A grand celebration was held at St. Mary’s Villa on Saturday August 1st, 2009 as Sister Albina Gregory, SSMI, celebrated 65 years and Sister Bonaventure Kalawsky, SSMI, celebrated 75 years of religious life with over 130 sisters, clergy family and friends. Whether we are family, a sister in community, a co-worker, or a friend of our celebrants, we rejoice, because we have been blessed by their presence in our life. The poet, Barbara De Angeli wrote, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Is this not true? Is this not the experience we have had in knowing Srs. Bonaventure and Albina? We have seen the face of God… because of their smile, their continuous prayer for us, their love and generosity that has no boundaries How it is possible to be committed to anything let alone, religious life for 75 or 65 years? The answer would be FAITH AND TRUST BUILT ON LOVE.
Srs. Bonaventure and Albina learned this at a very early age. With limited contact of a priest or sister, their parents became the living example of faith. They learned to pray, to converse with God. God became the center of their being, One who would care for them, watch over them, love them and guide them throughout their lives. All they would need to do was to trust God and love God in return! So it came to be as the Psalmist says, “Uphold me, O God, according to your word, and I shall live! I shall live.
Sr. Bonaventure entered the Sisters Servants in 1934. She traveled with her parents and sister to Mundare, Alberta, her homeland of Canada. Within 3 years, 1937 she had made her first vows and was ready for mission work. In pronouncing her vows, saying “Yes” to God, Sr.Bonaventure began the most remarkable and fulfilling journey of her life. She crossed the waters to Detroit, just to spend a few months there and in that same year 1937 she was sent to St. Clair, PA. Here she spent three years – as she would be the first sister along with Sr. Constance in this new mission. Never before were sisters here. Through their prayerful support and encouragement, one young fellow became a bishop, John Stock and another, Peter, is Msgr. Peter Skrincosky. The community was blessed with the Vocations of Srs. Zachary, Sr. Evelyn and Sr. Cyprian. Whether it be her first mission back in 1937… when the sisters only came to the U.S. two years before, 1935 and with less than ten sisters in the country or today 2009… 75 years in community, Sr. Bonaventure, continues to radiate that same joy and dynamism. Like others, she has weathered many storms in her life. She has stood tall and courageous as she did when she first entered those novitiate doors 75 years ago needing to leave her family behind and venturing into the unknown. The unknown would bring her back to Canada only for certain celebrations and times of vacation. Little did she know that she would never serve in her native country of Canada. She was called to be the missionary to the U.S., following the example of Mary, the Mother of God, always fulfilling the word of God.
Sr. Albina, our 65th year jubilarian was born and raised in North Dakota. She was the youngest of seven children. At the age of 4 her father passed away suddenly, making her mother the sole caregiver of the family. It is through the loving example of her mother, brothers and sisters that she learned the meaning of sacrifice and suffering, loving discipline, and a complete surrender to the Will of God. Not only would those qualities sustain her throughout her religious life, but that added reality of knowing how to live on a farm, handle the animals and the garden too. She cherished the earth and all that it contained. Something she continues to enjoy to this day!Sisters began coming to North Dakota from Minneapolis to teach summer catechism. It was those early experiences that Sr. Albina came to know the Sisters Servants, the community she would one day enter. Sr. Albina would watch her mother, stay by her side as she cooked and cared for the needs of the priests and sisters as they came to town. Always the sisters would stay with the families on the farm!Listening to the stories told of growing up in North Dakota and coming to know Sr. Albina throughout these years, one comes to realize that giving was the most precious gift one could offer to another. Throughout Sr. Albina’s entire life as a catechist, teacher, educator and now serving others at this retreat house, she has given of herself, given the best of herself that others may live. From the smallest to the greatest measure, Sr. Albina strives to live her life modeled by the life of our foundress, Blessed Josaphata… to serve where the need is the greatest.We are blessed because our lives have been enriched by these two special women.. Women who have dedicated their entire life to God and in doing so, they have committed themselves to loving those who enter their lives along life’s journey.
We are fortunate and far richer because their life has graced each of us. May they continue by their very being to be the face of God for all whom they encounter for many years to come!A special presentation of a plaque from the town of Sloatsburg was made to each of the jubilarians by Mayor Wright, on behalf of the town, congratulating them on the many accomplishments of their lives of service, and their lifelong dedication to teaching and serving children and adults in a wide variety of ministries.
They were honored by the town with the declaration of August 1st, 2009 as Sister Albina Gregory and Sister Bonaventure Kalawsky Day in Sloatsburg. This is very special day will remain in the memories of all who shared this day with the jubilarians.
Take a tour at our photo gallery for more pictures. Enjoy!