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Sr. Mary Rose Zaccari influenced many with her love of Jesus

Posted By January 3, 2013 | 1:17 pm | Lead Story #3
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By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – Venerini Sister Mary Rose Zaccari, a local and national leader who helped design the Loreto Model summer religious education program, was praised for bringing people to God and likened to a saint at her funeral.
The 82-year-old died Dec. 28 in the Jewish Healthcare Center after an illness. Her funeral was Monday in Fusaro Memorial Chapel at Venerini Academy.
“Mary Rose not only taught me about Jesus Christ, but she showed me who he is,” Father Nicholas Desimone said. She was religious education coordinator at his home parish, Our Lady of Loreto, when he was in fifth grade.
“I only wanted what she had. Her life, her joy, her sense of humor, her intelligence, her passion, her dedication, all testify powerfully to the truth of Jesus Christ. And I still want what she had,” he said.
Father Desimone, associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, drew connections between his mentor and the foundress of the Religious Venerini Sisters, St. Rosa Venerini, whose canonization they both attended in Rome in 2006. After that celebration Sister Mary Rose, then the Venerini Sisters’ U.S. provincial, told The Catholic Free Press she carried an offertory gift to Pope Benedict XVI – precious stones from Venezuela to be used for rings.
“I spoke right up and said, ‘I’m from the United States,’” she said of her conversation with the pope. “‘Holy Father, please pray for us.’ He said, ‘Yes, I will.’ He looked right at me. He was really very nice. I didn’t feel like I was being rushed. Needless to say, we were very thrilled.”
Father Desimone told about St. Rosa Venerini receiving a vision of the Eucharist before her death, of Jesus dying to bring life and of the need for those wanting eternal life to be prepared to lay down their lives in self-gift. He said St. Rosa and Sister Mary Rose understood this. St. Rosa taught women, and Sister Mary Rose continued this mission, he said.
“She was a woman of the Church,” Sister Hilda Ponte, the Venerini Sisters’ U.S. Provincial, said in her eulogy. “The Church was her life .… She was a lover of history, not only a teacher of it. She was passionate about teaching. … She was a teacher, catechist, spiritual guide. She was a person who really brought God to other people. … She loved to travel and her travels became part of her teaching.”   She recalled Sister Mary Rose dressing as a Gospel figure, St. Rosa and La Befana, an Italian Epiphany character said to bring good children treats.
Sister Mary Rose’s niece Maryann Hyatt told The Catholic Free Press that her aunt loved politics and Frank Sinatra.
Her brother, Richard Zaccari, recalled the day his 26-year-old sister told their mother she wanted to be a nun. She also leaves a nephew, Richard Zaccari Jr. and was predeceased by her sister, Loretta Zaccari Lisi, all from Pittsfield.
“One of the gifts of my joining the Venerini Sisters was being with Mary Rose,” recounted Sister Loretta Ciccarelli, who helps with Beacon of Hope Community Services Inc. in Leominster. She said they were friends in the novitiate, and later Sister Mary Rose became her mentor as leader of a team to speak about the Retirement Fund for Religious and the Venerini Mission Fund and a team which prepared days of prayer for women.
Father Michael Broderick, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville, said Sister Mary Rose, whom he knew since he was 16, was one of the primary women responsible for his vocation.
“Our Lady of Fatima was a great training ground for priests,” he said of the Worcester parish where he grew up. Priests connected with that parish were connected through her, he said.
Sister Mary Rose, daughter of Mariano and Isabella (Pupo) Zaccari, was born Dec. 4, 1930 in Pittsfield and graduated from Pittsfield High School. She was a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Pittsfield and worked in the local office of the state Welfare Department, entered the Venerini Sisters in 1956 and professed her first vows on Aug. 22, 1959.
In 1970 she earned a bachelor’s in history and political science at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., in 1974 a master’s in history and in 1986 a certificate of advanced graduate study in religion, both at Assumption College. She won academic scholarships to summer institutes in international justice, society and science, economics and religious education.
From 1959-1963 she taught in St. Anna School in Leominster, then at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Watervliet, N.Y., for a year and from 1964-1965 at St. Anthony School in Schenectady, N.Y. From 1965-1967 she taught at Venerini Academy, from 1967-1976 at Marian Central Catholic High School, then another year after it merged with St. Peter’s to become what is now St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School.
She was religious education coordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes and at Our Lady of Loreto parishes. At the latter she helped design the Loreto religious education program, used here and in several other dioceses. From 1983 to 1993 she was associate director of religious education for the diocese.
In 1998 she received the Outstanding Religious Educators’ Award from the National Center for Pastoral Leadership in Washington, D.C., and in 2011 the retired religious award from the Worcester Diocese.
She was her congregation’s U.S. provincial from 1977-1983 and from 2000-2009 and was active in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for Region 1.
Memorial donations may be made to the Venerini Sisters Retirement Fund, 23 Edward St., Worcester, MA 01605.