Sisters of Mercy celebrate many decades of ministry
The following Sisters of Mercy are celebrating their jubilees of 80, 75, 70, 60 and 50 years in 2018.
While Sister Mary dePaul Dugan was for 40 years a traditional teacher-centered model in the classrooms of seven Diocese of Rochester elementary schools, technology was advancing, and by 1971 minicomputer programs were surfacing.
So, in 1986 when Apple II entered education, Sister Dugan took up the challenge of mastering computer skills and teaching them while at Holy Cross School, Rochester.
Sister Dugan entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1938 and began her teaching career three years later. She said that “teaching the little ones” was her favorite ministry. After the classroom experience, she ministered at a soup kitchen in Rochester and Camp Stella Maris on Conesus Lake, made hospital visits and tutored summer-school students.
Many young women at her alma mater, Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton, benefited from the ongoing Sister Mary dePaul Scholarship established in 2008 through the generosity of the James and Catherine Dugan family. One mother of a recipient wrote: “Sister’s tremendous love of God, charitable spirit and warm heart helped my daughter to develop her gifts while strengthening her faith.” And the daughter added, “Sister Mary dePaul has become my friend, my angel, my spiritual director.”
Sister Dugan expressed gratitude that she could pass on to other sisters her love of teaching, saying, “I’ve never been sorry that God called me to this life!”
In prayer ministry at Mercy Center in Brighton, she looks forward to regular prayer-session visits with her younger brother, Father Thomas Dugan, CSB.
Motto: O Lord, I am not worthy.
Addressing the first Communion class attended by 7-year-old Marjorie Williams at St. Andrew School, Rochester, was Sister Teresina O’Hearn, attired in the traditional habit of the Sisters of Mercy.
“I don’t know what she is,” the youngster thought, “but I want to be like her.” Ten years later, after graduating from Our Lady of Mercy High School in 1938, Marjorie walked into the Rochester Motherhouse to become Sister M. Teresita Williams.
She began a 35-year career as a teacher and administrator in eight Diocese of Rochester schools. Her ministry was altered for 12 years while she cared for her mother at the family residence in Fort Myers, Fla., which she expressed gave her “a broader sense of life and the world.” When she returned, she became resident assistant at the Motherhouse Medical Center for 10 years.
A devotee of the Blessed Mother, Sister Williams visited many Marian shrines as well as Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a place of pilgrimages since the Virgin Mary appeared in 1981. She worked closely with the late Father Albert J. M. Shamon, noted writer and educator of Marian devotions.
A gifted artist filled with enthusiasm, she sketched and painted large colorful displays throughout the Mercy Center Medical Center for all occasions of holidays, feast days and events. Today she resides at Mercy Center Community in prayer ministry.
“Life has been ‘all up’ for me,” she said. “When I was in school, I always wanted to be a Sister of Mercy, not just look at them, but ‘be one!’”
Motto: I am espoused to Him whom the angels serve.
Sister Ann Caufield knew the story of Catherine McAuley from an early age, but it wasn’t until 1962, when Vatican II convened, that she began a personal, in-depth study of the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy.
What she gleaned was that “We are a helping group. … Always depending on the Lord for our next few steps,” she once said. And her steps over the past 75 years have included religious life and nursing.
Two of her sisters, Margaret and Janet, became Sisters of Mercy. “We all had good singing voices for any occasion. (Today) I am the lone survivor of nine.” Entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1943, she said, “I had a desire to be a nurse but was willing to do whatever ‘they’ wanted me to do in the convent.”
Earning her registered nurse degree from St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing, she ministered in the motherhouse infirmary and at Our Lady of Mercy High School. Later, she was head nurse, administrator and supervisor at St. James Mercy Hospital, Hornell.
She earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing and hospital administration and was trained as a nurse practitioner at the University of Rochester.
Sister Caufield was well prepared for a 20-year stint in her favorite ministry in southern Steuben County, “working in home/health care in rural Woodhull,” southwest of Corning.
“I am grateful to God for my vocation to Mercy,” she said.
Motto: Serve the Lord with joy.
While a student at Elmira Catholic High School in 1942, a young Sister Therese Richardson sought spiritual direction and heard inspiring words from one of her mentors, Sister Joachim Pearson, RSM.
They spoke to her of the divine journey, community and the varied opportunities that came with entering religious life; all of which made an impression on her.
Theresa and her younger brother, John, who later became a Franciscan priest, attended St. Mary Grade School, staffed by the influential Sisters of Mercy.
Entering the community in 1943, she taught or was an administrator at St. Andrew School and later at St. Patrick School in Owego, St. Salome School and Holy Cross School, all in the Diocese of Rochester.
For her community, she served in administrative offices as councilor and in core formation.
Sister Richardson helped found the Sisters of Mercy-sponsored Melita House, a successful residential and aftercare program for pregnant and parenting women between ages 13 and 30, designed to aid them in restructuring their lives as responsible and resourceful mothers.
“I like serving,” she said.
For many years Sister Richardson was on staff of Mercy Prayer Center, now Mercy Spirituality Center, where she was an inspiring spiritual director.
Today, in prayer ministry, she continues reading Scripture, living the simple life and enjoying nature — water and sunshine — which she says, “gives me a lift.”
For those contemplating religious life, she suggests, as she once did herself, to seek a spiritual director and to pray for discernment.
Motto: Dominus est. (It is the Lord.)
Sister Mollie Brown has lived an accomplished life for the past 70 years as a teacher, nurse, college professor, hospital administrator, spiritual counselor, executive director, psychotherapist, writer and lecturer.
A founding member in 1981 of Spirit House Inc., which ministered to women religious seeking health in mind, body and spirit, she served as director for 15 years.
In addition to authoring several publications, she wrote Victim No More: Ministry to Survivors of Sexual Abuse in 1994.
As a professional counselor, she practiced what she advocated: be a good listener, compassionate and non-judgmental. She helped to bridge the gap between religion and psychology.
Sister Brown entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1948 and taught at St. John the Evangelist School in Rochester; St. Rita School in Webster and Elmira Notre Dame High School prior to earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Duquesne University. Further degrees included a master’s in nursing education from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in human development from the University of Chicago.
She was a teacher at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, on staff at Steuben County Mental Health Clinic, a faculty member at the University of Rochester’s Nursing Department and Nazareth College, and assistant administrator at Genesee Mental Health Center.
Now in prayer ministry at Mercy Center Community, she once acknowledged, “These years have been a gift to me and my family. … I don’t try to convert anyone, but certainly I am centered in my faith and my vocation.”
Motto: All in Jesus, Jesus in all.
Bringing smiles and laughter for 17 years to the bedsides of hospitalized children and adults as a clown was just one of the ministries of Sister Marie Marshall in her 70 years of religious life.
Her delight in children, nurtured by family gatherings, was enhanced by 30 years of teaching in six elementary schools in the Diocese of Rochester.
“I enjoyed teaching first grade, the children are sweet, gentle, innocent and eager to learn; the children of small towns are especially loving,” she recalled.
So, after leaving the classroom and to maintain that contact, she began her clown ministry in 1991, going to hospitals, nursing homes and small schools. “I did balloon animals and face painting. Seeing a smile on their faces was wonderful even though some were in pain.”
Sister Marshall said the example of the Sisters of Mercy who taught her at St. Salome School and at Our Lady of Mercy High School led her to enter in 1948.
“I knew Our Lady wanted me to be a sister for a long time,” she said. “As a Sister of Mercy I have been able to take the word and love of God to young people who might not have known of Him or His Mother and to know God is loving and forgiving in any situation. We not only serve, but we have fun doing it.”
Since 2008 Sister Marshall has been active with origami, creating folded paper designs she gives as gifts to others and to see the smiles of appreciation.
Motto: All for Jesus through Mary.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” are words of the French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and may have been a commission of Sister Lisette O’Brien’s for her 31 years as a teacher at St. Andrew School and Our Lady of Mercy and Cardinal Mooney high schools.
And she shared “art” of Mercy in parish work, community outreach and prayer ministries. She was pastoral assistant at St. Jerome and Cayuga Cluster parishes. In 1994, for eight years, she was a team member and director of Tioga County Rural Ministry dedicated to serving the rural poor, sick and elderly of the county.
“Truly, I enjoyed each of my ministries,” she said. “The people working with me, those we served, and those whose friendship and wisdom blessed our lives causes me to be thankful every day.”
Today, Sister O’Brien is a team creator In the Candle-With-Care studio located at Rochester Mercy Center.
While in high school, she belonged to the Sodality of Our Lady. The all-Mercy-sister-faculty was instrumental in guiding her to a religious life. “Sister Maureen Flood, moderator of the Sodality, told me it was essential to know the spirit (charism) of a congregation before making a choice. I knew many of the sisters and saw their daily dedication and their joy in ministry. I chose Mercy. I’m grateful that my parents and family agreed and encouraged me then and now.”
And she said that she reaped the reward of that choice.
“Belonging to this group of wonderfully gifted and dedicated women, present and past, is continuing to be amazing, and what a gift to me to be among them.”
Motto: Fiat, Prote Tecum. (Yes, for You and with You.)
Coming of age in Corning in the 1940s, Sister Ann Carapella and her two older brothers attended the parish school of St. Mary Church where they came under the influence of the Sisters of Mercy.
During junior-high years and high school at Corning Free Academy, she first caught the “Mercy Spirit of the sisters, but also their prayer life, service, dedication and sense of happiness.” Following graduation and two years of employment at Corning Glass Works, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1958.
She taught for more than 30 years in the Diocese of Rochester school system and served as principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School, Elmira. She was vice principal at St. Patrick School and teacher and later principal at Holy Family Junior High.
“I was fond of all the grade levels I taught but favored junior-high students. It’s a grace-filled experience to touch the lives of so many young people and rewarding to know that perhaps you made a difference.”
Between 1993 and 2005, Sister Carapella was assistant to the president and alumnae/development coordinator at Our Lady of Mercy High School before being named Mercy Center house administrator.
“It is a gift and special calling to be a Sister of Mercy. The richness of our spiritual life offers endless ways to grow. … That coupled with community living, family bonds and building relationships in ministry nourish me to the one end each of us seeks — eternal life with God.”
Motto: Love serves.
Offering advice to those pursuing a vocation, Sister Marie Joseph Crowley, who grew up in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton, shares, “Follow your dream, know yourself, be true to yourself, then live your life for others in whatever ways God points out to you.”
“I caught the ‘spirit’ of the Sisters of Mercy at Our Lady of Mercy High School, especially their joy and enthusiasm for life, their love of God and their commitment and outreach to those in need,” she said.
Sister Crowley began her teaching ministry at St. Joseph School in Penfield and later in high schools: Cardinal Mooney and Our Lady of Mercy. She also served as vocation and formation director.
She earned degrees from Catherine McAuley College and Nazareth College, and a master’s from St. Michael College, Winooski, Vt.
Sister Crowley later became assistant superior general and codirector for six years at Melita House, a home for pregnant young women.
From 1991-2004, she ministered at Tender Loving Care and Via Health Home Care as a supervisor for home health aides, and she taught hospice classes. She is now at Home Instead Senior Care.
“I have loved all my ministries. God led me where I needed to be, and I was blessed in each one in very different and beautiful ways. … I was so grateful to be a part of all the people who touched my life.”
In sharing meaningful scripture, she cites Acts 2:28 — “You have made known the way of life to me and filled me with joy through your presence.”
Motto: In God alone is my soul at peace.
“Love and laughter” has accompanied Sister MaryAnn Kosakoski and her brother, Bob, since childhood, growing up in Corning, educated by the Sisters of Mercy and members
of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
“My parents, Irene and Tony, were great examples of serving others, and I believe this ‘giving spirit’… and memories of their playfulness … are what led me to Mercy,” said sister Kosakoski, who taught for 50 of those years.
As a student at both St. Vincent School and Elmira Notre Dame High School, she recalled, “I found myself attracted to those sisters who laughed a lot and seemed very at ease in religious life. One was Sister Janet Caufield and another was Sister Mollie Brown.”
After entering in 1958 and completing formation/study, Sister Kosakoski taught in grades 2 through 8 in seven elementary schools in the Diocese of Rochester. She also worked as a physical therapy assistant at Blossom Road Nursing Home, taught health education at BOCES in Geneseo and was health counselor/teacher/student advocate at St. Lawrence School in Greece for 10 years and another 10 years at Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton.
It was in the classroom that Sister Kosakoski shared one of her “greatest gifts,” teaching junior-high English and health education. “I don’t think I ever met a junior-high student I couldn’t relate to; some were not easy, but all were worth all my efforts. … That playfulness and humor ingrained in me at an early age served me well throughout my life.”
Sister Kosakoski earned an associate degree at Catherine McAuley College, a bachelor’s degree in English at Nazareth College and a master’s degree in health education at SUNY at Brockport.
“It has been a privilege and a blessing to be there for others and to be with others throughout these years. I am especially grateful for every child, especially my special ‘teens’ who taught me how to serve happily.”
Motto: Do whatever He tells you. (from the wedding feast at Cana)
Growing up on a dairy farm in a large family and attending Mass at St. Patrick in Macedon, Sister Mary Marvin was attracted to religious life when she went to Our Lady of Mercy in Brighton for her last three years of high school.
“I was impressed with the Sisters of Mercy who taught me as well as ‘Mission Day’ when other orders displayed their service to others,” she recalled.
She entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1958, and in 1966, while she stood with 24 sisters making their profession for life, her brother, Father James J. Marvin, celebrated the Mass.
Sister Marvin taught in several schools in the Diocese of Rochester and for six years was administrator at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Irondequoit before named pastoral assistant at St. Anne in Palmyra/St. Gregory in Marion.
“My favorite ministry, I would have to say, was teaching and ministering in schools, as I loved to see the growth in both education and love and knowledge of God,” she said.
She was chaplain at Strong Memorial and Genesee hospitals before becoming principal at St. Monica School in Rochester in 1991.
Because of her continued focus on multicultural education over her 13-year tenure at the inner-city school, she received the University of Dayton Service Award.
Never idle, she branched out into real estate sales, director of Mercy Center activities and currently volunteers at her Helendale Community residence. Presently, she is a volunteer driver for sisters and at the Mercy Spirituality Center, Rochester.
“I think always of being of service to others, and being able to do that is because of the support of community.”
Motto: The Lord is my shepherd.
When the three Nugent children, living in Elmira, lost their father in 1948, Miriam was in second grade at St. Patrick School. Their mother, Helen Fitzpatrick Nugent, went back to school to teach, and it became “my Mom and the three of us kids,” Sister Miriam Nugent said.
As a sophomore at Elmira Notre Dame High School, she recalled “The Mercy Sisters were always happy, generous women and wonderful teachers. I really admired them and felt led to enter.”
Helping her mom correct students’ papers reinforced her desire to teach, and after entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1958, she began a 32-year ministry in education for the Diocese of Rochester.
“I have been a first-grade teacher, which was my dream, a principal for 22 years in two schools and pastoral associate (at St. Charles Borromeo in Greece) for 18 years.” In 2012 she was awarded the first and ongoing Caregiver Award in Greece.
“I have always felt rewarded by being a Sister of Mercy. I have never regretted my decision to enter and have loved everything I was called to do. It is a wonderful life!”
Today, Sister Nugent is local development coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy in Rochester.
She strives to live Catherine McAuley’s words: “It is God’s will that everyone called to His service should be happy.”
Motto: Serve the Lord with joy.
Always in the forefront of decision-making and governing issues of her religious community, Sister Patricia Prinzing, vice president for the New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community from 2008-16, is celebrating her 60th jubilee as a Sister of Mercy.
She attended Our Lady of Mercy High School and formed a “connection” with the Mercy Sisters, which led to her entering after graduation in 1958.
Sister Prinzing earned degrees from Catherine McAuley College, St. John College in Cleveland, St. Bonaventure University and Seattle University in Washington.
Teaching assignments included St. James School, St. Mary School in Bath and Our Lady of Mercy before moving to St. James Mercy Hospital where she worked in occupational therapy, Quality of Work Life Program, public relations and headed Mission Effectiveness for a total of 16 years.
Active in various ministries, she was quick to spread the news of new personnel, consolidations, fundraisings, political issues and grant awards followed up with numerous letters of acknowledgements representing the Mercy community while serving on several boards of directors.
Of her ministries she said, “I loved them all in Rochester, the Southern Tier and in Buffalo (where she served in leadership). It was a wonderful opportunity to minister with a variety of individuals.”
Never idle, Sister Prinzing has undertaken support staff duties in financial services at Mercy Center.
“Every day brings its own reward enhanced by my commitment to the Gospels and Mercy,” she said, and shares Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always.”
Motto: Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Nurtured in a caring, German household, a young Sister Katherine Ann Rappl attended St. Thomas the Apostle School, Irondequoit, along with a brother and sister during the 1940s, and admits, “Growing up, I always dreamed about having my own children.” But through the influence of teachers, Sisters Patricia Switzer and Jane Hasbrouck, and “the spirit and dedication of the sisters at Mercy High School,” she followed another path, one her sister, the late Sister Marion Rappl, also traveled.
After graduation in 1958, she entered the Sisters of Mercy and began a teaching career that spanned 52 years in seven Diocese of Rochester schools, including Notre Dame High School, Elmira. Her final classroom assignment, as principal at St. Rita School in Webster from 1983-2013, saw her as the recipient of the “Lighting the Fire” award for more 40 years of service presented by the Catholic School Administrators Association of New York State.
Since 2014, Sister Rappl has been codirector of Mercy Bridges, an adult literacy program.
Sharing Catherine McAuley’s words that resemble a familiar school cheer, “Our name is Mercy, our spirit is compassion,” she said, “I’ve tried to always carry out my ministry with compassion.”
Being faithful to a prayer life, the sacraments and following one’s heart often lead to a religious vocation.
“Mercy has allowed me to share my faith and touch the lives of more children than were in my dreams,” she said. “What a joy that has been!”
Motto: That in all things God may be glorified.
Many young students observe in a teacher aspects they admire, words they easily recall and a life they wish to emulate.
Sister Edna Slyck identified her vocation choice with Sister Cora Marie Mitrano, SSJ, her second-grade teacher at Holy Apostles School in Rochester, and again at Mercy High School in the 1950s through the late Sister Mary S. Jackle (Sister Mary Aquin), who taught mathematics.
In 1958, she followed the path of her mentors and entered the Sisters of Mercy. She taught in seven Diocese of Rochester elementary schools for 21 years.
In 1982, she became religious-education coordinator at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Ithaca, the first in a long line of pastoral ministries in which she helped spiritual and sacramental programs to flourish.
For 23 years, she and the late Sister Barbara Zimmer personally oversaw weeklong vacations for senior sisters at the community’s former 92-acre retreat center, High Acres in Geneva.
Prior to embarking on a sabbatical year to Marianella Retreat Centre in Dublin, Ireland, she was pastoral associate at Corning-Painted Post Roman Catholic Community. From 1998-2013, she was pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca and awarded a send-off celebration upon retirement in 2013. Of this favorite ministry, she said, “I met folks of various ages who were facing various life experiences.” Today, after 60 years, she remains an active volunteer at the parish.
Sister Slyck is credited with guiding 10 Ithaca women into and through the Mercy Associates process.
Motto: Only thyself, O Lord.
Sister Kathryn Wahl grew up in a 30-acre wooded valley with hiking trails, ponds and a creek.
“I first came to know God in the love of a very large family, the beauty of creation and 7 a.m. Sunday Mass (at St. Rita Church in Webster) with the whole family,” she said.
In the parish elementary school, she connected with the Sisters of Mercy observing their “kindness, their creativity, their love for what they did.” But changes were surfacing with “Vatican II: the change that was coming to the church. Somewhere, in all those experiences, I sensed a desire to check religious life out.”
She entered the community in 1968.
“In the 1970s, conversations and meetings in Rochester were about changes in dress, community living, formation, the constitutions, liturgical celebrations, the Vatican II documents giving voice to women in the church. We were reading and talking about Catherine McAuley and her legacy, all the time going deeper into Mercy; a depth that brought us to today’s reality and life.”
Sister Wahl lived out that spirit in ministries ranging from education, parish ministry, vocation work and community leadership. Today, she serves on the Transitional Coordinating Team for her religious community.
She shares this borrowed quote: “I believe we are living religious life in a liminal space in which our real work — the work of all of us together, all of us living this life — is to assist passing narratives about ourselves to pass, in order to open space for what is emerging to arrive.”
Motto: I have called you by name. (Isaiah 43)