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Jubilees Recognize 665 Years of Dedicated Ministry

On June 28, 2008, nine Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province in Fox Chase Manor, Pennsylvania, quietly began the day in prayer, each in her own way communicating with the One whose call she had answered many decades ago. The ritual each of the nine Sisters had practiced over the years was a fitting prelude to a special day, a day celebrating milestones in lives consecrated to serving the Lord, a day during which they would be honored and recognized by their Sisters in Christ.

Others in the Basilian Motherhouse also began the day in quiet prayer and quiet reflections about those who were celebrating their 60th, 70th, 75th, and 80th anniversaries as Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great - individually formidable and collectively invincible, the nine had contributed their special and unique talents to the community for 665 years of combined service, a time frame graced by nearly 2 million hours of active ministry, 243,000 Divine Liturgies, Matins, and Vespers, countless journeys throughout the United States and Canada, and millions of kind deeds and words of friendship and comfort dispensed along the way.  Indeed, each of the nine has an incredible history, a history marked by accomplishment and achievement for the greater glory of God.

Sister Paula, celebrating her 60th Jubilee as a Sister of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, has served as teacher, principal, and superior in six parishes in three states: New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.  As Novice Directress, she had the compassion and wisdom to help her young charges mature spiritually and intellectually, inspiring others as a model of faith and dedication.  Not content to stay “retired,” Sister Paula continues her service as the as Assistant Superior of the Motherhouse and as a member of the Development Office team.

Sister Cornelia, celebrating her 70th Jubilee, has served the community as superior.  Fulfilling the educational ministry established by the founders of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, she became an educator.  As teacher, principal, and guidance counselor, she worked with children and young people in eleven different cities throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey.  For nine years, Sister served as Superior of the Motherhouse and three terms as a Provincial Councilor.  Now retired, Sister Cornelia peruses the convent records, helping to classify, organize, and label archival documents and photographs of days gone by.

Sister Damien, also celebrating her 70th Jubilee, is no less traveled.  A “Philadelphia girl,” she joined the order in 1938 and was stationed to eleven different parishes in five different states.  One of her most called upon, and treasured, duties was preparing children for their first Holy Communion, and she is fondly remembered by those she challenged and guided as teacher and as principal.  Blessed with a strong voice and a creative spirit, Sister Damien filled the schools in which she worked with song and festive programs.  In later years, she was to turn that creative spirit in a new direction—corporal and spiritual works of mercy to lighten the burdens of the ill and infirm.

Three of the Sisters celebrated their 75th anniversary as Sisters of Saint Basil the Great: Sister Bohdonna, Sister Boniface, and Sister Vincent—each a precious diamond whose diamond jubilee is a sparkling testament to faith, perseverance, and renewal.

Sister Bohdonna, who taught at Saint Basil Academy and Manor College, has also worked in numerous parishes and was selected to establish a Basilian mission in Canada.  A former Provincial Superior, she is enriching her retirement years by tutoring and surfing the Internet to stay abreast of religious and world news, remembering to mark special occasions of other Sisters in the community with beautiful hand-crafter cards.


Sister Boniface, the second Jubilarian celebrating her 75-year milestone, taught in six states and was among the first Sisters assigned to teach at the newly established Saint Basil Academy.  As the Academy’s principal she worked to instill in her charges values that embraced the ideals of the strong Christian family, the Ukrainian heritage, and an excellent education, enticing them to aspire to these ideals with a sense of story, a sense of humor, and a sense of leadership that reflected her zest for life.  She has served the community in many different ways and in many different locations, including Rome.



The third 75th Jubilarian, Sister Vincent,  has served in more parishes than any other Sister, moving with equanimity from assignment to assignment in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio as a teacher and as a librarian.  Ever gentle and gracious, she now assists the monastery superior with household tasks.  An avid reader herself, Sister Vincent remains dedicated to keeping collection of books and newspapers in the convent library organized and readily accessible to others.




Most amazing in this celebration of years of service  as Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great are the three Sisters celebrating 80 years in dedicated ministry: Sister Isidore, Sister Lucy, and Sister Neonilia.

Assigned to duties in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio, Sister Isidore served in 15 parishes as a creative and versatile teacher.  Sister Isidore has also used her sewing skills as a ministry, deftly embroidering traditional Ukrainian garments for cultural displays and innumerable priests’ vestments and church linens.  The multi-talented Sister Isidore continues to serve the community as sacristan and by preparing the bread that becomes the Eucharistic Host during Divine Liturgy.

Sister Lucy and Sister Neonilia, sisters by birth as well as Sisters in Christ, entered the Order in January of 1928.  Sister Lucy is best remembered for her many years of teaching, most notably in Chester, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey.  Having lived through much of the history of the Basilian Order in the United States, Sister Lucy is the living link that binds the community to its roots, sharing stories and memories of our predecessors.  At the age of 98, she continues to find the world an interesting place and is often amused by life’s incongruence.




Sister Neonilia also taught in several states: Michigan, New York, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  She has the distinction of being the longest serving Mistress of Novices and, in this capacity, guided and nurtured many of the Sisters who are in the Order today.  A student as well as a teacher, Sister Neonilia embraced the changes wrought by Vatican II, updating her personal theological knowledge and adapting herself to new ways humbly and seamlessly, in a manner reflecting the quiet dignity and steadfast faith of her model, Saint Theresa of Avila.

 

For each of the nine Sisters, the day was punctuated with loving words and congratulatory messages, among them a letter from Provincial Superior, Sister Laura Palka, OSBM, a tribute thanking each of the nine for “sharing the bounties of the Lord, the good and the hard times of daily life, the happy and painful events over these many years” with other members of the community, a letter personalized to recognize and extol good deeds, good work, and special gifts each have shared with others.  And indeed, each of the Sisters has lived in the spirit reflected in the words of Saint Luke inscribed above the text of Sister Laura’s letter: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

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