Sister Emiline Schneider reads from the Lectionary at Mass. Sister will celebrate her 99th birthday this year. (Sun photos by Chuck Wainwright)

COVID did not shut down this year’s celebrations of service 

By Kathryne Sparaco | Contributing writer

For the first time in three years, men and women religious, along with their families and friends, were able to come together to celebrate the Religious Jubilarians of the Diocese of Syracuse. A Mass celebrated by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, followed by a celebratory dinner, took place May 24 at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. Principal celebrants included Bishop-emeritus Robert J. Cunningham, Msgr. James Lang and Father Thomas Ryan. Additional celebrants included Msgr. Ronald Bill, Father Thomas Durant, Father Philip Hearn, Msgr. Richard Kopp and Father John Rose. 

 Because of COVID-19, a celebration had not been held since 2019. This celebration, therefore, honored not only the Jubilarians of 2022, but also 2021 and 2020. Forty-seven Jubilarians were recognized in all, with 33 of them attending the celebration on the 24th.  

Among them was Sister Rose Casaleno, CSJ, Director of the Newman House at Binghamton University, who celebrated her 25th jubilee in 2021. Despite some concerns over the recent rise in COVID cases, Sr. Casaleno made the trip to Syracuse, and was glad she did. “It was a great feeling to be with and celebrate with other Sisters,” she said.

Sr. Katie Eiffe, Vicar of Religious for the Diocese of Syracuse, planned the event and was overjoyed to be together again to celebrate with the many Jubilarians. “It is wonderful to be able to gather to celebrate the gift of religious life to the Church, and to honor those who responded to God’s call to discipleship as a vowed religious,” she said. “Their stories are so inspiring! Each one, in his or her own way, has witnessed to the total gift of self to God and to God’s people in following Jesus. They are a gift to the Church and to us.”

Jubilarians and guests share the Sign of Peace during Mass.

The celebration was also special for Bishop Lucia, as this marked his first Religious Jubilee celebration as Bishop, and also the first time, he joked, that he has written a homily for a Religious Jubilee. In his homily, Bishop Lucia spoke of how God has a plan for each of us and through the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit, we must share in the life of God and share our giftedness with others. 

“Without God we are literally nothing; but as recipients of God’s gifts, we do not have ideas that are large enough to contain what we are and what we shall be,” he said. “Our entire lives must be a continual manifestation of the praise and adoration of our hearts; with Christ our brother, we must become a living sacrifice of Thanksgiving to the Father.”

Sr. Casaleno thought it was a joyful gathering, and especially enjoyed the music by Salt City New Horizons Symphony. 

“The music was out of this world and made the celebration truly joyous. I think everyone enjoyed being together to celebrate many years of religious life,” she shared. “You could sense the appreciation of the Bishop.”

 At the end of his homily, Bishop Lucia offered his gratitude to the many religious who have dedicated their lives to God. “The Church of Syracuse and I thank you for your dedicated service to the Gospel and allowing Christ to work within you and through you. We pray also for more courageous witnesses willing to lay down their lives in the name of Jesus so that His Good News may be known not so much through lip service as with life service.”

Editor’s note: More profiles of the jubilarians will be featured in coming issues of The Catholic Sun and on our website,

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