On Sunday, July 28, 15 Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi celebrated their anniversaries of religious profession at a Jubilarian Mass at 3 p.m. in the chapel at Clare Hall, adjacent to the Motherhouse grounds in St. Francis, Wisconsin. Sr. Diana De Bruin, director of the congregation, and the presider, Perry McDonald, OFM, Cap. and a cousin of Jubilarian Sister Evelyn Brokish, noted that the sisters were being honored for a total of 975 years of faithful service.
The senior jubilarians, Sisters Leander Liu and Lenore Steilen, were recognized for 75 years of vowed religious life. Sr. Leander was born in Shantung, China, and came to the U.S. with other Chinese sisters and American missionaries in 1948. In addition to domestic work, she ministered in child care and as a nurse’s aid. She then attended Cardinal Stritch University before leaving for Taiwan, where she was a teacher’s assistant, did housework and supervised boarders until her retirement and return to Wisconsin in 1983. Sr. Lenore, a native of South Dakota, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cardinal Stritch University. For 56 years, she worked as an educator in elementary schools in Wisconsin and Iowa, and as a director of religious education in Granger, Iowa. After retiring from active ministry in 2000, she served as the sacristan at the Clare Hall residence for sisters until May of this year, when the sisters moved into the new convent. Both 75-year jubilarians now reside at the new St. Francis Convent.
Two 70-year jubilarians, Sisters Bernadette Grabrian and Cynthia Marek, earned degrees at Stritch and spent the majority of their ministry years as teachers. Sr. Bernadette taught music in Catholic parishes, mostly in Wisconsin, for more than 50 years. In 2007, she became a Sunday choir director, and in 2009 transitioned to music-related volunteer work. Sr. Cynthia taught elementary grades in Wisconsin, Illinois and Colorado, before transitioning to reading specialist and working with learning disabilities in 1977. Ten years later, she transitioned to pastoral ministry and was a house coordinator for the Franciscan Sisters in Baltimore for two years before she retired in 2001.
The other two 70-year celebrants, Sisters Margaret Ann Recker and Maria Regina Rodriguez, ministered in domestic work and child care. Sr. Margaret Ann did housework and cooking at the Major Seminary in Milwaukee and at St. Coletta’s of Illinois and St. Coletta of Wisconsin for 20 years. After spending three years in child care, she returned to domestic and food service work. In 1986, she transitioned to adult resident care until her retirement in 2000. Sr. Maria Regina, who earned certifications in religious education, gerontology and early childhood, ministered in a variety of domestic, day care and administrative positions in Wisconsin, Wyoming, Illinois, Colorado, California and Oklahoma. She retired to volunteer work, which included Hispanic pastoral ministry, in 2000. She fully retired in 2014.
Five of the six sisters who commemorated 60 years ministered as teachers, and four of those five earned degrees at Stritch. Sr. Evelyn Brokish taught music in parishes in Wisconsin and Illinois until 1974. She then continued her music ministry in a variety of capacities and places, including as a parish organist, vocal and organ instructor, liturgist, and music coordinator and specialist for parishes in Illinois, Tennessee, South Carolina and Indiana. In 2006, she established her Poverello Delights chocolate business in Gary, Indiana, and, while there, also served as a church musician, until her retirement to volunteer work at the Motherhouse in 2015. Sr. Rose Marie Dielen taught grades 5 through junior high and also served as a school principal from 1959 until 1977, at which time she transitioned to librarian and media center work until her retirement to volunteer work in 2014.
Fr. Perry and Sr. JoAnn.
As primary grade teacher, 60-year jubilarian Sr. Barbara Kenney taught in parishes in Wisconsin and Illinois before earning a master’s in learning disabilities. She then added life skills clinician and reading specialist to her ministry work. Since retiring from full-time ministry, she has been a volunteer reading teacher and tutor. The fourth 60-year jubilarian with a Stritch degree, Sr. JoAnn Schmitz, was a grade school teacher for more than 30 years in Wisconsin, Wyoming and Colorado. In 1992, she became a pastoral associate and then coordinator for OSF sister residents until 1995. She next served as co-director of associate relationship for the congregation until retiring to volunteer work in 2016.
The fifth teacher jubilarian celebrating 60 years, Sr. Patricia McAlpin, joined the congregation when the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore merged with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 2001. After earning degrees at Notre Dame and Manhattan College, she spent her ministry years teaching in Virginia, New York and Maryland before becoming director of Francis House in Baltimore from 1991 to 2003. At that time, she joined the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore for five years. After doing volunteer work in her early retirement, she fully retired to the new convent in May of this year.
The sixth 60-year celebrant, Sr. Helene Mertes, initially ministered in housework and food service for more than 20 years before earning a degree in horticulture. She then became the manager of grounds, gardens, production and the greenhouse at St. Coletta of Jefferson, Wisconsin for the next 10 years. From 1993 until 2009, she was the director of food service and vocational services at St. John Villa in Ohio. She then retired to volunteer work with the gardens on the convent property, and is the supervisor of the congregation’s CornerStone Gift Shop.
Both 50-year jubilarians earned degrees from Stritch, initially were teachers, and remain in active ministry. Sr. Margaret Kruse taught grades 1 through 5 in Milwaukee for four years before becoming a child care worker for two years. She then transitioned to pastoral ministry in Iowa for nearly 30 years and earned a certification in spiritual direction. In 2007, she was elected to the Administrative Team as associate director of the congregation. After completing her second term in 2015, she returned to pastoral ministry for two years before being named the director of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center in Wheatland, Iowa, in 2018. With a degree in biology, Sr. Judith Placzkowski taught for one year before becoming a nursing assistant and student. In 1977, she transitioned to office work. During that time she also earned a degree in photographic serigraphy and, as a photographer, developed the Poverello Prints greeting card business at the Motherhouse. She continues to work with that enterprise today, which is now known as Poverello Creations and includes many of the sisters’ craft items. She has also ministered in the congregation’s fund development and computer services departments, and currently is the manager of centralized banking for the sisters.
The 25-year celebrant, Sr. Sylvia Ann Sheldon, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stritch and was also the director of technology services there from 2004 to 2006. She was then the school finance director for Blessed Savior School in Milwaukee until being elected to the Administrative Team of the congregation as associate director from 2015 to 2019.
Jubilee class photos are available on the congregation website, www.lakeosfs.org, (http://www.lakeosfs.org/how-we-serve/jubilarians/). The congregation has 163 professed members in the United States and Taiwan.