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 Mary Harold Braungart, OSF
Sister Mary Harold, who holds an M.S. degree from the University of Hawaii, is a volunteer at Nunbetter Chocolates at the Franciscan Villa.
She is a former teacher in New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii; and a former principal in Hawaii and California.
Sister Irene Zegarelli, OSF
Sister Irene, who holds an M.S. degree from St. Joseph’s College, serves in Pastoral Care at the Franciscan Villa.
Formerly, she was the director of pastoral ministry at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Utica; director of religious education at St. Joseph–St. Patrick Parish, Utica; and a teacher in New Jersey and New York.
Sister Stella Maris Zuccolillo, OSF
Sister Stella Maris, who holds an M.S. degree from Syracuse University, is a Franciscan presence at the Franciscan Villa.
Formerly, she was a teacher and vice principal in CNY, a parish minister at Assumption Parish, and a patient advocate at St. Joseph Hospital Health Center.
Sister Jean Barrett, OSF
Sister Jean holds an M.S. degree from St. Joseph’s College, in West Hartford, Conn. She serves as a Franciscan presence at the Franciscan Villa.
She formerly was a teacher in New Jersey, New York, and Florida and a pastoral associate in Delaware and Florida.
Sister Maureen D’Onofrio, CSJ (Sister Mary Eileen)
Sister Maureen is a native of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Syracuse and a graduate of Cathedral Academy.
Asked what she considers her greatest blessing in ministry, she wrote: “Serving the people of God through all my various ministries — all such a privilege!”
Sister Maureen entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1959, and professed final vows on Aug. 6, 1966. 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; in addition, she pursued postgraduate studies in theology from Regis College in Toronto.
During her six decades as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Maureen was a teacher (in the Syracuse Diocese at St. Patrick’s School, Binghamton, and St. Anthony’s School, Syracuse); a director of religious education at St. Anthony’s Parish, Endicott, and Blessed Sacrament Parish, Syracuse; an assistant director of the Henninger-Fowler Faith Community; a pastoral associate at St. Ann’s Parish and Cathedral Parish, both in Syracuse, and at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Skaneateles; and served in Syracuse diocesan offices as director of evangelization, director of the office for Renew, and director of the Ruth Ministry. Sister Maureen is presently serving in adult faith formation at All Saints Parish in Syracuse.
Sister Maureen marvels at the life-giving aspects of religious life: “As I ponder on my 60-year journey as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, my heart is filled with gratitude for my parents and the community for one precious wild ride! The seeds of my vocation were well planted by my parents who had the faith to move mountains and by my grade school teachers (Sisters of St. Joseph) and high school teachers (Daughters of Charity) who were faith-filled women of integrity and joy. Life is attracted to life and these women in my life were ‘life-givers,’ not just by their words but also by their actions.
“After years of ministry in schools, parishes, and diocesan offices, I have been touched deeply by the many experiences that have been afforded to me by my community and ministries. Through the years, I have been enriched in my spiritual life by annual retreats, sabbatical opportunities, workshops, and travel, especially to our foundation in France.
“What gives meaning to my life is the shared vision and wisdom of living with other Sisters, praying together, supporting one another, and calling forth each other’s gifts. Today I share with you about women religious who use the freedom of community to bring ethical issues into focus in a world where profit is law and success the common ethical measure. One of the quotes that truly sums up for me my role as a woman religious is this: ‘We are called to join with others in forming a contemporary circle of zeal for gathering all of us well-intentioned, comfortable Christians to meet the poor of every kind, learn their names, and be Church together.’
“No challenge over these last 60 years has been too great for me, having been inspired by the words in our Rule written by our Jesuit founder, Father Jean Pierre Médaille, in mid-17th Century France: ‘They will undertake all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which women are capable, always for the benefit of the dear neighbor from whom they do not separate themselves.’”
When she is not praying or engaged in ministry, she enjoys hiking, traveling, exercising, and reading TIME and America magazines.
Sister Judith Ann Falk, OSF
Sister Judith Ann, who holds an M.S. degree (Syracuse University) and an A.D. (Maria Regina College), currently is a Franciscan presence at the Franciscan Villa.
She is a former licensed clinical social worker at St. Vincent’s. She had a private psychotherapy practice in Syracuse, and she also was a teacher and counselor in New Jersey and CNY.
Sister Kathleen Heffron, CSJ (Sister Mary Dorothy)
Sister Kathleen is celebrating 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Raised in Schenectady, she was a member of St. Joseph’s Parish.
Sister Kathleen entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1959, and professed final vows on Aug. 6, 1966. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in psychology, both from The College of Saint Rose.
For the first 15 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Kathleen was a teacher and principal in schools in the Syracuse and Albany dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese: St. Lucy’s School, Syracuse; St. Paul’s School, Binghamton; and St. Patrick’s Middle School, Binghamton. She continued serving in the Southern Tier as a parish minister at St. Vincent de Paul’s, Vestal.
In 1987, Sister Kathleen began serving the rural area of Cincinnatus with Sister Maureen Burns and Sister Genevieve Glennon as the three Sisters established Cortland-Chenango Rural Services. Since 2016, Sister Kathleen has continued to serve in her retirement years by beginning the New Ministries Program, also centered in Cincinnatus. New Ministries hosts a hospitality center that offers exercise opportunities, recreational and socialization activities, educational programs, and support services for people in the rural area.
Asked about her greatest blessing in her ministry in the Syracuse Diocese, she wrote: “The opportunity to work in the rural area and give witness to our ‘living with the poor’ and learning from them.”
Sister Kathleen reflects on the mystery of the gift of vocation. “I believe a vocation may be something to which one awakens rather than something one chooses ‘to be.’ As I look back as a 60-year Jubilarian, I realize ever more deeply that the influence of the faith and service living in our parents, teachers, friends, and family members has been a constant source of God’s presence to me. It is much like a seed growing; one is unaware of the mystery and actuality of a vocational call until that call becomes real and requires a response! My own seed erupted in a high school English class when I heard the words of The Hound of Heaven, a beautiful poem by Francis Thompson!”
Sister Nadine Heizman, OSF
Sister Nadine, who earned an M.S. degree from SUNY Albany, currently is in Community Service at the Franciscan Villa.
A former teacher in New York and New Jersey and school psychologist in Syracuse schools, she has ministered in the Diocese of Syracuse for 29 years.
Commenting on her greatest blessing in the diocese, she wrote:
“There are so many blessings while working together in a parish family! I think one of my greatest blessings as a teacher, and later as a school psychologist, has been while reaching out to children, or others, with special needs in order to help them feel some success in their lives, as well as acceptance and the love of others.”
She likes reading and “spending time outside appreciating nature while walking or just relaxing; getting together with friends for lunch or just to relax together.”
Sister Ferdinand Hudak, OSF
Sister Ferdinand, who holds a B.A. degree from Le Moyne College, is a Franciscan presence at the Franciscan Villa.
Formerly, she was the registrar at Maria Regina College and the secretary for the Sisters of St. Francis’ Development Office in Syracuse.
Sister Pierre Knecht, OSF
Sister Pierre has an M.S. degree from Rowan University in New Jersey. A former teacher and office assistant in Central New York and New Jersey, she is currently the Hospitality Coordinator at the Franciscan Villa.
Sister M. Antonia Legnetto, OSF
Sister Antonia has served in the Syracuse Diocese for 53 years.
Sister Antonia holds an M.S. degree from St. Bonaventure University. Her current ministry is CNY Regional Minister at the Franciscan Villa. A former teacher and principal in New York and California, she was also the Administrator of the Tommy Coyne Residence for Priests in Syracuse.
She humbly acknowledges “the love and respect of the children and their families in Catholic schools and religious education.”
When she is not engaged in prayer or her ministry, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, sewing, cooking, biking, and golfing.
Sister Elizabeth Lennon, MFIC
Sister Elizabeth was born at Derry Neil, Athlone, Co. Roscommon, Ireland.
She entered the Missionary Franciscan Sisters on Sept. 18, 1956, and made her novitiate in Bloomfield, Ireland. She was professed in 1959 and came to the United States in 1963. She made final profession on Aug. 6, 1964.
Sister Elizabeth ministered at her motherhouse in Rome, Italy. She has also ministered in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Roslindale, Mass.; Statesboro, Ga.; Augusta, Ga.; Tenafly, N.J.; Binghamton, and Syracuse. Sister Elizabeth has ministered in the Syracuse Diocese for over 31 years.
She finds her joy working among the people of God, she said.
Throughout her years of service, she has engaged in educational, catechetical, and health ministries. She has also ministered to the needy of Syracuse’s north side at the food pantry.
Sister Elizabeth’s greatest service has been to the sick and homebound. At present she is Parish Minister at Our Lady of Pompei/ St. Peter. During the day Sister Elizabeth visits nursing homes, hospitals, and the homebound, and she attends as many wakes and funerals of the people from the two parishes as she is able.
She brings the Eucharist to adult facilities, and she checks up on the elderly when they are very sick, especially those who do not have any family in the area. Many of the sick or elderly call her when they need help.
She also helps with bereavement as needed and is the Spiritual Advisor of St. Theresa’s Society.
Sister Elizabeth is a member of the Senior Choir and sings at the 11 a.m. Mass on Sundays. This is her third time at Our Lady of Pompei so she is a familiar face to many.
Sister Ellen Judith Lindsley, CSJ (Sister Ellen Donald)
Sister Ellen was born and raised in Syracuse where she was a member of St. Lucy’s Parish and a graduate of St. Lucy’s Academy.
Sister Ellen wrote: “My greatest blessing has been and continues to be all God’s people in our diocese. They have shown themselves to be grace-filled people who have blessed my ministry.”
Sister Ellen entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1959, and professed final vows on Aug. 6, 1966. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany and a master’s degree in library science from SUNY Albany.
Sister Ellen began her ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph in schools in the Syracuse and Albany dioceses, including in the Syracuse Diocese: St. Anthony’s School, Endicott, and St. John the Baptist School and the Franciscan Academy, both in Syracuse. In addition, she served as librarian at both Maria Regina College in Syracuse and The College of Saint Rose; and as librarian and media specialist for the Baldwinsville School District. In 2005, Sister Ellen began her service in parish ministry at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Warners; later, she served in the same role at St. Joseph’s Church, Camillus, where she presently serves as a volunteer.
Sister Ellen speaks of the overwhelming sense of gratitude that flows from her 60th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph: “This jubilee is a celebration of gratitude and thanksgiving. Being a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet for 60 years has been a gift for me. I thank God every day for the Sisters who mentored and inspired me, and I especially thank God every day for the call to become a Sister of Saint Joseph!
“Meister Eckhart said: ‘If the only prayer we ever say is thanks, it is enough.’ My daily prayer is Thanks!”
Sister Joan M. Ottman, IHM
Sister Joan is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
She grew up in Oneida, where she attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School and Oneida High School.
She spent 14 years at St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton and 15 at the Bishop’s Academy at Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse. She currently is the librarian at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse.
“I have been blessed by the wonderful people and priests I have met and worked with in the diocese,” Sister Joan wrote.
She has taught at schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and in Port Washington on Long Island. She also served for three years at the IHM Art Studio in Scranton, Pa., where she created greeting cards for her congregation.
When she is not engaged in prayer or her ministry, she enjoys reading, making greeting cards, going to baseball games, and visiting places of interest around the area.
Sister Vivian Secor, OSF
Sister Vivian has a B.A. degree from the State University at Oswego. Currently Prayer Minister at the Franciscan Villa, she is a former teacher in New York, California, and New Jersey; she also worked in health-information management at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center.
Sister Nicolette Vennaro, OSF
Sister Nicolette, who holds an M.S. degree from Scranton University, currently is a teacher at Blessed Sacrament School, Syracuse. She formerly taught in New York and New Jersey.
Sister Nicolette’s honors include: Walmart Teacher of the Year; Ames Teacher of the Year, Syracuse Diocese; St. John Baptist De La Salle Award; Nominated for Walt Disney Teacher of the Year.
Sister Anna Mae Collins, CSJ
Sister Anna Mae is a native of St. Patrick’s Parish, Syracuse, and is a graduate of St. Patrick’s High School.
Sister Anna Mae entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on June 28, 1969, and professed final vows on Aug. 28, 1977.
She received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from SUNY Albany and a master’s degree in education from Fordham University. Sister Anna Mae has ministered in the field of education in teaching and administration for nearly five decades. She has served in the Syracuse Diocese as teacher at St. James School, Johnson City, and St. Mary’s School, Clinton; as administrator at St. John the Evangelist School, New Hartford, and Notre Dame Junior High School, Utica; and as associate principal and principal at Notre Dame High School, Utica.
In addition, Sister Anna Mae was a member of the Leadership Team of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Presently, she is coordinator of tuition assistance, state testing, and student-progress reporting at Notre Dame High School, Utica.
Sister Anna Mae expresses the thankfulness that has accompanied her call to religious life. “As I celebrate my 50th Jubilee, my heart is full of gratitude. Being a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet has blessed my life in a myriad of ways. I am grateful for the experiences of living in community, the interactions with the Sisters, and the joy of sharing ministry with so many wonderful people. All of this has helped me become the person I am today.
“I know that if I had not responded to God’s call to the religious life, I would have spent my career in education but how much different it has been sharing ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph! My experiences of community and ministry have allowed me to develop a deep faith and to grow in my relationship with God. Sharing these experiences with our Sisters and many adults and students has truly blessed my life.
“Each day I pray in gratitude to God and the Sisters of St. Joseph for the gift of my vocation.”
Sister Kathleen Osbelt, OSF
Sister Kathleen has served in the Diocese of Syracuse for 37 years.
Holder of an M.S. degree from Boston College, she currently serves as the Mission Outreach Director at Francis House, educating about end-of-life issues and assisting others who want to open similar homes for those who are terminally ill. (Francis House is a home for those who are terminally ill where each person is surrounded by the unconditional love of God.) Sister Kathleen is also on the staff of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs Education, Milwaukee, Wis., leading a group once a year.
Asked what she considers her greatest blessing in her ministry, she wrote:
“Being able to welcome guests to Francis House, expanding our experience of ‘community,’ and breaking open the Word with others at All Saints Parish.”
Sister Kathleen is a former teacher in New Jersey, Founder and Executive Director of Francis House, Director of Franciscan Sponsorship, and Director of Mission Integration for Partners in Franciscan Ministries. PFM is the parent company over the sponsored corporations of the Sisters of St Francis. Sister Kathleen’s job was to help start the company and to make sure the Franciscan values were incorporated into each ministry. She has also served in various other parish and health-care ministries.
She has earned these honors because of the work she and many others have accomplished at Francis House: Syracuse Post-Standard Woman of Achievement, 1994; Catholic Charities Bishop’s Medallion, 1998; Le Moyne College Doctorate of Humane Letters, 2001; Northside Walkway of Fame, 2005.
When she is not engaged in prayer or her ministry, Sister Kathleen enjoys taking long walks, biking, reading, and playing cards.
Sister Maria Grace Quartiero, IHM
Sister Maria Grace has served in the Syracuse Diocese for 38 years.
She currently is a Medical Technologist for the Laboratory Alliance of Central New York.
Asked about her greatest blessing in her ministry, she wrote: “Meeting and working with so many wonderful people in the Syracuse area. The friendships I have made I consider to be my greatest blessing.”
When she is not engaged in prayer or her ministry, she enjoys reading, listening to music, and baseball, “especially the Yankees!”
Sister Carolyn Chmielewski, CSJ
A native of Parish in Oswego County, she was a member of St. Ann’s.
After graduating from Altmar-Parish-Williamstown High School, Sister Carolyn received a business diploma from Central City Business Institute and worked for several years in the business field at New York Telephone Company, Goss Piano & Organ Company, and Upstate Medical Center.
On Sept. 5, 1979, Sister Carolyn entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph; she professed final vows on July 19, 1986. She has pursued further studies at Maria Regina College and The College of Saint Rose and has participated in the clinical-pastoral education program at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mass.; also, she has received CEU hours at the Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center.
As a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Carolyn has served in secretarial/administrative-assistant positions at The College of Saint Rose, Albany; St. Francis de Sales School, Utica; Rome Catholic Junior High School; and the Personal Resource Center, Syracuse. For 27 years, Sister Carolyn was a pastoral associate at St. James Parish, Syracuse.
“Celebrating my 40th Jubilee as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet brings to me such happiness and joy! At our community celebration at St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham, I felt as if a rainbow of brilliant colors were shining over me and leading to a pot of gold — God’s love, joy, and trust in us to share with others,” Sister Carolyn reflects.
“I am deeply grateful to God for the call to become a Sister of St. Joseph, and I am thankful for my family, especially my parents, who were the first to nurture my faith and my love of God. Finally, I am thankful for all those people to whom and with whom I have ministered and who, in turn, ministered to me in ways they will never know. My faith in my loving God has grown over the years because of God’s grace and all the people who have touched my heart.
“For any individual who is considering a vocation to religious life, I would say, ‘If you hear God’s call and respond with a generous, open heart, you will never regret it! You just need to pray and listen, and God will put you where you need to be, tell you what you need to do, and give you endless love as you bless others in His Name!’”
Friar Gregory Spuhler, OFM Conv.
Friar Spuhler has served in the Syracuse Diocese for five months.
He joined the Conventual Franciscan Friars in 1991 at the age of 34. He was born at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, N.J., and grew up in Pennsauken, N.J.
In 1998, he made his solemn vows as a Conventual Franciscan and by profession he is a Brother. He has been an Outreach Director in Albany; St. Andrew’s in Apex, N.C.; St Julia’s in Siler City, N.C.; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Seaside Heights, N.J.; and currently at Assumption Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen.
He attended St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Mass., and later graduated from Catholic University, D.C. He has training as a hospital chaplain and is certified in heart centered Energy Therapy from Healing Touch Beyond Borders.
Asked what he considers his greatest blessing in his ministry, he wrote: “The enthusiasm of parishioners during worship and ministry.”
Special thanks for providing information for these profiles to Sister Mary Rose Noonan, CSJ; Sister Rose Bill, IHM; Susan Tooley, Executive Assistant, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities; and Mary Batuk, Senior Administrative Assistant, Diocese of Syracuse.