Catholic Free Press

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  • Oct
  • 30

Bishop honors three retired religious

Posted By October 30, 2014 | 8:31 pm | Lead Story #2

WORCESTER – Bishop McManus highly praised consecrated religious and their witness before presenting three of them with the annual Retired Religious awards at a special Mass Sunday at Notre Dame du Lac.

“I make the sentiments of St. Paul – gratitude – my own,” he said in his homily, after talking about how the apostle thanked God for the Thessalonians.

“It is only right that we should celebrate the gift of consecrated life,” the bishop told his listeners, among them religious sisters from several congregations. “You have helped the Gospel to be spread”- the same Gospel Paul preached. “We are instruments of the ongoing conversion” in the world. He said consecrated life is so fundamental in helping people grow in faith.

Pope Paul VI, who was just beatified, pointed out that if people today listen to teachers, it is because they are also witnesses, he said. He said the religious have kept their promise of consecrated life, which is a profound, serious witness and that many young people today cannot see themselves as making a life commitment.

“You have said yes to God and the Church in the joy of your youth and you have kept your promise,” he told the religious.

He said he would say the Catholic Church in the United States is one of the most vibrant in the world, “due in large measure to the witness and dedication of consecrated men and women.” He again expressed gratitude and spoke of praying that “this pearl of great price, of ministry, of consecration, may continue to flourish” for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.

Sister Paula Kelleher, a Sister of St. Joseph who was Vicar for Religious until her retirement several months ago, said that several years ago Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley, now retired himself, recommended giving awards to retired religious. She said this year’s awardees represent charisms of their communities. They are Sister Irene Mizula, a Sister of St. Joseph; Sister Catherine T. Connolly, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and Sister Mary O’Leary, a Sister of Providence.

Sister Irene Mizula, SSJ

By William T. Clew

HOLYOKE – National Football League players hoping to make the New York Giants team used to ask Sister Irene Mizula, SSJ, to pray for them.
The Sister of St. Joseph was spending summers studying for her master’s degree in biology and education at Fairfield University in Connecticut when the Giants were holding their tryout camp there. She said the players lived in a dormitory next to the one where she and several sisters from other religious orders lived.
There are many more players at summer camp than the team can carry when the season starts. So, after the first few weeks of camp, players are cut from the team each week. On the days when the cuts were made, Sister Irene said, players would walk by when the sisters were coming out of chapel and say, “Pray for me, Sister.”
She said she and the other sisters were able to see some scrimmages when the Giants practiced, and she became a Giants fan. But, she hastened to add, that was before the New England Patriots had a team.
Sister Irene was born in 1934 in the Florence section of Northampton, the youngest of four children. She said she and her siblings, two brothers and a sister, were born in their house on the family farm.
She attended Annunciation Elementary School in Florence and St. Michael’s High School in Northampton. Her teachers were the Sisters of St. Joseph.
“They were great, down-to-earth people, joyful people,” she said.
She was so impressed that she decided to join them. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Holyoke in 1951. Two years later she professed her vows and entered Elms College in Chicopee. After two years and two summers of study, together with instruction by Elms College teachers while she was a novice, she received a bachelor of arts degree in education and biology.
She taught the sixth grade from 1956 to 1957 at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Holyoke. Then she moved to St. Mary’s Elementary School in Westfield and, for a year, taught the sixth grade. She then was asked to move to St. Mary’s High School, also in Westfield, where she taught a variety of subjects.
After 10 years in Westfield, she moved to St. Mary’s High School in Milford, where she taught biology and physics. While she was there a friend suggested that, with her degrees and background in biology and physics, she could become a medical technician if she completed clinical studies. She studied at Mercy Hospital in Springfield and, when she finished, began work in the hospital’s chemistry department.
“I met some great people there,” she said.
She left Mercy after a few years and became administrator of the Mt. Marie Infirmary in Holyoke. Four years later she moved to Worcester and taught physics for a couple of years at Holy Name Central Catholic High School.
She then moved on to St. Vincent Hospital, where she worked in the blood bank. She also worked in a private medical laboratory in Worcester, after which she worked in the physics laboratory at Quinsigamond Community College.
She also volunteered at Abby’s House when it opened in 1976 as one of the first overnight emergency shelters for women in the United States. Later she studied at Boston College for a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. She said that, as part of that course of study, she spent a year at the college and a year at the Mexican-American Culture Center in San Antonio, Texas, and made field trips to Mexico.
After receiving her degree, she was pastoral minister at St. Joseph Parish in Worcester for a time, until it was closed. (It has since been reopened and combined with Holy Name and Notre Dame parishes as Holy Family Parish.)
Sister Irene went on to work as a senior aide in the science library at the College of the Holy Cross, then moved to the college’s Dinand Library, where she worked for 10 years.
She retired in 1994 and stayed in Worcester until about four years ago, she said. Then she moved to the Mt. Marie St. Joseph’s Residence to be close to her sister and brothers, who have since passed away.
“They are in heaven,” she said.
Sister Irene has had some health problems and uses a walker to get around. She said she finds it frustrating “that I can’t do all the things that I thought I would do when I retired.”
But, looking back on her life, she said, “I liked everything I did. There wasn’t enough time in the day to do everything I wanted to do.”