Celebrating religious jubilarians

Sister Mary Ellen Shirtz, CSJ, is celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Raised in Syracuse and a graduate of St. Anthony’s High School, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on Aug. 12, 1967. Sister Mary Ellen received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from The College of Saint Rose and a master’s degree in education from SUNY Oswego.

   Sister Mary Ellen served in the ministry of education in the Syracuse Diocese for 30 years: at Bishop Grimes High School as teacher of mathematics, dean of students and registrar; at Bishop Ludden High School as development director, associate principal and president; and in the Catholic Schools Office as area superintendent of schools for the north and west regions. In addition, Sister Mary Ellen was parish minister at St. Joseph’s Parish in Camillus.

   Sister Mary Ellen comments on both those who inspired her to enter religious life and who have supported her to persevere on this faith journey. “I grew up as one of six children, so the concept of community was familiar to me. When I finally started at St. Anthony of Padua School in seventh grade, my new community included the Sisters of St Joseph. They inspired me to cultivate a closer relationship with my Maker!

   “While spending quiet time in church after school hours, I discovered my heart’s desire was to serve God as a religious sister. During my 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have been supported by my spiritual director, Father John Costello, family, friends, my CSJ community and so many other people I have encountered in my ministry.

   “The years just creep up on you! Fifty years as a Sister of St. Joseph! I have been part of an amazing group of women who always strive to serve the ‘dear neighbor’! For anyone discerning a call to religious life, I would first encourage them to seek out a mentor, either a religious sister or a priest, someone to travel with them during the discernment process. My other advice is to be open to hearing what God is asking of you!”

   These profiles were compiled through phone and email interviews, archive materials, and provided material. Special thanks to Sister Mary Farrell, OSF, and Sister dePaul Juliano, OSF, for providing profiles of several Franciscan sisters, and to Sister Mary Rose Noonan, CSJ, for providing profiles of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Photos of jubilarians were provided by the congregation’s Communications Office or the jubilarian.