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Religious sisters mark jubilees

First slide

The following religious sisters celebrate special jubilees.

70 years

Benedictine Sister Raphael Baker was born Feb. 2, 1934, in Lucinda, Pa., to parents Leroy and Mary (Richards) Baker. She grew up with six brothers and sisters. She attended St. Joseph High School in Lucinda and St. Marys Catholic High School, St. Marys, Pa.

She earned a bachelor’s in education from Villanova University in Pennsylvania; a master’s in theology from the University of Steubenville in Ohio; and a master’s in business administration in hospital administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

She entered the Benedictines and made her temporary vows July 2, 1951, and perpetual April 11, 1955.

She served in the following assignments: teacher at Sacred Heart School in St. Mary's (1952-55); assistant administrator and administrator at Andrew Kaul Memorial Hospital in St. Mary's (1955-78); coordinator of adult religious education programs at St. Joseph Convent in St. Mary's (1978-81); in the office of matrimonial concerns for the Diocese of Erie, Pa. (1983-97); and prioress at St. Joseph Monastery in St. Mary's (1995-2003). She transferred from St. Joseph Monastery to St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow in 2015 and is retired/in prayer ministry.

Sister Raphael received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice cross in recognition of her commitment to her faith and outstanding dedication to the ministry of the church April 9, 2000, from Bishop Trautman of the Diocese of Erie.

What advice would you give to young people today? Sister Raphael said in an interview in 1997, God does have a plan for all of our lives, and he would like all of us to experience his unconditional love. I would urge everyone to pray before making decisions and try very hard to be open to what God may be asking of you. In God’s will is our peace.

60 years

Benedictine Sister Mary Patricia Herrity was born June 30, 1940, in Washington, to parents Joseph John and Virginia Emma (Veitch) Herrity. She grew up with six brothers and sisters.

She attended Notre Dame Academy in Washington and graduated in 1959. She received an associate’s degree from Marymount College in Arlington in 1965; a bachelor’s in education from Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., in 1969; and a master’s in library science from Rosary College (Dominican University) in Chicago in 1976.

She entered the Benedictines and made her temporary vows March 25, 1961, and perpetual vows March 26, 1966.

Her assignments include kitchen staff at St. John Vianney Seminary in Richmond (1961-62); teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Manassas (1962-63); teacher at St. Paul School in Richmond (1965-66); teacher, prefect and librarian at Linton Hall School in Bristow (1966-68); and procurator at St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow (2010-19). She currently serves as director of housekeeping services at St. Benedict Monastery.

What drew you to the religious life? My parents wanted me to go to college, but I felt the Lord calling me to religious life; I knew the Benedictine sisters from St. Charles Church, and investigated several communities, but I felt drawn to Bristow. Sister Anita had taught liturgy in the eighth grade, and that course impressed me very much.

What are your hobbies, or favorite family or cultural tradition? I enjoy crafts, swimming and walking outdoors with our little dog, Gypsy.

Fondest memories of your time as a religious sister so far? The year I celebrated my silver jubilee, 1986, my birth family and my monastic family were all together as we celebrated at All Saints Catholic Church. My father gave me a trip to Ireland as a jubilee gift that year — a very special experience.

Benedictine Sister Anne Marie Lange was born Nov. 20, 1938, in Richmond, to parents Bernard William and Anne Elizabeth (Shand) Lange. She is one of five brothers and sisters.

She attended St. Gertrude High School in Richmond (1953-57) and Marymount College in Arlington (1965-67). She received her bachelor’s from St. Leo College in St. Antonio, Fla., in 1969 and her licensed practical nursing certificate from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1990.

She entered the Benedictines and made her temporary vows Sept. 12, 1961, and perpetual Sept. 12, 1966.

Her assignments include teacher, prefect and cook at Linton Hall School in Bristow (1962-65); teacher at St. Paul School in Richmond (1967-68); teacher at St. Rose of Lima School in Hampton (1968); teacher and prefect at Linton Hall School (1973-75); infirmarian, subprioress, monastery coordinator and procurator at St. Benedict Monastery (1980-89; 1991-2019); and pastoral minister at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas (2005-19). She currently serves as portress and in pastoral outreach at St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow.

What drew you to the religious life? The strong, practicing faith of my family was the foundation. The sisters I had in grade school and high school were a model for me; they were kind and interested and welcoming. My own blood sister, Charlotte, had entered earlier, and that was an encouragement as well.

What are your hobbies, or favorite family or cultural tradition? I am a huge Duke Blue Devils basketball fan. But I enjoy watching all sports, especially college basketball and football. I always root for Notre Dame football.

Fondest memories of your time as a religious sister so far? Becoming a licensed practical nurse and working in the infirmary was a joy. I was able to serve the sisters who had given so much to me in my early education; it was a privilege.

50 years

Poor Clare Sister Mary Amata Thomas was born in Marion County, Ky., one of four children. She was taught by the Ursuline Sisters, whose Motherhouse is at Maple Mount, Ky., and attended high school at their convent boarding school. She attended the sisters' college, now Brescia University, in Owensboro, Ky., in the early 1960s.

She entered the monastery in Roswell, N.M., in June 1969 to begin formation in the Poor Clare cloistered life. She professed her temporary vows in July 1971 and made solemn profession in July 1974. Three years later, she was one of the six foundresses who began the Poor Clare foundation in the Arlington diocese at the invitation of Bishop Thomas J. Welsh. The founding sisters resided at the St. Louis Church convent in Alexandria for the first year and a half until completion of the monastery in February 1979. She has lived with her community in the cloister since.

What drew you to religious life? I have always wanted to be a nun. My frequent contacts with the sisters who taught me helped to keep this desire alive. The thought of being a Poor Clare came to me during high school, and the thought persisted. I later heard of the Poor Clare Monastery in New Mexico and applied for entrance.

What are your hobbies? I think a favorite hobby is making rosaries, which we put in the monastery foyer for the people. It is a cause of joy to all of us that so many people seem to want rosaries. We know our Mother Mary is being honored by the recitation of the rosary.

Favorite tradition? As for a favorite tradition, what a beautiful experience we have each year in our Holy Week celebrations and practices and the joyous weeks of Easter. Special indeed are the Lenten and Easter seasons in the monastery. Even during the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions, we had the privilege of these celebrations, thanks to the wonderful priests of St. Louis. Of course, all the liturgical seasons and celebrations are special in the monastery, and we try to relish each one.

Fondest memories of your time as a religious sister so far? My fondest ongoing memories are the times of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament together with my sisters. All these times together, as well as at Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, help create a bond and strengthen our resolve to be what we are called to be. They also make for a merry recreation time together each day.

25 years

Poor Clare Sister Mary Christiana Barry was born to parents Captain Thomas J. Barry and Sally Jane Barry. She has five siblings. She graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla. She earned her bachelor’s in theology from Christendom College in Front Royal.

She made her first profession Sept. 14, 1996, and solemn profession Sept. 14, 1999. She has served as novice mistress from 2002 to the present.

What drew you to the religious life? In college, a group of students wanted to initiate weekday exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. To convince the chaplain of the widespread interest, they canvassed the student body, soliciting "adorers" to fill the timeslots. Willing to help the cause, I ingenuously signed up. How could I have imagined that a weekly holy hour would permanently alter my perception of the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? What began as an assigned activity became a weekly rendezvous. An astonishing relationship began to develop, with that person who not only knew me, but waited for me and our one-on-one time together. I already had the desire to spend my life in accord with God's will, whatever that might be. Now, that abstract and impersonal goal deepened into an abiding joy. This joy I wished others could experience, as well, but I found even the best evangelizing possibilities too limited. Eventually, I came to understand that my contribution might be the gift of my whole self to him, who alone can touch any and every heart. As a cloistered contemplative, I know he can take the "yes" of my every consecrated moment and transform it into joy for others.

What are your hobbies, or favorite family or cultural tradition? Entering the monastery, I found the customs and traditions to be very different from any I was accustomed to growing up. The culture shock was quite jarring, an experience I've since learned is universal. But by now, the very gradual adjustment process is complete for me. I love the choral divine office; I love taking our meals accompanied by reading aloud and other rituals of a monastic refectory; I love rising for prayer in the middle of the night, difficult though it is; I also love going back to bed twice a day; I love the many ascetic practices that make it possible truly to pray always. One routine I enjoyed from the very beginning is the way we do the dishes. Every day, after our main meal, almost the entire community gathers in the two big wash kitchens. Together, we engage in an incredibly efficient system that requires almost no speaking. Even so, an enormous amount of silent communication is mutually exchanged. This daily task seems to me more expressive of our interpersonal and communal relationships than even our daily hour of recreation, when we gather on purpose to talk and to laugh. I enjoy the effort of The Dishes, on every level: practical, relational, spiritual.

Fondest memories of your time as a religious sister so far? I've been blessed to be novice mistress for most of my religious life. In that position, I get to watch the supernatural happen before my eyes. Every day, I see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those he asks to discern the cloistered Poor Clare life. It is an ongoing miracle. Each one has her own story, and each one's response is another ongoing miracle. How amazing.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021