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Eight religious sisters celebrate jubilees

Oct. 7, 2020

This week, the North Country Catholic is honoring religious sisters who are celebrating jubilees – milestone anniversaries of their time in religious life.

This year, Sister Carolyn Madden, a Sister of Mercy, celebrates 75 years; Sister Mary William Argy, a Sister of St. Joseph, celebrates 70 years; Sister Anne Hogan and Sister Judith Baumert, both Sisters of St. Joseph, and Sister Catherine Mary Cummings, a Sister of Mercy, celebrate 65 years; and Sister Norma Bryant and Sister Mary Bethany Fitzgerald, both Sisters of St. Joseph, along with Sister Janet Peters, a Sister of Mercy, celebrate 60 years.

The following are brief biographies of each of the celebrating sisters.

The North Country Catholic congratulates them for these milestones and thanks them for their “yes” in response to God’s call.

Sister Carolyn Madden, RSM
75th Jubilee

Sister Carolyn Madden, a Sister of Mercy, was born in Saranac lake, the daughter of Frances and Lillian (Colburn) Madden. She has one surviving sister, Eileen, and deceased sisters, Helen and Betty, and a brother, Thomas.

She attended elementary school at St. Bernard's School in Saranac lake with the Sisters of Mercy and attended Saranac Lake High School.

She entered the Sisters of Mercy on August 6, 1945 in Tarrytown.

After her novitiate formation, Sister Carolyn’s received her bachelor’s degree at Fordham University and master’s degree at State University, Plattsburgh, with further education in Public Relations, Drug Education, and Administration and Supervision in Education.

Sister Carolyn taught in the following schools in the Diocese of Ogdensburg: St. John's Academy, Plattsburgh; St. Patrick's, Rouses Point, St. Bernard's in Saranac lake; and St. Agnes, lake Placid. In the Archdiocese of New York, she taught at Cmdr. J.J. Shea in Spanish Harlem, St. Margaret Mary in the Bronx, St. Cecilia's, Spanish Harlem, and at Transfiguration School in Tarrytown.

She also served as principal in Cmdr. Shea in Harlem, as well as at St. John's, Plattsburgh, Transfiguration in Tarrytown, and at St. Agnes School in lake Placid.

In 1977, Sister Carolyn became the director of Arts in Education in the North Country at the CMDA, Lake Placid, and later at North Country Community College in Saranac lake.

Presently, Sister Carolyn volunteers at Elderwood at Uhlein, Lake Placid, and High Peaks Hospice in Saranac Lake, finding all very rewarding.

She also enjoy gardening, cross-country, skiing, music and being outdoors, especially in the Adirondacks.

“The years have gone by very quickly, and I am most grateful for the many graces I have received, which include my vocation, the support of my family, my community the Sisters of Mercy, and all of the people to whom I have had the privilege of ministering,” Sister Carolyn said. “I pray that the lord will continue to allow me to serve Him and His people for many more years. I rejoice, celebrate and give thanks to God for this Jubilee year.”


Sister Mary William Argy, SSJ
70th Jubilee

Sister Mary William was born in 1929, the daughter of William and Mary Brady Argy. She was the youngest of five children, Richard, Msgr. William Argy, Mary Agnes Hogan, and Sister Margaret, OSU.

In her early life, her family lived in Brownville, NY, later moving to Lyons Falls and then to Harrisville, where she graduated from High School in 1947.

She completed two years of undergraduate studies at Nazareth College, Rochester.

Sister Mary William entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8, 1949, and received the habit on April 16, 1950, making final profession on August 28, 1955, with Bishop Walter Kellenberg officiating.

Sister Mary William received a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Villanova University, and a masters' degree in Elementary Education from the State University of New York in Potsdam. She also received permanent State Certification in Elementary Education Administration and Supervision from SUNY Plattsburgh. Sister Mary William completed post graduate studies and workshops for professional, theological and spiritual updating at Notre Dame, St. Lawrence University, one on-year at Galilee Institute for Spirituality in Arnprior, Canada.

Sister taught at the elementary level at Sacred Heart and Holy Family Schools in Watertown; St. Mary's in Massena; St James in Gouverneur, where she served as teaching principal and superior; Holy Name School in AuSable Forks; and Sacred Heart School in Watertown where she was supervising principal. She was administrative assistant to the diocesan superintendent of Education for five years.

Sister was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph General Council, Mater Dei College Board of Trustees, assistant director of Junior Professed Sisters. The last 23 years of service in the diocese, Sister Mary William served as pastoral assistant at St. Peter's Parish in Lowville, and at St. Patrick's in Watertown.

In 2008, Sister Mary William retired to the Motherhouse in Watertown, where she is helping to prepare lay men and women candidates for the Sisters of St. Joseph Associates' Program. She has been assistant to the house superior, catalogues library books on the computer, drives sisters to appointments, keeps up her hobby of sewing and various kinds of needle work.

Sister Mary William finds it a wonderful blessing to have more time for prayer and spiritual reading.


Sister Anne Hogan, SSJ
65th Jubilee

Sister Anne Hogan was born on August 30, 1933 in Chateaugay, the daughter of Robert Hogan and Anna Tacy Hogan.

She is a graduate of St. Joseph's Academy, Malone.

Early on, Sister Anne attended the College of St. Rose in Albany for courses in Social Service from 1952-54. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8,1954. Sister received the habit on April 17, 1955 and made Final Profession on August 28, 1960. She received her bachelor's degree from the New York State University of Potsdam, and a master’s degree in Social Work from Boston College. She also did post-graduate work in Social Services at the University of Duna, India, Chulalong-Kam, Thailand and the University of Wisconsin. Sister Anne received her certificate of Theology, from Providence College in Rhode Island and took music courses from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

Sister Anne taught in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, including St. Joseph's, Dannemora, St. James, Gouverneur, and St. Mary's, Fort Covington. She taught the Science of Social Work at Mater Dei College, Ogdensburg, as well as courses at the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation. Sister also taught Social Justice courses for the diocesan Formation for Ministry Program.

Sister Anne was involved in parish ministry at St. Joseph's Parish in Massena and did social work as a pastoral administrator in the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, for seven years. More recently, she worked in the three parishes of the Catholic Community of Cape Vincent, Rosiere and Chaumont. She became actively involved in the interfaith community of Chaumont.

Sister Anne retired to the Motherhouse in 2015.

Sister Anne made the statement that when she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, she entered for a grand adventure. That she did, as she traveled worldwide with faith, joy and energy doing social work in India with Mother Teresa's sisters.

She loves music and plays the piano well, entertaining the sisters and the residents at Samaritan Keep Home. She organized the Parkinson's Support Group and loved to visit them after her retirement. She was named Woman of the year by the Chamber of Commerce of Chaumont.

Her favorite hobbies are music, travel and care of cats.


Sister Judith Baumert, SSJ
65th Jubilee

Sister Judith Baumert (Sandra) was born in Gouverneur to Francis Xavier and Mary Gertrude Baumert. Her best friends growing up were her two sisters, Sally and Shirley. She and her family moved to Antwerp when she was in grade school, and she graduated from Antwerp High School (Indian River Central) School in June 1954 and entered the novitiate of Sisters of St. Joseph that September.

In college, Sister Judith majored in Education. Later, she went on to receive a master’s degree in Religious Studies and did further studies at Fordham University and Boston College.

Sister Judith has served as a teacher and in administrative ministries at St. Joseph's School in Dannemora, Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's Schools in Massena, Bishop Smith School in Malone, St. Mary's School in Ticonderoga, and Holy Family and St. Patrick's Schools in Watertown, and as pastoral associate at St. Paul's Parish in Black River.

Later, Sister Judith was director of the Formation for Ministry Program in the Diocese of Ogdensburg for seven years. She also served on the diocesan Council of Consecrated Life.

Sister Judith has ministered with Urban Mission and the Samaritan Summit Village in Watertown, as well as assisting at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Motherhouse.

She said her greatest pleasure, and sometimes my greatest stress, is being a lifelong YANKEE fan.

“I thank God for my many beautiful experiences, in ministry to the young people in our schools as well as in the Formation for Ministry Program,” she said. “I thank God, too, for the many times of prayer, joy, laughter, and sorrow with my family, friends, and community.”


Sister Catherine Mary Cummings, RSM
65 Year Jubilee

Sister Catherine Marie Cummings was born in Plattsburgh and was baptized at St. Joseph’s Church in Dannemora. Her family moved to Ogdensburg when she was one year old.

“My faith was nourished at home by my parents, Myron and Kay Cummings; my brothers, Bob and Tom; and my sister, Gert,” she said. “It was further developed at St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish and by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, who were my teachers for twelve years at Bishop Conroy Memorial School and St. Mary’s Academy. Thank you to all the wonderful priests and sisters of our parish.”

Sister Catherine Mary said she fondly remembers her First Holy Communion in the old Cathedral that later burned, her confirmation in the temporary cathedral in St. Mary’s Academy gym and her high school graduation at the "new” St. Mary’s Cathedral on Hamilton Street.

In September 1955, her parents took her to Tarrytown to enter the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate.

“I think vocation is one of God’s great mysteries,” she said. “I felt called to give my life completely to God, but it wasn’t until I met the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Hospital, Watertown, that I knew the direction that call would take. I am grateful to God and to all whose patience and support enabled me to take those first steps to the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy.”

After the novitiate, Sister Catherine Mary studied nursing at Mercy College in Detroit, Michigan. Her ministry as a nurse took her to Mercy hospitals in Watertown and Port Jervis, and in nursing education to colleges in NYCI Syracuse and Hartford, Connecticut. Along the way, she received a master’s degree in Nursing and a doctorate in Nursing Education. She was also in community leadership for five years.

“Thousands of thanks to my Mercy Community, who afforded my so many opportunities and supported me during all those years,” she said.

In 2006, Sister Catherine Mary came full circle, called back to the Diocese of Ogdensburg with the start of a new ministry –Mercy Care for the Adirondacks. She has served there for the past 14 years, first as director of the Friendship Volunteer Program and the Faith Community Nurse Program and now as Mission Director. As part of Mercy Care, she has had the privilege of training and supporting volunteers and parish nurses who serve the elder members of the community. She said she has learned so much from them and from all at Mercy Care about caring, compassion and generosity. As the Sisters of Mercy Constitution states, "By collaborating with others in works of mercy, we continually learn from them how to be more merciful".

“Through all these years, my family, my friends and my Mercy sisters have loved and supported me, and for all of them I am so grateful,” she said. “In all these years, I have been held close to the heart of Jesus whose love and forgiveness is limitless and who constantly reminds me that He has called me by name and I am His. So, full of love and gratitude at this 65th year as a Sister of Mercy, I embrace a future full of hope.”


Sister Norma Bryant, SSJ
60th Jubilee

Sister Norma Bryant received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg, on June 24, 1960 with Bishop James J. Navagh officiating.

The daughter of the late Robert J. and Geraldine S. Stickney Bryant, Sister Norma has two younger sisters. She was raised in Winthrop and taught by the Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph's Academy in Brasher Falls.

“In second grade, one day we couldn't go outside during the noon hour because of inclement weather,” Sister Norma said. “A number of my friends and I stood around Sisters desk, and she asked us, what we wanted to be when we grew up. Without hesitation, I said, ‘I want to be a sister.’”

By the time she reached eighth grade, St. Joseph's Academy High School had closed, but the grade school was open for another year. St. Patrick's Parish Grade School opened the following year. Holy Family School in Massena hadn't yet been built, so it was necessary for her to attend St. Lawrence Central in Brasher Falls for high school. She graduated in June 1959.

“Needless to say, changing to a public school was a big adjustment for me,” she said. “However, at the public school, I was blessed with learning to play the violin, taking a music theory course, as well as being in a small orchestra.”

She entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in Watertown in the fall of 1959. Sister Norma was received into the community on June 24, 1960 and made her final vows at Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg on June 24, 1965. She began college courses with the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Watertown Motherhouse. The following year, she attended Mater Dei College. Sister Norma later received a bachelor’s degree in Education from SUNY Potsdam and a master’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh.

Sister Norma was also allowed to do some graduate study at St. Lawrence University in Canton, Fordham University and Notre Dame University.

“I am grateful to our community for such a good education,” she said.

Sister Norma’s teaching assignments were in the Ogdensburg Diocese, including Norwood, Lake Placid and Dannemora, and later at Holy Family School in Watertown. In 1969, she was assigned to Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg as dean of Students and director of Avila Hall Dormitory. She was at the college for 16 years.

After serving at Mater Dei, Sister Norma returned to the Motherhouse in Watertown. At various points, she was involved with new candidates in formation, community administrative duties, as well as Christian Formation at St. Patrick's Parish in Watertown. She was later a pastoral associate at St. Cecilia's Parish in Adams for a period of nine years.

Currently, Sister Norma is the community archivist at the Motherhouse and co-director of associate candidates, and she assists as a volunteer with the Religious Education Program for students with special needs. Sister Norma also teaches violin lessons, and she has served on the diocesan Council for Consecrated Religious for a few years.

For a period of 20 years, Sister Norma enjoyed belonging to the Jefferson County Community Orchestra at Jefferson Community College. She and some of her students are also associated with the Trillium Music Center in Watertown.

“Seeing young students throughout the week, is one of my greatest joys, at the present time,” she said.


Sister Mary Bethany Fitzgerald, SSJ
60th Jubilee

"I know the plans I have for you ..." – Jeremiah 29:11

“It seems that those plansthat God has for me began when I was born in a loving Catholic family with two older brothers in the small village of Cape Vincent along the St. Lawrence River,” said Sister Mary Bethany Fitzgerald, a Sister of St. Joseph. “Along with the blessings of family, the joys of riding horseback, swimming in the lake or river, working with family in the hay fields and our garden filled me with a deep sense of the delights of God's love outpoured in all of Creation. When the Sisters of St. Joseph came to teach catechism classes in the summer, I witnessed a sense of joy in them, too, as they shared God's Word with us. I began to think even then that maybe God was calling me to be one of them who brought the joy of God to others.”

In high school at Immaculate Heart Academy she began to attend Mass daily and prayed to Mary that she would know God's plan and have the courage to follow it. After graduation, she decided to give religious life a try.

“If it wasn't God's will for me, I could move on knowing God had something else in mind for me,” Sister Mary Bethany said. “Well, right from the very beginning of my years of formation with Sisters of St. Joseph, I felt it fit me 'like an old shoe.' Sixty years ago, I said my 'yes' to God as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

As God's plan continued to unfold, it led Sister Mary Bethany to Mater Dei College and SUNY Potsdam for a degree in education and later to a master's degree in Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I feel blessed to have had the privilege to share His love as a teacher from elementary to high school in places that stretched around the diocese from Watertown, Gouverneur, Massena, Lake Placid, Ticonderoga, Plattsburgh,” she said. “Later God's plan brought me to Mater Dei College as Religious Studies educator and campus minister. When MDC closed, my journey with the Lord took me to SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University as Newman campus minister. In the past few years the call of God seemed to shift from nurturing the faith of young college students to offering these opportunities to adults through retreats, educational workshops/courses, spiritual direction, etc.”

In addition, Sister Mary Bethany has served in ministry within the Sisters of St. Joseph as vocation and religious formation director, assistant director of Lay Associates and Sisters of St. Joseph Social Justice coordinator.


Sister Janet Peters, RSM
60th Jubilee

Sister Janet Peters, a Sister of Mercy, is the second oldest child of two very loving and caring parents, Maurice and Ina Constance Peters. She was born in Cape Vincent and raised on a farm near, Rosiere and Chaumont.

Living in a very rural area with three brothers and two sisters provided her many opportunities to learn responsibility and the importance of sharing and caring for others.

After graduating from Lyme Central School in Chaumont, she pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse by enrolling in Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Watertown. After graduating and working in the hospital for a year, she attended D'Youville College in Buffalo to obtain a bachelor of science degree in Nursing (BSN). While pursuing her BSN degree, she was introduced to courses in the liberal arts and the humanities, and found theology and philosophy courses very interesting, sowing the seeds for her future vocation in religious life.

At age 25, she felt the call to serve others, and in 1960 she entered the Sisters of Mercy of Dobbs Ferry. After the novitiate she attended St. Louis University in Missouri and obtained a Master's Degree in Nursing Education. Sister Janet returned to Watertown and began a pediatric nursing course in the School of Nursing. When the school closed three years later, she was one of the first instructors in the new associate degree Nursing Program at Jefferson Community College in Watertown. After 14 years there, nine of them as chair of the Nursing Program, Sister Janet was elected to the Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team and lived in the Bronx for five years, serving as education facilitator and director of the new members of the religious community.

With her parent’s health failing, Sister Janet returned to Watertown Mercy Center for health Services as vice president of Mission Services and coordinator of Staff Development. After the death of her parents and when the sisters ceased to sponsor the health center, Sister Janet went to St. Louis and became a chaplain intern at a medical center and long-term care facility.

She once again returned to the North Country in 1996 to become the vice president for Mission services and manager of Pastoral Care at Uihlein Mercy Center in Lake Placid and Mercy Health Care Center in Tupper Lake.

After a personal sabbatical in 2001-02, and upon the urging of Chandler Ralph, with whom she had worked in Watertown, Sister Janet began the Pastoral Care Program at Adirondack Medical Center and completed the requirements for board certification with the National Council of Catholic Chaplains.

After seven years of being director of Pastoral Care, she moved back to her roots to reconnect with family and friends in Sackets Harbor. She volunteered for prayer groups, scripture studies, and teaching others how to visit the sick.

Sister Janet retired from active ministry in 2014 and moved to Centennial Apartments in Watertown, where she currently resides.

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