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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 8, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
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Sisters bid farewell to Oakland Diocese

Sister Marie Myers, left, and Sister Madeline Antoskiewicz have been serving in the Diocese of Oakland — at St. Joachim, St. Raymond and St. Barnabas parishes — since the late 1960s. Now they are returning to Ohio.
José Luis Aguirre photo

Sister Mary Myers and Sister Madeline Antoskiewicz

: 10:30 a.m. Mass Aug. 7

: St. Barnabas Church, 1427 Sixth St., Alameda

: A reception follows in the parish hall

“Let’s take a ride to California.”

With those words, spoken in Polish in 1967 by the mother superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Third Order of St. Francis in the Midwest, a ministry began that has touched the lives of generations of elementary school students in the Diocese of Oakland.

Those extraordinary four decades come to a close this month, as Sister Marie Myers and Sister Madeline Antoskiewicz return to Ohio. After teaching at St. Joachim in Hayward, St. Raymond in Dublin, which they opened, and St. Barnabas in Alameda, their assignment is retirement.

“We’re so-called retired but you always find something to do,” Sister Madeline said. “You help out wherever you can.” The sisters have remained active in parish life at St. Barnabas, where Sister Marie was principal of the school and Sister Madeline was director of religious education. In addition to being faithful collection-counters, they’ve served on the social committee.

“They’ve done a lot for this parish,” Father Dana Michaels, parochial administrator of St. Barnabas, said. “They are very much involved,” he said. “They’re lovely ladies and have been helpful in so many ways.”

Parishioners at St. Barnabas Church in Alameda, where the sisters have ministered for the last 10 years, are planning a farewell event. Bishop Emeritus John Cummins will celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7. A reception in the parish hall will follow. People from St. Joachim and St. Raymond parishes are invited to the celebration.

Packing up a house that contains so many years of memories hasn’t been easy. One of their most treasured possessions is a black-and-white photo Bishop Floyd Begin inscribed to the sisters. “That comes with us,” Sister Madeline said.

The sisters’ call to Oakland — Sister Madeline arrived a year later, in 1968 — came at the request of Bishop Begin, the Diocese of Oakland’s first bishop.

When the Benedictine sisters of Mount Angel, Oregon, were leaving St. Joachim School, Sister Marie said, “Bishop Begin told the pastor, ‘I have sisters for you.’ He knew our community very well because he was from Cleveland.”

In the summer of ’67, Sister Marie had finished her bachelor’s degree. Her next assignment, she thought, was to be at a school in Cleveland. Meanwhile, she was participating in a summer of service at the convent. She was a driver. On returning from driving sisters, she noticed a group saying goodbye to two sisters who had just received orders to go to California. It was Aug. 10, the day sisters received their obediences.

Sister Marie’s driving duties that day were not finished. “Mother Superior said, ‘Take me over to the hospital to visit the sick.’ ”

In the car, they talked about the sisters leaving for California. “Out of the blue, I say, ‘Gee, I wouldn’t mind going there some time,’” Sister Marie recalled.

She didn’t know that one of the four sisters who was being sent to California didn’t want to go.

Later that day, as Sister Marie was in the dining room, “Mother Superior said to me in Polish, ‘Oh, let’s take a ride to California.’ And I said, ‘Sure, any time you’re ready, I’ll take you.’ Then I went to do dishes and one of the sisters said to me, ‘How do you like your appointment?’ That was an appointment? Then I got scared.”

She waited until all the sisters had left, and approached Mother Superior. “She needed an intermediate teacher and someone who could drive, and I fit the bill.”

Sister Marie spent 17 years at St. Joachim, and Sister Madeline 16, before being asked to do something that had not been done in the diocese for more than 20 years: Open a school at St. Raymond.

By the time construction was completed, the sisters were off to their next assignment.

“St. Barnabas became a challenge, too,” Sister Marie said. “We came in after the Navy base closed. The biggest challenge was to try to keep the enrollment up.”

The year after she left, the school closed. “It was a great little school,” she said, “but you can’t run a school with 70 kids.”

Now the two sisters, each of whom entered the community at the completion of eighth grade, are headed home.

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