And the Wise Came Bearing Gifts….

January 28, 2013

Here are reports of just two of the many Christmas giving projects of Divine Compassion ministries:

Mustard Seed Migrant Ministry:

On the weekend before Christmas, La Tienda at Mustard Seed offered a place for migrant workers to purchase as gifts  for their families at reasonable prices.  All the gifts are donated by a variety of friends of and volunteers at the ministry, Sisters, Associates, and Companions of the Divine Compassion, and parishioners of Holy Name Church in Valhalla.

Tienda crew 2012
Keeping the books tienda 2012

 Mustard Seed families and volunteers gathered to conduct the sale and tally the proceeds.

More than 140 families, plus a contingent of single men with no family in the area, found all they needed as gifts of clothing, toys, accessories, toiletries, and kitchen appliances – the favorite by far being blenders, to make guacamole and other traditional dishes.

Directors Sisters Fran Liston and Pam Wagner report that there were enough donations for all the shoppers, as well as items left for an Easter gift shop and other occasions.

two of the girls tienda 2012

In their Thank You letter, Sisters Pam and Fran conveyed their thanks in these words:

Epiphany moments remind us that we are all ONE family
       among whom God chooses to dwell…

Thank you for being gift-bearers of light and hope,
       during this Christmas season,
      for the people of Mustard Seed


Our Lady of Good Counsel High School:

The students at GCA High School created an Advent Tree decorated with paper ornaments, each of which named a gift to be purchased for the children, families, or developmentally disabled adults served by Cardinal McCloskey Community Services.

GCHS Advent Giving Tree A 12-12

The students then purchased gifts, and, shortly before Christmas,
Mr. Camacho, facilities manager, gathered the gifts – a pile worthy of Santa’s bag – for transport.

McCloskey Services thanked the students for being among the donors of more than 10,000 gifts
this Christmas.

GCHS Advent Giving Tree B 12-12

GCHS Advent gifts- Comacho 12-12

Good Counsel Dedicates Technology Center

January 10, 2013

Good Counsel High School dedicated its computer labs as the Dr. Susan Merritt, RDC, Class of  ’64 Technology Center on November 21, 2012.

In the Technology Center, Good Counsel students are introduced to many aspects of computer technology, with courses ranging from basic computing to web page design.  An introductory college-level class is also offered, in conjunction with Pace University.

After the Thanksgiving Liturgy celebrated by Father Jack Rachschmidt, OFM Cap., SisterSue Merritt GC HS tech lab ribboncutting 11-21-12 Laura Donovan, RDC, principal of the high school, presided over the dedication of the new Technology Center, culminating with Sister Susan cutting the ribbon to the Center.  In the Technology Center, Good Counsel students are introduced to many aspects of computer technology, with courses ranging from basic computing to web page design.  An introductory college-level class is also offered, in conjunction with Pace University.

Sister Laura cited the many contributions of Sister Susan as the reason for the naming of the Center after her.

Sister Susan is an alumna of the high school and also was on the faculty from 1970 to 1975.  Sister Constance Conroy (then Sr. M. Gaudentia), recently appointed principal of GC High School, invited Sister Susan to join the faculty; she left a good job with digital company and began her teaching career.

As a Mathematics teacher, Sister Susan introduced the first computers to Good Counsel, beginning with a mainframe computer connected to Pace University, and taught the faculty to use them.  Thus began computer education at Good Counsel, in the 1970’s, long before most high schools had such a program.  Good Counsel students received instruction in BASIC programming and continued to introduce faculty and students to continued developments in computer education.After Good Counsel, Sister Susan went on to teach at Pace University, establishing the Computer Science program, which soon became a department, and eventually what is now the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, of which she was Dean until 2008. At that time, Sister Susan was elected president of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion.  Good Counsel remains an important part of Sister Susan’s life. She has served as president of the Board of Trustees, was selected a member of the Wall of Fame, and facilitated The Joan Rolfs Lewis Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which provides a scholarship for a student to attend Good Counsel Academy High School each year.  Sister Susan is currently Dean Emerita of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University.

Sister Caroline Honored at Kennedy Catholic

December 21, 2012

Congratulations to Sister Mary Caroline Thomas, RDC, who was honored today at Kennedy Catholic High School where she taught for over 40 years, not including her previous years teaching when the school was at St. Mary’s High Sschool in Katonah.

Caroline Thomas RDCThe morning of celebration included a Mass in the school auditorium with Fathers Joseph Bisignano, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights, and Matthew Newcomb, Kennedy teacher, concelebrating.  The sounds of Christmas music filled the auditorium, all sung beautifully by the school choir, directed by Inez Boston.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, which was also offered for Anne Marie McGowan Murphy ’78, a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Alex Malecki, Director of Advancement, provided a portrait of a teacher, using Anne Marie’s love of her children, absolute dedication to their best interests, and courage in the face of their being threatened, and Sr. Caroline (as well as all the Kennedy sisters) who devote their lives to the education of youth and to a better future for all people, expecting that loving and responding to the needs of today’s children will enable them to make a difference.

Fr. Mark Vaillancourt, President of the school, had extended the invitation to Sister Caroline to be honored today, but he was unable to make the presentation as intended because he was concelebrating the funeral liturgy for Anne Marie in nearby Katonah.

Sorrow and joy rippled through the day, and surely we are living these as we grapple with senseless tragedy and, yet, are inspired by the love and generosity, the depth of compassion that has been the wholesale response to the people of Newtown.

Congratulations, Sister Caroline, and Thank You for your service to Catholic education and its ideals which flourish at Kennedy Catholic!

Preston High School’s Sixty-Fifth Anniversary

December 12, 2012

Preston High School celebrated its 65th Anniversary at a Gala Celebration on Sunday, November 18.  Sister Mary Ellen Bernard, RDC, was honored, along with Peggy Hearn Sobier, ’63,  and Kathy Gibney Gallagher, ’79.

MEB Peggy Kathy & Jane Grendell PHS 65th

The celebration began with Liturgy at St. Frances de Chantal, during which the pastor, Father Peter A. Miqueli, praised the Sisters of the Divine Compassion and the other members of Preston’s faculty and staff across the years for the excellence of the education offered to many young women.

Alumnae, former faculty members, and friends and families of Preston gathered for the gala Anniversary Luncheon at the Marina Del Ray after Mass.  The cocktail hour provided time for much visiting among classmates, students and teachers, and old friends, followed by a delicious buffet.

Michael Daly,  president of the Board of Trustees, warmly welcomed everyone, and Carol Wagner, RDC, gave the Invocation.  Principal Jane Grendell gave an overview of Preston Today, complete with a video of the recent renovations and other notable scenes.

After the awards, talented Preston students entertained the diners with vocal pieces by the 2012 Preston Idol winner and the Vocal group, instrumental numbers by the Wind Ensemble, and a solo dance.

Gina Gentile ‘03 and Joseph De Bona, Dean for Students, were the Mistress and Master of Ceremonies.

The Awards:

Sister Mary Ellen Bernard, RDC, received the Monsignor Thomas Preston Award for Educational Excellence and Extraordinary Service to Preston High School, presented by Traci Buchannan, Class of 2012.

Sister Mary Ellen has been a member of the Preston community for more than 40 years, serving as English teacher, Department Chairperson, tutor, office assistant, and, according to the award, “ever-willing volunteer.”  The school recently named the multimedia production studio the S.M.E.B. Center after her.  Sister Mary Ellen’s award is named for Msgr. Preston, the co-founder of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion, who founded Preston High School.

Mrs. Peggy Hearn Sobier, Class of 1963, received the Mary Caroline Dannat Starr Award for Dedicated Service to the Preston Community, presented by Margaret Ahl Damo, Class of 1977.

Mrs. Sobier, a long-time active alumna and supporter of Preston, was Director of School Advancement from 2000 to 2010.  As Director, Mrs. Sobier met with alumnae around the country and locally and, with then-principal Sister Lucille Coldrick, RDC, began the capital campaign that funded the recent renovation of expanded science and computer laboratories.  Mrs. Sobier’s award bears the secular name of Mother Mary Veronica, co-founder of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion.

Kathy Gibney Gallagher, Class of 1979,  received the Sister Loretta Carey, RDC, Award for Compassionate Service and Fostering Peace and Justice in the Bronx Community, presented by Gianna Dell’Olio, Class of 2000 and current Director of Development, and Jennifer Geideman, Class of 2000 and Advancement Associate.

Mrs. Gallagher is manager of The Wicked Wolf, the latest venue for her famed hospitality.  Mrs. Gallagher received the award for her participation in and support of virtually every community-building activity in Throggs Neck.  For instance, she is a member of Board of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which raises funds for the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association (TNBA).  Mrs. Gallagher’s award is named for Sister Loretta Carey, RDC (then Sister Mary Thomas), beloved and wise former principal of Preston.

A Life of Joy in God’s Universe

November 27, 2012

Sister Jean Noonan , RDC, has worn many hats over her sixty-three years as a Sister of the Divine Compassion.  She has been an elementary and high school teacher, a research scientist, a Maryknoll Lay Volunteer in Bolivia, a registered nurse, and a medical records keeper.

Now in her “retirement years,” Sister Jean offers online tutoring in Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics for high school and college nursing students, while maintaining an active prayer life and communications with three younger generations of her family.  To keep herself fit in all ways, Sister Jean practices Zumba exercise, tools around the Good Counsel campus on her three-wheeled trike, and plays the flute.

Through it all, Sister Jean has been drawn to know and love God more deeply in the wonders of the universe, whether she is looking up to the night sky or examining molecules under a microscope.

One little-known chapter of Sister Jean’s life is her work in the laboratory.  In 1972, when plans were being made for the Apollo 11 space capsule’s trip to the moon, Sister Jean received a grant  from the National Science Foundation to be part of a team to develop analytical methods for studying the rock samples to be retrieved from the surface of the moon.

In her research for her Master’s degree, Sister Jean and colleagues had been examining the organic geochemistry of shale from the ancient seabeds under portions of the Midwest.  These seabeds included deposits of shale in Kansas.   By examining these 300-plus-million-year-old shale samples, Jean and her colleagues sought to understand the chemical evolution of the rock, including

the development of life-supporting compounds that were found in the fossils and the events that occurred in ancient times.  The methods for studying these rocks were an excellent parallel for studying the lunar rocks.  (For an article about the team’s results, see Kansas Geological Survey

Sister Jean recently authored one of the RDC White Plains Patch blog entries, “God and the Universe” (Click on title to see the article).

Preston Students with Katie Couric and Jennifer Lopez

October 5, 2012

Four Preston High School students were guests on the Katie Couric Show on September 14.  Preston Alumna Jennifer Lopez (PHS ’87) was special guest for the day, and the girls were invited to join her.

The show had contacted Gianna Dell’Olio, PHS Director of Advancement, to discuss reconnecting Ms. Lopez with her alma mater during the show.  After seeing tapes of recent Preston theatrical performances, the show’s staff invited the four girls –   Seniors Gabrielle Cruz, Angela Fragale, and Amanda Socia and Sophomore Quori-Tyler Bullock – to appear with Jennifer Lopez.

With only a few days notice, the students choreographed a one minute dance to “Dance Again”, Lopez’s most recent hit song, unaware that they would not only appear with Ms. Lopez but also perform on the show.

Katie Couric announced that it was the 25th anniversary of Jennifer Lopez’ graduation from Preston and warmly welcomed the students. Then the students met Jennifer Lopez herself.

Ms. Dell’Olio reports: “Lopez was extremely proud and excited to see the girls and ended the segment by giving each one a hug and big congratulations!  Afterwards, she took time to sign a copy of the 1987 Preston High School Yearbook and take photos with the future stars.  The positive feelings abounded later that evening when Lopez tweeted a photo of herself wearing her new maroon and white garb (gifts from the students) and sharing warm sentiments for all Prestonites!

Last Memories of Summer

September 19, 2012

PHS Big Sisters & PCC Little Sisters and friends attend a Yankee Game

This summer, Preston Center of Compassion was thrilled to receive a donation from the NY Yankees, along with 100 tickets to attend a game at Yankee stadium.   Sister Patricia Warner, RDC,  Director of PCC, shared these tickets Divine Compassion employees, board members and Preston High School families.

    In addition, Sister Patricia and Sister Carol  Wagner, RDC, invited 14 Little Sisters fromThrogs Neck Public Housing to attend a baseball game for the very first time.

Trisha O’Donnell (graduate of St. John’s School in Mahopac and Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers — both “RDC” schools) and Susan O’Dwyer  (graduate of St. Frances de Chantal School and Preston) — both shown in the picture at right– are teachers at PS 72, Throgs Neck and were the adult mentors of the Big Sister Little Sister program this year.

As they experienced Divine Compassion throughout their elementary and high school years, they are involved in continuing the Divine Compassion mission educating young children in our local Bronx community.

   As the pictures show – fun was had by all!

Summer 2012 Compassion in Action

September 1, 2012

Summer time and the livin’ is easy…well, sort of.  Here are some RDC summer happenings that kept the energy a-movin’ all over “our world”:
(This entry thanks to Lucille Coldrick, RDC)

As Sisters Pam Wagner and Fran Liston’s Mustard Seed Ministry continued into the summer months, they were joined by many volunteers, including Barbara Heil, RDC, Steve Schmidt, ADC, and Company (week 1: 5 Kennedy Catholic High School female students; week 2, 6 students), who spent the weeks of July 16 and August 13 in Goshen, engaging the 50 – 60 eager young participants.

Each day began with “circle time” – lesson and prayer, followed by small group engagement in crafts, including rainy-day origami and lanyards led by Steve; sports, story-telling, etc. and, of course, given the heat wave that week, fun and games in the pool.  (Rumor has it that Barbara the Chef has a big role to play in the week’s success!)  Great time for the Goshen youngsters and quality service, new friends, and memories for the Kennedy
students!  GOOOO, Gaels!


Good Counsel Academy High School was the proud host of a Summit Leadership Academy for Girls, a program developed and led by GCA graduate, Imma De Stefanis, RSCJ and Reyna Gonzalez, RSCJ, during the week of August 5-11.  The program focused on leadership training from the perspective of servant leadership and covered such topics as:  exploring personal leadership style in light of personality and temperament; social contexts of leadership; solidarity and compassion; power – a look at gender, race and culture; and the spiritual and ethical dimensions of leadership.

Participants from our high schools, GCA and Preston, engaged in hands-on activities and presentations, jointly constructing new and more nuanced meaning around leadership and what it requires.  Each day a female guest speaker addressed a particular aspect of leadership from her own experience, serving the added purpose of exposing the girls to professional career options.

The girls were also led through a process that taught them project design, implementation and assessment, with each participant developing a project that she can implement in her school, Church or community.  Some examples: Anti-bullying campaign in school, raising awareness about autism, healthy eating and nutrition for children, and self-harm prevention among teenage girls.

The girls were given an immediate opportunity to put their new leadership and public speaking skills to work by planning and leading the entire closing event on Saturday, August 11th, with family, friends, and some RDCs in attendance.  Sr. Imma comments: “They organized themselves flawlessly!” with PowerPoint presentations that included an overview of each project, rationale, resource assessment, means for obtaining needed resources, a budget and expected outcomes.  Whew!

Further commentary: Imma and Reyna spoke of their 10-year experience offering this project to college students and young adults in the U.S., Mexico, and Haiti. They saluted this group of girls at GCA as “pioneers,” the first group of high school participants in the program, applauding the group’s openness, maturity and earnest desire to learn.   Students and parents commented on how the program far exceeded anything they had expected or imagined. Special thanks were offered to Laura Donovan, RDC, and Julie Kaen of GCA, “whose interest and support made the project possible.”  All lived first-hand the Summit Leadership Academy’s tag lineLeadership is action, not position.

Perhaps next year will bring a new group of potential leaders to the program. As a special outreach to the future, let’s all work on informing and encouraging high school girls to participate in the Leadership Academy.  This year’s participants so loved the experience that they volunteered to return next year as “mentors.” Goooo, Cougars and Panthers!


Meanwhile, Good Counsel also hosted the Rainbow Connection Summer Program.  Director Gina Nieves describes it: “Founded by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion (in 1990), the program is geared at providing children from predominantly low-income, immigrant families with a compassionate and nurturing environment in which to grow and explore. The primary aim of the program is to offer children an affordable yet invaluable summer experience.  Throughout six weeks of fun, children are exposed to age-appropriate academic, artistic, and athletic activities by a caring, supportive, and mostly bilingual staff.”

Among special celebrations were an Independence Day picnic, with children dressed in red, white, and blue. . . Topsy-Turvey Day with intentionally mismatched outfits on parade. . . Pajama Day. . . and Costume Day.  The climax came on August 3 with the Annual Family Picnic and Crazy Hat Day, with families bringing lots of interesting dishes and a cooling down visit from the ice cream truck carrying free ice cream for all!


In the Bronx, the Preston Center of Compassion’s annual Summer Recreational Program, was run by Patricia Warner, RDC, Program Administrator, and teachers and coaches Marge McEvoy, ADC, Director, and Mike Houlihan, Assistant Director.  It is the strong purpose of PCC that all services and programs, including this one, are targeted to those youth and families who are most in need in the east Bronx.

A grant from the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund Inc. enabled PCC to offer low-income family campers camp scholarships and to feed all campers and staff breakfast, lunch, and healthful snacks.  The grant also enabled PCC to be the first community agency in the Bronx to use the funds towards creating a Physical Fitness Component to the camp program, based on the President’s Challenge Program.   Campers tested their heart rates, developed a palate for healthy foods and snacks and learned how to stay physically fit and avoid health risks such as diabetes and obesity.  The camper’s families expressed deep gratitude for this new facet of the camp, and PCC is committed to seek grants to continue this for next year’s program.

Other summer activities at Preston Center of Compassion included:
A Leadership in Compassion Award Ceremony in June, honoring New York City Councilman James Vacca for his longstanding commitment to the Senior Run Program through PCC, which offers outreach services to homebound seniors in Throggs Neck.

— Inauguration of the Fr. Bill Collins Mentoring Fund to underwrite the PCC Big Sister/Little Sister Program for elementary students from Throggs Neck Housing who are tutored by PHS students.

The Annual Fundraising Dinner and Raffle, with Leadership In Compassion Awards presented to Carol Wagner, RDC, for founding PCC Counseling services in 1991 and for providing counseling services on a sliding scale to families and children for over 20 years; and to Tom and Lyn Scheuring of Lamp Ministries, for service to the material poor in New York City for over 30 years. (The Scheurings are also the parents of two Preston High School graduates, Maria ’89 and Malissa ’90, and are proud grandparents of their daughters’ children).

Preston Big Sister Mentors Visit Their Little Sisters At PS 72

April 19, 2012

On Tuesday, March 27, fifteen Preston High School “Big Sister Mentors” surprised their 15 “Little Sisters” by visiting them at their local elementary school, PS 72 in the Bronx.  Sister Carol Wagner and Sister Patricia Warner, directors of the program, which is sponsored by Preston Center of Compassion, accompanied the girls.

The fifteen Little Sisters were honored and presented with award certificates.  Ms. Margarita Colon, PS 72 principal, and Ms. Melissa Beatty, PS 72 guidance counselor, commended each girl for her dedication to the program and to her ongoing commitment to service, leadership, compassion and academic excellence.

The Little Sisters meet with their Big Sister Mentors each Tuesday at Preston, where they do homework together and engage in recreation, creative arts, and other leadership, service and community building activities.


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