Congratulations! Sr. Mary Frances Serafino on your 70th Jubilee
On Saturday, Sept. 28, Sister Mary Frances Serafino celebrated her 70th Jubilee as a Sister of St. Mary of Namur at the 5 o’clock Mass at Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth, TX, with Father Hoa Nguyen presiding and Father Richard Flores as homilist.
Sister taught at St. Alice School when St. Alice Parish preceded Holy Family. After earning her Master’s degree at the Catholic University of America, she taught at a number of different schools staffed by the Sisters as well as St. Leo’s University in Norfolk, VA. In Virginia she was also involved in pastoral work in several parishes and created a bookstore, Dolphin’s Tales, which also served as a resource center for quiet and prayer. Since returning to OLV, she has been involved with spiritual direction and retreat work and is an active member of the Daughters of Abraham.
Congratulations on 65 years of service
On Sept. 15, 2019, Most Rev. Michael Olson, offered the 65th Jubilee Mass for Sisters Mary Elaine Breen, Jane Conway, Joan Markey, Mary Dorothy Powers, and Mary Jean Warmuth. Throughout the years, these Sisters have served as nurses and missionaries, administrators, musicians, university professors, catechists, and elementary and high school teachers. You name it, they probably did it!
God bless them all!
Celebrating 65 years of Service with SSMN
Five Sisters of St. Mary of Namur celebrate 65 years of consecrated life
by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen
North Texas Catholic
September 17, 2019
From left: Sister Gabriela Martinez, Sister Mary Dorothy Powers, and Sister Mary Jean Warmuth listen as Bishop Michael Olson delivers the homily during Mass for the 65th anniversary of vows of five sisters to the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, September 15, 2019. (NTC/Rodger Mallison) See more photos of the sisters as they celebrate their jubilee.
FORT WORTH — Later this year, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur will mark a milestone anniversary: 200 years as a religious order. But before then, five of those sisters were honored for anniversaries of their own Sept. 15 during a Mass and luncheon held at Our Lady of Victory Center in Fort Worth.
Sister Mary Elaine Breen, Sister Jane Conway, Sister Joan Markey, Sister Mary Dorothy Powers, and Sister Mary Jean Warmuth marked 65 years with the religious order by renewing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience before a gathering of friends, family, and fellow sisters.
“The Lord receives your gift. May you receive God’s blessing,” the order’s provincial, Sister Gabriela Martinez, said at the end of the brief ritual.
Bishop Michael Olson, the Mass celebrant, offered prayers of gratitude for the five sisters who were called by Christ and followed Him into religious life.
“Our ministry is a response to Christ’s call, but it is also something we share,” he said, addressing the jubilarians. “Particularly in religious life, it’s a ministry you share as members of a community and part of a tradition.”
The community has existed since 1819, and since then members of the Belgian-based congregation have touched millions of lives around the globe through education, healthcare, and missionary outreach.
“The Sisters of St. Mary of Namur will celebrate 200 years of history and that history is made up of women who are heroes,” enthused Sister Gabriela. “They are women who give of themselves always and are witnesses to God’s love for all.”
Noting that upcoming bicentennial anniversary, the bishop recalled the order’s early days in Belgium. Encouraged by their pastor, two women combined religious instruction with sewing lessons to educate impoverished girls in Namur. Their ministry quickly flourished beyond the parish.
“They went out to find the lost sheep,” Bishop Olson said, referencing Sunday’s Gospel (Lk. 15:1-10). “Early in their life in Namur, they reached out to young women who otherwise would have been lost and overlooked.”
The Sisters of St. Mary continue to help the poor who often fall through the cracks of society.
“Through your charism and ministry as sisters, you’ve always been there to prevent the fall,” he pointed out. “And to those who do fall, you pull them out of the crevice.”
Saying “yes” to the call of Christ each and every moment of the day takes courage, the bishop added.
“May the Lord bless you and your community with great joy, peace, and the ongoing love of Christ that never fails,” he said in closing.
Many of Sr. Mary Elaine’s family members joined her for the celebration. A graduate of Our Lady of Victory Academy, she entered the convent as an 18-year-old and became a registered nurse in 1960. The healthcare professional went on to become a midwife in the Congo and worked at the order’s hospital and dispensary in Rwanda during her career. Sr. Mary Elaine used her medical expertise to help design OLV’s infirmary.
“It’s been a wonderful 65 years,” she told the North Texas Catholic.
Her brother, Michael Breen, said their mother always wanted a sister and priest in the family. His sibling fulfilled part of that dream.
“She was so proud of Elaine and would be so happy today,” he said.
Sister Joan Markey and Sister Mary Elaine Breen, celebrating 65 years of their vows, are greeted by well wishers during the sign of peace as Bishop Michael Olson celebrates Mass five sisters to the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, Sunday, September 15, 2019
Sr. Dorothy Powers referred to her 65 years as a Sister of St. Mary as a “wonderful roller coaster ride. If I could do it all over again, I would in an instant.”
After earning a degree in Spanish language and literature in Mexico, she taught Spanish at Nolan Catholic High School and later served as principal at two Catholic elementary schools. The OLV graduate returned to Mexico and co-founded a mission of the Sisters of St. Mary in Zihuatanejo, Mexico along with Sr. Gabriela. After retiring from her position as director of religious education at St. Joseph Parish, Sr. Dorothy was named co-director of formation and is now part of the order’s leadership team.
“The future of the Sisters of St. Mary is up to God. We’ll go where God leads us and answer the needs that are there,” she said. “We pray there are other women who are inspired and will listen to God’s call.”
Sr. Joan Markey served six years as provincial for the order’s western province and looks back on that time with fondness.
“The sisters are so engaged and giving,” observed the Wichita Falls native who earned undergraduate and advanced degrees in English from the University of Dallas and Rice University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of North Texas. “They have such enthusiasm and ideas.”
Her apostolate included working as a teacher or administrator at the elementary, high school, and college levels.
Hymns sang at the Jubilee Mass were accompanied on the piano by Sister Jane Conway, one of the day’s honorees.
“I have always loved music, and my parents and the sisters nurtured that,” said Sr. Mary Jane who first met the Sisters of St. Mary as a first-grader in Dallas and later attended OLV.
The accomplished musician taught at OLV Academy and Nolan Catholic High School when it opened in 1961. At the University of St. Thomas in Houston, she chaired the music department and was an instructor in applied music, theory, and chamber music.
“What’s the best part of being a sister? It’s living with people who have similar aspirations,” she said. “I like to teach and was able to do that.”
Sr. Mary Jean Warmuth still remembers the first time she walked into a classroom. There were 54 boys and girls sitting in a first-grade classroom at St. Alice (now Holy Family) School. A few years later, the Wichita Falls native took time off from teaching to become a licensed vocational nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Worth. She later returned to the classroom and served there until retirement.
“I remember a lot of my students and they remember me when they see this,” she said pointing to her blue veil. “I spent close to 50 years in the classroom. It was always so rewarding.”
Religious life is a challenging, heart-response to the invitation of Jesus, “Come follow me”. Throughout our life we strive to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus and continue His mission of love and hope to our sisters and brothers with whom we minister. We desire to be a sign of the Gospel, witnessing to the possibility of a world in which boundaries do not keep us from a life of unity and communion.
As religious, we consecrate our lives through the living out of three vows we take:
- Poverty, through which we try to live simply and pool our resources and talents;
- Chastity, by developing and living intimacy with our God; and
- Obedience, through discernment with our leaders, spiritual directors and friends to follow what God is asking of us.
Sister Lola Ulupano pronounced her first vows on August 17, 2013 in her home parish of St. Michael’s in Bedford Texas with the Sisters of St. Mary, her family, friends and the Tongan Community.
Sister Rosemary Stanton 50th JUBILEE
When Rosemary Stanton graduated from Nolan Catholic High School in 1967, her goal was to join the Peace Corps. Teaching religious education one day a week to disadvantaged youngsters, and a summer spent working for Head Start in the same poverty-stricken neighborhood, kindled a desire to help the less fortunate.
“I became aware of my many blessings and felt I wanted to give to others some of what I had received,” the Fort Worth native said, remembering her teenage years.
Thoughts of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in a third-world country paired with the opportunity to serve with youthful adventure.
Her father nixed the idea.
“He thought it was too dangerous,” she explained, citing her dad’s protective nature as a reason for the decision.
At the time, her parents, Baldwin and Bernice Stanton, could not have imagined that within five years their daughter would begin a lifetime of ministry in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Cameroon, and Brazil as a Sister of St. Mary of Namur.
Family, friends, and former classmates of Sr. Rosemary gathered inside the Hartnett Arena at Nolan on Sept. 15 for a Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate the former missionary’s 50 years as a member of the religious order. Taught by the Sisters of St. Mary at St. Ignatius Academy, Our Lady of Victory School, and Nolan, the former cheerleader entered the community in 1968 after attending the University of Texas at Arlington for one year.
“Although I was very involved in my social life, I still felt something was missing,” said Sr. Rosemary, who enjoyed parties and dating in high school. “I often wondered what God wanted me to do in life. I would have loved to marry, have a family, and raise them as good Christians but I also felt the call to religious life.”
Inspired by her religious educators, she decided to enter the convent at the age of 19.
“Since then, I’ve been abundantly blessed by the experiences I’ve been given,” said Sr. Rosemary, who spent nine years teaching religion and homemaking skills in Africa and 26 years in northeastern Brazil doing pastoral ministry in parishes and schools.
Living in different countries among people of different cultures fostered a sense of global awareness in the Texan.
“I know close-up about the beauty, the human richness, and, at times, the great material poverty and unjust situations in these places in the world,” she pointed out. “And my religious life is different because of this.”
Thanks to her life in the missions, Sr. Rosemary has a keen awareness of how people live in underdeveloped areas.
“Their presence in my heart and life make me hear a continuous call to live in solidarity with them,” she added.
After returning to Fort Worth, Sr. Rosemary went to work at her alma mater as a pastoral minister organizing liturgies and retreats for students. She also serves on her congregation’s General Council — a team of five women who manage the needs and mission of sisters working in 10 countries.
“The charism of the Sisters of St. Mary just bubbles out of her,” said Paul Combest, a former Nolan coworker who now lives in San Antonio. “I wanted to be here today to honor Rosemary. She’s just wonderful and takes care of this community — the students, staff, and alumni.”
Father Joe Pemberton, a Nolan classmate of Sr. Rosemary, concelebrated the Mass along with Bishop Michael Olson, Nolan’s chaplain Father Maurice Moon, Father Tom Craig, and Father Anh Tran. During his homily, Fr. Pemberton thanked his longtime Nolan friend for her faithfulness to the Church and religious life.
“It is good for us to be here today,” he said resolutely. “At a time when the Church is wrestling with so many issues — an element of our Church that is so broken — Christ brings us to this joyful moment to remember there are many men and women who courageously stand before Christ and His Church as a witness to the Gospel.”
The jubilee celebration honors such a woman, he told Mass participants.
“Sr. Rosemary Stanton and her 50 years of commitment to religious life remind us that even in the midst of brokenness, Jesus is present.”
Offering remarks at the end of the Mass, Bishop Olson thanked the jubilarian for her ministry, vocation, and dedication.
“Today is a day of Thanksgiving for all the sisters,” he said. “I thank God for the gift of the Sisters of St. Mary — for the charism of the order and the spirit of your founders that is in tandem with the voice of Christ — especially in serving the needs of the poor.”
Sr. Rosemary’s father may have quashed dreams of the Peace Corps, “but he was proud of her, we all are,” insisted her eldest sibling Ed Stanton.
Hearing his popular, college freshman sister wanted to join the convent was a surprise, he admitted.
“But that was her decision and we were for it,” Stanton added. “She’s done a lot for people. I’d say my father would be full of joy about this 50th jubilee.”
SSMN 2017 JUBILEE
On Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, the Sisters of St. Mary celebrated the Jubilees of Sr. Mary Fulbright (70), Sisters Roberta Hesse, Camella Menotti, and Adelaide Valtierra (65), and Sr. Mary Merdian (60). This is a total of 330 years of service to the community and people in Texas and Africa. Bishop Michael Olson presided at the Jubilee Mass, which was followed by a reception for the friends and relatives of the Sisters. We give the Sisters our congratulations and wish them many more happy years.
Oblates of the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur are single Catholic women who discerned a specific vocation within The Congregation and believe they are called to make The Congregation their primary life commitment. Oblates make simple promises to live in Simplicity, Chastity and Availability. These promises are made for one year, and may be renewed annually for three years or for life (perpetual).
Oblates participate in the charism of SSMN, and may be engaged in works with the Sisters or other ministries, while living independently and maintaining individual financial responsibility. They wear a medallion that is the seal of The Congregation with its motto: “ In simplicity of heart, I have joyfully given all to God.”
Associates of the Sisters of St. Mary are women who have a distinct vocation in The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Mary. Both married and single, actively professional or retired, their simple and joyful hearts resonate with the charism of the Sisters of Saint Mary. They make promises to live The Congregation’s charism by deepening personal and communal prayer, striving to live in the spirit of the gospel and extending that spirit into the service of the people of God. Like the Sisters, they seek to offer their gifts to the people who are most in need. Associates participate with the Sisters in various projects at home, out of city and state, and out of the country.
In October of 2002 Rosemary Hayes asked Sister Anselma why the Sisters of St. Mary did not have an auxiliary. Her response was “no one ever started one.”
By January 1, 2003 a board had been set up with seven people, an assumed certificate and a federal ID number and checking account. Invitations were mailed out to about 200 people. When people learned about the work the Sisters had done to bring about Catholic Education and the Gospel message to others, the donations increased and they have continued to show their support. Even people who were taught by other orders have been supportive because they have felt the love and spirit of Catholic Sisters in their lives. As of today there is a mailing list of 3800 people.
In addition to fresh flowers on the tables at Our Lady of Victory (OLV) Center each week, the auxiliary has also provided computers, furniture for offices, necessary maintenance, aided in travel expenses, hosted receptions for celebrations and been at the service and call of the Sisters.
With gratitude and respect for all that the Sisters of St. Mary have done and the ones before them, we applaud their service to so many.
We honor the lives and the legacies of the Sisters who have gone before us. The Sisters whose selfless work and devotion to our mission created the foundation for who we are today. Read about them here.