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The Felician Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province kicked off a yearlong celebration Sunday of their worldwide order's 150th anniversary with a special Mass at Villa Maria College in Cheektowaga.

The local province, which has 232 upstate members, also honored more than a dozen sisters with more than 50 years of service. Sister Mary Angelette Helak said the sesquicentennial event for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice marks the founding of the order by Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska in Warsaw, Poland, in 1855.

"This will be a very special year for us," Sister Helak said. "Over the next year we'll be doing a number of things, culminating in a Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral next November when we reach the 150th anniversary."

Sister Mary Raymond Kasprzak, the congregation's minister general, who traveled from Rome to attend the event, said the celebration provides an opportunity to show gratitude for a "rich heritage in solidarity as a congregation which has lived through three centuries," while also preparing for future "unknown calls and challenges."

Over the next year, leading up to the 150th anniversary, the sisters plan a variety of outreach efforts, ranging from aid to the elderly and disabled, to programs to fight illiteracy and hunger.

In addition to the Felician Sister's Buffalo Province, the congregation includes more than 2,000 nuns who serve in 11 countries on four continents, doing missionary work in such locations as Estonia, Ukraine, Kenya, Mexico, Canada's Northwest Territories and the Amazon River region of South America.

The congregation's Buffalo Province is one of 12 around the world. The others have headquarters in Chicago; Livonia, Mich.; Lodi, N.J.; Corapolis, Pa.; Enfield, Conn.; Rio Rancho, N.M.; and Mississauga, Ont.; plus three in Poland and one in Brazil.

As part of Sunday's festivities, 19 local Felician Sisters were honored for their religious service, including Sister Mary Eymard Pigula, who is marking her 80th year in the order. Those celebrating their 75th year of service are sisters Joan Marie Wieczorek, Mary Grace Ann Krzemien, Mary Salome Olewski, Marietta Pawlowski and Mary Liliette Jurczak.

Those marking 70 years are Sisters Mary Clarentine Kasperski, Mary Julia Witkowski, Mary Desiderata Mis, Mary Othilia Dembowski, Mary Sapientia Pisiak, Mary Justine Gardon and Mary Virginelle Burakowski.

Sisters Mary Pontianne Kubera and Mary Francella Turajski were honored for 60 years of religious life. Sisters Stephanie Bicio, Mary Marcelette Bogoniewski, Mary Francelette Smigielski and Mary Lorita Dondajewski celebrated their 50th anniversaries.

Sister Raymondine Raczkowski was honored for earning a certificate in pastoral ministry at Christ the King Seminary in the Town of Aurora.


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