PALM BEACH | Two consecrated women who have dedicated more than 22 years to serving the homeless in West Palm Beach were honored at a retirement luncheon Sept. 14, 2023, where an abundance of memories was shared among benefactors, dignitaries and friends.
Sister Carleen Cekal and Sister Oliver Hudon, both School Sisters of Notre Dame and founders of St. Ann Place Outreach Center, 2107 N. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, are retiring and relocating to their religious community’s motherhouse in Baltimore. The luncheon was held at the St. Edward Parish Center on County Road in Palm Beach.
Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, who led the meal prayer, recalled how the sisters’ work has inspired him and others through the years.
“Their many virtues of humility, of love, of giving of themselves, of looking after those in need in imitation of our Lord, of always their availability, their friendliness, their good spirit, has inspired me in so many ways,” he said. “Sisters, I can’t thank you enough for the great work you’ve done at St. Ann Place and for the inspiration you are to all of us.”
In the luncheon prayer, the bishop asked God’s blessings “upon the two marvelous sisters who have been such an inspiration in the leadership and the giving of themselves as they retire. They leave with us a legacy, a legacy that will continue to be a model of what your mission amongst us is all about.”
Bishop Barbarito also expressed gratitude for the generosity and leadership of John Pescosolido, executive director of St. Ann Place Outreach Center, which had been a ministry of St. Ann Parish in West Palm Beach until recently becoming a separate 501(c)(3) charitable corporation in partnership with the Diocese of Palm Beach.
St. Ann Place Outreach Center serves the needs of homeless men and women, offering food, clothing, showers, medical care and assistance with government paperwork, such as birth certificates and identification cards. Pescosolido, who said he is hoping to expand the center’s services, spoke of how the sisters have created a community of clients, volunteers, donors and other supporters to carry the ministry forward. “I’m going to take on that responsibility for you so that you can know that St. Ann Place will continue to be a ministry to the homeless,” Pescosolido said.
Several people were chosen to share their reflections about how Sister Cekal and Sister Hudon have impacted their lives. One of those grateful friends was Father Albert Dello Russo, diocesan chancellor, who lived part time at St. Ann Parish while he was a seminarian and met the sisters almost 20 years ago. He recounted what their work did for his ministry.
“You taught me things that can’t be learned in a book. You taught me things that can’t be learned in a seminary,” Father Dello Russo said.
“You put a face to the homeless. You put a face to the needy. You put a face to the poor and disenfranchised in a way that I don’t think I ever could have learned in a seminary,” he said. “I have so many homilies and so many papers that were written from the experiences that I had at this parish and those two ministries, including the food pantry out of the garage,” adding that what they taught him is priceless.
At the luncheon’s conclusion, the two sisters told everyone how they will miss seeing and serving alongside them.
“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The thing that will give us the greatest joy is for you to continue at St. Ann. I can’t thank John enough and the staff at St. Ann Place,” Sister Cekal said.
Pescosolido replied that “You know you’re loved. We are all going to miss you. You’re in our hearts, Sisters, so you’re only going away in distance, but you’re always with us. You’ve touched everybody in this room. Personally, you’ve changed my life.”
To learn more about St. Ann Place Outreach Center, call 561-805-7708 or email Pescosolido at firstname.lastname@example.org.