Three Sisters Celebrate their 60th Jubilee
On September 23rd Sisters Valerie Heinonen, Judith O’Connor and Jane Quinlan celebrated 60 years of religious life. Three lifetimes of service both dedicated to God and in a variety of ministries.
As young women they were all influenced by the Ursuline Sisters who taught them during their elementary school years – Sr. Jane and Judith in St. Thomas the Apostle School is West Hartford, CT and Sr. Valerie in religious instruction in Our Lady of the Snow Parish in Blue Point, NY. The example of those Sisters was the beginning of three long journeys of consecrated life.
After high school all three made the decision to enter “the convent” as it was referred to in the late fifties. In that era there was a great wave of interest in serving God and God’s people and what better way to do that than becoming “a sister.” Young though they were, it’s safe to say that there was this desire for God and serving His people. That heartfelt desire would stay with them for the next sixty years.
Like most religious of that time, Jane, Judith and Valerie started out as teachers. But over time their paths would take them in very different directions.
For Sr. Valerie, the call within the call expressed itself in a passion for social justice. Through the years Sr. Valerie pressed financial services firms to support affordable housing and defense contractors to limit weapons sales. She called on companies to protect the environment and human rights. She targeted corporate and executive compensation. Sr. Valerie also served as consultant to other congregations that were equally concerned about these issues. Though small in stature, this woman towers over the wealthy and the powerful.
Sr. Judith chose a decidedly different way to pursue religious life, but one that has been no less demanding or influential. Sr. Judith taught for several years in Our Lady Grace School in Howard Beach, NY, Nativity BVM School Ozone Park NY, and Holy Family High School, NY. Sr. Judith served as a High School Principal at Stamford Catholic High School at Stamford CT. She then became Provincial of the US Province for eight years and ultimately became General Superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk for twelve years. She also assisted at Tabor Retreat Center in Oceanside, NY.
Sr. Jane’s path lead her to several leadership positions as Religious Education Director, Provincial Leadership Team, and General Government leadership. She was especially called to serve with her international Sisters in Africa. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, she was Directress of Boarding School, teacher and spiritual director for ten years. She has the honor of serving as Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk’s NGO Representative to the United Nations.
The calling has never gotten tired or worn out for any of these women, and they are still active in their ministries.
A Jubilee Mass was celebrated by Rev. Msgr. Gerard Ringenback at St. William the Abbot Church in Seaford, NY, followed by a reception and dinner. Sr. Jane celebrated in Belgium where she is serving in general leadership.