Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NYT: Nun's retirement marks the end of an era.

Today's New York Times includes a profile of Sister Lucita Cangemi, M.S.B.T., who is retiring this week at the age of 87 after half a century as a social worker on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As NYT reporter Jim Dwyer notes, Sister Lucita's retirement marks the end of an era for a congregation of women religious that has served New York's poor for decades:

Sister Lucita is the last working New York member of an order of Catholic religious women, the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, who have served as social workers with Catholic Charities since 1953. Having taken vows of chastity, obedience and poverty, they became experts in prostitution, jails, diapers, rent, drugs and jobs.

"This is really not about me, but about the exodus of a community that has worked hard in New York, that loved New York and loved their work, and gave services to the city for 50 years," Sister Lucita said.

The base of their operations for many of those years was on the Lower East Side. Long before the clever restaurants and dress shops, the streets and tenements were home to poor people. The same human problems run across every class and culture, but on the Lower East Side, those problems lacked the insulation and camouflage that money can buy. Another member of the community who just retired, Sister Marion Agnes, worked to salvage abandoned apartment buildings through sweat equity, and more recently converted an old Catholic school into affordable housing.

Sister Lucita spent her early years helping people in trouble with the law. She had an office on Lafayette Street, and the city’s Probation Department would send her people who had just gotten out of jail. She advised judges in family disputes.

To read more, click here. It's worth noting that Sister Lucita will begin her 'retirement' by moving to Mexico to start another ministry. Like many other Roman Catholic religious - male and female - Sister Lucita is still working at an age when most laypeople would be long retired.

The NYT piece on Sister Lucita Cangemi offers a snippet of what has surely been an extraordinary life, but the more remarkable thing is that many other sisters, brothers and priests of advanced years live equally extraordinary lives that are never reported in the paper. As Sister Lucita sagely observes, it's not about her - it's about the great work that God has accomplished through her and many others. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home