CHARLESTON — Two nuns who have pursued remarkably similar religious lives and career paths were honored as jubilarians by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy at an afternoon eucharistic celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist April 7.
Bishop David B. Thompson was the celebrant, and Msgr. James A. Carter concelebrated.
Sister Roberta Bridgeman was marking 70 years of religious life, and Sister Stella Maris Craven was recognized on her 50th anniversary.
Both women are Charleston natives, graduates of St. Angela Academy in Aiken and Seton Hall University in New Jersey, took continuing education courses at The Citadel, taught at the elementary level, were both principals of Our Lady of Mount Virgin School in Middlesex, N.J., and Christ Our King/Stella Maris School in Mount Pleasant, and were vicar generals and local coordinators for their religious community.
Sister Roberta was born in Charleston on March 30, 1915, to Robert A. and Isabelle F. Lynch Bridgeman. She was baptized on April 11 of that same year at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Charleston. She has one sibling, a sister, Isabelle.
Sister Roberta attended St. Joseph’s School, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, and St. Angela Academy in Aiken, Our Lady of Mercy Junior College, and Pius X School of Music in New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Seton Hall University in New Jersey and has undertaken graduate courses at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, The Citadel, and the College of Charleston.
Sister Roberta entered religious life with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy on Aug. 15, 1932. She made her first profession on June 11, 1935, and final profession on Aug. 15, 1949.
A professional educator, Sister Roberta taught music at the Cathedral School, St. Patrick’s, and Sacred Heart, all in Charleston, as well as St. Mary’s in Greenville. She specialized in piano and organ. She also served as principal at St. Joseph’s-Stella Maris, Christ Our King-Stella Maris, and Our Lady of Mount Virgin in Middlesex, N.J.
Sister Roberta served on school boards, parish councils, and the Hospital Board for Divine Saviour Hospital Nursing Home.
For her religious community, she served as novice mistress from 1961 to 1970, vicar general from 1980 to 1984, and assistant coordinator at the motherhouse from 1988 to 1992, as well as local superior at Our Lady of Mount Virgin from 1955 to 1961, St. Mary’s in Greenville from 1970 to 1974, and St. Joseph’s Hall-May Forest from 1980 to 1988.
In an article which appeared in The Miscellany about a dozen years ago titled, “A Sister I Know,” Holly Maher of Christ Our King/Stella Maris wrote, “Sister Roberta always told the teachers to make sure each child was happy before he or she went home, so they could look forward to coming to school the following day.”
Sister Stella Maris was born in Charleston on Aug. 22, 1933, to John E. and Erline Meyer Craven. She was baptized on Oct. 1. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, Jimmy Craven, Joan Hain, Joyce Tucker, and Larry Craven, who is deceased.
Sister Stella Maris attended St. Andrew’s Elementary School, St. Andrew’s High School, Bishop England High School, and St. Angela Academy. She received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education/biology from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in elementary administration/supervision from The Citadel.
Sister Stella Maris entered religious life with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy on Feb. 2, 1952. She made her first profession on Aug. 22, 1954, and final profession on Aug. 22, 1957.
Also a professional educator, Sister Stella Maris taught at the Cathedral School, Sacred Heart, Immaculate Conception, and Bishop England, all in Charleston, as well as St. Angela Academy in Aiken and Our Lady of Mount Virgin in New Jersey. She also served as principal at St. Mary’s in Greenville, St. Andrew’s in Myrtle Beach, Our Lady of Mount Virgin, and Christ Our King/Stella Maris, her current position, which she has held since 1980.
In 1999, Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine selected Christ Our King/Stella Maris as one of 12 recipients of the Year 2000 Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award. In the last two decades, enrollment at the school has increased from 315 students to over 700.
In a Jan. 29, 1998, article in The Miscellany titled, “Involving the community to better education,” Sister Stella Maris said of the teachers at the Mount Pleasant school, “They get along great and form a community, so the kids can observe what a sense of community should be like.”
Sister Stella Maris has served on school and hospital boards, parish councils, and building committees. She was a member of the diocesan Synod.
For her religious community, she served as general councilor and general secretary from 1970 to 1980, general councilor/vicar general from 1996 to 2000, as well as local superior/coordinator at St. Mary’s in Greenville, Christ Our King, and Our Lady of Mount Virgin.
Sister Roberta shared her memories of joining the OLM sisters during the jubilee Mass at the Cathedral. Here’s an excerpt:
“I entered the convent with a group of four others: Sister Margaretta Molony, Sister Eleanor McKamey, Sister Lawrence Cass, and Sister Ann Marie Strange.
“In those days, your place in the community depended upon the date your application was received by the mother general.
“Your place in the chapel, dining room, community room, and place in the lineup on Sunday morning to go to the 10:30 Mass in the Cathedral all depended on the date your application arrived at 68 Legare Street. Since my application was the last to arrive, I became number five.
“There were two duties the youngest postulant always had, dusting the steps from the fourth floor to the basement. There were no vacuum machines. You were the Dustbuster with a dust pan, brush and cloth.
“The other duty for number five was to ring the bells: the signal for Mass, meals, the beginning and end of recreation. …
“I prayed all year that someone would enter so I could pass on the steps and bell ringer jobs.
“After six months as postulants, we were received into the community and given our religious habit and religious name.”