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Feature News | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Honored: 340 years of consecrated life

Six sisters, one priest mark milestones of service at annual celebration of religious life

Women religious marking jubilees of their profession of vows exchange a sign of peace during the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral. From left: Adrian Dominican Sisters Mary Frances Fleischaker and Evelyn Piche, and Sister Mary Ekwebbelam of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Women religious marking jubilees of their profession of vows exchange a sign of peace during the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral. From left: Adrian Dominican Sisters Mary Frances Fleischaker and Evelyn Piche, and Sister Mary Ekwebbelam of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy.

MIAMI | Six women religious and one Jesuit priest were honored for reaching milestone anniversaries of their religious profession during the annual Mass marking the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrated the Mass Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral. Totaling a combined 340 years in religious life, the honorees were:

  • Adrian Dominican Sister Evelyn Piche, 70 years
  • Jesuit Father Javier Lopez, 60 years
  • Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker, 60 years
  • Sister M. Bernadette de Lourdes Dike, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, 50 years
  • Sister Mary Rose Ekwebbelam, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, 50 years
  • Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, 25 years
  • Sister Ebubena, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, 25 years.

Praying during the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, from left: Sister M. Bernadette de Lourdes Dike of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, a jubilarian of 50 years; Trinitarian Father Kevin McGrady, ordained in October 2023; and Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, a jubilarian of 25 years.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Praying during the Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, from left: Sister M. Bernadette de Lourdes Dike of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, a jubilarian of 50 years; Trinitarian Father Kevin McGrady, ordained in October 2023; and Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, a jubilarian of 25 years.

Before the Mass, Sister Ana Margarita Lanzas of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who serves as archdiocesan director for Religious, explained the threefold purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life: to thank God for the gift of consecrated life, to promote awareness and esteem for it within the Church, and for consecrated individuals to rejoice in their vocation.

The celebration, established in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II through his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, is attached to the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2, also known as Candlemas Day. Just as candles are blessed on this day, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world, those in consecrated life are called to reflect his light to all people.

“One aspect of consecrated life is to have those whom the Lord places in our path encounter the characteristic features of Jesus so that they are filled with the hope of eternal happiness and so that they have a glimpse of the presence of God,” Sister Ana Margarita said.

She added that “it's just beautiful and inspiring” to see “the countless lives” the jubilarians have impacted through the various missions entrusted to each of them.

Representatives of the various orders of women and men serving in the Archdiocese of Miami gathered for the celebration, along with members of the Church community and family members of those being honored.

The hymns were sung in different languages, and the readings were delivered in English, Spanish and Creole, reflecting the diversity of the archdiocese.

In his homily, Archbishop Wenski expressed gratitude to those whose baptismal consecration led to a radical devotion to Christ, acknowledging the profound impact of religious life on the faithful.

Adrian Dominican Sister Evelyn Piche, far left, a 70-year jubilarian, shares a laugh with Sisters of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo from the Marian Center, from left: Sister Lidia Valle, Sister Fausta Rondena, Daisy LoFranco, a Marian Center aggregate, and Sister Filomena Mastrangelo after the Mass marking the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Adrian Dominican Sister Evelyn Piche, far left, a 70-year jubilarian, shares a laugh with Sisters of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo from the Marian Center, from left: Sister Lidia Valle, Sister Fausta Rondena, Daisy LoFranco, a Marian Center aggregate, and Sister Filomena Mastrangelo after the Mass marking the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral.

Following the Mass, all the Religious were honored at a dinner held at the Archdiocesan Parish Hall. As they entered the hall, they were greeted by a group of 50 individuals, including students in school uniforms, who sang and clapped as each Religious entered the hall. The atmosphere was fun and festive. The dinner prayer was given by Father Lopez, one of the jubilarians.

Among those serving at the dinner, at Sister Ana Margarita’s invitation, were associates of her congregation, the Apostles of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus of Mary, members of the Serra Club of Miami, high school students, families and their children.

The idea was to bring whole families “to serve the Religious on that day as thanksgiving to them,” Sister Ana Margarita said.

She also noted that many of the jubilarians who celebrated 50 and 60 years entered religious life while in high school, “so it's beautiful to see the capacity of the human person to offer the best years of youth at the service of the Lord and his Church.”

Editor’s note: A brief news item that appeared on page 12 of the February edition of the Florida Catholic counted only the six jubilarians who were present at the Mass. The actual number of jubilarians was seven including Sister Ebubena, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, who  was marking 25 years but could not attend. The brief also misstated the number of years of consecrated life of Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker: 60 not 50 with the Adrian Dominicans. So the correct combined number of their years of service is 340 rather than 305, as stated in the print headline. Also, Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus was incorrectly identified in the print edition as a member of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. She is actually a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina’s congregation); and Sister Mary Rose Ekwebbelam is with the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, not the Holy Rosary Sisters.

Following are brief biographies of the jubilarians:

 

DOUBLE DIAMOND JUBILEE – 70 YEARS 

Sister Evelyn Piché, Adrian Dominicans

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Adrian Dominican Sister Evelyn Piche a certificate of appreciation to mark her 70 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Adrian Dominican Sister Evelyn Piche a certificate of appreciation to mark her 70 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Sister Evelyn served as dean of the Adrian Dominican School of Education at Barry University in Miami Shores from 1986 until July 1, 2006, after having served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, associate superintendent of Catholic schools, superintendent, and national consultant to management in the areas of planning, finance, and recruitment. She developed a dynamic model of leadership for continuous improvement of educational institutions and presented her 3D-P Model of Leadership at numerous conferences.

When she accepted the position of dean, Barry’s School of Education offered one bachelor's and three master's degree programs. She inherited six full-time faculty members and one secretary “who was clinging to her beloved typewriter.” At the time of her retirement, the school offered three bachelor's, 18 master's, 16 education specialists, three doctorates, and one Doctor of Education program. The school also had grown to 85 full-time faculty members and maintained several off-campus sites across Florida.

In May 2006, Sister Evelyn was awarded the status of Dean Emerita, a singular honor. Kappa Delta Pi, the International Education Honor Society, has recognized Sister Evelyn with their True Servant Leadership Award, as has Phi Delta Kappa for her sustained guidance, support and dedication.

In the fall of 2007, Sister Evelyn enrolled in the three-year Spiritual Companionship Program at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, graduating in May 2010.

She has served in ministry through educational outreach and consulting. In addition, she has co-authored grants to promote Catholic identity in Catholic schools.

 

DIAMOND JUBILEE – 60 YEARS 

Father Javier López, Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Jesuit Father Javier Lopez a certificate of appreciation to mark his 60 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Jesuit Father Javier Lopez a certificate of appreciation to mark his 60 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Father López was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1945. In 1964, he joined the Society of Jesus in the Dominican Republic. After his ordination in 1975 he ministered for 15 years in three parishes of the Dominican Republic and taught Scripture at the major seminary of Santo Domingo. In 1998, he began to instruct on the writings of John at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he also served as spiritual director of the Pio Latino College. He currently helps at Gesu Parish in downtown Miami and moderates biblical workshops at the Ignatian Spirituality Center in southwest Miami-Dade County.

 
Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker, Adrian Dominicans

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Sister Mary Frances is originally from Chicago. She has been an Adrian Dominican Sister for 60 years, during which time her ministry has included teaching, retreat work, and pastoral leadership in worship and music in Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida. Prior to coming to Barry University in 2006, she earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at the Catholic Theological Union. During the past 18 years she has served in Barry’s campus ministry and as adjunct professor of theology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her original hymn texts have been published by OCP and GIA/WLP.

 

GOLDEN JUBILEE – 50 YEARS

Sister M. Bernadette de Lourdes Dike, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Sister Maria Bernadette de Lourdes Dike, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Sister Maria Bernadette de Lourdes Dike, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Sister Bernadette is the second of the eight children. She obtained her bachelor's and master’s degrees in nursing and as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner from in 2001, as well as a doctorate in nursing in 2010, all from Barry University in Miami Shores. She served two terms as the regional superior for the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, USA/Canada Region, from 2012 to 2018. She worked in the transplant unit of Jackson Memorial Hospital for 18 years and currently is an associate professor of nursing at Miami Regional University in Miami Springs.

 

Sister Mary Rose Ekwebbelam, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Holy Rosary Sister Mary Rose Ekwebbelam a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Holy Rosary Sister Mary Rose Ekwebbelam a certificate of appreciation to mark her 50 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Sister Mary Rose was born into the family of Anna and Osiz Ekwebbelam in Akokwa, in the Diocese of Orlu, Nigeria. Her vocation stemmed from her encounter with the Holy Rosary Sisters in 1960. As a religious sister, she has taught in a seminary and Juniorates formation and served in her community’s motherless babies' homes in Nigeria. She served in pastoral care and home outreach at St. Mary's Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and St. Anthony's Catholic Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. In Florida, she has served at the front desk of St. Bartholomew Church in Miramar and helped with the Legion of Mary. She is currently serving with the Legion of Mary at St. Maximilian Kolbe in Pembroke Pines and promoting the Apostolate of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima.


SILVER JUBILEE – 25 YEARS 

Sister Ebubena, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy

Sister Ebubena, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, celebrating 25 years of religious profession, Feb. 3, 2024.

Photographer: COURTESY

Sister Ebubena, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, celebrating 25 years of religious profession, Feb. 3, 2024.

Born in Nigeria, in Ehime Mbano, Local Government of Imo State, Sister Ebubena is the seventh of eight children. She joined the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy in 1996 and made her first profession in 1999, at Mater Dei Cathedral in Umuahia, Nigeria. After her profession, she was sent to serve in several of her congregation’s communities in Nigeria, including their orphanage in Emene Enugu; hospital and maternity home in Abaji Abuja; and in home visitations to the sick and needy, among other ministries. She arrived in the United States in 2008 to serve at Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown, Texas, where young mothers are cared for and given options to help them choose life instead of abortion. After her mission in Texas, she was sent to the Pembroke Pines community in Florida. Since then, she has been caring for the sick and needy in hospitals and homes, bringing the Word and the Body of Christ to them. Currently, she serves as the superior of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy community in Pembroke Pines.

 

Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, a certificate of appreciation to mark her 25 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives Sister Maria Teresa of the Merciful Jesus, of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, a certificate of appreciation to mark her 25 years of religious profession during the annual Mass for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, celebrated Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral, Miami.

Sister Teresa — Maria Lourdes by baptism — was born in Manila, Philippines. She joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy — the same order to which St. Faustina belonged — to live the charism of cooperating with God’s mercy to save souls. She spent most of her religious life in Boston, Massachusetts, plus eight years in Poland at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow. She has worked in the formation of laity, prison and retreat ministries, conferences around the world, translations and other ministries. She is now assigned to the congregation’s newly opened house in Miami, to bring God’s mercy closer to souls.

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