mulberry iphone case Convent bids farewell to 52 nuns
DANVILLE At 102, Sister Mariette plans to move in April with other Sisters of Christian Charity from Holy Family Convent to New Jersey.
“I can’t say I won’t miss this place,” she said.
On Saturday, Harrisburg Diocese Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for all the years the sisters have been in Danville. Twenty visitors, including some from New Jersey, attended along with sisters from the convent.
“The diocese grew up with these sisters,” he said of the diocese, celebrating its 150th anniversary. “The Sisters of Christian Charity have been such an integral part of the mission of the church in teaching and health care and other diverse services,” he said.
He described the retired nuns as a “powerhouse of prayer. They have given their lives to active service and in their retirement years to prayer and working for the church. Although they won’t be here physically, we know they will continue to pray for the diocese,” he said.
The Sisters of Christian Charity have owned a retirement home for nuns for 119 years since 1899 in Danville.
Geisinger bought the Holy Family complex, along Montour Street, for $4.5 million in 2013 and has converted the fifth and sixth floors of the main building into workspace for about 119 employees.
The sisters were given time for their new home to be built with Geisinger employees to eventually use the entire building for office and conference space. Additional parking spaces have been constructed.
Two sisters Sister Anthony and Sister Gracemary have lived at the convent for 37 years.
Sister Anthony, 96, joined the order when she was 18. The Philadelphia native taught school and worked at the Camp Hill hospital. She served as treasurer of the Danville convent for 21 years. “It will be a change after being here so many years. I will miss everything in general,” she said.
Sister Gracemary remembers going to a circus in Danville along with seeing a play at the middle school and watching heritage festival demonstrations. “We took a train ride one year,” she said. The sisters also enjoyed going to workshops at the Montour Preserve. “There were wonderful people and a wonderful experience,
” she said.
Also from Philadelphia, she became a nun at age 20 and worked in housekeeping at a Wilkes Barre academy and the mother house and retreat in New Jersey.
“We’re grateful to have a place to go,” said the sister, now 86, who does housekeeping work in Danville but plans to retire with the move.
Sister Mariette has lived in Danville since 1993 and joined the sisters when she was 15. Originally from Williamsport, she taught in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and worked in housekeeping in Montoursville.
“The sisters are so good around here,” she said.
As part of the Geisinger purchase, about 115 graves of sisters were exhumed and moved to a Danville cemetery. “We held a farewell service for them,” Sister Mariette said.
Sister Allan, who assists local coordinator Sister Mary Mark, said their new home will include more than 100 sisters and will be an intergenerational facility with sisters who work living with the retired sisters from Danville. They have been told there will be day trips to nearby historical sites. Sisters will be able to enroll in courses at a nearby college. “It will be a nice change for us,” she said.
She works in the business office and before that oversaw the kitchen. Having lived three times in the past 10 years in Danville, she studied for her degree in interpreting for the deaf at Bloomsburg University. She worked for the diocese of Philadelphia with deaf and hard of hearing people with HIV and AIDS for 13 years.
Sister Mary Thomas got her first glimpse of Danville as a student from Wilkes Barre when her dad would visit the former Beaver mansion that had been home to the sisters. The sisters lived in the mansion, which no longer stands, until the current main building opened in 1968.
She taught school in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and started the activities program at Holy Family Convent. She spent 1995 through 2000 in Danville and returned in 2007.
The 91 year old said the move was “a surprise” when first announced. “I made a vow to go anywhere and do anything. This is where God wants me to be,” she said. “We’re going back to where we began.”
Sister Mary Mark said the sisters plan to hold an open house in early April “to say goodbye to those we know so well.” In her ninth year as local coordinator, she served as an educator for 38 years mainly as a principal in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.