Meet a Sister- Sister Marjorie Westendorf       

There was always a lot to do for "my kids."  It was a joy to plan and surprise them; to be and learn and enjoy with them; to watch them discover and grow.  Whether there were twenty or nearly forty, middle class or from poorer sections of the country or whatever their ethnicity, it was always a precious privilege to be their first grade or kindergarten teacher.  It was hard work but also fun.  As a matter of fact, some children began calling me "The Fun Nun," and I liked that! There were sacrifices but many more rewards.

As a teenager, I wanted to get married and have at least twelve children.  (No kidding.)  Instead, I had about twice that many each year.  My students were "mine" to nurture and teach.

Why didn't my path lie in the awesome vocation of marriage and parenting?  That's a story that began in my sophomore year of high school, when I was part of a religious club called Sodality.  We were asked to volunteer our services as a group and individually each week and to spend time each day with certain prayers.  Among these was a challenge to meditate for fifteen minutes each day.  I found a book to help me in this mysterious venture.

One day, the book directed me to realize that not all Catholic girls are called to become religious Sisters, but each young woman needs to consider this as one of her options and to give the possibility some time and reflection.  My reaction:  "This isn't for me, but okay, I'll think about it." 

After 15 minutes, I put the book down, with that consideration completed, or so I thought.  I discovered that I couldn't stop thinking about this vocation.  No matter what I was doing, there it was:  Marjorie Westendorf, a Sister.  I was confused, frustrated, and sometimes angry that I couldn't get it out of my mind.

Because my thoughts kept returning to Sisters, I observed the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King.  I noticed that (1) they seemed happy; (2) they were working together to do more than they could do individually; (3) when they began our classes with a spontaneous prayer, a strong, meaningful, and personal relationship with God was evident.  This was all intriguing and enticing.  I realized that I wanted to (1) be happy in my adult life; (2) make a difference in the world and to do so with others who also wanted to serve others; and (3) continue to grow in my relationship with God, a desire deepening through my daily meditations. 

In my junior year, I worked up the courage to talk with a Sister whom I thought was "pretty cool."  She suggested I come and spend a weekend at the Convent.  Figuring I could end my "obsession" once and for all, I accepted this invitation.  I didn't tell my girlfriends or boyfriend; I hid my little suitcase when I came to school Friday morning; with some excitement mixed with fear, I went to the Convent after school.

Somehow, I had the idea that the entire weekend would be quiet and rather lonely and, as teenagers are prone to predict, somewhat boring.  The table conversations, the fun and singing while doing dishes and cleaning the tables, games of baseball and volleyball: my misperceptions were quickly changed. 

When we went into Chapel together, I was hugged by the silence and the awareness of the Sisters' private prayer.  It seemed to lift me up, so that I felt a sense of unity with them in their turning toward God in prayer, and also felt a new readiness to pray in my own words.  Our oral prayers and Mass heightened this sense of God's special presence and closeness.

I felt at home - amazing to me and my expectations!  My desire to rid myself of any thoughts of becoming a religious Sister were replaced by an excited desire to indeed enter this community after high school. 


That's just what I did, and this "at-home-ness" remained and remains.  I still had my wonderful family of parents and five younger siblings, but I also had a community of diverse individuals with whom to live and grow.  My Sisters help me learn what it means to be a Franciscan Sister.


Some may say, "But, you wanted to get married and be a mother.  Why couldn't you do that?  Why does God ask us to do something we don't want to do?"   I do believe that I could have become a good wife and mother and found much happiness and fulfillment in that vocation.  Yet, God showed me a way of life that would be the very best way for me and for those I serve.  I thank God that there were those "annoying" thoughts that led me to discover what God, of course, knew.


Over these many years there have been various ministries: teaching, community vocation work, community leadership, and assisting in our Sisters' Infirmary.   In all these, as well as in my relationships with family, co-workers, fellow Sisters, and friends, there is a meaningful and vital opportunity to be an instrument of God's life-giving.   Life's disappointments and challenges are continuously softened by the tremendous gratitude that permeates my realizations of God's Call and sustenance in my life. 


As to my original young desires and my present reality:  (1) Living in gratitude is a very freeing, deeply happy way to live.  (2) With my Sisters, I am privileged to live the Gospel and serve the Church with Franciscan values.  (3) I have come to very personally know our God as One who generously gives directly and through others and calls me to a partnership in God's gift-giving through service, compassion, understanding, support, and all those wonderful good things human beings can do for each other in God's love.  How very wonderfully good God is!

Sister M. Cecilia Adamic

When Sister Cecilia was 6 years old, her mother took her to St. Joseph Church in Joliet, where the family attended. It was there that she saw a Sister for the first time. As she watched this Sister dusting the Communion rail and saw the way her veil was flying around, it caught her attention. She was fascinated and thought this was "cute"! She asked her mother, "Who was that?" Her mother said, "That's a Sister! She dedicated herself to God!" Hearing the answer, she said, "I'd like to be one of those!" That desire never left her, and she continued to talk about it, so her family and friends were not at all surprised when she chose to enter the convent. She had also followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Sister Cherubim, who had entered the order and as an aspirant in 1928.

Throughout Sister Cecilia's 82+ years as a member of our Franciscan community, she served in a number of different ministries: teacher and administrator on the elementary school level, teacher on the secondary level; local house superior and administrator at St. John Children's Home in Kansas City, KS; administrator at Alvernia Manor Senior Living in Lemont; Novice Directress for 16 years at our Provincial House in Lemont, and for many years she was also responsible for the formation of aspirants, postulants and the junior Sisters as well.

Sister Cecilia has always had special artistic talent, and this has shown itself in many ways: in the countless craft items she had made over the years, along with the many beautiful Christmas wreaths which many people were so eager to purchase during our bazaars. Sister's finest artistic talent, however, is evident in more than 100 of the beautiful oil paintings that she has produced over the years. Many of these paintings are beautiful landscapes which now grace the homes of those who are so proud and feel so honored to have one of her paintings.

In 1996, Sister Cecilia began what was to become her "semi-retirement years" at Marian Hall, but it was to last only a year, as she was willing to offer help in tutoring students at St. Mary Nativity School in Joliet during the 1997-1998 school year. After that year, she returned to Lemont and continues to live in residence at Marian Hall. Although she is in full retirement, she continues to be a Eucharistic Minister to those sick Sisters at St. Joseph Infirmary who are unable to attend Mass in the chapel.

Sister celebrated her 100th birthday in May, 2014. She has been such an inspiration to all of us, and she continues to be the epitome of what it means to "age gracefully". Sister spends her time praying for many needs - those of the Church, the world, and the needs of our religious Congregation. She also prays for her family and her relatives, for her many friends, and our wonderful Associates, and our many generous benefactors.

When asked what advice she would give to someone who is trying to decide what to do with his or her life, she offered these words: "Get in touch with God first. Pray that He will inspire you and guide you, and also talk to Him as a friend in whom you can confide."

Sister M. Daniel Kaizar

Sr. Daniel was born in 1923, the third child in a family of six children.  For high school, Sr. Daniel chose Bishop Ward High School conducted by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas. She was very impressed with the Sisters and decided to join them, when almost overnight, an interior voice told her to “go far away and work for God’s people.” It was then, she decided to join the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King.

Sr. Daniel spent 45 years teaching in parish schools from Ohio to Kansas. She taught CCD, served as sacristan, and helped with the Day Care at St. John Children's Home In Kansas City.  In 1990, she was assigned to Alvernia Manor where she served the residents with kindness and patience.  Sr. Daniel then joined the community at the House of Prayer.  She moved to Marian Hall in 1998 where she helped with household chores and spent time in prayer for the community and the world.  Her smile, simplicity, and gratitude endeared her to her caregivers who were faithful and loving in their daily devotion to her needs. 

Sr. Daniel wrote her biography and philosophy of life. She ended her notes with: “I would like to thank all the Sisters in our community for all the blessings and graces that were showered upon me during my religious life here with the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King. May God bless and love all the Sisters and may He always keep all of the Sisters in His tender, loving care.”

Sr. Daniel was welcomed to her heavenly home on April 30, 2014. 

Sister M. Conrad Staresincic

Before she was old enough to go to school, Sr. Conrad's mother would take her to Mass each morning. When she began school, Sr. Theodore was her first and second grade teacher, and it was through her that Sr. Conrad was inspired to become a Sister.

As a religious, Sr. Conrad chose to live by the words of our Lord: "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to Me." In choosing to live her life this way, she always enjoyed serving in the various ministries to which she had been assigned, whether it was in teaching, administration, caring for the retired Sisters in Marian Hall, the sick and elderly in St. Joseph Infirmary, or the residents at Alvernia Manor. The one ministry that was closest to her heart, and gave her the greatest joy, was the care of orphans at St. John's Home in Kansas City, Kansas.


Although Sr. Conrad was assigned to teach at a number of our schools, she spent 19 of those years at 3 different schools in her home state of Pennsylvania. She taught at St. Peter's in Steelton, St. Joseph's in Bethlehem, and St. Nicholas in Millvale. She also served as the Provincial Superior in 1975, and in 1981, served on the General Council in Rome.


Sister Conrad likes to spend her free time visiting the sick or the elderly. When she was at St. Mary Nativity in Joliet, she enjoyed tutoring students who needed extra help and also did some substituting, visited shut-ins of the parish, and served as Eucharistic Minister for those in nursing homes or in their private homes. Sister always enjoyed helping others and was available wherever there was a need and in whatever way she could be of service. The Lord will surely say to her one day, "Well done, My good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy prepared for you from all eternity!"


Sister Conrad's advice to someone who is trying to decide his or her vocation is to pray for discernment and ask why they would wish to choose a certain vocation. They should also ask a priest or Sister for advice. She added, "Disappointment is never a reason to choose religious life. You should never make decisions when you are disappointed."

Sister Mary Clement Korenic                    

My first contact with our Sisters began when I was enrolled in St. Nicholas School in Pittsburgh, grades 1 through 10. They were dedicated to their work and always full of joy and enthusiasm. It was at this early age that I began thinking I wanted to become a Sister of St. Francis of Christ the King. The desire to become a nun lasted throughout the ten years I was in school.


After I completed the 10th grade, I found a job in secretarial work. I loved the work, but my desire to enter the convent was far more enticing! So, after two years, I contacted the Sisters and told them I wanted to enter the convent.


My family approved of my decision even though they thought I was too young. My Dad instructed me that if I found that life in the convent was not for me, I could come home.


My main ministry was teaching mostly Jr. High departmental. I loved teaching Religion, Social Studies, Art, and English. I found great satisfaction in seeing the students enjoy learning. It brought me great satisfaction when a student reached his or her potential.  


After retiring from teaching, I took 3 units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Alexian Brothers Medical Center to prepare me for ministry as a hospital chaplain. I received certification and was very enthusiastic to begin work in providing compassionate care to the sick.


While in training, I was rewarded for my patience and understanding of a patient who was seriously ill with cancer and not expected to live. On my daily visits to his room, he shared the reason why he left the Church, the practice of his faith and the sacraments.  I encouraged him to make his peace with God. He agreed, and I requested a priest to visit him. I alerted the Priest of the patient's problem and his desire to make his peace with God after being away from the Church and the Sacraments for thirty years.  A few weeks after making his confession, the patient died. How gratifying it was that by the grace of God the patient won "a death bed conversion".    


Some hobbies I engage in are sewing and mending clothes, reading, crocheting, working puzzles, and visiting the sick.


My hobby of sewing was of value to me when I was in charge of the girls in our Kansas City Home for children who were wards of the state. They were temporarily placed in our care until the parents were deemed capable of caring and providing for their needs.


Easter was coming soon, and I noticed one of the girls had very few clothes, and they were in poor condition. I took the shabbiest dress and took it apart for a pattern and made a lovely new dress. I told her it was for her to wear for Easter. She burst into tears, saying she never owned such a beautiful dress! It was a joy to see her so happy. 

God uses us to do His work in spreading the Gospel. Therefore, it is essential that we give good example, be prayerful people, and always be available to serve the people of God. Our lives must give witness to the Christ we preach!

Sister Annette Shircel

Sister Annette Shircel was born in Sheboygan, WI and attended SS. Cyril and Methodius School where our Sisters taught. Her inspiration to become a Sister came at different times in her life. Her 2nd grade teacher, Sr. Annunciata, left an impression as a very caring, fun-loving Sister. In 5th grade, her aunt, Sister Blanche, came home for vacation and shared stories of working at St. John's Children's Home in Kansas City. From that time on, Sister Annette felt the call to become a Sister. In 8th grade, Sister Rose Ovca, her teacher, talked about the Sisters in Lemont, and 6 girls from her class traveled to Lemont to visit them. It was a wonderful experience.

Sister Annette's family felt very blessed that one of their children would enter religious life. Once when she was dusting her parents' bedroom, she found a prayer card on the night stand that was entitled "A Prayer for a Daughter or Son to Serve the Lord."

Sister has taught in various states including Wisconsin, California, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas. Her favorite subjects are teaching Reading and Religion, and most of her years were spent teaching the primary grades. Sister especially enjoys preparing children for Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

One of her fondest memories is the five years she spent at St. John Children's Home in Kansas City where she worked as a counselor to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed teenagers. This experience was very helpful in ministering to the parents, children, and her colleagues. Sister loved working and taking care of these troubled teens.

Sister began the "Rainbows for All God's Children" Program in Greenfield, WI and Lemont and Bolingbrook, IL. This program is for children experiencing a loss through death, divorce, or any other traumatic experiences.

In her spare time Sister enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and weaving designs with palms.

Her advice to anyone discerning their vocation is that through prayer, God will inspire us to do what HE wants for our lives. We need to give of ourselves and be compassionate and respectful of others.

Sister M. Benedict Cimperman     

Sister Benedict met the Sisters of St. Francis for the first time when her family moved to Cleveland, and she was enrolled in first grade at St. Christine School.  Sister Benedict enjoyed being around the Sisters and saw how very kind and caring they were and how much they enjoyed what they were doing. She always wanted to be around them and would even help them on Saturdays cleaning vigil lights, washing desks, or doing other chores.

When Sr. Benedict was a junior at Shore High School, Sr. Cordula, her 8th grade teacher, believed that she had a religious vocation and invited her to join the order. On August 29, 1938, Sr. Benedict left home and boarded the train headed for Chicago, eventually arriving in Lemont. 

Sister's first teaching assignment was at St. John the Baptist School in Kansas City where she taught in the primary and intermediate grades. It was during those 16 years that she also became the official "barber" for the boys who were living at St. John's Orphanage.  When her next teaching assignment called for a transfer to Lemont to teach at Mt. Assisi Academy, the children she had to leave behind were not happy at all! She told them it was like being in the Army. When the Captain says "Go!" you go! She showed them her Franciscan cord with its three knots, each one representing her vows, one of which is obedience, and she added "God always blesses obedience!" And indeed, He always does!

From 1960 to 1990, Sr. Benedict taught Religion, French, and English at Mt. Assisi.  Sister was also a guidance counselor for most of those years and moderator of the Parents Association. Although this should be more than enough on anyone's plate, she also taught CCD classes at St. James and continued this ministry for eleven years.

During the summers of '89 and '90, she and two other Sisters volunteered to spend two weeks teaching catechism to young children who attended public schools in Willard, Wisconsin.  Everyone looked forward to the summer arrival of our Sisters. We began Religious Ed ministry at Holy Family in 1939 and our Sisters continued to serve there as catechists every single summer for 60 years!

In 1990, when our community established a House of Prayer, Sr. Benedict become one of the core members.  Our Lady of the Angels House of Prayer continues to be a blessing for many individuals as well as groups that desire to spend time in prayer, quiet reflection, and Eucharistic Adoration. God willing, perhaps a religious vocation may some day take root in the heart and soul of someone who comes there.

In February of 2013, Mt. Assisi Academy held its annual Gala, and Sr. Benedict was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her many years of ministry and faithful service which began at St. John's Orphanage, her many years as teacher at St. John's School, and her dedication as a counselor and teacher of Religion, French, and English at Mt. Assisi for 30 years. 

Sister Benedict was welcomed home to heaven on November 15, 2013. 

Sr. M. Valentine Poturica

Sr. Valentine became acquainted with our Sisters for the first time when she was in the fourth grade. Sr. Febronia Kos was her teacher and she was always very kind to all the children in her class. Because Sr. Valentine liked her so much, she said that she began playing school with the neighborhood “kids” imitating the way Sr. Febronia taught. She also saw that all the other Sisters were just as caring and patient toward the children.

During those early years, Sr. Valentine’s family lived upstairs of the Croatian Brothers Grocery Store. Her mother often bought groceries for the Sisters, and it was very convenient for Sr. Valentine and her siblings to take them to the Sisters, and they would also deliver the groceries that the Sisters themselves had purchased. This was how she got to know them more and more, and she always saw the Sisters as being very kind, friendly, and always grateful. She and her siblings would also receive special treats from them.

When it was time for her to enter high school, her Dad wasn’t sure if she should go to the convent. She was therefore sent to a public high school, and a Sister named Lucy came to school and taught Religion. It was then that she was sure she wanted to be a School Sister of St. Francis of Christ the King. It was during her sophomore year, at age sixteen, that her Dad gave his consent and allowed her to make that choice. 


Over the years, Sr. Valentine had always loved teaching, but she especially enjoyed teaching second grade. These little ones loved to pray, and she herself enjoyed preparing them to receive the Sacraments of Penance (now Reconciliation) and Holy Communion. When many of these children returned years later, as adults, they would tell her that they continued to pray and keep the commandments which was certainly a joy to hear! Sister also enjoyed teaching third grade because they were a little more mature, and she was able to follow up on the Sacraments. While it’s known that Sr. Valentine taught in the primary grades for nearly 40 years, she also taught in the middle and upper grades for about 20 years. Although she had taught in a number of  schools in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, she was also assigned to teach at Anton  Martin Slomšek School in Etiwanda, California which was our province’s first far western mission. This was quite an exciting change after spending most of her life in the Midwest and “out East”.

One of Sr. Valentine’s second graders, whom she taught many years ago at St. Stephen School in Chicago, and of whom she has been so very proud, went on to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1973 and served in the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio until his installation in 2002 as the Tenth Bishop of Covington, Kentucky! His Excellency, the Most Reverend Roger Joseph Foys has never forgotten his second grade teacher, and despite his heavy schedule and numerous responsibilities, he continued to remember her in a special way, sending her flowers every Christmas and Easter!

One of Sr. Valentine’s favorite pastimes was tatting, although she also enjoyed crocheting and making various crafts such as ornaments. Her expertise in using a shuttle to tat various items required a lot of dexterity, and she actually taught herself by reading the directions. She soon learned how to tat doilies, bookmarks, and edgings around small handkerchiefs. She learned this as a young Sister.


When Sr. Valentine was 95, she wanted to make something for Sr. Antonia, her “next door neighbor” in the infirmary, so she tatted a book mark for Sister’s 100th birthday!  This was certainly characteristic of Sr. Valentine as she enjoyed making little presents to give to the Sisters and children for special occasions: feast days, First Holy Communion, etc.

When Sr. Valentine retired from her 60 years of active ministry in the classroom,  she continued to stay as active as possible, offering her services in various ways: taking on phone duty, writing for the Sisters, sending greeting cards, get well cards, birthday cards, etc. for those who could not do so for themselves. She also enjoyed reading and spending time in prayer and meditation and praying the rosary. Sister also prayed the seven decade rosary known as the Franciscan Crown, in honor of the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She prayed for her family and friends, for an increase of religious vocations to our community, and in special way “for those who struggle with chronic pain.” 

Sister Valentine was welcomed home to heaven on February 21, 2014.