On August 19, Bishop Oscar Cantú and the Diocese of San José honored two retiring religious sisters with a Mass and potluck luncheon at the Chancery.
Sister Rosalie Pizzo, SNDdN, who spent nine years serving as the Bishop’s Delegate to Religious, received the Saint Joseph Award, presented to the person who shows wise and faithful service to the Diocese of San José.
Sister Maryann Cantlon, CSJ was presented with The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award bestowed upon her by the Holy Father for her dedication to the mission of the Church and the Pope through her ministry.
One of the first things you notice about Sister Maryann Cantlon when you meet her is her beautiful voice. She can sing with the angels, yet she also knows how to use that voice to command respect, from the prisoners she visits, to the officials at the jails and prisons where she ministers.
A member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambéry, for over 350 years, their charism has been to help people facing challenges of violence and abuse, oppression, conflict, and homelessness, among others. As Associate Director of Restorative Justice for nine years in the Diocese of San José, working in the jails of Santa Clara County, Sister Maryann has lived this mantra in her daily life.
During that time, she has advocated tirelessly for the rights of prisoners and trained countless priests, religious, and lay volunteers to minister to them, so “that all may be one” with God and one another. Sister Maryann has directed Scripture studies for volunteers and offenders, facilitated communion services for inmates in the men’s and women’s jails, and formed them to receive the sacraments of initiation.
Ever inclusive, Sister extended her ministry to serve not just the incarcerated but also their families, victims of violence, support groups, and the community. She has incorporated the elements of healing and reconciliation into her work by establishing twice yearly Masses of Remembrance for victims of violence and bringing offenders and victims together to share their experiences and the consequences violence has had on their lives and to build relationships, so they can move forward with their lives.
Prior to arriving in San José, Sister Maryann taught music to high schoolers for ten years, but once she entered the ministry of restorative justice, there was no going back. She served as a teacher and chaplain at state and federal prisons in Connecticut, Florida, and California for 32 years. She also founded an educational mission for the indigenous Maya people in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, where she worked for two years.
“Her ministry calls on her to be strong and tough at times, yet Sister Maryann also brings great courage, grace, and deep faith to her work and all she encounters,” said Bishop Cantú.
A member of the order of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sister Rosalie comes from a large Italian-American family with a long history in San José. She could easily have made a difference through a life of public service, becoming one of the movers and shakers of San José…maybe even its mayor. Instead, she chose a different path: while attending Notre Dame San José High School downtown, she was called to a life of service to the Gospel through religious life and entered the convent right after graduation.
Sister Rosalie taught elementary and high school in California and Washington and was a principal and superior for much of that time.
At one of her assignments in the days after Vatican II, the Sisters returned to school after Easter break with a shorter veil that revealed their hair. Sister Rosalie had not made the change yet, and a very puzzled little boy went up to her and asked, “how come you didn’t get a hat with hair on it like everybody else?”
After her teaching career, Sister Rosalie spent three years in Rome for the Sisters of Notre Dame at their Generalate as hospitality coordinator, welcoming visitors from all over the world. This might explain her great attention to detail and creativity at the many events she sponsored for the Bishop as Delegate to Religious.
Upon returning to the U.S., Sister Rosalie worked with refugees, teaching them English and helping them resettle and transition to jobs. She later served as pastoral associate at Saint Lucy Parish for 19 years.
In 2011, when she decided to retire (the first time), Bishop Patrick J. McGrath asked her to accept a position as Delegate to Religious. We are so glad she said, “yes.” What a way to spend your first nine years of retirement, or as she called it, her “transition.”
Aside from her many accomplishments, the thing that stands out most about Sister Rosalie is that she cares deeply for people. Throughout her life as a Sister of Notre Dame and even now in her “second act” of retirement, she accompanies people in their journey.
Said Bishop Cantú, “she remembers the names of your family and those who are dear to you and never fails to ask how they are doing. And they usually end up on her very long prayer list. Her life of service is an inspiration to all of us as one who lives the message of the Gospel to love unconditionally.”