Sisters remember their past and celebrate new life

Thu, Aug 10th 2017 09:00 am
Participants used symbols of earth, air, fire and water to bless themselves and the land as the Sisters of St. Joseph recognize the recent sale of land in Clarence. (Courtesy of Maureen Brown)
Participants used symbols of earth, air, fire and water to bless themselves and the land as the Sisters of St. Joseph recognize the recent sale of land in Clarence. (Courtesy of Maureen Brown)

CLARENCE — Sisters of St. Joseph, associates and friends gathered under a tent June 23 at their Clarence residence to ritualize the recent sale of some of their Clarence land and buildings and to honor their deceased sisters with a tree-planting ceremony.


Welcoming the group, Sister Jean Marie Zirnheld, SSJ, president of the congregation, recalled the original plans for the property purchased in 1965. When a variety of influences indicted that such plans were not to be realized, the sisters directed their attention to developing others. She urged remembrance of the many sisters who had shared their gifts with "the dear neighbor," embracing both the time to bring ministries to birth and the time to close them. Together, the sisters prayed for deceased members of the congregation.


Spots along memory lane came alive as Sister Mary Ann Kolb, SSJ, recalled the multiple ministries the sisters have been engaged in in Clarence, often in partnership with others. Beginning with Mount St. Joseph School, they helped meet the needs of people in the surrounding communities. The Center for Christian Living offered adults multiple courses in spirituality and opportunities for prayer, as did the Creative Community of Western New York. The Lighthouse provided opportunities for youth; it later served as a place for retreats. Counseling services, tutoring and respite care were available at the Family Support Center. During several periods of time, sisters lived in the main house. The property was frequently a gathering place for meetings as well as celebrations and picnics.


The sisters continue to reside in and care for their elderly and infirm members at their residence on Strickler Road. They moved the congregation's offices there in August 2016.


The Claremount, a HUD-subsidized apartment building for the elderly, stands on land donated by the congregation and managed by the sisters. Although sold in 2014, it continues to offer housing for the elderly.


Sister Margaret Manzella, SSJ, led a ritual, drawing from the Native Americans.

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