Sister Marie Christelle Zabalerio, M.M. , Maryknoll Sister for 56 Years Dies

Maryknoll, NY: Sister Marie Christelle Zabalerio, M.M. died on April 28th, 2020. She was 82 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 56 years. Marie was born in Lucena, Philippines on January 11th, 1939 to Segundina (Padillo) Zabalerio and Eugeniano Zabalerio. She had one sister, Lyda and two brothers, Rolando and Generoso; she is survived by her brother Generoso.

Marie attended Maryknoll Academy High School in Lucena City, PH from 1951-1955. Following her graduation, she enrolled at Maryknoll College in Manila, where she earned a Bachelor of Education Degree in 1959. For the next two years, she taught at Maryknoll Academy High School.

On June 1st, 1963, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate in Quezon City, PH. At her Reception she was given the religious name, Sister Marie Christelle, a name she retained throughout her life. She made her First Profession of Vows in the Philippines on March 19th, 1966 and her Final Vows on May 17th, 1970, also in the Philippines.

Sister Marie Christelle received her first mission assignment to the Philippines in 1966, she served as a grade school teacher at Maryknoll School in Quezon City until 1968. She was then appointed as Principal of the College of St. John the Baptist in Jimenez where she served until 1971. For the next few years, she continued to teach English, Religion and Catechetical classes at Sto. Tomas, Maryknoll High School and in the public elementary school. In 1972, Sister Marie Christelle broadened her services to include parish work at Sto. Tomas San Miguel Parish. There she took on various roles: Youth Coordinator, Advisor to Volunteer Catechists, Seminar Organizer for Women and an Active Member of the Deanery and Prelature Youth Commission.

In 1976, Sister Marie Christelle returned to the U.S. to attend Trocaire College, Buffalo, NY she earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing in 1978. She then returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, NY where she worked as a Nurse’s Aide at the Congregations Bethany Nursing Home until 1979. She spent the next few years working at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Montrose, NY, where she received a “Certificate of Appreciation” after 100 hours of service in 1981.

Sister Marie Christelle spent the next 11 years in Bangladesh serving as a Field Supervisor of a Natural Family Planning Program in the Kulna Region. Her work also included family counseling, pre-marriage courses, preparation of lay leaders, neighborhood Christian community involvement and training women to teach natural family planning until 1990.

She returned to the Philippines for “family ministry” in 1991, during her time there she set up special seminars for Maryknoll Sisters and engaged in ecumenical work. Following her family ministry, Sister Marie Christelle returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, NY to take special courses in religious formation. She was then appointed as a member of the Congregation’s Orientation Team. In 2001, she continued her education and earned a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola College, Chicago, IL.

Sister Marie Christelle was assigned to Aileu, East Timor in 2004, where she engaged in community-based health work, taught English, was an advisor at the Catholic High School and introduced the Natural Family Planning Program.

In 2014 she returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in NY to retire.

Funeral Services: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, funeral services will be scheduled for a date in the future when group gatherings are deemed safe. Sister Marie Christelle’s family and our community remember her soul in prayer during this difficult time.