Sister Therese Marie Camardella, CSJ
The youngest of thirteen children, I was born, baptized, raised and educated in Brooklyn, New York. My mother had prayed to the Little Flower for another daughter and nine months after she made the Novena to St. Therese in our parish Church of St. Teresa, I was born in June of 1928 and baptized with the name Teresa.
My mother and I were inseparable and she brought me with her to daily Mass, afternoon and evening novenas and she and my father, together with the Sisters of St. Joseph who ministered in our parish elementary school, gave me a wonderful foundation in my faith formation as did our family life with my brothers and one sister. The Holy Spirit guided me to discern my religious vocation in elementary school and I attended the Juniorate, the High School of the Sisters of St. Joseph for young women who felt they were called to enter the Congregation.
Throughout my years in elementary and high school I had serious vision problems and when I first applied to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph, I was rejected, because my optician had predicted that with close work, I would be blind in a very short time. One of the Sisters in the Juniorate sent me to another optician and after evaluation, he wrote to the Congregation and said that he would be able to maintain my vision as it was and so I was finally accepted. I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1946 and throughout my seventy-two-year blessed journey with our Loving God, wonderful Sisters and many other companions, feel gratitude and praise for the wonder of it all.
After the Novitiate I served in many Brooklyn parishes where I delighted in teaching the primary grades and preparing parents and children for First Holy Communion. In 1957 I was missioned to Puerto Rico, had to learn the Spanish language which I needed both to complete my college studies in Catholic University in Ponce and to teach my enthusiastic students who had many a laugh as I struggled to become proficient in their language and culture. Once that happened, I was asked to open an elementary school in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and later a high school for girls there, in collaboration with the Jesuits who were already established in the area. Furthering the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of love, unity and reconciliation as Foundress and Principal in these schools and working with such dedicated persons in another culture was, for me, an extraordinary opportunity and grace as were my years in leadership of my Congregation who were serving in Puerto Rico and eventually opening a Novitiate in Puerto Rico for Puerto Rican women who wished to join our Congregation.
Intermittently, I did have a few vision emergencies and had some retinal surgeries, all successful, which permitted me to continue my ministry. In 1982 I was recalled to the United States and served for eight years in Congregational leadership before I transitioned to preparing myself for hospital chaplaincy. I served more than twenty years as a chaplain at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, full time, part-time and later as a volunteer, accompanying the sick and the dying and their families, praying with them, listening to their hearts and assuring them of the power and presence of a Loving God even when they are not sensing that Presence.
Now at ninety years of age, my sight continues to fail. I cherish the time I have for more hours of adoration, to be present to our parishioners as we meet on a daily basis and to “just be.” The recent acquisition of my Eye Pal has enabled me to keep up with Congregational correspondence, to access magazines and books and stay connected. I have been challenged with vision problems all my life and they have progressively worsened during the aging process. My Eye Pal is now enabling me to attend to Congregational Communications without waiting for someone to read them to me and to listen to magazine articles and books that I am interested in. This ability has brightened my whole sense of independence and self-worth and is a contributing factor to my overall sense of well-being. I am very grateful for the added participation it gives me in life and living. I admit that the first time I heard it I was shocked to hear the text I placed on the platform read out loud in a clear, distinct voice. May all those who made this possible, especially the SOAR! Donors be blessed.