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2014 Jubilee: Rejoice and Be Glad

In 2014, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh celebrate the 60th Jubilee of Sister Marilyn Fox and Sister Michelle Farabaugh, two women who exemplify the teaching of Saint Benedict, “Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” 

The Benedictine Tradition LIVES through Sister Marilyn and Sister Michelle.

 

Sister Marilyn Fox, OSB

“60 years, a diamond jubilee!  I cannot believe how quickly these years have flown and I am happy and grateful for each and every year.”

Sister Marilyn, the former Betty Fox, was born and raised in Beechview, Pennsylvania, the second oldest of four girls born to Madelyn Walton Fox and Hugh Fox.  She attended St. Catherine Elementary School and South Hills High School.  When Sister Marilyn was 16 and her youngest sister Patty was just 7 years old, their mother died and a few years later their father succumbed to a serious illness.  Even though Betty knew from an early age that she wanted to become a religious, she gladly embraced the responsibility of raising her youngest sister Patty. 

She cared for Patty with maternal concern while she pursued her career as secretary for the Consolidated Coal Company now known as the Consol Energy Company.  When Patty was preparing to marry, it was Betty who helped plan her wedding and took great pride and delight in creating the heart shaped head piece and veil that Patty dreamed of wearing on her wedding day.  When her “little Patty” was safely settled in her new life, Betty felt free to follow her heart’s desire and enter the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh. 

As a novice, Betty received the name, Sister Marilyn.  She says, “Jesus fulfilled my deepest longings when he called me to follow him by living a life rooted in the Gospels and in the Rule of St. Benedict.  The Rule of Benedict keeps me anchored in prayer, Community and ministry.  It is gentle and peaceful and its wisdom has helped me to live a life of balance and harmony.”

In her many years as an educator, Sister Marilyn enjoyed teaching in Catholic Elementary Schools and she particularly relished teaching Latin, English and Business subjects at St. Benedict Academy and Greensburg Central Catholic.  She hopes that her students will remember the “passion for learning” that she strove to give them and her concern that they excel to the best of their ability.  After St. Benedict Academy closed, Sister Marilyn shared many good times with the people who frequented the Benedictine Senior Center. 

Now, in addition to being faithful to the Community’s daily schedule of prayer and activity, Sister Marilyn delights in helping with the work of the Office of Community Advancement, playing Scrabble with Sister Monica and Sister Dolores, chatting with her Sisters and guests, and spending extra time in private prayer in the chapel. 

 

Sister Michelle Farabaugh, OSB

Carrolltown, Pennsylvania, a stronghold of Benedictine Spirituality and culture, was the birth place of Carole Ann Farabaugh, second oldest of 10 children, born to Leona Kirsch Farabaugh and Fred Farabaugh.  Her life was rooted in the church, in her large close knit family, and in her school.  Looking back, Sister Michelle reflects, “Benedictine Community life was attractive to me because I have always lived in community.  My grandfather had 16 children and 130 grandchildren.”  Carole Ann excelled in her studies and was inspired by the kindness and dedication of her teachers.  She often attended Vespers and sometimes went to Compline with the Sisters at the convent.  Coming to the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh as a sophomore in high school was almost a foregone conclusion for her.

Sister Michelle has had many diverse ministry positions. She identifies two which she greatly enjoyed. She loved her work as Campus Minister at Indiana University of Pennsylvania helping college students wrestle with challenging questions about God and religion.  Her keen intelligence, theological expertise and compassion equipped her to respond clearly and without judgment to their dilemmas.  Years later, she was involved as a psychiatric social worker at St. Francis Hospital where she assisted severely ill mental patients who were poverty stricken at many levels.  Some of this time was spent with Operation Safety Net, bringing help to the homeless living on the streets.

Vatican II and the changes it evoked were the source of Sister Michelle’s greatest challenge and reward.  From the beginning, she appreciated the freedom and responsibility that the Council mandates provided.  She was encouraged as some of the Sisters embraced the changes and became more mature in their faith understanding and response.  She delighted as the Community began to live the Benedictine charism more authentically.  At the same time, she grieved the deep and enduring pain that some Sisters suffered with the changes in the church and in religious life.

From childhood, Sister Michelle was raised to be responsible, to be unafraid of making decisions, and to be a leader.  These qualities were recognized by her Benedictine Community and she was elected to serve as Prioress from 1982 to 1990 and again from 2002 to 2008.  She was also elected Councilor of the Federation of Saint Scholastica and served for twelve years.  Sister Michelle says, “I never sought positions of leadership, but when the call came from the Community and the Federation, I was happy to serve and gave it my very best energy.”

Today you will find Sister Michelle busy as a Care Manager for Behavior Health with the UPMC Health Plan.  It is her responsibility to help people recently discharged from in-patient psychiatric care access and benefit from outpatient care.  She provides support for them in whatever way is possible.

Sister Michelle muses, “Life as a Benedictine has been extremely fulfilling.  It enabled me to move toward and fulfill my aspirations.  My greatest wish is that others could experience the same kind of life.  In other words, “Come see.’”

 

 

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