Marion Ariemma, who ignited the sparks of parish nursing ministries in the Diocese of Trenton some 20 years ago, died April 10 at age 100.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated April 18 in the All Saints Chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Whiting, where Mrs. Ariemma was a parishioner from 1978 until 2014, at which time she went to live with her daughter in Virginia. It was in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish where she helped to initiate two outreach ministries, the Helping Hands group in 1989, which provides assistance to those in the parish community who are unable to meet their daily needs. In 1998, she founded St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Parish Nursing Program, which is a group of nurses in the parish volunteering their time and expertise to provide a health care ministry that assists the parishioners with their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being by making available offerings such as educational opportunities, health screenings, referrals and spiritual support.
In the nearly nine years he has been pastor, Father Pasquale Papalia came to know Mrs. Ariemma, describing her as a “phenomenon in our parish.”
Even at an advanced age, she was “savvy and full of compassion for the many senior citizens who would reach out to our nursing ministry just for some common sense answers,” he said. “The doctoring was left to the doctors, but blood pressure screenings and helpful reminders to ‘take your medicine’ or get to the doctor was part and parcel of what the group of nurses, mostly retired got involved with.”
“She could spot a problem a mile away,” Father Papalia continued. Then with a smile he added that she would “tactfully but not so subtly, address when something needed to be dealt with by a reluctant senior.”
Born in Newburgh, N.Y., Mrs. Ariemma graduated from St. Francis Hospital Nursing School and began her professional career as a registered nurse in St. Clare Hospital, New York City. At the beginning of World War II she enlisted in the Navy Nurse Corp and served in Naval hospitals in Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia.
She and her husband, Nick, were married in 1946 and in 1950 had moved to Dumont where together they raised five children.
A certified geriatric nurse, she retired in 1978 from her position as charge nurse at Bergen Pines County Hospital, Paramus, and moved to Whiting and joined St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Though retired, she continued her nursing in private duty work in the community, as well as her parish involvement with Helping Hands and Parish Nursing, and liturgical service as a reader and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
On a diocesan level, Mrs. Ariemma was recognized in 2004 with a Leadership Award for Ministry to the Aging by the then Office of Family Life/Respect Life. In 2007, she was a recipient of the Nostrum Ecclesiam Tempus (Our Time to Be Church) Award, which honored men and women in the Diocese who have served and supported the work of the Gospel in an extraordinary way, by then Bishop John M. Smith.
Sandy Mullarkey, who currently serves as pastoral associate in St. Anselm Parish, Wayside, reflected on coming to know Mrs. Ariemma some 20 years ago when Mullarkey was exploring the possibility of beginning a ministry in her own parish, Epiphany, Brick.
“She was my mentor,” Mullarkey said of Mrs. Ariemma, recalling that after their first meeting in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, “I left the meeting inspired and enflamed.
“She encouraged nurses to stay connected to God in their work of healing body, mind and spirit,” Mullarkey said.
“Many parishes in the Diocese have been influenced by Marion’s motivation, knowledge and experience in faith community nursing. She was a strong woman of faith, vision and courage.”
Father Papalia remarked on how Mrs. Ariemma carried out her ministries “with a real and concentrated effort in which she put her Catholic faith into practice in a most low-key but definitive way.”
“All who knew her realized that she was the real thing. I certainly did,” he said, then added that it was a privilege for him to celebrate her funeral Mass on Tuesday of Easter Week, April 18.
“How fitting is that for one who brought light, life and leaning into many lives,” he said.
Mrs. Ariemma was predeceased by her husband who died in 2004 and sons, Martin and Joseph. She is survived by her children, Nicholas F. of Wildwood; Elizabeth of Purcellville, Va., and Margaret Luongo of Macon, N.C.; seven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.