When Rita Gildea told her father she wanted to enter the convent and become a sister, her dad told her she would last six weeks.
That was 1957.
She ended up lasting 60 years, and she’s still counting.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, Sister Theresine (the name she took when she became a sister) celebrated her jubilee, or anniversary, as a member of the Sisters of Divine Providence, an order based near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The celebration took place during a special Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Lourdes in Raleigh.
The Mass, celebrated by Monsignor Michael Shugrue, was organized to recognize Sister Theresine, C.D.P., as well as the gift of consecrated life. Fathers Joseph Dionne, C.Ss.R., John Forbes, Kevin Moley, C.Ss.R., Joseph Kalu Oji, C.S.Sp., and Robert Schriber concelebrated.
In attendance were several women religious of different congregations as well as several families from the Clinton area, where Sister Theresine lives and works.
“I am overwhelmed by how many people honored me today,” she said. “I’m very grateful.”
In his homily, Monsignor Shugrue summarized consecrated life and the meaning of the day’s celebration in three words: life, love and joy.
“Consecrated persons are called to be in a permanent state of mission,” he said. As a result of their encountering Jesus and serving the needs of others, they experience “the deepest love and peace.”
He explained that often just being present and sharing our humanity is all it takes.
“There is a strong need in our Church and in our world today for the happy face of consecrated persons,” he added. “Today we have the joy of gratitude for you and all consecrated religious. Your life truly inspires me.”
Monsignor Shugrue quoted Pope Francis, who addressed leaders of religious orders, and said: “Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world!”
In a reflection on religious life, Sister Carol Marozzi, S.S.J., offered a more detailed view of Sister Theresine’s life.
“She lives what she believes,” she said. “The ministry has changed, but her heart remains the same, filled of love for people and for her community.”
In a conversation after Mass, Sister Theresine advised those contemplating a possible call to consecrated life to be open. “God calls us in strange ways,” she said. “It was not in my plans.”
The celebration concluded with a reception at the Fallon Center.