Both cousins picked ministry…unbeknownst to the other.
Father Michael Bassano, 72, was born on December 22, the same calendar that Mother Cabrini died. “It was a sign of a calling to be a missionary as well,” he wrote in an email.
The Binghamton, NY native is now a Maryknoll missionary serving as the Catholic chaplain for people who have been displaced by civil war in the UN Protection of Civilians (POC) camp in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, where his routine includes writing poetry
Impressed as a youth by the happiness of the nuns who instructed herm Sr. Joan Marie Sariti, MSC, 95, Father Bassano’s first cousin once removed, became a nurse – “that’s what I like.”
A native of Scranton, PA, about 50 miles from Binghamton, she is one of 18 sisters living at Sacred Heart Convent in Lower Manhattan. A priest brings her copies of the Catholic Sun, the newspaper of the Syracuse, NY, so she can read about her cousin’s life in the African country.
“As I was growing up in Binghamton and was deciding to become a priest,” Fr. Bassano wrote, “my parents and family never told me about my cousin who is a religious sister. I finally found out about her years later.”
“I didn’t know he was going to be a priest until he was ordained,” Sr. Joan Marie said, and then we went to Binghamton before his first Mass [in 1975]. And then we went back again in 2000 when he had his 25th up at Maryknoll – a nice Mass and luncheon out on the grounds, under the tents, beautiful,” the last word pronounced in classic Big Apple style: “beauteeeful.”
Fr. Bassano called his cousin “a creative, amazing woman” with “a funny sense of humor and a warm personality. Her story helps me to understand my own journey as a missionary.
A public-school student Sister Joan Marie went for catechesis, First Holy Communion and Confirmation instruction with the nuns who had a convent in the school that was connected to St. Lucy’s Church in Scranton.
“I went to visit them every Tuesday, when I went for the novena,” she recalled. And…they seemed so happy, so I said, well, this is what I really want.
Sr. Joan was a postulant and a novice in West Park, NY, and after her first profession there, she went to Chicago to study nursing. She made her final vows where she graduated from the nursing school at the now-closed Columbus Hospital. Within walking distance was DePaul University where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. She worked at two hospitals in Chicago and one in Seattle. She did surgical and pediatric nursing and also worked in nursing administration.
Fr. Basano has served Maryknoll in Chile, Thailand, Tanzania and steadily since 2014, South Sudan.
A few years ago she enjoyed a visit from Fr. Bassano and his brother Ted. He told the sisters all about South Sudan. “It was very interesting…I hope he’s safe.”
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