by Bishop Raymond Chappetto
AN UNUSUAL STORY! Let me explain. Maryan Callahan was born in Philadelphia and grew up in a very Catholic family. As a young girl she became familiar with the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known as the IHMs.
The Philadelphia branch of this community staffed many schools in that archdiocese. Her desire to teach and serve in that order drew her to enter the IHMs and begin her religious life. She taught in several of their schools and was a very dedicated worker for the community. After prayer and reflection, Maryan decided to leave her community and felt it was God’s plan for her to move in a different direction.
During the 1960s and 1970s the Church, the priesthood and religious orders went through some tumultuous times. Many wonderful priests, brothers, and sisters, like Maryan, left their vocations for various reasons to pursue other callings.
Another one of them was my brother, Charlie Chappetto, who had been a Salesian brother for 17 years. He left his community to continue a teaching career from which he would retire early due to health issues. To make a long story short, six years after Charlie left the Salesians, he met Maryan Callahan and it was God’s plan that brought them together.
Maryan and Charlie were married in June of 1980 and I had the privilege of being the celebrant of their Nuptial Mass in St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills, N.J., where Maryan was serving as the director of religious education. They had a wonderful, happy and holy marriage. They prayed together, worshipped God together, traveled together and were faithful to their promises… “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”
Charlie’s illness led to his early death in 1994 at the age of 54 and, naturally, Maryan was heartbroken. But her faith and her friends were her rock of strength. She was uncertain what would be her next step, what God’s next invitation would be.
For six years, she prayed and searched as she discerned the will of God. It was a time of great uncertainty for her but she never stopped trusting in God. She felt that God was asking her to do something for Him.
Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, Maryan re-applied to her religious community, and asked to be re-admitted. At first the response was skeptical, and rightfully so. A woman who left the community, entered into marriage and wanted to return to religious life is not the usual applicant! After six months of waiting for a response, the IHMs said, “Yes, come back home!”
I had the privilege of attending the ceremony of her receiving the religious habit, the joy of placing the religious ring on her finger (the second in my family to give her a ring), and the marvelous experience of concelebrating the Mass of Religious Profession with Bishop Michael Burbridge, then auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. Sister Maryan Chappetto, I.H.M., serves the Lord joyfully as a religious sister once again!
Called to religious life twice in her lifetime, she has tried her very best to respond and to radiate the love of Jesus to all she meets. Currently getting ready to take up a new assignment which involves pastoral care of the sick, Sister Maryan embraces God’s will and has no regrets about any of Gods interventions in her life. We are blessed that she is a treasured member of our family and we know she loves God immensely.
As the Year of Vocations unfolds in the Brooklyn Diocese, and we give thanks for the gift of our own vocations in life, may the Lord Jesus continue to plant the seeds of vocations to marriage, priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.
Sister Maryan’s life encourages us to listen, to pray, and to respond no matter how unexpected or surprising God’s call may be. Yes, her story is unusual but it reminds us that God has a unique plan for each of us. We pray for the grace to say “yes” to His plan every day and find our joy in serving Him and His Church.
Bishop Chappetto is the diocesan vicar general, vicar for clergy and consecrated life, and pastor of St. Kevin Church, Flushing.