Celebrating religious jubilarians

Each year the Diocese of Syracuse honors religious women who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Here, the Sun profiles this year’s jubilarians and their years of dedicated service.

80 years

Sister Mary Ethna Kapfer, CSJ, is celebrating 80 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Chadwicks, N.Y., and a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1937. Sister Mary Ethna received a bachelor’s degree in science from The College of Saint Rose and a master’s degree in general science from Syracuse University. She spent 72 years in the ministry of education in the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses as a teacher, administrator, and volunteer. In the Syracuse Diocese, Sister Mary Ethna taught at St. John the Baptist School and St. Vincent de Paul School, Syracuse; St. Patrick’s School, Binghamton; and St. Agnes School, Utica. She has been residing in Utica with the Sisters in the Eagle Street Community.

   Sister Mary Ethna went to a rural school outside Utica and first learned of religious life when, as a seventh-grader, she heard a missionary priest speak. She initially wanted to be a Maryknoll Sister, but her mother was a widow with four young children, so Sister Mary Ethna chose a community closer to home. She is filled with gratitude for the gift of her vocation. “As I celebrate 80 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I am so thankful to God for the call to religious life, and to my family for instilling in me the faith and for nurturing me along the way through 99 years of life and 80 years of religious life! I am also filled with gratitude for all the Sisters who mentored me and with whom I shared the joys and challenges of community life. My life has been filled with many blessings also from students, parents, teachers and friends. May God bless each of you!”

   And Sister Mary Ethna’s secret to a long, healthy life? “Keep going; stay active and interested in people; travel; keep exposing yourself to new experiences and ideas; and pray always!”

   To someone who might be considering religious life, Sister Mary Ethna comments, “I would say to talk with some sisters about what religious life is like today, find a spiritual director to talk with, and then pray every day for the guidance of the Holy Spirit!”


Sister Jane Frances Pfisterer, OSF, is celebrating 80 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neuman Communities.

   Sister Jane Frances entered from St. Joseph-St. Patrick Parish in Utica in 1936. She attended St. Joseph School in Utica, where was taught by the Franciscan sisters. She attended Utica Free Academy, leaving after her sophomore year to enter the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse. She has been a member since. She received her habit and name in 1937.

   Sister Jane Frances attended The College of Saint Rose in Albany, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. She also has a permanent certification from New York State in Language Arts.

   During her years of ministry, Sister Jane Frances taught kindergarten through 12th grade. In grades 9 through 12, she taught history and language arts, religion, and anthropology. Her teaching assignments were located in New Jersey, Albany, Syracuse, Utica, Oswego, and Long Beach, Calif. She received an outstanding teacher award in Oswego. She also served as superior at convents to which she was assigned.

   Sister Jane Frances loved teaching, and she was always delighted by watching the light of comprehension come into the eyes of her students, because the students knew they were loved and they loved her back.

   After teaching for 50 years, Sister Jane Frances ministered at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica for 23 years. She served as the Administrative Receptionist for CEO Sister Rose Vincent Gleason, OSF.

  Her joy always was teaching the children about God but she loved all her ministries no matter what they were. She always has a smile and a cheerful disposition. Most importantly, she loves God, loves her Franciscan community and the sisters. Her prayerfulness and love of prayer are very important and most essential. She always said to young people who were contemplating religious life or the priesthood, “Have a love and desire for God and prayer.” At the present time, Sister Jane Frances resides at the Franciscan Villa in Syracuse.