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My Vocation Story by Sr. Barb Kwiatkowski, OSF

00102175My vocation story begins in God’s country—beautiful Ohio—-where I was born and raised. I was born into a 100% Polish family, the oldest of 3 girls. Ours was not a family without problems, but, despite our problems, there was always a lot of love. My grandparents were very influential in my faith life, especially my mom’s dad. My parents constantly stressed that we were here on earth to become good persons and help others, but my Dziadzia (grandpa) taught us to pray and always talked to us about God and about the possibility of religious life.

When I was in the 3rd grade, I made my First Communion. I remember feeling so close to God! I also remember being fascinated with the Sisters who taught me in school and by the kind of life they led. They seemed especially connected to God and very happy. When I was ready to start the 4th grade, we moved to another part of the city and I went to a different school where I had a very similar experience with the Sisters who were my teachers. They often suggested to me that when I got older I should think about becoming a Sister. I had no idea if that was something I wanted to consider as an adult, but I liked them, and so I listened.

When I graduated from grade school, I went to an all girl’s Catholic high school. I played basketball in high school, sang in the school choir, worked on the paper and the yearbook and was President of the Christian Service Club. Becoming a Sister was the farthest thing from my mind! Being a Sister was not popular at the time and I was having way too much fun to even consider such a possibility. I do believe, though, that throughout my life God had been calling me to consider religious life through the people and events I had experienced, but at this point in my life, I just wasn’t listening.

After graduating from high school, I enrolled at the University of Toledo. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and really didn’t like the big school atmosphere at UT, where I was just a number. I dropped out of college after a year and went to work full time. I was making good money and was able to travel, buy a new Camaro and a motorcycle and go out on the weekends with my friends. Sounds great, but I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel fulfilled. A friend of mine who realized that I was searching for something, asked me to help him with the youth group at an inner city parish where he volunteered. I agreed and that’s where I first met the Joliet Franciscan Sisters who staffed the parish school.

I found myself once more being fascinated by the life these Sisters led and I was impressed by their dedication and service to the people in the parish. I remember a time the Sisters spent all night searching the drug infested, high crime neighborhood for an 8th grader who had run away from home, a time when they took in a family of 5 that had been evicted from their apartment, and numerous times when they took food and clothing to people in need. It was as if a light had been turned on in a dark room for me! I realized that I was attracted to this kind of life of service and dedication to others and I wanted to live and share my life with people who wanted to do the same thing. And so, at the age of 24, I left my hometown and my family and friends and moved to Joliet to enter the Sisters of St. Francis.

I have had an interesting, challenging and full life as a Joliet Franciscan Sister. Most of my life as a Sister has been spent in secondary education where I have ministered as a teacher, dean of students, assistant principal and campus minister. In addition, I spent time as a missionary in Brazil at our mission there and as vocation director for our Congregation. I do believe that my life as a Sister was in God’s plan for me and that I am very blessed. St. Francis, as he lay dying, told his brothers, “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what is yours.” Herein lies my hope and challenge for any young person reading this—I am convinced that Christ will put people and experiences in your life to guide you in what is yours to do in life. It is up to you to live a reflective life with a listening ear and a heart open to doing whatever Christ calls you to do. Blessings on your journey!

Remembering Sister Andrea Prindes, OSF

Andrea_Prindes-6-2-14On the morning of June 2, 2014, our Sister Andrea Prindes passed quietly into eternity in the same manner as she passed through every day of her religious life. In her living and in her dying, she remained a woman of deep prayer. Steadfast and unrelenting in her attachment to the Sacred Heart, she clung hopefully to promises that anchored her faith.

Born on June 6, 1922, Andrea was welcomed into the world by her loving parents Hermina (Kovacik) and Andrew Prindes. Coming of age in the Depression years, Andrea, in the company of her three older brothers and her younger sister Emily, came to understand the importance of self-sacrifice and hard work. Raised in a loving atmosphere of joy and gratitude to God, Andrea’s religious devotion and ethnic pride in her Slovak cultural heritage, informed and influenced her sense of vocation and her call to Franciscan sisterhood.

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Remembering Sister Rita (Mary Alexander) Greene, OSF

Greene_Rita_web“My aim in religious life has never been to acquire a great name for myself as an artist but to be of service to others.” Our Sister Rita Greene wrote those words thirty-four years ago. They are words that marked her entire Franciscan life, a life of service to others.

Sister Rita Greene was the fourth of nine children born to the late Helen (Scheiblich) and Michael Greene on July 6, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio. Her older siblings, now deceased, were Michael, James and Helene and younger siblings, now deceased, were Jerome, Lydia, Luella, and Joseph. Her remaining sister, Patricia Sorenson, still lives in Columbus.

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Remembering Sister Tecla (Mary Cephas) Snyder, OSF

Tecla_webAs we approach the Feast of Christ the King and the end of the Church’s liturgical year, our Sister Tecla quietly made her way to the King’s Court and the end of her earthly life. It was shortly before midnight on November 15, while the nurse stepped out to get some medication, that Sister Tecla responded to the divine invitation with her song: “Alaboré a Mi Seńor” (Praise to my Lord!).

Sister Tecla was born in Mansfield, Ohio, on March 21, 1923, to the late Anna Santos and Lester J. Snyder, and baptized Thekla Adilla Snyder, at St. Peter’s Church. She was the third of five children: her brother Frederick, sisters Florence and Lucille (all deceased) and her sister Elizabeth who resides in Mansfield, Ohio. After attending Hedges Grade School and Mansfield Senior High School, Tecla, inspired and encouraged by the Joliet Franciscans teaching at St. Peter’s, entered the postulancy of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate on September 4, 1940. Tecla completed her senior year in high school and graduated from St. Francis Academy in 1941. Entering the novitiate in August of 1941, Tecla was given the name Sister Mary Cephas. Two years later she made her first profession, and in 1946 pronounced her final vows to which she has been faithful for these past 70 years.

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Remembering Sister (Mary) Alcuin Kelly, OSF

alcuin_webAs Pope Francis, along with Franciscans throughout the world, celebrated with great joy the feast of Godʹs Troubadour, our Sister Alcuin peacefully completed her transitus from this life to eternal life, a passage accompanied at its end by the soft notes of sparrows whose autumn medley gave expression to the heartfelt religious sentiment that served to orient the life of our beloved violoncellist: ʺsoli Deo gloria ‐ glory to God alone.ʺ (JS Bach)

Born in Sidney, Nebraska, on July 23, 1917, Agnes Kelly was the third of twelve children born to Francis and Anna (Reinke) Kelly. As a young child, she moved with her family from Nebraskaʹs panhandle to Falls City in the southeastern part of the state. Raised in Saints Peter and Paul Parish, she attended Lake Side Public School and Sacred Heart Academy where she was taught by the Ursuline sisters. As a young adolescent, following the example of her two older sisters, Bernardine and Marie Terese, Agnes made her way to Joliet, Illinois, to become an aspirant with the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. She attended St. Francis Academy and as her 16th birthday approached, with a supportive recommendation from her aspirant mistress, Sister Apollonia, she prepared to enter the Postulancy in the Fall of 1933. In August of 1934, she was received as novice by Mother Thomasine and given her religious name, Sr. Mary Alcuin. Two years later, she professed her first vows and proceeded on her journey into an unfolding future of 80 years of consecrated life as a Joliet Franciscan.

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Remembering Sister Anne Marie (Grace Cecile) Furiel, OSF

Furiel_webOn the evening of August 25, our Sister Anne Marie Furiel was called by the Lord she loved and served so well to enter into eternal peace and joy — where heavenly choirs no doubt welcomed her!

Born January 31, 1925, to Olga (Hermann) Furiel and Thomas Furiel, Anne Marie was baptized Anna Mae but later was called Anne Marie. She was raised in Joliet and attended St. Francis Academy (now Joliet Catholic Academy) and the College of St. Francis (now the University of St. Francis) where she earned both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees.

Anne Marie entered the postulancy of the Joliet Franciscans on February 1, 1942 – just one day after her seventeenth birthday. When she became a novice she was given the name “Sister Grace Cecile.” Years later she returned to the name by which we know her – Sister Anne Marie.

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Remembering Sister Marian (Louis Marie) Voelker, OSF

Marian_Voelker_webOn Saturday, February 9, 2013, our sister, Marian Voelker peacefully made her journey home to God. Sharing with her beloved Mother Alfred a lifelong devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, after whom she was named and whose feast day was close at hand, Marian rested confidently in the knowledge that at the hour of her death she would not be alone. Graciously living out her faith-filled “Fiat,” she quietly reached the end of her days and entrusted to the God of History the final chapter in the story of her life.

Born on October 18, 1935, Marian Bernadette Voelker was the sixth of ten children to be lovingly welcomed into the world by Robert and Marian (Schilling) Voelker. As a young child, Marian and her family lived in close proximity to her Voelker grand-parents from whom she acquired an inter-generational appreciation for “living histories.” Growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois, Marian’s inquisitive mind and historical imagination were stirred at an early age as she began to make meaning of the joys and sorrows of life as seen from the banks of the Mississippi River, the railway crossroads of the Midwest and a city that was an urban crucible of rapid social and economic change. Nurtured in the faith at St. Elizabeth’s Parish and educated by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ at St. Teresa’s Academy, she was drawn to religious life, yet uncertain as to where her envisioned vocational path would lead.

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Remembering Sister Patricia (Antonita) Vaira, OSF

vaira_webShortly after midnight on July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, our sister Pat/Patricia/Patsy peacefully entrusted herself for all eternity to the loving and gracious God to whom she had offered her liberty, her memory, and her entire will. Those who accompanied Pat during the final years of her life knew all too well that Pat not only prayed the well‐known prayer of St. Ignatius, she also lived it.

Born to Anton and Lucy (Jewett) Vaira on October 5, 1931, Pat was the third of six children. Growing up in South Wilmington, Illinois, Pat understood from a young age the preciousness and fragility of life. Mindful of the childhood deaths of an older sister and brother, Pat was attuned to the importance of living each day with gratitude, generosity and joy. She was a member of St. Lawrence Parish and attended South Wilmington Elementary School. After graduating from South Wilmington High School, she began her undergraduate studies at the College of St. Francis. It was there that she first experienced the inspiration, friendliness and concern of the Joliet Franciscan Sisters who made up the faculty and the staff. Under the influence of Sister Miriam Edward (Loretta Wagner), Pat was supported in her attraction to Franciscan life and encouraged to enter the Congregation, which she did her sophomore year when she entered the Postulancy on September 4, 1950. The following August 12 she entered the Novitiate receiving the name of Sister M. Antonita. On August 12, 1953, she made First Profession of vows.

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Remembering Sister Johanna Didier, OSF

Johanna_webOn the evening of March 6, 2012, as the glow of Sister Moon filled the starlit night skies of Goiás, beams of light fell upon Saint Genevieve Hospital in Goiânia. It was there that Sister Johanna Didier was called forth by the Holy Trinity and Our Lady to embark on her final missionary journey. Dying as she had lived, she responded with readiness and confidence: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). And so it happened that Sr. Johanna made her way to the gates of heaven with a smile on her face and a rosary in her hand.

Born to her parents Aloysius and Emma (Geimer) Didier, on March 19, 1918, in Evanston, Illinois, Martha Josephine was baptized five days later at St. Nicholas Church. The fourth of fifteen children, she attended St. Mary Parish School and St. Patrick Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois. On September 8, 1936, at the age of eighteen, she entered the Congregation as a postulant. In August of the following year, she was received as a novice and given the name Johanna in honor of St. John the Baptist her patron and model for mission. Two years later, she professed her first vows, went on to complete her undergraduate studies at the College of St. Francis and soon thereafter began her ministry of teaching. As time for her final profession drew near, Sr. Johanna included in her request to Mother Thomasine a solemn pledge that gave expression to the principle and foundation for her consecrated life: “I will strive to be a religious according to the heart of God and the spirit of our Congregation.”

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Remembering Sister M. Eugene Belmonte, OSF

BelmonteOn Thursday, March 3, 2011, our Sister Eugene Belmonte peacefully entrusted herself to the companionship of Sister Death. Earlier that day, as witnessed by those who kept watch at her bedside, the good news proclaimed from St. Mark’s Gospel took on special meaning: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” (Mark 10:50) Attentive to the sacredness of her final hours among us, one could almost hear the voice of Jesus saying: “Benvenuta, cara mia, quanto sei bella per me.” (Welcome, my beloved one, how beautiful you are to me.)

Born on the near Westside of Chicago, Illinois, to her parents Maria (Broccolo) and Eugene Belmonte on June 17, 1918, Assunta Veronica Belmonte was one of seven children. Sadly for the family, two of the children, the only boys, died as infants. As a young girl, Susie, as shewas affectionately known, took her place in the middle of her four sisters, Carmela, Theresa, Anna and Angelina. As a child, she attended St. Callistus Parish. In 1932, she graduated from St. Mary’s High School and began working in an office. At the age of 26, she became a postulant with the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate on January 27, 1945. She entered the novitiate on August 12 of the same year and received the religious name Sister Mary Eugene. She professed her first vows two years later in 1947. Diligent in her studies at the College of St. Francis, Sister Eugene was most eager to teach young children. Prior to making her final profession on August 12, 1950, she wrote in her letter of request to Mother Immaculate the following words: “I hope that with the grace of God I may be able to do His work for many, many years. I realize I can never be thankful enough for this great privilege of teaching His little ones how to love Him and to bring them closer to Christ.” Over the years, she devoted herself to lifelong learning in the service of those to whom she ministered as teacher and as religious educator. Looking back on her 43 years in the ministries of parish‐based elementary education and catechesis, mostly in the Archdiocese of Chicago, it is evident that Sister Eugene’s hopes were more than fulfilled.

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