By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published May 4, 2006
It was a day of celebration, reunion and farewells for the women Religious of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, who gathered together for their annual luncheon in early April at St. Peter Chanel Church.
The Atlanta Conference of Sisters, led by Sister Mary-beth Beres, OP, joined together in prayer and fellowship April 1 for a luncheon and meeting attended by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
During the luncheon, two sisters celebrating their silver jubilees with 25 years of service, eight sisters celebrating their golden jubilees with 50 years of service, and two who celebrated 60 years of religious life were honored. Also honored at the luncheon were those sisters celebrating anniversaries of service in Atlanta, and two sisters who are leaving Atlanta.
Archbishop Gregory said he was “grateful for the occasion to be with many of our women Religious.” He spoke of a question he was asked by a young man at a confirmation.
“One of the kids asked me ‘why did God create us the way he did with freedom? Why didn’t he just program us to love him?’” the archbishop recalled. “The answer is that God fashioned us to be free as He himself is free. Because we can only truly love when we are free. We cannot force people to love us, we can only invite them.”
The Religious sisters in the archdiocese have sent their own invitations to Christ in big and small ways, Archbishop Gregory said.
“You women Religious who are here and serve as ministers of this local church, you do so many things to invite people to love God,” he said. “And in doing that, something wonderful happens—we begin to love you for giving us that invitation.”
He also said that each anniversary, not just the significant ones, is special.
“Every jubilee, whether it’s the 23rd, the 37th or the 54th, is a special moment for us to thank you and to honor you for living a consecrated life,” he said, adding his gratitude to those who are leaving the archdiocese for other assignments. “Those of you who are parting, I hope you take with you very warm encounters and experiences of faith and love from this church wherever you go.”
Sister Mary-beth called the day of celebration a blessing.
“How blessed we are to celebrate all these years of fidelity and community,” she said. “I think today we celebrate, for the most part, small decisions made day by day. This is a wonderful moment for us to stop and to look back on those daily decisions and how they’ve accumulated and where they’ve brought us.”
As each sister celebrating an anniversary was announced, each jubilarian recalled a word or a phrase that summed up her ministry. Some said phrases such as “heartfelt gratitude” while others recalled “blind faith.”
The luncheon also honored two sisters who are leaving the archdiocese. Sister Joyce Ann Hertzig, OP, who has been serving as the parish social ministry coordinator for the archdiocese, has been elected to leadership for her community, and Sister Michelle Carroll, RSM, has retired.
After a closing prayer, the sisters expressed their joy in being children of God by blowing bubbles that had been placed at their tables.
The silver jubilarians include:
Sister Peggy Fannon, RSM
Raised in the Atlanta area, Sister Peggy graduated from the Saint Joseph Hospital’s School of Nursing in 1968 and worked as a nurse in areas such as medical and surgical nursing, burn care, pediatrics and diabetes education, before becoming a Sister of Mercy early in the 1980s. Sister Peggy served as a staff nurse in the hospital’s oncology department and later became the manager of the neuro-plastics head and neck unit. In 1997, she began serving as a patient education specialist and became a certified diabetes educator. She continues to serve the Atlanta community in the patient education department of Saint Joseph’s.
Sister Patricia Rogers, OP
Sister Patricia, a Sinsinawa Dominican, is a native of Arkansas. She professed her vows in 1981 and then spent two years teaching in Chicago. She then served for seven years as the principal of a Catholic school in Montgomery, Ala., followed by two years spent in studies for her master’s degree in social work in St. Louis. Following her studies, she spent three years in the Archdiocese of New Orleans as a school counselor, until coming to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For the past six years she has also served in leadership for her congregation.
Those sisters celebrating their golden jubilees include:
Sister Patty Caraher, OP
Sister Patty entered the Sinsinawa Dominicans on Aug. 8, 1956. A native of Chicago, Sister Patty spent her first years as a Religious teaching second grade at Our Lady of Refuge School in the Bronx, N.Y. She then went on to teach for 15 years at a Catholic school in Mobile, Ala., in an African-American school during the height of the civil rights movement. For the next eight years, she went back to her native Chicago, where she ministered and started a day labor agency. She moved to Fort Myers, Fla., and worked with migrant farm workers for the next five years. For the next 10 years, she served in leadership in her congregation and four years ago helped to found the International Community School in Atlanta. She has served in Atlanta for the past 16 years.
Sister Kathryn Cliatt, OP
Sister Kathryn, a native of Miami, entered the Adrian Dominicans in 1956. She spent the first 15 years of her ministry in Chicago and Florida teaching students varying from kindergarten through graduate school, in addition to serving as a director of guidance counseling. In 1975 she created the rural office of Atlanta’s Catholic Social Services in Cumming. She served there for 30 years before taking a leadership position as chapter prioress for her community from 1992-98. In 1995, she and her fellow Adrian Dominican, Sister June Racicot, formed the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center in Gainesville, where she continues to serve.
Sister Marilyn Kahl, RGS
Sister Marilyn has worked in Atlanta for the past 11 years, since October 1995. Originally from Wadsworth, Ohio, she has ministered to others on the East Coast of the United States, specifically Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Batesburg, S.C., where the order ran a residential school for girls (which closed in 1968). Sister Marilyn has a master’s degree in social work, an area in which she became interested as she worked with troubled youth early in her career. Sister Marilyn said that Good Shepherd sisters help “reconcile people with God, with others and with themselves,” and she has lived by that standard. In 1995, she moved to Atlanta to work as coordinator of volunteers for Good Shepherd Services, an outreach ministry for the Vietnamese community in metro Atlanta. For the next five to six years, she worked mainly with children in areas such as English as a second language, citizenship and summer camp. After a yearlong sabbatical around 2001, she returned to active ministry in Atlanta and currently works with the seniors at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. Sister Marilyn plans activities for elders at the parish, mostly social events—just “trying to get people together.”
Sister Helen Mick, CSJ
Raised 60 miles from the order’s motherhouse, Sister Helen was familiar with the sisters of this order because they taught in the grade school that she attended. She entered the novitiate on Aug. 15, 1956, and took her final vows on the same date—the feast of the Assumption—one year later. She attended college at the Marymount College in Salina, Kan., and received a graduate degree from Kansas State University. Her first assignment was far from home—in Chicago, where she taught fifth grade for one year. Other teaching assignments took her to Aurora, Ill., and a small town in southern Missouri, Monett, where she taught junior high and served as principal of the school. She was 10 years a principal at an elementary school in Booneville, Miss. Returning to Concordia in 1980, she began a stint as an administrator for the order. During this time she discovered a new ministry in working with the elderly and moved to Atlanta to become the manager of one of the archdiocese’s personal care homes, St. Thomas Manor in East Point. In addition, Sister Helen also served as director of all three of the personal care homes in the archdiocese for five years, from 1993 to 1998. She still works with the elderly, working part time for Home Instead Senior Care, an organization that provides non-medical care for elderly people in their homes. Sister Helen is glad to provide needed eldercare services—such as taking care of laundry, lunch, grocery shopping, and business—for those who need the help, continuing her beloved ministry.
Sister Fidencia Veronica Ramos, MAG
Sister Veronica was born in Chietla, Puebla, Mexico, and became a sister on Dec. 8, 1956. She began her service to the church in Mexico where she worked four years in Puebla in family ministry, worked in Morelos with youth for three years, worked in Coyocon with families for four years, worked in Tehuazan in vocational training for three years, served in Veracruz as an elementary school teacher for four years, and worked in Chiapas in vocational training, catechesis and prison ministry for four years. She then served for two years in Tenango, Guatemala, in liturgy preparation and prison ministry, before returning for 12 years to her hometown of Chietla, Puebla, where she worked with families, poor children, catechesis for children and preparing choirs for celebrations. She came to the Atlanta Archdiocese in 1994 and served at San Felipe de Jesus Mission in its previous location in Grant Park and at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, in coordinating its Hispanic ministry in apartment complexes. Her biological sister, Sister Gudelia Ines Ramos, is in the same religious order and also serves in this archdiocese. Sister Veronica also has assisted her Religious sisters in Hispanic ministry at St. Michael Church, Gainesville, St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville, Our Lady of the Americas Mission, Doraville, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Carrollton, and St. Mark’s Church, Clarkesville.
Sister Pierrette Remillard, GNSH
Originally from northern New York—a town named Peru—Sister Pierrette was raised in that part of the country and attended a three-year nursing school in Plattsburg, N.Y., after completing high school. She worked mainly as an operating room nurse until 1980, serving in Plattsburg, Lake Champlain, N.Y., Actonsburg, N.Y., and Kodiak, Ala., as well as working in the infirmary at the motherhouse. She came to Atlanta in the summer of 1980 to work at the Catholic Center in a new career with the finance department. “It was time for a change,” said Sister Pierrette. She had come to the city for a month-long visit and was offered a job. She worked in this position for 10 years and then moved to Saint Joseph’s Hospital, where she worked in admissions for 15 years. Sister Pierrette is retired now, one of the many Grey Nuns who have served the archdiocese over the past six decades.
Also celebrating their golden jubilees are Sister Mary Walter Ziajor, OP, who serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta, and Sister Florentina Iruretagoyena, ACJ.
Two sisters celebrated their diamond jubilees—60 years of service—including:
Sister Manuela Souto, CSJ
Sister Manuela was born in Mobile, Ala., and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet on March 19, 1946, and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Fontbonne University in St. Louis. Throughout her ministry she worked as a first-grade teacher in Catholic schools in Champagne and Chicago, Ill., and then in Mobile, Ala., before coming to the Atlanta Archdiocese where she has lived about 30 years. She served at St. Joseph School in Marietta for several years as a teacher and later started their after-school program before retiring. She now enjoys fishing and birdwatching.
Sister Maureen Cartwright, RSM
Sister Maureen is a native of Tifton, Ga., and gave much of her ministry as a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. She entered into the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1940 and received a bachelor of nursing degree from Mount St. Agnes in Baltimore. She spent her first year of ministry as a nurse at Saint Joseph’s before going to Savannah to serve as the administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital there for six years. She then spent a year serving at a nursing home in Alabama and then came back to Atlanta to serve again at Saint Joseph’s for several years. After taking care of her ill father, Sister Maureen spent a year in Rhode Island at a multi-purpose home for the sick. She then returned to Atlanta to serve at Saint Joseph’s until she retired eight years ago. Sister Maureen spends her days cooking, sewing and exercising and said she loves “playing in the dirt” as a gardener.
Mary Anne Castranio and Priscilla Greear also contibuted to this article.