By Gary Kopycinski
Sr. Mary Joachim Blosl, OSF, was a member of our family. Not by blood, but in ways far more important.
Growing up, we knew her as Sr. Joachim, and she was stationed with my Aunt Jeannie, Sr. James Ann Germuska, for as long as I can remember.
Francis sent his brothers, and sisters, out in pairs.
Joachim was part of our family. Joachim was family.
And Sr. Joachim looked up to almost everyone — not just because of her relatively diminutive stature. Joachim was someone who loved. She loved the goodness in the world, she loved her ministry, and she loved her family.
Us. Her family.
Joachim was always there, at family events, birthdays, holidays. It didn’t matter. Her warm smile, larger-than-life heart, and generous laugh filled any room she entered.
That larger-than-life heart finally gave out Sunday morning at about 4:00 a.m., the day Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection. That generous laugh would laugh amongst us no more.
The thing about Sr. Joachim was this: she always credited everyone else.
Crosskeys began, with the help of Fr. Edward Higgins, then pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Brownsville, PA, the oldest continuously operating parish in Western Pennsylvania, as a facility to feed low-income seniors one meal a day. Crosskeys opened at St. Peter’s former convent, right next to the rectory. And Crosskeys Community Center quickly grew. Caring for seniors was always important for my Aunt Jeannie and Sr. Joachim. The mission of Crosskeys, however, expanded to help many, many more. Soon, another center was opened in Republic, PA, again to offer one mid-day meal to seniors.
When I was young, so many years ago, I would spend time, particularly in the summers, at Crosskeys, helping the cooks in the kitchen, helping to deliver meals to home bound senior citizens.
The mission expanded more.
Crosskeys eventually opened The Archives Drop-In Center, which, according to the Crosskey’s Web site, "focuses on providing social rehabilitation for persons in a relaxed, enjoyable non- threatening environment. The Facility provides recreational activities and equipment for individuals ‘at risk’ for, or having a history of psychiatric problems."
And there was more to come.
Again, from the Crosskeys Web site, there came the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program:
Psychiatric Rehabilitation assists persons 18 years or older, with functional disabilities resulting from mental illness to develop, enhance, and/or retain psychiatric stability, social competencies, personal adjustment and/or independent living competencies so that they experience more success and satisfaction in the environments of their choice and can function as independently as possible. A planned program of goal setting, functional assessment, identification of needed and preferred skills and supports, skill teaching and managing supports and resources is needed to produce the desired outcomes consistent with a person’s cultural environment. Psychiatric rehabilitation programs are founded on the principles of consumers choice and the active involvement of persons in their rehabilitation. It is guided by the basic philosophy that people with disabilities need opportunities to identify and choose for themselves their desired roles in the community with regards to living, learning, working, and/or social environment.
Crosskeys is an organization that gives, and then gives more. To us. To our society. To make us better.
And it happened, in no small way, because of Sr. Mary Joachim Blosl, OFM.
I said before that Sr. Joachim credited everyone else. That she looked up to almost everyone.
At family gatherings, when the family was posing for a picture, Sr. Joachim would stand off to the side.
"Sr. Joachim, come here!" one of us would say. "You’re family!" And she would, almost apologetically, eventually join us for the photo.
Say something nice about Crosskeys, Sr. Joachim would begin, "Your Aunt really works hard," never taking credit for her accomplishments.
I know this: I am a better person because of Sr. Mary Joachim Blosl, OFM. I learned the importance of the charism of Service, in no small way, from Sr. Mary Joachim Blosl, OFM.
On Sunday, after more than a week in a coma, after battling Alzeimer’s disease, at the age of 83, that great, generous heart, finally rested.
I believe in God because there is love in the world.
Sr. Mary Joachim Blosl, OFM, lived that Love, every day of her life.
Her formal obituary follows:
BLOSL SR. MARY JOACHIM OSF
On Sun., Feb. 13, 2011. Beloved sister of Sr. Mary Blosl, OSC, and the late Joseph, Martin, John, Matthew, Paul, Anthony, George Blosl, Anna Miller, Margaret Rathke, Antoinette Kress. Several loving nieces and nephews. For almost 30 years, Sister Joachim served as an elementary school teacher in the Pittsburgh and Greensburg Dioceses. In 1976 Sister Joachim began her ministry at Crosskeys Human Services Inc. in Brownsville, PA where she served as Director of Aging and Mental Health Coordinator until she retired in 1995. Upon her retirement she became a Board Member of Crosskeys and held that position until 2001. For seven years she was a resident at Norbert House where she ministered tirelessly to the other residents. In 2008, she joined the Sisters at Mt. Alvernia in Prayer Ministry. We will miss Sister Joachim’s jovial spirit, love of life, and beautiful smile which she shared with all those whose lives she touched during her 64 years as a Franciscan Sister. Visitation at the MT ALVERNIA MOTHERHOUSE CHAPEL, 146 Hawthorne Rd., Millvale WED from 2-8 p.m., THURSDAY from Noon until time of Funeral Mass at 5 p.m. Memorial Contributions may be made to the Sisters of St. Francis Ministry, Formation or Retirement Fund 146 Hawthorne Rd., Pgh., PA 15209. Professional Services Entrusted to the Care of D’ALESSANDRO FUNERAL HOME & CREMATORY LTD