CONVENT STATION Every religious sister has a story and throughout the diocese, neighbors, friends and the faithful were invited to witness firsthand where these religious write some of their life stories at the places they live in — their motherhouses.
Four religious orders in the diocese hosted open houses Feb. 8 as part of the special celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life designated by Pope Francis. The motherhouses that welcomed visitors were the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, the Filippini Sisters in Morristown, Sisters of Christian Charity in Mendham and the Franciscan Sisters in Parsippany. These open houses were among many held nationwide. They were encouraged by the USCCB and all three national conferences of major superiors.
Visitors had a unique opportunity to walk through the halls of the motherhouses, speak with sisters one-on-one, see presentations about the various ministries these religious orders are involved in and learn about their history.
At the motherhouse of Sisters of Charity, the open house was an open campus day for the Sisters of Charity and the two educational institutes sponsored by the order - the Academy of St. Elizabeth, its all girls’ high school. and the College of St. Elizabeth.
During a prayer service to open the event, Sister of Charity Rosemary Moynihan, general superior, said, “Pope Francis asked the vowed religious to wake up the world with hope. For the Sisters of Charity our mission has always been very simple: to make God’s love known to the world. It is a thrill to be able to share with the people our work and our mission.”
At the open house for the Sisters of Charity were Heather and Matthew Porcelli, who were married at the chapel there. For the young couple, parishioners of Resurrection Parish in Randolph, the visit was a homecoming for them.
Heather Porcelli, who was graduated from the College of St. Elizabeth, said, “The sisters are always so welcoming. It’s like you never left here. Coming here, it reminds people of the sisters’ mission to serve the world.”
The Filippini Sisters also welcomed visitors to its Morristown motherhouse, Villa Walsh. While the sisters were hoping for more visitors, Filippini Sister Ascenza Tizzano, provincial superior, said, “There was a good spirit among the sisters even though we felt a little disappointed more people didn’t come see us. During the open house, the sisters held a vespers service to mark the end of the event.”
At Mallinckrodt Convent, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Christian Charity in Mendham, the sisters welcomed visitors, some of whom came quite a distance to visit. “We had many first time visitors, who wanted to know what it was like inside the convent,” said Sister Mary Joseph Schultz.
During the Sisters of Christian Charity open house, the sisters welcomed their newest Companion of Pauline, Jane McKenna, who made a commitment to live in the same spirituality of the sisters.
The Franciscan Sisters hosted an open house in Parsippany near their St. Elizabeth Montesorri School. In addition to the neighboring school, the sisters serve at many parishes and religious education programs.
Franciscan Sister Cathy Lynn Cummings, principal of St. Elizabeth School, said, “We were happy to have visitors. We welcomed them with open arms.”
The orders are thinking about possibly doing the open houses again during the warmer months hoping to get more visitors. Two other events related to the Year of Consecrated Life will be held in the summer and the fall, which include a day of service and a day of prayer.
Next Sunday, the diocesan celebration for World Day of Consecrated Life will be held at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Clifton at 2 p.m. with a daytime prayer service.
Sister of Charity Ellen Dawer, who coordinated the open house at Convent Station, said, “This was a wonderful opportunity for us to work together on our campus here and for the people to see our various ministries at our motherhouse.