“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” — Psalms 62:2
Scripture often refers to rocks as a symbol of God’s reliability and strength. We are advised to build our lives upon stable rock that is God’s love, wisdom and salvation. Please join in celebrating the men and women of the Diocese of Erie who have done just that through their religious vocations.
The following are celebrating milestone jubilees in 2022.
CLICK HERE TO FIND A JUBILARIAN ALPHABETICALLY
Sister Rose Marie Chisholm, SSJ
A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sister Rose Marie Chisholm, SSJ, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from Sacred Heart Parish in Watertown, Massachusetts, on May 8, 1947. She professed her final vows in 1953. Sister Rose Marie graduated from Watertown Senior High School in Massachusetts and continued her education at Villa Maria College, Erie. She also attended the Cardinal Glennon School of X-ray Technology in St. Louis, Missouri, where she earned certification as a registered radiologic technician.
“The deep faith and teaching of my parents helped me over the years, and the sisters I met during my school years helped me to know the future for me,” Sister Rose Marie says. For the first four years of her religious life, she taught at Sacred Heart School in Erie. She then dedicated most of life in ministry to health care. She served as an X-ray technician and supervisor at the following locations: Spencer Hospital in Meadville, Titusville Hospital in Titusville, and Orthopedic Associates of Meadville.
She spent more than 42 years in the radiology field. She also served as the superior of the St. Joseph Convent in Meadville. When she returned to Erie, she ministered for 20 years as a receptionist, coordinator and assistant sacristan at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center, Erie, and was a receptionist at Saint Mary's Home of Erie.
Sister Mary Grace Hanes, OSB
Benedictine Sister Mary Grace Hanes celebrates 75 years of monastic profession this year. Shortly after graduating from Erie’s St. Benedict Academy in 1945, she entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, making her first profession in August 1947. After teaching in schools throughout the Diocese of Erie for about 15 years, Sister Mary Grace, known affectionately as “Gracie,” transitioned to administration, serving as principal and later as guidance counselor at St. Benedict Academy. She used her training in business education and guidance counseling to prepare many young women for productive, meaningful lives and careers. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Villa Maria College and studied at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Beginning in 1970, Sister Mary Grace served her community as the monastery coordinator for five years. She later assumed administrative roles, over a period of 21 years, in the office of Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister.
Sister Mary Mark McCarthy, RSM
Mercy Sister Mary Mark McCarthy entered the Sisters of Mercy 75 years ago from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Pittsburgh, taking the motto “All for Jesus.” A secondary motto could easily have been, “All for education.” After entering the community in 1947, she earned degrees from Mercyhurst University and Gannon University, both in Erie, and taught in three Diocese of Erie elementary schools: St. Catherine of Siena in DuBois, St. Titus in Titusville, and St. Luke in Erie, before being named principal of Ss. Cosmas and Damian in Punxsutawney, St. Thomas in Corry, St. Michael in Greenville, St. George in Erie, and St. Patrick in Franklin. For 20 years, Sister Mary Mark was religious education coordinator at St. Peter Cathedral Parish, Erie, along with duties as assistant house coordinator for her community. In recognition of her years as an educator, the late Pope St. John Paul II bestowed on her the Papal Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pope). Now comfortable and challenged, piecing together puzzles and themes at her leisure, she says, “I am grateful for the many years I have had in serving my community and the diocese in the classroom and administration.”
Sister Phyllis Marie McDonald, RSM
Mercy Sister Phyllis Marie McDonald has been on a journey of change. As a young girl at St. Michael Grade School in Greenville, she wanted to devote herself to God. In high school, she enjoyed a youthful romance, but then suffered an illness that redirected her life. “When I finally recovered [from the illness], the desire to give my life to God returned with gusto,” she says. After entering the Sisters of Mercy 75 years ago, she was overcome with peace. She earned education degrees at Mercyhurst University, Erie, and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, enabling her to teach in five Diocese of Erie elementary schools: St. Titus, Titusville; Ss. Cosmas and Damian, Punxsutawney; St. Luke and St. George, both in Erie; and the former Msgr. Geno J. Monti, Farrell. Following Vatican II, she served as director of postulants and novices for the Mercy community. She later moved to Fort Defiance, Arizona, as a teacher, spiritual life minister and missionary for 15 years on the Navajo Reservation. She returned to Erie to co-direct Grassroots Opportunities for Women (GROW). She eventually settled into serving as director of the curriculum library at Mercyhurst University for 17 years. Today, Sister Phyllis Marie tracks community news, saying, “Religious life involved me in challenging and rewarding ministries and jobs that I would never have chosen had I’d been on my own.”
Sister James Francis Mulligan, SSJ
Sister James Francis Mulligan, SSJ, celebrates her 75th jubilee this year. A native of Meadville, she attended St. Brigid Elementary School and St. Agatha High School, both in Meadville. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from Villa Maria College, Erie, and went on to earn a master's from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Aug. 31, 1947, from her home parish of St. Brigid, professing her final vows in 1953. Sister James Francis helped educate thousands of students throughout the Diocese of Erie. She taught at St. Peter Cathedral, Holy Rosary, St. Andrew, and Villa Maria Elementary schools, all in Erie. She also taught at St. Mark Seminary, Villa Maria Academy, and — for 32 years — at Cathedral Prep. Outside of Erie, she taught at St. Leo High School in Ridgway. Many former students affectionately know her as "Sr. Jim." In addition, she taught at Villa Maria College and Gannon University. Sister James Francis received many honors, including the Erie Deanery's Teacher Hallmark Award. In 2007, she was honored for 60 years of service in Catholic education and as the Serra Club's Outstanding Woman Religious. In 2006, she received a Papal Cross for exemplary work for the “Church and the Pope.” In addition, she was inducted in 2002 into the Cathedral Prep Hall of Fame. For her congregation, she served as assistant superior and councilor for spiritual life, finances and as treasurer. “My parents inspired me in both word and by example in their service to the church and school,” Sister James Francis says. “No matter the trial or suffering, including a son killed in World War II, my parents exhibited a strong faith in God. They greatly influenced my faith and love of God.”
Sister Bernadette Bell, RSM
Mercy Sister Bernadette Bell — never idle in her 70 years of living in community as a Sister of Mercy — continues at a busy pace as local development coordinator and liaison for the newly formed Catherine’s Club Giving Circle, providing grants for local organizations. She attributes her zeal to her New England Irish Catholic parents who, she says, “not only taught me my religion, but practiced themselves what they expected of us … always involved in our activities, our education and our community.” Educated by the Benedictines at St. Joseph School in her hometown of Sharon, she spent summers at Erie’s Camp Glinodo and eventually enrolled at Mercyhurst University, where the Sisters of Mercy guided and influenced her. “I began to realize this was the life for me,” she says. She served more than 20 years as an elementary school administrator at St. Luke and St. George schools, became school supervisor for the diocese, was hired by the Middle States Association to coordinate schools for accreditation in the Diocese of Erie, and taught in the education department at Mercyhurst University. She served as a regional director for elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. Elected to community leadership, she served eight years as regional vice president and three years as president of the local community, having also served as house coordinator. Sister Bernadette was active in many professional organizations and ministry boards. The Erie Serra Club named her Diocesan Religious Woman of the Year, and she was among those recognized as Women Making History. Mercyhurst University named her to their distinguished alumni list. Presently, Sister Bernadette serves as chair of the Retirement Fund for Religious Committee in the Diocese of Erie.
Sister Mary Paul Carioty, RSM
Mercy Sister Mary Paul Carioty says childhood challenges prompted her to want to minister to the sick, poor and homeless, as well as teach children, especially those whose parents were divorced. Having planned to attend Our Lady of Mercy High School in her native Rochester, New York, she was faced with the decision to abandon her Greek Orthodox heritage. Her mother told her, “If you go out that door, you don’t come back.” Sister Mary Paul says, “God told me to go out that door.” Sadly, she became a homeless student, but because of the kindness of Mercy Sister Francesca Connor, her tuition and supplies were provided. The generosity of school friends and an after-school job also helped her to graduate. Sister Mary Paul then worked as a clerk and a nurse’s aide at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital. In 1952, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in Titusville. She reconciled with her divorced parents, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education, and, eventually, degrees as a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. She taught in Erie diocesan schools before nursing assignments at DuBois Regional Medical and Hamot Medical Center (now UPMC Hamot). Sister Mary Paul traveled to Ethiopia in East Africa, where she served as an obstetrics and emergency services nurse in a local clinic. For 17 years, she was director/nurse at Health Care for the Homeless Project in Washington, D.C. Still active and living her motto, “By the grace of God, I am what I am,” she is among the support staff in Baldwin Hall at her alma mater, Mercyhurst University.
Sister Mary Felice Duska, RSM
Mercy Sister Mary Felice Duska has enjoyed a variety of ministries in her 70 years as a Sister of Mercy. Recently, after 24 years as executive director of Mercy Terrace Apartments, Erie, she moved on to serving in the finance office of her religious community in Erie and volunteering at Mercy Terrace. Over the past seven decades, she was an elementary school teacher in the Diocese of Erie. She also taught piano, conducted choirs, served in parish ministry, and was councilor on the Mercy Sisters’ leadership team in Erie. “Each place where I ministered and each capacity in which I served seemed to be the place where I should be working with the sisters, students and families at that time in my life,” she says. “Perhaps, this is the concept or result of living in the present moment.” A native of Holy Family Parish, Erie, she graduated from Mercyhurst Seminary (now Mercyhurst Preparatory), where she encountered the late Mercy Sister Mary Andre Ahearn, whom she describes as her “ideal and inspiration for my vocation.” Sister Felice earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Mercyhurst University and a master’s from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. She continued music studies by participating in pedagogy seminars in Pittsburgh and liturgical choral conferences sponsored by the national Pastoral Musicians Association. Ever focused and active, she says, “God and community are my treasures, and my heart is always there.”
Sister Mary Louis Eichenlaub, OSB
Benedictine Sister Mary Louis Eichenlaub made her monastic profession 70 years ago this July. A graduate of St. Benedict Academy, Erie, she earned a bachelor's degree from Villa Maria College, a master’s from the University of Notre Dame, and graduate certification in gerontology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. She spent many years as a teacher, primarily at the high school level, including St. Benedict Academy, Venango Catholic and Cathedral Prep. She instilled her love of beauty, poetry and art in many students over the decades. After leaving the classroom, Sister Mary Louis worked for several years in pastoral ministry for the aging at St. Mary Parish, Erie, as an English instructor at St. Benedict Education Center, and as a director of social services at St. Joseph Apartments. For many years, she also was a member of Interchurch Ministries of Erie, forming important relationships with religious people and congregations throughout the city. In 1990, she received the Papal Cross in recognition of her years of service to the people of God.
Sister Ann Patrice Murnock, SSJ
Sister Ann Patrice Murnock, SSJ, is a native of St. Michael Parish in Forest City, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Forest City High School and earned a bachelor's degree in business from Villa Maria College in Erie. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1953, made her first profession in 1955, and final profession in 1958. “Entering the Sisters of St. Joseph was my way of making God an even bigger part of my life,” Sister Ann Patrice says. “I relied on the Hoy Spirit, and my prayers were answered.” She taught at St. Leo Magnus School in Ridgway, and at St. Andrew, St. Ann and St. Paul schools, all in Erie. In addition, she taught religious education at Mercer County Catholic Center in Mercer. Sister Ann Patrice served as a financial officer for her congregation. She later transitioned to health care and ministered as office manager at Spencer Hospital in Meadville. She retired from Saint Vincent Hospital, Erie, after serving as senior office clerk and outpatient coordinator.
Sister Cecilia Sullivan, OSB
Benedictine Sister Cecilia Sullivan made her monastic profession 70 years ago this July, having entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie shortly after graduating from Sharon High School. The 11th of 12 children, Sister Cecilia brought a love of young people and family life to the schools and parishes where she ministered in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. In communities throughout the Diocese of Erie, from Clarion to Erie, Sister Cecilia prepared children for first Communion and taught academic subjects for all levels of grade school. She earned her degree at Mercyhurst University. In 1981, Sister Cecilia went to Ketchikan, Alaska, to begin a five-year ministry as a teacher for the Holy Name and Holy Family Missions. After returning to Pennsylvania, she ministered to the elderly for eight years at St. John XXIII Home in Hermitage. She spent the next 20 years on the staff of the St. Benedict Education Center in Erie, helping immigrants and refugees transition into successful lives in the U.S. Since retiring from active ministry at the age of 80, Sister Cecilia has served the monastic community in many different roles, including as sacristan and portress.
Sister Mary Arnold Tann, SSJ
Sister Mary Arnold Tann, SSJ, dedicated most of her 70 years of religious life ministering in education as a teacher and administrator. A native of Hamilton, Ohio, she moved with her family to Erie, where she graduated from Villa Maria Academy and earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College. She also earned certifications in school administration from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, and library science from Penn State Behrend. Sister Mary Arnold entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Andrew Parish, Erie, in 1952. She made her final profession in 1958. Her ministry in education includes 30 years as a teacher at several diocesan schools, including Blessed Sacrament, Villa Maria Elementary, St. Peter, Our Lady of Peace, and St. Ann schools, all in Erie; St. Bernard School, Bradford; and as principal at Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Peace. In addition, for 24 years, she was an administrator with the Diocese of Erie's Office of Education, serving as director of teacher personnel, superintendent of schools, and associate vicar for education. Following her retirement, she served as a volunteer at Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie. “The prayerfulness and love of my family strengthened me as I responded to God’s invitation to be a Sister of St. Joseph,” she says. “Within the community, I found a very dedicated spirit and strong faith in serving God and his people in a variety of ministries.”
Sister Ricarda Vincent, SSJ
Sister Ricarda Vincent, SSJ, is a native of Erie and a graduate of Strong Vincent High School. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1952 from her home parish of St. Andrew, making her final profession in 1958. “It was a rather gradual, constant, and consistent call which, at times, I tried to ignore but finally responded by entering the Sisters of St. Joseph,” Sister Ricarda says. “I have often thought that the description of God’s pursuit in Frances Thompson’s poem, ‘The Hound of Heaven,’ described how I felt about my call.” Sister Ricarda earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College, Erie, and a master's degree in human services from John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio. Most of her ministries revolved around education, both in schools and parishes of the Diocese of Erie. She taught at the former St. Joseph Home for Children, Erie; St. John the Baptist, Blessed Sacrament and St. Patrick schools, all in Erie; and at St. Brigid School, Meadville. She served as principal at Holy Rosary Parish, Erie, while also ministering as the parish’s director of religious education. Active in her congregation, she assumed various leadership positions, including as social justice coordinator, counselor, novice director and president. In 2008, she became the first vice president of mission integration at Saint Vincent Hospital. Sister Ricarda also served as a counselor at Sacred Heart School, Erie, and as pastoral minister and director of religious education at Sacred Heart Parish, Erie. Until her recent retirement, she provided dynamic leadership for 10 years as the adult formation director at Sacred Heart Parish.
Msgr. Bruce Allison
Msgr. Bruce Allison remains an active pastor in the Diocese of Erie, despite being 11 years past full retirement age. At 86, he continues to serve as pastor of St. Julia Parish in Erie. He says the Lord keeps him going. “It’s up to the Lord to tell me when to quit,” Father Allison says with a chuckle. In December 2021, he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood, but he marks the occasion with his jubilee classmates in 2022. His ordination was an auspicious occasion since he was among the very few priests ever to be ordained at St. Peter Basilica in Rome. He earned his licentiate in sacred theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, but returned to Erie in 1962, when he celebrated his first Mass at his home parish of St. Joseph. He then was appointed summer parochial vicar at St. Luke Parish. He returned to Rome for further studies until 1964. Upon returning to Erie at that time, he was appointed to the faculty and served as dean of students at St. Mark Seminary, where he remained until 1983. While ministering at the seminary, he also served as administrator of St. Cyprian Parish, Waterford. From 1983-95, he was pastor of St. Mary of Grace Parish, Meadville, and then became headmaster of Cathedral Prep, where he remained until 2000. He taught Latin, too, with many of his students earning high honors in the National Latin Exam. Father Allison assumed his next pastorate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Erie, where he served from 2000-08. In 2008, he took over as pastor of St. Julia. At the diocesan level, he served for a number of years on the Presbyteral Council and as a pre-synodal judge (now the College of Consultors). Of his priesthood, he says, “I enjoy working with people and bringing the sacraments to them.”
Father William Kuba
Father William Kuba was first drawn to the priesthood while observing priests celebrate Mass at his home parish of St. Nicholas in Struthers, Ohio. It was only a matter of time before he enrolled in St. Mark Seminary, Erie, at the invitation of his cousin, the late Msgr. Stephen Meko. “I always wanted to be a shepherd of the people,” he says. Now 86, Father Kuba still remains active well past retirement age. Since 1999, he has served as pastor and now as administrator of St. Eusebius Parish, East Brady, and St. Richard Church in Rimersburg. He says one Mass during the week and three Masses on weekends. “I do the best I can for the people, and they treat me wonderfully,” he says. Following his ordination in 1962, he became parochial vicar at Beloved Disciple Parish in Grove City. For many years, he taught at Elk County Catholic High School in St. Marys, where he also functioned as assistant headmaster for about five years. During that time, he was weekend assistant at Holy Rosary Parish, Johnsonburg, and for one year was administrator at St. Benedict in Daguscahonda. Besides his pastorates at St. Eusebius and St. Richard, he was pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle, Corry; St. Callistus, Kane; St. Francis of Assisi, Bradford; and St. Bibiana, Galeton. For the Diocese of Erie, Father Kuba acted as dean of the Bradford Deanery, and was a member of the Presbyteral Council, the Finance Council and the Priests’ Senate. He remains a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
Sister Rita Lynch, MHSH
Born and raised in Erie, Sister Rita Lynch, MHSH, has served in many and varied ministries since joining the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart in 1962. She earned a degree in psychology from Loyola University, Maryland, and served on a “mission circuit” during her early ministries in Colorado, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas. She mostly worked with adults in small, rural parishes, training catechists and teaching them how to reach out to people and invite them to come to the church or return to the faith. She then moved to a large parish in Fairport, New York, where there more than 1,600 youngsters in the religious education program. Wherever her ministries took her, she always spent some time with special-needs people. In 1993, she became full-time Catholic chaplain at Polk Center in Franklin, a state residential facility for women and men with developmental disabilities. After leaving Polk, she became an assistant for inclusion at the Sunrise Drive Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, where her mission was to help special-needs children transition to regular elementary school classrooms. Additionally, she helped refugees from Central America find sanctuary in the United States, and she traveled to Jamaica as a representative of Food for the Poor. Sister Rita currently lives in North East, where she does family ministry and volunteer ministry with seniors. In particular, she supports local activities that serve seniors and special-needs children. “I’m grateful for all the people who have shared their life stories with me,” she says. “I see what they have done with so little and know that it’s not what people have that matters; it’s what is deep inside their hearts.”
Sister Teresa Okonski, RSM
Mercy Sister Teresa Okonski reflects on her daily routine 60 years ago when she began her days with prayer and Mass, and then spent the rest of her time attending to the needs of young people. Her inspiration was the late Mercy Sister Aurelia Helmheckel, who prompted her to consider religious life as just a second-grader at St. Catherine Grade School in DuBois. “I so admired her unique approach with young children and the warmth she extended to all around her. She was a model of goodness that I wished to emulate,” she says. The young Teresa did follow her teacher’s example. Following graduation from St. Catherine High School, she enrolled at Mercyhurst University. “After my first year in college, I started to feel their ‘fire’ for good works and dedication to God,” she recalls. She graduated, pursuing further degrees at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She went on to teach in Diocese of Erie grade schools, including St. George, St. Luke and Immaculate Conception, all in Erie, and Our Lady of Fatima in Farrell. Over the years, she directed religious education and served as librarian/secretary and coordinator of student liturgies and Campus Ministry at Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie. After 60 years of dedication to the youth of the diocese, she has returned to those yesteryear days “spent in personal prayer.”
Sister Natalie Rossi, RSM
Mercy Sister Natalie Rossi, even after 60 years in religious life, remains one of those on-the-go individuals. Today, she serves as part-time pastoral/campus minister at Mercyhurst University, Erie, and part-time contract chaplain at the Women’s State Correctional Facility at Cambridge Springs, where she previously ministered for 15 years. Among her favorite assignments over the years were her 15-year venture in team ministry at the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and prison ministry in Bernalillo County Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I was able to be myself … in both ministries. I developed programs to fit the needs of the Navajos and prisoners after assessing their needs,” she says. Returning to Erie, where she had once been among the early lay-cadet teachers from Mercyhurst University, she served as councilor for four years on NyPPaW’s Community Leadership team. She went on to develop and coordinate the Female Offenders Program, Erie, and was coordinator of education for the incarcerated attending Mercyhurst University. Growing up in Grove City, she was taught by her parents “to be open to all peoples, to be compassionate, non-judgmental, a good listener, creative and open to new ideas.” She took those lessons with her as a teacher at St. Luke School, Erie, and at the former Msgr. Geno J. Monti School, Farrell. “I have been able to grow through the many opportunities I have had in ministry,” she says. “My talents and creativity have been nourished … in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that the sisters live.”
Sister Patricia Whalen, RSM
In her 60 years of religious life, Mercy Sister Patricia Whalen has stepped into a welcoming role as house coordinator at the Erie Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse. Prior ministries included serving on the leadership team for the New York, Pennsylvania West Community, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and teaching in the Education Department at her alma mater of Mercyhurst University, where she had served as assistant academic dean and registrar. During the early years of her religious life, she taught at St. George School, Erie, and St. Patrick School, Franklin, where she also served briefly as principal. For her religious community in Erie, she served as vice president from 1987-96. During that time, she relinquished her full-time teaching load at Mercyhurst but continued to supervise the Cadet Teacher Program and the Pre-teaching Internship Program. In addition to educational ministries, Sister Pat lived and volunteered at Hope House, a residence for homeless women and their children, that evolved into Mercy Center for Women. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she visited inmates at the Erie County Prison. It was Sister Pat’s time in secondary school and college classrooms, specifically with the Sisters of Mercy, that fostered her idea to become a woman religious. “My parents also provided my siblings and me with a legacy of deep faith, exceptional generosity, faithfulness, trust in God’s providence and unconditional love,” she says. A native of Erie’s St. Peter Cathedral Parish, she says these graces and her life lived in the Mercy tradition, along with her many companions both lay and religious, have supported and strengthened her throughout these 60 years.
Sister Theresa Zoky, OSB
Benedictine Sister Theresa Zoky celebrates her 60th jubilee this year. Raised in Sharon, Sister Theresa entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie soon after graduating from high school. For 23 years, she taught in Catholic grade schools throughout the Diocese of Erie. She helped countless children to develop their talents and to grow in curiosity, respect for others, and self-esteem. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mercyhurst University. Beginning in 1984, she worked for the Diocese of Erie, and for 20 years was director of the Mission Office. Sister Theresa was instrumental in growing the Mission of Friendship between the Diocese of Erie and the Archdiocese of Yucatán, Mexico, building relationships between the two dioceses. She also ministered at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Harborcreek, as the office manager. From 2013-18, she served as the director of AIM USA, the U.S. Secretariat of the Alliance for International Monasticism, encouraging relationships between monastic communities in the developing world and those in the United States. For the last several years, she has worked as the archivist for the Erie Benedictines, keeping record of the important events in the life of the community.
Msgr. Charles Kaza
“Hope, one of the three theological virtues, is so badly needed today,” Msgr. Charles Kaza says. “So many quickly lose hope in God, themselves, family, friendship, and, of course, church.” But he points out that a solid foundation in faith can make all the difference. “Our hope is solidly based in Christ and his mercy,” he says. A proud citizen — some might say ambassador — of his hometown of Punxsutawney, he grew up as a parishioner at Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1972, spending the first six years of his priesthood as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Erie. He then served at Erie’s St. John the Baptist Parish, where he was named pastor in 1986. Throughout his priesthood, he has used his administrative skills in various capacities, ranging from membership on the Presbyteral Council and Priests’ Personnel Board to a long-time role as vicar of the Eastern Vicariate. He served as administrator at Holy Cross in Brandy Camp, St. Mark in Emporium, and St. Leo Magnus in Ridgway, but spent more than three six-year terms as pastor of St. Tobias, Brockway, from 2001 until his retirement in July 2022. During that time, he also was named vicar general for the Diocese of Erie. Msgr. Kaza is known for his pastoral approach, inspired by the text in St. John’s Gospel that details Christ washing his disciples’ feet. The action, he says, is a way “of connecting daily celebration of the Eucharist and daily ministry to God’s people.”
Msgr. Robert Malene
In his 50 years as a Catholic priest, Msgr. Robert Malene has led people to God in parishes and in the U.S. Navy. Retired since 2017 and now living in Scottsdale, Arizona, he spent the last seven years of his active ministry as pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd in West Middlesex. In 1977, he was granted permission to leave the diocese to pursue his lifelong ambition to join the Navy. Thus began his 31-career as a Navy chaplain. He was stationed throughout the United States, in Italy and in Japan. He explains why serving in a military community is a wonderful way to evangelize: “You’re still serving the people of God. You minister to people and their families. The only difference is you’re on a ship, so you live and work with your congregation.” A native of Oil City, Msgr. Malene remembers wanting to be a priest even as a youngster. But it wasn’t until his time at Venango Catholic High School that he seriously started considering the priesthood as his life’s vocation. After his ordination in 1972, he was assigned as parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish, Houtzdale. Briefly, he served as parochial administrator at St. Michael Parish, Emlenton. Following his military service, he returned to the diocese in 2008, when he was named pastor of Good Shepherd. He remained in that position until retiring in 2017. Outside his parish ministry, he also served as chaplain of the Serra Club of Mercer County and was the vicar for the Western Vicariate. He served on the following diocesan boards: the Presbyteral Council and the Bishop’s College of Consultors.
Sister Charlene Schaaf, CDP
Sister Charlene Schaaf entered the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1972 from St. Luke Parish in Erie. She served as an elementary music teacher in various parochial schools and as a pastoral associate and liturgy/music director in parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, and the Archdiocese of Denver. She earned continuing professional education (CPE) credits through Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, and Presbyterian/St. Luke Hospital in Denver. Her first position in Colorado was as spiritual services director at St. Francis Nursing Center in Colorado Springs (1996-99), and then as staff chaplain at St. Anthony Central Hospital (2000-05) in Denver. From 2005-10, she ministered as a night/weekend chaplain at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Through the Benedictine Spiritual Formation Program, in Colorado Springs, Sister Charlene earned her certificate in spiritual direction and guided several directees from 2005 until 2010. Before she left Colorado, she taught fifth grade and worked as the music/liturgy director at St. Louis Parish in Louisville, Colorado, and was a substitute fifth-grade teacher for three months at St. Francis School in Denver. In 2010, Sister Charlene returned to her hometown of Erie to care for her aging mother. In her free time, she taught music for five years at the Neighborhood Art House, an after-school program for low-income students. For one year, she was a substitute teacher at her former high school, Mercyhurst Prep, and spent eight years as the choir director at St. Lawrence Church in Albion. From 2012-20, she worked as a chaplain at UPMC Hamot, first as per diem and then full time. In March 2022, she returned to the Denver area to work with SCL Health and serve as a chaplain at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Father Chris Hamlett
“When I began to reflect on what God wanted me to do with my life — where to go to college, what path to follow in life — I listened to the Lord with an open heart and he led me to where I am today,” says Father Chris Hamlett, pastor of St. Philip Parish, Linesville, and St. Peter Parish in Conneautville. That path began at his native parish of St. George, Erie, but has since taken him to a wide array of parishes and schools throughout northwest Pennsylvania. Father Hamlett’s first assignments were as weekend assistant at St. Leo Magnus, Ridgway; St. Mark Parish, Emporium; and St. Boniface Parish, Kersey, all while he was on the faculty at Elk County Catholic High School in St. Marys. He lived at Sacred Heart Parish in St. Marys during that assignment. In 1987, he was named to the faculty at Cathedral Prep, Erie, where he taught for about five years. Among the parishes he served during that time were St. Andrew, St. Paul and Holy Family, all in Erie. Father Hamlett continued to work in education, but beginning in 1995, became an adjunct faculty member at Gannon University. He lived and served at the following parishes while working in higher education: St. George and St. Andrew parishes, both in Erie; St. James Parish, Wesleyville, and St. Agatha Parish, Meadville. Father Hamlett has accepted temporary and short-term assignments at many parishes in need over the years until he was named pastor of St. Philip in Linesville in 2013, and a year later, St. Peter in Conneautville. He continues to minister in those parishes today. He also took on the role of administrator at St. Hippolyte Parish, Guys Mills, in 2021, and is serving on the diocesan presbyteral council as dean of the Meadville Deanery through 2024.
Father James McCormick
For 40 years, Father James McCormick has served the Diocese of Erie, as a parish priest and as an educator. A native of Holy Rosary Parish, Erie, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1982. He served briefly as parochial vicar at St. Leo Magnus Parish, Ridgway, and at Sacred Heart Parish, Erie, but then was parochial vicar for six years at Erie’s St. Stanislaus Parish. From 1989 to the present, he has held varying roles at St. James Parish, Erie, as a resident priest, administrator and pastor. He considers himself blessed to have good pastors and mentors during his formation in parishes, including the late Father Joseph Radziszewski, the late Msgr. Lester Enright and the late Father Robert Cohan. Perhaps Father McCormick’s most influential work has been his compassion and outreach to people with drug addiction and their families. He helped create a support group, which is no longer active, but he continues to offer two Masses a year (in August and in February) for addicts, the ill and those suffering from unemployment. “Reaching out to the families of those who have lost loved ones to drug addiction or overdose has meant a lot to me because it’s an extension of the healing ministry of Jesus and hopes to be enclosure and peace to those families that are struggling and really hurting,” he says. For one year, he was chaplain at Hamot Medical Center (now UPMC Hamot). Additionally, Father McCormick taught full-time at Cathedral Prep from 1989 to 2007. Since 2007, when he was named pastor of St. James, he has been teaching part-time at the school. “I’ve been fortunate to be involved in both parish life and in education,” he says. “I’ve seen ministry from a different perspective in dealing with young people and with parishioners.”
Father Richard Allen
Father Richard Allen, who grew up attending Notre Dame Parish, Hermitage, earned a degree in physics and an MBA before discerning his vocation to the priesthood. After ordination, he spent two months at St. Thomas Parish, Corry. He was then appointed as parochial vicar at St. Agatha Parish, Meadville, followed by a four-year term in the same role at St. George Parish, Erie. His administrative skills came into play when he was elected to the Priests’ Personnel Board in 2005. He next served for a year as parochial vicar at St. Luke Parish, Erie, then took on two assignments as temporary administrator during the spring and summer of 2004. In 2004, he was named pastor of St. Agatha Parish, Meadville. Father Allen remembers that time as the year during which he had five different addresses. While he admits it was mildly stressful, he remembers even the shorter assignments — some of which involved communities experiencing significant challenges — as times when he did some of the best work of his priesthood. “I really tried to make every sermon uplifting and meaningful,” he says. During his time in Meadville, Father Allen applied for a military chaplaincy and, ultimately, served for eight and a half years in the U.S. Army. He refers to his time in Iraq as a good part of his life. “You really feel like you are part of the mission in serving both the country and the faith,” he says. Upon his return to the Diocese of Erie, Father Allen became pastor of both St. Mary Parish, Reynoldsville, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Sykesville. Three years later, he was named pastor of Queen of the World Parish in St. Marys, where he served for four years. In 2017, he was appointed episcopal vicar for the Western Vicariate, a position he continues to hold. At the same time, he became pastor of his home parish of Notre Dame. He has since taken on additional assignments as administrator of St. Bartholomew Parish in Sharpsville, and chaplain at Kennedy Catholic High School. Through all of his assignments, he finds inspiration in the Gospel of John when Jesus asks Simon to feed his sheep. “We’re supposed to be generous,” Father Allen says. “The question I always ask is, ‘How can I do that most successfully?’”
Father Thomas Curry
Benedictine Father Thomas Curry, the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in St. Marys, celebrates 25 years of monastic vows as a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. A native of Great Neck, New York, he earned his bachelor’s degree in quantitative analysis from Saint John’s University, New York City, and studied business at the University of West Florida. He earned the master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2002. He is a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity and served as secretary and president at the Theta Sigma Chapter at Saint John’s University. Following college, he worked as an intern for the Navy Exchange headquarters in Staten Island, New York, and was promoted to a buyer position at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, in June 1990. He made his simple profession of monastic vows in 1997, and his solemn profession in 2000. Ordained to the diaconate in 2002, he was assigned to St. Benedict Parish, Carrolltown, for his deacon internship. He was then ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 2003, by Greensburg Bishop Anthony Bosco. For his monastic community, he has served as assistant director of vocations, and as an assistant in the summer retreat program. He served as parochial vicar (2003-07) and pastor (2007-21) of Saint Vincent Basilica Parish. In 2021, he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in St. Marys.
Father Michael DeMartinis
Father Michael DeMartinis celebrates his 25th anniversary to the priesthood this year. A native of Notre Dame Parish, Hermitage, he has ministered in parishes and schools in Erie, while nurturing the faith in mission outreach and in theater productions at the high school level. Since 2005, he has been affiliated with Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie in various capacities, including as a member of the faculty and as the campus minister. From 2010 to the present, he has served as director of theater arts at Prep and Villa Maria Academy (when they were two separate campus and now as the consolidated school of Cathedral Prep). Father DeMartinis also taught at the Villa campus for five years. From 2001-02, he was on the faculty at Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie. With charisma and passion, he has inspired many young people to the Catholic faith, particularly through the Teen Mass he has celebrated the past 18 years at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Erie, and the many mission trips he has led to Kentucky, Africa and India. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1997, he served as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace Parish, Erie, for six years, and then returned there later as parochial vicar, from 2010-11. He was parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Erie, from 2003-06, returning there as a priest-in-residence while serving as administrator of Mount Calvary Parish, Erie. Additionally, he was a resident for one year at St. Joseph/Bread of Life Community and a sacramental assistant at St. Andrew Parish, Erie. Since 2020, he has ministered as a sacramental assistant at St. Patrick Parish, Erie.
Sister Linda Romey, OSB
Benedictine Sister Linda Romey entered the Benedictine Sisters of Erie 25 years ago, upon returning to the U.S. after spending seven years as a lay missioner in Monteria and Cartagena, Colombia, South America. She grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University). After graduation, she moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she lived and worked with an intentional peace and justice community in Colorado Springs. She joined the mission team of the Archdiocese of Denver and left for Colombia. Through most of her 25 years as an Erie Benedictine, Sister Linda has ministered mainly in the areas of publishing and communications, including Benet Press, Benetvision, Monasteries of the Heart, as well as with the communications and development offices. She also spent five years as director of marketing and advertising for the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company. She earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2008, and currently serves on the Monastic Council.
Father Benjamin Daghir
Current assignment: Parochial vicar, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, DuBois; St. Michael the Archangel Parish, DuBois; St. Bernard Parish, Falls Creek; St. Mary Parish, Reynoldsville; and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Sykesville, with residence in St. Catherine rectory, and part-time faculty member of DuBois Central Catholic School
Home parish: St. Mary’s Parish, St. Marys
Son of Roben and Joseph Daghir of St. Marys
Father Nicholas Fratus
Current assignment: Parochial vicar, St. George Parish, Erie
Home parish: Blessed Sacrament Parish, Erie
Son of the late Heidi and Robert Fratus
Father Christopher Wheeler
Current assignment: Parochial vicar, St. Eulalia Parish, Coudersport; St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, Port Allegany; and St. Bibiana Parish, Galeton, with its mission churches of Sacred Heart, Genesee, and St. Augustine, Austin, with residence at St. Eulalia rectory
Home parish: St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish, Albion
Son of Sandra and Victor Wheeler of Albion
Welcome to three newly ordained priests
Congratulations to Father Benjamin Daghir, Father Nicholas Fratus and Father Christopher Wheeler, all of whom were ordained to the priesthood on May 27 at St. Patrick Church in Erie.
The new priests say their call to the priesthood was persistent, even from childhood, but each traveled different paths toward their priest ordination this spring. Fathers Nick and Chris, both of whom are in middle age, share a joke that finishing intense studies at Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, this past year seemed more challenging than it might be for younger seminarians.
“Definitely, being in my 40s, memorization has been a lot more difficult than it was in my 20s,” Father Chris says, smiling. “But I would say that’s offset by my years of life experience. I have a better understanding of things; age has given me a wealth of experience to draw upon.” Father Nick nods his head knowingly, saying: “School work was much easier earlier in life.”
Father Chris, who spent many years working for the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad (now Canadian National Railway), entered St. Mark Catholic Center in 2009, when he was about 30. He remained in the seminary for three years but then discerned that he would return to the workplace, in Michigan, and tend to his farm in southwestern Erie County. Finally, in 2018, he came back to the seminary.
“That time away helped me understand the call in a deeper sense and understand it more thoroughly,” Father Chris says.
Father Nick’s path was rockier. He entered St. Mark Seminary right out of McDowell High School, but two years into his studies, he became seriously ill with Crohn’s, pancreatitis and a liver disorder.
In and out of hospitals for 18 months, Father Nick’s journey to the priesthood was stalled. Having struggled to stabilize his medications and diet, he finally felt strong enough to return to seminary life. He was assigned to St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, but, sadly, he became sick again. He spent another year and half healing. Although Father Nick returned to seminary life, this time at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York, health difficulties surfaced once again. This time, he took a full 12 years away from his priest studies, working at various jobs, learning what he calls “life lessons.” Finally stabilized physically, Father Nick entered Saint Vincent Seminary at age 38.
“The call to the priesthood has been steady and persistent in my life,” he says. “I never really dropped off the radar.”
Father Ben’s experience was markedly different. He entered St. Mark Seminary about a year after graduating from Saint Vincent College. He had been teaching at Elk County Catholic High School in St. Marys. Following initial studies at Gannon University, he went on to major seminary in Baltimore, where, he says, he “got more comfortable and at peace in this vocation.”
“No one has the same vocation story except that we are all trying to discover God’s will,” Father Ben says.
For Ben, “a thousand things” pointed him in the direction of the priesthood. One of his favorite coaches was a priest, Benedictine Father Eric Vogt, and he had many influential teachers who were priests. It wasn’t until his junior year at college that he started to seriously think about the priesthood for himself.
“I really started thinking about if I wanted to be a married man or a priest. I wanted to be like my dad, and I knew I wanted to serve the Lord,” Father Ben recounts. “I went on to be a teacher. I enjoyed being a teacher, but there’s something about a priest who gets to teach all the time.”
Each of their personal stories sheds light on what Fathers Ben, Nick and Chris will be like as priests. Even through two years of COVID challenges during their formation, they draw close to Christ in different ways:
• Father Nick says prayer sustains him.
• Father Ben points to the Eucharist as a call “to be broken and poured out” in service.
• Father Chris says it’s walking every day by Christ’s side, always taking note of God’s will in our lives.
Speaking for all the newly ordained, Father Ben adds, “We’re excited what the people will bring out of us.”
The following deacons are celebrating anniversaries of their ordinations to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Erie.
Deacon Martin Eisert
Deacon Martin “Marty” Eisert is celebrating his silver jubilee to the permanent diaconate of the Diocese of Erie. Ordained in 1997, he spent his first three years as the deacon at his ancestral parish of St. Joseph, Erie. He also served as the Catholic deacon at three local nursing homes, and as assistant chaplain for the Erie chapter of the Catholic Fellowship of Separated and Divorced. In 2000, he was appointed deacon of Erie’s Holy Trinity Parish. Three years later, he became Holy Trinity’s administrator, putting his business skills to effective use by reinvigorating many temporal and spiritual aspects of parish life. A retired executive vice president from Erie Insurance Group, he retired from active parish ministry in 2009. “I had many happy years at Holy Trinity which I still cherish!” Deacon Eisert says. When the Diocese of Erie launched pastoral planning across northwest Pennsylvania in 2015, Deacon Eisert came out of retirement to chair the arduous effort. At age 82, he remains in that position. “God still is finding a use for me. How blessed I am,” he says. Deacon Eisert and his wife, Kathy, have two adult sons and five grandchildren. A graduate of Gannon University, Deacon Eisert was honored as a distinguished alumnus.
Deacon Dennis Kudlak
Deacon Dennis Kudlak is celebrating his 20th anniversary to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Erie. For the past 18 years, he has served as a chaplain at Elmwood Gardens, part of the Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, in Erie. He continues to serve as a deacon assistant when needed at other local nursing homes in the area. From 2002-09, he was assigned as the permanent deacon at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Erie. “I love working and serving the community, especially families,” he says. “My 20 years of service have given me many of memories, but it’s important that we keep on going. We are living in an era of many challenges, so being present to people, listening to them, guiding them and accompanying them is very important despite all the hardships. The more we work and serve, the more we will grow.” For 17 years, Deacon Kudlak has been a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight, offering free air transportation to patients seeking distant specialized treatment. A member of the National Association of Priest Pilots (NAPP), he also holds memberships with American Legion Post 0773 and the Military Officers Association (MOAA). He is a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus Council 278. Deacon Kudlak and his wife, Lynn, have four children and five grandchildren (two more arriving in November).
Deacon William Sproveri (IN MEMORIAM)
Deacon William Sproveri, who marked his 20th anniversary to the diaconate of the Diocese of Erie this year, died Aug. 22 at the age of 75. He spent 35 years of his working career as a self-employed forester. His diaconate ministries included serving as the longtime spiritual director for Maria House Project and for the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program at St. Mark Catholic Center. Immediately after his ordination in 2002, he was assigned to several parishes, including St. Thomas, Corry; St. Joseph, Warren; and St. Luke, Youngsville. For five years, he was chaplain at Rouse House in Youngsville. He and his wife, Pat, had two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. He was a member of St. Thomas Parish.
Deacon Raymond Wiehagen
For the past 20 years, Deacon Raymond Wiehagen has served as the permanent deacon at Holy Redeemer Parish in Warren. Since his ordination, he also has been involved in the ministry to the sick and hospitalized. For many years, he worked as a nurse at Warren State Hospital, retiring in 2007. He continues to serve as a chaplain at Warren General Hospital. “My ministry is fulfilling. It’s an honor to be able to help parishioners when they suffer from illness,” he says. “It’s an honor to live my Christian vocation by serving the people here.” At age 72, he also remains busy with his family. He and his wife, Elaine, have a daughter and four grandchildren ranging in age from 13 to 20.
Deacon William Wright
Deacon William Wright, 83, retired from active ministry three years ago due to health issues, but this year he celebrates his 20th jubilee as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Erie. He spent the first three years of active ministry at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, DuBois. In 2005, he became the full-time director of pastoral care at Christ the King Manor in Clearfield, a position he held until 2019, when he retired. He spent most of his work career in education, having been a teacher and a principal at both St. Catherine School, DuBois, and St. Francis, Clearfield. A longtime faith formation teacher, Deacon Wright also served as director of religious education at St. Michael Parish in DuBois. “I thoroughly enjoyed being a deacon, especially my time at Christ the King Manor,” he says. “A lot of people have no one to talk to, so it was enjoyable to be with them.” He and his wife, Mary, are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish. They have six children and 15 grandchildren.
To send congratulatory wishes to these jubilarians, send notes/cards to the person in care of:
Office of Communications
St. Mark Catholic Center
429 E. Grandview Blvd.,
Erie, PA 16504
CLICK ON A NAME BELOW TO READ A SHORT BIO:
Allison, Msgr. Bruce
Bell, RSM, Sister Bernadette
Carioty, RSM, Sister Mary Paul
Chisholm, SSJ, Sister Rose Marie
Curry, Father Thomas
Daghir, Father Benjamin
DeMartinis, Father Michael
Duska, RSM, Sister Mary Felice
Eichenlaub, OSB, Sister Mary Louis
Eisert, Deacon Martin
Fratus, Father Nicholas
Hamlett, Father Chris
Hanes, OSB, Sister Mary Grace
Kuba, Father William
Kudlak, Deacon Dennis
Lynch, MHSH, Sister Rita
Malene, Msgr. Robert
McCarthy, RSM, Sister Mary Mark
McCormick, Father James
McDonald, RSM, Sister Phyllis Marie
Mulligan, SSJ, Sister James Francis
Murnock, SSJ, Sister Ann Patrice
Okonski, RSM, Sister Teresa
Romey, OSB, Sister Linda
Rossi, RSM, Sister Natalie