Motherhouse at Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Lois Staas
Gloucester City News
“There is no end to this road,” thought Miss Christine Hartnett as she traveled on the NJ
turnpike August 10, 1955, in 102 degree weather after her arrival in the United States.
This was quite a change for someone originally from a small rural town of single lane dirt road in County Cork, Ireland.
Born on December 22 to Mary and Joseph Hartnett, the second of three children – Maurice, Christine, and Bridie—Miss Hartnett was on her way to stay with her uncle in America and continue her education.
In just three years Miss Hartnett would enter the convent of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary at their motherhouse in Newburgh, NY, as Sr. John Kathleen, O. P.
Gloucester City knows her as our very own Sr. Christine Hartnett.
Sister was baptized, received her first Holy Communion, and Confirmation at St. Catherine’s Church, Ballynoe, County Cork, Ireland. Her education began at Ballynoe National School, also in County Cork.
Sr. Christine’s first assignment was as the second grade teacher at St. Mary’s in Gloucester City from 1960 to 1967. From 1967 to 1970, Sister’s teaching career led her to Iselin, where at St. Cecilia’s she and 20 other sisters taught 65 first graders in split sessions.
Sister Christine taught from noon to 4:15 p.m.
“There were so many children who were preparing for first Holy Communion that we had to line everyone up in the playground!” she said. It was while at St. Cecilia’s that the sisters in her Dominican Order transitioned from their professed names to their Baptismal names. Sr. Christine laughed, and said, “On the Monday morning after the transition, one little first grader asked me if I had been married over the weekend because of my new name! Imagine that.”
She spent the next year “lost in Yonkers” – “I was so confused with all the winding roads . . . Huntington . . . Tacony . . .” At Christ the King Sr. Christine had a class of 25 students and one teacher’s aid. “Here, the challenge for me was learning to cook for a convent of only five sisters instead of 20.”
In 1978 Sister transferred to St. Joseph’s, a high school and grade school in Toms River as a second grade teacher. “There were about 50 children in the First Communion class about and 30 teaching sisters,” she said.
After seven years, Sr. Mary Ryan, a classmate at St. Mary’s from Newburgh, called Sr. Christine with news that the principal at St. Mary’s School in Gloucester City, Sr. Nora Foley, needed a sixth grade teacher.
Sr. Christine answered that call.
After a summer of travel between Toms River and Gloucester City preparing for her new assignment, Sister was informed that she would be teaching a kindergarten class. Sadly, Sr. Mary Carol suddenly passed away, and Sr. Christine would be St. Mary’s kindergarten teacher for the next 12 years.
Until her retirement this fall, Sister had served in many capacities in the Gloucester City community. Sr. Christine has been especially responsible for being the Religious Education Coordinator – preparing children and adults for Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation.
Sr. Christine reflected: “Retirement was a hard decision. I spent two years in prayer discerning the move. Time with the Lord and contact with people were very helpful. I feel at peace with this decision.”
And, Sister is still on the road. Traveling between her new residence in Asbury Park and Gloucester City, she remains in contact with friends and parishioners at St. Mary’s.
“Wherever I go, I will always have my friends from Gloucester City!” Sr. Christine affirmed. “I will always have the joy of all the children I have taught and watched grow, and marry, and have children of their own.
“The students I taught in the 60s are now bringing their grandchildren to St. Mary’s. This is so wonderful to see,” she said.
“I am most thankful for you, the people in Gloucester City. I have never met a more friendly, warm, generous, and kind group of people.
“Many have called me the Gloucester City News, and they are correct. I care about people and want to know how they are. “I will always have the spirit of the people of Gloucester City who are there for each other in good times and in hard times.”
Those who know Sr. Christine know that her dedication, work, and prayers have touched many lives in Gloucester City. These, in their turn, touch or will touch the lives of others in the spirit of St. Dominic.
Sr. Christine said, “This is what the Lord asks of you; only do this – ‘to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8).”
In this way everyone can share in traveling with Sr. Christine Hartnett along the road that never ends.