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Religious jubilarians in Diocese of Wilmington celebrate lifetime of commitment to the Lord’s people

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Catholic Diocese of Wilmington

Nine religious serving in the Diocese of Wilmington are celebrating milestone jubilees this year. Bishop Koenig will be the main celebrant of a Mass of celebration April 17 at Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington.

70 YEARS

Sister Gerard Falkowska, OSB

Sister Gerard, a native of Wilmington, served as principal of St. Elizabeth Elementary School for more than 30 years. She earned her bachelors and master’s degrees in administration from Villanova University. In addition to her dedication to education, Sister was very much committed to Pacem in Terris, an organization dedicated to Peace on Earth. In 1998, Sister was chosen for the “Peacemaker Among Us” award in Delaware. In 2019 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of St. Elizabeth School.  As sub-prioress, Sister Gerard looks after needs of the monastery when the prioress is unavailable. Daily she thanks God for being born in America, but she is very proud of her Polish heritage.

Sr. Bernadette McGoldrick, OSF

Born in County Longford, Ireland, Sister Bernadette professed her vows as a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia in 1954. She has ministered primarily in elementary education, social work, and parish ministry in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington, Charleston, and Raleigh. For the past 28 years, Sister Bernadette has served as the manager and now volunteers at the Emmanuel Dining Room in New Castle for the Ministry of Caring. In reflecting on her life as a sister, Sister Bernadette wrote, “Being a Sister of St. Francis has meant everything to me. It has helped me realized the dream of a vocation in service to God.”

65 YEARS

Rev. Francis J. Blood, OSFS

Father Francis J. Blood, OSFS, is a professed Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 65 years. Father Blood was born in Philadelphia in 1938. He attended St. Joan of Arc Grammar School and graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1957. Following graduation, he entered the Oblate Novitiate and made his first profession of vows in January 1959. Father Blood earned a bachelor of arts in government and a master of art in counseling from Niagara University, Niagara Falls, N.Y., and a master of arts in administration/supervision from University of Central Florida. He continued his theological studies at De Sales Hall, Washington, D.C., and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Martin Lohmuller on May 27, 1972, at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Philadelphia, Pa. Father was the activities director at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia and served in admissions at De Sales University, Center Valley, Pa. His teaching assignments included Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg, Pa., and Father Lopez High School, Daytona Beach, Fla. He was the director of pastoral care at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. He served as pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Charlotte, N.C., and St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, Fla. Father Blood also served as academic dean at De Sales Hall, Washington, D.C., chaplain at Cooper Medical Center, Camden, N.J., and was a senior priest at Immaculate Conception, Elkton, Md. Father has lived at the Oblate Community at Annecy Hall, Childs, Md., since 2018.

60 YEARS

Sr. Patricia Marie Becker, OSFS

Sister Patricia Marie Becker grew up in Wilmington. Her parents owned a popular confectionary store on Market Street. Sister Patricia Marie has one sibling, a brother, Joseph Patrick, who joined the Oblate Fathers of St. Francis de Sales in 1959, and in 1962 she joined the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. Sister was a familiar face at Mount Aviat Academy serving in many ways with her warm smile. Special events found her busy in the kitchen. Although Sister is no longer in active ministry, she continues her service to our Lord through her apostolate of encouragement and prayer to all those she encounters.

Sr. Lawrence Therese Hudson, OSFS

Born in Ridley Park, Pa., Sister Lawrence Therese Hudson met the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales in her eighth-grade year at St. Paul’s in Delaware City. She joined the Oblate Sisters after graduating from Padua Academy in 1962. Sister credits a sacred experience in Eucharistic Adoration for affirming her vocation. She professed her vows in 1964. Sister served at Camp Aviat for several summers. For many years Sister taught religion at Mount Aviat Academy and served as the coordinator of the faith formation program at St. Paul’s in Delaware City. She has shared her many artistic talents in her community in Childs and is currently the cook.

Rev. Bernard O’Connor, OSFS

Father Bernard F O’Connor, OSFS, is a professed Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 60 years. Father O’Connor was born in Woodstown, N.J., in 1944. He attended Woodstown Grade School and graduated from Salesianum School in 1962. Following graduation, he entered the Oblate Novitiate and made his first profession of vows in August 1964. Father O’Connor earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy, a master of arts in philosophy, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, all from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a master of arts in theology. He continued his theological studies at Catholic University and was ordained to the priesthood on June 9, 1973, by Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington. Father’s assignments included faculty at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales; sabbatical for doctoral work with residence at Salesianum School in Wilmington; a return to faculty at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, where he became president from 1999-2000 and then president of DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., until his retirement in 2017. Father O’Connor retired to St. Ann Parish, Naples, Fla., and then to Annecy Hall in Childs, Md.

55 YEARS

Rev. Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS

Father Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, a professed Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 55 years. Upon graduation from Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1968, Father Chorpenning entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. He made his first profession of vows in 1969 and perpetual profession in 1972. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1979, by the Most Rev. Edward T. Hughes, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Father Chorpenning earned a B.A. in Spanish from Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (now DeSales University), M.A. and Ph.D. in romance languages from The Johns Hopkins University, and S.T.B. and S.T.L., with a specialization in historical theology, from The Catholic University of America. Subsequently, he held post-doctoral fellowships in medieval studies at the University of Pennsylvania, image theory at the University of Virginia, and art history at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. From 1981-91, Father Chorpenning was a full-time faculty member and academic administrator at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales. Since 1991, he has ministered at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as assistant to the president for special projects (1991-97) and, since 1997, as editorial director of Saint Joseph’s University Press. Father Chorpenning has served as director of continuing education for the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates and religious superior of the Villa de Sales Oblate Community in Wyndmoor, Pa. At the congregational level, he is chair of the International Commission for Salesian Studies (ICSS). Father Chorpenning is the author or editor of 20 books on spirituality, the saints, and sacred art. His newest book, “Saint Joseph and the Carmelite Reform of Saint Teresa of Ávila: Father, Teacher of Prayer, Intercessor in Every Need,” will be published by Catholic University of America Press in fall 2024. Since 2020, Father Chorpenning has resided at the Salesianum Oblate Community in Wilmington.

Rev. Mark S. Mealey, OSFS

Father Mark S. Mealey, OSFS, is a professed Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 55 years.

Father Mealey was born in Philadelphia in 1950.  He attended Maternity BVM Parochial School and graduated from Father Judge High School in 1968.  Following graduation, he entered the Oblate Novitiate and made his first profession of vows in August 1969.  Father Mealey earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Allentown College, now DeSales University,(Allentown, PA), a Master of Arts in History from West Chester State University (West Chester, PA), a Ph.D. in Canon Law from the University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), and a J.C.L. and J.C.D. from St. Paul University (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada).  He continued his theological studies at De Sales Hall, Washington, DC, and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edward T. Hughes, on May 19, 1979, at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

Following ordination, Father Mealey’s first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at St. John Neumann Parish in Reston, VA. After completing graduate studies in Canon Law, he served as a Judge in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Judicial Vicar, Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Services, Vicar General for Administration, and Moderator of the Curia in the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia; and Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Wilmington.

Father lives at the Oblate Community at Annecy Hall, Childs, MD since 2021.

35 YEARS

Rev. Julius Christian Beretta, OSFS

Father Julius Christian Beretta, OSFS, is a professed Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 35 years. He is the 17th principal of Salesianum School, a position he has held since 2010. A native of California, he was born in Walnut Creek, the first child of Julius and Donna Beretta, and older brother to siblings Nicholas and Annemarie. He lived most of his childhood in the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin and attended St. Rose Parish School in Roseville, Calif., and Jesuit High School, Carmichael, Calif., before his family moved to northern Virginia after his freshman year. He then became a proud member of the first graduating class of Paul VI High School (originally in Fairfax, Va.), where he first met the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales. He joined the Oblates in 1986 and made his first profession of vows on July 29, 1989. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1997, at St. Anthony of Padua Church by Most Rev. Michael Saltarelli, Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington, and has served in Catholic education and school leadership for 29 years as a classroom teacher, coach, campus minister, and principal at both Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla. and Salesianum School (1991-1993, 1997-1999, and 2010-present). He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in theology from DeSales University in 1991, a Master of Divinity from the DeSales School of Theology in 1997, a master of arts in sport psychology from the University of Maryland in 1997, a master of arts in educational administration from the University of Notre Dame in 2009, and a doctorate in education at the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.