On November 10, 2015, at the annual Joliet/Will County Project Pride dinner, the Joliet Franciscan Sisters will be inducted into the Hall of Pride. The Sisters, celebrating the 150th anniversary of their founding in 1865, are being honored for their years serving in education and community service.
This is the 30th anniversary of Joliet/Will County Project Pride. The organization has honored 135 individuals over the course of its history.
The dinner is being held at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center at 411 S. Larkin Avenue in Joliet. For more information, visit Joliet/Will County Project Pride’s website at www.jolietwillcountyprojectpride.org.
My 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!
Being asked to share my vocation story with you has given me an opportunity to once again consider all that has brought me to this time in my life. I wish that I could tell you that, like Mary, an angel appeared to me and told me that I should become a Sister. However, rarely does it work that way and it certainly didn’t work that way in my life. I grew up in an ordinary Italian Catholic family. My parents saw that my sister, brother and I were educated in Catholic schools. We went to Mass each Sunday, said grace before meals and led pretty normal lives. Because of the times, I was privileged to have many Sisters as my teachers throughout grade school and high school. I can remember, as early as 3rd grade, admiring these women and feeling that I would like to be like them and do what they do. This feeling stayed with me, though I kept trying to push it to the background. Through my years of schooling, I had three different orders of Sisters, but when I met the Joliet Franciscan Sisters at St. Francis Academy here in Joliet I knew that if I were to become a Sister that I would join them. They were excellent, dedicated teachers and exhibited joy in all that they did. They took an interest in their students and it was obvious to me that they truly enjoyed what they were doing. So, after high school, I entered the convent and recently celebrated my golden jubilee. My life has been rich and fulfilling. I have had so many opportunities for education, travel and enrichment in my life. I have been a teacher, high school administrator, nursing home administrator and I have served in various leadership positions for the Joliet Franciscans. My life has been and continues to be full and fulfilling. I do not regret a day that I have spent as a Sister of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. So, as you contemplate your path in life, I encourage you to be open to all vocations. Listen as the Spirit speaks to you. May our loving God lead you to do and be what is yours to do and be!
More than 150 years ago, many families of German immigrants settled in an area of Columbus, Ohio, which is now called German Village. It was in this community of strong German roots and equally strong Catholic values that Rosemary Cecilia Kerscher was born on September 19, 1926, to her parents, Valentine and Martha (Schmidt) Kerscher. She was welcomed into her family by four older brothers (Charles, Erwin, Bernard, and Edward) and three older sisters (Rita, Dolores, and Virginia). Her birth evened out the number of boys and girls in the family – until three years later when her younger brother, Paul, arrived on the scene and made the boys the majority.
Rosemary was educated by the Joliet Franciscan Sisters at St. Mary Grade School and High School in Columbus. However, even before she entered the first grade she was familiar with the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, for our deceased Sister Siena Schmidt was her aunt, her mother’s sister.
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.
Hospitality and generosity permeated the life of Sister Agnes who, in her words, “took delight in the service of hospitality to all guests.” Born into a family of 11 children, Agnes wrote, “teaches a person to share, apologize and work together.” She enjoyed happy memories of each of her ten brothers and sisters and credited each with “giving me a gift of themselves.”
She was born to William and Ruth (Maechtel) Goode on October 25, 1928. The generosity of spirit of her parents fostered the same in her and her 10 brothers and sisters. They taught them about God and the Church.
On 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.
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.
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.
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