Religious sisters from throughout the Diocese of Orlando joined Bishop John Noonan in honoring and celebrating the ministry of nine women, who have served the Church and the people of God for a combined number of 520 years.
Sisters for Christian Community Kathleen Duffy and Marie Tougas were honored for 65 years of service, while Sisters for Christian Community Janet Holzer and Ita Hickey, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Jessica Zwarra, and Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Martha Kieffer were recognized for their 60-year diamond jubilee, and Religious Teachers Filippini Margaret Franzese, Adrian Dominican Sister Lucy Vazquez and Sister of the Immaculate of Mary Reparatrix Concepta Najjemba for their 50-year golden jubilees.
The celebration was part of the annual Sisters Jubilee and Renewal of Vows Mass, held Nov. 16 at the Marriott Orlando Airport Hotel. This joyous occasion brings together the many religious communities of the diocese and is one of two annual events organized by the Sisters’ Council of the Diocese of Orlando.
“We share this common life together of being consecrated, ministerial women, and so for me, this opportunity to get together at the Sisters’ Jubilee Celebration with our Bishop is, to paraphrase Scripture, ‘a time to pray, a time to laugh, a time to rejoice, and a time to lunch!,’” said Adrian Dominican Sister Rosemary Finnegan, Moderator of Women Religious for the Diocese of Orlando. “I heard so many words of affirmation about this event on Saturday, and we are, indeed, most grateful for the support we feel not only from each other, but from Bishop Noonan and the people of this Diocese.”
During the celebration of Mass, the women renewed their vows, professing, “I pray that my vow to life may continue to foster justice, peace and goodness in our world, community and Church.”
Bishop Noonan spoke on those very words during his homily:
“Sisters you are real because the spirit of the Lord is upon you and you are real because you have taken that responsibility to share that spirit with those in need,” he said. “So today, I thank God for that great gift because the Lord has blessed us with your presence and the Lord, I pray, will continue to bless us with your presence in our midst, so that those who are hungry, homeless, sick, imprisoned or are strangers will be welcomed with the spirit of God once again.”
Following the liturgy, the sisters gathered for a luncheon, where Bishop Noonan and Sister of Mercy Immaculata Knox presented each of the jubilarians with an etched glass commemorating their anniversary and a poinsettia plant. The Sisters’ Council also presented the honorees with a gift and welcomed Sister Kieffer, who moved to the diocese in June, presenting her with a gift.
Bishop Noonan praised all of the sisters for their commitment to the Lord and his Church.
“Each and every one of you have served the Church and served others in a very special way,” he said, “and for this we thank the Lord.”