<img src=”/images/Sr.%20Mary%20Ann%20Botsko1.JPG” border=”0″ width=”412″ height=”406″ align=”right” style=”width: 246px; height: 190px” />The first time that I thought of being a Sister was when I had made my First Holy Communion on April 19, 1964. The seed was planted by the good example of my parents, John and Mary Botsko, but even more so by my grandmother, Pauline Wolsnovich. My grandmother would pray the rosary every day, and her intention was for vocations. Little did my grandmother know that my twin brother Jerome George Botsko would be entering the Priesthood, and I, Mary Ann, would enter religious life. Yes, my parents, family, relatives, and friends were supportive of my decision of becoming a Sister. <p>I am the youngest in the family. Father Jerome George and I, Sister Mary Ann, were 13 minutes apart. I also have an older brother John Michael, and Thomas who passed away on June 12, 2004. All of us went to public schools through elementary, and high school. On Saturday mornings, I would have to attend class in our parish, St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Donora, PA, and this took place in the church basement. When I was in the sixth grade, we were asked to write an essay describing "What career we would choose in life?" At that time I felt the tiny whisper of God calling me to be a Sister. I remember sitting down and discussing with my parents that I wanted to join a community that honored the Blessed Mother. <img src=”/images/DSC_0312.JPG” border=”0″ width=”331″ height=”327″ align=”left” style=”width: 265px; height: 175px” /></p><p>I visited the Sisters Servants of May Immaculate for almost two weeks and remember talking to the Provincial Superior who at that was Sister Stephanie Sema, that I would like to keep in contact with the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. After much discernment I enter the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate on May 14, 1981. </p><p>God has blessed me in many ways, during the various ministries I had serving in parishes in Passaic, NJ, Spring Valley, NY, Auburn, NY, at St. Josaphat’s Seminary in Washington, DC. <img src=”/images/DSC_0418.JPG” border=”0″ width=”306″ height=”151″ align=”right” style=”width: 220px; height: 151px” />I enjoyed serving the retreatants at St. Mary’s Villa Spiritual and Educational Center, and serving the elderly residents at St. Joseph’s Adult Care Home, where they taught me patience, and I learned from their words of wisdom.</p><p>It has truly been a life filled with many experiences that I could never have imagined. Why religious life – it is a mystery. Why God called bother my twin brother and me, – this, too, is a mystery, but, I cannot imagine another kind of life and will always be grateful for my grandmother’s prayers, my parents’ good example and support and the whisper that I heard and recognized as a child.</p>
The call to follow Our Lord, Jesus Christ is as complicated as it is simple. I came from <img src=”/images/Sr.%20Thomas%20Dorothea%20Hrynewich3.JPG” border=”0″ width=”334″ height=”500″ align=”right” style=”width: 220px; height: 314px” /><br />a good Catholic family. I am the oldest of four children born, June 2, 1924, to Tessie and Michael Hrynewich. My grandparents (Theodore and Rosalie Kulczycki) and parents were very active in the parish and attended church services regularly, which meant that we children did also. We attended catechism lessons given by the parish priest, Reverend Kopachuk. When the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate arrived in our parish in 1940, their enormous impact on the parish and on my family was plainly seen.<br /><br />I was a senior in Ambridge High when I had this thought of being close to God and serving others. The feeling of wanting to serve the church by teaching our Ukrainian people, of being close to Jesus and spend more time in prayer really bothered me. In order to get rid of this thought, (because I was having grand time with the "teenage gang" I was hanging our with), I prayed a number of novenas to rid myself of this thought. However, to no avail, the more I prayed against the thought, the stronger it got. Then, during a Great Fast mission given by Father Markiw, OSBM, I finally gave in and decided to belong to our Lord. Since my sister Irene and I were always at the convent helping the sisters, they thought we were interested in joining. One day Sister Lawrence said she was writing to the Provincial Superior in Canada and wondered if she could ask the Provincial Superior to accept us to the novitiate. I quickly answered, "Sure." My sister said, "No," and scolded me for not asking my mother first. At first, mother said I could not go. It was too far away, and she did not think I knew what I wanted. After much discussion and my constant crying at home, my mother finally gave in. I found out that the day before my announcing I was going to the convent, my dad made the remark that "God gave them such good children, if He wanted one he would give one of them to Him."<br /><br /><img src=”/images/DSC_0554.JPG” border=”0″ width=”495″ height=”365″ align=”left” style=”width: 355px; height: 242px” />I entered the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate on June 21, 1942. After the blessing of the buildings and property in Sloatsburg, New York, I traveled 3,000 miles to Mundare, Alberta, Canada, with Sister Athanasia (one of the first seven girls to enter the Community). After two and a half years in the novitiate, I pronounced my first vows and was missioner to Detroit, Michigan. I then taught at St. Mary’s Villa Academy in Sloatsburg, NY and St. Mary’s Academy in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. My studies took me to University of Detroit; Fordham University in New York; St. Paul’s University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Regina Mundi in Rome, Italy and Catholic University of America in Washington. I spent six years in Rome, Italy, studying and in the General Curia. During the days of the "Iron Curtain," I was privileged to accompany our Superior General to Germany, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia to visit our Sisters there. (My Mother used to laugh and say that I joined to see the world!) <p>I returned to the United States as Provincial Superior, serving a five-year term. I was the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia for twenty-five years. My mission today has me in Minersville, PA, at St. Nicholas School as the Principal.</p><p>All this was great but, the joy, peace, and love that are found in the complete surrender to God and serving others as Our Lord Jesus did is the most satisfying. </p><p> </p>
Seeing someone working on a puzzle of many pieces, I see their dedication, their perseverance, their enjoyment of the task, and the truly beautiful work of art upon completing the many pieced puzzle. Although I don’t do puzzles, except perhaps putting in a few pieces, it speaks to me of a life’s journey.
Using puzzle pieces, I shall try to put together my vocation story and as puzzles are done I’ll be hopping around.
My first puzzle piece – my name Sister Jonathan, for it is connected to my family story. At birth my mother named me Mary, for I was born on September 10, near the birthday of Blessed Mother. My father had died eight months before my birth. My parents had come to Perth Amboy, N.J. with their first born my brother John, one year old from Ukraine. My brother John was 20 years old and had four younger brothers and two younger sisters by the time I was born. He decided not to marry so as to take care of Mom and the whole family – never once complaining, always lovingly caring for all of us. Soon we moved to Newark, New Jersey, belonging now to St. John’s Church. I took the name Jonathan after my brother John and my patron saint was John the Baptist, my brother’s saint – and also my love for the parish and for the school for I attended the school being in grade one when it open in 1939. I taught Grade 7 at St. Johns from 1955-57 after completing college and certified to teach grades 7-12 as I had promised I would do. Yes, puzzle pieces can be long.
Second puzzle piece – How can the youngest daughter leave her Mom to enter a religious community? And my mother was in her sixties. My father was educated but my mother could never read nor write, and she only spoke Ukrainian. Yet she was the one who taught me how to pray and together we prayed in Ukrainian, not only prayers but things like the Ten Commandments all learned by memory. When my family knew my desire to become a Sister, all my brother John said to me was “If you change your mind, and want to come home, you’ll always be welcomed back.” So going back to the puzzle, I could leave because always my mom and family supported all my desires as I grew up. For example, when I was in grade 4 we lived in Montclair, N.J. (for my brother John had his own furniture business there and we had our own home there.) I chose public school for we had no Ukrainian Catholic church or school; but for college I chose Caldwell College, a Catholic college, Dominican Sisters rather than our well known Montclair State . The Sisters there asked me if I wanted to be a Sister, and all I said, I’d never be one in a Roman Catholic Community. When we were graduating, the Dominican priest there said to all of us, “By 25 you should be where your heart wants you to be.”
Third puzzle piece – Where my heart wants me to be. After two wonderful years of teaching at St. John’s School, I left as I wanted to go to Seton Hall University to get my master’s degree and went to teach at South Plainfield High School where I would receive a salary that would cover that dream and also pay for my new car. (The pastor at St. John’s had been willing to pay for my education, but I didn’t desire that.) I loved that year of teaching and the school wanted me on their staff, but I knew I was nearing 25 and like that priest said I needed to be where my heart wanted me to be. When the Redemptorist priest at St. John, who knew me and my family well, heard about my desire, he encouraged me to go and see the SSMI community, and he directed me to Sloatsburg, N.Y. During my first visit there I knew this community was where my heart was calling me to be. The Sisters at both homes there – St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s were so joyful and sincere. One sister even mentioned to me “Don’t you want to get married?” Somehow I knew deep in my heart as a child deeply loved and cared for, going with family to our church, celebrating all special days with our customs, enjoying all who joined us (remember I was the youngest), that God had planted that in my heart.
My final puzzle piece – my life as a SSMI. I enjoyed my training at our novitiate which at the time was in Ancaster, Canada. I loved my first mission of teaching in Passaic, N.J. and yes, I was blessed in a variety of ways by all my other assignments. Yes, I taught and was principal after that in Cleveland, OH and also for many years at our high school at Sloatsburg. I also taught in Chicago, IL; Minersville, PA; Elizabeth, NJ; and in Austintown, OH where we started the school. But in 1964 I was especially blessed to return to Passaic to teach, this time at St. Michael’s School for my mother was ill and I was nearby, and yes she died when I was there. Yes, always this was the love I experienced in our community.
After almost twenty years of teaching, I became the Novice Directress at our Novitiate in Sloatsburg, NY being trained for that
position in St. Louis University, and being a provincial councilor for those10 years, getting me ready to be provincial for the next ten years. Always God taking care of me. Following my 10 years as Provincial, I spent a few years at St. Mary’s retreat home, and then almost 10 years in Stamford, CT as a librarian, and again trained for that at St. Francis College in Pennsylvania.
Now I am at St. Joseph’s Adult Home. I do activities with our residents. All I can say is here at St. Joseph’s and everywhere where I was missioned, God’s love was and is there for me – giving me joy, understanding when I need that, and always showing me the specialness of each person. I thank my God each day for blessing my life and for all God’s wonderful people.