Bishop remembers Sister Dorothy as being a 'woman of faith'
By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., posed an interesting point when he spoke about the day Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne entered eternal life.
“Wasn’t it a coincidence God waited until the end of Catholic Schools Week to call her home?” Bishop O’Connell asked during the Mass of Christian Burial he celebrated for Sister Dorothy, who died Feb. 3 following a lengthy illness.
“It was also the end of the week where we celebrated consecrated life,” the Bishop said to the standing room only congregation who gathered for the Feb. 7 funeral Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pa. “Sister Dorothy was a woman of faith, right until the end of her life.”
Joining Bishop O’Connell at the altar were a number of priest concelebrants including Msgr. Thomas N. Gervsaio, diocesan vicar general and pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and Father Al Gamalo, chaplain in Trenton Catholic Academy and parochial vicar of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.
In the congregation, there were family members, longtime friends, members of Sister Dorothy’s community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pa., and colleagues of Sister Dorothy who came to pay their respects to the woman who was founding president of Trenton Catholic Acadmey in Hamilton in 2005. Among those who were privileged to have a part in the liturgy included JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Joe Bianchi, diocesan chief administrative officer, who proclaimed the Readings. As for the music, it was Sister Dorothy’s wish to have those nearest and dearest to her heart lead the congregation in song– the combined choir from TCA’s Upper and Lower Schools and the Lower School hand chime choir.
"Sister Dorothy always said she wanted to go out with bells and whistles, so it looks like you’re going to make sure she gets her bells,” said Sister Anne Myers, congregational president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, in welcoming remarks.
“As we gather here this afternoon, we do so with a sense of shock and grief as we mourn the sudden loss of Sister Dorothy. At the same time, we come together, to celebrate the life of a truly wonderful Sister of St. Joseph, who was ‘exceptional’ to use one of her own favorite words,” said Sister Anne..
“Let us pray for one another as we grieve the loss of Sister Dorothy and let us give praise and thanks to God for the goodness and beauty of her life as we know she is now with our risen Lord.”
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on the Readings and related them to Sister Dorothy’s life and her ministry as a religious for 58 years. Looking to the Second Reading in which St. Paul reminded the Romans that “no one lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself. If we live, we are living for the Lord and if we die, we die as his servants.”
“Now that conviction of faith was very evident in the life, in the work and in the ministry of Sister Dorothy Payne," said Bishop O’Connell. “It was a conviction of faith that inspired her whole approach to life. It was a conviction of faith that set her free to do all the things she did; never for herself, always for the Lord and for others,” he said.
“The children that she taught and the lives that she touched over these many years will never forget her firmness but at the same time, her love. They knew how much she cared,” he said.
At the end of his homily, Bishop O’Connell recalled visiting Sister Dorothy during her illness and noticing a greeting card that was sent to her from a young man who needed her help.
Inside the card, Bishop O’Connell said, the young man wrote, “Dear Sister Dorothy, you changed my life.”
“Dear Sister Dorothy, we all feel that way,” said Bishop O’Connell. “Rest in peace, dear Sister, with the God you loved so much and served so well.”
At the end of Mass and before the congregation processed to the cemetery where Sister Dorothy would be laid to rest, Sister Anne shared about her own visit to Trenton Catholic Academy. On a wall in one of the classrooms, she noticed a quote posted that read: Every child is a story yet to be told.”
“Sister Dorothy Payne’s most ardent desire was to hear those precious stories, to see those stories unfold with confidence, hope and joy,” said Sister Anne.
“Her whole life in ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph was devoted to God’s children and those who worked with them. She saw education as the single best way to impact the lives of the young and to change the world,” said Sister Anne, who cited highlights of Sister Dorothy’s 14-year tenure at Trenton Catholic Academy, including spending countless hours building school spirit, cheering at students’ sporting events, connecting with the alumni, collaborating with the various pastors and working to create a warm and hospitable environment for all teachers, students and staff.
“She truly believed that each child was a story waiting to be told,” said Sister Anne. “And she made a difference in their stories.”[[In-content Ad]]