CONVENT STATION Seventy-four sisters, brothers and priests serving in the Paterson Diocese, who are celebrating significant anniversaries in religious life this year, were honored by the Paterson Diocese May 16 for bringing love and hope to all in their vocations. Their fidelity and commitment to consecrated life was celebrated at a Mass in St. Mary Church here at which Bishop Serratelli was the principal celebrant and homilist. Several priests from the diocese and beyond concelebrated the Mass.
The jubilarians who attended the Mass were marking anniversaries of 80, 75, 70, 65, 60, 50, 40 and 25 years in religious life.
In welcoming the jubilarians and the congregation, the bishop said, “Today, we gather with great joy and gratitude to almighty God for the gift of religious life, for the gift of your life to the Church. God is good and kind for raising up so many religious.”
The Mass was a joyful celebration with music provided by Sisters of Christian Charity with Salesian Sister Margaret Wilhelm as cantor. The choir was led by Sister of Christian Charity Mary Edward Sphorer, chancellor/delegate for religious, whose office coordinated the Mass.
In his homily, the bishop told the jubilarians: “Whether in teaching, parochial ministry, caring for the sick, the elderly or working for the poor, as consecrated religious — more than the good you do — you, yourselves are God’s gift to us, you, yourselves are the abundant fruit of God’s generous love for each of us. And for this, we give thanks.”
During the Mass, the jubilarians made a renewal of their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience before the bishop. They also recommitted themselves to serve the Church, asking for prayers and support from the congregation.
Following Holy Communion, Sister Mary Edward announced the names of each of the jubilarians in attendance. They came forward one-by-one to receive a certificate and a gift from the bishop in honor of their anniversary in religious life.
After the Mass, the jubilarians enjoyed a reception in St. Mary’s parish hall.
In attendance at the Mass and celebrating 75 years in religious life was Filippini Sister Angelica Cristiani, who at 91, was one of the oldest sisters in attendance. She made her first vows on June 16, 1940 and has served in grammar schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. “I feel great today,” she said. “I thank God so much for the continued energy, the courage all these years and simply for everything he has done in my life.”
Today, she serves at the Villa Walsh, the motherhouse of the Filippini sisters in Morristown doing laundry and baking cookies for the sisters there.
Also in attendance at the Mass was golden jubilarian, Sister of Christian Charity Marlene Weitzel, who entered her order on September 6, 1965. Educated from first grade to 12th grade by the Sisters of Christian Charity, Sister Marlene said, “The sisters inspired me to follow my vocation. Their cheerfulness, the way they are happy in their work and for being good teachers truly inspired me.”
For 25 years, she has served in the Paterson Diocese at Holy Family School in Florham Park, St. Michael School in Netcong and St. Cecilia School in Rockaway. Sister Marlene thinks her jubilee was especially timely as Pope Francis has dedicated this year to consecrated life. “This is a very hopeful time. I’m happy to be part of the Lord’s ministry.”
Salesian Sister Carmen Morales, celebrates 60 years as a Salesian this year. Her anniversary will be on Aug. 5. “I feel wonderful today. It’s very emotional,” she told The Beacon.
For most of her ministry, Sister Carmen taught religion in schools throughout the country. In the Paterson Diocese, she has served at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon and at the former St. Anthony School in Paterson. Today, she serves at the Sacred Heart Center in Newton assisting the Salesian novices.
“God has been with me through this whole journey guiding me along with the Blessed Mother. I am so grateful for this life,” she said.