Sister Assunta Bonner died December 20, 2016 at Saint Joseph Villa. Her Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at the Villa on December 23, 2016.
Born January 9, 1926 and baptized Grace Veronica, Sister Assunta was one of the fifteen children lovingly reared by Mary and Anthony in the parish of Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Bayonne, New Jersey. It was in her formative years at Saint Mary’s School that Grace blossomed under the tutelage of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Afterward she attended Holy Family Academy and entered the Congregation in 1943.
During the seventy-three years of her religious life, Sister Assunta served as teacher, principal and local coordinator in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Newark and Baltimore and in the Dioceses of Trenton, Delaware and Allentown. Those she encountered were touched by her professional expertise and the sweet grace of her gentle kindliness, the essence of who she was and which she learned from her many hours of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Hers was a deeply personal relationship with Jesus and a singularly loving devotion to His Mother.
Most of Sister Assunta’s years in education were spent as a teacher of first grade. She was recognized by Lehigh University as the Master Teacher. Her professional expertise and loving care of God’s little ones highlight the memories of her first grade students. During harsh historical times she kept an ample stash of food and clothing to offset the sufferings of those affected by the miseries of deprivation. Recalling his experience one student wrote, “First grade was the best year I ever spent in school . . . . I don’t know that I had a more rewarding experience in high school, college or law school than the time I spent with you. Thank you for getting me off to a good start.” – Excerpted from a letter sent by a judge of the Superior Court, Atlanta, GA
Having discerned God’s invitation to retire from the classroom, Sister Assunta followed His call to assist in however needed as a resident of Saint Joseph Villa, something she undertook for fourteen years. The list is legion of those she companioned, uplifted, cared for in ways that are forever memorable by those touched by her goodness. She was for many years the Villa’s official Copy Machine Operator, a service she relished and one that drew respect and endearment from those with whom she worked.
When Sister left Immaculate Conception Convent in Allentown, the pastor Father Harold Dagle wrote, “We miss your words and your spirit of encouragement . . . and your peaceful demeanor that had such a ripple effect on . . . all of us. We miss your humor and laughter and can-do attitude . . . and your prayerful approach that was always filled with hope.”
It was providentially appropriate that God called Sister to be born into eternal life just prior to celebrating the birth of God born among us, Christmas 2016. As theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart reminds us, “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.” To her first graders and to all whom she met in life Sister Assunta was mother, giving birth to Jesus for us in a profoundly graced way. We rejoice, praise and thank our God that she is warmly wrapped in the glorious love, peace and joy of an eternal Christmas.