Dear Neighbor Fall 2016

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Published by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pennsylvania

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


fall 2016

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C ✛ leadership team letter

crossing boundaries, building relationships

About the cover

Leadership Team members, from left, are Sisters Sharon Costello, Barbara Czyrnik, Diane Cauley and Mary Pellegrino.

Pope Francis greets Sister Mary Pellegrino

Dear Neighbor,

during a Vatican

It has been a long, hot and violent summer. Each day wherever we look or listen – on television, radio, the internet, on social media and sometimes on our own streets, in our families and among our friends – we are inundated with stories,

visit on April 15. Read Sister Mary’s reflection on Page 12. Cover photo by L’Osservatore Romano

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sounds, images and memes of the worst that human beings can do to one another. At our worst, we either contribute to, or gleefully champion, the latest news cycle that demonizes people who look, sound, think or live differently than we do. At our best we are sickened by what we experience and wonder: “When will it end? How will it end?” Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


As overwhelming as it seems, we know that nothing will change outside of us until something changes inside of us. On July 10, 2016, on Highway 75 in Northeast Dallas something changed inside two groups of opposing protestors. After an hour of hurling insults and exchanging angry words with one another, leaders from the opposing sides stood in the middle of the highway in the hot summer sun respectfully representing their positions, listening to the other and genuinely seeking common ground. They found that they shared a desire for peace and to be respected, and an understanding that when one group of people is demonized and diminished, all people are demonized and diminished. Both groups came together peacefully, amplifying each of their messages. “Today,” said the leader of one of the groups, “we’re going to show the rest of the country how we came together. We’re going to leave our mark on history today.” What changed? They crossed a boundary and built a relationship. Crossing boundaries and building relationships. That’s what you’ll find in these pages of the Dear Neighbor. You’ll read of our Associates in Indiana, PA, reaching out in hospitality to their Muslim neighbors. You’ll learn of Sr. Barbara Finch’s untiring work on behalf of inter-religious relations and the honor she recently received from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. You’ll read of Sr. Lynn Miller crossing international boundaries to visit Haiti where Sisters of St. Joseph are helping to rebuild the country following the 2010 earthquake by investing in the education of girls. You’ll meet our Jubilarians whose lives are given wholeheartedly to love and serve our dear neighbors without distinction across all boundaries. You’ll meet our new Associates, and you’ll learn about Ignatian Spirituality that forms our hearts and minds to recognize God in all things. And for the weeks leading to our country’s presidential election we share with you a Prayer at Election Time (Page 13) and invite you to join with us in prayer that we may help to bring about God’s plan for the fullness of life for all, especially for those who are most vulnerable. It’s our hope that the stories and images in these pages inspire you to cross the boundaries of division in your own lives, build new relationships and leave your mark on history.

Inside this Issue An Interfaith Gathering


Humanity Award


Reflections on Haiti


Congratulations, Sisters!


A Visit with the Pope


Prayer at Election Time


Ignatian Spirituality


Honoring our Jubilarians


Welcome, Associates!


In Loving Memory


Our Christmas Song


From Development


Barbara Hecht – Editor Phone: 724-869-6566 Email: Dear Neighbor Contributors Barbara Hecht Director of Communications Alison Lucci Marketing Communications Specialist Sister Karen Stoila, CSJ Director of Development Sister Gerrie Grandpre, CSJ Staff Photographer Sister Ruth Bearer, CSJ Editorial Assistant Sister Norma Bandi, CSJ Sister Mary Susan Connell, CSJ Proofreaders Barb Sterchele, Omega Design Group Design/Layout Permission must be granted for reprinting articles that appear in the magazine.

Connect with us!

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


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F ✛ interfaith

finding common ground Associates welcome Muslim women to dialogue

Associates in Indiana meet regularly for prayer and faith-sharing. From left are Mary Kay, Carol, Joan, Patricia, Lura and Eleanor.

When six Associates from Indiana, PA, gathered for their weekly faith-sharing meeting in March, they welcomed four guests from the community. Joining them in conversations about faith, children, culture, and peace were four Muslim women affiliated with the local mosque. They were from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Egypt. “It was a beautiful experience,” recalls Associate Carol Ferrence. page 4

“Since we were all open to the possibilities of friendship and understanding, they happened with ease. The women impressed me with the depth of their faith . . . the Spirit was surely in our midst.” Associate Joan Freda was the hostess for the get-together. In addition to Joan and Carol, Associates Pat Aleci, Eleanor Stelma, Mary Kay Kennedy, and Lura Vereb also attended the interfaith gathering. Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


“As we explained our beliefs to one another, we realized that our religions have much in common . . . The Christian call to love one’s neighbor as one self has a similar teaching in Islam,” Joan says. She also noted that Islam’s Pillars of Faith include prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which also align with Christianity. Pat agreed: “What struck me was how excited and surprised we all were about the similarities between our religions and beliefs . . . It seemed that they were as eager to share and ask questions as we were. They also expressed compassion and concern about how some people view Muslims.” The interfaith gathering was an unexpected outcome of an online letter that Joan had signed in December. The letter was posted on a website, affiliated with Auburn Seminary, called Groundswell, an online community of more than 200,000 people who believe faith can be a force for good in the world. The letter called on people of faith to stand with and show support for Muslim brothers and sisters as they face increasing sentiment of hate and intolerance in the country. After signing the letter, Joan received a follow-up email message asking if she would consider reading a letter of support to the members of the local mosque. Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Carol and Joan

After giving the invitation some thought and sharing this opportunity with the Associates, Joan says she felt compelled to take a faith stance in expressing a moral conviction and demonstrating the values she has learned from the Sisters of St. Joseph. Joan contacted Dr. Waleed Farag at the Islamic Center of Indiana for permission to read the letter to the congregation. In January, Joan donned a headscarf out of respect for the culture and drove four miles to the Islamic center. She was accompanied by two of her friends and was supported by the prayers of the Associates. To approximately 30 members of the Islamic center, Joan introduced herself as a neighbor in the community, an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and a member of St. Bernard parish. In closing the letter, Joan read:

“We know you as our

brothers and our sisters.

America is not America without you . . . We

love you, and we pledge

to show our love in every

corner of our lives. May we walk hand in hand

into a future where racism, hate, and violence are

relics of the past, where

differences are celebrated, and our children inherit our joy.”

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Socialize with the Sisters Beyond the Dear Neighbor, you can connect with us online in several ways. Visit our website at On the homepage, click on a social media icon and The letter was warmly received and a few Muslim women lingered for about an hour, talking with Joan and her friends. At the invitation of Dr. Vana Mahmoud, the wife of Dr. Farag, Joan and one of her friends returned to the center on the following Friday for a covered dish dinner. At this social, the seed was planted for continued dialogue. “The women were anxious about being out in the community and meeting other people,” Joan says. She shared her interactions with the Associates at a weekly prayer meeting and told them about the Muslim women’s desire to connect with other community residents. Expressing gratitude to Joan for bringing the Associates and Muslim women together, Eleanor says the two-hour conversation was pleasant, page 6

flowed easily and provided a casual forum for understanding each other’s beliefs, customs and concerns. “I was surprised to learn that the Muslim women dress much like us in the privacy of their own homes – and only covered in public,” Eleanor says. “They talked about their strict fast during high holy days and how they prepare a full meal to be eaten before sunrise and that even the children must fast.” They also bonded as women and as mothers. “I think we all related to each other as women and want the same things for our children and grandchildren - to be able to live in a peaceful world,” Eleanor says. “It was a very spiritual afternoon and we hope to do it again in the fall.”

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Islamic Center Honors Sister Barbara The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh honored Sister Barbara Finch at its annual Humanity Day dinner and awards ceremony on Sunday, June 12. Along with five non-profit organizations, Sister Barbara received an Honoree Award for her long-time commitment to working for justice, nonviolence and inclusion. Each year during the month of Ramadan, members of the Muslim community in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh celebrate the “breaking of their fast” by inviting the wider inter-faith community to observe their prayer, share an Iftar or Middle Eastern dinner tradition, and honor those who serve minorities and underserved populations. Sister Barbara is often at the public forefront of advocating for social justice and peace and working with interfaith organizations. Whether serving as a nurse in the Allegheny County Jail or rallying with others against the death penalty, she says, “Advocacy is my ministry. They are one and the same.” Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Sister Barbara has responded to the issues of our times not only through her ministries, but through her long list of memberships and board service in nonprofit organizations. They include Just Harvest, Greater Pittsburgh Interfaith Coalition, Call to Action, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Partners in Progress (Haiti), Black Political Empowerment Project, Association of Pittsburgh Priests, Pittsburgh Area Pax Christi, Haiti Solidarity, Thomas Merton Center and Coalition against Violence. “All peace and justice issues for me come under the banner of love,” she says. “Our mission as Sisters of St. Joseph is to bring about union and wholeness in all that we do. I live to have a healing presence wherever I may be.”

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E ✛ federation

educating young girls Sister Lynn fulfills longing to visit Haiti While preparing for a weeklong immersion trip to Haiti, Sister Lynn Miller packed a stack of drawing paper and dozens of newly sharpened colored pencils into her suitcase. She returned home with a collection of colorful flowers that were hand-drawn by the girls who are sponsored by the Canadian and U.S. Federations of the Sisters of St. Joseph through the program, Rebuilding Haiti through the Empowerment of Girls. Anticipating the language barrier in Haiti, Sister Lynn said “I felt that art would transcend the anticipated language barrier, and it would be a way that the girls could share something of themselves with the Federations.� Sister Lynn was part of a sevenperson delegation from the U.S. Federation who had an opportunity to not only meet the sponsored girls, but to also see firsthand how the commitment of Mission Haiti, Inc., is making a positive difference in the lives of the people.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Sister Lynn mingles with girls from Haiti.

In contrast to the exuberance of the sponsored girls at Annunciation School who danced and sang for the visitors, two haunting encounters have lingered with Sister Lynn. While visiting St. Rose de Lima School, she met Restavek teen-agers whose families are so poor that they are given or sold to strangers who “promise” to provide them with a better life. Instead, the children enter a life of “modern-day slavery.” “I felt like they were clothed in such a deep vulnerability,” Sister Lynn says. “Yet there they were, teen-agers possessing nothing but a desire to learn.” Another transformative experience for Sister Lynn occurred when she visited the babies at the Missionaries of Charity Health/Wellness Center. Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


“We held and fed the little ones who had been brought there because of the severity of their malnutrition. There were 25 cribs lined up next to each other in each room. We encountered sweet, helpless little children who were crying or lethargically laying there with their distended weakened bodies,” she recalls. Sister Lynn was drawn to one “precious beyond words” little boy, whom she cradled and fed. Recognizing that he was still hungry, she observed how the frail child exerted himself from the crib, leaned next to the adjoining crib, and eventually was fed the food that the other child was not able to consume. page 9

Help Educate Our Girls with Purchase of Notecards Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the U.S. and Canadian Federations of Sisters of St. Joseph made a commitment to help rebuild the country by educating girls, who are considered the most vulnerable of Haiti’s citizens. The Federations have pledged $325,000 by the year 2022. So far, a total of $169,743.91 has been raised. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden have pledged $25,000 to help educate 10 girls, certify six teachers and rebuild one school. Through the generosity of friends who have contributed to our annual “Lenten Journey to Haiti” projects, our Sisters have raised $23,412.86. You can help us reach our goal this year with the purchase of beautiful notecards made from the flower drawings, hand-made by our sponsored girls and brought back by Sister Lynn. Cards, sold in sets of four, can be purchased at or by calling 724-869-2151 ext. 6244.

“As I left, my prayer was that the problem-solving skills that I had just witnessed with my new friend would continue to develop throughout his life,” Sister Lynn says. “My dream for him is simply to live in a world that enables him to follow his heart’s desires that are grounded in justice, generosity, and love.” Sister Lynn’s natural inclination to meet the needs of vulnerable children is characteristic of her long-time ministry. For more than 20 years, she and Sister Sandy Kiefer have co-directed the Congregation’s foster care program for 85 children. In her gut and heart, Sister Lynn has always felt a longing to visit Haiti, and attributes this desire as one of God’s many gifts to her. “The encounters of the week continue to churn in my mind and grateful heart. It can be a challenge to be optimistic in the face of such oppression and injustice,” Sister Lynn says. “On the other hand, I know that what the Canadian and U.S. Federations of Sisters of St. Joseph have committed to, through Mission Haiti, is a clear sign of hope and the embodiment of the gratuitous and extravagant love of God.”

The set sells for $10.00 plus shipping. page 10

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Congratulations, Sisters! One of our sisters recently published a book and several others have been honored in new publications. Sister Christine Kresho, Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of Grace Church in Silver Spring, MD, has published a second book on spirituality called “Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.” In a description of the book, publisher, Visual Dynamics, writes: “Contrary to popular opinion, our second childhood can start at any time of our life. Sister Christine dispels the definition of old age as a time of mental frailty and foolish infatuations to a time of new delight and contentment. She explores Scripture’s call and its promise to grow into a time of new joy and a fuller life in God. She invites us to integrate the virtues of children into our adult way of life, invite maturing wisdom, and to become fully alive in a world in need of an everywhere, all embracing, unifying God.” The photography of Sister Gerrie Grandpre and poetry of Sister Sally Witt were selected for publication in the 2016 edition of The Loyalhanna Review, the literary journal of the Ligonier Valley Writers. The magazine features four of Sister Gerrie’s photographs including two full-page color ones, entitled “Welcome, Spring!” and “Heron Rookery” and Sister Sally’s poem, “Bus Stop.” Visit under News to view their work. Ligonier Valley Writers is a non-profit writers group in Southwestern Pennsylvania that encourages interest in the written word and the “continued perfecting of the art and craft of writing.” Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Sister Donna Marie Beck’s contributions to the world of music therapy are chronicled in “Making Music: The History of Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music.” The back cover of the book reads: “The Mary Pappert School of Music provides musical education that connects the broad spectrum of historical and current practices; and, in promoting the relationship between theory and practice, prepares professionals who will be the leaders in the musical culture of the 21st century.” Authors Dr. Joseph F. Rishel and Helen K. Rishel refer to Sister Donna Marie, Professor Emerita, as “a driving force” behind Duquesne’s Music Therapy major. Sister Grace Marie Herrle is honored that Father Richard Infante named a fictional character after her in his new book, “Last Priest Standing.” Sister Grace Marie received a copy of the book containing a handwritten note from Father Infante, saying, “I hope you enjoy reading the stories in my book. I’ve intended the collection to be a hopeful exploration of the priesthood, the sacraments and our Church. I think you’ll appreciate the name of the nun in the title story.” The fictional book features seven stories that touch on each Catholic sacrament. In the title story, “Sister Grace” cares for a dying Vietnamese priest who is a beloved teacher and friend. Sister Grace Marie ministered alongside Father Infante at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Scott Township. page 11

V ✛ reflections

visiting with Pope Francis Sister Mary recounts deeply personal moment

Sister Mary

Like many people I know I was glued to the television the afternoon of March 13, 2014, when the world was introduced to Pope Francis. I was deeply moved when, after what seemed to be an uncomfortably long silence and simple greeting, he bowed to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and indeed to the whole world, and asked for our prayers and blessing. I felt a surge of hope and significance as though my blessing could bestow grace and my prayers mattered.

we would have the opportunity to greet Pope Francis. As I listened to him speak of Jesus revealing the merciful face of God to Matthew and of our own need to give and receive mercy, I was struck by how desperately our world needs Pope Francis’ signature message of mercy.

I remembered those moments this past spring as I sat just feet from where Pope Francis stood greeting the throngs of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his General Audience. While I and the others with whom I was traveling knew that we had tickets to the audience, we had no idea until we arrived in the square that morning that our seats were next to the stage and that following the audience page 12

photo by L’Osservatore Romano

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


When the audience was over, I watched as Pope Francis took the hand of each person and spoke as though he or she were the only person in the world. As I stepped forward to greet him and we took one another’s hand, I was unprepared for how deeply personal the moment was despite being barely able to understand one another.

in his turn, gave an approving thumbs-up when he learned that I was a representative of Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Through an interpreter I thanked him for his visit and for his message to the United States, and thanked him, too, for his support of women religious. He,

And I do every day . . . . because my prayers matter.

And just that quickly it was over. I turned to leave, and still grasping my hand he pulled me back, pressed a boxed rosary into my palm, looked me straight in the eye, and said in perfect English, “Pray for me.”

(Sister Mary Pellegrino had had an opportunity to visit with

Prayer at Election Time

Pope Francis in April as presidentelect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). In August, she assumed the Presidency of LCWR, which has approximately 1,350 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, and who represent approximately 80 percent of the 49,000 Catholic sisters in the United States. The conference develops leadership, promotes collaboration within church and society, and serves as a voice for systemic change.)

Loving and gracious God, we remember that your plan for us is fullness of life lived with love, justice and mercy. Be with us and our whole nation this year as we work together in selecting political leaders at all levels of our society. Help us keep the common good before us. Strengthen our gifts of wisdom, courage and respect for the views of others. Deepen in us the willingness to act in solidarity with people who are economically poor and with women seeking fullness of life in society. Help us be persistent in testing political remedies against what they will do for people, to people, with people, and what they will mean for the health of our earth home. Help us to support one another in exercising our precious responsibilities as citizens in a representative democracy. After the elections, strengthen us to continue to work with our leaders, seeking an ever more just society that acts in harmony and interdependence with all creation. We ask this in the name of Jesus in union with Your Spirit. Amen Living God’s Justice: Reflections and Prayers by the Sisters of Mercy

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


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F ✛ prayer

finding God in all things Sisters expand Ignatian Spirituality programs

Sister Catherine, second from right, directs an Ignatian Spirituality program.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


M ar y

Mary Madden became curious about Ignatian Spirituality when her daughter, who was attending a Jesuit college, began talking about this daily prayer form. Mary wanted to learn more about “finding God in all things,” and a Google search led her to Sister Catherine Higgins. A trained spiritual director and social worker, Sister Catherine recently was named Director of Ignatian Spirituality at St. Joseph Spirituality Center. at h Well known and respected in t e r C e r in e S is the Tri-State region for her long-time ministry in Ignatian Spirituality, Sister Catherine welcomed Mary to a 10-month faith formation experience that Mary says transformed her life. “This [spirituality] is so much a part of me and my daily routine. I find myself communicating with God in whatever circumstances arise,” says Mary, who describes the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius as “a gift to the world” and “a life-giving blessing” to her. Mary, a retired teacher from Steubenville, Ohio, drove weekly to Baden to participate with five other adults in the “The Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life,” which is designed to lead individuals to personal growth and a deeper relationship with God. Just months after completing the program, Mary speaks enthusiastically about her faith journey and becomes visibly emotional at times when describing how she is working through her “weaknesses” to mend relationships, to overcome family challenges, to develop an attitude of gratitude every day, and to communicate with God every day – no matter the Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


circumstances. She says she is learning to fend off feelings of anger, pride and selfishness with a sense of peace, prayer and self-reflection. “The Spiritual Exercises have helped me to feel so connected to God in life’s situations every day – not just when I’m sitting in church,” she says. On a recent cruise to the Caribbean to visit schools in poor communities, Mary asked herself, “Where is God in this?” It was eye-opening, she says, to recognize that “Church” has no boundaries and extends far beyond the pews where diversity can be lacking. “There were people of all colors and I loved it . . . this is the world and God loves everybody.” The hallmark of Ignatian Spirituality is about “finding God in all things,” says Sister Catherine.

“Ignatius believed that everything in the universe is gift and God is the giver. As a result, awe and gratitude are meant to permeate our lives. We believe that God loves us fi rst and our lives are to be lived in response to that love. So Ignatian spirituality is essentially relational. God seeks to relate to us and we are invited to respond to God.” page 15

Sister Catherine says that the humanity of Jesus is a critical component of Ignatian Spirituality: “Through Ignatian forms of prayer, especially Gospel imaginative prayer, or, as it is called, Ignatian Contemplation, we seek to participate in each Gospel scene. We become aware of the people, circumstances and conversations involved in each Gospel incident, and we notice how Jesus responds to each person in the scene and to us. In this way we come to know Jesus more intimately and we learn to embrace his values.” Mary says the “imaginative reflection” of the humanity of Jesus allows her to place herself into a particular story in the Gospel and make the experience more meaningful and relatable to her. Ignatian Spirituality fosters the belief that God loves us no matter what the situation. “God’s love is unconditional and pure gift,” says Sister Catherine. “This gives us the confidence and courage to reach out in loving service to all, especially those on the margins of society, with the desire on our part to remain vulnerable and transparent before them and before God - as Jesus was.”

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Ignatian Spirituality and Our Sisters Interest in Ignatian Spirituality is growing, and Sister Catherine joins other spiritual directors in crediting Pope Francis, a Jesuit, for this upswing. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. Their spirituality has not only influenced Pope Francis, but also the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1650, the first six Sisters of St. Joseph gathered in Le Puy, France. With the guidance of a Jesuit, Jean Pierre Medaille, these women – mostly lace makers who dressed in the common garb of the day – formed a community to live and pray together and to respond to the needs of the time. These Ignatian Spiritual roots provide the foundation for how our Sisters today live, pray and serve the dear neighbor in need.

Learn more about Ignatian Spirituality Do you want to connect more deeply to God? Do you want to find God in all things? If so, Sister Catherine is offering two free Introductory Days of Ignatian Prayer Tuesday, October 18, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. or Saturday, October 29, from 10 a.m. to noon Register online at or call 724-869-6587.

St. Joseph Spirituality Center offers a variety of Ignatian Spirituality programs, including Lenten, Advent, weekend, five-day and 30-day retreats. For a full listing, visit our website calendar or “What we do” tab at Meet Mary Madden and Sister Catherine and listen to them talk about Ignatian Spirituality in a video clip. Visit our website at under “Our Stories.” Sisters of St. Joseph / fall



M ✛ jubilee

moving toward profound love of God and neighbor 13 Sisters celebrate a total of 750 years of loving service

75h Jubilarian

Sister Eileen (Kieran) Currie, who has educated young students and cared for senior citizens, once defined her ministries as “a presence for bringing God to others.”

Residents and staff at Alexis Manor, where Sister Eileen most recently served as a Manager, describe her presence as gentle and caring – always patient and kind. Prior to her 25-year ministry at Alexis Manor, Sister Eileen served more than 40 years - as teacher, principal, or consultant - at 11 schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Columbus, OH. Known for her excellent administrative skills, Sister Eileen was principal at St. Catherine in Beechview (1974-80, 1983-85), St. Angela Merici in White Oak (198083), St. Bernard in Indiana, PA (1958-64), St. Pius X in Reynoldsburg, OH (1966-72), and Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden (1964-66).

Sister Eileen (Kieran) Currie, CSJ

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Characterized as a “great listener” and “people-person,” Sister Eileen continues to hear from former students who credit her for a strong foundation of faith and education. She herself has grown in faith with daily prayer and Mass, and in knowledge with “harder-the-better” crossword puzzles. A resident of Villa St. Joseph, Sister Eileen maintains a positive outlook and expresses gratitude for 75 years as a Sister of St. Joseph during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. (Sister Eileen passed away September 1.) page 17

Reflecting on 25 years as a teacher, Sister Eleanor (Kenneth) McCoy recalls those years in the classroom as deeply rewarding and joyful.

75th Jubilarian

Her impact on students was seen in large and small ways. In a poignant 1965 letter, a parent recognized Sister Kenneth for her “skill, patience and understanding” in responding compassionately to her daughter with special needs and inspiring her self-confidence and academic progress. Sister Eleanor taught at eight schools in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown, and Columbus, OH. Her longest tenures were at St. John in Johnstown (1949-55) and Sacred Heart in Altoona (1956-63). In 1970, Sister Eleanor began a 20-year ministry in religious education. She served as Director of Religious Education at St. Thomas More in Bethel Park (1970-71), St. Paul in Butler (1971-80) and as Religious Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (1980-87).

Sister Eleanor (Kenneth) McCoy, CSJ

In 1992, Sister Eleanor returned to the Motherhouse in Baden where she shared her pleasant disposition with Sisters as she drove them to appointments. From 1999-2009, she served as Assistant Sacristan in the Chapel where she often can be found in prayer. Described as prayerful, devoted and joyful, Sister Eleanor says, “Wherever I am, I like to be at peace with everyone.”

60th Jubilarians

Sisters of St. Joseph celebrating their 60th Jubilees are (top row, from left) Sisters Margery Kundar, Mary Hall and Carol Arch; and (bottom row, from left) Sisters Grace Marie Herrle and Florence Hebeler. (Sister Florence passed away August 29.) page 18

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


50th Jubilarian

Deeply humbled by opportunities to bond with hospice patients and families, Sister Bernadette Carlow brings a caring and attentive presence to those experiencing difficult life transitions. Described as thoughtful and sensitive, Sister Bernadette has ministered as a hospice chaplain for more than 20 years, most recently with Amedisys Hospice in Monongahela. Sister Bernadette says that people whom she encounters open up quickly to her because they often experience the charism of loving God and neighbor that she shares. “I am very humbled by the confidence and trust that people have freely placed in me,” she says, acknowledging that God’s grace is at work.

Sister Bernadette Carlow, CSJ

Prior to becoming a chaplain, Sister Bernadette served as a teacher at St. Raphael (Pittsburgh), Mt. Gallitzin Academy (Baden) and St. Joseph High School (Natrona), and Director of Religious Education at St. John (Uniontown). For recreation, Sister Bernadette enjoys viewing artwork in churches and cathedrals and reading historical fiction, biographies and autobiographies. She credits the unrelenting voice of the Holy Spirit for influencing her decision to become a sister, which has allowed her to more fully develop a spiritual life. “My relationship with God has matured over the years, and I believe more growth is still to come,” she says.

50th Jubilarian

Sister Maureen Clark’s ministry is a visible expression that women who are incarcerated are made in the image and likeness of God. For nearly 40 years, she has worked as a Catholic Prison Chaplain, serving the past 27 at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution for Women and SouthMiddlesex PreRelease and Minimum Facility for Women in Framingham, MA. Once called a “catalyst for change” by a supervisor, Sister Maureen helps women regain their lives, reunite with their children, reconcile with family and loved ones, find recovery and employment. She has been instrumental in creating programs and recruiting volunteers from all professions. Sister Maureen has inspired countless women “to move past their fears and hold onto hope by knowing that a loving God does not condemn, but longs for each person to know that she is loved.” She previously ministered as congregational Vocation Director and teacher at St. Bernadette (Monroeville) and Fontbonne Academy (Bethel Park).

Sister Maureen Clark, CSJ

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


A self-described “sinner loved by God,” Sister Maureen says the most rewarding aspect of religious life is finding “God’s presence in the midst of great difficulty.” Her deep desire to “know and love God and the people of God” drew her to religious life. Her creative outlets include drama, art, dance and music. page 19

50th Jubilarian

While Sister Cynthia Comiskey says her call to religious life is continually evolving, it is always rooted in loving God and the dear neighbor without distinction. “This evolution has led me in directions that have been challenging, rewarding, and holy,” says Sister Cynthia, who began ministry in education. She served as a teacher at Annunciation (Pittsburgh) and Mount Gallitzin Academy (Baden) and counselor at St. Benedict the Moor (Pittsburgh). From 1979-1991, Sister Cynthia, a licensed clinical social worker, ministered as a social worker with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in Allegheny and Beaver counties. After serving on her community’s Leadership Team, Sister Cynthia in 2000 began a private practice with a particular focus on family systems.

Sister Cynthia Comiskey, CSJ

As a child, Sister Cynthia felt pulled to the “mystery” of religious life and credits her family’s faith and the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her for nurturing her vocation. A self-described “observer,” Sister Cynthia appreciates hearing humor as much as making it. Known for her integrity and compassion, she volunteers at the Beaver County Jail, Beaver County Anti Human Trafficking Coalition, and World Community for Christian Meditation. A nature enthusiast, Sister Cynthia enjoys relaxing with family and friends, playing golf and pickle ball, and reading.

50th Jubilarian

Through daily prayer, Sister Sharon Costello, a member of the Leadership Team, seeks contemporary ways to express the Congregation’s charism of union with God, all people and all Creation. “I love being a Sister of St. Joseph. Our charism of union has drawn me more deeply into the reality and consciousness that ‘we are all one.’ For me, it has been a grace-filled, life-giving call.” Sister Sharon has served in several leadership positions, including a previous, 10-year tenure on the Leadership Team (1998-2008); Executive Director of Girls Hope of Pittsburgh (2009-12); and principal of Mount Gallitzin Academy (1978-90) and Ambridge Area Catholic (1993-98). She co-established Pets with Heart, a pet therapy outreach of the congregation, and enjoys visits - especially to retired sisters - with her therapy dog, Buster.

Sister Sharon Costello, CSJ

The faith of her parents and grandparents inspired Sister Sharon to enter religious life. Her interests include spending time with family and friends, gardening, reading and technology. Distinguished by her compassion and integrity, Sister Sharon draws on a holistic and prayerful approach to decision-making. She is daily guided by the Congregation’s “directional statement” that promotes nonviolence, affirms the dignity of all people, and respects Creation.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


50th Jubilarian

Since 2011, Sister Sandy Kiefer has been Director of Academic Support Services for Crossroads Foundation, which helps prepare economically disadvantaged students for higher education and careers. Sister Sandy has been part of Crossroads since its beginning in 1990, serving first as sole director of the program, which aligns with her passion for social justice teachings and her Congregation’s mission of union and reconciliation. “My life has been immeasurably blessed as I have journeyed with children and families who find themselves marginalized and striving to overcome the effects of generational poverty,” she says.

Sister Sandy Kiefer, CSJ

She previously taught for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in inner-city schools including St. Richard, St. Benedict the Moor and Holy Rosary, where she also was a co-principal. In 1985, she served as missionary in Brazil, and later as Director of Vocations and Affiliates for the Congregation. For more than 20 years, she has co-directed a foster care program for 85 children. “Whether it has been within Pittsburgh Catholic schools, in the Amazon of Brazil or daily life as a foster parent, I found out what it has meant to be teacher, mentor, friend, and ‘mother’.” Described as steadfast, trustworthy and inquisitive, Sister Sandy enjoys gardening, nature and technology.

50th Jubilarian

Sister Jeanne Rodgers, a registered nurse, says she has relied on God’s grace to guide her in a health-care ministry that has spanned nearly five decades and comforted countless patients. “As I have walked with those in need of healing, the meaning of life has been transformed and I have grown to love God more deeply,” she says. From 1978 to 2004, Sister Jeanne served as a home care hospice nurse at Allegheny General Hospital and at Forbes Hospice. For the past 12 years, Sister Jeanne has responded with compassion, patience and prayers to the health care needs of sisters in Supportive Living and in Villa St. Joseph. She advocates on their behalf and navigates them through health concerns and systems.

Sister Jeanne Rodgers, CSJ

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Known for her humor and creativity, Sister Jeanne enjoys singing, reading spiritual books, and writing poetry, which often takes the form of prayer cards that she shares with Sisters and staff. Sister Jeanne’s parents and Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her at Annunciation most influenced her to become a sister. At age 17, she entered the convent and parted ways with her twin sister “on a journey made possible only because of the grace of God.” page 21

P ✛ associates

partnering in mission Sisters welcome new members to Association

Richard Cauley, Maria Javonovich, and Elizabeth “Betts” Miller share more than their volunteer spirit at Villa St. Joseph. The three volunteers ia and Elizabeth also recently became Associates who partner in prayer and good works , Mar d r a h with the Sisters of St. Joseph. Ric During an April 3 installation ceremony and Liturgy in the Motherhouse chapel, the three made formal promises as Associates after completing an orientation process. Approximately 100 women and men are members of the CSJ Association. Sister Florence “Flossie” Hebeler, a resident of Villa St. Joseph, sponsored Elizabeth. The two met a year ago when Elizabeth, a new Villa volunteer, began escorting Sister to Sunday Mass in the chapel. After attending the installation of the 2015 Associates, Elizabeth told Sister Florence, “I want to be one of them!”

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Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


In her remarks, Sister Florence described Elizabeth as “truly a woman of the Church.” A member of Sts. Peter and Paul in Beaver, PA, Elizabeth is very active in her parish. She serves as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and member of the Liturgy, Bereavement and Spiritual Life committees and Parish Council. For the past decade, she has helped to home school five of her friend’s 10 children. “From the time I was little girl, I wanted to be a nun. . . Becoming an Associate is the closest I will ever be to becoming a nun,” says the 84-year-old great-grandmother with a soft laugh. “I am so fulfilled in my life because God has given me so much.” A native of Chile, Maria was introduced by her sponsor, Mary Cay Burke-Hamill, a 22-year member of the CSJ Association. While taking piano lessons, her instructor, Sister Ruth Sattler suggested that she consider joining the Associates. “Becoming an Associate means so much to me,” Maria said. “I have always had this desire inside of me Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


to become closer to our heavenly Father and to serve the Lord.” In the Motherhouse dining room, Maria often joins the retired Sisters in making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Salvation Army. At the Villa, she escorts residents to Mass and assists with the Villa Voices musical group. Richard, who also escorts Villa residents to Mass, was sponsored by Sister Ann Francis Hanley who enjoys conversations and playing cards with him. Richard, who is the brother of Sister Diane Cauley of the Leadership Team, was drawn to the Associates’ shared mission of the Congregation and their commitment to nonviolence and desire to serve the poor. With a desire to pursue a more spiritual life, Richard took a world religions course several years ago and he hopes to deepen his spirituality through daily prayer and “to know God’s will and pursue it” through the Associates’ program. To learn more about the Associates program, visit our website at

In loving memory Sister Eileen (Kieran) Currie, 93 September 1, 2016 Sister Florence Hebeler, 85 August 29, 2016 Sister Melania Polensky, 81 July 28, 2016 To read more about our Sisters or to make a memorial contribution, please visit our website at page 23

C ✛ save the date

celebrating a song ‘In a Manger Lowly’ turns 100 with a concert Nearly 100 years ago, it was unlikely that dear friends, Sister

Victoria Martin and Sister Ambrose Padden, could have predicted

that their creative collaboration of a beloved Christmas carol would continue to resonate across the generations.

Sister Victoria composed the music and Sister Ambrose wrote the lyrics for In a Manger Lowly, which still stirs fond memories from hundreds of former students over the decades.

Sister Victoria and Sister Ambrose

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a standard selection at Christmas Masses.

Shortly after the song, originally titled “Christmas Carol,” was copyrighted on December 2, 1916, the sheet music found its way into schools where Sisters taught thousands of children

The song’s popularity began to surge in 1961 when the Sisters recorded In a Manger Lowly as the signature song on a Christmas album. The recording took place in the Motherhouse chapel on a sweltering day in July. Sisters, dressed in their full habits, recall the stifling air and disruptive noises. The 100 melodic voices

in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown, Greensburg and Columbus, Ohio. During music classes, the Sisters introduced children to the song, which became

of novices and postulants were competing with clanging pipes inside as well as chattering birds and humming lawn mowers outside. Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


That fall 2,000 records were “pressed” by a New York recording firm that charged 42 cents for each album. They were sold for $3.98 each in many department stores, and within a few months, the Sisters had raised $14,000 to support the community’s “novitiate expansion program.” Today, the vintage vinyl albums are listed for sale, ranging from $16 to $19.95, on The album has since been re-formatted as a CD.

Join Us for a Concert to Celebrate the Song Sister Donna Marie

Long-time music teacher, Sister Ruth (Venard) Sattler, 90, directed the recording in 1961. She continues to express amazement that over the decades In a Manger Lowly has become a musical tradition not only in family homes, but also at parish Liturgies during the Christmas season.

“It’s easy to sing and play. The beauty is in its simplicity,” she says, humming a few bars: In a manger lowly, Sleeps the heav’nly Child, O’ver him fondly bending, Mary Mother mild. The original album cover, which depicts a Sister bending over the Christ Child in a manger, was drawn by Sister Antonine, a former sister. Theresa Kanzik, who is now busy with writing and grandchildren, says she was honored and privileged to be asked to design the cover. Sister Antonine entered the convent with two years of art school and became known as the “resident artist” in the Motherhouse. She was asked by Novice Director Sister Crescentia Mulvehill to illustrate the album cover. She also sang on the album.

Sister Donna Marie (Carolyn Marie) Beck, 84, Professor Emerita in the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University, was the pipe organist for the recording. She attributes the wide appeal and the lasting legacy of the hymn to the simplicity of the music and lyrics.

In a Manger Lowly continues to evoke memories from dozens of former students, such as one who wrote to us: “I sang the hymn at St. James in Wilkinsburg. There was a humming interlude that was so purely the sound of angels that it has stuck with me for over 45 years.”

Sister Ruth

Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of

In a Manger Lowly and in honor of Sister Ruth and Sister Donna Marie, a Christmas concert featuring the song, our Sisters and local singers and musicians will be held on Sunday, December 4, at 2 p.m. in our Motherhouse Chapel. The concert will be followed by a reception. Seats are limited and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. You can also pre-order a commemorative edition of the In a Manger Lowly CD, which includes

“The Story of the Song” insert. Ticket price for the concert and reception is $40. Cost of the CD is $15. Purchasing a concert ticket, along with a CD, is $50. All proceeds from ticket and CD sales will help support the life of our elder sisters. To purchase tickets and/or a commemorative CD, click on or call 724-869-6574. page 25

D ✛ development letter

dear friends,

Summertime always brings the experience of profuse beauty on the Motherhouse

grounds in Baden. During Sister Lyn Symkiewicz’s years as Director of Grounds, she has added so many special touches. Among the trees and flowers that have been donated, we see plaques bearing the names of beloved friends, family members and donors - those whom we can visit to remember and to honor. We also can visit our many beloved Sisters as we walk in our cemetery and grotto, which both have been renovated through a 2009 bequest.

My recent walk reminded me of a passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 14:

Sister Karen Stoila, CSJ

“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies

for oneself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord, so then, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” How conscious I have become of our connections to one another as I have been entrusted with the ministry of Development. The Sisters have been able to accomplish so much with daily, monthly and annual help from you - our friends, associates, employees, and partners in ministry.

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Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


Sisters and Associates from Baden at Federation Event in Orlando

The gift of others who live and support our life and values was greatly evidenced as 20 Sisters and three CSJ Associates from Baden attended the Federation Event in Orlando in July. This national event, held every five years, brought together 700 people from all parts of the United States plus a few international Sisters, to share around the theme: Our Emerging Story of Being One: God’s Love Unfolding. We prayed, listened, shared insights, hopes and dreams and took action for justice against labor trafficking. Of the 700 present, for the first time, 25 Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


percent were lay colleagues. Many were young people – high school and college students, volunteers and alums with the year-long St. Joseph Worker program. It made me realize how very blessed we are to have a “network for good” around us. Both facets in this letter express the underlying reality of “charism” - a word that describes the essential spiritual gift that animates the Sisters of St. Joseph and encompasses our purpose for existence – to bring all people into union with God and one

another and to serve all of our dear neighbors without distinction. We live out our mission from the well of God’s great love that we experience in abundance. We recognize the same charism in you and thank you for being part of our emerging story of God’s love unfolding. With grateful prayers,

Sister Karen Director of Development 724-869-6592

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Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Pittsburgh, PA. Permit No. 4675

1020 State Street • Baden, PA 15005

notes from our neighbors The nine years that I attended Mt. Gallitzin Academy were certainly the most formative years of my life. I believe that the Sisters’ mission “to serve God and the dear neighbor without distinction” and their influence have built the foundation of my life. At MGA I learned to practice tolerance and love, beginning with the “I Care” rules taught so lovingly by Sr. Therese (Melucci) and Sr. Colleen (Crossen) in Kindergarten. I learned a respect for other cultures, through International Night celebrations and Spanish classes taught by Sr. Jean (Stoltz) and school plays based on traditional African stories directed by Sr. Rosie (Schwartz). I learned the tenets of our faith from all of the Sisters, especially the importance of First-grader Allison and practicing and advocating for social justice. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Sister Nancy Ramiréz the Sisters was the responsibility to give back and the joy that serving others brings. Under the guidance and personal development of my parents and the Sisters, I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship to attend Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School and Duquesne University. I believe strongly that the Sisters’ philosophy and guiding principles made me worthy of this honor. Sr. Liz Brush wrote the recommendation letter that I believe, to this day, is the kindest testament ever written about me.

Allison Hannon page 28

At Duquesne, I studied literature and communications and joined a student group dedicated to community service. . . . I knew I was called to work in a field where I had the opportunity to give back as others had so generously given to me. My job in University Advancement is especially meaningful to me because, in some small way, I am able to help provide opportunities for students like those that were provided to me. . . I know that my worldview was shaped by their loving nature, desire to serve without discrimination, prayers for peace and justice, and joy in living. Sisters of St. Joseph / fall


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