Fifty years to the day they formally entered religious life, Sisters of St. Joseph Christine Lavoie and Catherine Zajac returned to the Mont Marie Chapel Sunday, September 8 for their Jubilee Celebration. Friends, family, fellow members of their party, the Class of 1969, and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield celebrated the women’s combined century of service and ministry. “We began our new life with prayer, music, silky black veils held together with Velcro and words of wisdom from Mother Mary Borgia,” said Sr. Chris. They marked the golden milestone with a Liturgy service and reception at the Congregation’s former motherhouse Mont Marie in Holyoke.
The Sisters chose the theme “Forever Blest” as they feel “blest by God’s love for us and gratitude for those who have loved and supported us along our journey.” Sunflowers, a symbol of God’s love, illustrated the theme. “Like faith, the sunflower challenges us to always stand tall and seek the light,” said Srs. Chris and Cathy. During the ceremony, the Jubilarians shared blessings, songs, and prayers and thanked the community of St. Joseph, their families, friends and colleagues for making their golden celebration special. Mass was celebrated by Rev. Brian McGrath, pastor, St. Mary’s, Lee and Rev. Christopher J. Waitekus, pastor, St. Mary’s Parish, Longmeadow.
The Sisters say that they have always felt “forever blest.” “We were first blest with wonderful, loving parents and are still blessed with supportive siblings and extended families,” said Sr. Chris. “God has continued to bless us by whom and with whom we minister. As we grew and matured, we gathered around us acquaintances, colleagues, dear friends and our greatest blessing, our sisters, those who went before us, on whose shoulders we stand and those we share life with today,” she added. Sr. Cathy said “our prayer is that people of the church, our country and the world recognize God’s love for them and that they extend that love and acceptance to one another.”
Sister Joan Ryzewicz, president, Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, said it was an honor to celebrate with Srs. Chris and Cathy, and she thanked them for sharing their journey. “The grace of Jubilee is a big pause,” said Sr. Joan. “It’s a time to reflect with memory and deep gratitude on 50 years of challenges, joys, and sorrows. Today, we celebrate the gift of the SSJ journey,” she added.
Sister Chris is the daughter of the late Gene and Eleanore Lavoie of Ludlow, entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from St. John the Baptist Parish there. She served as an elementary teacher at St. Mary’s School, Longmeadow and Blessed Sacrament, Holyoke. She later worked as principal at Holy Trinity School, Greenfield for five years. She taught at St. Mary’s School, Westfield for a year before becoming principal of the elementary school in 1999, a position she held for 16 years. Sr. Chris is currently the Reading/Enrichment Teacher for Grades K-2 and Liturgical Studies Teacher for Preschool-Grade 8 at St. Mary’s Academy, Longmeadow. She lives in East Longmeadow.
Sister Cathy is the daughter of the late Edward and Mary Jane Zajac of Holyoke, entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from St. Jerome Parish there. She served as an elementary teacher at St. Agnes School, Dalton and St. Mary’s School, Westfield. She later ministered as a home health aide through Ander-Care, Inc. and Hospice of Pioneer Valley, both in Springfield, as well as the Visiting Nurses Association of Longmeadow. She has also worked as a Lifeline Assistant for the Sisters of Providence Healthcare System at Mercy Medical Center. She has served her Community as an appointment driver and scheduler for the Sisters of St. Joseph Retirement Community and Health Care Center, work which has continued for more than 18 years. She is a switchboard operator at the Community’s Carew Street Offices, work that also began at Mont Marie in Holyoke. Sister Cathy volunteers as a receptionist and switchboard operator at the Chicopee Senior Center and resides in Chicopee.
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