Meet Sister Maria Salerno
Since joining the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in 1964, Sister Maria Salerno has always had a full and active life as a nurse, primary care nurse practitioner, nursing professor and former member of the congregation’s leadership team. Two years ago, she celebrated the 50th anniversary of joining the community. And as is obvious in these photos of her working, volunteering, praying and sharing time with her sisters in community, Sister Maria shows no signs of slowing down from a schedule that would leave many exhausted.
“I learned to cook from my Italian father and Polish mother. I like making new recipes and watching people eat and enjoy what I have cooked,” Sister Maria says of the duties she shares with her sister-housemates. Last Easter, she sculpted butter into the shape of lambs, though she claims “one looked more like a poodle!”
Technology makes it possible for Sister Maria to continue her work as an adjunct faculty member with The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She teaches a graduate level course for as many as 20 students from all across the country. “It’s more time-consuming than teaching a course on campus. The students have reading assignments and I prepare PowerPoint presentations with a voiceover that I record for some sessions. They have online discussion groups and I monitor those and respond to any questions that come up. And I conduct virtual office hours where we are face-to-face via Skype,” she says.
Working the Polls
Even though her time is at a premium, Election Day in November 2016 found Sister Maria volunteering at the polls. “It is important for me to be part of the civic community,” she says. “I meet many new people and enjoy helping first time voters.
It’s really exciting to see new citizens voting for the first time.”
Sister Maria shares a house with Sisters Norise Kaiser and Anne Marie Saphara. They begin each day in prayer together before heading off to their jobs at the congregational offices. “I love praying with the sisters I live with,” says Sister Maria. “I always find a new spiritual message in the readings.”
She volunteers at the Poverello Clinic for the poor and uninsured that the sisters manage in partnership with the Franciscan Church of the Assumption on Syracuse’s north side. “I believe that I was called by God to become a sister who would minister and serve the sick and dying as well as the indigent and needy,” says Sister Maria. “We see people from West Africa, South America, Central America, Afghanistan — the city’s immigrants. The patients give me more than I give them.”
Working the Congregational Archives
Several years ago, Sister Maria completed course work in museums and archives and digital preservation at American Public University. She now serves as the congregation’s assistant archivist, reviewing documents and preserving stories of the many contributions the Sisters of St. Francis have made over the past 150 years.
“I have always loved history. It’s very rewarding learning about the sisters who went before us. Every day presents another mystery to be solved.”