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Archives Sisters celebrate years of faithful service

October 6, 2021

OGDENSBURG – Bishop Terry R. LaValley celebrated the Marriage & Religious Jubilee Mass on Oct. 3. At that Mass, married couples from around the diocese celebrating anniversaries and consecrated religious celebrating milestone jubilees were honored. Photos of the Mass will be featured in the next edition of the North Country Catholic.

The following sisters marked jubilees in 2020 or 2021 and were honored at the Mass and share their vocation stories:

Sister Diane Marie Ulsamer, SSJ - 50 years
Prior to entering religious life, I was fortunate to have grown up in a traditional German Catholic family. My parents, Robert and Audrey Ulsamer, taught me and my three siblings the value and richness of living the practices and traditions of our faith. Family prayer and worshipping at Saint Boniface Church were integral aspects of our daily life.

In addition, I was privileged to receive a Catholic education from the Sisters of Christian Charity who taught at our parish school. I share this with you because I believe that my vocation was nurtured during this time of my development. It was through family, parish, and the sisters that I began to know and develop a relationship with God.

During junior high school, I began thinking about becoming a sister. I visited the Sisters of Christian Charity often and worked in their hospital as a nurse's aide my junior and senior year of high school.

Our parish priest encouraged me to look at a variety of other communities. In October of 1968, I came to Watertown to take a look at the Sisters of St. Joseph, mainly because the Sisters were, at that time, involved in ministering to children whose parents were unable to care for them. This ministry intrigued me because most communities I visited were teachers.

I knew nothing about the Sisters of St. Joseph, but on that first visit I knew that this was the community that God was calling me to join. The sisters were spirit-filled, authentically happy, eager to serve the Lord, and very hospitable. That visit was the beginning of my 52-year journey in religious life.

In September of 1969, I enter the community at Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg. I began the formation program for religious life and college courses. After two years, I received my associates degree.

On June 13, 1971, I received the habit and entered the canonical year of study in the community. Religious formation continued for the next six years. During those years as a junior professed sister, I continued my studies and received my bachelor’s degree in education at D'Youville and master's degree in Early Childhood Education at Nazareth in Rochester. In August of 1978, I made perpetual profession in the chapel at our Motherhouse in Watertown.

For 29 years, my ministry was in Catholic Education. I taught kindergarten through fourth grade, was a music teacher and served three years as principal. Traveling around the diocese, I taught in the following schools: Holy Family in Watertown, St. Mary's in Ticonderoga, Augustinian Academy in Carthage, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Watertown, St. Joseph's in Malone, Holy Name in AuSable Forks, and Trinity Catholic in Massena. In each school, I was blessed with new opportunities and challenges. Meeting the families around the dioceses has truly enriched my life.

In 2001, I left the teaching ministry to serve as the motherhouse superior. At the completion of my term as superior, God directed me toward a new ministry. I became the program coordinator for the Religious Education Program for people with disabilities and the part-time pastoral associate and Religious Education coordinator for Sacred Heart Parish in Watertown. Both ministries offered new challenges and wonderful opportunities to share faith with the elderly, the children of the parish, and my special friends with disabilities. Serving with every individual has been amazing and a journey which has drawn me into a deeper relationship with the lord.

Today, I continue to work with people with disabilities here in Watertown. We have over 100 people sharing faith with one another in our Religious Education Program.

Throughout the past 50 years, Isaiah 12:2 “The lord is my strength and my song," has been a verse that has inspired me. I have been given many challenges, new adventures, and joyful opportunities to live the charism and mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. As I moved from one mission to another, there were times when I knew only God's grace would help me through the day. I have learned that nothing is impossible to accomplish when God is at the center of my day. He has taught me to trust Him, and that sacrifice and suffering are truly a part of the journey. After 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I can proclaim with great confidence and a grateful heart that, “My joy lies in being close to my God."

Sister Shirley Anne Brown, SSJ – 60 Years
“Blessing” and “gift” are the dominant words for the celebration of my 60th jubilee.

The original blessing was my family of origin. Born as the middle child of Catherine and Richard Brown in Fort Covington, I grew up in a family of 10 siblings. This domestic church family was the source of my introduction to God through prayer and sound family life values. It was family that taught me to pray, brought me to the sacraments of youth at St. Mary's Church, to catechism classes with the Sisters of St. Joseph in the parish and later to boarding school at Immaculate Heart Academy. I graduated from IHA in 1961.

My vocation was born in and nurtured by my family. Blessings continued as I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Watertown. It was here that the opportunities for a deepening spirituality were provided along with an appreciation of the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph. This time provided me with the foundation for the many ways that this charism could and would be lived out in my life in the Church in the years that followed as a vowed members of the community.

I was also blessed and gifted by the sisters with an excellent academic education, with opportunities to study and earn degrees at Potsdam and Plattsburgh State Universities, as well as at Boston College.

Blessings and gifts continue to flow during 50 years of engaging in Catholic education in the dioceses of Ogdensburg and Syracuse. Through the years as teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, I have journeyed with countless students, parents and colleagues.

During the last seven years, I have been blessed by ministry as a pastoral associate and to have the opportunity to enrich the spiritual life of parishioners as they have in turn enriched mine.

For all of the many people who have walked with me on this journey of life, I give thanks for giving me a glimpse into the multi-faceted beauty of God in our midst.

Sister Mary Juliana Raymond, SSJ - 60 years
The first daughter of Frederick and Shirley Lynch Raymond, I was born in Ticonderoga and lived in Tahawus, a small mining town in the heart of the Adirondacks.

My family, friends, church and community nourished my vocation. I am grateful!

I attended Newcomb Central School. For grades kindergarten through three, school was in Tahawus, and grades four through 12 were in Newcomb. Classes were small, and great emphasis was placed on local high peaks history, the source of the Hudson River and our Adirondack environment.

My immediate family consisted of my parents, three sisters and a brother. I had grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins nearby. I was baptized in St. Joseph's Church, Olmstedville. St. Therese's Church, built in Tahawus and moved to Newcomb when the mines closed, was home for worship and sacraments.

After high school graduation, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and Mater Dei College on September 8, 1960. From there, my education continued at SUNY Potsdam, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Early Childhood. Advanced studies included summer courses from the Gesell Institute of Child Development in New Haven, Connecticut.

In the Diocese of Ogdensburg Catholic Schools, I taught first grade for 36 years. For the past nine years, I have served in diocesan Campus Ministry as College Chaplain at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, where I also serve as an instructor in Early Childhood Development.

In addition to teaching at the elementary and college levels, I have been a member of the diocesan Ecumenical Commission; summer faculty at Mater Dei College; elementary school principal; volunteer prison chaplain's assistant weekly for three years during the tenure of the late Father William Connor, MSC; and have participated in many committees in schools, towns and the community.

My early introduction to our earth as gift has been the inspiration for countless nature workshops, as well as gardening, bread making, creative sewing, craft classes and, in recent years, sharing my rich Adirondack heritage by teaching others how to make traditional Adirondack packbaskets.

My family, friends, Church and community nourished my vocation. I am grateful!

Sister Judy Adams, SSJ – 60 years
Sister Judy Adams is a member of the Watertown Sisters of St. Joseph. An Ogdensburg native, she is the daughter of the late John and Jean Adams. Sister Judy attended Bishop Conroy Grade School, St. Mary's Academy and Mater Dei College all in Ogdensburg. She received her bachelor's degree from SUNY Potsdam and a master's degree from Manhattan College.

Sister Judy has taught in many of our Catholic Schools throughout the diocese, and served as principal of Sacred Heart School in Watertown, as well as St. Peter's School in Lowville.

In the past, she was elected to the General Administration Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Judy served in Massena at Trinity Catholic School for many years, as the science and technology coordinator.

Presently, Sister Judy is involved in Prayer Ministry at the Motherhouse in Watertown.

Sister Carol Louise Kraeger, SSJ – 60 years
I was born on a dairy farm in Port Leyden, the third oldest of ten children. I went to public school, but both parents instilled in us the importance of religion and caring for others.

At 17, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. I was in the first group to enter the community at Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg. Along with 14 others, I received the habit on June 24, 1961.

I traveled throughout the diocese teaching in the elementary grades. Then in 2004, I was hired as the parish minister (associate) at St. John's Parish in Lake Clear. I was very happy working with the people of that community, which included 40 to 50 people attending Sunday Mass. In 2017 we had the sad experience of closing the doors of St. John's Church. The church property was sold. The pastor, Father Martin Cline was able to offer a special memorial Mass for the last time at St. John's Church.

In the fall of 2020, I moved from my two-floor, seven-room house – once St. John's rectory – to a studio apartment just three houses down the road from the rectory. Someone once told me, "Don't be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened."

I am very happy and, thankfully, I am still ministering to the people of Lake Clear and Saranac Lake. I visit the homebound, the sick in the hospital and those in nursing homes. I take them Communion and ensure they are cared for spiritually and physically. I am happy to help Father Cline in whatever he may need.

As I get older, I can see how Jesus has been my faithful spouse throughout these years. I feel that He has saved the best 'til last. I have never been happier than now, when I am here serving the people of the mountains in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

Sister Cecilia Marie Hermann, SSJ – 60 Years
I received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph 60 years ago. God has been very good to me. He blessed me with a wonderful parents, Adolf and Anna Hermann, five brothers – two of them are deceased – and four sisters (one died in infancy). I have many nieces and nephews that have added a great deal of joy to my life.

My parents provided me with 12 years of Catholic education at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School and Immaculate Heart Academy. I am grateful to my mother and father, to the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me, and to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart who were a major influence in my early years.

I am also grateful to the diocesan priests, and the lay teachers with whom I have worked. It has been a blessing for me to live with the Sisters of St. Joseph for 60 years.

My ministry has been Catholic school education. I am happy to pass on to our young people what was given to me. As I said, God has been so good to me! On the occasion of my jubilee, I thank God for His many graces and blessings, and I pray for all the people who have been a part of my life.

Sister Mary Ellen Brett, SSJ – 60 Years
I was born in Watertown, the oldest of four children to Mary (Tooley) and Kenneth W. Brett. My siblings are John (deceased), Kenneth Jr. and Jane B. Scott.

As a family, we were members of Holy Family Parish. I graduated from Holy Family School and Immaculate Heart Academy.

I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph for a six month trial. In my 60th year as a Sister of St. Joseph, I'm grateful that the Lord captured my heart.

I received my bachelor's and master's degrees in Education from Potsdam State University. I enjoyed my years of teaching in the Catholic Schools in St. James, Gouverneur, St. Agnes, Lake Placid, St. Augustine’s, Peru, St. Joseph’s, Dannemora and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Watertown. I always looked forward to teaching in the Religious Education programs in those respective parishes.


Further education through the Institute for Pastoral Life in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization (PNCEA) in Washington, D.C, enabled me to minister through the diocesan Offices of Formation for Ministry and Evangelization.

A highlight of my life was my visit to St. Martin de Porres Parish, Mollendo, Peru at the invitation of Father George Maroun, then director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The Peru experience showed me that the happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; Peruvians just made the best of everything. This reminder has been a blessing in my current Mission Office ministry.

Several years of my life have happily found me residing at the Motherhouse, ministering to our infirmed sisters.
I'm very grateful to be working with St. Mary's, Copenhagen parishioners and community responding to the Lord’s surprises that daily come into my life. Everyday is a gift: Just imagine the gifts in 60 years.

Sister Mary Gregory Munger, SSJ – 60 Years
My journey to become a Sister of St. Joseph began in Newark, New Jersey, where I was born and received my early education from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania.

I was the oldest of three children. Following my family's move to Alexandria Bay, I attended Saint Mary's Elementary School in Clayton and Immaculate Heart Academy in Watertown.

I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1960, receiving my early college education at Mater Dei College.

In subsequent years, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Science from SUNY Potsdam, a master’s degree in music from Catholic University of America and a master’s degree in Administration/Supervision from Boston College.

My teaching ministry spans over 50 years. During that time, I taught science, math and music at the junior and senior high levels in Catholic schools throughout the diocese. I taught college level courses in computer related fields at both Boston College and SUNY Potsdam, and GED courses at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility.

I served as principal at St. James School in Gouverneur, St. Patrick's School in Watertown and Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse.

I have served on a number of committees, including the diocesan Liturgical Committee, an Interdiocesan Music Curriculum Committee, numerous Middles States Evaluation teams and currently am a member of the National Religious Vocation Conference. Presently I am Vocation Director for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

I am most grateful for God's call to the Sisters of St. Joseph and to those who have supported and nurtured my vocation especially my family, the members of my community and friends.

Sister Mary Denise Wilke, RSM –70 years
I was born and raised in Manhattan, NYC. My life in those years was centered in our parish, Good Shepherd nearby and the Paulist Fathers.

I entered the Sisters of Mercy right after I completed high school on September 9,1957. My parents were accepting, even though it was hard, as I was an only child. My father was not Catholic, but both of them was supportive.

I went to Marymount in Tarrytown for my bachelor’s degree and then to Fordham University

for my master’s degree in Social Work. My first assignment was at St. Michael's Home on Staten Island. It was ahome for 280 children, ages 3 to 18. I loved the children and missed them when I was reassigned to the North Country. I spent five and a half years at Uihlein Mercy Center a new Nursing Home, where I was the first social worker. Following this, I was director of Social Work in our hospital (St. Francis) in Port Jervis, and remained there for 22-1/2 years. At that time, I was elected to leadership in my community, and for four years, I was in charge of senior sisters who were living on the top of Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers.

Following this, I had a wonderful sabbatical which included a trip to Ireland and our Foundation House in Dublin. I also went to Rome and had the privilege of Mass in Pope John II Chapel. Such A blessing!

I then returned to the North Country to Uihlein Nursing Home. This time in Pastoral Care. I am in my 19th year.
Those 70 years were filled with many graces and blessings and much happiness. I thank God.


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