Sisters celebrate golden anniversary

Nov 17, 2021
This year the Sisters’ Council celebrates 50 years in the Diocese of Orlando. Pictured at the recent council meeting are (from left to right): Sister Maria Teresa Acosta, SCTJM, Sister Barbara Gould, RSM, Sister Ann Rowland, DHM, Sister Catherine Noecker, OSF, Sister Patricia O’Malley, SND de N, Sister Kathleen McHugh, SSC, and Sister Gail Grimes, SND de N. (KATHERINE LAGUNA)

ORLANDO | Few dioceses in the United States have a Sisters’ Council, a coalition of religious sisters from all orders within their dioceses, that gather to celebrate and support one another. This year, the Diocese of Orlando Sisters Council rejoices over 50 years of love and fellowship.

In a letter to the “Sisters of Consecrated Life”, Bishop John Noonan expressed his appreciation for all they do. “I pray with gratitude for each one of you as you have been led by our Blessed Mother and other saints to choose your vocation to consecrated life,” he said. “That day of consecration was truly the unfolding of a life of service through, with and in God to bring forth His goodness for all the people.”

Recalling how they welcomed one another and ministered to the diocese, he added, “I, the clergy, and the people of the Diocese of Orlando are most grateful for your hospitality with each other to form the Sisters’ Council as you support and guide each other these 50 years. You are a stellar example of servant leadership.”

Fully established in 1971, Bishop William Borders acknowledged the beginning of the council’s formation in a Mass celebrated to inaugurate its planning. “The Church cannot succeed in its apostolate today unless we draw on the expertise, the experience and the interest of all the people of God,” he said. “This means that we have to have most of our people involved on a personal level in the work of the Church – in the planning and decision making. The Sisters’ Council is not just a Council for the Sisters. It is a Sisters’ Council for the Diocese.”

Bishop Borders commissioned them with working, not only in schools, but with migrant workers and forming public school students in the faith. Religious in the diocese surpassed those expectations, becoming police and hospital chaplains, spiritual directors, teachers, principals, establishing family and marriage ministries, and assisting in the work of the tribunal.

President of the council, Sister Maria Teresa Acosta of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary said, “The purpose of the council was to meet the spiritual, physical or other needs of the sisters coming to what was then the start of a new diocese.” She said the sisters of her order felt, “very welcome by the sisters” when they arrived several years ago.

“In a diocese where there are no mother houses, the Sisters are all from ‘somewhere’,” noted Moderator for Women Religious and Franciscan, Sister Catherine Noecker. “The Council has been a group providing spiritual and temporal resources, a ‘gathering space’ for these sisters to share the best of a variety of charisms.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, November 17, 2021