Each year the Diocese of Syracuse honors women and men religious who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Here, profiles of this year’s jubilarians and their years of dedicated service.
Sister Julienne Brandt, OSF
Sister Julienne Brandt marks 70 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
Born and raised in Syracuse, Sister Julienne met the Sisters of St. Francis when she attended high school at the Convent School. During her senior year there, Sister Julienne decided that she would enter the convent after graduation. It was a decision she says she has never regretted making. She earned her undergraduate degree in education from Le Moyne College and then attended Marywood College in Pennsylvania for her masters. She taught school at Bishop Ludden, Bishop Grimes, and St. Daniel’s schools in Syracuse and held the position of principal at St. Matthews and Holy Cross. She also ministered at schools in New Jersey and Florida. She also ministered as a librarian, which she says was her most-loved ministry.
Sister Julienne continues to serve the congregation as a volunteer for NunBetter Candy and the Around the Corner Gift Shop at Franciscan Villa.
Sister Rose Ellen Brennan, OSF
Sister Rose Ellen Brennan celebrates 70 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. This Utica native says that she was born into her vocation, telling the story that when she was born at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Sister Aurelia, a Sister of St. Francis who ministered at the hospital, told Sister Rose Ellen’s mother that she was going to take the newborn. Over the years, Sister Rose Ellen, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish who was educated at public schools, often saw the Sisters at St. Elizabeth Hospital. She studied nursing at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing and received her nursing degree before she entered the congregation. When Sister Rose Ellen began her first ministry at St. Elizabeth’s in Utica, Sister Aurelia finally “got her” — she was Sister Rose Ellen’s first Superior at the hospital.
Sister Rose Ellen continued her studies and received her BSN from Catholic University in Washington, DC. She ministered as Director of Nursing at Mercy Hospital in Auburn and as Evening Supervisor of Nursing at St. Elizabeth Hospital for over 30 years. In 1975, she co-founded the CNY Diabetes Association Chapter and also taught diabetes education. Sister Rose Ellen is proud to have served God’s people in the medical field for 70 years.
Sister Thomas Marie Corcoran, OSF
Sister Thomas Marie Corcoran is celebrating 70 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Born in Syracuse into a family of 11 children, Sister Thomas Marie attended local schools and was a member of Most Holy Rosary Parish. After graduating from high school, Sister Thomas Marie said she wanted to be a nurse, but was told to wait a year because she was too young. She spent that year working at a hospital and then enrolled at St. Joseph School of Nursing where she found herself influenced by the Sisters of St. Francis as they prayed and attended Mass. Sister Thomas Marie says she found herself praying more often and attending Mass more frequently. After that first year of nursing school, she entered the convent to become one of those Sisters.
Sister Thomas Marie continued her nursing studies at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Utica, and then ministered at St. Elizabeth Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Auburn. During this time, Sister Thomas Marie became interested in the field of Occupational Therapy and went on to earn a degree in the field from Utica College. Because of her work in this area, Sister was asked to establish an Occupational Therapy Program at Maria Regina College. During her many years in nursing related ministries, Sister Thomas Marie worked in local nursing homes and at Catholic Charities and volunteers as a companion to the elderly through a program operated by InterFaith Works. Sister Thomas Marie considers herself to be “sort of” retired, but continues to volunteer at the Franciscan Villa.
Sister Lois Mary Paciello, CSJ, is celebrating 70 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Presently residing in Utica, the city of her birth, she is a parish minister at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.
After graduating from St. Francis de Sales High School, Utica, Sister Lois entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1948, and professed final vows on August 15, 1953. She received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in elementary education, both from The College of Saint Rose.
For nearly 40 years, Sister Lois taught in schools in the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese: St. Peter’s School and Rome Catholic Junior High School, Rome; St. John the Baptist School, Syracuse; and St. John’s School, Oswego. In addition, Sister Lois served in parish ministry and religious education at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Old Forge, and St. Joseph’s, Boonville/St. Mary’s, West Leyden. She has been in her present position at Our Lady of Lourdes, Utica, for the past 18 years.
Sister Lois’ identical twin sister, Sister Elizabeth Mary, who died in 2010, was also a member of the 70-year jubilarian group.
Sister Lois Mary’s heart is filled with joy as she reflects on 70 years as a Sister of. St. Joseph. “It is with deep humility and great joy that I celebrate 70 years of service to God and to His people.
“My journey in love with Jesus began at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Utica. I was a second grader and my teacher was Sister Rosalie, a Daughter of Charity. Sister told us many stories of Jesus’ love for us and I literally fell in love with Jesus. I promised him I would always go to him in prayer and in challenging times. I have kept my promise, so it is no surprise that God has always been with me!”
“As our journey continues into the sunset of life, I walk hand in hand with Jesus. Wherever He leads me, I trust he knows best.”
Sister Jean Teixera, OSF
Jean Marie Teixeira is celebrating 70 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
She was born on the “big island” of Hawaii and moved with her family to Oahu when she was three years old. Although educated by the Maryknoll Sisters, the Franciscan sisters, originally from Syracuse, ministered at the parish where Sister Jean Marie and her family belonged. After Mass she would help the Sisters with whatever work they had to; most often, it was ironing the altar cloths. Eventually, one of the Sisters asked her if she was interested in entering the convent. Sister did feel she had a calling, but said she was torn between entering the Maryknolls or becoming a Sister of St. Francis. When she sought guidance from her parish priest, he told her that it was her decision to make. Then she went into the church to ask God for help. When she left the church, Sister Jean Marie had made her decision. She would go to Syracuse with Sister Bonaventure and enter the Franciscan community there.
After professing her final vows, Sister earned a BS degree from the College of St. Rose in Albany and later, her MS in Hawaii. For most of her 70 years of religious life, Sister ministered as a teacher, working with children in grades 2 through 8. When she left teaching, she spent 19 years helping to make the chocolate candies sold at NunBetter Candy — a truly sweet ministry! Sister Jean Marie now resides at the Franciscan Villa where she spends her days in prayer, answering the requests of the hundreds of people who each day request that the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities pray on their behalf.
Sister Rosemary Bucchi, OSF
Sister Rosemary Bucchi celebrates her 60th year as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. She was born and raised in a small town in New Jersey where she jokes that she was “Franciscanized” from the start — Franciscan priests and sisters staffed both Catholic parishes.
Sister Rosemary attended St. Peter School where the Sisters of St. Francis from Syracuse taught. While she began her high school education in New Jersey, she completed it at the Convent School in Syracuse because she wanted to see if homesickness would prevent her from entering the convent. She made it through so on a visit home, Sister Rosemary asked her father at 3 a.m. for permission to enter the convent. “Even though he wasn’t fully awake he said yes,” Sister Rosemary says. “I didn’t ask my mother for fear she would say no.”
At investing, Sister Rosemary honored her father Eriberto by taking the name Sister M. Eriberta. “My father was so happy that he let out a sigh and the Bishop asked me if that was my father’s name,” she says.
Sister Rosemary received several degrees, including a BA in Education from SUNY Oswego, master’s in Advanced Teacher Education from St. Bonaventure University, and a Diploma of Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia.
Sister Rosemary ministered as a teacher at Bishop Ludden, Bishop Cunningham, and Oswego in New York and Holy Cross, New Jersey. She also served as a principal and a Director of Religious Education. She ministered at the Shrine of St. Marianne Cope, and served as the central New York Regional Minister for the congregation for four years. She now assists the congregation’s Vocation Minister.
“For all the blessings that I have received, I very much feel that I am what my father said to me, ‘You are God’s spoiled child,’” she says.
Sister Rosemarie Freitag, CSJ
Sister Rosemarie Freitag, CSJ (Sister Robert Daniel) is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. A native of Syracuse, she currently resides in the city and serves as a library assistant at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School.
After graduating from St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse, Sister Rosemarie entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1958, and professed final vows on August 6, 1965. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The College of Saint Rose and a master’s degree in education from SUNY Cortland.
For nearly six decades, Sister Rosemarie has taught in schools of the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese: St. Agnes School, Utica; St. Vincent’s School, Syracuse; and Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School, East Syracuse, where she has served for the past 32 years. On May 5, Sister Rosemarie was honored at Grimes as “Faculty Member of the Year.”
Of her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Rosemarie says: “My journey was influenced by the love of God shown to me by my parents and their encouragement to follow my calling. Upon entering Kindergarten and through high school, my teachers, the Sisters of St. Joseph, were an inspiration to me by showing compassion, happiness and much love.
“Reflecting on the past 60 years, I have received many blessings and gifts from God. Each day, students, in a special way, used themselves to show me God’s love.
“For those who are discerning religious life, pray and speak with a priest or religious sister. Talk and spend some time with the religious community that you are interested in joining.”
“Blessings on all of you!”
Sister Catherine J. Hoefer, OSF
Sister Catherine J. Hoefer is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis. She is the daughter of the late Margaret and Florian Hoefer.
A native of Latham, New York, Sister’s home parish is St. Ambrose Church. After graduating from Our Lady of Angels School in Albany, she attended The Convent School in Syracuse. Later she pursued studies at SUNY Oswego, earned a master’s degree from Aquinas College in Michigan and an MBA from Le Moyne. Sister Catherine taught many children in schools in Syracuse, Amsterdam, Albany and Utica. She also taught in Riverside, Camden and Hoboken, New Jersey. She served as treasurer for the Sisters of St. Francis and business manager for St. John the Evangelist Parish. Sister Catherine currently ministers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as the parish receptionist. “I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of God as a Franciscan Sister and for the many blessings I have received from family, friends, students, co-workers and parishioners throughout these 60 years,” Sister Catherine says. “So I celebrate ‘the wonder of it all.’”
Sister Barbara Kuczynski, CSJ
Sister Barbara Kuczynski, CSJ (Sister Monica Joseph) is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Amsterdam, she currently lives in Syracuse and is a teacher in the 21st Century Community Learning Center at Huntington School.
Sister Barbara entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1958, and professed final vows on August 6, 1965. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in reading, both from The College of Saint Rose.
For nearly 20 years, Sister Barbara taught in schools of the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese, Sacred Heart School in Utica and Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse. Sister Barbara also worked at the Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center, SUNY/Morrisville, Onondaga Community College and Central City Business Institute. Since 1986, Sister Barbara has been a classroom teacher in the Syracuse City School District and a teacher in the “Say Yes to Education” Program and the 21st Century Community Learning Center.
On reflecting on her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Barbara speaks of the challenge of building God’s kingdom here on earth: “My grandmother, who was an immigrant from Poland, said to me when I was 10 years old, ‘If I say something that is not right you tell me.’ When I retired from elementary teaching, I knew exactly what my new work would be. I joined Literacy CNY and taught English and citizenship to today’s immigrants. My grandmother would be proud.
“The goal of my adult students was integration into our society. My work was to facilitate this assimilation. The students needed to interpret applications and documents. They strived to understand our holidays and the daily news. By interacting with them, I saw how quickly they acquired skills, solved their problems and made friends in their new land.
“I listen to their stories, shared helpful resources and rejoiced in their accomplishments. Everything about this ministry seemed ordinary. I keep in mind the words of John’s Gospel: ‘My father works even until now and I work.’ All of us work to bring God’s kingdom into being in our own time.”
Sister Florence Majewski, CSJ
Sister Florence Majewski, CSJ (Sister Marion Frances) is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Johnson City, Sister Florence presently lives in Binghamton and serves in the holistic field of body balancing and also as a greeter at wake services.
Sister Florence entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1958, and professed final vows on August 6, 1965. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education, both from The College of Saint Rose.
Sister Florence began her career in education at The College of Saint Rose where she taught biology and parasitology. She subsequently taught for 20 years in high schools of the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese, St. Francis de Sales High School in Utica and Catholic Central/Seton Catholic High School in Binghamton. Sister Florence later served as a parish visitor at St. Ann’s Church, Binghamton, and in pastoral care at Binghamton General Hospital. In 1991, Sister Florence began working in body balancing at The Center for Wellness in Johnson City.
Sister Florence is filled with gratitude when she thinks about her vocation to religious life. “One of the most influential persons who I believe planted the seed of vocation in my life was Father George Guzewic, pastor, confidant, and a man of many talents. Father Guzewic listened to the people in the pews. He was just a wonderful person who helped guide us through life-making decisions.
“Celebrating these 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph makes me most grateful for the graces I have received and continue to receive. I am thankful for those whose paths I have crossed in these six decades!”
Sister Joyce Marie Traufler, OSF
Sister Joyce Marie Traufler is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Sister is one of 12 children, born and raised in Buffalo. Her favorite Sister at St. Gerard where she attended school was Sister Aimee, who Sister Joyce says was very kind and would listen and talk to you. When she entered the Sisters of St. Francis, Sister Joyce Marie took Aimee as her religious name, in honor of her beloved teacher. Sister Joyce Marie became acquainted with the Sisters of St. Francis when she lived in Skaneateles and attended the religious education classes the Sisters taught at St. Mary’s. After meeting with Mother Jolenta, the congregational leader, Sister Joyce Marie decided to enter this community.
Sister Joyce Marie has ministered as a teacher in New Jersey, worked with the elderly in healthcare, working for 10 years at Loretto in Syracuse. She also ministered at Stella Maris Retreat Center in Skaneateles, where she became famous for the special bread that she baked as a way to raise money for the Center. She now serves in prayer ministry at Franciscan Villa.
Sister Rosaline Walters, OSF
Sister Rosaline Walters is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Born in Syracuse, Sister is an only child who attended St. Vincent de Paul School from kindergarten through graduation. She joined the community after a conversation she had with then-community superior Mother Jolenta. While Sister Rosalina can’t remember exactly what it was that Mother said to her, it convinced her to join the Sisters.
Sister Rosaline attended Mount St. Joseph in Buffalo where she received her bachelor’s in History. She then attended St. Bonaventure University where she earned her master’s in History. From there, she continued with her education, receiving a master’s degree in Education as well.
Sister Rosaline taught for many years in many schools: St. Daniel’s in Syracuse, St. Anthony’s in Utica, and St. Margaret’s in Mattydale as well as schools in Camden, New Jersey. While in New Jersey, she served as principal at St. Joseph’s in Camden for five years, and 18 years at Blessed Sacrament in Margate. Teaching was a ministry Sister Rosaline says she enjoyed very much. “I love the challenge of the children. The challenge came from them because they wanted to do better. I taught in poor, as well as affluent, areas. I liked making a difference in their lives,” she says. One of her former students is Sister Jane Bourne who founded the NunBetter Candy company.
Sister Rosaline returned to Syracuse in July 2017 where she says she works hard to “raise up as much trouble” as she can. As to life at Franciscan Villa, Sister Rosaline says, “I cherish my relationships with the Sisters. I knew a lot of them even with their former names.”
Sister Donna Zwigart, OSF
Sister Donna Zwigart celebrates 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. A native of Millvale, Pennsylvania, she attended Mount Alvernia High School, operated by the Sisters of St. Francis. After entering the community, she earned a degree in Biology at Carlow University and a master’s degree in Health Service Administration at Gannon University, a Catholic institution in Erie, Pennsylvania. Sister Donna ministered as a teacher at several schools before moving into the health care field where, among other positions, she served as CEO of St. Francis Medical Center in Pittsburgh, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters. A true follower of St. Francis, Sister Donna developed her love of nature as a child; she has been a lifelong advocate for the environment. When heavy rains caused flooding in Millvale, she supported construction of a bioswale on the grounds of the Mount Alvernia region house to prevent future flooding. Sister Donna now lives in Syracuse as a member of the congregation’s leadership team and is responsible for the sisters living in central New York.
Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ
Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, is celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Syracuse, she currently lives in her hometown and is director of the Office of Pastoral Leadership for the Syracuse Diocese.
After graduating from St. Vincent de Paul High School in Syracuse, Sister Laura entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on August 13, 1968, and professed final vows on August 15, 1973. She received a bachelor’s degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose, a master of music degree in music education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY at Potsdam and a master’s degree in liturgical music from the Catholic University of America.
Sister Laura began her music ministry as a teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Syracuse. She later served on the parish level as pastoral associate for music and liturgy at St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford; coordinator of liturgical ministries at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool; and liturgical ministry specialist for the Cortland-area parishes. Sister Laura also served the Syracuse Diocese as co-director for Church vocations and seminarians, director of the Office of Liturgy, associate director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, and in her present position in the Office of Pastoral Leadership. In addition, Sister Laura served the Sisters of St. Joseph as a member of both the Province Leadership Team and the Congregational Leadership Team.
Of her 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Laura says: “Throughout my years as a student at St. Vincent de Paul School, Syracuse, and an active parishioner at St. Peter’s Parish, I was encouraged and inspired by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who taught me. Their joy and humanness, prayerful support and willingness to listen, were strong influences in my life. The enthusiasm and dedication of the priests who served at St. Vincent’s and St. Peter’s Parishes also made a significant impact on my response to God’s call.
“During high school, I recognized that I was falling in love with God and with music at the same time. My mom and dad supported me in my decision to become a Sister of St. Joseph and never held me back. Their deep faith, unconditional love and faithfulness to one another were and will always be a source of strength and inspiration to me.
“This year of jubilee is one of joy and gratitude for all that has been and for all that will be. It hardly seems possible that I have been a Sister of St. Joseph for 50 years and no words can adequately express what it means to me. My life and ministry have brought me to places I never dreamed I would go. The people with whom and among whom I have lived and served continue to be blessings in my life, blessings for which I will always be grateful.
“What advice would I give to a woman who is discerning religious life today? Pay attention. Pay attention to all the ways that God is present in your life, calling, inviting and loving you. Share your desire with a trusted friend and seek spiritual direction. Follow your heart’s deepest desire. Give it a try!”
Sister Rose Marie Caravaglio, CSJ
Sister Rose Marie Caravaglio, CSJ, is celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Johnson City and raised in Norwich, she currently lives in North Syracuse and is pastoral associate for music ministry at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Liverpool.
Sister Rose Marie entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on August 13, 1968, and professed final vows on August 9, 1975. She received a bachelor’s degree in music from The College of Saint Rose and a master’s degree in education from SUNY at Cortland. In addition, she pursued post-graduate studies in liturgical music at St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, IN.
Sister Rose Marie taught in schools of the Syracuse and Albany Dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese, Blessed Sacrament School, Syracuse; Sacred Heart School, Utica; and St. John the Baptist School, Syracuse, where she was principal. In addition, she was director of religious education at St. Ann’s Church, Manlius; and pastoral associate for music at St. Catherine’s Church, Binghamton; St. Bartholomew’s Church, Norwich; and in her present position in Norwich.
Sister Rose Marie describes her journey as a Sister of St. Joseph: “The Sparkhill (NY) Dominican Sisters, who taught me in my grammar school years, initially planted the seeds of my vocation in the little city of Norwich, NY. I made the acquaintance of the Sisters of St. Joseph in my high school years when the CSJs taught our Faith Formation classes. Sister Mary Bartholomew Biviano, also from Norwich NY, had entered our community two years prior to me. Rev. Fred Mannara, associate at that time at St. Bartholomew’s Church, used to take the high school students on bus tours to the Albany Capital, and en route we would visit Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Glenmont and St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham. On the visits to Latham, I became convinced that Christ was calling me to our beautiful community of the great love of God.
“Over the years, I have had the wonderful support of family, friends and parishioners where I have ministered. During that time God has called home my dear parents, Joe and Rita, and several of my close community friends: Sister Ann Pierre Moore, Sister Linda Jean Dowling and Sister Margaret George Gruninger. Sister Margaret from the Syracuse Diocese was widely known and honored by the diocese many times for her deep faith and educational skills.
“It is hard to fathom that 50 years have gone by in my religious life. There is so much to be grateful for, and I have been fortunate that music has been a constant companion over the years. The gift of music has expanded from my initial years at Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse, teaching classroom music to over 600 students in the late 1970s, and continuing over time to use those music abilities while serving as director of Faith Formation Ministry in Manlius and in my current ministry as music director at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Liverpool. How blessed to be able to minister to the People of God with the skills that I love: singing, playing piano and organ, and directing adult and children’s choirs!
“To a woman discerning a call to religious life, I would recommend that she first choose a spiritual director to help guide her in her discernment. I would suggest she use the wonderful technology we have today and search the background of different communities. Our community website of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Albany Province and the community of the Franciscan Sisters in Syracuse, for example, offer wonderful, welcoming information that would help a candidate discern her compatibility and help match her ideas and expectations of religious life. Lastly, listen to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit and follow your heart. I am glad I did!”
Sister Elizabeth Giarrusso, CSJ
Sister Elizabeth Giarrusso, CSJ, is celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. A native of Syracuse, she currently lives in Utica where she has been services coordinator for Eannace Funeral Home since 2008.
Sister Elizabeth graduated from St. Anthony of Padua High School in Syracuse, entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on August 13, 1968 and professed final vows on August 11, 1973. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY at Albany and master of social work degree from Fordham University.
Sister Elizabeth started her ministry in religious life as a teacher of English at St. Anthony’s and Bishop Grimes High Schools, both in Syracuse, and as a youth minister in the Albany Diocese. Her career in social work began as a community service worker with CONCERNS-U, a program committed to helping people in Southern and Rural Rensselaer County. In addition, Sister Elizabeth was a regional director for the Sisters of St. Joseph. For the past 24 years, she has served in the Utica area in parish ministry at St. Francis de Sales and St. Mary/Blessed Sacrament Churches, pastoral director at the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center and in her present position at Eannace Funeral Home.
Of her years in religious life, Sister Elizabeth says: “This 50th Jubilee has been a time to pause, reflect and celebrate the gift of life, especially as I have been undergoing unexpected chemotherapy.
“It has been a year of gratitude, ‘re-membering’ the blessings of creation, my journey’s colorful companions, beloved CSJ Community, cherished friends, precious family and Loving God.
“My guides for life’s adventures are:
• A preferential option for the poor is not an option but an obligation.
• ‘Be careful how you live. You may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads’ (William Toms).”
Sister Frances Kowalski, OSF
Sister Frances Kowalski celebrates 50 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Born and raised in Syracuse, Sister Frances was a student of the sisters at Assumption Catholic Academy. “The moment I entered and put my eyes on the sisters, I knew I was being called by God to join with them,” she said. Her parents supported their only child when she joined religious life in 1967; she professed her final vows in 1975.
After spending years as a teacher, Sister Frances trained to be a manager of HUD housing for senior adults. Working with the elderly, she says, was her favorite ministry.
Sister Frances recently completed a term as regional minister for the sisters in Central New York. She resides at Franciscan Villa, where she continues to support her sisters. “My greatest blessing is my sisters and being able to share their life journeys. I pray my God will help me to be an instrument of peace and joy to each of them,” she said.
Father Peter Major, MHM
Missionaries are everywhere, not just overseas, Father Major says.
The 79-year-old priest figures that these days, he is the missionary on North Townsend Street. “Don’t get excited; I’m not setting the world on fire,” he said.
Many would say that he has done exactly that, though. A member of the Mill Hill Missionaries, he worked in Borneo, Kenya, and Sudan. He roughed it, lived in the rainforest (black suit and collar not mandatory), ate from common bowls, slept on a woven mat, ate with rebels who held him captive, and said Mass for prisoners. His birthday, Feb. 7, is one day after that of Babe Ruth, and although not a Ruthian slugger in actuality, he considers himself a utility infielder: “For me, at my age, I find my mission in the cracks.”
He added: “I appreciate more and more these diocesan priests, the work they do.” He lives at the Church of Our Lady of Pompei-St. Peter in Syracuse, and he gravitates to helping people of any ethnicity, including people from Nepal, Sudan, Congo, Syria, and Vietnam. On the day that he spoke to the Sun, he presided at morning Mass at St. Joseph Church in Camillus. Then he was headed to spend 35 minutes or so with young people with addictions (he goes with a colleague because his hearing is diminished), and then possibly to the jail to visit a couple of Sudanese friends. The next day, it would be St. Charles−St. Ann Church; and then the day after that, St. John the Baptist/Holy Trinity. He also visits senior citizens at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing. And on Friday afternoons, he’s off to the Auburn state prison to say the rosary with the inmates.
Father Major grew up in Skaneateles. As a boy, he accompanied his father to the cemetery to visit his grandmother’s grave and pray in silence. “Silence is the time we connect up with the big picture” of what life is all about, he said. In his youth he heard a strange voice, and the voice would say: “Not here, not Skaneateles; out there in the deep water.” That voice was the beginning of his call to be a missionary. “Even now in my old age,” he said, “I sometimes hear that voice.”
He left America in 1964 to attend the Mill Hill Missionaries’ seminary in London. He figured that he already was a missionary because he was in a different culture with people from different countries. “I thought it was good for me,” he said.
From there, he went to Borneo for 10 years. After that, for the next 31 years, he was a missionary in Africa, mainly in Sudan.
In a recent homily at St. Agatha’s in Canastota, Father Major told the people: “Remember, when you walk out the church door you are entering missionary country. You and I have the same mission as Jesus Christ — to be good news to the poor. That’s it.”
Sister Susan Reschke, CSJ, is celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Born in Syracuse, she currently lives in Windsor and is a massage therapist at Spirit-Centered Body Work in Johnson City.
After graduating from St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse, Sister Susan entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on August 13, 1968 and professed final vows on August 11, 1973. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY at Albany, a master of fine arts degree in art/synaesthetic education from Syracuse University and preparation to become a licensed massage therapist from the Finger Lakes School of Massage in Ithaca.
Sister Susan has spent nearly 43 of her 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph in the Southern Tier as art coordinator and art instructor for the Broome County Catholic Schools, as administrative assistant to the principal at Seton Catholic Central High School, as a member of the staff at The Spiritual Center in Windsor, and as a massage therapist.
Sister Susan reflects on her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of Joseph as a time of blessing and enrichment: “For the last 50 years, it has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of God, primarily in the Southern Tier of the Syracuse Diocese as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet: in the Catholic Schools, as a staff member of The Spiritual Center in Windsor and as a licensed massage therapist.
“It is with a joyful heart that I begin my spiritual adventure of the next 50 years!”
Sister Sheila Trapp, OSF
Sister Sheila celebrates her 50th year as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. She was born in Utica and resides there today. She attended public schools and received her religious education at her parish, St. Peter, and at St. Paul in Utica. Sister entered the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, New York in 1967. After attending Maria Regina College, Sister’s first ministry was teaching first grade at St. Mary in Baldwinsville. Sister also taught at St. Therese in Syracuse before entering St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Utica.
Sister Sheila always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her great aunt Sister Perpetua, whom she considered a great lady, and who wanted to minister in Hawaii, but never did. Sister Sheila lived out her aunt’s dream by going to Hawaii, where she continued her studies at Catholic University and received a BSN in Nursing.
After her years in Hawaii, Sister Sheila returned to St. Elizabeth Hospital and then to Florida where she was a Hospice Nurse and a Clinical Nursing Instructor.
Special thanks to Sister Rosemary Bucchi, OSF, and Rochelle Cassella for providing profiles and photos of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and to Sister Mary Rose Noonan, CSJ, for providing profiles and photos of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.