Sisters Accept a New Corporate Stance

 “Racism is taught in our society. It is not automatic.”  Alex Haley

On Sunday, August 14, at 4:00 P.Anti-Racism-webM. in the chapel at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home in Joliet, the Joliet Franciscan Sisters will hold a Ritual of Acceptance of a new Corporate Stance on Anti-Racism.  This event is open to everyone.

The Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) was created in 2012. The committee members are a racially diverse group consisting of Sisters and members of the Joliet community. ARC’s activities include multiple presentations to Sisters, Associates, sponsored institution administrations, faculties and boards, as well as the Social Justice Coalition of the Joliet Diocese. The committee has been a participant in the BlueStem Earth Festival held each May, presented a reflection at the Spring 2015 Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Mission Advancement office, and offered a prayer service at the Joliet Franciscan Center in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015.

The new Corporate Stance states: 

We, Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, commit to a stance of Anti-Racism.  As we take this position, we promise to make conscious intentional efforts to eradicate racism in all its forms – individual, cultural and institutional.

This is the fourth Corporate Stance the Sisters have accepted – the first three being:

  • We commit ourselves to prayer, study, dialogue and action for nuclear disarmament. (1996)
  • We commit to cultivating a reverent, interdependent relationship with earth and all its peoples. (2004)
  • We denounce the practice of human trafficking and commit ourselves to the work of bringing about the elimination of this evil practice. (2006)

For more information about the Ritual of Acceptance on August 14, please call Sister Juanita Ujcik at 815-725-8735 or by email at:

My Vocation Story – Sr. Deborah Gaughan, OSF

Deborah-vocation storySister Deborah Gaughan knew in first grade that she wanted to be a Sister. Her journey took many unexpected turns, but she made it.

Sister Deborah refers to herself as a “middle child” with two older brothers, an older sister and a set of younger twin sisters. She experienced a strong Catholic upbringing – her mother is Polish, her father, now deceased, was Irish. Gaughan’s family life was not an easy one with more than a few challenges along the way. Sister Deborah attended Catholic grade school and a public high school and was bullied in both. High school was particularly hard as her commitment to her Catholic faith was the reason behind the bullying.

Sister Deborah graduated from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. It was during this period in her life that she realized the family challenges she has been part of during her earlier years. The realization caused her to doubt her faith and she left the Catholic Church. She visited churches of other faiths – Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist – but nothing filled the need. Even with a good job, a condo and a car, there was something missing. Sister Deborah decided to try the Catholic Church again. If you ever meet her, you will notice she wears a small angel pin. She believes angels are always with us. As Sister Deborah walked into St. Mary Church in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, she noticed that there were angels everywhere in the church.  “I was home!” she says.

As Sister Deborah looked through the church bulletin, she read a notice that asked “Did God forget you?” followed by a phone number. With nothing to lose, she called the number which belonged to the parish deacon, who was in charge of RCIA. The deacon asked if she had received all of the sacraments and Sister Deborah responded that she had. Although not an RCIA candidate in the true sense, she was allowed to go through all the classes anyway. At the end what she found was a loving, forgiving, personal God. At the end of the Easter Vigil that year, Sister Deborah recommitted herself to the Catholic Church in front of everyone in attendance.

Sister Deborah found herself getting involved again. She met Sarah, the youth minister of the parish, who got Sister Deborah involved working with young adults. She met Sarah’s husband, Paul, who helped her to move ahead even further by getting involved at Holy Family parish in Inverness, Illinois. The pastor, Father Pat Brennan, was the only priest in the parish and asked for the parishioners help in making Holy Family a vibrant parish. Sister Deborah became involved in youth ministry participating in retreats, fundraising and attending events of every kind. She enjoyed working with this age group. She eventually became the parish’s Young Adult leader and also served on the Young Adult Advisory Board for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The time had now come for Sister Deborah to make yet another turn in her journey. She heard God’s voice. He asked, “When are you going to do what I asked?”

Sister Deborah first confided in a friend with whom she worked that she wanted to be a Sister. Her friend was happy for her. Sister Deborah began her search. There were so many Congregations of Women Religious. Which one to choose? It was all so confusing. She shared with her friends, Sarah and Paul, who responded, “What took you so long? We knew.”  “Why didn’t you say something?” Sister Deborah asked. And they answered, “You needed to know.” Paul immediately helped with the search.  Sister Deborah visited over 50 congregations and had settled on one and was about to sign all the papers, when she was told that due to her earlier depression diagnosis, the fit would not be a good one.

At that point, Sarah put Sister Deborah in touch with Sister Dolores Zemont, currently the Joliet Franciscan president, but was ministering in a parish at that time. Sister Dolores gave Deborah’s information to Sister Barbara Kwiatkowski, who was then serving as the Joliet Franciscans’ Vocation Director. Sister Barbara met Sister Deborah at a Panera Bread café in Buffalo Grove, Illinois where she was living. She told Sister Barbara everything. Sister Barbara assured her, “We don’t judge.”  Over the next year, Sister Barbara mentored Sister Deborah through prayer and suggested reading.  She spent time getting to know many of the Joliet Franciscan Sisters. Sister Barbara brought her to the Motherhouse Chapel on the grounds of the University of St. Francis in Joliet. As she sat in the chapel, Sister Deborah asked God, “Is this the place for me?’  She needed a sign – a big one! And a rainbow appeared in the pew in which she was sitting. IT was nowhere else in the chapel, just where she was sitting. It was the most beautiful rainbow she had ever seen. It brings her happiness when she thinks about it.

Sister Deborah made her first vows in 2012 and renewed them in 2015 while she finished working towards her Master’s in Social Work. About religious life, she says, “You have to want this every day.  You have to give up what you had planned and follow God’s plan for you. God has a plan for me. That’s where I will go.”


Remembering Sister Peter Didier, OSF

Didier_PeterSister Peter Didier died peacefully on June 27, 2016, at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home (OLA) in Joliet, IL.  Our prayers and sympathy to her classmates, family and friends.

Sister Peter’s wake and funeral took place at Our Lady of Angels on July 5, 2016.  She is buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville, Illinois.

Sister Peter’s prayer service and funeral mass can be viewed on our Livestream channel by clicking the Congregational Shield on our home page.

May she rest in peace.

Click here to read more about Sister Peter’s life.


Remembering Sister Bernadette Sifferlin, OSF

It is with deep sadnBernadette_Sifferlin-webess that we announce the death of Sister Bernadette Sifferlin, OSF.  She died peacefully on June 26, surrounded by her Sisters at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home (OLA) in Joliet, IL.  Our prayers and sympathy to her classmates, family and friends.

Sister Bernadette’s wake and funeral took place at Our Lady of Angels on July 1, 2016.  She was buried on July 2, 2016 at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville, Illinois.

Sister Bernadette’s prayer service and funeral mass can be viewed on our Livestream channel by clicking the Congregational Shield on our home page.

May she rest in peace.

Click here to read more about Sister Bernadette’s life.


Five Sisters celebrate Jubilee

Photo-1-webOn Saturday, June 11, 2016, five Sisters of St. Francis of May Immaculate (Joliet Franciscan Sisters) celebrated their jubilee at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, IL.  They are Sister Judith Kurry celebrating 80 years; Sisters Mary Jean Morris and Joanne Marusa celebrating 60 years; and Sisters Patricia Skowronski and Margaret Noser celebrating 50 years.

To read more about the 2016 jubilee celebration, click here: Jubilee-2016

Sister Mary Celebrates Her 100th Birthday

Sr Mary FranzSister Mary Franz recently celebrated a milestone birthday.  Born in Ohio on May 23, 1916, Sister Mary (formerly known as Sister Ursuline) celebrated her centennial  birthday among family, friends and residents at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home in Joliet.

To read more about Sister Mary’s Birthday celebration, click on Sr. Mary Birthday.

Newly Graduated, Sr. Deborah Gaughan, OSF

graduation-sisters-webSister Deborah Gaughan, OSF, recently graduated from Aurora University with a Masters of Social Work degree with a specialization in child welfare. Prior to graduation, she passed her state exams and has obtained her LSW and CWEL licenses. Sister Deborah hopes to be able to work with abused children and their families. She believes that through involvement and education, we can all do something to help others in need.  Congratulations Sister Deborah on a job well done!


Photo:  Sisters Mary Ann Hamer, Cristina Soyao, Dolores Zemont, Deborah Gaughan, Clarita Schumacher and Maria Pesavento.

Sr. Jeanne Bessette, OSF, Ed.D. Honored

Jeanne-at-convocation-web On May 7, Sister Jeanne Bessette was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, for her lifelong commitment to education, her dedication to her community of religious Sisters and for her hope that all children can reach their greatest potential through education.

Sister Jeanne has served as president and CEO of DePaul Cristo Rey (DPCR) High School in Cincinnati – a sponsored institution of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati – since 2009, the year it was founded.  Through Sister Jeanne’s vision and commitment to education, the school has grown from an idea to 280 students from across the city and a staff of 50. There have now been two graduating classes, with all students having been accepted into college.

DePaul Cristo Rey, one of 30 high schools serving urban youth in the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, is a college preparatory high school that uses a Corporate Work Study program providing students with real-life work experience throughout their high school years. With support from the Cincinnati business community, students work five days a month which assists in financing more than 70 percent of their education.

Sister Jeanne received a doctorate from the University of San Francisco, a master’s degree from Loyola University of Chicago and a bachelors’ degree from the University of St. Francis in Joliet. She has also received multiple honors for her work in the area of education. No stranger to leadership, Sister Jeanne has served on the Joliet Franciscan Governing Board for eight years, as well as serving as principal at Trinity High School in River Forest, Illinois.

Sister Jeanne shares stories of how the lives of DPCR students are changed through education. The students come from predominantly low-income families who, without DPCR, would not have access to a quality education.  As any Joliet Franciscan Sister will agree, Sister Jeanne believes that the cycle of poverty can be broken through a quality education.

Remembering Sister Karla Zdenek, OSF

Zdenek-Karla-webIt is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Sister Karla Zdenek, OSF.  Sr. Karla died on Sunday, May 8, 2016.  Our condolences to her classmates and to her family and friends.

Sister Karla’s services took place at Our Lady of Angels Chapel on Thursday, May 12, 2016, from 2:00 – 6:45 pm, followed by her funeral Mass at 7:00 pm. Burial was on Friday Morning, May 13, in the Congregation Plot at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville, Illinois.  May Sr. Karla rest in peace.

Click here to read more about Sr. Karla’s life.

A Beautiful Day for the Annual Afternoon Tea

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, over 200 women joined the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate at the Annual Afternoon Tea held at the Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet.  Many of the women who attended the Tea on April 24, some for the first time, came in colorful hats. Twenty-four basket raffle items were on display including several favorites; the Sinatra Centennial Basket, the Star Wars Galactic Fun Basket, and the crowd favorite, Panera Bread Certificate. There was a music interlude by Karen Isberg, where she sang several old favorites. Sister Dolores Zemont, President of the Congregation, greeted guests and thanked them for their attendance at the Tea and for their support.

Guests were asked to bring a donation of boxed food items for a local food pantry.  Over 300 boxes of cereal, cake and soup mixes were delivered the next morning to St. John’s Food Pantry in Joliet.

The Afternoon Tea is an annual event held to raise funds and awareness of the Congregation.  Plans for next year’s tea are already in process.  If you would like more information on the Afternoon Tea or would like to place your name on the invitation list, please contact the Mission Advancement Office at (815) 725-8735.


Click here to view photos of the 2016 Afternoon Tea