Today we gather to celebrate the life of Sister Catherine Mezzacapo, a Sister of Saint Joseph for nearly eighty years. We recognize the long and vibrant life of a woman who requested the entrance hymn we will sing this morning, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” How very fitting to hear the strains of music proclaim that “All thy works with joy surround thee,” for we have been surrounded by the joy-filled life of a sister who truly knew the gospel message to love one another as God has loved her.
All of us who knew Cappy knew her joy and enthusiasm for life. I think of the opening line of Pope Francis’ encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel which states: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Cappy encountered Jesus early in life through her parents Margaret and Francis. Her knowledge of her loving God was broadened during her elementary school years at Holy Child Jesus in Richmond Hill and her faith deepened as she attended St. Joseph’s Juniorate.
Entering the congregation in 1937, Sister St. Catherine began ministering as a teacher of young children first at St. Anthony of Padua in Brooklyn and then in a number of parishes in the Brooklyn Diocese including twice at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel where deep and lasting friendships were formed. She earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in French from St. John’s University.
Cappy then became an “Island Girl,” teaching French at our Academy here in Brentwood and then serving as Principal in St. Patrick’s in Smithtown. A life-long learner, Cappy achieved a Master’s in Social Work from Adelphi University and ministered in Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre as a Coordinator of Day Care for twelve years. During those years she also trained lectors at Sacred Heart Parish in North Merrick. Cappy then returned to St. John’s University where she served for thirteen wonderful years. She was honored as an outstanding alum and received the Outstanding Achievement Medal from St. John’s University.
This long list of dedicated and enthusiastic service epitomizes what Pope Francis stated in “The Joy of the Gospel,” “Goodness always tends to spread.” Cappy’s joy and goodness influenced countless students, parents, co-ministers and her sisters in community. Who could ever forget her buoyant disposition; her welcoming smile coupled with the glint in her eyes, always ready for a celebration, preferably one that included dancing in high heels. Cappy’s joy for life ran deep. It was not about her own happiness but about what she could do for others to encourage, support and call them to have a deep faith in God who never disappoints us and is with us in all of our challenges and joys. As we will hear in today’s liturgy Paul’s wish for us is to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with the utter fullness of God. Cappy shared that love selflessly and we have the utmost confidence that she now shared in the fullness of God’s love. We are grateful for her life with us.
Sister Catherine Mezzacapo, CSJ died on February 19th 2017 in the 80th year of her religious life.