The evening began with a cocktail reception, planned and coordinated by Beth Conroy. The menu, which hinted at the 1960’s, featured a sumptuous buffet and an array of canapés and tasty hors d’oeuvres. Following a welcome by Sister Dorothy Beck, Handmaid Provincial, and a brief address offered by event co-chairs, Mary Mealy and Mary Trautwein Breslin, the evening’s program got underway.
Special guest presenters were two individuals who have spent the last twenty plus years as colleagues and dear friends of the honorees. Marian Dondero, former Director of Ancillae-Assumpta Academy and Eileen Wolpert, Assistant Principal of the Academy held nothing back as they teased the Sisters about their “journeys” and revealed more than a few stories about them. Carrying over the theme of the Silent Auction, the two “discovered” auction items that were “won” by the Sisters, with each item sharing a glimpse of the Sisters’ personalities and habits. All in good fun, the comedic presentation was very well-received and enjoyed by the audience and the honorees, as well.
The humorous was followed by the heartfelt as long-time friends honored Sisters Kathleen Helbig and Maureen Gillespie. Sister Julia Walsh, who was not present for the celebration, was honored in absentia. Beautifully prepared and delivered with deep respect and admiration, the tributes reflected the Sisters’ lifetimes of dedication and commitment to their vocation. In recognizing Sr. Julia Walsh, presenter Sr. Kayjoy Cooper read in part, Julia’s words,
“One of the things that most helps me to live my Handmaid vocation is the friendship and example of other Handmaids, women for whom Raphaela’s way of humility is not just beautiful words, but the road that they travel day by day. In fact, it is a road best travelled together – a life-pilgrimage in the footsteps of Jesus and of Raphaela -- enjoying one another’s company and encouraging one another along the way.”
Anita Alvaré made the presentation of a plaque to Sr. Cam Banh, who accepted the honor on behalf of Sr. Julia.
In delivering Sister Kathleen Helbig’s tribute, Peggy Seydow, former administrator at the Academy, graciously acknowledged Carol Thomas for preparing such a well-scripted and poignant testimony. She ended the presentation with a description of Sister Kathleen written by the late Sister Elizabeth McCoy, dear friend and longtime colleague:
Quiet and strong, Uncomplicated, Like Nathaniel, without guile.
Hard working and zealous, Like Martha, staunchly devoted.
A wholehearted gift poured out daily; A life lived prayerfully in simple joy.
Seemingly without the common problematic. We know you love God.
We sense your constant devotion; You give us intangible courage. We know you love us.
Your drive, your doing for us is concrete. Without many words you give a sense of family.
Your reassuring smile says what we need to hear. We are grateful for you, for your gift of self.
Given, taken, broken, and shared… We wholeheartedly thank you.
Terry McConeghy, fellow ADA alumnae, presented Sister Kathleen with a plaque honoring her 50-year anniversary.
The final presentation was offered by Mary Minnich van Zyverdan, AAA alumna and former Montssori instructor at the Academy. In sensitively and lovingly acknowledging Sister Maureen Gillespie’s gifts to her vocation, Mary had this to say about her mentor:
“I remember being amazed at how the children responded to her. It made such an impression on me. Her sheer presence brought a calm to the classroom. She greeted each child with respect and treated them as individuals. Not only could she lovingly capture the attention of a large group of children, but she knew the needs of each child. Sr. Maureen’s approach to teaching children was inspired by a woman whose philosophy seemed ahead of her time. I recognize how similar in thinking Montessori was, in one aspect, to St. Raphaela Mary when Raphaela Mary says the teaching in our schools is more than a profession; it is a priestly function. Sr. Maureen was surely fulfilling this call. She spoke of how being with the children energized her. I marveled at her natural way of observing each child, and giving lessons with such care and reverence that the children were eager to continue working with her. She had a way to encourage the children to want to learn more. In the same manner, I was increasingly interested in learning from her. Sr. Maureen was in her element when she was with the children, and she so generously wanted to share it with me. She was my role model and I knew I was learning from the best."
Presenting Sr. Maureen with a commemorative plaque was Carol Thomas, longtime administrator at AAA, whose also assisted in planning the tribute presentations.
Both Sisters Kathleen and Maureen addressed the audience during the program, offering their deep gratitude and warm sentiments at having been honored in such a special way. They introduced each of their family members who were in attendance, and shared reflections that underscore the love and admiration that have supported their fifty-year journeys.
The evening concluded with a toast offered by legacy family members, Dale and Amy (Bozzi) Lintner, (both AAA '82)
In honoring these outstanding women who have unselfishly served as teachers, mentors, counselors and advocates, the Journey of Hope provided an opportunity to publicly thank these special sisters for their gifts to the Handmaids and the community at large.