Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year to ALL

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Dear Ones,

This is sent with the hope that you and your families and communities are enjoying these special days; that they have enriched your relationships, extended your love and made memories for a lifetime. As I begin to write and look back on this year I am amazed at the amount and variety of events that have transpired; all the challenges, all the joys, all the new experiences (some that I would not trade at all and others that I could have easily done without). Where does the time go and how does life get so complicated?

Late in 2013 we welcomed Matilda Anne Pleva, daughter of Teresa and Andrew, into the world. She appears above back in October with her adoring cousin Nicholas, son of Kim and Jonathan, and now almost 11 years old. Here he is in another picture with his brother Benjamin who just celebrated his 8th birthday. Jonathan and family moved from Waterbury, CT to Chelmsford, MA to which he was transferred as a Boy Scout Council Executive. Theirs is a very busy family.
Now little Matilda has a new cousin who arrived on November 1, 2014, Harrison Cooper Pleva, son of Heidi and Matthew. He is just adorable and I can’t wait to get my hands on him again. Heidi and Matthew also juggle a great deal in their lives with regular jobs and their shop “Art Riot” on John Street in Kingston. Matt’s tour de force this year was painting an outdoor mural (35 x 65ft.) depicting historic Kingston and the Old Dutch Church. Hard on the heels of Harrison’s birth came the installation of another holiday window designed by Matt for the Blue Cashew shop in Rhinebeck.
Teresa and Andrew are about to close on purchase of a house whose history will be a blessing to them. In a few weeks they will moved into 41 Lafayette Avenue, Kingston just 2 blocks from the house in which Andrew grew up and where Matthew and family live now. Everyone really wanted to be near each other and create family for the children. The 1920s vintage house belonged for over 50 years to a couple who were pillars of the church and most generous souls so a loving spirit will surround them there. The house which was very well maintained has an extra bedroom and full bath on the first floor, a wrap-around porch, three 2nd floor bedrooms and a walk-up attic with some finished space and built-in cedar closet. The new life and new homes are answers to prayer and a call to gratitude at the end of this year.
There were challenges too during which the appeal to God was for the gifts of wisdom and compassion. In May my mother who was being treated for pneumonia fell during the night in her assisted living bedroom. She got a bad gash on her head and lay in a pool of blood for a long time. Nothing was broken but she required hospitalization for a week and then nursing home placement to recoup from the fall and the pneumonia. So I searched for a better choice than the 3 other nursing homes she has spent time in during the last 2 years. We settled on Putnam Ridge in Brewster, NY about a 35 minute drive from me and an hour less in travel time then to Tuxedo for my sister living in Connecticut. Rose was still heavily involved in the task of selling my parents’ house. That was accomplished in July.
When my mother went to the nursing home she just wanted to be left alone to sleep and had to be fed at meals. We assured the staff that she was walking independently the day before her fall and would come back to life. By the middle of July she had indeed become herself but all agreed she could no longer live safely in assisted living. So Putnam Ridge has become her permanent home.
No sooner was the decision made than we learned that her brother, my Uncle Joseph Milazzo age 82, had collapsed in a laundromat in Margate, FL near his home. I flew down on July, 26. His condition was very poor and it was clear that he could not live alone any longer. I worked furiously to get necessary legal documents created, organize his papers, put his condo into some order, dispose of a great deal and supervise his care as he went from hospital to nursing home, back to hospital and then back to nursing home in the space of 2 weeks. Since he was too ill to travel on a commercial plane and I was unable to stay in Florida permanently, we decided to fly him to NY via private air ambulance jet and place him in the nursing home with my mother. They enjoyed a loving reunion in mid-August. But his condition continued to deteriorate. Although we knew his condition was poor we were surprised by his sudden death on October 3rd. He now rests in St. John’s Cemetery in Queens where his mother was buried in 1932 when he was just 3 months old. My uncle worked hard all of his life as a master carpet mechanic. He never married; he lived well but not extravagantly. He played the market and later settled into reliable investments. As generous as he was in life he could be as generous in death. At this time both my sister and I are dealing with all the responsibilities which follow upon the deaths of both my uncle my father. We have learned a great deal; everything is very complicated even with the aid of lawyers and accountants.
My mother is being well taken care of but the sight of her in the Memory Wing of the nursing home among patients with similar dementia symptoms and many others so much farther along the way in their gradual total departure from reality is often difficult to bare. I remind myself that her manner indicates that she is nothing but content and feeling safe. She walks with a walker but is getting even slower. She does not remember that her brother was there and she rarely asks about my father. We worry only about falls and pneumonia.
For years I have not traveled too much with exception of trip to Ireland in 2011. This year brought trips to Sioux Falls, SD in January to transfer our sewing business to another community; to Indianapolis, IN for an Association of Contemplative Sisters leadership meeting; to Florida during the summer; and to St. Louis in September for ACS national meeting. While these were all lovely experiences I find air travel very uncomfortable and arduous.
A month before the trip to Florida I had hip surgery to correct some unanticipated problems after hip replacement in 2010 – residual pain from a muscle rubbing against the artificial hip joint and also a bone spur beneath it. Surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases was a great experience – just a 2 day stay.
Our community continues to live the blessing of sharing a monastery with the Carmelite nuns. In May we moved our three sisters from assisted living in Mt. Vernon, NY to the infirmary (Lourdes Health Care) of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Wilton CT. Sr. Mary had begun to experience seriously declining health. We supported her through a number of hospitalizations both before and after the move to Wilton. Our much beloved sister passed into the arms of God on December 9. So at this writing, as we decorate for Christmas, we are still processing the loss of our sister. In February, we had supported the Carmelites in their loss of Sr. Michael Ann, a very dear and wise person who was the first prioress of the union of three Carmelite communities which came together here in 1998.

Each day I seem to be playing catch up with the list of things to do; paper work and phone calls for family matters, secretarial work for the community, household chores, managing our various sites on the internet (see links below), writing for blogs and other publications, knitting for our on-line shop and for the new babies in my life. But distractions abound and other things come along to take precedence. I try to visit my mother once a week. When I can I find time to do the writing I am drawn to – opinion or memoire pieces that I publish to my blog, an essay for our Order’s international publication, and lately meaningful obituaries.
So often I find myself moving into default mode and thinking I should call Dad and Mom about some article I have seen that would interest them; share a story about the new ones in the family; tell them about something wonderful I found among my uncle’s things; ask for a recipe or practical advice; or seek philosophical discussion of the fate of our world. Then I face the fact that none of this is possible any longer. I have passed into the mode of being the one who receives those calls from my own children who want to share an achievement, recount the vagaries of the home buying experience these days, tell of a child’s new stage of development, or ask about advisable treatment for childhood illness. All very gratifying, but also reminding of years passing all too quickly. Another reminder came in the death of my father’s best friend, Vito Capuco of Annapolis, MD in September. They met at City College in 1948. As I moved among his dear family and their many friends at wake and funeral the memories came in almost overwhelming waves.
I look forward to the year 2015 which will include some travel, time to do some things pushed aside for too long. It will include celebration of our Sr. Lydia’s 50th jubilee of vows; Jonathan running in the Boston Marathon in a fundraising effort on behalf of a charity which emerged from the Newtown tragedy; Teresa and Andrew moving into their new home.
Have been praying for all of you throughout  the Advent Season, our Christmas Novena and these days of the solemn feast of the Incarnation. I am drawn particularly to the needs of long married couples experiencing the challenges of ageing, the suffering of refugees and those enduring violence of any kind, as well as the fate of our planet.
Thank you for the gift you are to me and for the continuing relationship which is only blessing. Best wishes to you and yours for the coming year. Stay in touch. It means so much.

May God bless us all.    
With the assurance of prayers and with much love,

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

Obituary Tribute to
Sister Mary McCaffrey

1927 - 2014

“I have found heaven on earth, since heaven
 is God, and God is in my soul. My mission
 in heaven will be to draw souls, helping
them to go out of themselves to cling to God.”
Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

Sister Mary Teresa McCaffrey of the Redemptoristine community residing in the Monastery of the Incarnation, Beacon, NY, died on December 9, 2014 at Lourdes Health Care Center,  infirmary of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Wilton, CT at the age of 87 years following a lengthy illness. Sister Mary was the first of four children born to Teresa Alice Taylor and Daniel Joseph McCaffrey on October 6, 1927 in Brooklyn, NY. She is survived by her brothers Daniel and Gerard (Barbara) and a sister Kathleen (John Janny), twelve nieces and nephews, their fifteen children and eight nuns who shared vowed life with her in the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Sister Mary first entered religious life in 1947 in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, Long Island. After professing vows in 1949 as Sr. Teresa Miriam she was placed in charge of large classes of little boys in the parish schools of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Mary, Mother of Jesus in Brooklyn.  During 12 years with the Josephites she obtained a BA degree from St. John’s University.
Responding to a call within a call, she entered the contemplative monastic order of the Redemptoristine Nuns, located in Esopus, NY, in 1959. In humble obedience and with great courage she became a novice for the second time joining a young community creating a new monastic foundation on the grounds of Mt. St. Alphonsus Redemptorist Major Seminary.  There she professed Solemn Vows in 1961 as Sr. Mary Teresa of the Holy Family.
By middle age Sr. Mary was enduring ever increasing physical infirmity. Yet she remained faithful in devotion to God, her contemplative vocation and personal devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Always available to her community, she served as Council Secretary for numerous terms, presided over the monastery library and gave willing ear and wise guidance to many new members. The lay associates of the monastery also benefitted from her direction. On behalf of many friends and benefactors she exercised the apostolate of the pen in generous correspondence. Sr. Mary rejoiced in her experience of over 70 years association with the Redemptorist Congregation; as a child in their parish, a teacher in their schools, and as neighbor to their seminary in Esopus. She influenced many young boys considering the priesthood and later became friend, confidant, informal spiritual director or prayer partner to many Redemptorist priests and brothers. Throughout her life she was a golden thread woven into the fabric of her family where she remained a source of unity and wisdom and a model of faith and prayer. 
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Halvey Funeral Home  ( The community will receive visitors at the Monastery of the Incarnation, 89 Hiddenbrooke Drive, Beacon NY on Monday, December 15 from 2 to 4 pm and from 7 to 8:30pm. A Vigil Service will begin at 7:30pm. Mass of the Resurrection will be offered on Tuesday, December 16 at 11:00am in the Monastery chapel. Burial will be at Mt. St. Alphonsus Cemetery (grounds of The Mount Academy) Route 9W, Esopus, NY at 2:30pm. In lieu of flowers it is suggested that donations be made to Lourdes Health Care Center, 345 Belden Hill Rd., Wilton, CT 06897 in support of their compassionate care for senior sisters.