By Harry Kane
Sister Kateri spent the weekend of July 13 with her friends, family and Little Sisters of the Poor congregation for what marks her 25th year as a servant of God.
Kateri has lived at the Jeanne Jugan Convent at 186 Highland Ave. for the past 9 years and dedicated her life to aiding the poor.
The jubilee began on Friday at 2 p.m. with a gathering of the sisters in the recreation room of the convent. Along with the 12 other nuns from the Somerville convent, the Mother Provincial came from New York.
Friday’s celebratory events followed with an ice cream social and the dancing of three talented performers from the Darby School.
In between the dancing, Sister Kateri played “old time” favorites and included some of the residents to act out the songs. Patricia Sammon, a former activity director, who is now living in the pavilion, performed Ain’t She Sweet.
Sammon, who worked at the Jeanne Jugan Convent for some 28 years before becoming a resident, said, “We had a little variety show. It all came together and worked out nice.” Sammon dressed in a pink wig, and held onto a walker, as she threw chocolate candies to the audience from her oversized pocketbook.
Because of the origins of the Kateri name – a Roman Catholic Algonquin-Mohawk Saint – who was also known as Lily of the Mohawks, the auditorium was decorated with lilies and Native American décor.
Eileen Dunne, the daughter of one of the residents, made a totem pole and tepee for the jubilee. The totem pole was made out of chicken wire and papier mâché. Since Saint Kateri belonged to the “Turtle Clan,” a massive turtle sat at the top of the totem pole.
Following the Friday afternoon show, the sisters had their evening prayer with readings and psalms in the chapel. To add to the Native American theme, the sisters ate bison burgers and corn on the cob.
On Saturday, the Mass started at 11 a.m. Kateri renewed her vows in front of the entire congregation. “I had a candle and I renewed my promises,” Kateri said.
“I always loved helping others,” Kateri said. “After high school my father had a secretary who was dying of cancer.” Kateri would cook and care for her until her death.
At first, Kateri didn’t know if she was cut out to be a nurse. But after taking a nurses aid course, Kateri became a home health aid, taking care of the elderly. It paid very little, but her selfless service for the elderly led her to become part of the Little Sisters of the Poor congregation.
The story of how Sister Kateri took on the name of Saint Kateri is part of a divine plan. In a twist of fate, Kateri was in an elevator with Sister Josepine Pierre, who was reading a book about the life of Saint Kateri, and said that it would be her new name once she entered the congregation. It also was a coincidence that Saint Kateri died on Sister Kateri’s birthday.
Sister Kateri grew up in Hicksville, New York, and has been stationed at several convents over the years. “Wherever there is a need, we can be sent,” she said. Kateri was in Philadelphia for many years and likes to say that she came from the Liberty Bell to the Freedom Trail.
Back at the Jubilee on Saturday, some 150 guests came to the Mass. And after lunch, Native American Indians performed songs and dances for the audience. One of the dances celebrated the corn harvest.
Sister Kateri made flowers out of soap and handed out mini dream catchers to all the people in attendance. It was a day of remembrance of Saint Kateri, and a day of gratefulness for the dedication that Sister Kateri so much deserves for devoting her life to helping the poor, with joy and love.