In the fall of 1911, Adam and Mary (Ohman) Tikva welcomed into the world of Cleveland, Ohio, the first of their eight children, a precious baby girl whom they named Mary. The pride and joy of her parents and a devoted older sister to her siblings, Mary was a constant companion to her mother who was often in poor health, and an eager assistant to her industrious father whose home brewery and beer garden provided her with a lifetime of tales to tell. As a young girl, she applied herself as a diligent student at Holy Family school, ever-grateful for the education she received from the Sisters of Notre Dame. As an adolescent and a young adult, she contributed to the well-being of her family by working tirelessly for seven years in a nearby clothing factory both days and nights. Treasuring her Croatian immigrant roots and eager to know more of her family background, she accompanied her mother on a memorable three-month trip to Yugoslavia at her father’s initiative. In the course of her journey, she entered into the lives of loved ones whom she would never forget, embracing traditional customs and cherishing special foods and clothing, yet becoming painfully aware of the realities that had led her parents to immigrate to the United States in their youth. Declining a proposal for marriage, she came to a deeper awareness of her American identity and the unfolding future that awaited her upon her return.
Sister Margaret Duffy (Jean Marie) was a native of Columbus, Ohio, and was one of eight children born to James and Susan (Handiboe) Duffy. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers: John, Edward, Joseph and Billy; and her sisters: Sister Mary Duffy, OSF, Catherine Hoffman and Terese Weisenbach.
Before entering religious life, Sister Margaret was a member of St. Thomas Parish in Columbus, Ohio, and attended the parish grade school. She graduated from St. Mary High School in Columbus and earned a bachelor of arts degree from the College of St. Francis (University of St. Francis) in Joliet, Illinois, and a master of arts degree from DePaul University in Chicago.
Margaret Duffy was a “go to” person in all her roles in life. Margie, as the family called her, was from her earliest days blessed with a pleasant disposition which she always attributed to the Handiboe genes. She would take life as it came and with a flexibility and straight forward, no nonsense approach that endeared her to many. When Margaret met the Sisters of Saint Francis from Joliet at Saint Mary High School in Columbus, Ohio, she immediately knew her calling to be a Sister. Mary Duffy, her oldest sister, was communicating with the Sisters about entering herself, but times were hard and Mary was, for a while at least, the only full time worker in the family, using skills honed in her business courses at St. Mary’s. Margaret knew that after graduation she, too, would have to help support the family, and she did so for two years working at the U.S. Army Depot as a secretary to Colonel Morrill. But in January of 1944, Margaret left home to enter the postulancy. The advice of her father that morning was, “Do what the Sisters tell you to do.” Margaret would recall those words many times during her nearly 70 years in our Congregation, and she rightly believed that she followed them.
On the afternoon of October 22, 2012, our Sister Grace Straub found herself counted among those blessed servants whom the Master found waiting upon his arrival (Lk 12:37). Returning to God with graciousness all that she had graciously received, she died as she had lived, welcoming the gift of God, revealing his handiwork, and entering ever more deeply into the mystery of what it means to be created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:9-10).
Born to her loving parents, Edwin and Alta (Kirkpatrick) Straub, on November 10, 1934, Grace was the fourth of five children. Baptized and educated at St. Peter’s Parish in Mansfield, Ohio, she came under the influence of the Joliet Franciscan spirit as a child. From an early age, Grace, together with her sisters Rita and Helen, was mindful of the fragility and vulnerability of life. The death of her infant brother, Philip, and the special needs of her beloved sister, Patty, made her particularly sensitive to the preciousness of each person entrusted to her care.
Shortly 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.
On Friday afternoon, May 4, 2012, as the Church concluded a week of prayer and reflection dedicated to the Good Shepherd, our Sr. Martin Hornak responded without hesitation to the tender voice she had longed to hear. Lovingly called by name, the Good Shepherd, to whom she had entrusted her life of consecration and mission, enfolded her in His arms, close to His heart, and gently carried her home for all eternity.
Born to her parents Johanna (Zalubi) and Martin Hornak on May 17, 1917, Julia entered a world where England and Germany were waging war, a world where miraculous events were taking place at Fatima, and where the Chicago Cubs triumphed over the Boston Braves four days in a row. Baptized at Sacred Heart Parish on Chicagoʹs west side, Julia was initiated into the faith and ethnic heritage of her Slovak ancestors and deeply influenced by the customs and character of a vibrant immigrant community. One of five children, she learned from an early age onward the importance of family and friendship, the centrality of religious commitment and cultural identity, and the necessity of education and the arts. Throughout her life, she would promote these values as she empowered others to cultivate them from one generation to the next, from one culture to another.
On 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.”
On the morning of January 21, 2012, as Sister Death tenderly accompanied our Sr. Jean on her journey home to God, we, as her sisters, along with her family members, friends and caregivers, came to understand ever more fully the mystery of God’s action in the life of a very special person: God made Sr. Jean Lenz because God loves stories.
On May 20, 1930, Gertrude and Joseph Lenz welcomed their precious firstborn child into the world of Chicago’s Southside. Baptized into Christ on June 8, 1930 at St. Martin Church, Alice Eugenia Lenz began her life‐story of discipleship. A treasured daughter and a dearly beloved older sister to Ray, Jack and Trudy, Jean was recognized in her childhood and adolescence as a natural‐born leader, a person of memory and vision who always had a story to tell. She attended St. Martin School and went on to complete her secondary education with School Sisters of Notre Dame at the Academy of Our Lady (Longwood). In 1948, Jean began her under‐graduate studies at the College of St. Francis where she met the Joliet Franciscans. As a junior, she began to seriously consider a vocation to religious life. Inspired and encouraged by the College sisters who she came to know and love as teachers, mentors and friends, the words of Francis of Assisi began to echo in her own heart: “This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart.”
When it came to living the Gospel way of life, Sister Marie Grunloh was a Sister of St. Francis through and through. How appropriate that her soul would make its journey home to God on the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, where the words of the dayʹs Gospel concluded: ʺThe Kingdom of God is at hand for you.ʺ (Lk10:9) With a resolute and grateful heart, Sister Marie surely welcomed the arrival of Sister Death with great joy.
Born to John and Elizabeth (Schumacher) Grunloh, Marie was the fourth of six children. As a young girl in Green Creek, Illinois, Marie was intelligent and curious about the world around her. She received the faith passed on from her parents and extended family with eagerness and enthusiasm. Growing up at a time when two World Wars and the Great Depression shaped the lives and consciences of an entire generation, Marie was particularly attuned to Godʹs holy manner of working in and through her life. Inspired and influenced by the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province as well as the Joliet Franciscan Sisters, Marie (as well as her dear brothers, Rev. Donatus, OFM and Rev. Melvin, OFM), was nurtured in her desire to embrace the Franciscan way of life.
On 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.
Early in the morning of Sunday, January 9, 2011, our sister MaryAnn took her final breath, quietly taking her leave from those who had surrounded her with love in her final hours and, indeed, throughout her life. How fitting that the completion of her commitment to the Lord at Baptism through the living out of her vows of profession, should reach its summation on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Surely, she was greeted by the Lord, who tenderly took her by the hand, saying: “Welcome, my chosen one, in whom I have delighted.” (Isaiah 42:1)
Born in Crestline, Ohio, on February 3, 1937, Mary Ann was the eldest of six children lovingly brought into the world by her parents Joseph and Mary (Johnston) Schnelker. Baptized and confirmed at St. Joseph’s Church in Galion, Ohio, she was educated at St. Joseph’s School and St. Patrick’s School, also in Galion, Ohio. As an aspirant with the Sisters of St. Francis, Mary Ann attended at St. Francis Academy in Joliet, Illinois. She entered the Congregation as a postulant on September 6, 1954. The following year, on August 13, 1955, she was received into the novitiate and given the name Sr. Daniel Marie. Two years later, she made her first profession and enthusiastically embarked upon a thirty‐year ministry of teaching and elementary school administration, a career for which she was prepared at the College of St. Francis and Northern Illinois University. Making her final profession in August of 1960, she definitively embraced the Franciscan way of life.