Father John McGowan, C.SS.R
Father John McGowan, C.SS.R

As the Universal Church commemorated World Day for Consecrated Life on Feb. 2, recognizing the vocation and ministerial experiences of religious sisters, brothers and priests, The Monitor Magazine chose to interview two religious serving in the Trenton Diocese. Meet Sister of St. Joseph Gerrie Muller and Redemptorist Father John McGowan, both of whom serve on the staff of San Alfonso Retreat House, Long Branch.

Getting to know Sister Geraldine Muller, SSJ

Sister Geraldine Muller SSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph from Chestnut Hill, Phila., is presently part of the retreat team with the Redemptorist priests at San Alfonso Retreat House, Long Branch, NJ.

The Early Years

Sister Gerrie, as she is known, is the middle child of three daughters born to George and Gerrie Muller in Elkins Park, Pa. She went to St. James Church and school where she first encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph.  After moving to Southampton, Bucks County, Pa., she became a member of the first freshman class at the newly opened Archbishop Wood High School, Warminster, Pa. 

Responding to the Call

Sister Gerrie first resisted thoughts of a vocation, not considering herself  “nun material.” She believes her resistance was influenced by stereotypical images of sisters and thoughts of living a confined life. “I always  imagined myself as married with children.”

She then recalled those sisters who taught her in school, remembering them as intelligent, inspiring women who expanded her world view and were enthusiastic about the social justice issues of the day and the possibilities that Vatican II opened for the Church.  She embraced God’s call and entered the community in 1968 and professed her final vows in 1976.

The Surprises of Life in Community

“The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph is, ‘That all may be one.’ We live and work so that all people may be united with God and one another.”  Sister Gerrie credits her fellow sisters for enriching her life and encouraging her to grow. Suggestions made to the community as a postulant led to her becoming a vocations director for her congregation. The fears of living a “confined life” were dismissed as religious orders shifted from being isolated to communal with shared programming, resources, and formation.

In Her Own Words

“Consecrated life is about God’s passionate love for Earth and all humanity.  Our vocation is a lifelong commitment to God and has a prophetic role in the Church and world inviting and challenging ourselves and others to right relationships and responding to unaddressed, unmet needs.

“Women and men in diverse communities are joining together today to give a clearer, stronger voice in response to the hunger, poverty, oppression, injustice, violence and –isms of our day. I am hopeful, trusting, and encouraged as the future of consecrated life is constantly emerging in God’s hands as it always has been.”


Getting to know Father John McGowan, C.SS.R

Father John McGowan, C.SS.R. is a Redemptorist priest assigned at San Alfonso Retreat House, Long Branch.

An Early Call

Father John has been a Redemptorist priest since 1962.  Growing up in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Brooklyn, he considered the parish priests there to be his role models and knew he wanted to be like them.

A Fruitful Vocation

Upon ordination, Father John taught at the Redemptorist high school seminary for 16 years. He then was a parish priest in Brooklyn and Philadelphia for 16 years. For the past 25 years, he has been on the retreat staff at San Alfonso.

Sixty Years of Service

Father John will celebrate the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood this June. “I cannot remember not wanting to be a priest,” he said of his vocation.

A Thoughtful Reflection

Several years ago, Father John wrote a reflection, “The Redemptorist Parish Priest.”  In this piece, he shared the blessing of being a parish priest and bringing God’s love to the people in the community. In his writing he shared, “He looked on his parish priest days as days of privilege, wonderful moments of grace and life.”


Visit the Web Extras section of our website for an extended interview from Sister Gerrie and a personal reflection from Father John McGowan.