Immaculate Conception Parish Bids Farewell to Holy Union Sisters

Seven decades of faith, education and love – that is the legacy the Holy Union Sisters have left to the people of Astoria as their ministry at Immaculate Conception parish came to a close this spring. “They’ve been an integral part of the parish,” explained Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, who has come to know and respect these women religious in his nine years as pastor. “They’ve given us so many years of ministry. So many people were touched by their faith, their love and their compassion.”

Due to advancing age and health care needs, most of the sisters will relocate to Fall River, MA where they can join other Holy Union Sisters in community and assisted living and nursing facilities.

To thank the sisters for their 71 years of faithful service in Astoria, the parish held a Mass of Thanksgiving in their honor on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation and the date on which the sisters annually renew their religious vows. In addition to sisters and associates from New York and Maryland, several sisters came by bus from Fall River for the noontime Mass and reception.

“We celebrate you and surround you with our love today as a very, very grateful people for your ministry here at Immaculate Conception parish,” Msgr. Ferrarese said as he welcomed the sisters. A standing-room-only crowd of parishioners and alumni, along with half a dozen priests on the altar, including Msgr. Charles Boccio, pastor emeritus, were a testament to that gratitude.

Never Forgotten

“Realize what you have done here will never be forgotten, not only for the people at this Mass, but for the many people throughout the world who have been touched by the Holy Union Sisters,” the monsignor said. As the needs of the community grew, the sisters responded and expanded their outreach to include catechesis, a homeless shelter, food pantry, care for the sick and homebound, and consolation ministry.

“You leave a great legacy here at Immaculate Conception parish,” Msgr. Ferrarese said in his homily. He spoke about how the women religious taught generations of children and families, not only in classrooms, but also through their daily lives and activities, to put God first. Comparing the sisters to stained-glass windows, he said their lives reflect the light of God, and show “the pattern of holiness that God wants.” “I speak for all of us here today when I say it will never be the same without you, but we will never be the same because of you,” he said.

After the homily, sisters renewed their religious vows. Among them were several alumnae, including Sisters Margaret McCabe, Bernadette Sullivan, Marie Baldi and Mary Ellen Ryan. To read the entire article and see a slide show in the March 29th issue of the Tablet, the Brooklyn Diocesan paper, click here.

A video of the day is available here: