Celebrating 125 Years of Lisle Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery
From February 2, 2020 to February 2, 2021, we will be celebrating and giving thanks on the occasion of our 125th anniversary.
Each day of this coming year we will tell our story. Daily, we will feature a short description of one of our sisters near or on the day of her death if deceased, or if living on her birthday. When not featuring a Sister, we will share glimpses of our history or features of our lives that are important to us.
You can also follow us daily on Facebook (Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart) or on
Day 213: September 1, 2020
The Baldacchino In Our Chapel
The Baldacchino in our chapel is the architectural canopy that is held up above the high altar. This unique view of our Baldacchino symbolizes its safeguarding value of something sacred. As you enter our Sacred Heart Chapel, your eye immediately is captivated with its magnificence. You notice that it encases a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose outstretched arms are a sign that all are welcome to come to him as his heart burns with love for you and me and everyone.
Day 214: September 2, 2020
SHA Student Dining Room
The Sacred Heart Academy girls were trained in table etiquette as well as to be attentive in serving one another. They were served family style and were encouraged to eat whatever they put on their plate. Notice their neat uniforms which consisted of white blouses and navy-blue skirts required to be worn during the school day.
Day 215: September 3, 2020
SHA Outdoor and Indoor Physical Exercise
1. The top photo shows the Academy girls having a picnic outing in the open air in an autumn relaxed, fun atmosphere.
2. The second photo shows a gym class performance for public view. The bleacher area was on the floor above so that the audience could look down on the gym floor.
3. The third photo shows the girls playing a competitive game of volleyball.
Day 216: September 4, 2020
Hartwig, Mother Mary Louise b. 2/5/1914 d. 9/4/2007 (Fourth Prioress: 1961-1973)
Mother Mary Louise was a talented, confident, and an unafraid individual whose giftedness was destined to prepare her for leadership. Her growing-up years at our Lady of Lourdes School in Chicago provided her with a solid Benedictine foundation which continued with her enrollment in the first freshman class at Sacred Heart Academy in Lisle. Living with Benedictine Sisters, she was ready to enter Sacred Heart Monastery, learn the monastic life-style according to the Rule of St. Benedict, and continue her college education. Excelling in math, Latin, French and commercial subjects as well as learning to play the organ, she became a teacher at the Commercial High school at Our Lady of Lourdes and later was assigned to teach at Sacred Heart Academy. However, her greatest gift to our community was to initiate the changes of Vatican II as she was elected prioress during that time. Relying on the timeless guidance of God’s wisdom, she introduced the community to praying the Divine Office in English rather than Latin. She presented the norms of the renewal of religious life to be developed in harmony with the Gospel, as the Catholic Church was opening its windows to let in fresh air and a new understanding of its mission.
Day 217: September 5, 2020
Koukal, Sister Mary Veronica b. 3/22/1877 d. 9/5/1961
Sister Mary Veronica was small in stature but profound in her spiritual life. Considered to be an angel in her ministries, both at St. Procopius College kitchen and St. Joseph’s Orphanage, she practiced silence reverently to obtain grace for those who needed spiritual help. Whenever there was a young Sister or someone that was inexperienced working with her, she would choose the harder part of the work to alleviate the strain of the other person, modeling charity and humility. Even until she was near death, she continued to keep her eyes on the Lord in prayer and stayed busy working without stopping, fleshing out the Benedictine motto: Ora et Labora.
Day 218: September 6, 2020
Gym Class at SHA Included Acrobatic Stunts Performed for an Audience
“Every movement is improvement” for these SHA students who learned body movements that not only kept them healthy and energetic, but movements that seemingly could reverse gravity. Do you think their scrub-like, bloomer gym suits were the fashion of their day? Miss Leona Reidy was their gym trainer, who later joined the Franciscan Sisters in Milwaukee.
Day 219: September 7, 2020
The SHA Library Was the Hub of The Student’s Life
Sister Mary De Sales sits at her desk as the girls do their assignments during their free periods. Sister was very aware of the content of all the library books, and she was a helpful person to go to whenever the students needed to find information not listed in the card catalog. There were no computers then, but there were many books related to every subject that was taught.
Day 220: September 8, 2020
Sister Mary Editha Jindrich is Seen Teaching Chemistry in the Lab at SHA
We see the SHA chemistry students here learning about the properties of substances, and why and how substances combine or separate to form other substances. Note the periodic table of elements on the wall and the various ingredients in bottles on the shelves representing a well-planned chemistry lab.
Day 221: September 9, 2020
Forst, Sister Mary Emiliana b. 10/1/1894 d. 9/91976
Sister Mary Emiliana was very appreciative of her Benedictine life, keeping her encounter with the person of Jesus strong. Her teaching mission in our elementary schools proved to inspire her to be content. Among the Sisters she was known for her ingenious way of giving an instantaneous retort to an ordinary statement turning a serious conversation into a clever, light-hearted, humorous ending.
Day 222: September 10, 2020
The SHA Biology Room and the Study of Living Things
Here the SHA biology students are learning with specimens, microscopes, and all the visual aids possible around them. The Sisters who taught this subject were well trained and conveyed their subject with depth and enthusiasm. At various times the science teachers were Sister Mary Scholastica, Sister Dolorosa, Sister Celine, and Sister Agnes Ann (a.k.a. Sister Salome).
Day 223: September 11, 2020
SHA Sewing Class was One Aspect of Home Economics
In the early years of SHA, home economics was an important subject since women were homemakers and needed to learn the skills of sewing. Many women in those days were able to make clothes not only for themselves, but also for their whole family. Did you notice that these machines were not electric? Sister Mary Juliana Konopa was the teacher in this department.
Day 224: September 12, 2020
Sefcik, Sister Mary b. 11/2/1910 d. 9/13/2001
Sister Mary Sefcik, as a common sense 14-year-old, wanted to help out with her family’s dire finances and applied for a job at a cookie factory in Chicago. She lied about her age, saying she was 16 and was hired. When she entered the monastery, her cookie factory experience was her diploma to be a cook and baker for the rest of her days. She was a dutiful soul with a child–like eagerness to be helpful wherever she was needed. When the Knights of Columbus set up bingo in our gym, Sister Mary would be there every Sunday, hoping and praying to win to be able to present her money to a good cause. As she was dying, she asked for a paper and pencil and wrote: “I love everyone here” completing her intent of saying “thank you” to us.
Day 225: September 13, 2020
Svec, Sister Agnes Ann b. 12/31/1924 d. 9/13/2018 (Sister to Sister Barbara Ann and Father Denis of St. Procopius Abbey)
Sister Agnes Ann studied nursing at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago and after completing her training, became a surgical nurse at that hospital. On one occasion when Sister Immaculate was visiting a patient there, she happened to meet Sister Agnes Ann and invited her to visit the Sisters at our Monastery. This visit gave Sister Agnes Ann the incentive to become a Benedictine. With Sister Agnes Ann’s background in science, she became a physiology and biology teacher at Sacred Heart Academy. After getting a degree in psychology, she became a guidance counselor at Benet Academy. One summer at the invitation of Father Alban, the Benedictine Prior of a Taiwan Priory, she and Sister Immaculate traveled to Taiwan to teach English as well as to nurture the Catholic faith with the friendly Taiwanese people.
Day 226: September 14, 2020
SHA Home Economics Cooking and Baking Class
The SHA cooking and baking students learned how to plan balanced meals, cook nourishing food, bake healthy desserts, and serve their meals with grace to other students who would appraise their cooking and baking. The cooking and baking classes were not only a good experience at the academy, but also helped to prepare these young ladies for their future nutrition planning.
Day 227: September 15, 2020
The SHA Annual Prom: The Most Important Social of the Year
Though there were scheduled dances during the school year, the prom was the most formal event in which the juniors and seniors could find their own dates usually from St. Procopius Academy in Lisle or Marmion Military Academy in Aurora. The event took place in the SHA gym, decorated for the occasion in line with a chosen theme song. Hors d’oeuvres and punch were served as well to promote interactive socialization.
Day 228: September 16, 2020
Sacred Heart Academy Graduation Mass
The SHA graduation events always ended with Holy Mass. It was a very special time for the graduates to praise and thank God for their spiritual formation, which permeated their education fortified by the hospitality and prayer of the Benedictine Sisters. The graduates also petitioned God for the gift to continue to bless them on their journeys through life. The Sisters too, felt a sense of gratitude knowing that these young ladies were hopefully well prepared to witness to their Christian faith on leaving the religious atmosphere of the Academy.
Day 229: September 17, 2020
The Older Sisters in the Monastery Appreciated Visitors Circa 2010
The Moms and Tots program was a monthly visit to our Sisters in our St. Walburga Care Center. What joy it would bring them! Here we see Sister Mary Bernard and Sister Mary Sefcik each holding a cherished baby while their mothers chat and get acquainted. In the middle picture, Sister Meinrada is admiring the Aument twins, Elizabeth and Emily, as their mother, Lynn, holds them while an older daughter, Danielle, cuddles up to Sister Meinrada.
Day 230: September 18, 2020
Moms and Tots with the Sisters in the Care Center Continued
Whenever the lower grade children had a free day from school, their moms would bring them to entertain the Sisters with their musical instruments or to play catch ball with the Sisters. In the first picture we see Sister Mary Bernard, who was a former music teacher, listening gratefully to the two children playing violin and one playing the cello, while a mother with one of her tots stands back looking on. In the second picture Sister Mary Loretta and Sister Louis Mary play catch ball with 4-year-old Nora Kenny.
Day 231: September 19, 2020
Lattyak, Sister Mary Ladislava b. 12/12/1889 d. 9/20/1957 (Sister of Sister Valentina who later joined Our Lady of Sorrows Community)
Sister Mary Ladislava was born in Austria-Hungary and spoke only Czech or Slovak; she actually never learned to speak English. She entered our community at the time our Academy was being built. Having had experience in baking, she was taught how to bake using our new, large, commercial ovens to supply bread and baked goods to feed the Sisters as well as the academy students amounting to over 250 persons. Her ministry was vital as in those days, bread and bakery was always homemade in our monastery.
Day 232: September 20, 2020
Pavlas, Sister Mary Magdalene b. 7/7/1900 d. 9/20/1981
Sister Mary Magdalene was a gentle, soft spoken, peace loving person and was happy to be busy. She did domestic work in the parish convents where our Sisters taught. She not only did the cooking, baking, and shopping (she was known for baking her special rye bread), but also offered her service to be an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion to the people in Church. That to her was her greatest and most fulfilling joy.
Day 233: September 21, 2020
We Welcomed Father Becket Franks, OSB as Our Chaplain in 1999
It was summertime and our chapel was not air-conditioned, so our Masses were held in the air-conditioned chapter room due to the intense heat of the chapel. Here you see the Sisters with raised arms giving Father Becket a welcome blessing. Interestingly, during our construction project of Villa St. Benedict, our chapel was not only air-conditioned but also remodeled for accommodating the residents with whom we now share the chapel. Since the renovation, we again appreciate being back in the chapel and are grateful for having Father Becket as our beloved chaplain for these 21 years. He has the gift of opening the scriptures for us with his relevant words of wisdom along with his inspiring liturgies.
Day 234: September 22, 2020
The Sisters Pray the Divine Office in our Sacred Heart Chapel
Our Sacred Heart Chapel is the center for prayer and is the most sacred space for the Benedictine Sisters to gather. The Sisters’ horarium (daily schedule) brings them to pray the Divine Office together three times a day. Since the Divine Office is the official prayer of the Church (also called the Liturgy of the Hours), it unites the Sisters with other Benedictine communities. It also unites the Sisters with the priests committed to this prayer form, with religious in the whole world who chant God’s praises, and with the angelic choirs in heaven.
Day 235: September 23, 2020
Our Elderly Sisters at Prayer with Their Rosaries
This happy group of Sisters contributed so much to community life. One can almost feel their holiness and joy as they pray the rosary. They were commissioned to pray daily for the special intentions requested by friends and families, and for those who needed the assurance of God’s grace if the Sisters were asked to connect with God for them. The Sisters in the first row are Sisters Gregoria, Jerome, Hermenegilde, and Agatha. The Sisters in the second row are Sisters Matilda and Lucy.
Day 236: September 24, 2020
The Occupational Therapy Room Supports “Labora”
“Ora et Labora” means “pray and work” in Latin and is the statement that signifies the essence of monastic life. Our Ora (prayer) is the same for both teachers and cooks in the monastery. However, in retirement the Labora (work) needs to be done in a different way. Sister Micheline, standing on the right, was trained to set up a work program called occupational therapy for the elderly Sisters. This program was meant to satisfy the Sisters’ psychological need to contribute to the productivity of the community. Here we see Sisters Armella, Laurene, Gerarda, and Mary Sefcik creating a craft according to each Sister’s ability.