Sister Toni Longo, who is leaving Chestnut Hill this Friday for a new post in Rome, is seen here with Sophia Chaparro, a student in St. Joseph’s Community, a parish where Sister Toni formerly served in Alameda, California.

by Christine Wolkin

Sister Toni Longo, ASC, former Director of Worship at Our Mother of Consolation Parish, knew she wanted to enter the sisterhood since the second grade. The first of five children, Sister Toni spent her whole youth in Chestnut Hill, much of which was spent living right on Germantown Avenue over Marion’s Girl and Boy Shop, a former child’s clothing and toy store owned by the family. Her parents, Anthony J. and Ruth M. Longo, lived in Chestnut Hill all of their married life at Germantown Avenue and Devon Street.

“I wanted to be like my 2nd grade teacher here at Consolation, Sister Clare Michael,” the born-and-raised Chestnut Hill resident explained, adding that she’d always envisioned herself as a Sister of St. Joseph, just like her teachers at Our Mother of Consolation Grade School. But God had different plans. At a vocation exhibit during her junior year at Cardinal Dougherty High School, she met the vocation director of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a religious community based in Columbia, Lancaster County. Two Sisters of St. Joseph were instrumental in that first encounter, “so,” Longo added, “in a way I owe my vocation to God, of course, and to the faith of my parents and family but also to the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ are an international Catholic community of religious women who were founded in Acuto, Italy, in 1834 by Maria De Mattias. The spirit of the community is “Charity, all charity toward God and our dear neighbor,” as Maria would tell the early Sisters. Now, members living throughout the world work to be a compassionate presence for all people to empower others, especially women and children, and to foster oneness, celebrate life and “to form right relationships.”

Making the decision to join another community outside of the Sisters of Saint Joseph was difficult, Sister Toni said, but she was blessed to come full circle over the years and return to Chestnut Hill in 2011 to care for her mother and work at her home Parish.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Sister Toni, who began her ministry at just 20 years old, celebrated 50 years as a vowed member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ with her Sisters and family in Columbia, PA. On Sunday, Aug. 26, it was a gift to celebrate “at home” with Mass and a reception at OMC, where many of those present have been life-long friends.

“God had more surprises in store,” said Sister Toni. Invited by the General Council of her congregation, in mid-September she is transitioning from her role at Our Mother of Consolation Parish to a new assignment in Rome, Italy, at her community’s Generalate (central house) there. She will minister with an international group of sisters as members of the coordinating team of CIS (Centro Internationale Spiritualita’), the community’s international spirituality center located there. She will leave for Rome this Friday, Sept. 14.

“We will have two objectives: first, to provide on-going formation opportunities for our Sisters and lay Associates, and second, to become a resource for peace and justice and initiatives for care for the integrity of the earth. We will collaborate with other Precious Blood congregations and others, sharing our charism and promoting the dignity of all life.”

(Ed. Note: “Charism” is defined as “an extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church.”)

Longo will spend the next six years in the international community in Rome and is eager to for this experience to transform her. “I’m looking forward to living and working in an international community, learning more about out congregation and its spirituality, how it is lived throughout the world, growing and learning from the other cultures,” she said. “To somehow let it change me; a call throughout our whole congregation is to be open to transformation. God touches us with grace in all circumstances; the challenge is to not hold it at bay but let it transform us and change us. That’s a challenge and a gift at the same time!”

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