By Sr. Jude Carroll, CSFN
At age 87, one would think anyone would be ready to sit and pray and read and enjoy whatever time God has left for her. Not our Sr. Roberta Garczynski. After years of study at Nazareth Academy; Holy Family Teacher Training; Holy Family College, now Holy Family University, as well as at Villanova and Holy Cross universities, Sr. Roberta was well prepared to teach at every level, especially in the sciences.
For 54 years, Sr. Roberta was a beloved teacher and principal. How do we know that? We know because "her boys" still travel from Worcester, MA to Monroe, CT several times a year to tell her how much they love her and want to thank her for all she did for them. So the question remains, why would this Sister have journeyed from science to accounting in her ninth decade?
After closing St. Mary's Convent in Worcester in 2004, Sr. Roberta and Sr. Dulcissima Kolakowski moved to the IHM Provincialate in Monroe. The treasurer at that time, Sr. Jeanette Martell, asked Sr. Roberta to help with some paperwork, primarily filling out a variety of forms for the Sisters.
Completing forms and having Sisters sign them led to meetings and phone calls to the gentleman who handled the Sisters, Medicare HMO coverage. Those who answered the phones in Monroe knew whom they needed to page when the caller asked for "Sister Sunshine."
When a change occurred in our HMO plan, Sr. Rose Marie Machalski asked Sr. Roberta to help with another project. With the dedication and perseverance that Sister showed through her teaching years -- traveling to Bishop Ford High School on buses and subways when most others would be looking to retire, she now called on the Holy Spirit for enlightenment as she looked at bank statements and had to figure out who the payments were for and whether they were from Social Security, a pension or from some other source. Sr. Roberta worked up her own system to record all of the data that Sr. Rose Marie needed at the Des Plaines Provincialate. With a laugh she says, "Who would have thought science would lead to accounting in my old age?"
In addition to the hours that Sister is at her desk organizing all of these numbers, she also answers the phone and doorbell in the convent. Her hearing is a problem but she does her best to answer a caller's questions or find the person they need to speak to or take excellent and clear messages. Again, a sign of her continued desire to serve the community in any way she can.
With the same spirit and desire to serve that Sr. Roberta exhibited in her days as an educator, she carries out whatever tasks she is given that help our Nazareth. In her own words, we see who she was and who she is today:
"I feel most alive today when, in my present situation, I am visited by my former high school students who are now prosperous and even retired professionals in their fields. Their reminiscence of our past days enables me to realize I have made a definite impact on their lives and the lives of their families."
And when we see Sister at her desk which is covered in bank statements and sheets of paper, we can say that she is still having an impact at the young age of 87! Thank you, Sr. Roberta.