Nazareth Jubilarians – 2022 – Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Nazareth Jubilarians – 2022

Sister Ruth Harber, CSJ

(Sister Generosa)

80 Years

Sister Ruth Agnes Harber entered religious life with the founding community of Tipton, Indiana, on September 1, 1942. She completed her high school education at St. Joseph Academy in Tipton and her nurse’s training at St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo, Indiana.

Sister Ruth began her career in healthcare as a staff nurse at Mercy Hospital in Elwood, Indiana. She then moved to the northwest where she held several supervisory positions at her beloved St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon, for a total of 26 years. Later she served as surgery nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne and as a Chaplain at Mercy Hospital.

After her retirement from nursing, Sister Ruth moved to Anderson, Indiana, and lived in the Isabel Harter House, a senior care facility. She was a long-time honored member of Alcoholic Anonymous and over many years, befriended and mentored countless numbers of AA participants. She also volunteered at St. John’s Anderson Center, helping others with drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Though Sister Ruth positively influenced the lives of untold numbers of persons through her various ministries, she remained humble giving all glory to God and faithfully following the call to serve.

Currently, Sister Ruth resides at our Nazareth center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she is active in prayer ministry.

Sister Mary Patricia Denny, CSJ

(Sister Josaphat)

75 Years

Sister Mary Patricia Denny was born in Hazel Park, Michigan, and attended public schools until she transferred to St. Rita Parish School in Detroit in the 11th grade, which was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Michigan. The sisters there, especially Sister Marie Joseph, had a great influence on her during her CCD classes. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on July 1, 1947.

Sister Mary Patricia’s first 34 years of ministry were spent teaching in several Michigan elementary schools and also in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She then spent 20 years in Pastoral Ministry working with older adults in Memphis, Tennessee. She then returned to Michigan and for 10 years worked as a Chaplain for Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice.  Sister Mary Patricia is now retired but continues to do volunteer ministry as she is able.

“I have always been a quiet person and have been told that I am a good listener and team member. I try to remain peaceful and calm with each passing day. I want to celebrate my 75th Jubilee Year in a spirit of deep gratitude to God for the many graces I have received, and to the Congregation for life in the community and for the various opportunities for education and ministry which have been a great gift to me. In the past 75 years, I have seen a great deal of change, and some of it has been difficult to accept, but the one constant has been my deep faith and love of God and my desire to serve the dear neighbor. May God, Who has been so good to me, keep me faith-filled and loving as I continue life’s journey.  Of special meaning to me is Psalm 23 from Scripture: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…’ “

Sister Mary Claver Hickmott, CSJ

75 Years

Patricia Hickmott grew up with her parents, Arthur and Helen and her brother Bill, in Mendon, Michigan, near the St. Joseph River. When she wasn’t in school, she loved being outside wherever the action was happening. While attending Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, she first met the Sisters of St. Joseph and decided to enter religious life. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on January 2, 1947, taking the name, Sister Mary Claver.

Sister Mary Claver taught in parish schools for almost twenty years, and was a dearly loved caregiver for boys at St. Francis Home in Detroit. She moved to Nazareth in 1968 and has been there ever since.

At Nazareth, she took on a variety of ministries: working in the U.S. Post Office and later ordering, delivering and maintaining a variety of supplies for the Motherhouse. Sister Mary Claver was adept at many skills and was often on hand with her camera for events and personal requests. She used her curiosity to fix broken gadgets, carts, appliances, etc. She was often heard saying, “Give me tools, but don’t let me into the kitchen. Fixing a meal just isn’t my thing.”  Her ministries reflected her love for God and all of God’s children.

Sister Irene Waldmann, CSJ

(Sister Therese)

75 Years

Sister Irene Waldmann is the daughter of Art and Irene Waldmann and the oldest of seven children. After graduating from St. Benedict’s High School in Highland Park, Michigan, she received a scholarship and attended Nazareth college. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on July 2, 1947, receiving the religious name, Sister Therese. She later returned to her Baptismal name, Irene.

Sister Irene served in a variety of ministries for the Congregation. She began as teacher in elementary and high school for a few years, and then was appointed Acting Academic Dean of Nazareth College. From 1961 to 1967, Sister Irene pursued PHD studies at Fordham University, focusing on John Henry Newman and his philosophy, “Heart speaks to heart”. She returned to Kalamazoo and was appointed Academic Dean at Nazareth college. In 1971, she was elected President of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Nazareth.

Upon completion of her term of office, Sister Irene served as Vice President for Education at Borgess Medical Center. She then assumed the role of President of the Sisters of St. Joseph Health System. In 1999, she took a position in ministry to seniors at St. Thomas Parish, Ann Arbor. Irene then returned to Kalamazoo in 2001 and worked with the SSJ archives and History Room. She retired to Nazareth Center and was actively involved with social justice issues such as Pax Christi and visiting the senior sisters. She recently moved to Borgess Place Skilled Care Facility.

Sister Irene is thankful to be part of the Congregation of St. Joseph that has always strived to listen to the “signs of the time” and meet the needs of God’s people and our world. Her Favorite scripture quote is: “I am the vine and you are the branches…you can do nothing without me…My commandment is this: Love one another as I have loved you’. It was this quote that she saw lived out in the lives of the sisters, that led to her entrance into the congregation.

Sister Damien Fitzsimmons, CSJ

(Sister Mary Damien)

70 Years

Sister Damien Fitzsimmons entered religious life with the founding community of Tipton, Indiana, on September 7, 1952. She completed her high school education at St. Paul School in Marion, Indiana, and her nurse’s training at Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Kokomo, Indiana. She later trained in radiologic technology at Good Samaritan Radiology School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at Indiana University in Kokomo.

Sister Damien began her career in healthcare in 1955 as a staff nurse at Mercy Hospital in Elwood, Indiana. She served there for three years, and then transferred to St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo. In 1961, Sister Damien was called to teaching and spent the next 3 years teaching elementary school at  St. Matthew in South Bend and St. Mary in Frankfort, both in Indiana. In 1964, she returned to healthcare and served as a surgery nurse and an x-ray technician at St. Joseph Hospital where she remained until 1989. She then served as a receptionist at West Sycamore Chiropractic until 1995. Sister Damien also trained at Kokomo Clown School, and she shared her talents at Nursing Homes and other facilities where she ministered. Known as Crackers the Clown, she spread laughter and joy and helped brighten the days of the elderly and infirm.

In 1999, Sister Damien came home to the St. Joseph Motherhouse in Tipton where she served her community by managing the insurance needs of the sisters. She retired in 2012 and currently resides at our Nazareth center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she is active in prayer ministry.

Sister Mary Catherine DeSantis, CSJ

(Sister Mary Dion)

60 Years

Sister Mary Catherine (Cathey) DeSantis was born in Detroit, Michigan, on August 19, 1943, the third of eight children. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth with the encouragement of her high school teacher and friend, Sister Marcia Saulino and her Aunt, Sister Carmella. She began teaching at St. Joseph, Lake Orion, followed by St. James in Ferndale, Pontiac Catholic High school and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Grosse Pointe. After 26 years of teaching, she became the Director of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance and spent another 26 years in that position. She retired in 2016.

“The Congregation provided wonderful opportunities for growth and a deeper commitment to my religious life. I was able to travel to Central America many times and once to South Africa to attend the World Conference Against Racism. That experience with other cultures provided a kind of growth that I am quite sure would not have happened without the Congregation. My years with the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance provided another opportunity to become aware of and love the African-American community. I will be forever grateful for those opportunities. Along the way, I have lived, worked, traveled, worshipped and grew with so many sisters, all of whom opened my heart, my mind, my ears and my eyes to the beauty of God’s creation. For that, also, I will be forever grateful. This year, I will celebrate 60 years of a wonderful life, not without difficult moments, but always with opportunities to grow more in love with my Congregation and my life filled with God’s amazing grace. One of my favorite Scripture quotes is: ‘It was not because you are the greatest that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you; for you are really the smallest.’ ” (Deuteronomy 7:7) 

Sister Patricia Hergenroether, CSJ

(Sister Marie Eric)

60 Years

Sister Patricia (Pat) Hergenroether was born in Detroit, Michigan, on November 19, 1944. She attended St. Joan of Arc grade school where her heart and soul were touched by the love of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The sisters profoundly influenced her vocation. After high school, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on September 12, 1962. She received the name Sister Marie Eric but later returned to her baptismal name, Patricia.

Sister Pat’s ministries were diverse and included being a teacher, novice director, pastoral associate, founder and facilitator of the women’s ministry “Gussy Up Your Spirit”, and Supervisor of Spiritual Care at Angela Hospice. She also conducted retreats and continues to serve as a spiritual director. She retired after many precious years of ministry at Angela Hospice, and currently resides in Livonia where she does volunteer work.

“As I look back on my 77 years of life (60 of them in the Congregation of St. Joseph), I am most grateful for being immersed in Extravagant Love of God, my family, community, those in ministry, dear friends, the dear neighbor, precious pets, and the universe. You have walked with me and have blessed my life abundantly. Love is all that really matters. It is only Love that goes with us. For this I have spent my life and for Love I am truly grateful. One of my favorite Scripture quotes is: ‘We love because God first loved us.’ ”  (1 John 4:19)

Sister Mary Ann Wyllie, CSJ

(Sister Mary John)

60 Years

Sister Mary Ann Wyllie first met the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Veronica School in Eastpointe, Michigan. She was drawn to how much they loved their students as well as each other, and knew she wanted to join them from the second grade.

After finishing high school and a year of college, she responded to the persistent urging of the spirit and entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth in Sept. 1962. After her formation, she began what would become many years of teaching ministry. She served at St. James, Ferndale, St. Dennis, Royal Oak and St. Augustine in Kalamazoo. She taught mainly Junior High religion and science until she earned a Masters in Physical Education, and then taught grades K thru 8.

As she became more involved in the life of the parish where she taught, Sister Mary Ann was drawn to parish ministry. After earning a Masters of Divinity from St. Johns Provincial Seminary in 1981, she began work at St. Edmunds in Warren where she served as Pastoral Associate for 10 years, focusing mainly on liturgy and Christian Service. Following this, she returned to education and served as Administrative Assistant at Marian High School, secretary and attendance officer at Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods, and finally, as Campus Minister at Shrine High School in Royal Oak. It was there that she founded a Mission/Immersion trip for students to Nicaragua where Sisters Dianne Fanquy and Jeanne Gamache were ministering. She says the experience of preparing and participating in three trips to Nicaragua was truly an eye-opening and enriching experience for all of them.

For the past several years, Sister Mary Ann has spent her time caring for Sister Joann DiMercurio who had MS, and serving on various Congregational committees.

“My life in community has been fulfilling, diverse and called me to grow in ways I would never have expected, especially growing closer to the God I love and to God’s people. Our world is very different from the one I entered from 60 years ago, but my hope and prayer for this Jubilee year is that I, and we, continue to believe in, to work for, and to celebrate our gospel call to the ‘more’ in building up the ‘Kindom”’of God. One of my favorite Scripture quotes is: ‘And behold I am with you, until the end of the age.’ ” (Matt 28:20)

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