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Sister Catherine (Sherry) Reilly, O.P., 79, is a dynamo who shows no signs of slowing down. After a lifetime of working in education, counseling, family ministry, bereavement ministry and more, Sister Catherine has returned to elementary school, this time as a knitting coach for fourth and fifth-graders at Aquinas Academy in Livingston. Of the twenty-five boys and girls who meet with her at lunch time, Sister says: “I wish I could bottle their enthusiasm.” Well, I wish I could bottle hers!
Sister Catherine is a reminder that our ministry continues no matter our age. She says that life in retirement at the convent challenges our Sisters to new growth and awareness of God’s love for us. Born in Jersey City, N.J., Sister Catherine entered the Sisters of Saint Dominic in 1954. She felt a calling to religious life and, when she was a senior at Mount Saint Dominic, a Sister said, “Darling, I think you belong here,” and her journey began.
Sister Catherine has taught in Lyndhurst, Mountainside, New Providence, Caldwell and Union. She was principal of St. Mary’s in Wharton and St. Joseph in West Orange. After getting a degree in counseling, she served in family life ministry, at Mount Carmel and Catholic Charities in Perth Amboy.” In 2001, she shifted her focus to bereavement ministry, where she continued to serve until 2014.
Of her many years in ministry, Sister Catherine's early days as a first-grade teacher stand out: "Oh, to be with the little people... It was just exciting to open worlds for them," she says. In her retirement, Sister Catherine is continuing to open worlds for people, forming a new bereavement ministry for the Lumen Center at the Motherhouse and through her involvement on our Peace and Justice Committee, which works against human trafficking, among other pressing issues.
Sister Mary Bertrand Austin, O.P., 83, is a joyous, easy-going person whose beautiful vocation story began to unfold when she was only seven years old. She remembers feeling God’s love in a powerful way at her first Communion, which she says was the beginning of her “lifetime friendship” with Jesus. She credits her parents and teachers for the examples of faith that became the “bricks” that built her spiritual foundation and led her to the Sisters of Saint Dominic in 1951.
Before she had even finished college, Sister Bertrand was in the classroom, teaching 64 girls at once. Those beautiful little faces. It was a joy, positive joy,” she told me. She went on to teach every grade at Our Lady of the Lake in Verona, where she served for 17 years. She also taught at St. Aloysius School in Caldwell and at Caldwell College. Later she went on to do fundraising for Project Link Education Center in Newark and served as assistant principal and director of students at Saint Dominic Academy in Jersey City.
At the age of 72, Sister Bertrand decided to switch gears. She served as administrative assistant for the Sisters of Saint Francis of Peace in Haverstraw, N.Y., where she worked for the past 11 years. She spearheaded many initiatives for the group and served as treasurer.
“I am really proud of our community because we move with the times,” Sister Bertrand told me. She credits you and all of our benefactors for making that possible. “Our donors are such an important part of what we are and what we do. I see them as our partners in everything,” she explained. “They are invisible partners, but they are there… We are doing wonderful things that would not be possible without that kind of support and commitment.”
Sister Mary Brigid Brady O.P., 77, is a thoughtful and determined sister who says she never really seriously considered anything other than religious life. She remembers the sisters who taught her as “extraordinarily gentle and patient.” They opened her eyes to new ways to handle difficult situations, something that was obvious when she was sidelined by her hip replacement surgery recently. Although she’s still on the mend, Sister Mary Brigid is back at work maintaining a website for the Lumen Center, a gathering place for those who want to join our sisters in prayer, study and action. It’s hard to slow Sister Mary Brigid down. Even as she regains her strength, she’s has her sights set on much more work to be done.
Born in Glen Ridge, N.J., Sister Mary Brigid entered the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell in 1955. She taught second and fourth grades at Sacred Heart in Lyndhurst, middle grades at St. Mary in Wharton, and English at Union Catholic in Scotch Plains and at Caldwell University, where she taught for 43 years before retiring in the summer of 2014!
Of all those teaching experiences, she loves to talk about the middle school years. “I think seventh-graders are my favorite because they’re becoming people with thoughts and judgment calls of their own, and they may get things wrong but they have a reason for it usually. They’rewilling to talk to you,” she says.
Sister Mary Lou Bauman, O.P. A Caldwell Dominican since 1976, Sister Mary Lou is currently Vice Principal and Dean of students at Saint Dominic Academy in Jersey City. A graduate of St. Dominic’s herself, Sister Mary Lou has seen many changes over the years, yet the same Dominican spirit enlivens the school. She relates effectively with the urban students and their dynamic urban setting. Most of Sister’s thirty-seven years of ministry have been spent in guidance and student personnel services in several North Jersey secondary schools. She brings a cheerful energy to her administrative duties, realizing that effective change can often be brought about by a smile or a cheerful word.
Sister Donna Ciangio, O.P. founding Director of Church Leadership Consultation, enjoys a truly global ministry. For over thirty years, Sister Donna has collaborated with everyone from cardinals to catechists on all seven continents. Her task is to develop both lay and clerical leadership with skills to promote parish vitality, pastoral direction, adult faith formation, and small Christian communities. Recently, technology has helped to relieve her strenuous travel schedule which in a given month might range from Latin America to the Philippines. For example, regular Skype conversations now allow Sister Donna to maintain friendships with diocesan leaders from Dublin, Ireland and Durbin, South Africa. Closer to home, Sister Donna serves as the Director of Faith Formation at St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills, New Jersey, as an adjunct faculty member in Drew University’s Doctor of Ministry program, and as parish consultant for the Jesuit National Conference USA, and for RCL Benziger Publishing Company.
Sister Patricia Daly, O.P. Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, engages in a preaching ministry beyond any classroom or pulpit. As a
financial consultant to forty religious congregations in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, TRICRI educates financial managers to screen corporations which manufacture dangerous products like weapons and genetically-modified organisms and/or who engage in unfair labor practices. Sister Pat’s organization represents the combined investment power of religious organizations at shareholders’ meetings concerned with issues like human rights, environmental protection, and human trafficking. Asked, “Does it work?” Sister Pat happily points to Ford Motor Company as “a successful transformation of a corporate culture to attend to a broad spectrum of sustainability issues.” As a Dominican, Sister Pat finds her unique “ministry of preaching in the marketplace amazingly fulfilling, addressing today’s crises, confronting the heresy of greed at all cost.”
Carol Dempsey, O.P., Ph.D., always wanted to be a teacher since she was in the 2nd grade. She says she grew up in an era of tremendous renewal and freedom, at a time immediately before and right after Vatican II, when the Kennedys were in office, when marches for civil rights took place, and when the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary became the voice and conscience of a nation on the brink of change. During those early school years, Carol remembers that “the Dominican Sisters at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Lyndhurst, NJ, engaged with the students and the rest of the faculty, and the priests knew their parishioners. The Sisters knew how to relate to us (students) as people. They had a passion for life.” Their influences and sharing of music, especially the Folk artists of the late 60’s and early 70’s helped Carol develop her love to play the 12 string guitar and solidified her desire to become a teacher. She remembers well Sister Cather Richard, OP (now Cathy Ochs) teaching the fifth graders how to sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore.” Carol was one of those fifth graders. More..
Sister Adrienne Fallon, O.P. 76, knew when she was only in third grade that she wanted to be a sister, so at age 16, after years of being taught by the Dominicans, she started teaching CCD class to try her future career on for size. It was a perfect fit. She entered the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell in 1953 and was immediately sent out to teach elementary school, sometimes with as many as 50 children in a class. Over the course of 55 years, she taught English, French, science and religion in kindergarten through eighth grade. In the 1990s, she was head of the CCD program at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Whiting, N.J. Although she retired in 2008 at age 73, she was soon pressed back into service when the pastor of St. Elizabeth’s asked her to teach CCD part time, bringing her ministry full circle. She eagerly accepted and stayed on for three more years until her “official” retirement in 2011.
“I’ll never retire,” says Sister Adrienne, who visits Sisters living in the infirmary at our Motherhouse, and drives older Sisters to doctor appointments or to go shopping. On top of all that, in 2010 she started the Dominican Lay Fraternity at St. Elizabeth’s parish for men and women who have committed themselves to seeking a deeper and richer spiritual life as members of the Dominican Laity.
Sister Suzie Janis, O.P. Celebrating fifty-two years of ministry dedicated to children. “Sister Susie” was a name called out frequently and lovingly at Trinity Academy Early Childhood Care Center in Roseland where Sister Suzanne Janis, OP served as Director for eleven years. Her warm greeting and happy spirit set the tone for the day as Sister each morning welcomed little ones ranging in age from 2 ½ to 5 years. The child care center is now under the direction of Trinity Academy in Caldwell, but Sister Susie’s personal concern and affection for each child remain a hallmark of the center and a wonderful way of preaching God’s love and care for all. Prior to her years at Trinity, Sister worked at Babyland in Newark, an archdiocesan office where babies born of parents with Aids, are loved and nurtured through their early years. There, too, she was loved and admired by her co-workers for her compassion and sensitivity. Sister Susie’s life is marked by a deep faith and a strong desire to serve God’s
people. Her generous heart extends everywhere and to everyone. Whenever she hears of someone in need she is sure to be among the “first responders.” One of her favorite projects is collecting good used clothing for those unable to buy for themselves. There is a long list of those who are grateful for Sister Susie’s efforts. Our Sister Suzanne is indeed a Dominican true to our tradition. She praises God each morning as she begins her day in prayer; she blesses everyone she meets with a joyful spirit; she preaches God’s word daily with a happiness and love that shine through all she does.
Sister Anne Hepin, O.P. (By: Bobbie Terry)In 2007, I enrolled in RCIA class at St. Anastasia Catholic Church in St. Augustine, Florida. Little did I know I was going to meet someone who would impact my life in a big way! I saw a woman, all dressed in white and obviously a nun, but she wasn’t in charge of instruction of the RCIA class. She was there to support those of us who were there to learn about the Catholic faith. I was immediately drawn to Sister Anne Halpin, OP. Her warm smile and comforting presence were very welcome as I sat in that room full of strangers. Sister Anne was so helpful to all of us in that class. Thanks to her, when the time came for first communion, all of us appeared as if we had been Catholics from the cradle!
In 2010, I was being led to do something, but I wasn’t certain what I should be doing! I prayed and prayed about it, asking God to show me what it was that He meant for me to do. God spoke to my spirit over and over again, and said “Go to My Servant Anne”. After I heard this three or four times I told my husband “the only Anne I know is Sister Anne Halpin.” So Tom took me to visit Sister Anne the very next day. She became my spiritual advisor that day and I am very grateful to God for sending me in her direction! Sister Anne encouraged my husband Tom and I to get involved in feeding the homeless with a group from our church. One Sunday each month a group of twenty or so prepared a big pan of something to serve and gathered downtown to serve more than one hundred hungry and homeless brothers and sisters from our community. The serving group grew fast and so we joined the Cathedral group, who served every Wednesday evening. In August, 2012, the group coordinator announced that she had other commitments and needed a replacement. Tom and I agreed to become the new coordinators and we have never looked back! More.....
Sister Pat Hogan, O.P.The Dominican Nuns and a familial legacy at St. Joseph School in Union City were an inspiration for Sister Pat Hogan, OP. She first thought of the vocation in fifth grade, but it was during her high school years at St. Dominic Academy where the idea truly began to flourish. Seeking enlightenment from the Blessed Mother, Sister Pat would stop daily on her route home from SDA at the beautiful grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. There she prayed to Mary, asking ‘Please direct me!’ At the time she was interested in becoming a nurse or doctor so when she entered the Caldwell Community she said that she might like to work in the infirmary. But Mother Dolorita’s reply was “Sister, you know we are a teaching order” and with that, Sister Pat’s path changed.
Sister Pat’s first assignment was at St Aedan’s in Jersey City where she felt a great closeness with the parents, students, teachers and priests. Having served for eight years, she was reassigned to St Ann’s in Newark. The area at the time was in great turmoil, but it was there where answers to Sister Pat’s prayers were revealed. She says “Our family had a great devotion to St Martin De Porres… we prayed to him during times of severe illness.” Upon reaching the second floor landing while touring Ann’s, Sr. Pat found the statue to St Martin De Porres and saw it as a sign revealed, “…I knew I belonged” and there she stayed for nine years. Read More..
Sister Barbara Moore, O.P. Associate Professor of Theology at Caldwell College, has for ten years coordinated its graduate program in Pastoral Ministry. Before returning to full-time college teaching, Sister Barbara served as Pastoral Associate at Blessed Kateri Parish in Sparta, NJ during its first seventeen years. This experience prepared her to understand the academic and professional requirements of lay ministers, but more importantly, her parish relationships also motivated her determination to deepen students’ personal faith experience. Recently, Sister Barbara has found that offering theology courses online has opened up teaching’s pastoral dimension in a way she had not anticipated. “Somehow, students seem to share their faith journeys more freely with me and with each other online than they ever do in the classroom. Their questions demand more than academic information and engage my pastoral skills to focus on theology’s relevance in peoples’ lives and in the realities of their world.”
Sister Gerardine Mueller, O.P. is 90 years old and says, “I want another 90!” She enjoys life so much – her work, her interests, even the challenges. She entered the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell in 1939, and taught history and geography in second and fifth grade in Upper Montclair, N.J. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Notre Dame and went on to teach high school art. She eventually founded the Caldwell College Art Department. Even now, she continues to teach, if a college student needs to learn a specialized art form such as metal work, copper enameling or stained glass.
Stained glass is Sister Gerardine’s true specialty, and you can find her magnificent creations in Saint Catherine of Siena Convent and Healthcare Center as well as at Caldwell College. One of her students, for Sister Gerardine’s 90th birthday celebration, wrote this testimonial: “There are very few people who have dramatically changed my life. Sister Gerardine is one of them. Her sparkling blue eyes see what lies within and beyond, and what her eyes don’t see, her heart and soul feel.”
Sister Marie Mueller, O.P. Since her entrance into the Caldwell Dominicans in 1972 Sister Marie Mueller has ministered as both teacher and administrator in several Dominican schools. Sister spent ten years at Caldwell College first as math instructor and then as Dean of Students. With advanced degrees in both math and pastoral counseling, she recognizes the value of both in enabling her to help students cope with the common problems of math anxiety as well as their transitions from teenager to adulthood. Currently teaching
math at Lacordaire Academy in Upper Montclair, Sister Marie for the past several years has helped to coordinate a schoolwide program to promote among the students a deeper awareness of the Dominican charism which is their heritage.
Sister Anne John O’Loughlin, O.P. has taught in schools throughout New Jersey, focusing on high school social studies and history, and serving as a high school librarian. In 1962, she became college librarian and also taught Library Science at Caldwell College. In 1969, she was appointed President of Caldwell College and served for 10 years. She later worked for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey, representing 16 State Department of Education officers for colleges. After serving as Assistant to the President of Seton Hall University, Sister Anne John was asked to come back to Caldwell College, taking on the job of Provost. Always ready for a challenge, in 1987 Sister Anne John was charged with establishing a development office to help raise funds to renovate our community chapel, a job she did with great success and enthusiasm.
Although she’s “retired,” Sister Anne John continues to work in the community library two days a week and drives older Sisters to doctor appointments and on other errands. She’s also an active member of the Kiwanis Club, which focuses on helping children. Despite her high-powered resume, when she reflects on her accomplishments, Sister Anne John comes back to a simple truth: “No matter what else I did, I was a Dominican Sister first and foremost. Therefore my prayers were daily, and the benefactors were remembered daily.”
Sister Lena Picillo, O.P. A Caldwell Dominican since her entrance in 1977, has spent the past thirty-seven years dedicated to inspiring academic excellence in her students while encouraging social justice and service to others. She has served as principal of Aquinas Academy in Livingston since 2006. She recognizes that well-rounded students are not formed in classrooms alone and takes every opportunity to help her students make connections between curriculum and reality through community service projects in support of those less fortunate. Whether as classroom teacher, early childhood director, guidance counselor or as principal, Sister Lena continues to spread the message, “Be a Peaceful Presence.” Sister Mary Lou Bauman, O.P
Sister Justine Pinto, OP Our family has known and worked with Sister Justine Pinto, O.P. for several decades. She is a model religious woman with great spirituality and devotion; a dedicated educator; and a trustworthy, loyal friend and supporter.
She carries herself with great dignity, at all times. She is humble and kind, a good listener, and leads by example. Careful and serious in making decisions, she does not take herself too seriously. She has a good sense of humor and loves to laugh. And a hearty laugh she has! As a loyal and devoted Caldwell Dominican, it seems that when times are tough, such as her health battles, she carries her cross and still finds the courage to reach out and help others. Perhaps this stems from her upbringing in Jersey City and the learning she received at Saint Dominic Academy.
We consider ourselves fortunate, over a span of 25 years, to have had all of our ten children educated by the Caldwell Dominicans at the Saint Virgil School. During those years, the school had a remarkably stellar, religious based academic program, balanced by a healthy co-curricular and extra-curricular program, to which Sister lent active support. As a devoted teacher and principal, Sister was not only a leader, but an integral part of the Caldwell Dominican’s tradition. Read More...
Sister Patricia Stringer (OP) had a brief encounter with the Calling as a child while attending St. John the Apostle grammar school in Clark, NJ. She credits her parents with providing the solid foundation to the Faith that helped set the idea in motion, but it wasn’t until attending Caldwell College, and working with Caldwell’s Campus Ministry and the poor in Newark, that she began to seriously consider a Vocation. Though Sister explored options with various Communities she ultimately decided that the Sisters of St. Dominic were the best fit.
Sister Pat has given over 40 years; a journey which has taken her to St. Aloysius in Caldwell; St. Cassian in Upper Montclair; Mt. St. Dominic Academy in Caldwell; the Trenton Diocese; Caldwell College; Abaco, Bahamas; Quito, Ecuador and the surrounding jungles, and Cruce de Arroyo Hondo in the Dominican Republic. In the spring of 2010, Sister Pat was elected to serve as part of the Sisters’ Leadership Team. She is now back where it all started, at the Motherhouse in Caldwell, NJ. Read More..
Sister Honora Werner, O.P. ministers as director and professor in the doctoral preaching program at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. Aquinas, the only Catholic school in the US to offer a doctorate in preaching, educates religious and lay people for service and leadership in the Church. The online doctoral program serves students from the USA, Canada and overseas. Sister Honora works mostly from an office in Caldwell! She travels to St. Louis a few times each year when her students come in for intensive weeks of study. There are 94 graduates of the program and 47 currently studying. Graduates gift the Church as teachers, writers, and, of course, as preachers.