IHM Director of Communications
We welcome Karen Creely as Director of Communications for the Congregation. Karen has broad experience in public and media relations, journalism, and website management. She received her degree in Communications/History from the University of Delaware. Karen comes to us from Rosemont College where she worked as Director of Public Relations for almost four years. We look forward to having Karen with us as we move forward with enhanced IHM communications initiatives.
Religious Education Awards
The Annual Mass for Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Saturday, January 14, 2017. At the award ceremony which followed, two of our sisters were recognized for their outstanding service:
Sister Kathleen Monica Schipani received The Pope Paul VI Award for Catechetical Leadership. This award is presented by the Office for Catechetical Formation each year to an outstanding catechetical leader who has made significant contributions to the field of catechesis on an archdiocesan and national level. Sister’s ministry in special education at St. William School, Camp Overbrook: In Sign, and in her present role as the Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Apostolate bear witness to her desire to bring the Gospel to those on the margins. Thank you, Kathy, for enriching the faith life of our brothers and sisters with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Congratulations on an honor well-deserved!
Sister Catherine Jane McErlean received The Queen of the Family Award for twenty-five years of service as Parish Director of Religious Education at St. Rose of Lima Parish, Eddystone. Sister Katie is an example of joy and zeal in the service of God’s people. Her many “hats” at St. Rose—PREP, RCIA, Bereavement Ministry et al—have made her an integral part of parish life at St. Rose of Lima. Thank you, Katie, for your years of loving service and dedication. You make us IHM proud!
“Teachers Who Teach”
Sister Thaddeus Marie del Ricci, IHM
Congratulations to Sister Thaddeus Marie Del Ricci who was fondly remembered in the December 19-26, 2016 issue of America. In his article, “Teachers Who Teach,” John J. Conley, SJ recalls Sister Thaddeus who was his fourth grade teacher at Our Lady of Fatima, Secane, in the early 1960s. The author provides three examples of Sister’s kindness toward her students, especially those who struggled in their learning. “Whereas many teachers play for the stars, Sister Thaddeus cared for the vulnerable. Her pedagogical compass was compassion. The Gospel made her tick.” What an apt description of this daughter of Alphonsus in her care for God’s abandoned poor! Thank you, Sister Thaddeus, for your selfless witness through the years.
Immaculata High School Hall of Fame
Sister Mary Louise Birster, IHM
Our congratulations to Sister Mary Birster who was inducted into the Immaculata High School Hall of Fame in Somerville, NJ. Sister Mary is the longest serving principal in the school’s history and is applauded for her exemplary leadership which guided the school to earn Blue Ribbon status. Under Sister’s guidance, the campus expanded both in buildings and curriculum. The following tributes certainly describe Sister: “Sister Mary’s greatness lies more in the intangibles!… Sister had an electrifying connection with students, faculty, staff, and students… Her vision, kindness, and positive energy, as well as her devotion to all IHS students, endeared her to everyone over her sixteen years.” Well done, good and faithful servant! You make us IHM proud!
Ex Corde Award
Sister M. Patricia Helene Earl, IHM
Each year the Diocese of Arlington presents the Ex Corde Award: Sharing the Heart of Christ with Students! This year’s recipient was Sister Patricia Helene Earl. This award is given “to someone who has demonstrated exemplary service or support to College Campus Ministry, giving their time, their energy, indeed even a piece of their very own heart, in order to share with University students the love of Christ.” We are so very proud of you, Sister Patricia, for being the face of Christ to all those with whom and to whom you minister each day at Marymount University. In your daily encounters, you are truly the fire of Christ’s love! Thank you for the blessing you are and congratulations!
Haitian Outreach Committee
The Immaculata Haitian Outreach Committee gathered to offer an update of the Governing Board of the Haiti Outreach Committee held in Scranton, PA ( October 14-17.). The Committee also discussed the plans for the upcoming Haitian Awareness Week to be held February 13th -18th. The theme of the week is Have a Heart For Haiti.
On November 19, 2016 over 125 educators gathered at Villa Maria Academy Lower School to participate in IHM Edcamp. The concept of Edcamp is to provide an innovative form of professional development for educators. Following the tenets of Edcamp, the teachers who attended IHM Edcamp created their own session board focused around topics of mutual interest. Topics included: Google, IHM Best Practices, Robotics, Apps for Administrators, Early Childhood, and Children’s Literature. The teachers also had the opportunity to participate in App speed dating.
The day finished with a celebration of learning. After sharing together pieces of their reflective practice, the teachers left IHM Edcamp with a concrete goal to immediately implement a new learning into their practice.
Photostory of IHM Edcamp: Click Here
The IHM Directors, Coordinators, and Assistants in Religious Education met on November 18, 2016 at Villa Maria House of Studies. Sister Kathleen Monica Schipani, I.H.M., Office for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Apostolate, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was the presenter. Her topic was “WE CAN ADAPT: Methods and Materials that really work!” Paul Gallagher, Loyola Press Educational Consultant, displayed the Loyola Press Kit for Finding God — Adaptive Program. With the permission of Loyola’s President, Teresa Locke, Paul also provided kit components for every table. Sister Kathleen provided not only an excellent power point presentation, but also a very effective guided hands-on opportunity for the sisters to practice and use the components at their respective tables. As each component was explained and used, it was gifted as a giveaway to a sister at each table. With the help of Loyola Press, Sister Kathleen truly imparted her loving sense of inclusion in ministering to Persons with Disabilities. The presentation was an inspiration to the sister participants, who minister in various diocesan Parish Religious Education Programs.
IHM Sisters, 80 years and older, spent the weekend of November 11-13 on retreat at Villa Maria House of Studies. They were joined on Saturday evening with visiting IHM Companions in Prayer and Ministry from Connecticut. All enjoyed the hospitality and the entertainment by the postulants and novices.
Knights Service Award
Sister Catherine Hill, I.H.M. ’66
Congratulations to Sister Catherine Hill who was the recipient of this year’s Knights Service Award at Bishop O’Connell High School. This award is granted to DJO graduates for specific and meritorious service to the school and/or community. Sister Cathy was cited as being a “living example of the IHM charism of love, creative hope and fidelity.” She was applauded as one who selflessly anticipates and serves administration, students, faculty, staff, and anyone in need. Thank you, Cathy, for your untiring, faithful IHM witness to all those with whom you minister each day. We are IHM proud!
Sister Catherine Hill is a lifelong member of St. Agnes Parish in Arlington where she attended kindergarten through eighth grade. A graduate of Bishop O’Connell High School in 1966, Sister Catherine was the Valedictorian of her class and served on the Student Council Executive Board. Sister Catherine played on the girls’ varsity basketball team, which predated Title IX, and games occurred in cafeteria style rooms as often as they did in actual gyms. Sister Catherine attended Carnegie Melon University shortly after the science school began accepting women. She left after one year to enter religious life with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. After First Profession, she began teaching middle school in parishes in South Philadelphia and Willow Grove. She began her high school teaching career as a chemistry teacher at Cardinal Brennan in Fountain Springs, PA. During her many years in the Harrisburg Diocese, Sister taught and served as an administrator at Bishop McDevitt High School as well as served as president of the Sisters’ Council for the Diocese of Harrisburg. She returned to O’Connell in 2005 and loves working at her alma mater and able to be of service to students, families and faculty. She is looking forward to celebrating O’Connell’s 60th anniversary as a chance to hear all the different stories from all the different decades of O’Connell graduates.
Distinguished Educator Award
Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Mary L. Birster of Trinity High School in Camp Hill receives the Frederick F. Noel Distinguished Educator Award from Bishop Ronald Gainer. Mr. Noel served as a teacher at York Catholic High School and as Assistant Superintendent for Special Programs for the Diocese of Harrisburg from 1970 until his death in 1990.
Camilla Hall Residents Are Gamers
Sister Georgiana teaches grades K through 4 Spanish at Sacred Heart School in Lancaster, PA. She is also Sacred Heart’s First In Math® Online Program coordinator, and has helped the tiny school become very successful on a national level, often placing among the National Top Ten Schools in the Small School category. She also plays, and was ranked 14thin the nation among all participating Educators in 2016.
While at Camilla Hall to rehabilitate a foot injury, she encouraged Sacred Heart students and teachers from a distance, but wanted to do more. “Camilla is blessed with dedicated employees who give their all for the Sisters, and they inspired me to help motivate some of the permanent residents in one of the best ways I know—through the First In Math program,” says Sr. Georgiana.
She got permission to use the laptop cart, and began regular classes every Friday to introduce and use the First In Math program. In addition to residents, some of the Sisters who work at Camilla Hall also joined the fun. Participants range in age from 50 to 90 years old.
Slowly, everyone noticed something magical was happening. First In Math became a topic of spirited discussion at lunch, or at other times when groups were gathered together. “Sisters like reviewing the math concepts as well as learning new things about computers,” according to Sr. Georgiana. “They’re having fun, and it has helped them develop another common bond.” The program became so popular that some Sisters were gifted new iPads so they could use the website whenever they wanted.
“It is a great joy to watch young students gain confidence as they learn, and it is the same here—age is irrelevant, everyone can learn,” says Sister Georgiana. “First In Math is a perfect platform for any educational setting, because it’s not just the complete spectrum of math skills, the activities improve critical thinking, encourage creativity and keep the mind sharp.”
“Whether a person is 9 or 90, they are able to choose games that they can relate to, and this helps them master the skills they need,” explains Sister Georgiana. “Plus, First In Math’s friendly competition creates a wonderful camaraderie that can be invaluable—perhaps even priceless—in situations like this, as well as in the classroom.”
First In Math creator, Robert Sun, a long-time supporter of Sister Georgiana, sent a balloon bouquet along with his encouragement. “As a child, I was welcomed and supported by the Sisters of the IHM at St. Francis DeSales School in West Philadelphia, and they had a significant impact on my life and the direction I took in my career. I am so happy and proud to be in the position to continue to encourage this effort.”
Sister Georgiana returned to school in September, and says leaving Camilla Hall in July was bittersweet. But there is a plan in place. “Sister Pat Cabrey and Sister Barbara Bamberger are now coordinating the program and will continue with their own FIM Teams,” according to First In Math Project Coordinator Nancy Kane, who verified that Sun has donated licenses for two Camilla Hall Teams.
“Bringing First In Math to students around the world has been very rewarding—this opportunity to spread some excitement and challenge to the Sisters at Camilla Hall brings the feeling to a new level,” says Sun. “I truly appreciate all of the hard work, dedication and commitment these wonderful people bring to the lives of others.”
Celebrating Religious Profession of Vows
Congratulations to Sisters Carolyn Elizabeth Braun, Tracey Catherine Uphoff and Emily Vincent Rebalsky who professed perpetual vows on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at Villa Maria House of Studies. Bishop Timothy Senior received the vows.
Sister Stephanie Gabriel Tracey professed first vows on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at Villa Maria House of Studies. Monsignor Joseph Marino received the vows.