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On A Firm Foundation: A Life of Ministry


By Mary Quilici Aumack

Chief Executive Officer
The Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!”  -Alfred Lord Tennyson

A couple of weeks ago, Doug and I had the honor of cohosting a retirement celebration for our good friend, Sister Rosalie Pizzo.

The party was hosted by Peggy and Lon Normandin. Peggy and Sister Rosalie graduated together from Notre Dame High School in 1952 and have been friends since they met in freshman year. Sister Rosalie’s ministry started right after graduation and has been going strong for 67 years!

Have you met Sister Rosalie? If so, you’re one of the lucky ones. Sister Rosalie is Italian (I do love a good fellow Italian), intelligent, funny, effective, and deeply faith filled. In her 67 years of ministry, she has spent time teaching, in school administration, in leadership roles for the order (including in Rome), leading outreach efforts and, for the last nine years, serving the Diocese of San José as the Bishop’s Delegate to the Religious.

For me, Sister Rosalie is one example of the powerful and effective women religious. Although I grew up with the sisters at Saint Justin and Notre Dame, it wasn’t until much later in my adult life that I began to fully comprehend their broad and important impact. These are women of great intellectual capability, compassion, and passion. They work across the world and in broad ministry. They never really stop working. They simply move through a continuum of action, advocacy and prayer.

Sister Rosalie Pizzo, seated second from the left, gathers with family members, including her two sisters seated next to her, at a recent retirement dinner.

I could go on and on about Sister Rosalie, but here are some things said by a few of the countless people who love her:

From Sister Terry Davis: “I think the most wonderful gift that Rosalie brings us is her genuine care for people. I have watched her help others in amazing ways, even when she did not know them personally. She really is, for me, a symbol of the Good Samaritan, the one who will cross cultural and societal expectations to help people in need. She has accompanied people through the court system, through homelessness, and through both mental and physical illness. She is a truly faithful friend, no matter what happens.”

From Monsignor J. Patrick Browne: “She’s one of the most determined people I know; does not give up or give in (hence the Tennyson quote, which was Monsignor Browne’s idea).

From Bishop (Thomas) Daly (current Bishop of Spokane, Washington and former Auxiliary Bishop of San José) in a note that he sent to be read to her at the party: “Sister, I often told you that ‘you radiate the glory of the resurrection.’ That is, you have a genuine joy that comes from your awareness of God’s love for you, and your love of others flows from this heartfelt belief. And because of your faith in Jesus Christ, you have brought the Good News to people and communities that were blessed by your example of discipleship. You have been an example to your own Sisters and to me personally as to what a follower of Christ really should and can be.”

And from (Diocese of San José) Bishop (Emeritus Patrick J.) McGrath as he blessed her at the party: “You have been an example to me of leadership based on gospel values; a strong and effective woman.

You might think this whole article is about Sister Rosalie, but that’s not true. It occurs to me that she is one shining example among so many in my life:

  • My parents and family
  • Other women religious
  • The many priests that I have gotten to know who do broad and important work
  • Great friends, the family we chose
  • Young families focused on sacramental and prayer life

It all gets to the “why” of us, the thing that compels and propels us – Gratitude, for the real presence of Jesus in our lives. Gratitude for the Good News of the Gospel. I am grateful for the ministry of Sister Rosalie and those like her.

Because of my job, I am often approached by friends and acquaintances about all things Catholic. When they ask me about where I find joy, I tell them (among other things) about Sister Rosalie.

This is why I continue to have hope and find passion in ministry. This is why I am so very grateful to be a part of the Foundation as we work to provide FOREVER VALUE, to help fund the future of the Church. Check out our website: www.cfoscc.org.