Four Sisters of St. Joseph Collectively Celebrate 210 years of Service

The Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, FL will gather on Saturday, October 16 at the St. Augustine Cathedral-Basilica to celebrate Sisters who have served their dear neighbor for at least 50 years. Four Sisters, three who have served for 50 years and one who has served for 60 years, will be honored with a concelebrated liturgy.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, FL will gather on Saturday, October 16 at the St. Augustine Cathedral-Basilica to celebrate Sisters who have served their dear neighbor for at least 50 years. Four Sisters, three who have served for 50 years and one who has served for 60 years, will be honored with a concelebrated liturgy.

Sister Margaret Killilea was born in County Galway, Ireland. She entered the Congregation in 1950 and in 1954 she began her ministry as a teacher. She taught three-year old daycare children religion, using what she affectingly calls “Mother Goose Gospel.” “The children danced and sang as they learned the bible stories,” stated Sr. Margaret. Sister relates that her time spent at the daycare center was the highlight of her parish ministry. The summers found Sister teaching vacation bible school in various rural areas in Florida. Several other summers were spent bringing the good news to the tri-county missions: Cross City, Williston, High Springs, and also Marianna and Chipley. Sr. Margaret’s present ministry is at Our Lady of Lourdes Convent in St. Augustine. “This ministry reminds me that there is much in knowledge, but more in compassion, more in gentleness, and more in caring and love,” stated Sr. Margaret. 

Sister Rita Baum moved from Minnesota to Florida when she was ten-years old. A Bishop Kenny High School graduate, she entered the Congregation in 1960. Her ministries have included teaching at various Catholic schools throughout the state and the Florida School of Deaf and Blind. From 1980-2009 her ministry was in areas of disability in the Dioceses of St. Augustine and Palm Beach (Nazareth Homes), in Washington DC (National Catholic Partnership on Disability), and with the L’Arche Communities in Mobile, AL and Jacksonville. Currently, Sr. Rita works in Le Puy, France, the place of the original foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  At the Centre International St. Joseph she welcomes Sisters and friends who wish to experience the history and the spirit that gave birth to the Sisters of St. Joseph. “I am grateful for the lasting friendships that have grown within the Congregation and from Nazareth Homes and the L’Arche communities,” stated Sr. Rita. “Also, I am excited about this Jubilee celebration because it will be a family reunion with my brothers and sisters and their families attending.”

Sister Ann Raymond Wood, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania moved to Dunedin, FL in 1956. Her family was a “pioneer family” in the founding of the first Catholic Church in Dunedin, Our Lady of Lourdes. Sr. Ann Raymond was missioned to several Catholic schools including St. Charles School in Orlando, Sts. Peter and Paul School in Miami, Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, and Jesuit High School in Tampa. For ten years she worked in guidance and campus ministry at Jesuit High School. She also taught a special program at Sumter Correctional Institution where she prepared qualified inmates to become assistants in the education department of the prison. “I found this to be a very rewarding experience,” stated Sr. Ann Raymond. “God has been good to me over the past fifty years and I pray that God will bless all those who have walked with me.”

Sister Eileen Therese Fichtner, a Florida native, attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Loretto, an area in what is now called Mandarin (Jacksonville), where she became well acquainted with the Sisters. “I fondly remember Sister St. Anthony’s homemade ice cream and the many kindnesses of Sr. Sylvester,” stated Sr. Eileen Therese. Sr. Eileen Therese earned a bachelor degree in English from Barry College (University), Miami and continued studies at Barry to achieve a minor and state certification in Library Science. She received her Masters degree in Library Science from Florida State University. Her years at St. Mary’s Cathedral School, Miami, involved her in many changes as children, first from Cuba, and then from Haiti moved into the area. Since 1997, Sr. Eileen Therese’s ministry has been as librarian at Holy Redeemer School in Kissimmee. Sister has always felt a special concern for children needing foster care; therefore, in 1993 she became a licensed foster parent. “Serving as a foster parent for three little girls was a special ministry with many rewards,” stated Sr. Eileen Therese. “I have been blessed with many good people who have been part of my life and ministries – from family and community, to fellow faculty and library volunteers, to helping hands in caring for the girls, and to the many children who have crossed my path.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, reach “The Dear Neighbor” in many diverse ministries throughout the state of Florida. In 1866 the Sisters of St. Joseph were brought to St. Augustine to teach the children of recently freed slaves. Education and healthcare have been important ministries for us. We are involved in all levels of education including elementary and high schools, adult education, art education, literacy, and special education. Not only are we involved in healthcare with the sponsorship of a hospital, but we also are involved in mental health services and social services. Our pastoral and spiritual ministries place us in parish settings, pastoral care, chaplaincy, spiritual direction and retreat work. We serve in leadership roles throughout the dioceses of Florida and within our own congregation. We reach to France with a Sister who is currently ministering at the Centre International St. Joseph. We never know where God is going to call us, but remain open to new opportunities. We continue to embrace the charism, our mission and values, of our founding Sisters by advocating union and reconciliation for “Our Dear Neighbor”.