Sr. Melinda Pellerin says she’s known since the age of seven that this day would come: “Sr. Richard Agnes was my first grade teacher at Holy Family School. She wore a full habit, and I went home every day after school and announced to my whole family that I was going to be a Sister of Saint Joseph because they were kind, loving Sisters who served and I wanted to do the same.” More than 50 years later, on Sunday, October 13, dear friends and neighbors, family, colleagues, advisors, and Sisters of St. Joseph celebrated a joyful culmination of that calling, as Sr. Melinda made her final vows during an afternoon liturgy at Holy Name Church in Springfield.
The main celebrant of the Mass was Sr. Melinda’s spiritual guide and friend Fr. Warren J. Savage, director, Catholic Chaplin at the Albert and Amelia Ferst Inter Faith Center, Westfield State University. Concelebrants were Msgr. David Joyce and Fr. Dave E. Aufiero, pastor, Holy Name Church. Music was provided by the Boston Catholic Gospel Choir, under the direction of Meyer Chambers and coordination of Ruth Villard. Rachel Watson was the soloist.
Fr. Savage assigned the Gospel of John Chapter 4:5-42 when Sr. Melinda began her journey toward religious life with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield, telling her she would reflect on the passage for the rest of her life. The gospel tells the story of Jesus’ mid-day encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, whose differences and past made her stand out. “The woman like myself, came to the well with apprehension because she was so different from the other women and did not want to get caught up in the other women’s gossip, talking about her because she was different. Her transformation story is my transformation story,” said Sr. Melinda. “I came to religious life at the ‘mid-day’ of my life, entering with many life experiences that were different from my sisters in the congregation. The message for me in this Gospel is to allow one’s self to be drawn into the experience God offers.”
In his homily, Fr. Savage said Sr. Melinda has been called to “keep the Gospel alive.” He encouraged her to “preach the word and become a prophetic voice against all that is wrong. Be the gift, a child of God.”
Sr. Melinda made her formal religious profession after the homily, called forth by Sr. Joan Ryzewicz, president, Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield. “Melinda has developed her spiritual life over many years, growing in the spirit of our congregation and life as our sister. Today we celebrate her gifts, spirit, and commitment to the dear neighbor,” said Sr. Joan. Sr. Maureen Broughan, SSJ, Melinda’s mentor since her novitiate, presented her with the congregational ring which is a symbol of her commitment. Sr. Terri Croteau, SSJ participated as Sr. Melinda formally signed her vows. The Liturgy of the Eucharist followed. After mass, a reception was held in the Holy Name Parish Social Center.
Born and raised in Springfield, Sr. Melinda is the oldest child of Mary Margaret (Melancon) and the late Robert Pellerin Jr., natives of Broussard, LA. She has two brothers, Donald and David, and sister, Karen.
Sr. Melinda was baptized at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield and attended the former Holy Family Parish and School and the former Notre Dame High School. She earned a degree in history and secondary education at Annhurst College in Woodstock, Conn., and a master’s degree in educational technology from Lesley College.
A retired public school teacher, Sr. Melinda taught in Massachusetts at the middle and high school levels. She taught the International Baccalaureate Program at Springfield’s High School of Commerce and criminal justice at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. She also coached a mock trial team that was the first inner city team to go all the way to finals in Boston, and in 2004 she was the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.
While completing her novitiate, Sr. Melinda’s ministries included a sober living house on the west side of Chicago, where she started a sewing program, tutored, and walked with women in recovery. When she returned to Springfield, she volunteered and directed Homework House. In her Pastoral Ministry at Holy Name Parish, she visits the sick, holds bible study at an independent senior living residence, and is a chaplain at the Women’s Jail in Chicopee, MA, working one-on-one with people in recovery. Presently she is working on obtaining a certificate in addiction counseling from Westfield State University.
Sr. Melinda says she knows her calling is a lifelong work in progress. She says she hopes to “not just preach, but practice the Sisters of St. Joseph charism. I see the face of Jesus in the dear neighbor, and that brings me closer in union to God.”
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