Our 2022 Jubilarians
Congratulations to our 2022 Jubilarians. Click on any name below and it will take you to their individual stories.
Sister Barbarine Houdek
Sister Louise Marie Skoch
I was born on Thanksgiving Day in Calmar, Iowa and moved to Chicago, Illinois as a young child where I attended St. Cyril and Methodius Grade School. I had one brother, Bernard, who is now deceased. My high school days were spent at St. Francis Academy (JCA) where I was very much influenced by Sister Victorene who inspired me to enter the Joliet Franciscans. For many years, I was known as Sister Mary Leonard. While I trained to be a teacher, my lifelong dream was to work in the theater.
After my graduation from St. Francis College (University of St. Francis) I taught primary grades for 30 years. During this time my love for theater continued to grow, and I began to pursue an MA in Theatre Arts at Northern Illinois University. Then my life changed, and my dream came true. I joined several theater groups as actor, director, and stage manager. I appeared on stage in character roles in “Summer and Smoke,” “Come Blow Your Horn,” “See How They Run,” “Guys and Dolls.” However, I would never think of trying out for a part that wasn’t suitable for myself as a religious woman. I was stage manager for “Unsinkable Molly Brown” but if I had to list all the plays for which I was assistant director or stage manager, we’d be here all night! I realized that getting involved in theater was a wonderful way of spreading the message of Franciscan spirituality and getting to know people, and the community that nourishes them.
My other ministry was teaching English and becoming the librarian at an all-boys school, St. Francis High School, in LaCanada Flintridge, California. My friend, Mary Ida Fair, mentored me into a full time Librarian position that I enjoyed for many years. It was hard to say good-bye to St. Francis for it holds many fond memories for me. Like when the Robotic Team, whom I helped by providing spacing to build and store the 2012 robot, named the robot “SISTA” after me!
I was 90 when I retired from teaching and the theater but my love for both remains constant. Living at OLA gives me time to sit back and enjoy TV, movies, football or basketball games, work on crossword puzzles and even latch hook rugs! Two of my favorite hobbies are sports and reading, and of course, I am a life-long Cubs fan.
Sister Louise Marie Skoch
I was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio and blessed to have two brothers, Anthony and Joseph, and three sisters, Helen, Margaret, and Lillian. We belonged to St. Procop’s (St. Procopius) parish in Cleveland and attended the parish school. I also attended St. Procop’s High School. Our sisters who taught there had such a profound influence on my life, that after graduation, I entered the Congregation. Every day, I see my religious vocation as a blessing!
Shortly after my Profession, I began my teaching ministry. This ministry along with my passion for parish work and Religious Education took me to many cities and states. One of my favorite assignments was teaching English as a second language for the San Diego Community College district. It was exciting! I felt like the whole world was present in my classroom through the stories and customs that my students shared. I imagined visiting Czechoslovakia, Jerusalem, Morocco, Iran, Bosnia, Mexico, Central America, Switzerland, Poland, France, Russia, Vietnam, Laos, Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Afghanistan, and so many others. My students taught me so much.
While I was in Toledo, serving as Director of Religious Education, I hosted a weekly television program, “All Things New,” and orchestrated the appearance of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and television personality Mister Rogers together with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. I had the opportunity and the grace to greet Mother Teresa of Calcutta again, when she visited Denver, CO in May of 1989. She made me feel like we had been friends forever.
I experienced visible signs of God’s love and direction through so many events and experiences. My life has always been exciting, rewarding, and filled with love and energy. That is why my favorite line of Mary’s Magnificat is “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Now that I am in my senior years, being with other residents of OLA and enjoying their Spirit brings me joy. All is gift.
Sister Mary Lou Marchetti
Being Franciscan is at the heart of my religious life. Making the Franciscan Pilgrimage in 1986 deepened my desire to follow the Gospel life in the footprints of Francis and Clare. Living a Franciscan religious life is a life-long journey for me. I am energized daily as I try to understand how I am called to live each new day as a Franciscan religious woman in our time. I feel blessed to be able to share this life with my sisters and associates in community.
I have been blessed these 60 years with wonderful ministries. I loved being with the homeless, sharing pastoral ministry in parishes in Chicago, serving as hospice chaplain in Joliet and Arizona. One of my favorite ministries was in the 80’s. I had the privilege of ministering to homeless women at a drop-in shelter at Sarah’s Circle in the Chicago Uptown area. I met many women who lived on the street and came to the shelter for all kinds of assistance. My heart was deeply touched as I heard their stories and had the opportunity to get to know them. My life was changed forever because of them. Since 2020 my life and ministry have changed radically! Now I am a resident at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home. I am challenged daily to adjust to my new ministry of prayer and presence.
Sister Rosemary Huzl
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I have two older brothers and one younger sister who is deceased. My first grade teacher was a Joliet Franciscan, and after I ran away from 1st grade because I was afraid she took me under her wing, gave me interesting things to do to help me enjoy being at school. The Sister who had the greatest influence on me in those early days is also celebrating her 80th jubilee at this same time that I am celebrating my 60th. I believe it was her care and compassion that gave me the incentive to start thinking about joining the convent. I also wanted to become a teacher, and the Joliet Franciscans were primarily a teaching Congregation.
I have been blessed to have been engaged in a variety of ministries: teaching, pastoral ministry, jail ministry, youth work, Director of a 22 parish deanery center in New Hampshire and a care giver. All of these opportunities provided me the opportunity to connect my faith with action. I loved interacting with the young and the older generations. I used to enjoy bowling, however my knees said “enough.” I love working outside, sewing, and watching sporting events. I am excited about having time to regenerate my energy.
I care about my family, my Congregation and the world. I pray for peace in the world and in the hearts of all of us. I put my energy into being available to help others where I can.
Sister Yvonne Weidner
I am originally from Des Plaines, Illinois and became interested in joining the Joliet Franciscans because of the Sisters who taught me at St. Mary’s School, Des Plaines, Illinois. All my ministries were times of growth towards the next ministry. All of the various ministries brought me to the people of God to meet their needs. It was up to me to figure out what was their greatest need and to fulfill it. My ministry path was as follows: First as a teacher then a licensed physical therapy assistant, followed by 13 years of administration at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home and finally in ministry at Christian Brothers Services as a Member Relations Associate.
For fun, I enjoy a good card game, movie, baking and cooking. With the pandemic, I had to re-create myself from traveling the USA to doing what I do now virtually. For my ministry I care about my Congregation and pray for our future and all it holds.
Sister Phyllis Wilhelm
In September, 1959, my parents and godparents drove me to Joliet from Toledo. It was on that day that my Franciscan life began. After formation, I was sent to minister through education. After 36 years teaching children in Illinois and Northern Wisconsin, I had 22 years as Pastoral Associate. These years were filled with joy, and challenges, and have left me with wonderful memories. I remember my first graders at St. Rita’s in Aurora who had to endure my first years of teaching. First graders are so eager to learn that they don’t notice your mistakes. After two years at Aurora, I transferred to St. Joseph’s in Manhattan and began my teaching of double grades. After nine years there I requested and received permission to move to Northern Wisconsin to teach at Holy Family in Bayfield. There I first learned of Native American traditions. I stayed in Wisconsin for 47 years working both in the Bayfield five parish cluster and the Ashland five parish cluster. My final ministry there was to help at St. Mary’s on the Bad River Reservation outside of Ashland.
One of my greatest memories of Wisconsin was to join the Chippewa women for the Grandmother Moon ceremony. It took place outside where we could see the lake and the full moon, have a large bonfire and together with Chippewa women pray for women of the world. I remember taking my mother when she was visiting. She was so impressed and thrilled by the prayer and women, that I could hardly get her to leave and return to our house.
Now I live in Joliet and work as part of our leadership team. This is a totally new experience full of new learnings and renewed friendships. Everyone assures me that God’s grace comes with the office. It must be true because we are all working together as a team.
Wherever I have lived and ministered had its own gifts of joy, companionship, and anxiety. I look back at them with knowledge that God has given me more gifts than I could have ever imagined. I love meeting up with former students who are now parents and grandparents. I love being back in Joliet with all the Sisters and being closer to my family. As I enter this new part of life, older age, I am sure the gifts, surprises, joys, and thrills will not end.
Sister Jeanne Bessette
My story of 40 years as a Franciscan woman religious starts backwards since I am writing this in Rome. I am deep in the middle of a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, surrounded by sisters of many cultures, from six continents, speaking over 50 languages. My life, education, mentoring and experiences have called me to and prepared me for this moment. I am only here because of the call to serve our Joliet Franciscans as their president for a short time in our history. My challenge is our challenge: preparation for a future whose seeds have been sown by many before us in order to live today and into a future that we don’t exactly know.
What prepared me for leadership? Mostly serving as a leader — in schools, with organizations, on boards and committees, our congregation, and as the oldest of four children in my family. I recently spent 11 years as a high school president in Cincinnati, founding, building and growing a Cristo Rey School, one of 40 in the U.S. I worked with the Sisters of Charity in this mission which they generously shared with me. I am still humbled by our success in welcoming and preparing some of that region’s neediest and richest teenagers — needy in terms of monetary resources, rich in their dreams, talents, work ethic and goodness.
Eight years on the Congregation’s leadership team exposed me to so much that is important in religious life: collaborating with many others, a sense of mission, the give and take of decision-making, the necessity of prayer, the importance of listening and also speaking up. This time brought me into circles far wider than my life in Illinois through national and international organizations and responsibilities. And I learned a lot about things I didn’t know I had an aptitude for: finance, planning and organizational leadership.
My earlier experience as a high school principal prepared me to be a president. Knowing what a strong curriculum could produce, leading teachers in radical ways of putting students at the center of decisions, supporting young women from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds to go to college — these are the experiences that later helped me start a new school.
I learned how to be an effective principal by being a teacher first and being coached and mentored by other great teachers, many of them Joliet Franciscans in grade school and again in college. It was a joy to teach poetry and fiction, writing and grammar, and to lead 25 Kairos retreats along the way. Those early students are among some of my dear friends to this day. And my colleagues from every position I’ve had are, in fact, my dearest friends along with my sisters and family.
Along the way, I studied hard, steeping myself in the Franciscan heritage and spirituality, earning a BA and MA in English literature and an EdD in private school administration. I’m proof that a good public high school education can take someone a long way, but there’s nothing like the grounding that came from my first eight years at St. Andrew School in Romeoville. And before that, my parents, Lil and Bill, and siblings Wayne, Carl and Celeste taught me how to share, to read, to love music, to cook, to be a friend, to drive, to bargain, to be frugal with things and extravagant with people.
Forty years have gone fast, but I thank God every day for all of the people and challenges and gifts that have enriched me throughout my life. They are cause for jubilee.
Associate Jeanne Foley
When I look back on my forty years as an Associate , I can’t help but to be grateful for the forty six years of my life before that, to the date of my birth. I was born a Franciscan. My mother was a Third Order Franciscan. Before my cousin, our Sr. Lorraine Young became a Joliet Franciscan, she was the maid of honor for her aunt, my mother. My sister, Mary Ann, left home after eighth grade to become Sr. Anthony Marie and I followed her twelve years later to become Sr. Mercedes.
In all of the upheaval and new growth of Vatican II, I followed a new call to matrimony and motherhood. Once again I was blessed, and, responding to an invitation from my “young” cousin, Sr. Mary Jo Young, (with the support of my godmother’s daughter, Sr. Kathy Salewski), to became an Associate in 1982. My godmother, Katherine Young Salewski, a strong support and influence in my life, later followed me as an Associate. We were both part of the famous “Southside Mission Group” that our Sr. Dominic Krivich initiated and supported for many years. Sr. Dominic had been a family friend for many years before this.
Shortly after becoming an Associate I was asked to assist the Associate Director and that began my many years of welcoming new Associates, and working with all the Directors from Rita Vahling to Sharon Frederick. Such rich and inspiring years! In between this period I also worked with Meg Guider in mission development for the archdiocese of Chicago. That opened up for me the riches of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, plus the amazing global world of Meg, who became and remains such a wonderful family friend as my “Companion Sister”.
Still steeped and soaking in Franciscan graces, I now treasure, in addition, the prayer and support of my monthly phone prayer group of Associates: Rose Mines, Dorothy Spitzak, Anne Craig McEldowney, and Anne Tietyen. Over the years, going back to Sr. Dominic’s time, we have gained and sent on to heaven cherished members. This rich and mighty thread of grace that Francis and Clare slung out so many years ago continues to strengthen the fabric of our lives throughout our suﬀering and evolving world. For all of these relationships, for this amazing community, I give thanks at this time of anniversary. May we all be God’s peace and love!