“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” is a Christian Advent motif. In a similar spirit, the Felician Sisters in Lodi will literally remove the two oldest buildings on their 30-acre site early next year and create a green area to “de-densify the school.”
About two-thirds of the stately red-brick edifice that faces South Main Street and includes a beloved chapel and the “small red home” on another portion of the campus—the Felicians’ first building in Lodi in 1913—will be demolished.
Sister Judith Marie Kubicki, Provincial Minister, stated that the southwest portion of the old convent and the main chapel will be demolished.
The Felician Sisters’ Immaculate Conception province’s motherhouse and formation dorms were in this edifice. Since 2009, when the eight Felician provinces in North America amalgamated into Our Lady of Hope in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, it has not been used. Kirby Hall, now Felician University, will stay in the northwest.
Kubicki says “the sisters have acknowledged the necessity to design a more efficient footprint” due to changing space needs.
In a few months, Lodi driving on South Main Street will see green space instead of the magnificent red brick buildings flanking a church.
Buildings appear and disappear to casual observers. The Felician Sisters mourn this family’s death.
“It’s a great loss,” said Sister Felicia Brodowski, former president and administrator of Jersey City’s St. Anthony High School. “It’s a building with many memories.”
Brodowski, from Delaware, became an aspirant aged 14 and attended the Felicians’ Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi. The structure to be demolished housed her dormitories.
As a child, she found it remarkable.
Sister Antonelle Chunka, from Jersey City, attended Lodi High School in 1950. She remembered traveling to a “very holy” place as a 68-year-old Felician from Spotswood. Felicians are eucharistic, hence the sisters adored the Blessed Sacrament as religious life was so organized at the time.
Sister Virginia Tomasiak, who lives in the Lodi campus’s last convent, remarked, “When I entered, we had Eucharistic Exposition every day.”
Her ritual was meticulous. After Mass, the priest climbed stairs to reach the monstrance, a gold jar that held the consecrated host, during Exposition. He brought Jesus Christ down to the tabernacle at 5 p.m.
The white-veiled novices kneeled in the aisles during Eucharistic Exposition in the morning and Reposition in the evening. They and other sisters had half-hour Eucharistic adorations.
Brodowski, a Felician for 62 years, remembered how the chapel, the size of a church, hosted many religious high points.
Vows were professed, silver and golden jubilarians recognized, and daily Masses from postulant to novice to fully professed sister. It hosted the sisters’ burials. She said they stayed in separate dorms in the same building.
Kubicki said the Felician’s had to sacrifice finances for significant renovations to help their sisters.
She stated the Felician community realizes that resources are better spent elsewhere.
She stated some sacred things and vessels will be auctioned and sent to missionaries and other churches.
Felician University, Immaculate Conception High School, and the School for Exceptional Children continue despite the demolition’s grief.
Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska created the Felician Sisters in Poland in 1855. In 1913, the Buffalo sisters moved to Lodi’s “small red house” pending demolition. The sisters’ first provincial dwelling was a Saddle River mill.
Felician Sisters taught at five Hudson County schools: Our Lady of Czestochowa, St. Ann’s on Tonnelle, St. Anthony’s grammar and high schools in Jersey City, and Mt. Carmel, Bayonne. Although the sisters left, Czestochowa is thriving.
As a boy, I knew these sisters from St. Anthony’s grammar school, which was across from Holy Rosary.
I once spoke with Chunka, the Lodi provincial from 1995 to 2001. Her job was mostly as a “minister of death.” She said 20 sisters perished in a year. She sees a deeper meaning as the neighborhood prepares to lose two structures.
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“Letting go prepares your hands and heart to accept what God has prepared us to do,” she stated.