In August 1957 I, Sr. Charlotte Pipping, SSMI, entered the Eastern Catholic community of Ukrainian Catholic Sisters, known as the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, whose patron is Mary, the Mother of God. This Congregation had its main headquarters located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the time I was inquiring about whether I should embrace the religious life. Upon first inquiry, I was given a list of 6 Sisters’ convents that I could visit. My first choice to visit was located in Youngstown, OH. This convent was named Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I wanted to go there, because I had a great devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It was when I set a time to visit their home; I discovered the Sisters were known as the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.
I had intended to visit for only two days, but I enjoyed my visit so much that I stayed a couple days longer. The Sisters Servants welcomed me so warm-heartedly, and I truly felt at home with them. When I returned home to Cambridge, OH, I quickly inquired further about what I needed to do from Sr. Bernadette, SSMI, who was then the Provincial Superior for both the USA and Canada. Upon receiving my instructions, I quickly prepared for my entrance into the Sisters Servants Novitiate, located in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. That happy day came on
August 13th, 1957.
There were many new experiences, as I tried out this new type of living. Number one, of course, was to learn how to read and speak the Ukrainian language. Reading it was rather easy, but learning to speak was most difficult for me. What helped me the most, however, was singing the many beautiful songs hat honored the Mother of God and Jesus, and, especially singing the Divine Liturgy.
I was the first American Sister to leave the Novitiate, and to return to the newly-erected American Province named in honor of the Immaculate Conception. At that time the American headquarters were situated in Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, PA.
My earliest childhood memories recall spending my formative years on several different sizes of farms in the rural areas surrounding Akron, OH. By age nine, my family decided to relocate to a farm in Guernsey County, located in southeastern Ohio. This particular geographical area was predominately Protestant. And most of my neighbors and school classmates were quite unfriendly towards Catholics. This experience helped me to value and to hunger for the Catholic faith. I grew in a steadfast desire and love for the Catholic faith, and I daily prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to help me achieve the goal of being baptized. I earnestly turned to Mary to help me in my desire, and I entrusted all my concerns into her hands until I received this great grace from the Lord.
My maternal grandparents were of the Byzantine Slovak Ruthenian Catholic tradition. They arrived in America between 1890, and the early 1900’s, from the village of Kosice in northeastern territory of Czechoslovakia, known as Zimplinsky. My grandfather found employment in the coal mines located in Guernsey County, Ohio. They settled in the area of Pleasant City and raised a large family of 12 children. My grandfather was a Slovak Roman Catholic, but my grandmother was a Slovak Greek Catholic. It was due to her dedication and love for the Byzantine Catholic faith that she nurtured all her children in this faith tradition, and it was her love of prayer that impressed and attracted me to her deep faith.
The faith of my paternal grandparents was of the Protestant German tradition. I never had the opportunity or privilege of meeting them because they lived in eastern Massachusetts, and worked in the textile mills of that area. My father, Paul, left home at the age of 14, shortly after the death of his mother, and his father’s remarriage. Although, he had been baptized and nurtured in the Episcopalian faith, he did not continue to practice his family’s faith after he left home. In addition, because his family was from Germany and he experienced a lot of prejudice during his teenage years, my father forbade us to speak any foreign language or nurture any foreign customs in our family. He also opposed our embracing any Catholic faith traditions until we graduated from high school.
Since we were farmers, from my earliest years, my brother and I were expected to help with the farm work. Our last farm home was located quite far from any Catholic churches. Therefore, it wasn’t until I was 16 years of age that I was able to first experience the beauty of our Byzantine Catholic Liturgical Services and customs. But when I did, it filled me with great joy, so much so, that I completely fell in love with the music and the words.
During my very first experience of the Divine Liturgy, I was invited by my godmother, to join my relatives in the choir loft and sing the Divine Liturgy responses with them. I accepted because I love to sing. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday, we sang in English. I truly felt the Lord blessing me as we sang the Divine Liturgy responses that morning! That special experience left me completely awed and astounded by the incredible beauty of the Byzantine Liturgical music, as the powerful way the words spoke to me! That experience left its unforgettable impact upon my memory.
Without a doubt, any and all of the above early childhood experiences have, together, greatly served to guide me into ever deepening of my faith, and to continually deepen my relationship with God, and to ever dedicate my life to serving and praising Him in the vocation as a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate. With that desire in mind I decided, after my visit to the Sisters Servants in Youngstown, many years ago, to choose the vocation of the Religious Life, and for the past 55 years, God has sustained me and blessed me as a Sister Servant.
Throughout those years, I have worked primarily in elementary parochial education, serving in the capacity as elementary teacher, as catechist, and even as principal. In 1985, my catechetical focus turned to assisting parish catechists in both the Stamford and Philadelphia Eparchies. I have also served as administrator of our St. Joseph’s Adult Care Home in Sloatsburg, NY.
Over the years, on many occasions, I have been asked what makes me most happy in my vocation as a Sister Servant. Most assuredly, it is in the moments when I have had the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of the many souls. I have enjoyed the great blessing of sharing and teaching the truth of God’s love for them, and to help them gain a deeper awareness of their faith in God. I have discovered and experienced the great joy and reward that comes to those who unselfishly choose to serve Our Lord, Jesus Christ in their vocation.