By Carol Masshardt

Since age 19, Sister Maryadele, of the Catholic Charities Labore Center, has been guided by her faith, and that has led her, surely and through experience, to work with and on behalf of those suffering.

“I was always close to the church where I grew up in Syracuse, New York, and learned so much from the sisters along the way, but it was when I saw them in action at a nursing home that I began to understand the meaning of God in action and lives. Faith isn’t just a Sunday morning thing,” she said.

Many know Maryadele as the former Director of Labore prior to her “retirement.”  It may be less known that she returned to the ministry that has meant the world to her and many she has served. In a unique and much needed program, she has worked with others to listen and help heal those who have lost a child or grandchild to a substance use disorder, or those who have someone in their family with substance issues. The work-enriching critically needed and demanding- could tax many, but Sister Maryadele considers herself “lucky and blessed,” to be doing it.

“Through my sixty -nine years of work, from the South Jersey to the Bronx, and in parish communities, I have had many wonderful experiences, but of all the things I’ve been asked to do this, the Recovery Connections, is most meaningful.”

Trained as a social worker, Maryadele brings her mind, skill, and soul to the work with families, primarily women, whose lives have been impacted by someone close with substance use problems. She, with co-leader Edie Morrill, leads retreats with women from all backgrounds, and fosters a community of understanding, support, and growth. Sister Maryadele could see herself at the center of this vital program, but she prefers to talk about herself as one who learns as she goes and regularly experiences the honor of being part of brave lives.

“It isn’t all suffering and sad, we laugh and have joy, but there are stories that have to be told and it isn’t easy,” she said. “I have learned that the women who have lost a child don’t want them referred to as ‘junkies’ or ‘addicts’ because they were more. So often they say that the lost child was the one most sensitive. They suffer from guilt and shame and have been traumatized. It is so important that they are with people who understand and don’t judge but offer understanding and support.”

“Of course, my faith is central in my life, but I don’t expect the same of anyone else, and I don’t preach or proselytize. They don’t need that. I have worked with Father Joe White in South Boston, and he has an extraordinary acceptance of people. I learned early on, and it is what informed my decisions, that to love your neighbor is the highest calling.”

“Substance use in South Boston, as in many places, is the best kept secret everyone knows,” she said. She also has seen close up and a hundred plus times over, the kind of loneliness, isolation and suffering it causes, especially when kept private.

Sister Maryadele does more than bear witness to tragedy though she has the guts and stamina to do that. She listens gently, offers ways of thinking about life, and accompanies people on journeys that can heal souls.

Loving her Laboure colleagues, the community of South Boston, the people who join her in work and in retreats, her family and close friends, Sister Maryadele Robison has led a life of exceptional contribution. She, however, has one regret.

I knew in my heart I had made the right choice. I toyed with being an athlete, but God captured me instead,” she jokes. “I only wished I knew earlier the private pain people suffer with, and the hardship they carry, but experience has taught me.”

There are many legacies in South Boston, but the one Sister Maryadele has nurtured is by all standards a significant gift to a complex community. Perhaps someday, the need for care for those suffering the loss of loved ones from substance use disorders will end, or the stigma and judgement at least lessen.  Until that time, we can only hope that the ethos of Sister Maryadele, and the vision and humanity of the Recovery Connections programs continue.

(To hear more about the programs or to make a donation, contact and you can be sure she will direct you.)

(The author can be reached at