The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate kicked off their 100th anniversary celebration with a Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan at their Marycrest motherhouse in Monroe Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“It was beautiful,” Mother Maria Catherine Iannotti, P.V.M.I., told CNY. “We had to scale it down because originally it was supposed to be in (St. Patrick’s) Cathedral and we were supposed to have all our family and friends there. Because of Covid, we were not able to do that.”
Mother Maria Catherine said the sisters are planning a Mass at the cathedral to cap the centennial next year.
The Mass was livestreamed to family, friends and members of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate around the world.
Mother Maria Catherine said the cardinal’s homily beautifully captured the spirit the sisters bring to their service.
“He understood our charism and he understood the vision of our foundress. He understood and nailed down our contemplative-missionary charism, and the fact we are called to have a deep relationship with Christ and then that deep relationship with Christ fuels the flame of love to bring to those persons we meet in parishes that we go to.”
The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, a contemplative-missionary congregation founded by Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, began their service in Manhattan on Aug. 15, 1920, with the blessing of Cardinal Patrick Hayes, then the Archbishop of New York. Mother Mary Teresa’s cause for canonization was opened in the Archdiocese of New York in 2013 and two years later the diocesan phase was completed and thousands of pages of documents were sent to the Vatican.
In the first 10 years after their founding, the sisters visited an estimated 100,000 homes to offer an invitation to come home to individuals who may have fallen away from the practice of their faith.
“For any order, it would be so special (to celebrate 100 years),” said Mother Maria Catherine, who was elected to a five-year term as general superior in 2017. “Every milestone whether it’s 25, 50 or 100 years is a great gift from God to us and to the Church. Our founders struggled to begin the community, so that we have persevered in living our vocation faithfully for all these years is a great grace for us, and God has been with us all these years even though there are times we’ve been very small like now.” The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate currently have about 55 sisters.
“The Lord uses the small and weak to do great and mighty things for the Church and for the kingdom. To be able to celebrate the great gift our foundress is and the early sisters were for the Church and our community, we know we would not be here if it were not for their sacrifices. You know, there is a saying, ‘We stand on the shoulder of giants,’ and we really do.”
The sisters continue to carry out their mission from Marycrest in Monroe as well as from convents in the Bronx, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nigeria and the Philippines.
“I am praying for an increase in our vocation,” Mother Maria Catherine said. “There are many priests who want our sisters to assist them. I would love to see our sisters on every continent. Our vocation is very timely today and because of that we need more sisters.
“My one dream is the Lord will send us the vocations that are there. I believe there are vocations for our community; they just need to know about us. I hope getting out there will bring young women to us because we love our vocation.”
The coronavirus pandemic has hampered the sisters’ ability to visit homes and hold person-to-person meetings. An end to the pandemic will change this and give the sisters the opportunity for an 100th anniversary celebration as originally intended with family and friends at a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Mass is scheduled for Aug. 15, 2021.
“We’re going to invite the world and really celebrate next year,” Mother Maria Catherine said.