Sister Rosalie (Mary Christopher) Pizzo – 70-Year Jubilarian

"Better mistakes than paralysis!”

-St. Julie Billiart

I am one of many Italians born and raised in San Jose, California. I attended Sacred Heart Elementary School, Notre Dame High School, San Jose, Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont and San Jose State University. I am the youngest of five siblings. My parents immigrated to the United States from Italy and settled in the Santa Clara Valley. They chose to live here because the weather and ethnic population was familiar and similar to that of Italy.

Family was the essential paradigm for how we related to one another and to the activities inherent in our home life. Everything was about family. So, for me, entering religious life where "community" was the way we organized to do the mission, was an easy transition. So, as Sisters, where one serves, either here or in another country, we all serve and share in that ministry always in service to the mission.

Sister Rosalie Pizzo, SNDdeN with Sister Helen Cecilia Miller, SNDdeN, her first grade teacher.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were my teachers from elementary through college years. The SNDdeN spirit was as much a part of my life as that of the values and discipline in which 1 was raised. Individual sisters had a profound influence on me beginning with my First Grade teacher, Sister Helen Cecilia. Her kindness enabled me to experience the same sense of security and belonging as I did within my home. She exemplified and lived the charism of reflecting the goodness of God. It was a great gift to live with her many years later until her death at age 100.

One humorous thing I remember from when I was in Sister Helen Cecelia’s class was my insistence that Blessed Mother Julia and Blessed Mother Mary were one and the same person. After all, I thought, they were named the same, "Blessed Mother"! My mother had a hard time convincing me to the contrary!
My first assignment was to teach little children at Immaculate Heart School in Belmont. They were a delight—so honest and filled with enthusiasm to learn. I lived at Ralston Hall with seven other faculties—five from elementary schools including a high school and college. The younger Sisters took turns taking care of the students who boarded at the schools and I was assigned to live with them in the dormitory. This experience certainly added color to my first year as a professed Sister!

Sister Rosalie Pizzo reading to first-graders in the 1960s.

As an inexperienced faculty member, I thought to impress my principal by offering to wax her office floor. Of course, the purpose was to score points and distract her from any of my inept beginner's teaching. However, instead of using floor wax, I used glass wax. To my horror, a dull chalky veneer covered the floor. I panicked! Fortunately, the pastor walked in just in time and assured me that all would be alright. He found a mop and washed off the scum until the floor shone to its original luster. That was one of many humorous experiences I had along the way.

Rosalie Pizzo, SNDdeN with some members of the Vietnamese family she lived with in Rome.

Among my many and varied ministerial experiences, I served as Community Coordinator at our Generalate in Rome for three years. This facility was multifunctional. It served as the headquarters for our International Administrative Team, provided sabbatical programs for Women Religious and offered a welcoming space for many visitors. A call from Caritas International changed the atmosphere of our community significantly. They asked if we would house a Vietnamese family of twelve who were in process of immigrating to the United States. What a grace filled experience this was for all of us! I often wonder where they settled and what they are doing. This experience, as well as volunteering at the Jesuit Center in Rome, working with Ethiopian refugees, stimulated my desire to continue working with refugees. When I returned to the US, I taught English and basic work skills to five Haitian men.

Rosalie Pizzo with RCIA Team at Saint Lucy Parish while she served as Pastoral Associate.

After many years of teaching and administration, I was assigned as Pastoral Associate at Saint Lucy Parish. I thought I had died and went to heaven! I loved the variety that this ministry offered. I felt privileged to partner with members of the staff in participating in graced moments of the lives of parishioners as they prepared for marriage or entrance into the church or at times of illness, death or bereavement. This appointment lasted for 19 years and ended simultaneously with that of the pastor's retirement.

I thought that this was the end of full-time ministry; however, a call from the Bishop of San Jose changed that. He invited me to be the Delegate to Religious in the Diocese of San Jose. This was an enriching experience, one in which I saw firsthand the charisms of each congregation come alive and live faithfully the call of the Gospel. This ministry lasted nine years and ended with both the Bishop's and my retirement. Actually, Religious never retire. We simply transition to another call to reflect God's goodness in some new way.

At this time of my 70th Jubilee, I am grateful for the call to witness to God's goodness in the many and varied opportunities in which 1 have served; Reciprocally, 1 am thankful that 1 have been the recipient of many grace filled moments by the witness of those, beginning with my family, God has placed in my life along the path of my 70 year journey as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur


Watch Sister Rosalie in the video below as she reflects on her life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

Sister Rosalie's Ministries

1955Teacher, Grade 2, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Belmont, Calif
1955-59Teacher, Grade 1, St. Dunstan School, Millbrae, Calif.
1959-63Teacher, Grade 2, St. Columbkille School, Los Angeles, Calif.
1963-65Teacher, Grade 1, St. Philomena School, Des Moines, Wash.
1965-67Teacher, Grade 6, Notre Dame Elementary School, Belmont, Calif.
1967-73Principal and Teacher, Grade 6, Junipero Serra Elementary School, Carmel, Calif.
1973-77Principal, St. Lucy Elementary School, Campbell, Calif.
1977-79Staff, SNDdeN House of Prayer, Carmel, Calif.
1979-82Community Coordinator, SNDdeN Generalate, Rome, Italy
1983-85Office for Human Concern, Diocese of San Jose, Calif.
1985-86Parish Ministry, St. Joseph of Cupertino Church, Cupertino, Calif.
1986-89SNDdeN Provincial Team Member, Saratoga, Calif.
1989-90Student, Berkeley, Calif.
1990-2009Pastoral Associate, St. Lucy Church, Campbell, Calif.
2009-2019Delegate to Religious, Diocese of San Jose, Calif.

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