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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Sister Norbert celebrates 60 years of religious service"

Sister Mary Norbert McNamee will celebrate 60 years as a nun this Sunday with a Mass and reception at Sacred Heart Church in Monroe.

MONROE — A feisty nun who has spent the last 35 years at Sacred Heart Church in Monroe will celebrate the 60th anniversary of her entrance into the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill this Sunday, June 1 with a Mass and reception.

Sister Mary Norbert McNamee, O.P., joined the Dominican Sisters on Sept. 8, 1948, and since that time has ministered to untold numbers of people and taught countless students. She’s one of three girls from the same family to become nuns with the same order within three years of each other.

Before joining Sacred Heart in 1973, Sister Norbert taught grades two through nine in schools in the Diocese of Syracuse and the Archdiocese of New York, including St. Paul’s in Norwich and at St. Paul’s in Congers in Rockland County. Though she has retired from full-time teaching, she keeps busy as the church’s sacristan and visiting students daily at the Sacred Heart School.

Sister Norbert isn’t used to being the center of attention.

“I don’t like the limelight,” she said. “I’d rather just do my thing helping others and let others be in the limelight. I’m a little bit nervous. It’s unexpected.”

But her friends feel the honor is a well-deserved one.

“She takes her vocation very seriously,” said close friend Kay Lamb of Monroe. “She’s an exemplary sister and she has a wonderful sense of humor.”

The Rev. Carl Johnson, Sacred Heart’s former pastor who is current pastor at St. Augustine’s Church in New City, will lead the Mass. The Rev. Tom Byrnes, Sacred Heart’s pastor, will give the homily.

The Rev. Jeff Mauer, a Sacred Heart priest, has worked with Sister Norbert for the past three years. “She’s part of the ‘greatest generation,’” Mauer said, ”with her dedication to Sacred Heart School and to her religious order and to her Catholic faith. She’s spent her life dedicated to others. She’s as sharp as a tack and as feisty as they come. You can’t pull one over on her.”

Sister Norbert has no intention of slowing down. She declined to give her age. “Let’s just keep that a secret.”

“Why would I want to slow down?” Sister Norbert said. “That’s when you become stagnant. God has blessed me with so many blessings that I can’t even count them.”

Sister Norbert’s lively demeanor took on a serious note when asked what advice she would give others.

“Spirituality is a personal thing and religious life is a personal thing,” she said. “But we all have to have a more prayerful life. We are holy when we do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. That encompasses your whole life day in and day out.”

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