January 17, 1911 - November 7, 2014
We gather this morning to pray in gratitude and to celebrate the life of our dear Sister Stephanos. We welcome nieces and nephews and their families, the Sisters who entered with her in 1933, her beloved CSJ community and her many students, friends, especially those from St. Ann, Somerville including Fr. Paul Coughlin who ministered with Stephie at St. Ann’s and Father Dan O’Connell, Stephie’s third grade pupil at St. Ann’s. We also recognize those who are watching in their rooms especially those on the 2nd floor and the Sisters from St. Joseph Hall.
Forever Young...that is how I think of Sister Stephanos.
Just a little history, in 1984 a group of CSJ’s came to St. Ann, Somerville, to reopen the convent and to form a new community. Three sisters ministered in the Parish or school and others of us served in various ministries throughout the Archdiocese. When the convent closed in ‘83, Stephie continued her ministry in the parish but lived at St. Raphael’s in Medford and frequently commuted to Somerville by bus. However, in 1990 at age 79, Stephanos chose to join us, and continue her parish ministry. It was at that time that I got to know her as woman who was, in the words of Fr. Medaille, formed “in Christ’s pattern, and was a reflection of moderation, gentleness, humility, patience, graciousness and tireless zeal”.
On September 8, 1933, as a young woman of 22, Katherina Severino Badessa responded to God’s call by saying YES to God’s invitation and mysteriously powerful grace working within her and entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston.The seeds of her vocation were sown and nurtured in her by her parents, Santa and Stephen, who taught their 8 children the importance of love of God, love of family, and by extension love of the “dear neighbor”.
Though short of stature, and quiet by nature, Stephanos exuded a passion and zest for life that connected her to her God, her family, her community and the earth.
Throughout her 82 years of ministerial life, Stephie lived the charism of a Sister of St. Joseph, trusting that God was at work in her, mindful always of doing God’s will with joy, whether preparing the young at St. Columbkille’s, St. Angela’s or St. Ann’s, educating them to own their own God given gifts or as parish assistant and sacristan at Saint Ann’s and St. Polycarp’s preparing the altar for daily and weekly celebrations, typing the parish bulletin on a real manual typewriter or sewing priestly vestments, altar linens, or baptismal stoles to name a few of her areas of involvement, giving to others the gift of herself as she lived the charism of unifying love.
In May of 1986 The Sister Stephanos Scholarship, providing individual scholarships and general tuition assistance to students at St. Ann School, was instituted at St. Ann’s Parish School. The announcement in the bulletin stated that “Sister Stepanos taught 3rd grade for 21 years, that hundreds of children were blessed by her generosity and dedication to God. Even though she retired from teaching she continued without interruption to serve the needs of the parish family.”
Again, St. Ann’s Parish Bulletin dated July 2001, announced Stephie’s “retirement from active and the pastor reiterated the words, active ministry after 46 years serving the people of St. Ann’s and later St. Polycarp’s”. The pastor went on to write that “Stephanos befriended and touched the lives of three generations in our parish and we will miss her”. She was 90 years young at the time! It was then that she was missioned to Fonbonne Hall, St. Joseph Hall and eventually, in 2012 to Bethany. She was always grateful for all that she received and for the compassionate care provided by her caregivers.
The readings selected for today’s liturgy reflect Stephie’s living out of her baptismal call through her vowed life as a CSJ. Just as Paul and Apollos were like gardeners, planting and nourishing the seed of God’s word within the people of Corinth, knew that God was responsible for their growth, and rich harvest; Stephanos faithfully witnessed to God’s life within her, bearing an abundance of fruit as evidenced through her good works. As God’s chosen one, Stephanos became the instrument through which, as an educator, pastoral assistant or sacristan, she was able to prepare the soil, plant the seed, and nourish God’s word within the hearts of those with whom and for whom she ministered.
Stephie’s life spanned two centuries. We often joked that the secret of her longevity was the extra virgin olive oil she used. We talked about what kept her young…words like being with the young, engagement, involvement, relationships, reading, being close to the earth, literally and figuratively, as the tiller of the soil, planter of the seed, gatherer of the fruits of the earth, raising the tomato plants she carefully cultivated and shared, having something to sew for someone, typing a note on her manual typewriter, or sharing the special love she had for her family, her congregation, her friends and her God, which was reciprocated was the “stuff” that kept her young.
Over her lifetime of 103+ years, Stephanos saw many changes in the world, the church and as a Sister of Saint Joseph for 82 years. She accepted these changes, with unwavering faithfulness, love, service and belief that God’s grace was sufficient for her.
In closing, I share with you the words of Bob Dylan’s song, Forever Young; words Stephie conceivably never heard but certainly could resonate with as God’s desire for her, and possibly God’s and her final wish for each of us.
Forever Young: by Bob Dylan
May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others and let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.
May you grow up to be righteous, grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth and see lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy, your feet always swift
May you have a strong foundation when winds of change shift
May your heart always be joyful and may your song always be sung
And May you stay forever young.
We give thanks for the gift of Sister Stephanos, a woman of grace, fidelity and insight. She made a positive difference in our life and in the lives of so many others. God’s word took root in her and brought forth a rich and bountiful harvest. Rest now from your labors, dear Stephie.
Roseann Amico, CSJ
November 11, 2014