The Alumni Reception and Awards Celebration was a highlight of Felician University’s Annual Homecoming Weekend held Friday through Sunday, October 14 – 16.
S Marie Teresa Soltys, Class of 1986, received the Alumni Service Award. Sister Teresa was one of three alumni receiving awards.
Each honoree invited someone who introduced them to the guests who were gathered for the occasion. Sister Teresa chose S Lynn Marie Zawacka whose remarks were based on the premise, “What I am going to tell you is not hyperbole. All I tell you is true about Sister Teresa.”
After sharing a brief biography, Sister Lynn continued:
Over the past 15 years, Sister T has been active in a variety of ways with the students at Felician: she prays with the athletes before games, she travels to away games with them on the bus, she is their loudest cheerleader at as many games as she can possibly attend (regardless of time or weather), and she encourages the student athletes to model good behavior because in competition, as she tells them, they represent not only themselves, but Felician University.
Sister T delights in playing pool in the Student Center (and she wins most of the time – much to the dismay of the male student challengers!).
She prepares students to participate in ministry roles for the campus liturgical celebrations and she is member of the RCIA team to assist in preparing students for the sacraments.
She counsels students who need support in resolving personal problems. In her first meeting with the students, she gives them her cell phone number so they can call her any time of the day or night – she wants to be available to them.
She ‘hangs out’ with students in the cafeteria and she leads a ‘pizza and prayer’ evening to offer students the time for heart-to-heart sharing.
She accompanies students to the soup kitchens in Paterson and Newark and travels with them to New York City for the Midnight Run. She collects clothing and personal care products for the needy. Unabashedly, she solicits donations to support these programs. Compassion, reverence for life, acceptance of diversity, peace-making, service to the disadvantaged and joy are Franciscan values promoted at Felician University, and Sister T models them with zeal and generosity.
Rain or shine, summer or winter, Sister T is always ready to help a cat or a ‘kid,’ as she affectionately refers to the students she serves!
Sister T characteristically does everything with joy and infectious laughter. Students know by her smile, a pat on the back, an endearing “nickname,” and her availability that she cares for them deeply. She consoles them when someone they love has died. She congratulates them in their successes. She confronts them when their behavior is not acceptable. She challenges them to be the best that they can be.
Although I am a friend of Sister Teresa for four decades, I believe I have been objective and have not used hyperbole to describe her life and ministry at Felician University. Sister T truly seeks to do the best she can for each student. Her energy and dedication during these past 15 years are the result of her own sincere love for Jesus and the image of Jesus that she sees in each person.