Sister Vincent Marie of the Child Jesus

June 30, 1923 - November 7, 2017

Jn 30 VincMarie 14Rita Bernadette Therese Binder was the daughter of Andrew and Benilda Binder. She was born and raised in Long Island City (Astoria), and entered the Missionary Servants at the age of 20, after having been a member of the MCA for about four years. Her pastor recommended her as “pious, devout, honorable, virtuous, and has the disposition that enables her to mix and adapt herself to all conditions.” Her ability to adapt was proven over the years, as she served in over 20 missions during her religious life. She adapted herself to conditions from Cleveland, Ohio to Coamo, Puerto Rico; from Opelika, Alabama to Brooklyn, New York.

Before Sr. Vincent Marie could take her final vows, her director had to fill out a check-list of about 50 yes or no questions testifying to Sister’s suitability. Is she faithful to prayers? Yes. Conscientious? Yes. Is she kindly and sympathetic? Yes. Does she argue? No. Selfish? No. Does she use slang?… Here, Sr. Pretiosa felt compelled to write, “Maybe. Occasionally.”

If Sister Vincent Marie occasionally used slang, it was surely in the interest of making herself understood to the people she served. This meant more than learning Spanish, which she did. It meant speaking to the heart of her clients. Sister worked with a wide variety of people: inner-city Chinese, rural Southerners, Brooklyn senior citizens, Puerto Ricans in Ohio, even Laotian refugees in Alabama. She had a special concern for developmentally delayed youth and adults. Sister almost always lived and worked outside of the comfort zone of her own native culture, and always, she found a way to connect to those she served.

Sister’s educational file was remarkably thick. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and psychology, and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. But she also took special training wherever she could get it, in a vast array of topics related to social work and catechetical ministry. She authored some papers, for example on catechesis with mentally challenged youth and on supervisory skills in social work. The sheer number of workshops she attended over the years were all intended to help her in ministry. Sister was clearly a workhorse, and perhaps that workshop she once took on how to avoid burnout saved her from actually burning out.

It is all the more remarkable that Sister Vincent did all she did, for all her years, while suffering from a variety of physical ailments. She was the victim of a serious car accident and suffered some grievous injuries. She was injured again later after she was attacked by a mentally challenged client. She had many surgeries, including for cancer. A note in her file from a former Councilor says, “Sister enjoys consistent bad health.” Yet she did not use her health problems as a pass to take easy assignments. She was clearly one who said yes to what was asked of her. Throughout her many missions and ministries, she also served on many committees for MSBT and took on extra diocesan and ministry committee work.

In Sister’s later years, she began to focus more and more on outreach to elderly shut-ins. She inspired an article in the Catholic Universe Bulletin in 1981 which proclaimed her as a minister to the “Church Confined.” She responded to the unmet need in her parish by organizing and training volunteers to accompany the elderly. One example of this ministry was a special valentine she prepared, which was assembled and delivered to her parish shut-ins by her squadron of volunteers. She was quoted in the article as saying, “Loneliness can be an epidemic. With a little training we can all help cure the loneliness of confinement.”

Sister Vincent Marie’s history is a remarkable reflection of the particular spirit which impels the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity. Father Judge said, “We should not appear as a dietitian, a financier, a teacher. We should appear first as men and women of God. As a Missionary. We should impress people as Missionary Servants.” Sister Vincent Marie was a teacher. She was a social worker. She was a catechist and trainer of catechists. She was a scholar, a supervisor, a pastoral associate. But she was very clear about her true vocation. When asked to fill out her annual report, she listed her goals. Sister Vincent Marie’s mission was “to promote every Catholic a Missionary. To live our motto: Be good. Do good. Be a power for good.”

May she rest in peace.