By Lorraine Cooper, SC
Once an educator and director of religious education (DRE), always an educator and DRE—a perfect portrayal of Sister Mary Adele Henzes’ life as a Sister of Charity. Even after retirement, her mind and heart are immersed in the changing plight of families today. She echoes Pope Francis’ vision of a Church that reaches out to help heal the difficult challenges people face. Vatican II called it, “reading the signs of the times.” “We cannot remain stuck in the past,” she says. “Today people are hungry for a relationship with God that moves beyond rote prayer.” As she has always done, she prays for wisdom and tries to maintain warm relationships with her large family and lay contacts, especially since the move to Mount Saint Vincent Convent where she now lives.
Among her Sisters at the convent, Sister Mary Adele tries to live the reminder given to her by her father, “You can’t give kindness away, because it keeps coming back.” She expresses this by being a volunteer driver, taking Sisters shopping or to a medical appointment in a manner that reassures them that she is happy to do so. She encourages them to ask, no matter the hour or the destination. She is sensitive to their needs, especially those who no longer drive. She also delights in driving staff members home on Sundays when bus transportation is spotty.
Living with fifty-two Sisters, Sister Mary Adele’s current wish is to build community, and “Getting to Know You” is a perfect theme. Her kindness shows in her appreciation and recognition of the many gifts of her Sisters, which she sees as complementary and enriching their lives together. An encounter with a Sister having difficulties in adjusting to a new residences draws from Sister Mary Adele an understanding presence. She is also aware of the multiple pressures in the lives of the staff. All of this is often lightened by her ability to make people laugh with her quick wit, fun-loving spirit, and letting others know that she enjoys their company.
Sister Mary Adele’s dreams for the Mission of Charity to be lived into the future would be for our continued involvement in the ever-changing needs of society, particularly by prayer to the Holy Spirit for wisdom. She sees the Sisters of Charity answering the call of Pope Francis—to be a Church that helps heal the difficult challenges people face—in collaboration with our colleagues, Associates, the Federation, and the Vincentian Family.
Ed. Note: Sister Mary Adele taught at St. Paul, Brooklyn (1954–55), St. Ignatius Loyola, Manhattan (1955–57), and St. John the Evangelist, White Plains (1957–65). She was principal at Holy Trinity, Mamaroneck (1965–71), and served as guidance counselor at Nativity (1971–72), Visitation (1972–73), and St. Barnabas (1980–89) in the Bronx, and St. Gabriel HS, New Rochelle (1973–80). She was director of religious education at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scarsdale (1989–2005), and volunteered at Holy Name Convent (2005–16), and Ursuline Outreach (2009–16) in New Rochelle.