Bishop's Monthly message
Bishop salutes sisters
BY BISHOP HOWARD J. HUBBARD
In conjunction with the feast of the Annunciation, our Albany diocesan Women's Commission conducts an annual celebration, "From All Generations: Women Saying Yes to God." This year, some 300 women were nominated from the parishes of our Diocese to be acknowledged for their loving service to their families, the Church and the wider community.
There were several in their teens; the oldest honoree was 99. There were women of all ages in between. What a delight it was to honor these women who continue to respond to their baptismal call to holiness and ministry.
In addition to the parish honorees, this year the commission paid special tribute to eight communities of women religious who have served so faithfully and fruitfully in our Diocese: the Sisters of the Resurrection, Presentation Sisters, Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Religious of the Sacred Heart, Daughters of Charity, Religious Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet - the latter two of whom are celebrating 150 years of service or more in our Diocese of Albany.
Speaking on behalf of the commission, Mary Ann Dignazio Louison stated, "Sisters, what would we have done without you or do without you as you give witness to openness to change, to quiet service, to ministries that touch every part of life and the human condition?
"Sisters, you who uphold the dignity of the human person in every life stage and circumstance, in schools, hospitals, human service agencies, homeless shelters and food pantries, it seems that not a corner of the world has gone untouched by your reaching out to the family of the people of God. Sisters, your creativity, your ability to take the words of the Gospel and place them into everyday life, your welcoming to others and your determination to forge ahead in spite of difficulty - yes, even adversity - give us examples of what is possible even in the midst of change and uncertainty.
"Thank you, sisters, for what you have given us. Your legacy takes root in us. Your dedication calls us further beyond the now we see to the future that all the Church holds in hope."
This tribute called to mind how blessed I have been throughout my life as a layperson, priest and bishop to have been the beneficiary of the charism, spirit and ministry of the members of each of these religious communities.
While I can't acknowledge each member personally, let me just mention a few interactions which have influenced me greatly over my 75 years.
SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet taught me in grammar school and gave me a solid academic and spiritual formation for my future life endeavors. They trained me as an altar server and planted the seeds for my priestly vocation - especially Sister Monica Hogan, CSJ, who was the most able and caring teacher I ever had. My eighth-grade teacher and principal, Sister Noreen Keenan, CSJ, made the cloth in which my newly-anointed hands were wrapped on the day of my priestly ordination; and the other eighth-grade teacher, Sister Ann Therese Flynn, CSJ, turned out to be a lifesaver by guiding me through my responsibilities at Cathedral Academy during my first priestly assignment.
Sisters from The College of Saint Rose in Albany and from the Josephite novitiate were the first to volunteer as tutors, artists and mentors at Providence House, the storefront ministry I was privileged to operate in Albany's South End. Members of this community were an integral part of the "Summer in the City" project in the 1960s, seeking to improve conditions for the poor and disadvantaged in Albany through home visiting and community organizing.
Sister Anne Tranelli, CSJ, led the Diocese's Hispanic Outreach Services; Sister Danielle Bonetti, CSJ, served as director of our Office of Religious Education; Sisters Carolyn Schanz and Kate Arseneau, CSJ, were principals at Catholic Central High School in Troy.
Sister Charla Commins, CSJ, stepped up to the plate and served as interim director of diocesan Catholic Charities upon the death of Sister Maureen Joyce, while still balancing her responsibilities as director of Catholic Charities in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties and as a member of the Carondelet leadership team.
Sister Joan Curley, CSJ, became our first parish life director. our Vicar for Religious for the past 30 years has also been a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Nola Brunner. For many years before her death, Sister Elizabeth Varley, CSJ, edited all of my speeches, newspaper columns and correspondence.
The Sisters of St. Joseph community made their property available for senior housing for low-income residents and are partners in administering the Whalen Foundation grants.
Sister Katherine Hanley, CSJ, oversees St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry, the Diocese's graduate school for theology; and Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ, is director of our Counseling for Laity Office.
At an extra-diocesan level, Sisters Miriam Ukeritis and Lynn Levo, CSJ, have provided healing to our wounded priests and religious at the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada, and St. Luke Institute in Silver Springs, Md. Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, directed the youth office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
SISTERS OF MERCY
Before I became bishop, I was privileged to serve as chaplain at the Mercy Motherhouse and at Catholic Charities' Community Maternity Services (CMS), founded and guided by Sister Maureen Joyce, RSM.
Sister Ellen Lawlor, RSM, transferred St. Peter's Hospital into a world-class healthcare facility and initiated the Diocesan Health Alliance. Our first women vice chancellor and chancellor in the Diocese were Sisters of Mercy: Sisters Ellen Boyle and Kathleen Turley, RSM.
The founding director of the Albany site for St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry was another Sister of Mercy, Sister Marge Halpin, as were our archivist and human resource director, respectively: Sisters Mary Berchmans Mahoney and Marilyn Murray.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, does our Diocese proud as the spokesperson for the U.S. bishops' conference. To this day, Sister Mary Ann LoGiudice, RSM, executive director of CMS, remains the purchaser for my Christmas gifts and consultant on my non-clerical clothing. (God help her!)
RELIGIOUS OF THE SACRED HEART
Early on in my priesthood, I was privileged to serve as chaplain to the Religious of the Sacred Heart. This led to collaborative relationships with Sister Mary Ellen Harmon, RSCJ, who founded the Albany Street Academy; Sister Roberta Gazetta, RSCJ, who established the Kenwood Daycare Center in Albany for underprivileged children; and Sisters Libby Hoye and Mary Gen Smith, RSCJ, who founded Albany's Abba House of Prayer and were leaders in ecumenical and interfaith relations in the Capital District.
Members of the Religious of the Sacred Heart also initiated the Hispanic Apostolate in our Diocese and have done great work with North Country Ministries in the Diocese's northernmost regions, and with the visually impaired.
Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm at Teresian House nursing home in Albany cared lovingly and competently for my Aunt Loretta during the last six months of her life; and for my predecessor, Bishop Edwin Broderick; and currently provide service to my sister, Kathy, and eight of our diocesan priests, along with a number of retired sisters of the Sacred Heart and religious from other communities.
The Carmelites' foundress, Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory, whom I first met as a seminarian in 1958 when she gave me a relic of St. Pius X to pray with in order to strengthen my vocation to the priesthood, was recently declared venerable by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes - a major step on the road to canonization.
The Sisters of the Resurrection have been staunch stalwarts in serving in our Polish schools and parishes, as well as providing nursing home care in Amsterdam and Castleton. Their retirement community and novitiate have been a great blessing for our Diocese, as has Sister Rosemary Cuneo, CR, who does such a wonderful job in promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Albany native Sister Delores Stepien, CR, the order's current provincial, was the community's Mother General in Rome for two decades.
DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY
The Daughters of Charity have operated St. Catherine's Center for Children in Albany and St. Mary's Hospital in Troy (where I deposited my tonsils at the age of six); have taught in the grammar and high schools of our Diocese; and continue to staff and support the Roarke Center for the needy at St. Anthony's parish in Troy and the social outreach at the Cathedral rectory in Albany, where I reside. The St. Louise House for their retired sisters is a powerhouse of prayer in our midst.
Perhaps most notably, the Daughters of Charity graced us with the ministry of Sister Serena Branson, DC, who revitalized the mission of Catholic Charities in our Diocese and who began the important ministry of the Ladies of Charity.
I must have been a terrible chaplain, because I was transferred from one religious community chaplaincy to another. The third chaplaincy I exercised put me in contact with the Sisters of the Presentation, where I celebrated Mass at the Masterson Day Nursery. I have witnessed up close and personal their ministry to emotionally disturbed and neglected children and those with developmental disabilities and autism at St. Colman's Home in Watervliet and Cobb Memorial School in Altamont, and at schools they have staffed in Frankfort, Schenectady, Latham and Albany.
HOLY NAMES SISTERS
My only experience as a teacher was at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary - where, unfortunately, during my first year after ordination, the senior girls at this prestigious institution were subjected to my course on human sexuality. I was sure they were much more knowledgeable about the subject than I. Indeed, I was probably the only person in the world who could make this a boring topic. But they did listen attentively, or at least pretended to, and only snickered occasionally at my naiveté.
Holy Names Sister Annette Covatta, a fellow parishioner from my home parish, St. Patrick's in Troy, did a wonderful job in promoting music and the arts in our Diocese. Another Troy native, Sister Connie Casey, served as the long-standing principal at AHN. In addition to the religious community's ministry in education, Sister Joan Byrne, SNJM, helped to found our Diocesan Pastoral Council; and Sister Mary Frances Beck, SNJM, has been the anchor for our Consultation Center in Albany.
Last, but certainly not least, the Dominican Sisters of Peace - whose foundress, Lucy Eaton Smith, came from Glens Falls - staff the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, serving as an oasis of spirituality and human growth and development in our Diocese for over six decades. I have been privileged to lead retreats and to be a retreatant at the center.
I have also benefitted enormously from the faith formation experience of Sister Maria Demonti, OP, and the counseling skills of Sister Jean Kinney, OP, and am delighted that a native of our Diocese, Sister Susan Zemgulis, OP, now serves as director of the Dominican Retreat and Conference center.
How about you?
This is an all-too-abbreviated version of the many and varied ways I have been formed, shaped and influenced personally by the wonderful women religious who have served in our Diocese. To the many individuals I should have mentioned but have not, I apologize - but please know you are very much in my heart.
I hope that the recent recognition of the eight religious communities by our diocesan Women's Commission and my own reflections on how these dedicated servants of God have influenced me will spur the readers of this column to recall the many and valued contributions these women religious and those of other communities have made to form, shape and inspire you on your own spiritual journey.
Thank you, beloved sisters, for your sterling ministry among us, and may you and your vowed life of poverty, chastity and obedience continue to be such marvelous examples of faith, hope and charity in the 14 counties of our Diocese of Albany.
(May 02, 2013)