSA) , Jeanne( Mrs. Jeanne Brady) and Marion (S. Marion Aherne, SSJ). A graduate of John W. Hallahan High School, Elizabeth was awarded a scholarship to Mount Saint Joseph (Chestnut Hill) College, where she completed her first year before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1933. Her first ministry in education was teaching children in elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
After receiving her PhD from The Catholic University of America, Sister Consuelo taught at Chestnut Hill College for 21 years. In 1968, she was elected a member of the General Council of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She served as Assistant Superior General and oversaw the finances of the Congregation. During her tenure, she borrowed money to enable the Congregation’s incorporation into Social Security, paid off the debt for Saint Joseph Villa and influenced the formation of the Saint Louis Team and the subsequent structures of dialogue, shared reflection, and collaboration that continue today. In addition, she furthered social justice awareness in the Congregation and promoted the United States Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in its early years.
Among her contributions to the wider Church, she edited the three-volume The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion, which she personally presented to Pope John Paul II and wrote numerous articles for the New Catholic Encyclopedia and the Catholic Historical Review. Her many literary accomplishments include a volume of poetry, numerous reviews and a history of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield. Sister Consuelo contributed to the Logue edition of the History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia and helped in the beginning stages of the current history now in progress. She was a leader in ecumenism and served on many interfaith committees.
After completing her time in Congregational leadership, Sister Consuelo returned to Chestnut Hill College until she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa in 1993. In her diminishment, Sister was blessed to have the love, support and attention of her dear family, especially Sister Marion, her
friends, and the Villa staff.
Sister Mary Helen Kashuba offered these insights about her friend and colleague: “A faithful Sister of Saint Joseph, she understood the history and the charism of the Congregation, and modeled it for others. Her memory will live on not only through her many accomplishments but most of all because of the compassionate, caring person that she remained through her long life.”
Rest now in peace, dear Sister Consuelo Maria!
S. Mary Harold, formerly Florence Anne Knox, died at St. Joseph Villa on January 6, 2008. Sister is mourned by her sister Mary Jane, her brother Harold and his wife, Renee, and nieces and nephews to the second generation. She will be missed as well by her dear friends, former students, and the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for over 65 years.
Sister was born to Harold and Florence (McDonald) Knox in Newburgh, New York. Her family later moved to York, Pennsylvania where she attended St. Rose of Lima Grade School and graduated from York Catholic High School. At 17, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph where she continued her education earning a Bachelors Degree from Chestnut Hill College, a Masters Degree from Columbia University, and a Masters Degree in Montessori Elementary Education from Xavier University.
S. Mary Harold had a gift for teaching primary grade children. She had a gentle, sensitive spirit and keen observation skills. She was committed to children and supported and encouraged them in the adventure of learning. Mary ministered mostly in schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Because of her wonderful work in the classroom, she was recruited to share her love for children and her skills in teaching them with hundreds of young sisters.
After years of traditional teaching, Mary Harold was asked by the congregation to begin Montessori training. This was a new beginning as Mary began to work with pre-school children and to introduce more freedom and creativity into the classroom. In an interview Mary said: “I got a reward from learning Montessori the way a child gets the reward out of learning – it’s a joyous way of learning”. This quiet, gentle woman became a trail blazer as she brought Montessori Education to Norwood-Fontbonne Academy and then introduced a Montessori and Early Childhood teacher training program at Chestnut Hill College.
Throughout her life, Mary Harold had great faith in Divine Providence. She saw God’s hand working in herself and the people around her. Divine Providence brought her to the Sisters of St. Joseph where she loved every teaching position. “You think your heart will break when you leave one mission for another”, she said. “But when I went to the next, I found complete satisfaction, enjoyment, and love.”
She saw God’s hand working in her family. Her brother’s illness led him to a fulfilling career and a wonderful marriage. Her father’s hospitalization and death brought Mary home to care for her mother. While she was home, she began a ministry of writing letters to support and encourage others sisters who were at home caring for parents.
S. Mary Harold claimed that “Divine Providence is my devotion”. She saw God’s presence with her throughout her journey of life. How fitting that God called her home on the feast of the Epiphany, the feast of journeying, following the light, and finding Christ.
S. Grace Beatrice (Regina) Walker, age 83, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 65 years died at St. Joseph Villa on January 8, 2008. At her funeral mass celebrated at the Villa on January 14, Fr. James Donlon, St. Matthew, Conshohocken was the presider and concelebrating were Fr. Gasper Genuardi, St. Cosmos and Damien, and Fr. Michael Roark whom S. Grace had taught in first grade at Our Lady of Peace, Milmont Park.
Regina Helen Walker, born in Philadelphia, was the oldest of three children of James and Beatrice Walker. She attended St. Hugh’s Elementary School where she first met the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her second grade teacher, S. Rose de Lourdes, had a special and lasting impact on S. Grace’s life. She was impressed with not only S. Rose’s joy and simplicity but also with her love of music. S. Grace, given a violin by her parents, went on to play the violin in the orchestra when she attended Little Flower High School.
S. Grace attributed the first stirring of her desire to be a sister to St. Therese of Lisieux. Her mother had read her Therese’s book, Story of a Soul, when she was only six or seven years old. She recalled trying to imitate the “Little Flower” in her earliest years. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1942.
In her living history recorded in 2003, S. Grace, who taught first grade for thirty years, spoke of it as “the ministry I loved best.” Due to back pain and related surgery she was forced to leave fulltime classroom teaching and after one year as a tutor she embarked on 20 years of service in the office of the St. Joseph Guild. In 1997 she became secretarial assistant to the pastor, Fr. Donlon, at St. Matthew’s, Conshohocken where she had been residing for many years while working in the Guild office at the Villa. She remained in this ministry until becoming a resident at the Villa in 2002.
Also in her living history, S. Grace reflected on her empathy for the marginalized which she said she first learned from her parents. “At the Villa, I pay special attention to the most fragile residents,” she explained. “I visit them, bring them treats, and some I take for walks in the corridor, if feasible.”
S. Grace had recalled that she had first been attracted to Carmel when thinking of religious life and that she had welcomed the silence and order of life as an SSJ novice. In her years as a Villa resident she also savored the contemplative dimension of her life. “As I walk I praise God for the beauty of nature. I enjoy being quiet.” She also had a great love of reading that nourished her prayer and spirit.
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in S. Grace Beatrice Walker’s life among us and in her intercession for us now as she enjoys the fulfillment of her apostolic endeavors and her contemplative longing.
Sister Florentine (Helen G. Scanlon), a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 88 years died at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on January 17, 2008. The Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 22, 2008. At the time of her death Sister Florentine was the oldest living member of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Born on June 11,
1903 Sister was one of nine children in the family of Frances and John
Scanlon. She grew up and attended school in Chester, PA. She and her family were members of St. Michael and later St. Robert Parish. In 1920 Helen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph at the age of seventeen.
Sister Florentine was a teacher for more than fifty years in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as the Dioceses of Harrisburg and Camden. Being an educator brought her much joy and satisfaction. Letters of thanks from former students attest to the fact that Sister’s presence made a difference in their lives. Florentine not only received letters, she also wrote many. Some of them even received responses of appreciation from church leaders.
In reflecting on Florentine’s life, Sister Dot Urban noted, “When she came to the Villa in 1999 she said she would ‘crochet and pray and pray and crochet and wait until God comes for me.’
She did this, but she did so much more,” Dot continued. “. . . she would read voraciously. . . got books on tape, and always kept up with the latest news of church and world.”
On the occasion of the General Chapter in 2004, Sister Florentine wrote a letter to the leadership and chapter delegates. In it she stressed the importance of personal prayer and the development of the interior life when she wrote, “It is not so much what we do that matters to God, it is what we are.” Florentine advised the sisters, “The maxims remind us that, just as the arteries of the heart circulate life through the body, so should the spirit of our founder circulate life through the congregation.”
Florentine’s favorite line from the Eucharistic liturgy was “. . . we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Indeed, she lived that joy and hope. On her 101st birthday she wrote, “I consider my residence at the Villa to be the hundred-fold promised by our dear Lord. . .During my reading period, I was happy to find a quote from Tolstoy: ‘The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.’ So I decided if it is no longer possible for me to serve actively, I can serve prayerfully for the needs of humanity . . . in these troubled times. So I pray—‘Help us, O God, to follow the light and to live the truth, so that we may be your witnesses before all the world.’. . . What a joy to know His presence is always with us.”
And what a grace and joy for us to have shared in the 104 ½ years of life of Sister Florentine! May she continue to intercede for us so that we may be witnesses before all the world.
Sister Jane Andrew Silvoy
S. Jane Andrew (Anne Theresa Silvoy) 87, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 67 years died on January 29, 2008 at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated on February 4, 2008 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA.
Born in Bethlehem, PA to Andrew and Anna Silvoy, Anne Theresa attended
SS. Cyril and Methodius Elementary School and Bethlehem Catholic High School, both in Bethlehem, before entering the Congregation in 1940 at the age of 21.
Blessed with a gifted mind, S. Jane received a Bachelors Degree from Chestnut Hill College and continued her education at The Catholic University of America where she received a Masters Degree in Business Education. Her studies helped to prepare her to teach students at the elementary, business school, high school and college levels in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark for more than 60 years. Many sought her expertise and S. Jane generously shared her excellent clerical skills at different sites during many summers. In May of 2007, S. Jane became a resident at the Villa.
S. Jane’s personality and dedication inspired other women to become Sisters of Saint Joseph. She built confidence in those she taught and they were able to take their places in the business world due to the skills she helped them to develop. Her interests were broad. She loved classical music, ballet, paintings, crafts, plants and all of nature.
On the day of the funeral, S. Patricia Kelly offered thanks to Jane’s family and friends for their presence and support of Jane for all of these years. She expressed her gratitude to S. Jane for a life well lived. May you rest in peace, dear Jane.
Sister Marie Christine Norbeck
S. Marie Christine,
formerly Anna Marie Norbeck, died at St. Joseph Villa
on February 1, 2008. Sister was one hundred years old. She is mourned by her
family, friends, and members of the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived
and worked for almost eighty-one years.
Sister was born in Philadelphia to William and Johanna Christine (Schneider) Norbeck. She was the oldest of twelve children. Her family was her first and life-long love. Her parents mentored her in the faith and in a life of generosity and caring. Sister attended St. Leo School and was active in her parish.
After graduating from Hallahan High School, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. She continued to study earning a Bachelors Degree from Chestnut Hill College and a Masters Degree in Spanish from Western Reserve University.
S. Marie Christine, affectionately known as Chrissy, had a diverse and fruitful ministry. She taught elementary school children for fifteen years. She loved every aspect of teaching and every subject as she moved up through the grades. She then began thirty years of educating high school students. Although her primary skill was teaching Spanish, she was able and willing to teach French and Latin as well. Sister ministered in the Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg, Newark, Philadelphia, and Wilmington dioceses.
When Chrissy “retired” from the classroom she began twenty-four years of working with immigrants. Looking back on those years, she remarked: “When I was no longer teaching, I was grateful that I had transferable skills, particularly my knowledge of Spanish”. Chrissy became an interpreter easing the way for immigrant parents who wanted to participate in their children’s education. In a poor immigrant neighborhood, Chrissy was a warm and welcoming presence to people trying to find their way in a new culture. Chrissy was a “dear neighbor” who walked the streets of Chester and Camden with confidence and concern for others.
Chrissy was a little woman with a loving heart and warm spirit who welcomed all persons into her life. When she could no longer go to school she supported and encouraged those who did. She was interested in what others were doing and willing to help them in any way she could. She was gentle and sweet, a cheerleader for all those who knew her. She knew how to give and receive love from her family and friends, her sisters in community, the people she served, and her God.
Chrissy fell in love with God and God’s people. She stayed in love. That made all the difference for her and for all who were blessed to know her!
Sister Mary Ganly
S. Mary Ganly, age 93, a beloved sister of St. Joseph for 77 years, died at Chestnut Hill Hospital on February 19, 2008. Her funeral mass was offered at St. Joseph Villa on February 26, 2008.
Mary was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1914, the older of two daughters of William and Ann Malloy. She attended Our Lady of Mercy Grade School where she first met the Sisters of St. Joseph; she continued and deepened that relationship as a student at Hallahan High School. In 1931 at the age of 17 Mary entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and 12 years later her sister Therese joined her in the Congregation.
In her living history recorded in 2001, S. Mary spoke lovingly of her 43 years of ministry in education as a classroom teacher: “Those years were very happy and profitable ones. I can remember many happy experiences in school and have had the joy of seeing and hearing from many of my students throughout the years.” In describing her 20 years in parish ministry S. Mary said, “I could fill a book with the many blessed experiences I had!” She detailed a variety of learnings and experiences: running meetings, facilitating groups, participating in RCIA, conducting workshops for Eucharistic Ministers, visiting Hospice patients, and being a Eucharistic minister to the sick and homebound.
S. Mary valued the opportunities that came with changes in the Church after Vatican II. In working on parish staffs with both men and women she experienced how women were included in planning and decision making and encouraged to contribute ideas and make suggestions.
In 1998 S. Mary became a resident at St. Joseph Villa following her 12 years as a parish minister at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Roseland, NJ. In tribute to her beloved memory there, a memorial Mass was offered for Mary at O. L. of the Blessed Sacrament Church on March 8, 2008.
At her funeral Mass at the Villa, S. Therese Ganly, S. Mary’s sister, offered a reflection that was a litany of thanks in Mary’s name to those whose lives had touched hers in her different missions throughout the years. S. Therese assured all, “You were in her heart in her final days as you have been throughout the years.”
S. Mary’s final gift was the donation of her body to science. The Sisters of St. Joseph give thanks for the self-emptying love that is the legacy of S. Mary Ganly’s life and death! We rejoice in the fullness of life she now enjoys!
Beatrice Brennan, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut
Hill for 68 years, died at Chestnut Hill Hospital on February 28, 2008. The
Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on March 4,
Born on October 6, 1922, Beatrice Brennan grew up in Orange, New Jersey and attended school at Our Lady of the Valley Grade and High Schools. She loved music and she loved the Sisters of Saint Joseph who taught her at Our Lady of the Valley. By eighth grade Beatrice knew that she wanted to spend her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph and so when she completed school she entered the congregation in 1940.
Sister Saint Beatrice devoted her life to the ministry of music in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey. She not only taught private lessons to young musicians, but also worked in the Worship Office in Newark and was a supervisor for Future Musicians. Her musical talents included playing piano, violin, guitar and her beloved cello. Bea’s love for music brought her to classrooms, choirs and churches. It included orchestra, band, school musicals and her own participation in an Archdiocesan Chorale and a symphony orchestra.
Beatrice reflected how fulfilling it was to “watch and follow a youngster begin lessons and gradually develop through my teaching and guidance.” She appreciated how some made “music their vocation. . . while others. . . kept music close to their hearts.”
When Bea was not creating music, she created arts and crafts. She was especially fond of making things for holidays, special occasions and gift-giving. She had a deep love for her parents and her brother Ben and commented that they “provided many ‘favorite stories’ for her.” She admitted that beginnings and change are difficult, but advised, “Put your trust in the Lord. . . Love and live one day at a time. . . Prayer has gotten me through many difficult situations.”
In her reflection at Sister Saint Beatrice’s funeral liturgy, Sister Pat Kelly referred to a sign in an opera house which reads: “Bach gave us God’s word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire;” Pat concluded, “Sister Saint Beatrice gave us God’s love.”
We rejoice in Sister Saint Beatrice’s love of music and her thoughtful response to so many people. We remember her with a song in our hearts, and we know she continues to praise and honor God through her love and her music.
Sister Maria Trinita Reilly
Sister Maria Trinita (Margaret Mary Reilly) 99, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 81 years, died on March 4, 2008 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA, shortly after beginning her 100th year of life. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on March 7, 2008.
While a resident at the Villa, S. Trinita was asked to share some of her living history, stories about her family, her life in the Congregation, and her ministry experiences. Thinking that her life had been quite ordinary, she prefaced her autobiographical remarks with”This will not be a best seller.” However, when one lived as long as she did, there were tales to tell and experiences to relate that were far from ordinary.
Born in Southwest Philadelphia to John and Mary Reilly, Margaret Mary was the fourth of five children raised in a home where Irish music echoed frequently from a Victrola. CDs were not in anyone’s thought pattern at that time! One family story that she liked to tell was that when she was young, her father owned a candy store and told his children that he had to sell it because they ate all of the profits!
From West Philadelphia, the family moved to various neighborhoods in the city, and the Reilly children met the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Christian Charity Sisters and the Immaculate Heart Sisters in the various elementary schools they attended. Margaret Mary loved them all and desired to become a missionary. While a student at John W. Hallahan High School, she helped to prepare a party for several classmates who were entering the convent. That event caused her to think seriously about doing the same, and after declining a full scholarship that she was awarded to Rosemont College, she entered the Novitiate at Chestnut Hill in 1927 at the age of eighteen.
At Chestnut Hill College, Sister Maria Trinita earned a Bachelors Degree and went on to receive two Masters Degrees from Seton Hall and Villanova Universities. She always wanted to be a teacher and was well prepared to teach math, science, Latin, Spanish and art. S. Trinita spent 67 years teaching children in elementary and secondary schools in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark. When she reluctantly left the classroom, she served as a school financial officer before becoming a resident at the Villa in 1995.
Trinita stayed connected with former students, and a story that that she enjoyed telling happened when she was in her late eighties. She heard that a former student, presuming that she was dead, made a contribution in her memory to one of the high schools where she had taught. Wanting to clarify the fact that she was still going strong, she contacted him and their relationship was renewed. He joined her list of former-pupil correspondents.
In addition to her former students whom she loved, Sister had a deep love for her family who were so faithful to her, but she emphasized that her happiest moment was when her niece, Anne, decided to enter the SSJs and become S. Helen Francis. S. Trinita was the beneficiary of “our Anne’s” fidelity as well as, the compassionate attention that she received from the Villa staff.
We trust that on March 4, Sister Maria Trinita was surrounded by a great communion of saints of family, friends and former pupils who welcomed her home! Rest in peace, S. Trinita Maria,
Sister Gertrude Cecilia, formerly Theresa Mary Jane Flynn, died at St. Joseph Villa on March 20, 2008. Sister is mourned by her devoted family, friends, former students and parishioners, and members of the Sisters of St. Joseph with whom she lived and worked for 59 years.
Theresa was one of eight children born to John and Gertrude (Dougherty) Flynn. She was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended Transfiguration Elementary School and West Catholic High School for Girls. It was at West Catholic that Theresa met Sister Jeanne d’Arc. Their shared devotion to St. Joseph fostered their friendship and encouraged Theresa to join the Sisters of St. Joseph at the age of nineteen.
As Sister Gertrude Cecilia, she began her teaching career. She brought enthusiasm, joy, and zeal to this ministry as she served students in the dioceses of Charlotte,
Harrisburg, Newark, Philadelphia, and Trenton.
Throughout her life, Gertrude demonstrated a great love for people who lived in poverty or on the margins of society. She taught her students the value of generosity, encouraging them to ask for donations for the poor when they celebrated their birthdays. Some former students still continue that practice today.
After many happy and fruitful years of classroom teaching, Gertrude began another phase of life as a Parish Visitor. She also became active in the parish outreach program. Gertrude loved to play bingo and used her winnings to help pay someone’s grocery or electric bill. She baked and sold pumpkin pies and gave the proceeds to victims of AIDS. She was an expert in soliciting funds to benefit others. In reflecting on Gertrude’s life, Geri Rogers, SSJ noted that Gertrude had such a love for those in need that she would give them the “shirt off her back and the shirts off the backs of the other sisters as well.” Her whole life was a preferential option for the poor.
In 2002 Gertrude came to St. Joseph Villa. This was a difficult transition for one who had found such joy in active ministry. As she adjusted to her new home, she reached out in joy and compassion to the residents and staff, whenever she was able to do so.
At her Mass of Christian burial, Sister Patricia Kelly said the following of Gertrude: “Like her patron Joseph, Gertrude made a home in all the communities and ministry sites of her 59 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, not only for herself but also for all with whom she lived and all whom she served. She ‘served the dear neighbor with the same love that Joseph served Jesus and Mary’.”
Sister Frances Hance
Sister Frances Hance (formerly known as Sister Marie Henry), a beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 59 years died at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on March 23, 2008.
Born on September 2, 1931 to Isabel and Henry Hance, Fran grew up in Christ Our King Parish, Wilmington, where she enjoyed a happy childhood with her brother Skip and a host of friends. She attended the parish grade school, Pierre S. Du Pont High School in Wilmington, and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 14, 1949.
Sister’s active ministry included classroom teacher, catechetical work, school administration, Director of Religious Education and pastoral associate. She served parishes stretching from Philadelphia to Florida and credited her own teachers for giving her a love for learning. She recalled how much she cared for her early teachers and how she was happy to reconnect with some of them during her the time she spent at the Villa.
In an autobiographical reflection Fran reminisced that a favorite childhood pastime was “to play church” with her brother Skip. Much to his dismay they would take turns being priest! She also indicated how much of an influence her mother was on her life. It was from Mrs. Hance that Fran learned to develop the spirit of empathy and the meaning of being a “healing presence.” Those to whom Fran ministered in parishes as well as sisters whom she companioned at the Villa recognized her compassion and caring.
Included among Fran’s favorite devotions was the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier, a prayer she cultivated at an early age from her parish priests. She also prayed the Miraculous Medal Novena and enjoyed the writings of Edward Hayes.
Throughout her life Fran made use of the many talents and skills she had learned in her youth. In spite of suffering and illness she was able to exude gratitude. She will be remembered lovingly for her warmth and wit.
We give thanks for the life of Sister Frances Hance—a life that was living proof of “grace in action.” We know Fran’s life continues in praise and love of the God who so loves her!
S. Teresa Carmel (Sara) Tomlinson, age 89, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 68 years died at Mercy Suburban Hospital, Norristown, PA on April 2, 2008. Her funeral mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on April 8, 2008.
Sara Tomlinson was born in Philadelphia, PA, one of five children of Enoch and Margaret Tomlinson. Baptized at Nativity BVM Church on Alleghany Avenue, her family soon moved to Bustleton where she made her First Holy Communion at Maternity BVM Church. By the time Resurrection School opened and she began as a fifth grader there, she had already attended Jacobs Public School and St. Cecilia’s, Fox Chase. It was at Resurrection that she first encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph. She went on to attend Hallahan High School where she deepened the SSJ relationship that would continue into her working years following graduation from Hallahan in 1937.
As a secretary at Jeffrey and Manz, Sara would attend noon Mass at St. Augustine’s and see the sisters bringing the children into Church. Thus did seeds of her SSJ vocation that had germinated through her elementary and high school years come to fruition when she was led in 1940, at the age of 21, to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph.
S. Teresa Carmel began her ministry in elementary education in 1942 and for 59 years served in schools in the Philadelphia, Newark, and Allentown dioceses. She was a respected teacher and principal and after retiring from the classroom she served as school librarian. In 2001 she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa and in her living history she spoke lovingly of the Villa as “a prelude to heaven.”
Another Sister resident at the Villa observed how S. Teresa Carmel’s participation in daily life at the Villa truly helped to make it a “prelude to heaven” for others. In her seven years there she was a frequent lector at daily mass, she could be seen transporting medical charts from one floor to another or doing other errands, always with an unhurried manner and a smile, ready to share a joke or join in some fun. This Sister summarized, “Wherever there are activities it is always good to see S. Teresa Carmel. She has a special gift and everyone feels comfortable in her presence.”
S. Teresa accepted her illnesses with patience and graciousness as well—including the ordeal of dialysis three times a week. The dialysis clinic became a new focus of ministry for her, as she strived to encourage others and to evangelize this group. She had them all praying to St. Therese: “Little Flower show your power in this hour.”
With gratitude the Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate the rich legacy of S. Teresa Carmel Tomlinson and pray that her example may continue to inspire our daily lives!
Sister Cordata Dunn
Sister Cordata (Catherine Loretta Dunn), 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 69 years, died on April 10, 2008 at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on April 15, 2008.
Born just short of ninety years ago in Philadelphia, Catherine was one of eight children of Thomas and Hannah Dunn. From a young age, she was told that she was born with a “veil” over her face, technically a caul. Legend has it that this was considered good luck but her mother took no chances and had her baby baptized when only four days old! Catherine often wondered whether that veil was a symbol of her vocation.
Taught by sisters at St. Bridget’s in East Falls, Catherine said ”All I know is that I was in awe of the sisters, charmed as well as awed, and I loved school so much that I thought it would be wonderful to become a Sister of Saint Joseph. “ She held onto that dream through high school at John W. Hallahan High School but when she was a junior, her father died suddenly. She felt obliged to help support the family and went to work. At the age of twenty-one she applied and became Sister Cordata.
Sister Cordata loved studying and teaching history. A graduate of Chestnut Hill College and The Catholic University, Sister was well prepared to teach students in both elementary and secondary schools in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as in the dioceses of Allentown and Camden. Her entire sixty years in active ministry were dedicated to the ministry of education that she loved so dearly and did so well. She became a resident at the Villa in 2000.
In her Living History, Cordata reflected on the difficult times and situations that she experienced in her life. Through the years, she supported her siblings and their families as they dealt with illnesses and loss. She noted that the dramatic changes in the Congregation after Vatican II challenged her, but during that time, she came to accept things more easily, to trust in the Lord more often and to find herself less worrisome about the trivial events in her daily life.
The love affair with the Sisters of Saint Joseph that began with the symbol of the veil continued through the years. For her, fidelity was a way of life. On April 10, the day of her death, John’s gospel read,” No one can come to me unless the Father draw her, and I will raise her up.” Cordata responded then as she had responded in life-completely and wholeheartedly. Thank you, Cordata, for the gifts of your laughter, your great heart, and your entire life!
Sister Anselma Keenan
Sister Anselma, formerly Marguerite Keenan, died on May 13, 2008 at Saint Joseph
Villa. She was a dear woman who is mourned by generations of nieces and nephews, her friends and former co-workers, and all members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Anselma, the first of the six children of Henry and Margaret (Desmond) Keenan,
was born in Atlantic City, NJ but the family moved to Philadelphia, PA just a few years later. Her father died when she was only fifteen years old. Sister left school to help her mother support her sisters and brothers. She worked during the day and went to school at night to earn her high school diploma. When all but two siblings were out of the home, Anselma felt free to follow a dream she had held in her heart since eighth grade. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Anselma continued her education and earned a degree from Villanova University. Sister worked in Educational Ministry all of her life. She taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ. She had been teaching for over forty years when the pastor of the parish asked her to come out of the classroom to start a school library. This was a quite a challenge for Anselma since she loved teaching and knew little about starting a library.
At an age when many people plan to retire, Anselma went back to school to earn a degree in Library Science. She started the library and recruited and trained mothers to work as aides. Through her work in the library, she continued to serve the children she loved. When it came time for Anselma to leave that parish, the library work continued in the skillful hands of the women she had prepared. Sister continued her library work for eight more years in the diocese of Trenton, forming lasting friendships with the women with whom she worked.
Anselma had a great gift for hospitality. She had learned this early on in her life when she shared tea and time with her mother. She loved to welcome visitors to the convent and encouraged them to stay as long as they liked. She was a great cook and enjoyed preparing meals for the sisters with whom she lived.
In 2001 Anselma brought that caring and thoughtful presence to the Villa. Last year Sister celebrated her 75th Jubilee. She was radiant as she welcomed family and friends thoroughly enjoying the love and warmth that she gave and received that day.
The following is part of a poem written for Sister Anselma by Sister Anna Marie Mack.
This is the daughter of Joseph
who mastered the art
of tender service.
Rich are those of us who know her
grateful are we who love her
as our Sister-friend.
Anselma, may you be welcomed at the celestial banquet by the God whom you served all your life.
Sister Rosemary O’Brien, age 88, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 61 years, died at St. Joseph Villa on July 7, 2008. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on July 10, 2008.
Rosemary was born in Jersey City, NJ, one of eight children of John O’Brien and Elizabeth McCullough. She was raised in Montclair, NJ and following graduation there from Lacodaire Academy staffed by the Dominican Sisters, she went on to attend Chestnut Hill College. There she was greatly influenced by two faculty members, Sisters Francis Xavier and Jane Francis. In 1947, three years after graduating from Chestnut Hill, Rosemary entered the congregation joining her younger sister, Frances (Sister Frances Gervase) who had entered several years earlier.
Receiving the name S. John Thomas, she embraced her life as a Sister of St. Joseph
with great joy and zeal, spending 36 years in the field of education, primarily as a secondary school teacher and later office assistant. As her sister, S. Frances Gervase described, “She enjoyed all that went with the high school scene!”
In 1978, S. Rosemary was assigned to assist in the school office at St. Rose High School, Belmar, NJ. After several years in that capacity she was invited by the pastor of St. Rose Church to initiate a ministry to the growing number of senior citizens within the parish. Thus she began what was to be a most challenging and exciting ministry for her as parish social/spiritual minister. Under her leadership the St. Rose “Prime Timers” came into being and for 19 years S. Rosemary committed her energy and zeal to providing fun, support, trips, and spiritual nourishment for hundreds who enjoyed her services and benefited from her ministry. The group started with ten seniors and had increased to 240+ by the time she left St. Rose to become a resident at the Villa in 2004.
Though she had moved somewhat abruptly to the Villa after unexpected triple by-pass surgery, S. Rosemary, always “ready for any good work,” came to embrace her ministry of prayer and presence at the Villa with a spirit of joy and gratitude.
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in all the ways that S. Rosemary O’Brien lived our mission of unity through her connections with and service to the many whose lives she touched throughout her long life; we value as wise counsel to all her response to what advice she would give to newer members: “Follow the graces of everyday. Pray, read good books, and do your work only for the love of God.”
Sister Louise Madeleine Buckel
Sister Louise Madeleine (Eileen Grace Buckel), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 57 years, died in Abington Hospital, Abington, Pennsylvania on July 13, 2008.
Born in Erie, Pennsylvania on October 21, 1931 to Louis and Madeline Buckel, Eileen Grace grew up in York, Pennsylvania and attended St. Rose of Lima Grade School and York Catholic High School. She entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph at nineteen years of age on September 12, 1951. Eileen was pleased at reception to receive her religious name in honor of her father and mother.
Sister Louise Madeleine had two older brothers—Louis and Gerald. She also had two aunts who were Sisters of Saint Joseph of Erie, Pennsylvania. In her life story Louise recalled lovingly her beautiful family life. One of her favorite memories was that of helping her father who had started an optician business. It was her responsibility to deliver the glasses to the doctors’ offices. Her mode of transportation? Roller skates! The family business continues today in downtown York.
Sister taught in schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the dioceses of Camden and Harrisburg. She spoke fondly of her happy years teaching and also of the special relationships formed during those years. Several students who later became priests—Fathers Joseph Gleason,
Tony Miller and Larry Shardel recalled Sister’s influence on them and their priestly vocation even in the early years of first and second grades. It was also during Sister’s teaching years that she formed a life-long friendship with her devoted friend Sister Anita Cecilia.
In reflecting on Sister Louise Madeleine’s life, Sister Mary Barrar noted, “Many new relationships were also to become a part of Louise’s life here at the Villa. Louise lived here for close to forty years, almost from its beginning days. The Villa was truly ‘home’ to her. Mary also spoke of the butterfly pin many will remember Louise wearing to remind herself of the “new life” or “second chance at life” that God gave her.
Despite being in the constant company of pain and suffering, Sister Louise’s own words gave witness to her inner joy and happiness. She compared her life to that of Job. “God gave me talents, but He took them away again. Each day I thank Him for whatever today will bring. . . God has blessed me in the midst of all this with a desire to do something for someone else. I pray each day ‘please give me the grace to do something for someone else’.”
We have been blessed and we thank God for the life of Sister Louise Madeleine—a life of praise and love, a life of suffering and pain, a life of song and happiness. As Sister Mary concluded in her reflection, “Louise, we your sisters, thank you for the glory that was revealed in your life: your love of God, love for your family and our Congregation, your deep faith, your kindness, and your gratitude for all the little beautiful things you noticed each day. We feel sure that as you take your place in the Communion of Saints you can be heard singing. And if asked, Why, you will say (as you said to us), ‘It is because I am so happy’—happy to be united with the God I loved and served all the days of my life.”
Sister Saint Therese MacMahon
Sister Saint Therese (Olga M. MacMahon), 87, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 68 years, died on July 15, 2008 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on July 24.
Born in New York City, New York, Olga and her twin sister Alicia lived most of their early years in Orange, New Jersey. It was as a student at Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School and High School that Olga met and grew to love the Sisters of Saint Joseph. During high school, she sensed God’s call to become a woman religious. After completing her first year of college at Seton Hall College, Olga entered the community that she loved so dearly in 1940.
A graduate of Chestnut Hill College, Sister Saint Therese spent most of her active years in ministry as an educator. She taught both elementary and secondary students in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark as well as in the Diocese of Trenton. She took a break from teaching and met the needs of senior citizens as a Pastoral Assistant in a parish for ten years before becoming a resident at Saint Joseph Villa in 2003.
At a recent Justice for All Awards Dinner, sponsored by the Diocese of Camden, one of the honorees, Jim Murray, told the audience that Sister Saint Therese influenced his life significantly. Mr. Murray said that Sister taught him many things but he was very grateful to her for teaching him how to live his life in faith. She taught him her first year teaching!
Therese’s response was always ”yes” to the “call of God to be consecrated and sent forth among all people” (SSJ Constitutions). She labored long in the service of the God she so loved. She was always attentive, thorough, prepared and effective in all of her service. She took delight in her duties, whether teaching, cooking, praying or babysitting-and she answered to all needs that came her way.
Sister Saint Therese lived her life in union with Jesus whom she tried to follow each day. In response, she heard God’s call once again: “Come, spouse of Christ, and receive the crown that God prepared for you for all eternity.”
Sister Clare de Chantal Waldraff
Sister Clare de Chantal (Dolores Marie Helen Waldraff), 76, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 57 years, died on July 17, 2008 at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA on July 25, 2008.
The daughter of Francis and Marie Waldraff, Dolores was born and raised in St. Peter’s Parish, Philadelphia, a parish characterized by its German heritage. Her parents were very involved in the activities of the parish and in the promotion in the canonization cause of St. John Neumann and they involved their children in the parish and in the cause, as well. Dolores graduated from St. Peter’s School and John W. Hallahan High School, both in Philadelphia.
In 1951, Dolores traveled to Chestnut Hill and began her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph, receiving the name, Sister Clare de Chantal, on April 14, 1952. Clare was a dedicated educator. With an undergraduate degree from Chestnut Hill College and a Masters degree from Auburn University, she loved to teach students mathematics. For more than forty years, she instructed elementary and secondary students in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia, as well as in the Diocese of Camden. She also served in several high school administration positions. While she was an Activities Coordinator, Clare was asked to help facilitate the merger of two archdiocesan high schools. She found this task both challenging and demanding but enjoyed being a part of something new.
Clare appreciated the fact that while missioned in Bethlehem, PA near her brother Frank’s home, she taught her nieces and nephews (persons that she loved) geometry and Algebra (subjects that she loved). Her nieces and nephews did want any special treatment from their aunt. Understanding teenagers as she did, Aunt Dolores did not take it personally that the young Waldraffs did not want anyone to know that she was their aunt! She was proud of the fact that they were good students.
In 2001, Sister Clare moved to Saint Joseph Villa where she began a new ministry, the ministry of prayer. In mid July, with her work here completed, God invited his Clare home to receive the reward the she was promised on the day of her baptism in St. Peter’s Church. Come, good and faithful servant… May you rest in peace, dear Clare!
Sister Ann Patrice Whearty
Sister Ann Patrice (Anne G. Whearty), 89, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 70 years, died on August 7, 2008 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on August 12, 2008.
At the time of her birth, the Whearty family lived in Norristown, PA. but moved to West Philadelphia where the children were enrolled in St. Gregory School. It was in the parish school that Anne first met the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Anne attended West Catholic High School for Girls and continued to hone her secretarial skills at St. Monica Commercial School in South Philadelphia.
In the fall of 1939, this youngest of eleven children of Patrick and Anna, entered the Congregation and became S. Ann Patrice. Anne’s two older brothers had become priests, one a Josephite Father and the other a diocesan priest.
S. Ann’s ministry life was varied. A graduate of Villanova University, she spent forty years as a teacher, administrator and secretary in elementary schools in the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC before assuming responsibility as Executive Housekeeper at Chestnut Hill College.
In 1983, Ann decided to leave the College and accept a pastoral care position that included visiting residents of a nursing center. In that ministry, she perfected her ministry of presence to people. She described the ministry as “being there” for the infirm, the elderly and their families and friends who accompanied them. Her presence was healing, saving and relieving in spiritual and practical ways. She brought peace and comfort not only to the residents and their families but also to the staff. The relationships with the staff continued after she became a resident at Saint Joseph Villa in 2002. This was proof that they appreciated and valued her presence.
On August 7, God called this very special woman home to enjoy the reward of a life well lived. Ann, we thank you for your faithful life and mission, for striving “to live and work so that all persons are united with God and one another.” (SSJ Mission Statement)
SisterR Ann Vincentia (Marguerite) Snyder, age 89, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph for 68 years died at Saint Joseph Villa on August 7, 2008. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on August 13 , 2008.
Marguerite was born in Hanover, PA in 1919, one of six children of Claude Snyder and Anna Brady. In her own words recorded in her Living History, Sister Ann credits her loving parents as the greatest influence on who she was and who she became throughout the years. She attended Saint Joseph Elementary School, Hanover and went on to graduate from Central High School (now known as Delone Catholic), McSherrystown. Two years later, after studies at Thompson Business College and employment at Jackson Shoe Company, she entered the congregation with the blessing of her parents. One of her four sisters also entered at the same time and thus Sister Ann Vincentia and Sister Rose Bernadette began together the journey as Sisters of Saint Joseph.
For 59 years S. Ann served God’s people in the Philadelphia, Newark, Harrisburg, and Paterson dioceses. She taught all eight elementary grades and was principal, parish religious education coordinator, coordinator of a diocesan religious education center, and also served as an office assistant in the Religion Resource Center at her alma mater, Delone Catholic. In 2001 she became a resident at Saint Joseph Villa where she continued to grow in loving relationship with the God of her journey, walking in faith with a generous heart.
Sister Ann’s Living History gives a significant glimpse into her attitude toward life. In referring to the many changes that took place in the congregation in the 1960’s she said, “I accepted the changes as they occurred. A good community spirit can weather anything. Keeping an open mind is the key to success and progress.” In response to the question, “What advice would you give to our newer members?” she shared this wisdom:
“Recognizing the presence of God within you will help you to recognize the Christ in others. Own yourself, your own personality. Appreciate your talents and share them thoughtfully. Be a good listener. Think before speaking. Appreciate the talents of others. Enjoy the gift of humor. Remember God is on your side as you walk the journey.”
These words are a rich legacy to all of us and a portrait of Sister Ann’s own life lovingly lived as a Sister of Saint Joseph. May her words, coupled with the witness of her fidelity and generous spirit, inspire all Sisters of Saint Joseph to walk the journey as she did--in faith and love, always “ready for any and every good work.”
Sister Joseph Annetta Ricapito
Sister Joseph Annetta (Mary Ricapito), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 65 years died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 2008. The Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated there on September 2, 2008.
Born on August 1, 1924 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Joseph and Mary Ricapito, young Mary attended Holy Infancy Elementary School and Bethlehem Catholic High School. The Ricapito family nurtured religious vocations and service to the church in all three children: Father Anthony, Sister Joseph and Anna Marie.
After graduating from high school, Mary attended Chestnut Hill College for two years before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph on September 14, 1943. Sister Joseph frequently spoke about how grateful she was for the influence of her friend and teammate at Chestnut Hill, Rosemary O’Brien, who also became a Sister of Saint Joseph.
Sister Joseph spent sixty years as an educator in several dioceses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. She shared that one of her most fulfilling experiences was that of being one of the founding faculty members at a high school where she established a music program. She remembered, “how wonderful it was to see the school grow and to grow with it.” “Sister Joe,” as she affectionately came to be known among her students directed annual musical productions that developed a sense of pride among her students and were enjoyed as one of the highlights of the school year by many friends and family members of the school community.
In addition to teaching, Sister Joseph held positions of academic leadership and published two books on music education. In the early seventies Sister was named one of the outstanding secondary educators of America.
Shortly before she died, Sister received a letter from a former student who wrote, “Sister Joe—I remember with joy and affection the religious witness and love of learning that you showed us. Without hesitation I would affirm that you were an inspiration to me and to so many of us.”
Two writers, Saint Paul and Henri Nouwen, gave Sister Joseph Annetta inspiration and strength. From Saint Paul she followed the advice, “Live according to what you have learned and accepted.” She herself wrote, “Every time a problem faces me, God gives me some sign that He is with me and wants me to do His Will. It might be some sign as small as a butterfly landing on my arm, but I feel sure that God is speaking to me.” Sister Joseph took the words of Henri Nouwen to heart, “Yearn for love, unity, and communion that doesn’t go away.”
We are grateful for the fidelity and love of Sister Joseph Annetta. We know that she rejoices now in communion with all the saints and angels who sing God’s praises forever.
Sister Berenice Harp
Sister Berenice C. Harp (Sister Denis Edward), a beloved sister of Saint Joseph for 70 years died at Saint Joseph Villa on August 28, 2008 just four days after her 89th birthday. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on September 4, 2008.
Berenice, born in Philadelphia, was the sixth of twelve children of Mary Murphy and Harry Harp. She recounted in her Living History recorded in 2003 how she remembered her mother often saying, “I wish I had a daughter a nun,” and thinking to herself, “I wonder which one of us that will be?” She attended Saint Elizabeth Grammar School where she came to know the “Glen Riddle” Franciscans. She met them again at John W. Hallahan High School and initially considered joining that congregation. However her relationship with her aunt, Sister Clare Marie, SSJ had a significant impact on her and led Berenice to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph in September, 1938. On reception of the habit in 1939 she received the name Sister Denis Edward. Her uncle, Br. Denis Edward, CFX, had been president of La Salle College from 1911-1917.
With great zeal, Sister Berenice ministered in the field of education for 62 years; she served as teacher and principal as well as congregational supervisor and as supervisor for both the Baltimore and Philadelphia archdioceses. She was well qualified for her ministry in education not only by her degree from Chestnut Hill College but also by her studies at Columbia University where she earned two master’s degrees: one in Curriculum and Teaching and the other in Education. Another significant experience that enriched her in her ministry was the opportunity to travel to England and Ireland in the early 70’s to study and observe experimental teaching techniques including “open classrooms.” This trip also included a brief visit to Lourdes. Traveling by herself, Sister Berenice in looking back, recognized the people she met along the way “as God’s hand guiding me through so many good people.”
As the pattern of her life unfolded this thread of meeting God in the “dear neighbor” kept Sister Berenice in tune with God’s will. She reflected in her Living History on the importance of not holding on to her own will especially when it became evident that God was calling her to move on. She discovered God in all the facets of her life; her devotion to Jesus, Infant of Prague and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament formed the core of her spirituality of prayer and action.
After 13 years at Saint John Chrysostom, Wallingford, PA where she served as local coordinator, teacher, and volunteer, Sister Berenice realized that it was time to go to the Villa where she could receive the assistance that she needed. In spite of some physical setbacks, she entered fully into the vibrant life of the Villa both giving and receiving with generosity and joy.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph celebrate with gratitude the life of Sister Berenice C. Harp and her
final letting go that has brought her into the newness and wonder of eternal life. God’s will is gloriously fulfilled in her!
Sister Maryanne Clifford, formerly Sister Joan Annice, died at Mount Saint Joseph Convent on October14, 2008. Sister is mourned by her sisters, Dolores and Geraldine, all her nieces and nephews, her friends, former students, and all the Sisters of Saint Joseph with whom she lived and worked for fifty-one years.
Maryanne was a child of John and Mary (McAndrew) Clifford. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She and her family were active members of Holy Souls Parish where Maryanne attended elementary and secondary school. After graduation, she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph who had been her teachers.
Maryanne continued her education and earned a Bachelor Degree in Education from Chestnut Hill College. She spent most of her life in the area of primary education and loved working with little ones. She was sensitive to those who needed extra support and was available to them after school and through the summer. She reached out to parents and other parishioners. Her commitment to children and their families was evident as she served them in the dioceses of Allentown, Baltimore, Camden, Harrisburg, Newark and Philadelphia.
In 2002, after forty-three years of educational ministry, Maryanne returned to Mount Saint Joseph Convent to work as a receptionist in the Finance Office of the congregation. She brought to this ministry the same spirit of presence and hospitality that was evident in her classrooms.
At Maryanne’s funeral liturgy, Sister Patricia Kelly based her reflection on a scripture passage from the Book of Revelations: “Look I am standing at the door knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in, sit down with her, side by side, and share… (Rev. 3:20).” This was a quote that Maryanne had prayed often in the days before she died. In many ways it reflects the grace of God so evident in Maryanne’s life through her gift of presence, her willingness to sit down beside and share with students, family, friends, and members of her community.
Maryanne was always aware of her family’s love and appreciation of her. She looked forward to their calls and visits. She opened doors of opportunity to her students. She was faithful to meeting and celebrating with friends. In the midst of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Maryanne experienced all aspects of the Paschal Mystery. With quiet courage she embraced joys and challenges, good health and physical sufferings. A friend observed that Maryanne’s life was permeated with gratitude and delight at God’s action in her life, particularly in unexpected ways.
In her Jubilee program almost a year ago Maryanne wrote the following: “My dear family and friends, I thank God every time I think of you. I am so blessed with the love and support given to me through the years by you –my family, my community and my friends.”
Maryanne, may you who welcomed so many others, be welcomed now into the presence of Jesus and of all those who loved you in life and preceded you in death.
Sister Mary Peter Fabey
Sister Mary Peter (Lydia A. Fabey), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 75 years, died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 2008. Born on January 24, 1917 in Philadelphia to Mary Ellen and Peter Fabey, young Lydia grew up in Port Richmond with seven brothers and sisters. She attended Nativity Grade School and Nativity Commercial before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in September, 1934.
In a Living History interview Sister Mary Peter recalled fond memories of family times—nightly recitation of the rosary, and “sitting up straight” to listen to Bishop Fulton Sheen and Father Coughlin on the radio. She loved all her teachers at Nativity School and “knew from the very, very beginning I always wanted to be an SSJ.” She recalled her piano lessons with Sister Agnes Anita, and the plays the family would put on at night to use their musical abilities. Sister vividly remembered the lessons learned not only from the Sisters, but also from her mother “who entertained us and kept us together. She taught us manners, etiquette. We had our prayer life.”
Sister Mary Peter seemed to find happiness wherever she went. She taught in schools in the Camden Diocese and in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for more than 55 years. Of her ministry she noted, “I loved my teaching. I loved being with the children. . . All the children that I had were wonderful.” Reflecting on the charism of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Mary Peter said, “Mission is to be sent. . . and to bring people together, to reconcile people when they’re not.”
Specific instances, anecdotes and names of students and families attest to the fact that Sister Mary Peter’s life was lived for the service of others, whether it was preparing lunch for the sisters or teaching children how to share classroom supplies. She had compassion on those who suffered misfortune, and she thought of what was good for others, not counting the cost to herself. Sometimes doing a good deed required making an unpopular decision. Mary Peter followed her heart, and did what she thought was the right thing to do.
Speaking about the life of Sister Mary Peter at her Liturgy of Christian Burial, Sister Honora Fox commented, “. . . she will be remembered for ‘enjoying life to the fullest.’ Our sisters at the Villa will remember her generous heart, her availability to all, that she was a people person, a nice person to live with, a loyal friend, humorous and positive.. . qualities that Mother Saint John portrayed in her portrait of a Daughter of Joseph.”
How fitting that Sister Mary Peter was called home to God on the evening of October 15, Founder’s Day for the Sisters of Saint Joseph. For all the hearts and lives that have been touched by the life of Sister Mary Peter we are grateful. We thank God for the generous spirit that she shared with us for 75 years, and we know that she continues to intercede for us as she enjoys fullness of life forever.
Sister Dolorata Cadden
S. Dolorata (Dolores) Cadden, age 83, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 65 years died at St. Joseph Villa on October 25, 2008. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on October 29, 2008.
Born in Baltimore, MD to Mary and Francis Cadden, Dolores-- known as Dody to her family and to many others throughout the years—was one of seven children. She and her three brothers and three sisters grew up in St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish, Baltimore where they attended the parish elementary school. Both Dolores and her sister Catherine (S. Francis Isabel) were greatly influenced by the Sisters who taught them and were drawn to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph just one year apart with Dolores entering first in 1943. In their life together in the Congregation they were known to be very devoted to one another as well as frequent “conspirators in mischief.” Their fun-loving warmth and humor seemed to be a family trait. S. Doloratas’s one surviving sibling, Rita Cadden Eckart, who lives still in Star of the Sea Parish, Baltimore recalls with delight humorous stories involving her sisters, herself, and other family members.
S. Dolorata’s life in ministry was in classroom teaching or school-related work. Her teaching career took her to Washington, DC, Delaware, New Jersey, Perryville, MD and her beloved Baltimore as well as to several places in the Philadelphia area. Before becoming a resident at the Villa in 2002, she had spent 14 years as a pre-school aide in Springfield, PA. “All were rewarding experiences,” she reflected in her Living History recorded in 2003. “I was happy wherever I lived and worked.”
In telling her own story S. Dolorata also talked of her special devotion to the rosary and added, “Of course our daily Mass and reception of the Eucharist was the food that nourished me daily and still does. Thanks be to God!”
Council member S. Dot Urban in her reflection given at the funeral mass highlighted S. Dolorata’s humility and simplicity, pointing out how she exemplified the SSJ maxim urging Sisters to “live a life of littleness and hiddeness…doing the ordinary things of everyday…so that the greatness of God may be magnified.”
The greatness of God truly was magnified by S. Dolorata Cadden. The Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate and give thanks for her life. The memory of her fidelity and joy-filled spirit is a gift that consoles and inspires!
S. Margaret Mary Smith (S. Anne Cyrille), age 82, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph for sixty-one years, died at Chestnut Hill Hospital on Dec. 16, 2008. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on December 22, 2008.
Margaret Mary, daughter of Paul Smith and Marie Lawrence, was born in McSherrystown, PA, into a family and area rich in the heritage of religious life and of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Her family were parishioners of Annunciation, McSherrystown; she entered the Congregation from that parish in 1947 just two years after her sister, S. Carmelita had begun her journey as a Sister of Saint Joseph. S. Carmelita survives her as does her brother, Fr. Cyril, an Augustinian priest, and another sister, S. Ann Louise, a Medical Mission Sister. Their aunt, S. Robert Vincent, SSJ died in 2000.
Margaret Mary’s fidelity to and love of her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph remained unswerving for the sixty-one years of her religious life. As a teacher and in later years as an academic support person, she worked conscientiously in all her assignments which took her to a number of different dioceses, including 12 years in the diocese of Charlotte, NC. In addition, her faith perspective included an openness to all of the seasons of change in religious life and church life over the years.
Having participated in the congregational interim assembly in October, 2007, Margaret Mary later noted the joy she experienced in receiving her copy of the revised Constitutions. For her the words expressed in the ritual reflected the desire of her heart when she said: “I, S. Margaret Mary Smith, endeavor to be faithful, knowing that our efforts will be blessed and fruitful for God’s reign of justice and love.”
Her last years of active ministry ended just a few months prior to her death. When Margaret Mary arrived at the Villa in August, 2008 she entered into service there and enjoyed life as she, as far as she was able, assisted other Sister residents. The Sisters of Saint Joseph rejoice in the faithfulness and fruitfulness of the life of S. Margaret Mary Smith. Her efforts are truly blessed as she enjoys now, in her risen life, the fullness of God’s reign of justice and love.
Sister Miriam Brigid Clarahan
Sister Miriam Brigid, formerly Veronica Josephine Clarahan, died on December 22, 2008. Sister is mourned by her family, especially her siblings, Teresa and Neil, her friends, former students, parishioners, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph with whom she lived and worked for fifty-nine years.
Sister was the youngest of seven children born to John and Bridget (Duffy) Clarahan. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, belonged to Saint Gregory Parish, and graduated from West Catholic High School. After graduation, Brigid joined her sister, Sister Emerita, in becoming a Sister of Saint Joseph. She earned a degree in elementary education from Chestnut Hill College. She devoted the early part of her ministry, to educating children in the dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg, Newark, Philadelphia, Trenton, and Wilmington.
Brigid wanted always to be prepared to share God’s word with others and to be a healing presence to all God’s people. Throughout her life she continued to study so that she could minister well in a variety of settings. Her other ministries included being a house mother in a boys’ protectorate, serving in academic and congregational leadership, and working in a variety of parish ministries. For the last five years of her life, Brigid volunteered in a parish Religious Education Program.
While dedicated to active ministry, Brigid found time to relax and enjoy life. In the summer, she enjoyed fishing on the shore line at Townsend’s Inlet. An avid Phillies fan, she cheered her team on throughout the season and was delighted to celebrate their winning of the 2008 World Series.
At the Mass of Christian Burial, Sister Patricia Kelly reflected on Brigid’s life-long yearning for God and her deep desire that God’s wisdom and glory be manifest in her life. Just three days before the Church celebrated the Word of God born among us, Brigid entered fully into the presence of the God whom she had desired and served so well all of her life.
Sister Catherine Mulvihill
Sister Catherine Mulvihill (formerly known as Sister Arsenia), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 75 years, died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on January 8, 2009. Born on September 25, 1916 in Newark, New Jersey to Isabel and Charles Mulvihill, Catherine grew up with her three brothers and a sister. She attended Saint Rose of Lima Grade School and developed an affection for the Sisters of Charity who taught there. She continued her education at Our Lady of the Valley High School in Orange, New Jersey. Upon graduation she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1934 along with two classmates who were later known as Sister Ann Beatrice and Sister Mary Celsus.
Education was Sister Catherine’s ministry and in took her to three dioceses in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. In addition to teaching in four elementary schools and seven high schools, Sister also served in academic and congregational leadership positions. While at the Villa Sister Catherine continued to receive heart-warming messages from her former students who remember her as a math and science teacher extraordinaire.
At the Liturgy of Christian Burial, Sister Patricia Kelly reflected on Sister Catherine’s life:
“. . . she felt she did her duties in ordinary ways and she took simple joy just in beginning each day. . . Her colleagues and congregation would say that her serenity, positive attitude and gracious manner enhanced life in immeasurable ways. . . She is one of those who quietly hold humanity together and who, in earthly life can never fully know the good that they have done.”
One of Sister Catherine’s peers commented on her reverent manner and fidelity in joining the community at prayer each day that she was able. Her devotion to the Sacred Heart was evident in the way she lived her life: “. . . in loving acquiescence to God’s design in all circumstances” and in an “ardent desire to be entirely according to God’s heart.” Maxim 95, Love’s Design
Sister Catherine’s life was a joyous and loving offering to God. We can ponder her words of advice, “Trust in God and live in the day.” We are grateful for her love, her prayer, her faithful witness to God’s great love for each one of us and for our world.
Sister Maria Devota Dempsey
Sister Maria Devota (Margaret Veronica Dempsey) 95, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 76 years, died on January 13, 2009 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on January 16, 2009.
Born in Philadelphia to Irish immigrants, John and Winifred Dempsey, Margaret grew up in West Philadelphia where she attended local schools. After her mother’s death, Margaret, a high school sophomore at the time, became the homemaker as she cared for her father, brothers and cousin. When she felt that they were ready to care for themselves, she followed her sister, Sister Clare Amata to the Congregation and became Sister Maria Devota.
S. Devota received her bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a Masters Degree from Marywood College and used her own educational background to educate students for more than sixty years in various ministries in the field of education. She served faithfully in various elementary and secondary schools in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia until she became a resident at Saint Joseph Villa in 1995.
As a true Sister of Saint Joseph, relationships were an important part of Sister Maria Devota’s life. She was an excellent teacher who had a profound influence on many of her students. She had a non-judgmental and charitable commitment to her students. Her family and friends can attest to the many kindnesses they received from her. Whether it was remembering a birthday or some other special occasion or delivering laundry to another sister, you could always count on her.
Sisters enjoyed living with Devota and described her as kind, considerate, practical, and helpful with a quiet sense of humor along with her efficient and no-nonsense attitude towards life. She was respectful of each person no matter how loving or challenging the person might be.
Fidelity to daily Mass and prayer were the bedrock of her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph. Throughout her life, she lived her life for God and worked in the service to God’s people. Rest in peace, dear Devota, in the arms of the loving God who called you and to whom you dedicated your life!
Sister Mary Theresa Battersby
S. Mary Theresa Battersby (S. Stephen Joseph), age 92, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph for 76 years, died at Saint Joseph Villa on March 10, 2009. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on March 16, 2009.
A native of Philadelphia, Mary Theresa was one of three children born to William and Alice Battersby. Her father died when she was a child and her mother worked as a bookbinder to support the family. Mary Theresa first met the Sisters of Saint Joseph at her parish school, Our Lady of Mercy, Philadelphia. She later attended Our Mother of Sorrows Commercial School and entered the Congregation in 1933.
In 1935 S. Mary Theresa began her many years of dedicated ministry as an elementary school teacher, serving in schools in the Philadelphia area as well as for 13 years in Winston-Salem, NC. In 1986, after 50 happy and fulfilling years as a primary grade teacher, S. Mary Theresa undertook a brand new fulltime ministry as a technical nurse at Saint Joseph Villa.
She had spent a part of every summer since the early 1950’s serving as a volunteer nursing assistant, first at Sacred Heart Hall, the old Villa in Cheltenham and then at Saint Joseph Villa. In her devoted ministry to our sisters in that capacity through the years and then in her full time ministry at Saint Joseph Villa from 1986 to 1998, S. Mary Theresa was known for her kindness, loving ways, and generous spirit. In 1998 she became “semi-retired” and moved into the Villa as a resident.
S. Mary Theresa’s own words at the time of her 75th jubilee sum up her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph: “Since day one I have been extremely happy. After 75 years of religious life, it was worth it all. The longer I’ve been in the happier I’ve been!”
In her living history recorded in 2001 S. Mary Theresa was asked what advice she would give to newer members. Similarly, her response captured the manner in which she lived: “You are giving your all to God. He in return will reward you, here and in eternity. Remember the more you put into it, the happier you will be.”
The Sisters of Saint Joseph celebrate the fullness of the life of S. Mary Theresa Battersby. With a grateful heart she gave her all to God! The happiness she knew in this life is now brought to fulfillment in eternity.
Sister Robert Therese Arnot
Sister Robert Therese Arnot (Mary Liguori Arnot), 78, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 61 years, died on March 9, 2009, at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on March 13, 2009.
Born in West Orange, New Jersey, Mary was the daughter of Robert and Teresa Filan. She was a member of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Orange and received her elementary and secondary education at Our Lady of the Valley where the Sisters of Saint Joseph ministered. In 1948, Mary left her familiar North Jersey and entered the Congregation, eager to be of service to others. S. Robert received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Chestnut Hill College.
This young woman whose early life centered in the city of Orange, NJ began her teaching ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In time, she traveled to the Archdioceses of Washington, Baltimore, and Newark, as well as to the Dioceses of Allentown, Raleigh and Charlotte to educate young children for almost forty years. However, when a parish ministry opened in Norristown, she was able to give her full attention to the senior citizens of the parish and she loved the experience. Often, S. Robert visited patients in hospitals offering them a smile and a promise of prayers. She was a well-known figure in area hospitals and one local newspaper ran a headline about her work:” Sister Robert is a familiar face lighting the halls of Montgomery Hospital.”
For all of her life, S. Robert enjoyed and made lots of fun for all persons. She loved St. Mary’s by the Sea in Cape May Point and spent many weeks volunteering there during the summer months. She enjoyed swimming and riding a bike for as long as she was able. However, in time, pain became a perpetual part of her daily life.
In March of 2007, S. Robert became a resident at the Villa where her family, her friends and the Villa staff accompanied her so faithfully. It was appropriate that in her final hour her friends, in a circle of loving community and friendship surrounded her who had been so compassionate to others. May we, like Sister Robert Therese, be compassionate,” just as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”
Sister Joan Amelia Ferruggiaro
Sister Joan Amelia, (Barbara Ann Ferruggiaro), died on March 17, 2009 at Trinitas Medical Center in Elizabeth, NJ. Joan is mourned by her family, especially her brothers, Jack and Jim, and their families. During her life and ministry, Joan’s presence touched the lives of many friends, co-workers, former students, and members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph with whom she lived and worked for almost 60 years. All have suffered a sudden and profound loss.
Joan was the oldest of three children born to John and Amelia (Cassagrande) Ferruggiaro. She was born in Belmar on the Jersey shore, a place she would return to again and again throughout her lifetime. After graduating from St. Rose High School, Joan attended one year of Chestnut Hill College before joining the Sisters of St. Joseph. She continued her education graduating from Chestnut Hill College and pursuing a Masters Degree in Sacred Science at St. Bonaventure University. As her ministry broadened she earned certification in both Educational Administration and Urban Studies.
Education was always an important part of Joan’s life and ministry. Her love for learning and her desire to share that learning with others enriched the People of God in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg, Newark, Philadelphia, and Trenton. She taught elementary and secondary school students, served as principal, and spent the last 18 years of her life in diocesan educational leadership. She once admired and wholeheartedly agreed with a school banner that professed that “Excellence is a habit, not a goal”.
Joan was an avid sports fan. She attended the games of her nieces and nephew, Alana, Sara, and David, whenever possible. She loved college basketball and had planned to fully enjoy “March Madness” with friends even while coping with serious illness.
Joan’s active and fruitful ministry and her love for life flowed from a deep prayer life. Prayer united her with God and with all those whom she loved and served. Each Holy Week, Joan retreated to the Benedictine Monastery in Elizabeth. Each summer, she traveled to Cape May Point for retreat and for days of service. Joan supported each Congregational Chapter, including the Chapter of 2009, by joining the House of Prayer. Her prayer was a source of inspiration and inner strength as she faced serious illness, difficult treatments, and an untimely death.
At the Mass of Christian Burial, Sr. Patricia Kelly quoted the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “How great is the love to which we are called; how deep the responsibility.” She reminded us that “Sister Joan Amelia knew that call in her heart and responded with wholehearted love and a generous spirit – always”. During this Holy Week as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery, we remember Joan Amelia who lived and died in Christ and now shares in his Resurrection.
Sister Maria Auxilia Darby
S. Maria Auxilia (Anna C. Darby), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 77 years, died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on March 28, 2009. Born on December 13, 1914 in Philadelphia to John and Anna Darby, Anna was the oldest of five children. She attended Corpus Christi Grade School and after graduation from high school entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1932.
Anna’s love for music developed in her childhood with both parents sharing their musical talent and interests with the family. This love for music continued through Anna’s life. S. Auxilia gave herself wholeheartedly to fostering good music in parishes and classrooms, offering private lessons and organizing church processions and other musical events. She knew first-hand the dedication needed for music ministry that extended into lunch periods and weekend lessons as well as playing for funerals and other parish liturgies. Sister’s expertise was shared not only in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also in Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. She played the organ, flute and piano and when very young in the congregation offered the recommendation that the concept of having itinerant music teachers be considered.
With a twinkle in her eye, S. Auxilia could recount stories about choir practice and children’s pranks. She didn’t hesitate to add her own humorous analysis in the telling. Sister never thought of herself as “retired.” Indeed she even taught private music lessons from 1989 to 2004 until she was 89 years young when she moved to Saint Joseph Villa. During her years at the Villa she admitted that it was a challenge to keep up with the schedules and activities that were available, but she seemed very happy and was always ready with a joke or story for her visitors and the residents.
As S. Trudy Friel shared in her reflection after the Mass of Christian burial, S. Maria Auxilia had “the ability of appreciating the sound of each individual. . . and appreciating the place of each sound in bringing harmony in God’s world.” She valued relationships and cherished the happy memories of times shared with her devoted family and her good friends S. Elizabeth Mary and S. Saint Patrick. Trudy concluded, “. . .we thank God for a life well-lived. . . a Sister of Saint Joseph who continues to remind us that our vocation is actually quite simple: to help each other to grow closer to God, whether in a family, a classroom, an orchestra, or on a Circle Line around Manhattan.
Sister Adelaide Bennett (Ruth Bennett), 84, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 66 years, died on June 9, 2009 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on June 12, 2009.
Born in Hanover, PA to John and Adelaide Bennett, Ruth was one of fifteen children, nine boys and six girls, including three sets of twins. Educated by the SSJs at St. Vincent Elementary School, Hanover, and Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Ruth expressed a desire to become a Sister of Saint Joseph. In 1943, Ruth followed her older sister Mary, Sister Francis Celine, in becoming a member of the congregation.
Sister Adelaide, a graduate of Chestnut Hill College, spent more than fifty years devoted to ministry. The majority of her time in ministry was devoted to educating elementary school children in the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, as well as, in the Dioceses of Allentown and Harrisburg. Using her many transferable skills, Adelaide also served as a coordinator of religious education, parish minister and assistant librarian in the latter stage of her active ministry,
In 2003, Sister Adelaide became a resident of Saint Joseph Villa where she brought her gifts of fidelity and enthusiasm. Hers was a ministry of peaceful, loving service to her sisters. During the day, she was never in too much of a hurry to stop and whisper a prayer or a word of greeting to even the most fragile or disabled resident. In the evening, S. Adelaide and S. Francis Celine played pinochle every night to keep themselves alert and active.
Before she died, S. Adelaide asked God to give her the strength to endure the pain that she experienced in her last illness. In her own words, “to join my suffering with Yours.” No coincidence that on the day that Adelaide died, the gospel reading from Matthew recounted these words of Jesus,
“Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.” Thank you Adelaide for a life lived in faithfulness that did just that!
Sister Elizabeth C. Bowdren
S. Elizabeth C. Bowdren (S. William Kathleen), age 64, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 47 years, died at St. Joseph Villa on June 22, 2009. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated there on June 29, 2009.
S. Betty was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, the second of four children of William and Catherine Bowdren. After graduation from Most Blessed Sacrament Elementary School she attended West Catholic High School where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her relationship with the Sisters deepened through her high school years and following graduation she entered the Congregation on her 18th birthday, September 12, 1962.
For 47 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Betty devoted her life to our mission of unity, “that all may be one.” She served as an elementary school teacher, DRE, and pastoral minister in various parishes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Most recently she ministered at St. Ann’s Parish in Philadelphia. Betty’s ready smile and gentle nature endeared her to many in all the places she served. Her presence made a difference! Betty loved her life as a Sister of St. Joseph; she had a willing heart ready for any and every good work.
Also significant in Betty’s life were cherished relationships with family and friends. Wherever she lived and ministered she made connections and formed lasting relationships. Betty loved her family deeply and always spoke of them with great affection. It was evident that her love for people and life flowed from a deep place of prayer that opened her to God’s love and love of the “dear neighbor.” Fun loving, with a hearty laugh and listening heart, Betty’s presence and gifts enriched many lives.
In the last few years Betty’s spirit of gratitude was especially evident as she experienced some limitations due to health and received so gratefully the help and thoughtful care of others. Betty’s death came unexpectedly when she seemed to be doing so well. In her final days she radiated a deep peace as she saw and spoke with family and friends. It seems as if God was drawing Betty to the threshold of her eternal home, to the place prepared for her from all eternity.
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in the life of S. Elizabeth Catherine Bowdren, who reflected to us and to all God’s people, a spirit of joy and the inner glow of one who lived life fully, faithfully, and lovingly.
Sister Miriam Carmelita Romanelli
Sister Miriam Carmelita (Jane Romanelli), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for fifty-three years died suddenly at Jersey Shore Memorial Hospital in Neptune, New Jersey on June 26, 2009.
Born in Philadelphia on December 15, 1936 to Joseph and Carmella Romanelli, Jane attended Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Grade School and graduated from John W. Hallahan High School in 1954. After working for two years, Jane followed her call and desire to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She continued her education and earned degrees in English from Chestnut Hill College and the University of Virginia. For twenty-seven years Sister Miriam taught in elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as in the Dioceses of Allentown, Camden and Harrisburg.
Never one to be idle, Miriam was involved in numerous extra-curricular activities including retreat and vocation work for youth and publications and sports events for students. She pursued her talents and her hobbies enjoying both the fine arts of drama, dance and music as well as the creative arts of sewing and crocheting.
From 1985 until the day of her death Miriam spent her life helping others on their spiritual journey. When retreat work became the focus of her ministry, Miriam attained a degree in Holistic Spirituality and attended numerous programs for personal and professional enrichment. Her questioning mind and her enthusiastic involvement kept her a life-long learner.
Those who knew Miriam can attest to her wholehearted response to a Sister of Saint Joseph’s call to “the More.” As was noted by Sisters Joyce Ballerino and Regina Smith at the funeral reflection, “this call was reflected in her great love of family, friends, local community, ministry and concern for the poor and marginalized. . . Family for Aunt Jane meant trips to Florida and joyful visits with her sister Carmella. . .she shared photos and stories of her nieces and nephews and their children with pride and love—and a dish of ice cream.”
Miriam’s two spiritual heroes were Saints Ignatius Loyola and John of the Cross. In the weeks before Sister Miriam died she had been preparing to give a retreat on Saint John of the Cross and had recommitted herself at the Chapter of the Sisters of Saint Joseph to responding to God’s transforming grace to live the values of the Sisters of Saint Joseph: a contemplative life stance, right relationship, courageous risk-taking and self-emptying inclusive love.
For Sister Miriam Carmelita the questions have been answered. Her great desire to live as a woman fully alive has been realized. How she must be enjoying the eternity of wonder and praise for her loving God while sharing and communicating with all those who have gone before her! May she intercede for us as we continue to live the questions as we travel on our own journey to new life.
Sister Francis Elizabeth Keech
Sister Francis Elizabeth Keech (Elizabeth Keech), 94, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA for 77 years, died on July 3, 2009 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on July 9, 2009.
Born in Malden, Washington, Lizzie was the oldest child of Susanna and John Keech. At the age of sixteen, she felt a call to become a Sister of Saint Joseph and entered the Congregation from St. Anthony Parish, in Washington, DC before her eighteenth birthday. On April 18, 1933, Lizzie became S. Francis Elizabeth.
A fine student, S. Francis earned her Bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College and a Masters degree from The Catholic University of America. Francis was tireless about mission and ministry. As teacher and principal,
she educated children in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Arlington, Harrisburg and Wilmington for nearly fifty years. Using her transferable people skills, S. Francis became a pastoral minister and coordinator at Saint Joseph Villa for six years. Following that, for 14 years, S. Francis served as a parish minister, attending to the sick and infirm. In her Life Story, Francis expressed that those years attending to the sick were the most fulfilling years of her life. She became a resident of the Villa in 2002.
Loved by her family, her friends and her Congregation, Francis was a free person. She found her freedom in her deep relationship with Jesus. This relationship allowed her to be friend to all. Her family and friends benefitted from the love that she had for each of them. She had a great sense of humor that allowed her to laugh at herself and to understand the art of relationship. However, she could be a fierce competitor when playing cards, Scrabble or Boggle!
For 77 years, S. Francis Elizabeth was faithful to the God she loved so much. “Each day we make a new beginning”, it says in the SSJ Constitutions and each day she did. Her life these almost 95 years inspired those who knew her. Now, dear Francis, you rest in the arms of Jesus who keeps his promises. May your new beginning be filled with all that you have desired!
Sister Anne Roberta Rucker, (Elizabeth A. Rucker), 95, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia for 78 years died on July 8, 2009 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on July 15, 2009.
On June 10, 1914, Elizabeth Anne entered this world in the City of Brotherly Love as the youngest of seven children born to German immigrants, Joseph and Katharine Rucker. Elizabeth attended Most Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and John W. Hallahan High School both in Philadelphia. As a freshman at Hallahan, she met S. St. Florence, S. Rita Gervase and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. One day, Elizabeth got up the courage to ask S. St. Florence, “How do you know if you have a vocation?” When Sister responded, “You pray to God, etc.” Elizabeth blurted, “Well, I think I’ve got one!” After graduation, Elizabeth entered the SSJ Congregation to the delight of her parents, although she thought that they might have preferred that she enter a good German order.
On her Reception Day in 1934, Elizabeth became S. Anne Roberta, SSJ and lived her religious life fully all her life. Anne earned a Bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College and her Masters degree from Villanova College (now University). For most of her active ministry, Anne taught elementary school children in the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia, and in the dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg and Wilmington. In addition, Anne served as a high school disciplinarian for eleven years. Although a difficult job, Anne approached this ministry with forthrightness, honesty and integrity. She was respected by students, faculty and administration. S. Anne also served as a parish visitor and convent helper before she became a resident at Saint Joseph Villa in 1997.
Raised in a devout Catholic family, Anne had great devotion to the Eucharist. Throughout the years, her relationship with God deepened. She was faithful to a life of personal and communal prayer and she loved to read the spiritual works of Basil Pennington and Henri Nouwen. Anne also had great devotion to Mary, Joseph, Saint John Neumann and the Holy Souls and turned to them to intercede for the needs of her family and the Congregation. All appreciated her prayers for them and their intentions.
We remember and give thanks for the life of our sister, Sister Anne Roberta Rucker. We are grateful for the gift that she has been to her family, our Congregation, her friends and the many people to whom she ministered so faithfully these past 78 years. Rest in peace, dear Anne.
Sister Mary Frances Thomas (S. Rose Madeleine), 90, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, for 68 years, died on August 2, 2009 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, PA. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on August 6, 2009.
Mary Frances was born in 1919 to Chauncy and Elizabeth Thomas in York, PA, one of six siblings, all of whom attended St. Rose Elementary School. In 1936 Mary graduated from her beloved York Catholic High School and entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in the fall of 1941. In April of 1942, Mary Frances Thomas became S. Rose Madeleine.
From an early age she loved school so she was a natural for the educational ministry of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. With a love for music it was appropriate that she earned Mus.B. from Chestnut Hill College. For more than forty years, Sister Mary taught students in the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Philadelphia and in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, Harrisburg, and Raleigh. In her own words, “I have always been in love with education, and I have always enjoyed teaching.” When it was time for her to move from a classroom setting, Mary returned to her beloved St. Rose, joined the choir and tutored small groups of children.
In the spring of 2007, Mary became a resident of Saint Joseph Villa. She
went to the Villa but did not go willingly, at least not at first. She had nothing against the Villa. It had more to do with leaving the parish of St. Rose in York and the people she loved so dearly. On several occasions, Mary made it very clear that “I was born at St. Rose, and I want to die at St. Rose.” The love affair was mutual. St. Rose loved her back. In 2007, Mary received the Distinguished Alumni Award from her beloved St. Rose School from which she graduated in 1932. At that time, the principal remarked,” Sister Mary was an excellent example of what it means to be a student, a teacher, a receiver, as well as a person who believes in on-going education and responsible stewardship.”
The day that Sister Mary died, the gospel reading from John included” Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life which God will give you.” Mary spent her entire life working to bring God to so many. We trust that Mary now rests in the loving arms of the God she served so well!
Sister Gertrude Mary (Mary Therese) Brown, age 84, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph for 57 years, died at St. Joseph Villa on August 7, 2009. Her funeral mass was celebrated there on August 11, 2009.
Born in Philadelphia, S. Gertrude Mary was baptized Mary Therese and in her early life she had great devotion to her first patroness, St. Therese. As a student at Little Flower High School where she met the Sisters of Saint Joseph that devotion was fostered and deepened. Though she worked for the Bell Telephone Company for eight years following her graduation from Little Flower her heart and mind were fixed on becoming a Sister of Saint. Joseph and thus it was that she entered the Congregation in September, 1952.
Her religious name, S. Gertrude Mary led to a lifelong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, after the example of St. Gertrude, her religious life patroness. She was very faithful to the First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart and it was noted at her funeral mass that it was no coincidence that she died on the first Friday of August.
For her entire life in active ministry S. Gertrude Mary was engaged in the field of education. She taught in ten elementary schools and then did office work in two high schools before becoming a resident at the Villa in 2005. She recalled many happy memories of her teaching years, especially the many years she spent bringing American History and Social Studies to life for eighth graders.
Well known trademarks of S. Gertrude Mary were her love of animals (especially dogs), her love of Ireland, and her wonderful sense of humor. Even when illness slowed her down she maintained a cheerful disposition and a generous, willing spirit that was so valued by her sisters at the Villa and by family members as well.
Most significant in summing up the life of S. Gertrude Mary are her deep faith and love of God, which anchored her and motivated her to live, like her patroness St. Gertrude, in the heart of God. Words from the Constitutions of the Sisters of Saint Joseph describe S. Gertrude Mary’s manner of life: “the Sister of Saint Joseph is an apostle marked by docility to the Spirit, humility, and zeal expressed in a spirit of gentleness, joy, and peace.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph rejoice in the gift of the life of S. Gertrude Mary Brown; her example inspires us to authentic living and to heartfelt response to God’s will in any and all circumstances.
Sister Mary Golden, formerly Sister Saint Elizabeth, died at Saint Joseph Villa on September 9, 2009. She was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for 64 years. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated there on September 14, 2009.
Sister was the oldest in a family of eight, six boys and two girls. Her parents and the children grew up in the wonderful Corpus Christi Parish in Philadelphia. A happy household was shattered by the early death of Mary’s father when she was just 12 years old; four of the boys had not yet started school. Mary’s good grandmother and dear aunt assisted her valiant mother in rearing the Golden children. Four of her six brothers would distinguish themselves as members of the military during the dreaded World War II.
While attending Corpus Christi School, Mary took piano lessons from our sisters, which would greatly impact on her future life as student at Hallahan High School and later as Sister of Saint Joseph. Because of her music ability, Mary was invited to learn to play the cello. As customary in those high school days, musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra came to the big high schools to teach apt pupils. Mary shared in this extraordinary opportunity.
Mary’s piano teacher in her last year at Corpus Christi was Sister Anita Gertrude, and following Sister Anita, Mary learned from Sister Agnes Anita at Hallahan. It was Sister Anita who would accompany Mary to Chestnut Hill to make application to the Sisters of Saint Joseph some years later.
After graduation from Hallahan High School, Mary went to work, ever mindful of the pressing needs of her fatherless family. Even after graduation, some girls from the orchestra played for special occasions, such as Alumnae Fashion Shows. The young musicians thereby enjoyed sharing their talents and the camaraderie that went along with these events. Mary was well trained in commercial skills at Hallahan, too. She worked first for the Western Union, taking accounting classes at night. After some few years, she took and passed the Civil Service Examination, landing herself a position with the Federal Government, serving mostly in the Social Security department.
It was not until 1947, some l0 years after her graduation from high school, that Mary entered the Convent, having dutifully supported her family in so many ways. She was proud and caring of her family members, deferring always to them, sacrificing her wants in countless ways. For all of her 62 years in Religion, Mary was that kind of person… loving, caring, forgetful of self, and very much a faithful religious.
Sister Mary’s qualities were evident in her ministry as teacher. She served mostly in Philadelphia schools, one school in Trenton, New Jersey. Always, of course, working with music students and choirs, serving to the best of her ability--that was Sister Mary!
In 1987, at age 70, Mary was missioned to Christ the King School as secretary. She was well prepared to carry out the many tasks involved with grade school administrative duties, seeking quietly to perform the day-to-day jobs that go along with the role. No time off in summer, either!
After Mary’s health began to fail, she retired to the Villa, and with time and care, she was able to enjoy many of activities provided on a daily basis. Her beloved family members, brother John and sister Estelle, as well as many nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews were very present to her. They helped ferry her to doctor appointments, shared her company at family gatherings, and generally accounted her very dear. Her brother John’s daughter, Barbara, a Sister of Saint Joseph, made her particularly proud.
Sister Mary, truly a daughter of Joseph in her hiddenness and helpfulness, will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her. As one Sister put it on the day of Mary’s funeral: “Sister Mary is one of those people I would like to live with again.”
Sister Rose Josepha Ganly
Sister Rose Joseph (Rosemary Ganly), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for sixty-four years died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on September 17, 2009.
Born in Tower City, Pennsylvania on August 21, 1921 to Rose and Joseph Ganly, Rosemary was the first of four children. A member of the parish of Saint Peter and Paul, she grew up with her two sisters Clare and Regina and her brother Joe and attended elementary and secondary schools in Tower City. After graduating from high school in 1939 Rose enrolled in Saint Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia. One unique experience she recalled from those days was that of assisting a nurse who was caring for Katherine Drexel. Rosemary worked for three years at Saint Joseph Hospital before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Although Rosemary was not taught by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, she spent many hours with her cousin Mary who later became Sister William Ignatius. Even in making her plans known to others about entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Rosemary had to answer many questions and concerns raised by them about her desires to enter a congregation whose primary ministry at that time was education. Some felt she would be limiting herself and would not be able to practice her nursing skills, but Rosemary’s response was “I just want to be a Sister of Saint Joseph—no matter what!”
And a Sister of Saint Joseph she was! From her entrance in 1945 until she died sixty-four years later, Rose was a “healing presence in any and all situations.” But Sister Rose also had her share of sadness. One of her first experiences as a postulant was that of the sudden death of her father. It was her cousin Mary who shared this moment with her too as they traveled to Tower City through ice and snow only to learn on their arrival that Sister Rose’s father had died. Rose’s entire life was dedicated to service and care for others. Beginning with her ministry at the Sisters’ infirmary when it was located on the third floor of Mount Saint Joseph Convent and then extending to Saint Joseph Villa located in Cheltenham, Sister Rose was later one of the group of Sister-Nurses who opened Saint Joseph Villa in Flourtown. Each of these ministries required total dedication with little free time. Rose was gracious and generous in every situation.
In speaking of Sister Roses’s life at the Mass of Christian Burial, Sister Anne Myers reflected, “Rose was kind, understanding, compassionate and joyful with everyone who knew her. . . Her heart was filled with the compassion of Christ, and she had a special gift of being able to be present to others in their pain and loss, as well as in their joy.”
On September 17, 2009 Sister Rose Josepha answered Jesus’ invitation once again. His invitation to “Come home” was the one for which she gave her life and the one for which she was waiting. In the words of Sister Anne, “Sister Rose we will miss you. We are so grateful for your compassionate healing presence in every way. Go now and enjoy the fullness of that place called home, the heart of Jesus your Lord.”
Sister Margaret Isabelle Baney
Sister Margaret Isabelle Baney, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph for 81 years, died at Saint Joseph Villa on October 10, 2009. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated at the Villa on October 14, 2009. She lived a ministry of prayer and presence at the Villa for almost 9 years, going home to God at the ripe age of 101!
Isabelle Baney, a proud Saint Monica Parish product, was born the first of 5 children to her parents Philip and Isabelle. After a short time living in the New England area due to her father’s work as a chemist, the 12-year-old Isabelle along with her parents, two brothers and two sisters, returned to Philadelphia; thus began Isabelle’s education at Saint Monica School and Hallahan High School. Sister Margaret told stories on herself, such as having pet name of “Soup Face,” given to her by her brothers, so called because of her love of same. Mom, she recalled, called the oldest of her children “Running Feet.” No explanation needed!
At age 20, Sister Margaret entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph, influenced largely by her mother’s sister, Sister Purissima, who was a Sister of Saint Joseph. Isabelle took the name of Purissima for Confirmation. Then followed a long ministry in education, from elementary school through high school. She moved along in roles of superior, principal, librarian, convent helper, finally her role as prayerful resident at Saint Joseph Villa. Truly a school woman, Margaret was credited with opening three new missions, noting the pleasure it gave her to interact with pastors and parishioners in these challenging tasks. She was always one to encourage students to appreciate the value of learning and recommended that they consider earning a college degree. She was also quick to ask them to consider a vocation to priesthood or religious life. This stemmed from Margaret’s own deep appreciation of her vocation, “one of God’s great blessings to me.”
Sister Margaret was alert and present even to the end, receiving visitors, sisters and aides, always grateful for their presence to her. When asked by a close friend at the Villa to describe Margaret’s most outstanding qualities, the friend said: Prayerfulness, generosity, and hospitality. Sister Margaret, the oldest and longest professed member at her death, embodied the obedience and self sacrifice of a true Sister of Saint Joseph. Add to this wonderful mix, a sense of humor! Rest in peace, dear Sister Margaret Isabelle.
Sister Marie Brigid Monaghan
Sister Marie Brigid (Joan Miriam Monaghan), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia for fifty-nine years, died at Christiana Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware on October 10, 2009.
Born in Washington, DC on April 28, 1932 to Florence and William Monaghan, Joan attended Holy Comforter Grade School and after graduating from Saint Cecilia High School in Washington, entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Philadelphia on September 13, 1950. Marie Brigid’s ministry brought her to the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Newark, NJ as well as the dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg and Alexandria, VA. She touched the lives of people of all ages-- young children, teenagers, the homebound and the elderly and in her own words was “evangelized by” them as well.
As Mary Ellen Ford, SSJ reflected at Sister Marie Brigid’s Mass of Christian burial on October 16, Brigid “loved her God and her people with total abandon . . . her deep faith empowered her to live each day from a contemplative life stance . . . She lived our mission of unity and reconciliation.”
“Bridge”, as she was fondly known by many, will be remembered as a person who lived the SSJ mission. She acknowledged the challenges of her own time whether it was post-war 40’s, post Vatican II years or the millennial decade, and she encouraged her students, both young and not so young to be actively engaged in the struggle of creating a world of peace and justice. She herself was a lifelong learner who rejoiced in the tranformative grace that calls us all to change.
Before her death, Brigid had prayed for wisdom and acceptance in the challenges of age and diminishment, calling on “My Good Shepherd, my loving Parent, to continue your loving care from my birth to the present until the daystar dawns in my heart.” “When you call me, I am ready. I will come running when you call my name.”
Enthusiasm, laughter, hospitality, hard work as well as relationship, justice and integrity are the signposts that seemed to guide Marie Brigid’s journey in life. As we celebrate her life, we are reminded by Mary Ellen to “hold on to the memory—and the incredible smile—of one who dared to live these values and to call all of us to respond to God’s transforming grace. Sister Marie Brigid we thank you—and we love you!”
Sister Ann Bernard Carlin, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia for seventy-five years, died at Saint Joseph Villa on Monday, October 19, 2009. On Saturday, October24, she would have, officially, celebrated her diamond jubilee. Liturgy of the Resurrection was celebrated for Sister Ann at the Villa on Monday, October 26.
Sister Ann, who was the eldest of three daughters born to Bernard and Rose Carlin on April 29, 1917, grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Holy Name Elementary School and later, Notre Dame Academy. During one of her weekly music lessons at Notre Dame, Sister suggested that she attend 9 o’clock mass on the following Sunday. The homily was to center on vocations; Ann did not know this, but her music teacher did. That homily, among other influences, touched Ann’s heart. In 1935, she left Washington to come to Chestnut Hill to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Of course, Ann brought with her many, many talents, excelling especially in fine arts. She was a gifted musician and artist, with a flair for drama and languages. She honed these talents at Chestnut Hill College and later at Catholic University of America, where she earned her Master’s degree in Music.
Sister Ann utilized these talents, teaching at the elementary and secondary school levels in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Newark and Washington and in the Dioceses of Allentown, Arlington and Camden. Although Sister Ann was successfully and happily involved wherever she taught, she recalled that her happiest days of teaching were at Notre Dame High School in Easton. She and Sister Therese Benedict were among the school’s first faculty members; in fact, Sister Ann, along with Mr. Yapsuga, the music director, wrote the school’s alma mater. With her good friend, Sister Therese, who created the costumes and scenery, and with Mr. Yapsuga, Sister Ann directed a number of high quality musical productions. With love and encouragement, she helped those who could sing a little to sing a lot and to sing well; she helped those who could act a bit, to act with conviction and with feeling. And when she wasn’t wearing her director’s hat, she taught art with the same empowering love. At Notre Dame, as at other schools where she taught, Sister Ann saw the potential in students and lovingly encouraged them into achieving that potential.
Sister Ann was also skilled in the fine art of loving her God. Her spirituality, which was deeply rooted in this love, emanated from within her as solid goodness, wisdom and kindness. She was thoughtful, full of fun, kind, flexible and inclusive, as sisters in her local communities would attest. This love began with her family. Her sister, Sister Rose Edward, SSJ was only three when Ann left home to become a Sister of Saint Joseph, yet time and distance did not deter them from becoming fast friends. In S. Rose’s words, “Mary was my best buddy and I was her sweetheart.”
Sister Ann Myers’ words pay the most fitting tribute to Ann’s God-centered life:
Ann, thank you for making the world more beautiful through your love for the fine arts
and for the many ways you shared this throughout the years. Thank you also for your
skillfulness in the fine art of loving people and of loving your God. May the God who
blessed you with these gifts, now welcome you home to eternal glory, for you our
beloved Sister, are truly God’s work of art.
Sister Audrey Butler (Sister Saint Madeleine) died at Saint Joseph Villa on October 22, 2009. Her funeral Mass was celebrated on October 27, 2009. .She had been a resident at the Villa since 1999.
Born in North Jersey and a product of Our Lady of Good Counsel Grade School and High School in Newark, the young Audrey worked for five years before applying to the community. A letter of recommendation for Audrey, written by her pastor in l954, states: “Miss Audrey Butler is a young woman that I recommend without any reservation. We have always found her studious, pleasant and respectful.”
Members of Audrey’s party found her funny and a good story-teller. In the Novitiate, Mother Marie Estelle read for the novices a beautiful letter that Audrey’s father had written to her. Audrey had a great love of family, one sister, one brother, mother and father. She shared a particularly special bond with her father.
Educated as an elementary teacher, Audrey taught in no fewer than 5 states and in Washington, DC, as well. Her simplicity endeared her to the children she taught and tutored in her teaching apostolate.
It became necessary for Audrey to take a leave of absence from the community for a while in late 1975 to care for her ailing mother. Letters to the Superior General at that time, Mother Alice Anita, expressed her deepest feelings about this difficult decision: “At first I had misgivings about my leave of absence, but the end of something is the beginning of something else. It has made me realize that I cannot put a value on my vocation and there is no substitute.”
Audrey continued to struggle with her apostolate at that time and about the future, but she said: “I am seeking a new inner meaning that brings me spiritual peace. The power of Jesus can overcome all things.”
In her last years, Sister Audrey became more reserved and quiet, and one might not have understood the depth of her longings and self-emptying love. She was one who was always ready to do anything that was needed. It could be said that she truly embraced the hidden life of a Sister of Saint Joseph in ways that our founder envisioned it.
Sister Agnes Bernadette (Anna Wagner), a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for eighty years, died at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on October 24, 2009.
Born in Hanover, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1908 to Mary Ann and John Wagner, Anna attended Saint Joseph School in Hanover, pursued the business course, and after graduating put her business skills into practice by working for several years in a local floral business. Agnes described herself as “very independent.” Even in discerning her call to be a Sister of Saint Joseph she did not want to be influenced by anyone. She recalled while being interviewed some years ago, “I distanced myself from them [the Sisters] during the years I was working.” She continued, “Leaving my workplace was hard . . Meeting and working with people was a great and rewarding experience. I feel it was a great asset in my life as a religious.”
From 1931 – 1995 Sister Agnes Bernadette’s ministry brought her many exciting experiences and she seemed to have good words to say about every place and the wonderful people who welcomed her. Whether it was the Jersey shore, parishes closer to her native Hanover, or the city of Philadelphia, Agnes recalled each experience with words such as enriching, wonderful, delightful, enjoyable, a privilege, exciting, a real pleasure.
Over the years Sister Agnes Bernadette served as teacher, principal, superior. Her ministry included religious education and pastoral work. She was involved in building projects for schools and convent and was challenged by discussing plans with builders and architects. She enjoyed travel and felt enriched by her educational advantages and “meeting and living with great people.”
When Sister Agnes came to the Villa in 1995 it afforded her time to “pray and reminisce.” She was grateful also to be close to her sisters, Sister Grace Bernadette and Grace Wagner who spent their last days at the Villa. For as long as she was able, she spent time in the garden and she enjoyed tending her African violets.
Sister Connie Gilder shared on Sister Agnes Bernadette’s life by saying, “Sister Agnes Bernadette summed up her life when she said, ‘All in all my life has been very interesting. God has taken very special care of me and I am grateful to Him to have been called to be a Sister of Saint Joseph. To any young woman thinking about religious life, I would say ‘Go for it.’” She described Sister Agnes Bernadette as “a woman who loved much. . . she was a warm, relational, outgoing and “homey” person and a pleasure to be with.”
Sister Agnes Bernadette lived her 101 years fully. She touched the lives of countless people. She loved everything she did, but also said “. . .it is all due to the grace of God and to the wonderful sisters with whom I worked and lived. . .” We are grateful for being able to share in the life Sister Agnes Bernadette lived so fully and so well. We are the beneficiaries of her great love. We echo her words, “God bless all!”
Sister Helen Gabriel Smith, beloved Sister of St. Joseph, died at St. Joseph Villa on November 18, 2009, in the sixty-third year of her religious life. Sister Helen’s Mass of Christian Burial took place at the Villa on November 23, 2009.
Sister Helen, christened Theresa, was born in New Oxford, PA in 1925, the fourth child of Edward and Genevieve Smith. She grew up on a farm in Adams County and was recognized as “the quiet one” by her eight sisters and one brother. She attended the Chapel School in Conewago, where she was a good student; in fact, she garnered a full scholarship to and attended St. Joseph Academy, McSherrystown for a time. She, as a student, was eager to learn; however, her great interest was in learning the ways of farming from her father and homemaking skills, especially sewing, from her mother.
In 1946, when she was 21, Theresa Cecilia Smith chose to come to Chestnut Hill to enter the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph. On April 8, 1947, she was received into the Community and was given the name, Sister Helen Gabriel. After her canonical novitiate year, Sister Helen was sent to Our Lady of Mercy Parish on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. What a far cry from the green grass and lovely trees of Adams County! However, she adjusted well and served there in the ministry of teaching for two years.
For more than forty-five years, Sister Helen taught elementary students in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Baltimore and in the dioceses of Arlington, Harrisburg and Allentown. She taught in grades two through eight; she especially loved teaching math in the upper grades. At home, in the various convents where she lived, she excelled in sharing her domestic talents, especially sewing, with the sisters with whom she lived. This was most often appreciated when it came time to repair, restore or make new habits. She also brought her skill in sewing to the Motherhouse, where she lived for a time after her teaching ministry; while there, she also assisted in driving sisters to their various appointments.
After serving in these various ministries for almost 50 years, she returned to live in Adams County in 1998. She served as a “convent helper”, which meant she did whatever needed to be done. She loved being close to her family and being close to her roots. She was able to re-energize her interest in and knowledge of the history of the area; she also had time to hone her card playing skills and her tile skills.
Sister Helen’s Golden Jubilee was a wonderful celebration and it was a family celebration. Among the guests were her 42 nieces and nephews, who enjoyed the day with- Sister Helen or Teresa, or Aunt Teresa or Smitty- depending on the name each one had for her. The Jubilee was almost an extension of something she truly looked forward to, the family reunions held each June on her sister’s farm.
For 63 years, Sister Helen Gabriel lived out the gospel of Jesus and the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph, sowing the seeds of God’s goodness and fidelity in the minds and hearts of those she met and especially in the minds and hearts of those she taught. She prepared her students for the future, spiritually and intellectually so that they might reap the rewards of their labors and her good instruction.
Sister Helen remained the “quiet one”, as described by her siblings early in her life. As she quietly nourished the seeds of goodness and knowledge in the minds and hearts of her students, she also quietly nourished the seeds of spirituality in her own life. She now reaps the rewards of the harvest with the God whom she loves and who certainly loves her.
Sister Helen Miller (formerly Sister John of the Eucharist) died at Saint Joseph Villa on November 29, 2009. Her life was eulogized at the Villa on December 18 by Sister Anne Myers. Helen marked 80 years as a Sister of Saint Joseph and is mourned deeply by her loving sister in religion, S. Marjorie Miller.
Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1911, Helen was the second child of George and Helen Miller. Although five daughters were born to the Millers, only three survived; Regina and Marjorie were the other girls, who also entered religious life. Their dear father died in the flu epidemic of 1918, leaving mother and daughters to fend for themselves. Mrs. Miller, a young widow, a gifted seamstress, was able to support her three daughters by working as a corsetiere for a corporation based at that time in Allentown. Mrs. Miller did, however, have to relocate to Pittsburgh. It was there in Baden with Sisters of Saint Joseph that the two older girls received their education at the congregational boarding school. This fortunate placement came about because the girls’ father had two first cousins in the community. Marjorie, the youngest, was taken under the wing of an aunt in Altoona. After many moves, separations, and temporary living situations, Mrs. Miller appealed to the Bishop of Altoona, Bishop John McCourt, for advice. It was he who suggested the girls attend Fontbonne and Mount Saint Joseph Academies, respectively. Mrs. Miller insisted the girls should not be separated; thus their enrollment in Saint Joseph Academy in McSherrystown.
In 1928, around Christmastime, Helen told her mother of her desire to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The dutiful Helen offered, however, to work to assist mother and sisters, but her mother said in reply: “I always knew it. You go ahead. We’ll be all right. I won’t stand in your way.” In 1929 Helen entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Later, her two other sisters would also enter religious life, Regina to the Sisters of the Visitation (Sister Mary Paul) and Marjorie to the Sisters of Saint Joseph (Sister Helen Theresa). Mrs. Miller confided to her daughters that when she lost two babies and thought she might not have more children, she prayed to God and made a promise to give back to Him any child that he would give her! In God’s Providence, Helen’s mother would remarry and bring renewed joy to the family, with the daughters’ approval and blessing.
For many years, Sister Helen taught in grades two through eight. She was principal and local coordinator, missioned in several states, including North Carolina and Florida. When her teaching days were over, she ministered in Pastoral Care. Her relational presence was described as calm, gracious, loving, pleasant and selfless. On her 91st birthday, for example, while at Saint Andrew’s in Bayonne, she requested that instead of a special birthday dinner, the Sisters be given $10. each to spend at the parish carnival. As a surprise, the Sisters contacted Bayonne City Hall and had a Proclamation drawn up. On the closing night of the carnival, current and former mayors of Bayonne presented the Proclamation to Sister Helen honoring her for her for her outstanding contribution to the education of youth, her administrative abilities, and her many years in parish ministry.
It was at this last mission in Saint Andrew’s Active Senior House in Bayonne that Helen at age 75 was active as CCD instructor and Eucharistic Minister. Marjorie joined her therein 1996. Both retired to the Villa in 2003. Natural sisters and religious sisters, they enjoyed the peace and satisfaction that years of selfless serving and giving yield.
Sister Marie Frances Mott, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 75 years, died on January 25, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa in Flourtown. For many years Sister Marie was know by the religious name, Sister Zita Maria.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Marie, the daughter of William and Marie Mott attended grade school in Saint Rose of Lima parish and graduated from West Catholic High School for Girls in 1934. During her high school years she excelled in the study of languages, particularly Latin and French.
Sister Marie’s ministry brought her to the Allentown, Trenton and Scranton dioceses as well as the Archdioceses of Newark, Philadelphia and Washington. In her early years of teaching she faced the challenge of preparing lessons for her large classes in all age groups and sometimes even being asked to teach in shifts to accommodate the large number of students. When Sister began to teach French in high school she was a pioneer in the use of the foreign language lab.
Never hesitant to try new ways, in her later life Sister Marie developed prayer groups with adults. She recalled that one of the richest experiences of her life came from working with adults in the Renew program. She welcomed the changes of Vatican II and the “open window to let the Holy Spirit blow through the church” and she reflected that she was prepared for ecumenism because of her wonderful early childhood friendships with girls of various religious faiths.
Sister Marie’s linguistic ability gave her the opportunity to translate early documents of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in France. In an interview for a living history, Sister Marie said this: “I did work on the Holy Rule. . . I was quite thrilled because we are moving as our sisters did when they first began. They did anything they were called for. Any good work. Remember that: we are called to any good work.”
Offering a reflection on the life of Sister Marie, Sister Anne Myers said, “Sister Marie was a peaceful caring presence and was integral to the life of the communities where she lived. It was clear to everyone that her peace originated from a deep relationship with God and this was a source of inspiration to her sisters.”
Sister Marie’s life was devoted to the Word of God and the language of relationship. When asked what advice she would offer to those who come after her she remarked, “You must always remember that God is most important and He can take care of us and He will because we’re so important to Him and He loves us so much—not what we do, but that relationship. Don’t lose sight of that. It’s faith.”
In faith Sister Marie Mott lived her religious life for 75 years. In faith she transitioned through challenging situations and times. In faith may she intercede for us who continue on the journey to know and love God more deeply because it is “not what we do, but that relationship” that is so important.
Sister Alma Christi Seeber
Sister Alma Christi Seeber, beloved Sister of St. Joseph, died on February 8, 2010; her Mass of Resurrection and her burial took place at St. Joseph Villa on February 12.
Sister Alma, who was baptized Marlene, was one of three children born to John and Margaret Seeber. She and her brother and sister attended St. Francis of Assisi school in Germantown. Alma later attended St. Mary Academy and after graduation, worked for a year at Bell Telephone Co.; it was at this time, in 1956, that she responded to God’s call and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Alma’s sense of the spiritual began early in her life, in her home. Her parents, active members of St. Francis parish, were models for her of loving generosity of a spirit of caring. Alma liked to tell the story of the work that her parents did in fundraising so that the dream of building St. Joseph Villa would become a reality. One fundraiser was in the form of a huge card party to be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia. Her mother canvassed prizes from the merchants up and down Germantown Avenue; her dad was in charge of selling chances. At the actual event, her dad reportedly greeted the guests with 50-50 tickets, telling anyone who bought a ticket, “I thank you and St. Joseph thanks you.” They later volunteered at the Villa and spent their final years there.
Alma had this same zeal for good works and for service and kindness to others. She was close to her parents and to her sister Peggy and her brother Jack. She was also kind and caring for the sisters and others with whom she lived and worked. Many years ago, a family whom she knew experienced a tragedy through the loss of their youngest daughter in a traffic accident. Each year, whatever the circumstances, Alma called the parents of the youngster on the anniversary of her death to let them know that her prayers and thoughts were with them.
The sense of service to and caring for others expanded to her ministry. She served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the dioceses of Harrisburg, Newark and Camden. She was a teacher, vocation director, activities office staff member, learning center instructor, physical therapy aide, and senior center aide. Certainly, not the least of her ministries was her presence to others as a Villa resident.
Alma was most of all, a woman of faith who trusted in her God. She identified with Christ and carried her own cross courageously and with patient endurance, learning from and through Christ, a deeper empathy and concern for the suffering of others. She identified with Him on earth, so now she enters into His glory to be with him in eternity. With Christ’s mother she can proclaim the words of the Magnificat, “For He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”
Sister Patricia Murray, ( Pat/Patty), formerly Sister Vincent Francis, entered eternal life on February 24, 2010. Patty died at the Reading Hospital. Her funeral took place at Saint Joseph Villa on March 3, 2010. Her unexpected death caught all by surprise. Such a vibrant and active presence, she was mourned by many and will be sorely missed.
The third child of Francis and Kay Murray’s twelve children, Pat grew up in a loving, close-knit, faith-filled family. The family including Mrs. Murray’s mother lived in Saint Vincent Parish in Philadelphia. Well-known and respected in their community, the Murray children could be found in every grade. After her high school years at Little Flower, Patty, always an outgoing, sharing, caring young woman, entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1958. No surprise that she would follow her heart. Having celebrated her golden jubilee just two years ago, Patty summed up her years by proclaiming aloud on that day, “I love being a Murray and I love being a Sister of Saint Joseph!”
Early on, Pat was an elementary teacher. She was also a local coordinator. Her teaching ability, education, and desire led her to Paradise School where, once again, she showed special talent, in this case, for the boys in her care. Her last years were spent in devoted service as social worker at Dayspring Home. A legendary story teller, Patty was able to recount funny tales whenever she gathered with her loving family and friends.
One of Patty’s most significant contributions as a family member and Sister of Saint Joseph was her care of her dear sister, Regina. This younger sister, a woman with special needs, was attended lovingly by parents and siblings for many years. In recent years, Pat was invited to become residential supervisor at Dayspring, a facility that provides support to persons with special needs who could no longer remain in their family homes. In July of 2000, Pat and her sister Regina moved in. In 2008, as a result of the great growth of Dayspring, the two moved into Saint Joseph’s Place in the Ashley Run Development in Reading, PA. Pat went home to God with her hands full.
Pat knew that she was God’s own beloved daughter and she relished this relationship. “God has always spoiled me throughout my life,” Pat said in an interview.
Her happy, generous nature, fueled by a lively sense of humor, touched her many friends and those to whom she ministered. She enjoyed 52 years as a Sister of Saint Joseph, faithful to the vocation that she so treasured. May she rest in peace, finally united with the God she served so lovingly.
Sister Theresa Flynn, (formerly known as Sister Mary Una), a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 65 years, died on April 18, 2010 at Chestnut Hill Hospital, Philadelphia.
Born on February 8, 1926 to Katie and Patrick Flynn, Theresa was the youngest of five children. She was raised in Philadelphia and attended grade school at Saint Columba and Corpus Christi and graduated from Little Flower High School.
Theresa remembered her early family years with one story after another. Her parents’ Irish roots brought music and dance into her young life every Friday evening as she and her sisters learned the songs and steps to many Irish dances. Sunday afternoon family time was the occasion for walks and kite-flying lessons in Fairmount Park as well as watching boat races and fishing in the Schuylkill River.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph were part of Theresa’s life from her first years in school. She remembered so many of her teachers with fondness: Sister Anita Loretta, Mary Michael, Julia Augusta, Madeleine de Lourdes. She also remembered being sent to the principal’s office for talking too much! But Theresa recalled how kindly the principal, Mother Mary Andrew, treated her.
When Theresa graduated from high school and prepared to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph, her mother assured her that if she became homesick and returned home, she would be welcomed with open arms, but that if she could overcome her homesickness and persevere, her mother would close her arms in an attitude of prayer and thanksgiving to God for her perseverance.
Theresa’s teaching ministry brought her to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Dioceses of Camden and Wilmington. She taught first grade for 41 years and in one mission was assigned to teach 132 children in one classroom! In order to reach them all it was decided that the class would be taught in two shifts—8:30 – 11:30 and 12:30 – 3:30.
Theresa seemed to love wherever she was missioned and whatever she was called to do. Sister Anne Myers offered in her reflection at the Mass of Christian Burial, “Theresa was filled with kindness, patience, simplicity, and joy, and she selflessly shared these gifts with her sisters in community, her family, and her students. . . Her patient love and care for others. . . endeared her to all.”
We remember with joy the life of Sister Theresa Flynn and we thank God for the gift that she was to us. We know that she will spend her life in eternity praising God whom she knew so well and loved so much.
Sister Charles Consilii Anderson
Sister Charles Consilli Anderson, beloved Sister of St. Joseph died at St. Joseph Villa on April 29, 2010. Her Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph Villa on May 5th.
Sister Charles was born on February 8, 1930 in Bridgeton, NJ to Kathryn and Charles Anderson; she was the youngest of four daughters. Carolyn, Sister Charles, was baptized in Immaculate Conception Church and later attended the parish school through the eighth grade. After graduating from Bridgeton High School, she studied nursing at Misericordia School of Nursing; she graduated from the school in 1950 with an R.N. degree.
Sister Charles thought seriously about becoming a Sister of St. Joseph while in her senior year at Misericordia; however, this was not to happen immediately. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer about this time and S. Charles certainly felt she should stay with her mother to help her. She did this and also practiced nursing at Bridgeton Hospital. Her mother died in January of 1951. Later that year, she talked with her father about going to Chestnut Hill to make application to become an SSJ; he was aware that she intended to do this because her mother had told him about it before she died. Despite the fact that he was not a catholic and that her leaving would leave him alone (the older girls were married and were living elsewhere), he agreed that she should follow her heart.
Sister. Charles traveled to Chestnut Hill via public transportation to keep her appointment with Mother Marie Estelle; after the appointment she met her dad at the Flower Show in Convention Center in Philly. Until the end of her life, the annual Flower Show had had fond and meaningful memories for her.
Sister Charles entered the novitiate in September of 1951. When it came time to choose a name, she realized that all of the combinations of Carolyn and Charles had been used. Because she prayed to Our Mother of Good Counsel each day in Nursing School so that she would know how to help her patients, she asked to be given some form of this title of Our Lady. Coupled with her father’s name, was the Latin, Consilii: thus, Sister Charles Consilii. Fortunately, she had told her dad about her plan to take his name because he died very suddenly at age 60 of a heart attack. This happened two weeks before she received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
After her canonical year, she was assigned to the Community Infirmary, on the third floor of the Motherhouse, which was equipped for skilled care, including an operating room. In 1954, changes occurred. St. Joseph Villa in Cheltenham had been utilized as a facility for sisters with tuberculosis; at this time it was used as a home for sick or elderly sisters. One of the sister nurses died suddenly and it fell upon the four nurses at the Infirmary to step into the picture. The schedule involved a month of duty working at Cheltenham on the second floor, on a rotating basis. This lasted for fourteen years.
The biggest change came in 1968, with the opening of St. Joseph Villa in Flourtown. About those first days, Sister Charles said, the nurses’ duties were maintenance, housekeeping, dietary, and nursing. They even carried the meals to the patients, and washed the dishes.
All of this information was gleaned by Sister Marion Aherne in an interview with Sister Charles in August of 2001. How fortunate was it that the interview took place! Well beyond facts, however, lie the spirit and heart of Sister Charles Consilli. It was her heart and spirit that manifested themselves in her peaceful, loving, gentle, generous manner. It was not only her skills as nurse that promoted healing, ; it was also, and indeed, her loving, caring manner with her patients.
Sister Anne Meyer said it well, “Hers was a life lived in gentle union with the God of her heart. Through [her] gentle, selfless, peaceable manner, [she has] quietly distinguished [herself ]as one of the great women of our Congregation.”
Sister Margaret Rita Ryall
Sister Margaret Ryall, (Peg) beloved Sister of Saint Joseph for seventy years, died at Saint Joseph Villa on June 23, 2010. S.Margaret was in the Ministry of Prayer and Presence at the Villa, having retired there four years ago. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated at the Villa on Tuesday, June 29, by Father Doherty who came down from New Jersey to honor Sister.
Children of immigrant parents from Ireland, Margaret and her sister were reared in Newark, New Jersey. Margaret attended Blessed Sacrament grade school and the first two years of high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel. She entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1939 at the age of 19. Strongly influenced by her great interest in literature, Margaret felt that her early reading of Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven literally “haunted her.”
An avid reader of classic writers and lover of poetry, Margaret continued to be enriched as she studied and advanced in religious life. She received the religious name of Sister Aloysius Gonzaga, a name to be remembered by the many students she taught throughout her long career.
Peg was a consummate learner, receiving degrees from Chestnut Hill College and Fordham University. During her years of active ministry, she studied Philosophy and Spanish at Villanova University; Psychology at Temple University; Literature at the Institut Catholique in Paris, France. Peg was truly a Renaissance Woman, a conversationalist and teacher. Her excellent and varied academic background served her well in her years of ministry.
In 1980, Peg’s ministry took an unexpected turn. Refugees from Cuba, the Ariel Boat People, arrived at Indiantown Gap near her mission in Harrisburg. Not knowing enough Spanish, Peg, nevertheless, so moved by the plight of these peoples, sought ways to give aid to the refugees. Local authorities did not grant permission to give help. Her pleading, however, paid off. She and Sister Imelda Hasson were granted permission to begin teaching English to the men who were sequestered in an area several miles from their families. This started Peg on a new venture—teaching English as a Second Language. For the next several years, Peg fulfilled her passionate desire to assist immigrants to learn basic communication skills in order to help them to live peacefully with their American neighbors and to sustain themselves and their families. She taught ESL to Korean, Haitian, African, Asian, French, German, Polish, and Spanish speaking adults.
Always gracious and accommodating, Peg had a ready, full and beautiful smile right up to the day before she died. In addition, her sense of humor was enduring. Sister Peg’s legacy of love and service lives on!
Sister Margaret Teresita Horvay
Sister Margaret Teresita, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 59 years, died on June 27, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Born Dolores Horvay on September 7, 1933, she was raised in West Philadelphia, attended Our Mother of Sorrows Grade School and West Catholic High School for Girls. Her parents, Emil and Margaret had five children: twin sons, William and John, Dolores, and two younger sons, Donald and Joseph. According to those close to the family, Margaret’s mother would often say, “There’s nobody like my Dori!” It was obvious to all how much the family loved and cared for each other.
After entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1951, Dori received the name Sister Margaret Teresita, continued her education at Chestnut Hill College and also earned her Master’s degree in education from the University of Scranton. In addition to these degrees, Sister Margaret also received her LPN in nursing from Sacred Heart Hospital.
Margaret’s ministry included not only schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also of Newark and Baltimore. In addition to teaching in various schools, she also served as principal. Being a qualified LPN Margaret also shared her expertise in the field of health care. For nine years she lived with and cared for her mother, a ministry that she cherished most of all.
In a reflection at Sister Margaret’s Mass of Christian burial, Sister Mary Dacey recounted some of the memories that sisters have of Margaret. Her friends described her as quiet, but someone who loved a good time. . . those who lived with her in community knew her as an organizer who could get things done. . . a listener. . . residents at the Villa knew her as a person of compassion, integrity, courage and wisdom. Everyone recognized that Margaret was a person who gave without measure and expected nothing in return.
Margaret was a healing presence in the many quiet ways she touched people’s lives. Her own illness and surgeries did not detract from her kindness and peace, but only enhanced it. She had words of comfort for those around her even in her dying, “thank you for how good you were to me. I had a wonderful life.”
Sister Margaret Teresita’s “wonderful life” has been gift to us as she walked with us and lived the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians—words that express so fully God’s love for us—“Empty yourself continually in honor of the Incarnate Word who emptied himself with so much love for you.” In the words of Sister Mary Dacey’s reflection, “We are so grateful for who Sister Margaret Teresita was, and even more so, for who she called us to be.”
Sister Frances Amata Curran
Frances Amata Curran died at St. Joseph Villa on,
July 29, 2010. Her Mass of Christian Burial also took place at St. Joseph Villa
on August 4.
Sister Frances, who was baptized Mary, was born to John and Frances Curran on July 29, 1929. She and her two brothers, John and Frances, grew up in a loving family devotedly faithful to Christian, Catholic spirit and values. Praying the rosary daily was the norm for the Curran family.
Because of these, Frances was imbued early with a sense of God’s loving presence, which was nurtured, and which grew and matured throughout her life. Someone was supposed to have called her a saint to whom a second person replied, “But she was so funny”.
It is hard to separate holiness from joy or even from humor. It couldn’t be done in Frances’ case. She could have been the model for the song, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. This was probably true when she was a student at Corpus Christi School and at Hallahan High School; it was most certainly true during her days in the Novitiate at Chestnut Hill, and beyond that time when she served in her various missions.
Sister Frances worked in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Arlington, VA; she ministered in elementary and secondary education, serving as teacher, principal and school secretary. She also served the Congregation, as local coordinator. Before coming to the Villa as a resident, Frances served as school secretary at St. Rita School in Arlington, VA, where she was known as the “Good Will Ambassador”. Not only was her good will shown in her support, her friendliness and her good humor, but also in her expertise. When Sister Frances took a trip to Ireland, her principal commented that it took four people to manage the school office.
From the days of myths and legends, names have been considered significant. Babies have been given names with the hope that they would imitate and live up to the virtues of the persons for whom they were named; heroes were given names for the feats they accomplished. Mary Curran was given the name, Amata, at her Reception into the Sisters of St. Joseph. Although she had a head start in realizing God’s love in her life, that realization grew, matured and manifested itself in her kindness, generosity, humility and selflessness. As S. Anne Myers suggested, “Her relationship with Jesus is aptly described in our Constitutions, which say, ‘we center our lives increasingly on Christ Jesus as the ground of our being and trust that through this relationship we grow as loving persons who are joyfully in God’s service’.
Sister Grace Eileen Forker
Sister Grace Eileen died at Saint Joseph Villa on August 8, 2010. Her funeral liturgy was celebrated at the Villa on August 12, 2010.
Two of Grace’s best friends from Novitiate days, Sister Pat McClure and Sister Jeanette Weychert, offered a Reflection at her Liturgy.
Born in 1931 in Bayonne, New Jersey, Frances Theresa was the first-born child of her parents’ four children. The only girl, Frances was very much loved by her parents and three brothers. Product of a religious Irish family, Frances grew proudly and somewhat privileged in the Forker Family. Sister Grace gives much credit for her beautiful life to her good parents, brothers, two first cousins who became priests, and to the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Grace attended Saint Mary’s School and Holy Family Academy in her beloved Bayonne.
Very early on, Grace capitalized on a God-given talent, playing the piano by ear. Her mother saw to it that the young Frances took piano lessons from the Sisters. Grace’s natural talent for music served her well later in her religious life when she worked with an Hispanic adult choir. In addition to her musical talent, Grace was fluent in the Spanish language. This ability to speak Spanish played a significant role in Grace’s varied ministries through the years.
After serving as principal at Good Counsel High School in Newark, New Jersey, Grace moved to St. Rose High School in Belmar, where she taught Spanish classes.
Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of Providence Parish in Neptune was her next stay, a place of varied experiences for Grace. Her tasks there included overseeing the catechetical program, playing for and directing the adult Spanish choir for 13 years, training and conducting the children’s choir. In addition, Grace’s ministry extended to holding prayer meetings, teaching English classes to the Hispanic people in the parish, even working on annulments for three years.
In 1997, Dr. Anna Sweany, a native Argentinian, wanted to offer her services to assist immigrants. Grace and the doctor visited a clinic in Biddeford, Maine, where they witnessed a group of dedicated health professionals helping an indigent population without health coverage. Sister and Doctor Sweany, supported by Pastor Jim Vorwerk, formed a team to begin a Clinic on church property in Neptune. Other good people assisted with this humanitarian project. Grace was instrumental in obtaining necessary monies to see this project started.
Grace continued her ministry of presence in St. Rose Parish in Belmar and was even instrumental in easing the last days of a young Mexican girl by returning her to her native Mexico, a loving task that she arranged through doctors in New Brunswick and the cooperating Cancer Institute in Mexico.
In Grace’s own words, “I have lived a very happy life as a Sister of St. Joseph and always tell people, ‘If I had 18 lives, I would give all to God.’” Indeed, Sister Grace gave her all to God, dying after only a very short time at the Villa.
Sister Ann Geraldine Nugent, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, for 72 years, died on August 15, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
A native of Bayonne, New Jersey, Sister Ann met the Sisters of Saint Joseph at St. Mary Grade School. She continued her relationship with them through Holy Family Academy where she met her “two best friends,” Sister Francis Dorothy and Sister Blanche. Sister Ann attributed her decision to become a Sister of Saint Joseph to her two good friends and to her “dear mother who was my first insight into what religion was all about.”
For 42 years Sister ministered in a variety of educational settings in the archdioceses of Philadelphia, Newark, and Washington, DC, as well as the diocese of Camden. Sister Ann was enthusiastic about many things including teaching young people. She once told a story of one of her eighth grade students who received national recognition for creating a seismograph that actually recorded an early morning earthquake right in Philadelphia!
Whatever Sister Ann did, she did well. Another ministry of hers was that of Coordinator of Services during a transition time at Sacred Heart Hall, Cheltenham, when the facility closed and residents moved to the Villa in Flourtown. After that responsibility was completed, Sister began her service at Saint Joseph Guild, and as a sister who worked with her said, Sister Ann was “always willing to do something well and then even better. She was cheerful and beautiful.”
At the Mass of Christian Burial on August 19, Sister Anne Myers reflected on the life of Sister Ann Geraldine and alluded to her ready wit and good humor by weaving the words of the author, Charles de Lint, “I want to touch the world and make it smile” into her thoughts. “Sister Ann (Geraldine) expressed this love toward her sisters in community, family, and all others by her spirit of great generosity, kindness and optimism. . .I am sure she “touched the world of her students and made them smile” leading them to much laughter along with much learning. She brought out the best in her students and helped them to shine.”
We are grateful for the life of Sister Ann Geraldine and her smile and we pray that her spirit of good humor and prayer will continue to motivate others in following Jesus on the road to eternity.
Sister Grace Dorothy Fenning
Sister Grace Dorothy Fenning, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 68 years, died on August 28, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Sister Grace grew up in Saint Philip Neri parish in Philadelphia where she and her four siblings attended grade school. Anna graduated from West Catholic High School for Girls where she gave serious thought to becoming a Sister of Saint Joseph. Grace learned about the life of a Sister of Saint Joseph by observing the sisters in her parish. She recalled not only that they were very good teachers in the classroom, but that they also reached out to people in the neighborhood who were in need. She reflected on the witness of her early teachers, “Long before we heard the term Social Justice these Sisters of Saint Joseph fed the poor. . . and supported the poor of the parish quietly.”
Before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1942, Grace worked as a nurse’s aide and was also employed by Curtis publishing company. A letter of recommendation written by Father John Diamond referred to Grace as “docile, affable, kind, considerate and has poise and a deep religious sense.” These qualities carried through the rest of her life. Some at the Villa called her “the Poster Child for the Villa” because she saw everything through such an optimistic lens.
Sister Grace’s ministry included teaching in parish schools in Philadelphia and high schools not only in Philadelphia, but also in North Carolina, McSherrystown and Maryland.
In her living history Sister Grace reflected on the many changes she experienced in her lifetime. She relished the freedom and accountability that were hers after Vatican II. “I was most impressed with the freedom granted me. . . We became the responsible women we really were. I liked that. . . Spiritual life became very important because it was my responsibility.”
Sister’s Grace’s ability to be ever-grateful overflowed in her celebration of living and dying. Several days before she died, she shared that her deceased friend, Sister Joan Immaculate had come to her and told her that Joan would be having a party for Grace on Sunday. Grace died Saturday evening.
What a celebration that party must have been! We give thanks for the life of gratitude and optimism shared with us by Sister Grace Dorothy. We count on her intercession for all of us as we continue to live in hope.
Sister Cecelia Maria Leipert
Sister Cecilia Maria Leipert died unexpectedly on September 14, 2010. Her funeral liturgy was at Saint Joseph Villa on September 17.
Born to parents Joseph and Ida Leipert, Barbara Ann was one of two girls in the family. She left this world at the early age of 72, having just recently taken up residence at Saint Helena Convent as a volunteer.
Sister attended Resurrection grade school and Saint Hubert High School and entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph after working briefly as parish secretary at Resurrection Church.
Fidelity marked Cecilia’s life in her varied ministries. She served as elementary school teacher, music teacher, and parish minister. Her duties in parish work included RCIA, CCD, parish liturgy, and Youth ministry. She was missioned in the archdioceses of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Newark, as well as in the dioceses of Harrisburg, Trenton, and Arlington (VA). Her talents, of which there were many, included the gift of music. Also, in difficult times when it was hard to get and keep religious education teachers, Cecilia was able to organize and direct a stable group of teachers who returned again and again to their calling. This was no small task and is a testimony to her ability to build and maintain relationships.
Sister Cecilia was called home by God way too soon, some might think. God knows what God is about, and our Sister Cecilia is where she ought to be. Her family, friends, former students, confreres, party members and Sisters of Saint Joseph mourn her passing, but rejoice in her life of love and service. Rest In Peace, Cecilia.
Sister Cyrilla Hood
Sister Cyrilla Hood, beloved Sister of St. Joseph, died at St. Joseph Villa on September 14, 2010. She was buried at St. Joseph Villa, following a Mass of Christian Burial, on September 20.
Sister Cyrilla was born to Joseph and Elizabeth Hood on October 16, 1914 in Philadelphia; she was baptized Elizabeth in Corpus Christi Church. Cyrilla attended Corpus Christi and St. Columba elementary schools and was graduated from Hallahan High School in 1932. She was the middle child; Mary and Joseph were the older brother and sister; Veronica (Donna) and Norbert were the younger. She was also in “the middle “as the recipient both of her Father’s Quaker faith and her mother’s Catholic faith. She acquired the best of both: patience, thoughtfulness, quiet and easy manner, a sense of humor and a strong faith.
Many of their friends in the neighborhood thought that Mary, her older sister, would become a religious, but Elizabeth knew better. She was the one who was going to “enter the convent”. Her neighbors had some difficulty in reconciling her love of sports, her love of a good time and her great enjoyment of life in general with a religious vocation. Elizabeth, however, had been thinking of it for some time. Her mother told her that she, herself, wanted to become a sister, but she felt that she did not have enough education. Elizabeth tucked this information into her head and heart and it never left her. She knew that the greatest influence on her vocation was her mother.
Sister Cyrilla entered the Congregation in 1932 and spent the next 78 years serving God’s people in the roles of teacher, principal, DRE and librarian. She described her ministry and community life as moments of Camelot; this perception, alone, speaks volumes about her love of others, her positive life-view, her patience, her sense of humor…and the list could go on. Her ministry took her first to Our Lady of Mercy in Philadelphia; through many succeeding years she served in Bonneauville, Elkins Park, Hillcrest Heights, Philadelphia, Lansdale and Allentown. In 2000, S. Cyrilla moved into the Villa, where she continued to be a joy for everyone around her. This included S. Mary Scanlon, her good friend from Norwood-Fontebonne days; S. Cyrilla was comfortable neither with the sick nor with the thought of dying. The time spent with S. Mary Scanlon afforded both of them with the comfort and peace they needed. She was also able to spend time and provide loving care and attention to her sisters, Donna and Mary, either at Bethlehem Village or at the Villa.
Our Constitutions state: “Called to the radical following of Jesus, in mission and for mission, we are drawn to be with Christ who dwells in the midst of people and who lives wholly for them. Our response of an undivided heart is made freely out of love for God who first loved us, (#62, and #63). For her almost 96 years, 78 of them spent as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Cyrilla, or Aunt Sis was an example of joy and a witness to God’s love. She believed and lived out the words of our Constitution: “the vows form one single movement of charity which frees us to give ourselves at one and the same time to Christ, and with Christ to others.” (#64)
Sister Ann Beatrice Kelly, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 76 years, died on October 5, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Kelly and her siblings Margaret and Edward grew up in Saint Rose of Lima parish
in Newark, New Jersey where they attended grade school; she later graduated
from Our Lady of the Valley High School in Orange where she “met several very
wonderful Sisters of Saint Joseph” and among other things learned to play the
Sister Ann recalled that when she was a senior in high school she thought she might become a Sister of Charity but was promptly encouraged by Father Dugan (the brother of Sister Austin Teresa, S.S.J.), “Oh no you don’t! You want to be a Sister of St. Joseph.” To which Ann recorded, “This began my career as an SSJ.”
Ann was known by many as a person who was joyful, loving, and generous. Her teaching experience spanned 54 years educating young people in grade schools and high schools in the archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey. She will be remembered by many as an excellent Spanish teacher. One of her joys was the opportunity to travel to Spain and study Spanish for nine weeks at the University of Madrid.
A very rewarding part of her life was her work with the Literacy Program, teaching English as a second language and preparing newcomers to the United States to become American citizens. Ann wrote, “It was a great thrill for me when one of my students came to me with arms outstretched and yelled “I am an American.’” In addition to teaching, Ann spent many summers volunteering at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, Cape May Point.
At the Mass of
Christian Burial Sister Anne Myers reflected on the life of Sister Ann Beatrice
and quoted a biographer of Mother Saint John Fontbonne,
“. . . she had a way of being young at heart. . . One is young as long as she
can smile, as long as she interests herself in the joys and sorrows of others,
as long as she feels the desire to be well disposed to her neighbor’s service
and to do good according to her strength. . . Sister Ann never ceased being
Those who knew Sister Ann Beatrice can attest to her remaining young at heart. She attracted young people with her smile. Her kindness and example were an inspiration and we are grateful for her life shared with us in the service of God and neighbor.
Sister Adela Slagle entered eternal life on October 29, 2010. Her funeral liturgy took place at Saint Joseph Villa on November 2, 2010. She was a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for 70 years. The last 14 years of her life were spent in Materials Management at the Villa, a most fulfilling ministry by her own account.
Born Loretta Elizabeth, Sister Adela was one of the six children of Harry and Mary Agnes Wilt Slagle. She was baptized and received sacraments in Annunciation Parish in McSherrystown. Her education continued through Annunciation School and Central Catholic School. It was no surprise that the child of this pious family would choose religious life after her twelve years of Catholic schooling in the revered county. She came highly recommended by her pastor who wrote “It is with great pleasure that I recommend Miss Loretta Slagle.”
Most of Sister Adela’s ministry was devoted to the elementary classroom and administration. She was certified in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, finishing 43 years before beginning a second career at Saint Joseph Villa. Her skills transferred readily to the responsibilities she assumed in Materials Management. Cook, seamstress, organizer, Sister Adela’s talents brought her great fulfillment working with Villa residents in an extremely important environment. She never failed to thank God for her vocation, and credited her mother for dedicating her family early on to the Sacred Heart.
Compassionate and generous, Sister Adela’s contagious laugh will be missed by many. She will be remembered as a gentle presence in this world who embodied the spirit of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Rest in peace, Sister Adela
Sister Marie Antoinette Scherr
Sister Marie Antoinette Scherr died suddenly on October 29, 2010. Sister’s Memorial Mass was celebrated at Saint Joseph Villa, on November 10.
Sister Marie’s parents, Emil and Marie Scherr, received a double blessing on February 14, 1934. That blessing came in the form of twins, Marie and her sister Mary. Their five year old brother was so thrilled and surprised about their births that he rang the neighbors’ doorbells to tell them about his baby sisters. The blessing was double sided; the parents were blessed, but so were the children, who grew up in a home where they were very much loved and where they initially learned from their parents about God’s love and about God’s workings in their lives.
Mary and Marie grew up in Drexel Hill and attended Saint Andrew School and then Notre Dame High School in Moylan. Following their graduation, they worked at Bell Telephone Company before entering the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1954.
Because they were identical twins, they shared deep bonds of love and affection as well as so many similarities, yet each was unique in her own special way. Marie realized and appreciated this uniqueness, not only in Mary and in herself, but also in others. In her letter of recommendation for Marie as recipient of NCEA’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993, which in fact she was awarded, Sister Sheila Murphy, her principal at the time wrote, “Sister Marie has a special attraction and fascination for the unique. I believe this attraction allows her to see that every student is unique, to treat each this way and so elicit the best from each one.” Marie’s own unique gifts were in the realm of the Arts; she was a gifted artist and musician. However, sports were not neglected. She would not miss Phillies or Eagles games if she could help it.
Marie lived her vowed life faithfully and lovingly for 56 years. In doing so, she served in various ministries in Delaware County, in Philadelphia and in New Jersey, most especially in Wildwood. Her ministries included music, RCIA and, of course, teaching elementary school.
Our Constitutions remind us that “each vocation is a unique mystery; God reaches out in love; we respond in faith with a sincere desire to grow in love of God and of all people by sharing in the mission of Jesus.” (111). Sister Marie loved and lived that mission well. In Sister Ann Meyers’ words, “Sister Marie, Jesus has reclaimed you forever as His own, in all your uniqueness. Thank you for the example of your life.”
Sister Paula Deufel
Sister Paula Deufel, a beloved Sister of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 55 years died on November 24, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania. In her earlier years of religious life she had been known as Sister Ann Maurice.
Paula was born and raised in Lebanon, Pennsylvania where she attended Saint Mary’s Grade School and Lebanon Catholic High School. Her ministry brought her to the Dioceses of Charlotte, Harrisburg and Allentown as well as the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Baltimore. She was known as a fine teacher in both elementary and secondary schools where she taught.
The kind of person who could do many things well, Paula did most things quietly and without fanfare. She has been remembered as being “handy with tools” and able to fix things that needed repair. She was at home with culinary skills as well and was a person who prepared a tasty meal. Being a good teacher, Paula was organized and methodical. She was respected by her students and was happy to see them succeed.
In her reflection at Sister Paula’s Mass of Christian Burial, Sister Anne Myers recalled that in Paula’s last hours she “requested to be in the light as she prepared to meet Jesus Christ her Light.”
We are grateful for the life of Sister Paula, for her dedicated and loving service. We pray that she now enjoys the Light of God’s presence and will intercede for us who continue to journey toward the Light.
Sister Agnes Albert Scheckenbach
Sister Agnes Albert Scheckenbach, beloved member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, died at St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown on December 24, 2010. Sister Agnes was buried in the congregational cemetery, following a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated by Father Terry Odien on December 30, 2010.
Sister Agnes was born on November 9, 1919 in Bridgeton, NJ, to Agnes and Albert Scheckenbach; christened Ellen, she was one of four children: her siblings were Winnie, Albert and Marie. She and her siblings attended Immaculate Conception Elementary School and Bridgeton High School. The family was well known, not only in their parish, but also in the entire community. The family lived close to the Convent and were helpful and generous to the SSJ’s who lived there.
In her senior year in high school, Ellen felt called to become a Sister of St. Joseph. In his letter of recommendation to the then Superior General, Mother Mary Berchmans, her pastor, Father Michael Dalton wrote, “She is an excellent, devout character, intelligent and an honor student at her graduation from the local high school. I believe she will be an apt and docile candidate”. Ellen entered the Congregation at Chestnut Hill in September of 1938, and on Reception Day in April of 1939 received the name, Sister Agnes Albert.
Sister Agnes began her teaching career at Our Lady of Victory School in West Philadelphia in September of 1938. She later served in other schools in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark and the Dioceses of Allentown, Harrisburg and Camden. In 1979, Sister Agnes left the classroom as a teacher and was transferred to St. Peter Celestine School in Cherry Hill, NJ to serve as a tutor. The job of tutor never materialized; instead, she became Director of School Volunteers. Before long, affirmation and gratitude were the order of the day for her work; the volunteers not only volunteered to serve the school, but also brought wonderful, baked goodies for everyone to enjoy. In addition, Sister Agnes formed wonderful relationships with many of the volunteers and maintained these relationships over the years.
One of the highlights of Sister Agnes’s life was her trip aboard the Queen Mary and her travels through Europe for six weeks to visit a number of countries. She was also able to visit her sister Marie, who worked for the State Department and was stationed in Europe.
Sister Agnes celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1988; she celebrated her 70th Anniversary at the Villa with her Party and in September of 2010, celebrated her 72nd year as an SSJ. Her sister Winnie and Winnie’s family were part of the celebration, as was her good friend, Father Terry Odien.
Sister Agnes Albert was faithful to the God who loved her unconditionally. Our Constitutions state, “At the root of each vocation is a deep and uniquely personal experience which involves an encounter with God: the Divine call, our response and a special consecration.” Sister Agnes heard that call and endeavored to be faithful to it.
Sister Marie Esther died at Saint Joseph Villa two days after Christmas and her funeral liturgy and burial were held on January 3, 2011. Sister Anne Myers offered a reflection on the life and gifts of Sister’s 72 years in community.
Born to parents Joseph and Esther, Marie Esther and her twin brother, Joe, were the oldest of eight children. The two youngest were twins also. Another Kenny child entered the Sisters of Mercy in Merion, Pennsylvania, Sister Therese Marie, her faithful sister to the end. The family was loving and close knit, actively participating in their parish of Saint Madeleine Sophie in Philadelphia.
As a child, young Elizabeth Kenny attended Cecilian Academy and went on to finish in the high school. With this long and attentive connection with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Elizabeth’s desire to become a Sister was no surprise to anyone. She entered the congregation in 1938 to begin her lifelong dream, a life of dedication and service as a Sister of Saint Joseph.
Trained as a music teacher, Marie Esther ministered for 66 years, giving piano lessons right up until 2006 when she came to Saint Joseph Villa. Sister taught elementary school music, liturgical music, and conducted both children and adult choirs. Most of these years were spent in schools in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, with a few years’ service in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Marie Esther’s talent and patience with so many students is legendary. Her gift of music enriched the lives of so many.
Marie Esther was fun-loving, cheerful, and most of all, a faithful witness. It was said of her that an unkind word about another never crossed her lips. She was a faithful family member and friend. Most of all, her fidelity to her vowed life was cause for the gracious and loving smile and word that greeted all who had the privilege of knowing her. Happy New Year, indeed, Marie Esther.
Sister Dennis Eileen Gamber
Sister Dennis Eileen Gamber, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 76 years died on December 30, 2010 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Ruth Gamber, daughter of Casper and Elizabeth Gamber, grew up in Saint Gregory Parish in West Philadelphia and graduated from West Catholic High School for Girls in 1934. It was there that she became convinced that God was calling her to the life of a Sister of Saint Joseph. She gave herself wholeheartedly to her ministry and served in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark and the Dioceses of Harrisburg and Charlotte, North Carolina.
In the true spirit of a Sister of Saint Joseph Sister Dennis was “ready for any good work.” At one of her high school teaching assignments she also coached the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. She recalled, “I didn’t even know a whole lot about the sport, but I knew it was something good for the students.” She enjoyed the determination of her students and laughed as she remembered a time when one of her team members sold bunches of flowers from funeral arrangements to raise money for team uniforms!
Teaching young people at any and all levels gave Sister Dennis great joy, but later in life she discovered that what she really loved was helping people in whatever way she could. After teaching for 50 years, she embarked on a new ministry—visiting and praying with people in hospitals. It surprised her how much she came to love that work.
Newspaper articles and letters from patients and their families attest to the impact of Sister Dennis Eileen’s hospital ministry in North Carolina. At the Mass of Christian Burial Sister Mary Dacey shared this: “A Winston-Salem Journal writer used this headline, ‘NUN-Beam: A Light Giver Brings Hope at Hospital,’. . . Another called her ‘The Little Sister that Could’. . . Committed to action on behalf of those in need, she received more awards than we have time to mention for distinguished service in the medical community and beyond, both civic and Catholic—even receiving an honorary degree from Belmont Abbey. Perhaps, though her chaplain supervisor said it best—especially for a Sister of Saint Joseph. ‘Sister Dennis exemplifies a ministry of presence.’ She knew that what people really needed was someone to listen—and she joined with them in tears of sorrow for their sorrow, and joy for their joys.”
Sister Dennis Eileen’s devotion to the Blessed Mother and her spirit of prayer helped her build up her own relationship with God and she admitted that it brought her great happiness to share with others how God loved and cared for her. One of her favorite prayers was “I sought the Lord and he answered all my fears.” Her advice to us who continue to walk this journey is, “Give yourself with your whole heart. . . give, enrich those around you.”
So many have been enriched by the life of Sister Dennis Eileen. As she shares her joy with God, may she intercede for us so that we may live and love wholeheartedly and be a healing presence to all those with whom we come in contact.
Sister Frances Gervase O’Brien
Sister Frances Gervase O’Brien, born Frances Eileen, died at Saint Joseph Villa on January 2, 2011. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at the Villa on January 6. Beloved by family, friends, and community members, Frances lived 68 years as a joyful, dedicated, hope-filled member of the Congregation.
Frances was the youngest of the seven children born to Elizabeth and John O’Brien of Montclair, New Jersey. She was close to her parents and siblings, and always had a good family story to share. Her sister, Rosemary, now deceased, was also a Sister of Saint Joseph. Frances was educated at the Dominican Lacordaire Academy and then boarded at Mt. St. Joseph Academy. Her next step predictably was entrance into the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Known for quick wit and sharp mind, Frances pursued studies that qualified her as teacher, principal, and pastoral mentor. She served the children and people in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark and the diocese of Trenton.
Going to the Villa was an absolute gift to Frances. She noted that the great sense of peace at the Villa “pervades the very walls.” Frances loved fun, life, family, friends, and those whom she served. Her sense of gratitude to God deepened at the Villa, and she so appreciated living among, as she noted, “Father Medaille’s girls.”
Sister Mary Ann Boyle, beloved Sister of St. Joseph, died at St. Joseph Villa on January 2, 2011. Following a Mass of Christian Burial, Sister Mary Ann was buried on January 7 at the congregation’s cemetery, adjoining the Villa in Flourtown.
Mary Ann, one of three children, was born on October 7, 1938, to Thomas and Helen Boyle. She attended Holy Child School and St. Mary Academy in Philadelphia before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph at Chestnut Hill on September 12, 1956. She was received into the Community on April 22, 1957 and took as her religious name, Sister Helen Thomas; when the option became available, however, she chose to return to her baptismal name.
On March 6, 1958, S. Mary Ann experienced a radical, life-changing event; according to the custom of those days, novices met the family of a deceased sister at the side entrance of the Motherhouse, handing them lighted candles to be used at a brief service for the deceased relative. Mary Ann was on duty that day and was, through necessity, holding three lighted candles. The heat from these ignited her guimpe, causing severe burns, especially to her face and upper portions of her body.
It was life-changing, indeed. It was her response, however, that made all the difference. Many years later, Mary Ann shared her recollections of the tragedy and its consequences. She said,
“As I look back, I ask myself, What lessons did I learn from this seeming tragedy at such an early age?...I learned that suffering connects people on a deeply profound level, both the one who suffers and the ones who ministers to or are involved with the person. I also learned that having a positive attitude speeds the healing process, and…not to take my health for granted. Life is truly a gift.”…
Life became a gift not only for herself, but also and most especially a gift to be shared with and for others. She had great concern for others; she valued relationships; she was humble, unassuming, thoughtful and grateful for the smallest kindness. In the words of a member of her Party, “She was unfailingly up-beat, and fun-loving, loved by all of our Party, and truly Community –minded; I never heard her say an unkind word of others.”
Despite any suffering, she lived her life even further as a gift, using her own gifts to minister to others through education at St. Bernard School, schools at Maple Shade, Holy Child, and Epiphany parishes. In 1979, she began to teach at the secondary level, serving at Notre Dame High School, Easton, at Cardinal Dougherty High School and at Mt. St. Joseph Academy. In 1995, her ministry path changed; she attended Milton Hershey Medical Center as a student, majoring in Chaplain/Clinical Pastoral Education. She later served as chaplain at Fitzgerald Mercy Division, Mercy Health Corp. in Darby, PA. Still later, she served at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ.
Mary Ann began to work at St. Barnabas shortly after 9/11 and many of the burn victims were brought there because of overcrowding in New York City hospitals. She frequently took the opportunity to work with burn victims earlier, in other hospital settings. This was, for her, a Provident God, working through, with, and in her.
As she concluded recollections of her response to the tragedy and to its consequences, Mary Ann said:
Most importantly, I learned that suffering affects a person not just physically, but also emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Dealing with and integrating these three levels can be a long, painful and often lonely struggle. I believe it was through my own personal struggle that God led me to my present ministry as a chaplain at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, where I daily encounter burn patients and invite them to share their stories with me. In the process a mutual healing occurs, both of the patient and of myself. Once a month I join burn patients (both present and those who have recovered and returned) and other burn personnel in a peer support group. I am still learning and still amazed as I keep discovering how our paradoxical God brings light out of seeming darkness and how “God comes to us and is reborn in us in unexpected ways day after day.”
Mary Ann’s Mass of Christian Burial took place during the season of the Epiphany; it is a fitting reminder of her life as a manifestation of God’s Wisdom and Mercy, as well as a manifestation of Christ’s light and life shining through her goodness.
Sister Mary Theresa
Flood died at Saint Joseph Villa on January 19, 2011. Her funeral Liturgy and
burial were on January 24. Known formerly as Sister Rose Gerald and called
Marie, Mary Theresa was the oldest child of the close-knit family of John and Anna
Flood. She and her two younger brothers enjoyed happy times in the Flood
Marie attended Saint Callistus Grade School and West Catholic High School and entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph after graduating from high school. Marie was an elementary school teacher for many years, serving in the archdioceses of Philadelphia, Newark and the dioceses of Camden, Harrisburg, Trenton and Wilmington. Marie was a genuine community woman and beloved by the children she taught as well as parents and faculty she met along the way. Her spirit of service extended to helping in the kitchen at Cape May Point in summers and participation in the House of Prayer that supported Chapter 2004.
After her years in the classroom were over, Marie served in auxiliary services. In addition, when she moved into volunteer services, she enrolled in a certificate program for Clowning. This creative move was to fulfill her desire to brighten spirits broken in body or mind through her clowning ministry. Marie’s gentle, cheerful disposition continued as she took up residence in ministry of presence at Saint Joseph Villa.
Sister Marie Grace Scanlon, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 70 years died on January 22, 2011 at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
Marie was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the oldest child of John and Marie Scanlon. She shared her growing years with two brothers, John and Richard, both now deceased. They remained close, even when they were at a distance and she regarded them as friends. Because of her father’s work with an international accounting firm, the family lived in Pittsburgh; Muskegon, Michigan; Rockville Center, New York, and Rydal, Pennsylvania. This provided Marie with a rich and varied educational background and an appreciation for the broadening experience of travel. World War II had a profound effect on her, especially because both brothers were drafted. She recalled the pain of some of her friends whose brothers did not return home from the war.
Having attended various elementary and secondary schools, Marie was drawn to the Sisters of Saint Joseph from her experience at Chestnut Hill College where she studied foreign language. She also studied at Case Western Reserve, Fordham University, and the University of Madrid. Marie’s teaching ministry included schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Allentown. She loved teaching Spanish at the high school level.
In 1975 Marie had the challenging and enriching experience of teaching English as a Second Language to religious women in El Salvador. She loved the people, admired their hard work on the coffee plantations, and regretted the poverty she witnessed. Even though her time there was little less than a year, she had the opportunity to meet two well-known leaders in the twentieth-century church: Bishop Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Those who knew Marie recognized her as a person who treated others with sensitivity and concern. She had a caring and personal interest in the lay employees at the Villa and a keen interest in world events. She appreciated the broad experiences of her early life and she recognized that they prepared her for later changes in religious life. She encouraged us to be grateful and to remember the great women who have gone before us.
Sister Mary Dacey reflected on Marie Scanlon’s life at the Mass of Christian Burial: “Union, communion… This is what Marie aspired to in her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph. . . ‘We live and work so that all people may be united with God and with one another.’ During her life, Marie espoused that desire with her family, her students, her co-workers near and far. Now we rejoice with her as God calls her to perfect union with Him.”
Sister Mary Madonna Siebold
Sister Mary Madonna Siebold died on January 25, 2011 at St. Joseph Villa. Following a Mass of Christian Burial at the Villa on January 31, Sister was buried in the Congregation Cemetery.
Sister Mary was born on May 7, 1934 to George Fredrick and Veronica O’Hagan Siebold; one of three children in the Siebold family, she had a sister, Pat and a brother, Joe.
Her parents, devout Catholics, were members of St. Anne parish in Philadelphia, where she and her brother and sister were baptized and received the sacraments. Mary attended St. Anne School and Hallahan High School, from which she graduated in 1952. In September of that same year, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph at Chestnut Hill, was received into the Congregation on April 6, 1953 and became known by the name, Sister Mary Mercedes.
Sister Mary served in Holy Cross School, Mt. Airy on her first mission. She subsequently served at St. Helena School, Bellefonte; St. Francis, Germantown; Severna Park, MD. ; St. Joseph Academy, McSherrystown; St. Bartholomew School; Immaculate Conception, Bridgeton, NJ; St. Jerome School; Visitation School; Mt. St. Joseph Academy; Cecilian Academy; and Little Flower High School.
Sister Mary, of necessity, was on a leave of absence from the Congregation from 1988 until January of 1995. After her return to Community Living, she moved from the academic apostolate in which she had previously served and in 1997 became Coordinator of Activities in Day Care at St. Joseph Villa. In April of 2009, she became a resident at the Villa.
Throughout the years, Mary enjoyed the many facets of her life. She had many interests; among these were reading and listening to classical music. She also allowed her creativity to flourish through sewing, embroidering and painting. Mary loved and was proud of her extended family; she loved and enjoyed the times when she visited her brother’s home in Bethany Beach. Quite obviously she loved her parents, to whom she was able to offer tender, devoted care in their illnesses.
Sister Mary’s spiritual life began at early age; when she was in seventh grade, her teacher, S. Agnes Perpetua suggested to the school librarian that Mary might be ready to read Thomas Merton’s, Seven Story Mountain. She was apparently ready and she did read it. Her spiritual life began early; in fact, by the seventh grade she was also attending daily mass with her mother, who was a daily communicant. Sister Mary’s spiritual life continued to grow as she grew, especially throughout her 58 years as a Sister of St. Joseph. One of her favorite maxims was, “Keep always in mind the aim of your vocation which is sublime….” She experienced that aim, a growing mutuality in her relationship with God. This relationship was most evident in her response to her illness. She generously offered her suffering as a loving act of prayerful sacrifice to God. We are grateful for S. Mary’s real journey in life, her spiritual journey. She lived with the aim of her vocation in mind and has come to the end of her journey, the fullness of life and love in Jesus Christ for all eternity.
Sister Helen Victor Mitsch
Sister Helen Victor died peacefully on February 1, 2011. Her funeral was held at Saint Joseph Villa on Friday, February 4. At the time of her death, she was in her 60th year as a Sister of Saint Joseph.
Baptized Elizabeth Marie, Sister Helen was one of the 5 children born to Helen and Victor Mitsch. A Conshohocken girl, she attended Saint Anthony Grade School in Ambler and Saint Matthew High School in Conshohocken and entered the community in 1951.
Sister Helen ministered primarily in the elementary grades, serving in the archdioceses of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and the dioceses of Wilmington, Allentown. After many years in school, she took up ministry as Associate Director of Temple University’s Newman Center. Sister remained in this post until last year. In her many and varied missions, she brought a magnetism to students who were drawn to her good humor and winning way. While at the University, she encouraged the students to attend Eucharistic Adoration and gladly took their turns if they were unable to do so. Students enjoyed just being in her presence.
Through the years, Helen actively promoted vocations to our Congregation as well as to the priesthood. She was a wonderful supporter of the priesthood and cared about the well being of so many priests, including our own Cardinal Rigali. Many priests participated in her liturgy, a true testament to her ongoing and loving support. The Cardinal himself paid his last respects upon learning of her death.
In the last year of her life, she suffered diminishment in several areas, but she was truly an example of one who embraced the cross of Christ. Beloved of family, friends, students and people in general, Helen went to God with hands full.
Sister John Cecelia died at her convent, Presentation, in Cheltenham on February 17, 2011. Her funeral Mass and burial took place at Saint Joseph Villa on February 22, 2011. Born Carmella Rose Margaret to parents John and Cecelia, Sister John was one of seven children, one of whom was her twin brother, Raymond. Educated at Holy Souls Elementary School and Little Flower High School, John was directly influenced by the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Sister John’s two great desires as a young woman were to be a Sister of Saint Joseph and a nurse. Being the bright, practical person that she was, she had a plan.
It included getting her nursing degree first, then entering Chestnut Hill. Her training at Fitzgerald Mercy School of Nursing was followed by her acceptance into the Postulate.
John’s list of ministries has to be one of the shortest on record. Her first was Mount Saint Joseph Convent Infirmary for two years. Her second was Saint Joseph Villa. With the exception of two years of service at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook in the 1980’s, John either lived or served at the Villa for over 40 years, literally dying with her “boots on.” In these years, she earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at Chestnut Hill College and a Master’s degree in Administration at the University of Notre Dame, graduate work completed during springs and summers.
Dedication and devotion marked her ministry. In the earliest days at the Villa before the expansion of a lay staff, John, along with other sister nurses, did all manner of service; no task was too menial. She turned out to be a great teacher, sharing her expertise with CNA’s and sister volunteers in those early days.
In Sister John’s own personal reflection about her vowed life, she echoed the words of Psalm 27: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Beloved and missed by a loving extended family, patients at the Villa, friends, party members, colleagues, Villa staff, and all Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sister John Cecelia is now realizing her greatest desire, dwelling in the house of the Lord.
Sister Alma Dolorine Taylor
Sister Alma Dolorine Taylor, a beloved member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill for 58 years, died on February 22, 2011 at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia.
Clara Taylor, daughter of Joseph and Margaret O’Neill Taylor, grew up in Westernport, Maryland where she attended Saint Peter Elementary and High School along with her nine brothers and sisters. She enjoyed memories of close-knit family life and fun with her brothers and sisters in Westernport—including family gatherings where her mother played the piano and her father and brothers and sisters danced and played accompaniment on pots and pans! Her older sister Elizabeth (Sister Perpetua) entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph when Clara was sixteen and Clara followed several years later when she was twenty years old. She recalled that time by writing, “I can truly say I was never sorry I came, but I was homesick for a long time.”
For 35 years Sister Alma Dolorine ministered in schools in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Newark, and Baltimore as well as the Diocese of Harrisburg. In 1989 she came to the Motherhouse where she shared her culinary skills with the sisters living there. It marked a special time for the Taylor sisters to once again live under the same roof, and they enjoyed the time very much.
In 1991 Sister Alma was called to a ministry about which she admitted she knew very little of what was involved. She began serving as a parish minister and “became very good at it.” She performed many good works; among them serving as Eucharistic Minister, holding Bible Study groups, visiting parishioners in hospitals, nursing homes, and those confined to their own homes. She admitted, “I could write a book of wonderful happenings, both happy and sad.”
Although Sister Alma faced the challenges of loss of family members and friends as well as her own health problems, she showed determination and spirit and reminded us, “A cat has nine lives and I’ve used up three. I’m still here so God must have something for me to do. My prayer each day is to thank God for the day, and if I have another do the same.”
As was reflected at Alma’s Mass of Christian Burial, “Imagine the welcome that her God, members of her family, and those she ministered to. . . offered to . . . this wonderful sister, this faithful Sister of Saint Joseph! This simple woman with great faith and good heart now enjoys the promise of everlasting life that was made to her at her Baptism.” Rest in peace, Sister Alma.
Sister Elizabeth Ann Monaghan died on March 10, 2011 at St. Joseph Villa; her life was celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial at the Villa on March 15. She was buried on that same day in the congregation cemetery, adjoining the Villa.
Sister Elizabeth Ann was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 13, 1919 to John and Elizabeth (McCaffery) Monaghan, was baptized and given the name Mary Theresa. Her brother Jack was also born in Glasgow, but Jim, the “real American Monaghan”, was born after the family had immigrated to the United States in 1924.
The family settled initially in Chester, PA but later moved to West Philadelphia. Liz attended St. Callistus School and West Catholic High School for Girls, from which she graduated in 1938. After graduation, and following a two week stint as baby sitter (for $6.00 a week), Liz attended comptometer school, subsequently finding employment in the Accounts Payable Department at Lit Brothers in Philadelphia.
After working at Lit Brothers for two years, Liz entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in September of 1940. After her novitiate, during her early years of ministry she attended Chestnut Hill College and later graduated from Columbia University with an M. A. in Business Education. Her initial ministries involved elementary education; she served in the dioceses of Allentown and Camden and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Her missions included St. Athanasius, St. Catherine, Allentown, Holy Name, Camden and Visitation, Philadelphia. In 1958, her ministry shifted to secondary education and she served in Cardinal Dougherty H.S., Vineland Catholic, Mc Devitt High School in Philadelphia and Conwell High School, Levittown. In 1973, she moved into the area of administration, becoming Director of Activities at Hallahan High School until the late 1980’s.
Retiring from education was not retirement for Liz; she became the first Director of Therapeutic Leisure Programming at St. Joseph Villa in 1986 and remained in this position until 1989, when she moved into education/ business and served as secretary in the Office of Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; in 1990, she served as secretary in the rectory of the Cathedral in Philadelphia. Moving again to education, she became office assistant in the activities office at St. Hubert High School in Philadelphia, where she served until she became a resident at St. Joseph Villa.
Our Constitutions state, “The zeal and ardent desire that directs and enlivens our ministries also leads us to adjust them in a discerning spirit, according to the needs of time and place and resources of our Congregation, but always in favor of what will tend to the glory of God and benefit all people.” (25); how very true of Liz: she was, “ready for any good work.”
Sister Elizabeth Ann experienced the love of God in the love that her family, her friends and even acquaintances bore her and they, in turn, experienced the love of God in the love she bore them. She was ever practical, and her feet were solidly on the ground, and in her eyes, people were essentially good; life was an adventure worth living. To be in Liz’s presence it was easy to understand that life is indeed good; she understood very well that God was in his heaven; all was well with the world.
To quote a line from S. Maureen MacElderry’s Remembrance at Liz’s Mass of Christian Burial:
Victor Hugo wrote, ‘Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.’
Liz, Thank you for your authenticity, good humor, for remaining young at heart and for your extraordinary life spent in the love of God and neighbor. You and your example are a lasting gift to us.
Sister Anne Regina Lannon
Sister Anne Regina died on March 11, 2011 and was buried from Saint Joseph Villa on March 17, 2011. Sister Anne was hospitalized for a short time, having been admitted to the hospital from her current ministry at St. Hugh Parish in Philadelphia.
Anne Regina was born in Newark, New Jersey, the elder child of Edward and Mary Lannon. Her younger brother, Edward, lives in Ireland with his wife Phyllis. Fortunately and providentially, they were here for Anne Regina’s last week of life. It had been Sister’s great desire to visit them in their home in the near future, and she had spoken of that wish.
A product of St. Rose of Lima School and Church in Newark, Anne continued her education at Our Lady of the Valley High School in Orange. Anne made many friends during those years, and she fondly recalled the first stirrings of a vocation to the Sister of Saint Joseph while attending high school. Anne responded with a zealous “yes” to God in her youth and served God faithfully these 54 years.
Anne enjoyed a variety of ministries in community. She taught in schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Newark, Bayonne, New Jersey, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
One particular ministry stands out