Sister Mary Joseph Edelen honored for 60 years of service


GEORGETOWN — Two friends were reunited recently at St. Cyprian’s Church in Georgetown where a special nun, Sister Mary Joseph Edelen was honored for 60 years of faithful service to people.

Bishop Joseph Gossman of Raleigh has known Sister Mary Joseph for nearly 24 years. He traveled from Wake County to lead the service for his friend.

“We Are Called” was an appropriate hymn at the morning Mass where the Daughters of Charity honored one of their own.

“It is a blessing for us as Daughters of Charity and as a community to have Sister Mary Joseph here,” said Sister Kathleen Driscoll, parish administrator.

With a corsage of white ribbons, the nun swayed back and forth with her friends, singing the hymn.

“I’m truly blessed to be with you today to honor a great daughter of the church and of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Gossman.

“When I first came to Raleigh, she taught me how to be the Bishop there,” he said with a smile. “God’s the driver of this bus, not us … sometimes we rhapsodize about things when we don’t know much about it. Love is an act of the will. It is a choice. Love is not warm and cozy and wonderful. By nature, it is steel. Love all, especially the ones who are hardest to love. It always seems like there is a big supply of them. Obviously, I’m not here to canonize Sister Mary Joseph. She hasn’t done it all yet, but she keeps trying. That’s about the best any of us can do.”

She has worked in Georgetown for a year and a half, and was delighted to have Bishop Gossman and her friends present.

“I felt welcome here from the very first day,” she said. “I have stayed very close to Raleigh and am deeply gratified for his (Bishop Gossman) being here, and I think he knows that. My life has been a very wonderful life. No matter what happens, there’s always a resurrection.”

In the fall of 1991, she went to Greensboro, N.C., to start Catholic Social Services with the Diocese of Charlotte. Bridget Johnson replaced her.

“When she left, I assumed her position as parish area coordinator,” said Johnson. “She has a gift for bringing people in and using their gifts to work for the needy. She is very much missed.”

From 1980 to 1985, Sister Mary Joseph worked as a social minister and pastoral administrator for the Diocese of Richmond, Va., and had been an administrative supervisor and acting director of Catholic Social Ministries for that region. Between 1968 to 1973, she was director of Social Services for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. From 1958-69, she served as a case worker, assistant supervisor and supervisor of a foster care and adoption agency for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New York. She earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan in 1953.

Sister Mary Joseph, 79, was born in Baltimore. Helping the poor attracted her to become a nun at 19.

“God pushed me,” she said. “It isn’t something I thought about for years.”