By Theresa Carson
Maggie Bessette, longtime secretary and executive assistant for the Divine Word Bordentown community in Bordentown, N.J., received the 2021 Verbum Award on June 21.
Nominated by Divine Word Fathers Walter Miller and Raymond Lennon, Mrs. Bessette’s nomination was approved by the SVD Provincial Council in April.
“We recommend Mrs. Maggie Bessette for the Verbum Award for her dedicated professionalism and expertise in working with the Divine Word Missionaries for some 24 years,” wrote Father Miller.
Mrs. Bessette began working for the Divine Word Missionaries in 1976. Her knowledge of the New Jersey Department of Education’s requirements and her professional handling of transcripts and official state documentation contributed to the success of Divine Word Seminary at Bordentown. Going above and beyond, she sought and received approval as a notary public by the Burlington County Commissionaire to expediate document processing.
When the high school seminary closed because of decreasing enrollment in 1983, Mrs. Bessette transferred to St. Joseph’s Seminary, the Vincentian school in Princeton, N.J., where some of the Divine Word students completed their studies.
She worked for the Vincentians for 20 years before retiring. In retirement, she was approached by Father Lennon and asked to return to be the administrative assistant for the rector and house treasurer of the SVD Bordentown community.
During this time, Mrs. Bessette oversaw the transport of 70-years-worth of official and legal documents from Bordentown to the Robert M. Myers Archives and Resources Center at Techny, Ill. Mrs. Bessette retired for a second time in December 2020, shortly before her 90th birthday.
On Monday, Provincial Father Quang Duc Dinh was joined by Divine Word Fathers Pedro Bou, Peter Claver (Fleury) Lunimbu, Martin Padovani and Stephen Schuler; Mrs. Bessette’s son Mark and his wife Carolyn; and her best friend Ms. Gerrie Harrison at a dinner in Bordentown in her honor.
For the past 24 years, the Verbum Award has recognized laypeople who have offered extraordinary service to the Society of the Divine Word-Chicago Province.
The Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Province, the largest in the western hemisphere, oversees the work of more than 250 Roman Catholic missionaries working among the economically disenfranchised, immigrants and minorities in numerous states, Canada and the Caribbean. Worldwide, more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries work in more than 80 countries around the globe.