The passing of Sr. Concetta marks the end of an era. Sr. Concetta is the last of those very first sisters who came to the US in the initial years of our foundation—in the period immediately following the arrival of our first sisters until our "transfer" to Boston. For Sr. Concetta these were the "Derby New York years" because that is where she arrived in 1949, shortly after WWII, as a young perpetual professed of 33 years old.
Sr. Concetta was one of the original group of 7 sisters prepared in theology for the writing apostolate by the Founder, Blessed James Alberione. And I am certain that the Founder must be very pleased with how Sr. Concetta used the gift she received—investing it over and over again! She authored and edited so many books and articles, filled with the desire to make the message of Jesus known.
She also filled many roles in her long religious life: dean of studies, director of editorial, author, teacher, novice mistress, local superior, provincial superior and more. But it seems to me that the need to write and make the faith known was what she felt most passionately. And she also encouraged others to write and contribute to editorial. How often she repeated in our formation years, that if we studied we had to give back by writing.
Among other things, I had Sr. Concetta as a teacher. One day I recounted in class a sad event that happened to one of my relatives and that really bothered me. After I finished she said in a voice that left no room for doubt: "There are not seven sacraments, but eight. The eighth sacrament is ignorance and it will save more than the other seven. Remember, God is mercy and His heart is greater than ours. Let us make Him known!" Needless to say, I never forgot that statement.
Even though Sr. Concetta was not my novice mistress, she did teach a couple of classes to our novitiate group. The phrase I remember most from these classes was one she repeated often: "Love Jesus with an undivided heart."
The Sr. Concetta I knew in the early years was stern, rather formidable, not very playful or humorous, very concerned about faithfulness to the Church and totally committed to whatever the founders and the superiors said. I knew a woman very devoted and faithful to Mother Paula, a woman in love with the Church, with the Pope and, above all, with Jesus.
There were many surprising exceptions to the rule of her sternness... Sr. Bernardine, remembering Sr. Concetta writes: "Anyone who worked with Sr. Concetta knows that one of the hardest things was to edit something she wrote. Every word was important and it pained her to have to condense an article.... But a magazine was only so many pages so she had to cut things out. I remember going once up to Mother Paula's office to show Sr. Concetta a blueprint. Mother Paula was busy writing to the local communities and turned us out. Sr . Concetta reached for a pen to make corrections. My response was, "Oh, no you don't. It's too late to make corrections now. We don't print on elastic paper so you can't add anything else." We started bantering back and forth. At one point Mother Paula looked over at me and scolded me for answering Sr. Concetta that way. Sr. Concetta piped up and said, "That's ok. It used to be that if I said anything to her, she would just start crying. Now, at least, we can have some good arguments!” She even shocked Mother Paula with her response!"
As she aged, Sr. Concetta mellowed, becoming more playful, showing her feelings more, especially her tenderness and care. Her great love for Jesus in the Eucharist (which was always characteristic of her), became more and more evident. Sr. Mary Joseph recalls: "Last year, probably late last summer, I encountered Sr. Concetta in the hallway outside the little chapel on the second floor. As she slowly made her way to the chapel door she told me, "My longing for God grows." Yes, you could see it in her eyes and in her desire to spend long, silent moments in his presence. I have been repeatedly impressed by the tenderness and the reality of our older sisters' love for Jesus."
In these last months of her life how often she spoke of Jesus and his love! And how many kisses she threw him! She was a veritable contemplative.
A few hours before Sr. Nazarene died, Sr. Concetta said to her almost indignantly, "You are going to Jesus before me! Tell him not to forget me." Well, Dearest, he certainly did not forget you.
Sr. Concetta, as we consign your body to the tomb, we imagine your soul soaring to God - no longer throwing him kisses, but being embraced and kissed by him and gazing in that Face you so longed to see.
You were always concerned about vocations... Remember us now and inspire many young women to have the courage to risk all for Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom, who can never be outdone in love or generosity. Thank you, Sr. Concetta for all you shared and were for us. You will be greatly missed.
Sr. M. Leonora, FSP
Funeral Eulogy, April 24, 2012