By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
That was Mercy Sister Carole MacKenthun’s word for the two-hour-plus celebration of the major milestones in her life that rocked the full-to-overflowing auditorium of Spring Lake’s St. Catharine School with music, speeches and waves of applause May 30.
The rousing, frequently humorous, consistently loving tribute to Sister Carole marked her 75th birthday, her 56th anniversary of consecrated life and 50 years as a Catholic educator – including 25 years in St. Catharine School.
Planning it was a well-kept secret that involved students – past and present – faculty, staff and members of the community of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish where the school is located, said Ellen Meixsell, physical education and health teacher, who helped coordinate and emceed the multi-faceted event.
Sister Carole described herself as “totally surprised and overwhelmed at the celebration,” which followed the school’s Eucharistic celebration on Ascension Thursday.
The presentation offered stories of Sister Carole’s life, from her Trenton birthplace, to her years as a religion teacher that culminated in the Spring Lake School. Her time in the mission fields of Uganda and her creative life as the author of numerous religious books were all captured in song, dance, recitations and insights from the Sisters of Mercy, the school and parish community, and the community at-large.
It was all capped off by a walk “down the red carpet” by Sister Carole to the auditorium stage, the presentation of a $4,678 check raised by the students for her mission’s work in Uganda and a “magic carpet” vacation for herself and a friend to anywhere in the world, from the school community.
Sister Carole said she was touched by the entire event, which enabled her to “relive my entire life,” from encountering her “cousins, the Sisters I entered (the Mercy Sisters) with, other Sister friends in my community, former students, former colleagues from schools I’ve taught in, prayer group members, personal friends, clergy friends and the St. Catharine School community of parents and students.”
“I was viewing the kaleidoscopes of my life with beautiful patterns that changed throughout times,” said Sister Carole. “It was such an emotional experience of feeling loved by those I am connected with in ministry” now and through all the years.
Among the many who offered moving tributes were Divine Word Father Martin Padovani, the noted author and presenter who is highly regarded for his counseling ministry. Father Padovani serves as a weekend assistant in the Spring Lake parish.
“Sister Carole and I go back 50 years,” he told the assembly. “We are close friends who have been able to laugh and cry and work together and support each other through the years.” He spoke of how Sister Carole and Mercy Sister Margo Kavanaugh, who retired as principal of the Spring Lake school, shared their gifts of ministry with him and so many others over the years.
“Through all time times, good and bad, you were always there, sharing your great gifts of ministry,” said Father Padovani, who praised Sister Carole’s “ability to be approachable to [those] who are in need. When she referred [people] for counseling, he said, “they came to me with confidence.”
Joy Foley Rista, a graduate of St. Catharine School, offered a moving testament to the energy Sister Carole devotes to Mission of Mercy, the Uganda mission she founded that is funded largely through the generosity of St. Catharine-Saint Margaret Parish and St. Catharine School.
“Today is a great day because we are celebrating Sister Carole’s birthday and some of her life’s greatest work,” Rista said. “Many people glide through life and there is nothing wrong with that. But Sister Carole is certainly not a glider.”
“Sister Carole, you are nothing short of amazing. No matter how tired or overwhelmed you have sometimes been, you have always answered the calls that God has sent you and you have done so with grace ... the world is a lighter and brighter place because of you,” Rista added.