Sr. Mary Bartholomew of the Incarnation was born Elvira Marie Cosolito on November 9, 1930 in Brooklyn to Concetta and Bartolo Cosolito. Both parents were born in Italy. She was the youngest of seven children, with two brothers and four sisters. She was baptized on July 16, 1931 in Sacred Hearts – St. Stephen’s Church and grew up mainly in St. Paul’s Parish, Brooklyn.
After reading the pamphlet “What Richer Life”, she wrote to Mother Mary Frances for more information about the community in 1949. She entered on August 5, 1950, made first profession of vows on March 25, 1952 and final profession on March 25, 1955. To her surprise, right after first profession she was sent to Puerto Rico for her first mission. She spent her first seven years there in three places: Roosevelt, Cabo Rojo, and Coamo doing home visiting, catechetical instruction, then teaching in the school, and general parish work.
The next seven years, Sr. Bartholomew worked in St. Bridget’s Parish in Newark, NJ taking census, visiting families in crumbling tenements and the projects, rounding up children for CCD classes and preparing them for First Communion and Confirmation. Her knowledge of the Spanish language and Puerto Rican culture were vital in enabling her to provide necessary social services to the Spanish-speaking parishioners. While she was in Newark, she attended Seton Hall part-time and received a BA degree in Elementary Education in 1964.
From 1966 – 1968, Sr. Bartholomew pursued graduate studies in social work at Loyola University in Chicago, earning her MSW in 1968. She was then assigned to the Adoption Services Dept. of Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia where she served for the next 20 years as Supervisor and Administrator. In addition to an active domestic adoption program, she developed an extensive International program which ultimately provided homes and families for more than 3000 children from Korea, Vietnam, Peru, Hong Kong, Philippines, Ecuador, and Colombia. She also set up a network of support groups for adoptive parents and an educational component for those adopting children from other countries so they would learn about the culture and heritage of their children.
Sr. Bartholomew received state-wide, national, and international recognition for implementation of programs for foreign-born children in need of adoption. One example is this Letter of Appreciation from the head of the Republic of Korea Ministry of Health and Social Affairs :
“ The valuable supports you have provided through Catholic Relief Services and USCC with your humanitarian love and devotion toward the improvement of the welfare of the underprivileged children has been of a great help to the growth of children as well as to the promotion of friendly ties existing between our two countries. In recognition of and appreciation for your contribution toward the development of child welfare programs in Korea as well as to the peace of mankind, I take great pleasure in awarding this Letter of Appreciation.”
With or without recognition, it gave Bart great joy to be an instrument in bringing together children and families who needed each other.
And – during all those years, Bart carried out a little side ministry of fundraising for our community. There was the Tuesday night Bingo at the Motherhouse that she ran for so many years, the flea markets six or eight times a year, the Horse Shows, the Motherhouse bazaars, the Christmas sales at Summer St. for the Archdiocese employees, the jewelry sales (she always had a carrying case of gold and silver with her), and the many trips and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, to Rome, to Greece, and to Medjugorje.
When she finished her ministry at CSS in 1989 she became the Director of the Fund Development Office where she coordinated all our fund development efforts – Trinity Treasury, direct mail appeals, Christmas and Easter cards, March of Missions, the collection talks in so many Dioceses, Endowment Fund, seeking grants from foundations and corporations, in addition to all those special activities like flea markets and Horse Shows. Bart’s dedication to raising funds was total and I’m sure will never be matched.
In 2001, she started working on a more part-time basis as Coordinator of Special Events and concentrating on more personal contact with donors, thanking them and trying to increase our income from wills and other bequests.
In 2008, Sr. Bartholomew completed her ministry in Fund Development, and as she was dealing with serious health issues, she moved into the Ministry of Prayer in 2010. As we know, she suffered bravely with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease for the last several years.
In September 2014 she moved to Mother Boniface Missionary Cenacle at Wesley and earned the admiration and affection of the Health Care staff who have cared for her there. While we are relieved that she is free of her suffering and she is with God, we also feel her loss.
You hear various descriptions of Bart : Sr. B the wheeler-dealer, Queen of the flea markets, a colorful character, a force to be reckoned with, the master salesperson.
I just know I can picture her now with St. Peter, trying to sell him a gold watch.
Rest in peace and joy, Bart.