Msgr. Vincent Gartland, a retired priest of the Diocese, blesses the casket of Mercy Sister Diane Szubrowski, during the funeral Mass he celebrated July 16 in Watchung. With Msgr. Gartland is Msgr. Casimir Ladzinski, also a retired priest of the Diocese. Mike Ehrmann photos
Msgr. Vincent Gartland, a retired priest of the Diocese, blesses the casket of Mercy Sister Diane Szubrowski, during the funeral Mass he celebrated July 16 in Watchung. With Msgr. Gartland is Msgr. Casimir Ladzinski, also a retired priest of the Diocese. Mike Ehrmann photos
“[Sister] Diane was approachable, always pleasant and had a calming effect on others,” said Msgr. Vincent Gartland, retired priest of the Diocese, of Mercy Sister Diane Szubrowski. “We have been friends for 55 years.”

Celebrating her Mass of Christian Burial July 16 in Immaculate Conception Chapel in Mount St. Mary, Watchung, Msgr. Gartland reflected on how Sister Diane, former president of the New Jersey Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy for 13 years, affected those with whom she worked and to whom she ministered.

“We hurt because we have lost someone special, a unique individual whose life and love has been woven into the fabric of so many different communities,” he noted, “the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the churches of Trenton and Metuchen, Georgian Court University and groups of friends, former students, clients, alumni and Sisters throughout the region.

“To all these groups [Sister] Diane brought a calming and peaceful presence, a casual and approachable eloquence and an unwavering commitment to peace, justice and the Mercy Values,” Msgr. Gartland said during his homily.

The Mass was concelebrated by retired diocesan priest, Msgr. Casimir Ladzinski, and attended by various friends and associates of Sister Diane, who died July 7 at age 83 following a brief illness. Her storied years of ministry began in Trenton as the only child of Joseph and Helen Szubrowski, graduating from the town’s Cathedral High School in 1955 and entering the Sisters of Mercy afterwards.

She spent her early years teaching in St. Francis of Assisi School, Metuchen; St. Mary School, South Amboy, and St. Elizabeth School, Bernardsville. She returned to St. Francis of Assisi School to serve as principal, where Msgr. Gartland was the art teacher.

“[Sister] Diane was always supportive and appreciative of my efforts,” Msgr. Gartland said. “That friendship has lasted for 55 years as we moved in and out of many different aspects of Church ministry. I soon learned that [Sister] Diane held tight to friendships, and there are a large number of friends here who can attest to that comforting quality.”

After serving as personnel director for the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Diane was elected councilor in 1978 for the Sisters of Mercy of New Jersey, serving for eight years as an advocate for peace and justice. As founder and director of Mercy Peace Center, Watchung, she lectured, traveled and hosted events to bring the message of peace to others. Recognized for her leadership skills and compassionate care for the sisters, she was elected president of the New Jersey Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, in 1994 and remained in that position for 13 years. She was also on board of the Mount St. Mary Academy, Watchung, as well as the Mercy Center of Asbury Park.

Sister Diane earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Georgian Court College (now University), Lakewood, and master’s degrees in education and social work form Rutgers University. She served as a family therapist for Catholic Charities in the Metuchen Diocese from 1998 to 1994.

In 2005, on the occasion of her golden jubilee in the Sisters of Mercy, she was recognized for the more than 30 years she was involved with helping persons with drug and alcohol related issues. In 2007, she was honored during the Catholic Charities Flame of Charity Dinner in which she was honored for her years of dedication and living out the Mercy core values of service, compassion, justice, respect and integrity. In 2008, she began a new phase of ministry at Georgian Court University, serving on the administrative staff in the Office for Institutional Advancement and later as a volunteer for donor relations, serving in that capacity until 2019.

Mercy Sister Rosemary Jeffries, former president of GCU, served with Sister Diane on a leadership team together in the 1990s, and knew her well in her role of alumni engagement.

“Her major priority was encouraging people to peaceful relationships with one another,” she said. “Sister Diane had a wonderful ability to lead people as well as engage [them] in works of mercy and justice.”

In her career as educator and religious community leader, Sister Diane “managed to include those people in her vision of making the world a better place by the way we treat one another,” Sister Rosemary attested. “She had a great ability to stay in touch with people … by letters, notes, remembering people’s birthdays – making sure all she met were important to her.”

Students and staff alike were able to witness how Sister Diane was “a great asset, and enjoyed the years she was at Georgian Court,” Sister Rosemary continued, “getting to know them well by having lunch with them in the dining hall. She was a beloved member of the campus community.”

Explaining how the Scripture Readings for the funeral Mass attempt to turn the congregation’s attention to the new life the deceased will experience, Msgr. Gartland noted that “Thessalonians fans our hope – a hope that sustained [Sister] Diane through the many different challenges she faced with strength, dignity and perseverance, never allowing grief or discouragement to have the last word. [Her] sense of humor carried her through and carried many of us through those challenges.

“Sister Diane Szubrowski remains so very much a part of all that is Mercy, of this place – The Mount, this community, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, its ministry and personnel,” Msgr. Gartland continued. “She has indeed made a difference in the lives of the many lives she has touched and enriched in a great variety of ways.”