By Tanya Connor
Millions will sing, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel” this Advent, Bishop McManus said in his homily Sunday at St. Paul Cathedral. He asked whether they have considered the spiritual impact those words are meant to make.
It was the first Sunday of Advent and the bishop was celebrating the annual Mass at which he presents awards to retired religious.
He said that during Advent Christians look to Jesus’ coming at the end of human history to render the final judgment and the Church also directs their attention to Christ’s birth.
Advent is also a time to ask, “What is there in my heart which needs to be ransomed?” he said. When Pope Francis was asked who he is, he responded humbly that he is a sinner, the bishop noted. He said there is no point in inviting Emmanuel to set us free if we don’t recognize our need for him to do that.
As the Church concludes the Year of Consecrated Life, it is appropriate to present awards to retired religious, Bishop McManus said.
This year’s recipients were Sister Paula Kelleher, a Sister of St. Joseph; Father Donat Lamothe, an Augustinian of the Assumption, and Sister Liliana DiLiddo, a Religious Venerini Sister. Sister Liliana was hospitalized, so Sister Carmen Capriole received the award on her behalf, and other Venerini Sisters took it to her after the reception that followed the Mass.
Bishop McManus said each of the awardees has served the Church for more than 50 years; their vocations have been used to build up the Body of Christ.
The heart of true religion is sacrificial love, but one cannot love what one does not know, the bishop said, speaking of the importance of teaching and noting that the awardees have taken part in Catholic education. He referred to Pope Paul VI’s point that if people today listen to teachers, it is because they are also witnesses.
Venerini Sister Liliana DiLiddo
By Tanya Connor and Sister Hilda Ponte, MPV
“If I had to do it, I would do it all over again,” Venerini Sister Liliana DiLiddo said of her vocation.
She was speaking from her bed at the Leominster campus of UMass Memorial-HealthAlliance Hospital, where she’d been sent last week.
Her hospitalization kept her from receiving the Retired Religious Award in person at Sunday’s Mass at St. Paul Cathedral, where this year’s two other awardees were honored. Venerini Sister Carmen Capriole received it for her. After Mass, some of the Venerini Sisters took the award to her in her hospital room. Monday she was moved to St. Mary Health Care Center in Worcester.
Sister Liliana said she realized her vocation at about age 14.
“It’s something I knew I wanted to do and I was going to do,” she said. She said she was influenced by the Venerini Sisters – “the love and the kindness they showed others, and their concern for others.”
The Sisters noted that she’s been dubbed “the mayor of Shrewsbury Street.” Asked why, she said, “Because I come from Worcester, and Shrewsbury Street is in Worcester and because I know so many people.” (Her heritage is Italian and she grew up in that traditionally Italian neighborhood.)
Sister Liliana also talked about her ministry of teaching.
“It’s always been a joy being with children,” she said. Asked why, she responded, “Their simplicity, their honesty, their openness.” Her favorite grade was first grade, she said; “it’s just that I can relate so much better” to them.
What advice would she give other teachers?
“Love them,” she said, in reference to students. “Understand them.”
Sister Liliana was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Worcester in the Shrewsbury Street neighborhood. She was among the first graduates of Venerini Academy when it was a high school for girls. She joined the Venerini Sisters in 1949 and was professed in 195l.
She earned her bachelor of arts degree at Catholic Teachers College in Providence and a master’s degree in education. at Fitchburg State College, specializing in reading. She was a member of the International Reading Association.
She taught in various schools in the Albany and Providence dioceses. However, her greatest number of years as a teacher were in the Worcester Diocese at St. Anna Elementary School in Leominster and Venerini Academy in Worcester. Sister Liliana taught in nursery school through grade three, but first grade was her specialty. She loved the little children and was loved by them. Her way with them was like that of a mother, wanting to help all of her children to be their best. She also taught religious education classes in the various parishes where she was.
Despite numerous health problems and physical pain, Sister Liliana wanted to teach for as long as she could. She left Venerini Academy when her failing health required it.
Assumptionist Father Donat Lamothe
By Tanya Connor
The 80-year-old is retired, but still teaches at his congregation’s college, and uses music and icons for prayer. He also worked with the Diocese to implement Vatican Council II reforms.
He is Assumptionist Father Donat Lamothe, one of those who received this year’s Retired Religious Award Sunday at St. Paul Cathedral.
“I have never regretted becoming a member of a religious order,” Father Donat said. “I have felt that I have been doing God’s work, and that’s what I was called to do. I felt from a very young age a call to the priesthood.” (It helped that his uncle who was a priest was well received by the family.)
Perhaps because of his interest in priesthood, Father Donat, who was born in Keene, N.H., was sent to Catholic high school. He graduated from Assumption Preparatory in Worcester just before the infamous 1953 tornado hit the campus.
“When I saw that you could combine priesthood with being a teacher, I said, ‘This is right up my alley,’” Father Donat said. “And also, I liked how the religious celebrated the Divine Office. I entered the novitiate saying, ‘They’ll have to prove to me that I don’t belong here.’”
He entered the novitiate of the Augustinians of the Assumption in Saugerties, N.Y., after studying two years at Assumption College. He professed his first vows in 1956 and final vows in 1961. He studied philosophy, theology and church music in Belgium and France, and was ordained a priest in 1962 in Lyons.
Over the years he earned various degrees: licentiate in philosophy, master’s in theology and in music, doctorate in music history. He has written books and articles about music, lectured about music internationally and composed simple Mass settings and Psalmody for the Divine Office, in imitation of Gregorian chant, he said.
In 1963 he began teaching at Assumption College, and over the years taught philosophy, theology and music, directed a glee club and choirs, oversaw chapel worship and designed the chapel’s stained glass windows.
From 1965 to 1989 he directed the Salisbury Consort of Early Music, which gave concerts in New England.
In the 1960s he was on a diocesan liturgical renewal committee. They prepared the first Mass Book of hymns in English that the Diocese used, and worked with sometimes-reluctant pastors to update church architecture, he said. He has also filled in at parishes, sometimes saying Mass in French, as well as celebrating Masses at Assumption College, where he lives.
Father Donat studied Gregorian chant in France and has taught chant technique and interpretation at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer and St. Benedict’s Abbey in Still River. In 1997 he started the Assumption Schola Gregoriana, which used to sing in area churches. Now members “use Gregorian chant as a basis for prayer” together, he said.
Father Donat also makes icons, a prayer form, which he learned from professional iconographers. The procedure involves going from darkness to light, he said, adding, “you’re reflecting on the fact that humanity is made for light, not darkness.”
Though he officially retired a couple years ago, Father Donat said, he teaches one music history course a semester, and currently has a student doing an independent study. He has been Assumption College archivist since 1986 and is on a couple of the college’s committees. He also likes to attend concerts.
“I think I keep active enough in the artistic community,” he said.
“I’m grateful for the call,” he said of his vocation. “But I never expected to live so long.” Religious life, he decided, has agreed with him.
Sister Paula Kelleher
Sister Paula Kelleher, who retired on Feb. 28, 2014 after nearly 23 years as diocesan Vicar for Religious, said she has been very happy in her retirement, and she has found plenty to keep her busy.
She said she has been certified as a chaplain by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and has been serving as volunteer chaplain for the sisters in the convent of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Still River section of Harvard and also has been visiting sisters at St. Scholastica Priory in Petersham.
She also does some writing which, she said, she always has enjoyed. Recently an article she wrote was published in The Catholic Free Press. She said she plans to do more pieces for the newspaper.
A Worcester native, Sister Paula was the youngest of four children. Her sister Kathleen, now retired, worked for the diocese as an assistant superintendent of schools. Anther sister, Barbara Argento, used to volunteer at the health clinic at St. Bernard’s Church on Lincoln Street. Her brother John, a soldier in the U.S. Army, died in the Korean Conflict. When she became a Sister of St. Joseph she took as her name in religion John David, to honor him.
She attended Ascension Elementary School and St. Peter’s High School.In September 1953, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph Mother House, Mt. Marie, in Holyoke as a novice.
After taking temporary vows she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Elms College in Holyoke. She taught for six years at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Gardner. After that, she went to Chicopee Falls, where she was Superior in the Sisters of St. Joseph convent and taught seventh and eighth grade in St. Patrick Elementary School.
She said that, when one of the Sisters asked if she was comfortable in the role as both superior and teacher, she said she was very comfortable.
“Then,” the sister said, “perhaps you should stop watering the artificial flowers.”
After Chicopee Falls Sister Paula was assigned to Holyoke, where she was principal of what had been two schools, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and Immaculate Conception, which had been merged under the name Mary Immaculate. Next, she taught first grade at St. Mary School in Longmeadow where, she said, she had a volunteer and up-to-date teaching aid equipment.
She came back to the Worcester Diocese to be principal of St. Joseph School in Leicester, where she got off to an interesting start. She had been away from the diocese for several years. So she didn’t know everyone in the diocese. A priest she said she didn’t know came into the school one day, and asked how things were going. She said they had a pleasant conversation. Finally she asked who he was. It turned out that he was Father Martin P. Donahue, diocesan superintendent of schools.
When she told her mother about that, her mother said, ‘Don’t tell anyone you belong to us.’”
Her next assignment was in Spencer. She was religious education administrator for Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary parishes. After those parishes merged and became Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish, she was named pastoral associate.
Studying evenings and on weekends in the summer, she earned a master’s degree in education from Westfield State University. She earned another master’s, plus 30 hours, in human relations and community affairs from American International College in Springfield.
After three years in Spencer, she applied for a course in Clinical Pastoral Education. She said she spent a summer studying at a hospital in Methuen, then studied at UMass Medical Center and St. Vincent Hospital, 1,600 hours in all. She also took a year to study theology in an advanced professional studies course at Assumption College.
In 1991, Bishop Harrington named her diocesan Vicar for Religious, a job in which she was the bishop’s liaison to the various forms of consecrated life. The ministry of the vicar for religious is primarily one of service to all members of consecrated life. She worked with all the religious sisters and brothers in communities in the diocese. She studied the origins of the communities, the charisms of each and their founders and foundresses.
She was very involved in bringing attention to the Retirement Fund for Religious fund-raising efforts. The number of religious has diminished over the years. Communities are small and don’t have the money to take care of those who are retired and/or sick. The fund drive aims to alleviate that problem.