Friday, September 11, 2009

Praised be Jesus Christ, forever and ever...

The last time I served Mass, at a reunion, celebrated by then principal of Father Judge High School Rev. Thomas Curran, O.S.F.S., now president of Rockhurst (Jesuit) University.

Praised be Jesus Christ, forever and ever. Amen. Good morning Sr. ....

Said by all students whenever an adult visited your classroom. For 8 years!

Yes s'ter.

Stir your coffee, stir your tea, but don't stir me!
A popular comeback whenever we would unintentionally contract the word "sister."

I am proud to say that I was educated by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth for 8 years in Northeast Philadelphia. 8 years -- 8 + sisters... Sr. Annuncia, Sr. David, Sr. Mary Ann (Palumbo), Sr. Karen Marie, Sr. Lucille, Sr. Laurian, Sr. Benedict Marie, Sr. Mary Ann (Allton), and Sr. Michael Ann, from 1st through 8th. Not to mention our principal, Sr. Michael and our librarian Sr. Gentilla (who despite suffering from severe scoliosis would nab any guy trying to take a Hardy Boy book without signing it out). Funny but they all had the same middle name - Mary!

I couldn't imagine receiving a better education -- in a faith filled environment as well. These sisters were not only close to God but they were intellectuals as well. When people occasionally tell me "I write well"... if it is true then those good sisters must take all the credit. I can still diagram a sentence with the best of them, and surely remember the difference between a direct object and predicate nominative ;-) Despite her best efforts Sr. Michael finally gave up trying to teach me Polish.

They say the key to increase vocations is for people to see a happy sister, brother or priest. For the most part these girls were always happy in their vocations.

I remember when the government thought that the children of tax paying Catholics didn't deserve books or transportation to school. This didn't sit well with the sisters and they were vocal. A anchorman (Larry Kane?) from one of the major Philadelphia TV stations stopped by one day to speak to Sr. Michael about the subject. While walking down the hallway he asked to stop by some time when the children were in school. Sr. Michael pointed to one of the classrooms, filled with children, and said they are in session. He laughed for he thought that the school was empty since it was so quiet. Sister said 'of course it's quiet -- the children are learning!"

It was a big deal in grade school to be an altar boy. Getting our very own cassock and surplice was so cool, although older altar boys thought we had it easy with snaps rather than buttons. The new header picture on my blog was given to me by one of the sisters. I served so many Masses I have no recollection of when it was. It does however look as if Drew Capponi, on my left, is sleeping ;-) I still remember being trained (drilled?), at lunchtime and after school, by Greg Geruson, under the tuteleage of Sr. David. We would serve a week's worth of masses at a time, at 6:00 AM, at the convent. When the 41st Eucharistic Congress (The Catholic Olympics - TIME) was in Philadelphia Cardinal Krol came to say Mass, and brought a buddy of his from Poland -- Karol Cardinal Wojita! Of course we didn't know who he would become, but I remember him as being a nice guy. During the festivities he took a nap on a couch at the convent... now I'm sure with a sign that says "the pope slept here." No doubt Sr. Lucy had the angel lights on for that Mass. (The cost conscious sisters didn't put the angel lights on for just any old mass)

The front parlour of the convent served as a sacristy for larger masses, such as the aforementioned one that Cardinal Krol and the future Pope John Paul II concelebrated, and the following painting of the Nowogrodek Martyrs (which is the parlour wall) couldn't help but make an impression to what these sisters were all about. Only two paintings exist; one hangs in Rome, the other in Northeast Philadelphia. In closing a little bit about those brave sisters...

Sister Maria Stella - Adelaide Mardosiewicz - (1888-1943)
Sister Mary Imelda - Jadwiga Zak - (1892-1943)
Sister Mary Rajmunda - Anna Kukulowicz - (1892-1943)
Sister Maria Daniela - Eleanor Juzwik - (1895-1943)
Sister Maria Kanuta - Jozefa Chrobot - (1896-1943)
Sister Maria Gwidona - Helena Cierpka - (1900-1943)
Sister Maria Sergia - Julia Rapieg - (1900-1943)
Sister Maria Kanizja - Eugenia Mackiewicz - (1904-1943)
Sister Maria Felicyta - Paulina Borowik - (1905-1943)
Sister Maria Heliodora - Leokadia Matustzewska - (1906-1943)
Sister Maria Boromea - Veronika Narmuntowicz - (1916-1943)

Prayer to the Nowogrodek Martyrs

O most blessed Trinity, we praise and thank you for the example of Blessed Mary Stella and Her Ten Companions, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who by imitating Jesus Christ, offered themselves as a sacrifice of love. God of mercy and compassion, through the merits of their martyrdom and by their intercession, grant us the grace we humbly ask…(insert intention here)…so that like them, we may witness with our lives to the presence of the Kingdom of God’s love and extend it to the human family throughout the world. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Martyred Sisters of Nowogródek, pray for us.

About our martyred sisters Sr. Mary Stella, CSFN, (Adela Mardosewicz) and her 10 companion sisters were executed by the Nazi regime on Aug. 1, 1943, and buried in a common grave outside Nowgródek, then in Poland, now part of Belarus. In the wake of mass arrests the previous month in Nowogredek, Sr. Mary Stella and her companions prayed: O God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us who are free from family obligations and spare those who have wives and children.

Sr. Stella and her 10 companions were beatified by Pope John Paul II. Please notify the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at their Generalate in Rome of graces received through the intercession of Blessed Mary Stella and Her Ten Companions.

Thank you.

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth
Via Nazareth 400 00166
Rome, Italy

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth
Regional Development Office
4001 Grant Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19114-2999

Secure Server Donation Form - Donate Online Now>

Sr. Carol Mockus, CSFN
Asst. Dir. - Development


  1. Dear Tom,

    It was with great pleasure, and heartfelt nostalgia, that I read your most recent installment of "The World According To 44." I enjoyed particularly your section regarding Nazareth Academy Grade School, for I, too, can say proudly that I am a graduate of this fine institution, having been graduated in 1968. I plan to call you soon to discuss our alma mater. I also look forward to seeing you at SJU on 09/26 when our groups meet for Mass.

    Thank you for what you do for so many, and for stirring in me wonderful memories of long ago.

    Jack Duffy

  2. Hello!

    I found this post when I searched for the martyred Sisters of Nowogrodek. I am a postulant of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and definitely agree with your statement that "the key to increase vocations is for people to see a happy sister, brother or priest." These Sisters are all that and more to me - they are my family. (Sr. Mary Michael taught me Polish at NAHS, and I know Sr. David as well.)

    Thank you for your kind words about the CSFNs, and may all God's good be yours.