Sister Rita Agnes Costello, CSJ
After living for 75 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I truly realize how fortunate I have been to grow deeper in my relationship with God, and how much His healing power and love have sustained me on the journey.
I was raised in St. Philip Neri Parish in Detroit along with two brothers and two sisters. My father died at an early age. I was eleven years old at the time, and my mother, a valiant woman, managed to give us a loving, warm, and faith-filled home.
I enjoyed the privilege of attending St. Philip Neri High School during those years, and I was deeply impressed by the Sisters of St. Joseph who were my teachers. They impressed me by their kind, loving, gently manner in working with each of us. They were wonderful religious women who taught us to keep the faith alive and dynamic.
On January 2, 1944, I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. I received the habit on July 2, 1944, pronounced first vows on July 2, 1946, and final vows on July 2, 1949. To prepare for forty-six years of teaching and administration I earned a B.A. degree from Nazareth College and a M.A. degree from Wayne State University. I retired in 1992 from the teaching profession and returned to Nazareth Center where I was eager to work with our elderly and infirm sisters.
I am grateful for 75 years of dedicated service to the dear neighbor. I am grateful to my family, friends, and CSJ community for their love and support.
May our CSJ community always be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and find new and creative ways to meet the needs of the Church and world in this 21st century.
“God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.” John 4:1-6
Sister Ann Carolyn Gervais, CSJ
My life is a tale of “being on the move.” I was born on June 22, 1926, in Springfield, Mass. and lived the next 4 years with my family and grandparents in Bristol, Conn. My father eventually found work as a painter and interior/exterior decorator in Flint, Michigan where the family settled into various different homes and neighborhoods. It was in Flint in 1943, where I first met the Sisters of St. Joseph while working as a nurse’s aide at St. Joseph Hospital. The warmth, gentleness, prayerful ways of Sisters Magdalene, Marie Virginia, Dorothea, and Raymond made me feel very welcome and influenced my decision to join them at Nazareth after graduation in 1944.
I spent my first 30 years in ministry as an elementary teacher in several schools throughout Michigan – “being on the move”. In 1975 I was called to pastoral care which filled my days at Borgess Hospital until 1988 when I became part of the RCIA team at St. Mary Parish in Kalamazoo. My time was shared between this and helping out at Nazareth in a variety of ministries: switchboard, pharmacy, medical appointments driver, clerical work, and official popcorn-maker.
My gratitude grows day by day for all the blessings God has given me: my community, especially our RLC; all the sisters with whom I have lived over the years, all the opportunities for prayer, reflection and learning. GOD IS GOOD! And the journey continues!
“Come, follow me.” Mark 2:14
Sister Jean Joseph Martin, CSJ
I entered the community from St. Michael School in Pontiac, Michigan where for 12 years I received an excellent education from a group of remarkable women, the Sisters of St. Joseph. Inspired by their lives and example I was received into the congregation on January 2, 1944. Six months later, I received the habit and the name Sister Mary Jean Joseph. I made my first profession of vows on July 2, 1946, and was finally professed July 2, 1949.
I received a BA degree from Nazareth College and an MA from the University of Detroit with additional credits from several other colleges.
In 1946 I was missioned to St. Francis Home for Boys where I served as prefect for seven years and teacher for twelve years. The next 30 years were spent teaching in various schools in the Detroit and Lansing Dioceses.
In 1993 I retired from teaching and returned to Nazareth, where I was asked to manage the Fontbonne Gift Shop. My interest in art and crafts made this assignment very enjoyable. Three years later, with help and instructions from Sr. Emiline, I was able to put my math ability to work accepting the challenge of being the Nazareth House bookkeeper. The variety and scope of the many tasks I was assigned to do, the educational opportunities I was given and the spiritual graces that I have received from God have made me a wiser, well educated, holier person.
From my parents I received a great love of God and a great devotion to Our Lady. The love and support of my parents, family and friends have meant a great deal to me in living out my vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph.
I hope to live in the presence of the Lord all the rest of my days, to spread God’s love and to serve our elderly sisters in whatever capacity I am able.
“One thing I ask from the Lord, … to dwell in the house of the Lord and gaze on his beauty all the days of my life.” Psalm 27:4
Sister Yvonne Bechard, CSJ
I was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada the oldest of four children. We lived in Detroit and later moved to Allen Park, MI and belonged to St. Frances Cabrini Parish. I grew up in a very religious bilingual (French/English) home environment, where my parents taught us values through faith, prayer and example. Growing up it was common for us to pray as a family and to be around religious. God had blessed our family with more than 25 priests and sisters whom we frequently visited.
In 1955 I met the Sisters of St. Joseph for the first time when I went to high school at St. Francis Xavier in Ecorse. Sr. Maura recognized in me a call to religious life. After discernment and prayer, I chose to enter in August of 1959 the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
From 1961 to 1986 I was missioned to teach in Michigan in both Catholic schools and CCD programs while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and an elementary teaching certificate from U of D-Mercy.
When Catholic schools and convents began to close, I realized that in order to continue to live in community and remain in education I had to explore other options. After years of prayer and discernment, in June of 1984 I was incorporated into the Sisters of St. Joseph and continued teaching until 2014.Since then, retirement has given me the opportunity to volunteer in 3 parishes ministries, my favorite being the McWarm program at St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Clair Shores which serves the poor and homeless of the area.
As I look back on my 60 years as a religious I am eternally grateful to God for my religious vocation, good health and the many people who have been part of my journey — my wonderful parents, family, religious communities and friends. For me it has been a privilege and a joy to serve my God and His people for 53 years in education and now primarily working with God’s neglected children.
“The Lord has done great things, for me and holy is His Name.” Luke 1:49
Sister Rose Cadaret, CSJ
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, the first girl after four boys and later followed by 5 more siblings (2 more boys and 3 girls). My mom and dad were loving and supportive parents. My childhood was sheltered but happy, with education in Catholic grade and high schools and an active sports and family life.
On September 1, 1959 I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph whom I met during my high school years. My life in the congregation provided many opportunities for me that I would never have experienced had I not become an SSJ and for which I will be forever grateful. I received BA and MA degrees and a wonderful foundation in scripture and spiritual life before being sent into active ministry. Some of my ministerial experiences included teaching in primary Catholic schools and adult education for the Detroit Board of Education. I was also the academic director at St Francis Home for Boys. I worked in justice ministry with GROUNDWORK, and with the homeless in Detroit, pregnant and parenting teenagers in rural Michigan, and Bethany House, a women’s shelter, in Kalamazoo. In 2003, I was appointed to the Kalamazoo Public Housing Commission and served there for 16 years.
Through those ministries I met with the young and elderly, Hispanics and other people of color, and many persons struggling financially but rich in culture and family. They taught me more than any books could have and shared their rich cultures and faith with me. The sisters with whom I have lived throughout my life have enriched me and continue to help me develop my faith and relationships with them and with my always faithful and Loving God. I am deeply grateful for all that my family, my community, and my God have been for me over the many years of my life. I plan to celebrate Jubilee rejoicing in my rich 60 years as a member of our congregation and continuing to rely on God for whatever is next on my journey!
“I have called you by name, you are mine.” Is. 43:1
Sister Geneva Kruger, CSJ
(Sister Mary Geneva)
On March 28, 1928, I was born to Geneva and Clarence Kruger at Borgess Hospital and given the name, Marilyn Ann. I became a Catholic after graduating from Nazareth Academy in 1946, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1959, took first vows in 1962 and final vows in 1965.
My ministries through the years included teaching in both the Archdiocese of Detroit and in Lansing, Michigan. After receiving my degree from Hillcrest Medical Center, I began service in healthcare, first at St. John Hospital in Detroit as a registered Medical Librarian, and later ministry to shut-ins and Chaplain at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. For some years I also taught religious education at “The House of Prayer” in Pinckney, Michigan.
From the time when we were first permitted to drive, this has always been part of my ministry. As a college student, I was asked to be Reverend Mother’s driver. Later I drove a specially modified “stick shift” for a Sister who had polio. After retiring from Pastoral Care at Borgess Hospital, I served as appointment driver for the Sisters at Nazareth Center and Fontbonne. Ironically, 34 years ago, a nurse at Borgess was assigned to drive me to a conference in Illinois. She became a very dear friend and is now my caregiver.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul…He fills your lifetime with good.” Psalm 103:1,5
Sister Gertrude Maurer, CSJ
I was born in 1934 and grew up in a large, close knit, farm family near Nashville, Michigan. I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth in 1959 after teaching three years in public high schools.
My primary ministries have been in secondary and higher education and in spiritual development, serving as a spiritual director and retreat director for over 40 years. I also worked briefly for Groundwork for a Just World and for the Centre for Spiritual Renewal in Kumasi Ghana. I am currently retired and do some volunteer work for Transformations Spirituality Center at Nazareth.
I was first invited to religious life by a Sister of St Joseph who came to St. Cyril, our parish, to teach us the catechism and to prepare us for First Communion and Confirmation, but I am a slow responder. As an adult, I was drawn to the life by a desire to develop a deeper interior life and a desire to serve. It was the relational qualities of the SSJ’s that drew me to this Congregation of the great love of God and neighbor; and it is these qualities, plus their love of celebrating, that have meant the most to me as I have lived this life of prayer, community and service.
I am deeply grateful for the ongoing love and support of the Sisters, my close-knit family, my friends and colleagues, and the many opportunities given me to grow. The ministry of spiritual direction has been a special joy to me. I appreciate the renewed energy and the expanded ministries enabled by Vatican II and the formation of the new Congregation of St. Joseph. Most of all, this Jubilee I want to celebrate the fullness of life I have experienced. I have known the truth of Jesus’ saying:
“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” John 10:10.
Sister Mary Catherine Pruente, CSJ
I was brought up in Pontiac, Mi, a member, with my parents and five brothers, of St. Michael’s parish. At the age of eleven, I first thought of becoming a religious from a video I had seen in school. Sr. Eleanor Pelzer and Sr. Mary Bader were two of many sisters whom I admired in school for their attentiveness, humor, and kindness to the students.
I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph after high school on September 1, 1959. Many sisters continued to influence me and I enjoyed every minute learning from them and working beside them. Sisters Conrad, Jane Patrice, Ann Louise and Rosalia and Gretta Johnson were special to me as guides and mentors in the kitchen. Besides providing tasty meals in many of our sisters’ and employees’ dining rooms, I was called upon to assist our sisters in shopping trips, medical appointments, and general care at Fontbonne. As the years moved on, I continued ministry to our sisters by visiting them at Borgess Gardens and At Nazareth Center joining them for special moments of prayer, especially at Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary and community prayer.
As I reflect on my 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I am most appreciative to the Lord for the time I had with my family, especially my mother who lived to be 100 years old, for calling me and giving me my religious sisters on this unique journey of life.
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” Psalm 42:2
Sister Nina Rodriguez, CSJ
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, the sixth child of seven to Anacleto and Paulita Rodriguez. My parents’ dream was that we receive a good education being that they were given only 3 years of schooling. We all attended St. Anthony’s elementary school. I attended Ste.Anne’s high school, graduated in June of 1959 and entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
I have served God’s people as teacher, pastoral worker, missionary, director of religious education in many parishes in southwest Detroit, and have been blest to have ministered in East LA, California and in Peru, South America.
The day I made my first Holy Communion, as I walked to my pew I heard the words, “You will be mine.” I never doubted that I was being called to religious life. Yet being part of a Hispanic family, I wondered how this would happen, how could I enter another culture and be me?
The journey has been filled with graces, challenges, wonder and beauty. Truly I can only respond with gratitude and joy and see God’s loving care through it all. Being part of God’s daily miracles has meant the most to me: seeing the growth in people’s hearts, especially when working with children and youth; knowing and witnessing the change of heart that takes place after so much pain and suffering; being a co-creator with God; in the desert, and in the city of Detroit creating beauty with others who also love nature. So I celebrate with much gusto for I am His instrument and know His marvelous love. As Pierre Medaille said: “I love love; let love love through me.”
“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love… Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Eph. 3:17-19
Sister Susan McCrery, CSJ
Raised in southwest Michigan, the second of five children born to John and Adeline McCrery, of Coloma, MI, I attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Watervliet and Coloma Public High School, after which I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Joseph Parish in Watervliet. Graduating from Nazareth College in 1974, with degrees in music and education, I went out to teach second graders, my lifelong dream. After novitiate, I returned to teaching, while earning a M.A.in education from Eastern Michigan University. My teaching career continued for 20 years where I found my niche teaching 8th graders.
During 1994-95, I completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education working as a chaplain resident at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo and was subsequently hired to serve on the Pastoral Team at St. Thomas More Catholic Student Parish in Kalamazoo. My major responsibilities included serving as music director and campus minister with students at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. I enjoyed a fruitful and fulfilling ministry at St. Tom’s for 19 years, during which time I earned a Masters of Pastoral Studies (2000) and a Doctorate in Ministry (2008) from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. In 2014, I accepted a position as Spiritual Care Specialist at Borgess Hospital, where my ministry includes managing the chaplain department, facilitating the Diversity Council, and “being full-time Sister”.
As I look back at these fifty years since I entered religious life, I am continually amazed at how and where God leads me. During my five years in Catholic school, through Sister Robertine, He planted the vocation seed within my young 10-year-old heart. In high school, Sister Janice Popilek, taught me about the life and works of Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Sisters I knew. Entering the convent and attending Nazareth College, I was given the opportunity to study music, a gift that definitely changed my life forever. God spoke through Sister Laura Smith who taught me to sing, and more importantly, shared her love of God and helped me see how God was working in my life. Living with a number of Sisters during my teaching years I learned to be a better teacher and a better Sister always taking great pride in our St. Joseph roots.
So many things I’ve learned in previous experiences serve as a foundation for each, next-step in my life – teaching, affirming people’s gifts, dealing with the death of loved ones, singing, and maybe most importantly, sharing our CSJ charism – reconciling neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God.
I look forward to celebrating this Jubilee year with community, family and friends, and trust that God will continue to invite me into deeper relationship and lead me into a future full of hope.
“You have been told what the Lord requires of you: To do justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Sister Patricia Warbritton, CSJ
“On the willows there… “yes! This journey began at the base of the willow trees beside the waters of Grass Lake that had so many times enveloped me. There I placed my life choices before the One who has loved me before, during and beyond. Young men were being “called” to serve our country at the age of 18. My father responded to this “call” at 17. I was 17. We were preparing for my older sister’s wedding. I would graduate from Grass Lake Schools the following June. It was a beautiful fall evening and a full moon lit a pathway beckoning me to service of a different sort. Born and baptized in Chicago, Our Lady of Fatima Parish Michigan Center later became my sacramental and faith formation home. It was to there that I turned the next day.
My younger sister covered for me at work, I dropped my youngest sister and my brothers off for CCD, and was welcomed enthusiastically by Sisters Pat Hergenroether and Maxine Magee. Since then I have been welcomed by sisters at the Villa, St. Francis Home, Nazareth College, Nazareth Center, St. Joseph Kalamazoo, St. Benedict Highland Park, St. Margaret Otsego, St. Pius X Flint, and Holy Family Grand Blanc. A deeper call directed me to SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary where I earned a Masters in Divinity. The path then led to St. Gerard Detroit, St. Linus Dearborn Heights, Nazareth Center, St. Leo the Great, St. Patrick and St. Vincent de Paul Shepherd, and SS. Francis and Clare Birch Run. I am now blessed to be home again at Nazareth.
I wake each morning with the psalm of the day in my heart, a gift from the One who is song. It is my wish to celebrate not only this year but each day being greatly loved and blessed. I live in gratitude for the women of the Congregation of St. Joseph who so generously respond to the God of Love and who share that love with me and with those in need.
“The One who has made the promise is worthy of trust.” Hebrews 10:23
Sister Tami Schab, CSJ
My parents, Julian and Doris raised our family in the small town of Marne, MI. I have always been grateful for my rural roots. I was the youngest of 5 children with I sister and 3 brothers. I attended Marne Elementary School and as there was no middle or high school in Marne, my education continued at a public school in Grand Rapids. This provided me with the opportunity for a wider worldview. After graduation, I attended Grand Valley State University from which I obtained a BS and a M.ED, and then taught elementary education for 13 years. I later attended Wayne State University and obtained a MSW degree. This prepared me for a variety of ministries including: Northeast Guidance Center, Geriatric Assessment Center, Borgess Gardens, and my current position as Director of Mission Integration with CSJ Initiatives.
My first contact with the Sisters of St. Joseph was with Sr. Bernadine Gazda at St. Mary Parish in Marne, my home parish. It was through a diocesan program entitled Called by Name, which began my journey and possible call to religious life. During that time, I explored another congregation but when I walked through the door of Nazareth, I knew that I was called to be a Sister of St. Joseph. I entered the congregation at Nazareth on July 17, 1994.
There have been many gifts and joys in the past 25 years, especially the love and support that I have received from the congregation. Two areas that have had an impact on my life are my social work degree and travel outside the United States. I became aware of a deepening in me of our charism “we are all one”, through the relationships that I experienced with people of diverse cultures. Recently I was able to participate in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I have always had a special love for Mary, so the opportunity to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, was a profound experience. This led me to reflect more deeply on one of my favorite scripture passages.
“For nothing will be impossible for God. Mary said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 37-38