Sister Mary Antonia Popielarczyk

Sister Mary Antonia was a beloved member of the Felician Community for 72 years.
Sister Mary Antonia Popielarczyk
April 10, 1935 — March 16, 2024

Sister Mary Antonia (Anastasia Felicia) Popielarczyk, CSSF, 88, a beloved member of the Felician Congregation for 72 years, peacefully went home to her God whom she so faithfully served, on March 16, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Convent in Enfield, Connecticut.

Born on April 10, 1935, in Clinton, Massachusetts, Phyllis, as she was known, was the only daughter of Alexander and Anna (Gorski) Popielarczyk. She grew up with her four brothers—Alex, Edmund, Joseph and Eugene—on Green Street, Clinton’s Polish enclave, filled with immigrants who brought their culture, traditions, and language with them, shaping the neighborhood’s unique character. She was a member of Clinton’s Polish parish, St. Mary’s, and received her elementary school education at St. Mary School, staffed by the Felician Sisters. It was there that she heard God’s call to serve him as a Felician Sister.

After graduation from eighth grade in 1948, Phyllis applied for admission to the aspirancy of the Felician Sisters in Enfield, Connecticut. She continued her education at Our Lady of the Angels Academy and following graduation in 1952, was accepted to the postulancy. A year later, she was invested in the Felician habit and received her religious name, Sister Mary Antonia. She made her first profession of vows on August 7, 1954, and on August 7, 1960, she sealed her commitment by professing her religious vows for the rest of her life.

In preparation for her future ministry, Sister Mary Antonia pursued higher education and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education from St. John’s University in New York. She completed additional coursework at Central Connecticut State College (now University) in New Britain, the University of Hartford in West Hartford, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., which qualified her to teach Spanish.

A gifted and compassionate teacher, Sister Mary Antonia ministered for nine years in elementary schools staffed by the Felician Sisters in Hartford, Connecticut; Easthampton, Massachusetts; and Florida and Floral Park, New York. In 1964, she returned to Our Lady of the Angels Academy as a teacher. Her students remember her as “always upbeat,” and “a great teacher.” While at OLAA, she served as directress of the aspirancy from 1966-1967 and had the opportunity to travel with the students to Italy, Switzerland, and Spain. She spent the summer of 1970 in Spain to become more proficient in conversational Spanish.

After 14 years at the Academy, in 1978 she returned to teaching at the elementary level for 31 years, in Fall River and Webster, Massachusetts; at both St. Bernard and St. Marhta Schools in Enfield, Connecticut, and in Manchester, New Hampshire. In October 2007, both Sister Antonia and Sister Mary Lawrence Lojko who ministered at St. Casimir School in Manchester, were recognized for the Christian witness they exhibited daily. Sister Antonia said that when their names were announced, her first thoughts were, “Do you mean us, two regular individuals, usually cheerful and understanding, but sometimes not? We were overwhelmed!” An excerpt from the tribute at the celebration banquet read, “What makes Saint Casimir’s so special are its students, its teachers and two special ladies who have given their entire lives in humble service to children and to God. Each and every day you inspire us by who you are. You inspire us by the gift of yourselves wholeheartedly to all of us, the young people of this city. You have taught us, you have loved us, you have changed us. Your example is a profound one, and so is your effect. You humbly and quietly have shown me God’s presence in this world, you have shown God’s presence in you.”

Always a creative person who enjoyed making new discoveries, Sister Antonia began creating her own homemade chocolate candy, while still in Manchester. Working on a small scale at first, she tried out small batches of different recipes, to the delight of Sister Mary Lawrence. She continued once she got to Enfield, starting with a few samples that the sisters enjoyed. She discovered some favorites, eventually making candy to sell at the province’s fund raisers. She worked hard to assure there would be plenty of these indulgent treats to satisfy customers, and even expanded her effort, providing homemade chocolate table favors for several jubilee celebrations!

After full-time ministry as an educator for 54 years, in 2009, Sister Antonia “retired” to Our Lady of the Angels Provincial House in Enfield. With the closing of her time in the ministry of education, another avenue opened, and she continued to serve the Felician community as patient advocate for the sisters in Holy Family Infirmary.

In 2012, for the celebration of her 60th anniversary of her life in the Felician Congregation, Sister Antonia wrote, “What a gift! God called me at an early age and has been my faithful companion, encouraging me and blessing me throughout all these years.”

In 2013, because of health challenges, Sister Antonia herself became a resident of the care center. While Alzheimer’s was part of Sister Antonia’s life journey for the last five years of her life, the nursing staff, who lovingly attended her, said she was a gem to care for, always very gracious and careful not to offend anyone. When she became more non-verbal, her beautiful smile conveyed her gratitude.

Sister Antonia is mourned by her religious community, her nieces Camme Kemp and Gwen Iacovo, former students and friends.

Friends may join the sisters for a wake to honor Sister Antonia’s memory on Thursday, March 21, from 9-10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of the Angels Convent, 1315 Enfield St., in Enfield. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 10:30 a.m. Burial will take place in the Felician Sisters plot at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Enfield. Memorial donations in Sister Antonia’s name may be made to the Felician Sisters, 1315 Enfield St. Enfield, CT 06082.

Vaya condios, Hermana Antonio. May the angels lead you into paradise.

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Serving where needed since 1874

Founded in Poland in 1855, the Felician Sisters are a congregation of women religious inspired by the spiritual ideals of their foundress, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, and Saints Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi and Felix of Cantalice. Arriving in North America in 1874 following Blessed Mary Angela’s directive “to serve where needed,” they helped to weave the social service system. Today, the Felician Sisters founded, sponsor or support through the presence of our sisters, more than 40 ministries – all continuing to evolve to meet the needs of the people they serve.

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