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New campus minister caters to youth

Posted By August 23, 2012 | 1:09 pm | Lead Story #2
8-24 mary naccaratoWEB

By Tanya Connor

A New York native, who professed temporary vows there Saturday, expressed enthusiasm about the job that will keep her in Fitchburg – at a school her congregation started.
“It is extremely, extremely exciting,” Sister Mary T. Naccarato said of becoming campus minister at St. Bernard Central Catholic High School in Fitchburg. “I am thrilled.”
The woman who has had years of experience working with teenagers and young adults said she is excited to be back among youth.
She said she’s also excited to be working at a high school founded by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she’s been in the novitiate in Fitchburg the past two years.
“In 1920, during the pastorate of Rev. James J. Donnelly at St. Bernard’s parish, the Sisters began a high school for young women named St. Bernard’s High School,” says the school’s website, “On September 4, 1927, doors opened at the new high school at 45 Harvard Street. Eight Sisters instructed 185 students.”
Robert Blanchard, the principal, said one or more of the Sisters served there from the beginning up until a few years ago, when the last Sister left. Sister Mary said she’ll be the first member of her congregation working there since 2003.         Does it make a difference to have a Sister of the Presentation as campus minister?
“Boy, I hope so,” said Sister Mary. The motto of Nano Nagle, Presentation Sisters’ foundress, is “Not words but deeds.” “Our call is to live the Gospel in all that we do and say,” Sister Mary said.
“I was impressed when I went for the interview, the way that they have kept a bit of the Presentation spirit alive,” even without one of the Sisters on staff, she said.
For the past several years the school has not had a full time campus minister; different members of the religion department did campus ministry, Sister Mary and Mr. Blanchard said. Her position is full time.
Asked about her goals, she said, “I always have grand ideas.” But she said she’ll see what’s being done and how she can add to it. Her work will include coordinating liturgies, retreats and service projects, she said.
Sister Mary said she was born on the feast of the Presentation of Mary, Nov. 21, 1967, in Kingston, N.Y.
When she was doing youth ministry at her parish, St. Mary’s in Kingston, she didn’t expect to make a living from such work, she said.
But in 1990 a fellow-parishioner on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America pointed her to a job there. For seven years she was a program director in Kingston, for seven more a unit director in Saugerties, N.Y., where she ran her own club house, she said.
“I loved it; I absolutely loved it,” she said.  “At first I saw it as a secular job, and then realized that it was really a ministry.” She said she got more involved volunteering at her parish and started looking at a vocation.
She became admissions and recruitment director at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, N.J., where she also assisted with campus ministry, she said.
Her own youth minister pointed her to the Capuchin Youth and Family Ministry in Garrison, N.Y., which he directed, she said. There she was associate director, overseeing staff and young, year-long volunteers, and giving youth and young adult retreats.
After that she worked for the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. as program director in the Office of Youth and Young Adults. There she again ran youth and young adult retreats, worked with parishes to develop programs for these age groups and trained youth ministers and catechists.
As a candidate with the Presentation Sisters, she was “just a retreat team member” at Don Bosco Retreat Center in Stony Point, N.Y., she said. She again helped with youth and young adult retreats, and also with retreats for women and faculty inservice days for teachers at Catholic schools.
Sister Mary said she is still a member of the advisory board for the Archdiocese of New York Office of Youth Ministry, a position she took in 2005.
She was also on the entertainment committee for Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to New York. The committee arranged for youth and young adult Christian rock bands to play, she said.
“We had some big names,” she said. “We also showcased our local talent.”
Last February and March she attended the annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, she said. She called it “one of the many blessings of my formation” and said she hopes to introduce St. Bernard’s students to United Nations’ programs. The Presentation Sisters worldwide have non-governmental organization (NGO) status with the United Nations and help to lobby for systemic changes, she said.
Sister Mary said she is to finish her bachelor’s degree in business and theology in May from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y.
“I’m blessed to have this variety of experiences,” she said. “It just seems that the Lord has led my path.”
She didn’t think to apply to St. Bernard’s, she said. Sister Pauline LeBlanc, a fellow Presentation Sister who works at St. Bernard Elementary School, suggested it.
Sister Mary, the only one among her five siblings not living within three miles of their parents in Kingston, said she wanted to stay in New England, but was planning to return to New York and look for ministry there if she didn’t find work here.
“The Diocese of Worcester has been so good in welcoming our house of formation” at the former rectory of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Fitchburg, she said. “I really wanted to stay around and give back to the diocese and parishes that have supported me the past two years.”
She said she’s a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Ministry at St. Joseph Parish in Fitchburg and has led retreats for confirmation candidates there.
With the Presentation Sisters she’s been leading women’s days of prayer, she said.
She professed three-year, temporary vows in St. Patrick Church in Newburgh, N.Y., which is close to the Presentation Administrative Center and easier for her mother to get to, she said. Now it’s back here to start campus ministry at St. Bernard’s Monday.