New Castle News

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February 1, 2013

In the schools: Sister John Martin returns to St. Vitus for visit, tribute

NEW CASTLE — Students at St. Vitus School will be in for a surprise today.

When they report, both to morning Mass and their classrooms, they likely will see three women dressed in black skirts, black blouses with white collars and black veils with white trim.

“I started thinking when I was invited to come back that most of the children we will be visiting haven’t ever seen a nun,” said Sister John Martin Sullivan. “We probably will receive quite a few stares. I think it will be quite an experience for them.”

Sister John Martin and two of her fellow sisters who taught at St. Vitus when she served as principal during two stints in the 1980s and ’90s are visiting New Castle this weekend. They and the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are being honored by the Friends of Catholic Education for their years of service to the school and parish.

The visit will be highlighted with a 6:30 p.m. Mass tomorrow celebrated by the Rev. Frank Almade and the Rev. Nick Vaskov, followed by a reception, including a tour of the school. Both events, which wrap up St. Vitus’ Catholic Schools Week observances, are open to the public.

Joining Sister John Martin will be former St. Vitus teachers Sister Jeanne Marie VonderHaar and Sister Carolyn Carlisano. While the latter two teach school in Connecticut, Sister John Martin, who is 74, is semi-retired and living in a retirement home there.

“When we decided to honor Sister John Martin and talked about the sisters coming, the first thing Sister said was she wanted to spend time with the children,” said current St. Vitus principal Cathy Ryan. “We were thrilled, of course.

“The children will have so many questions. It will just be such a great learning experience for them.”

The sisters arrived last night after sharing time behind the wheel during a 10-hour drive (“Yes, we all drive,” Sister John Martin said, adding with a chuckle, “I expect one of the children to ask me that question. In fact, I taught driver’s education for 12 years, so I have spent a lot of time in a car.”)

After attending Mass this morning, the sisters were headed to the classrooms wearing the modified habits of their order, where they will greet former fellow teachers and three former students — Justin Venasco, Domenica DiGennaro and Marguerite Toscano Wills — who now teach at the school.

“I understand Justin makes great wedding soup and he saved us some,” Sister John Martin said. “We’re definitely looking forward to that.”

They will spend their three nights in New Castle at the St. Vitus rectory, which no longer is in use for the parish priests, but was spruced up for their visit.

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