By CECILE SAN AGUSTIN
PASSAIC - Even in today's world, the many religious sisters, brothers and priests who serve God's people make life beautiful. That is the message Bishop Serratelli delivered to the religious jubilarians celebrating significant anniversaries in consecrated life for 75, 70, 65, 60, 50, 40 and 25 years. A Jubilee Celebration for Religious was held at St. Mary Church here on May 2 where 95 women and men were honored at the Mass at which the bishop presided.
Jubilarians included Benedictine Abbot Giles Hayes, abbot for St. Mary's Abbey in Morristown and Sister of Christian Charity Mary Edward Spohrer, chancellor/delegate for religious, both celebrating 50 years in religious life.
Coordinated by the diocesan office of the delegate for religious, the bishop welcomed the jubilarians declaring, "We gather with gratitude for all the gifts that God's people have received through your consecrated life."
At the Mass, the religious women and men were invited to renew their vows of poverty, obedience and chastity before the bishop. "Your poverty shows us how to sacrifice for the good of others so we can sit at the one table of Christ who sacrificed his life for the world. Your obedience - at times painful - makes it very clear that in God's family, the will of the Father comes first for Father always knows best and what is good for each of us. And your chastity reveals the heart that loves unselfishly like Christ, for this is the only way to live happily ever after," said the bishop in his homily.
Reflecting on our imperfect world, the bishop said, "This is why we are in constant need of visible images that bring out the best in each of us. And so in the midst of this world, God has placed His Church as such an image. The order of divine grace the Church reveals to the world, the image of God's holy family."
He closed his homily by saying, "At a time when family is broken, our hearts are aching. Your religious life is an unmistakable beacon of life that invites others to the Church where all can become God's family, where all can love and be loved as Jesus loves us and as the Father loves Jesus in spirit and where all can find eternal life and happiness in Christ."
During the Mass that gathered together religious from 17 different congregations, a presentation of the jubilarians was celebrated in which religious in attendance received a gift and certificate from the bishop marking his or her anniversary.
Following the Mass, the religious celebrated together at a reception held at St. Mary's parish hall.
Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Conception Clare Sandhaeger, who celebrated 60 years, felt "wonderful, grateful and joyous" to be at the Mass. "Today means celebrating the whole life and I thank the Diocese of Paterson for letting me to share with them this life."
"The celebration with other jubilarians gives me encouragement. I feel happy to be here, said Little Sister of Jesus Anne-Marie Boucher who was marking her 25th year in religious life. "Our vocation really means a relationship with Jesus which inspires us to continue to serve."
Sister of Christian Charity Pietra Cash, who celebrated 60 years and is former principal at the former St. Mary School, Dover, and Holy Family School, Florham Park, said "I feel extremely happy and overwhelmed to be here. I don't regret one minute of this life."
For golden jubilarian Filippini Sister Josephine Palmeri, the celebration reminded her that, "Religious life is a great gift from God." A teacher at Villa Walsh Academy in Morristown, Sister Palmeri said, "I knew I could be happy, but I didn't know I could be this happy. It almost seems unfair to have all this and heaven too."
Little Sister of the Poor Julienne Brock, who celebrated 50 years, said, "I am very grateful for all these beautiful years in religious life." Sister Brock, who serves at St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Totowa, is especially happy to celebrate her jubilee in the same year. Her order's founder, Blessed Jeanne Jugan will reach sainthood.
Celebrating 50 years, Sister of Charity Marilyn Zaino, said, "I am very happy today. I think our vocation is the same as everyone else's - to serve one another. Sister Zaino, who has served in Morris County for 18 years visiting the homebound, said, "It's a calling after prayer, contemplation and discernment."
Thanking the Blessed Mother for being her ultimate inspiration in her vocation was foremost on Salesian Sister Mary Winterscheidt's mind. She was celebrating 65 years in religious life and was formerly a teacher at the former St. Anthony and the former St. John Cathedral schools both in Paterson. "It's unbelievable," she said. I know I wouldn't have gotten this far without Mary. My vocation is everything. Ever since I was a little child, I wanted to be a religious."
'Chosen by God' - Jubilarians celebrate gift of religious life
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