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 335: January 1, 2021
Charouz, Sister M. Petronila b. 10/17/1896 d. 1/1/1931
Sister Petronila was loved for her charitable acts of kindness. Assigned to serve in the kitchen at St. Procopius College, she dedicated herself wholeheartedly to serve the monks and students there. She spent her later years in Joliet at SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish Convent cooking for the Sisters who were teaching in the school. We know she died at age 35, but no diagnosis was recorded to cause her early death.
Day 336: January 2, 2021
Fucik, Sister Mary Florentine b. 12/22/1881 d. 1/3/1973
Sister Mary Florentine was a model Benedictine. She was a steadfast worker, strong in her convictions, honest in her expressions, and loving to both her family and religious community. Her long life remained content, as she did everything she could to be helpful to others and remembering everyone in her prayers.
Day 337: January 3, 2021
Knakal, Sister Mary Roberta b. 10/10/1930 d. 1/3/2010
Sister Mary Roberta is fondly remembered for her purity; there was no duplicity in her mind or heart. Being a proficient organist before she came to community, she would always be assigned to play the organ in Church wherever she was sent to teach on a parish school mission. In her later years, she taught math at Benet Academy and then became the organist at the monastery. This meant she was playing the organ three times a day year after year for community liturgical services, a self-giving virtue indeed. Expanding on her music and math talents, she meticulously composed chants and antiphons that are still in use today. What a wonderful legacy of love and inspiration she left for all of us.
Day 338: January 4, 2021
Bebb, Sister Margaret Bebb b. 10/30/1926 d. 1/4/2013
Sister Margaret Bebb was drawn to the Catholic Church while studying music in Paris. On her return to her home in Wichita Falls, Texas, she became friends with our Benedictine Sisters there who were stationed at Our Lady Queen of Peace. This led to her becoming the Queen of Peace Parish choir director and organist. After visiting our Benedictine Monastery in Lisle, she decided to give up her prestigious music accomplishments with the church choir at Our Lady Queen of Peace, as well as with her students to whom she gave music lessons, in order to become a Benedictine in Lisle. What a blessing she was to Sacred Heart Monastery. She substituted in playing the organ at our Liturgies, taught music at Benedictine University, and then she offered herself to work in the PADS Program, which served the homeless and promoted social justice.
Day 339: January 5, 2021
Harvanek, Sister M. Innocencia b. 8/31/1902 d. 1/4/1918
Sister Innocencia was a sixteen-year-old candidate to monastic life who suffered from tuberculosis. Since she was sincere in her desire to remain in the Monastery and desiring to serve Christ as a Benedictine, she was clothed with the religious garb on her deathbed. Thus, she died not only as an innocent child, but also a professed Benedictine as well. In her dying statement, she said that her first words in arriving in Heaven would be, “Praised be to Jesus Christ, and thank you for opening the door for me.”
Day 340: January 6, 2021
Bunda, Sister Mary Otilia b. 4/6/1885 d. 1/4/1962
Sister Mary Otilia was a Benedictine pioneer, beginning her teaching mission at St. Vitus in Chicago. She loved children and later was sent to care for the Orphans at St. Joseph Orphanage in Lisle. She was a quiet person, practicing silence with reverence, but she liked to listen to the Sisters tell their stories at recreation. She was known to work diligently with contentment for the glory of God as she was a prayerful person.
Day 341: January 7, 2021
Konopa, Sister Mary Juliana b. 8/27/1918 d. 1/4/1965
We remember Sister Mary Juliana as a home economics teacher at Sacred Heart Academy. Sister had a caring, approachable style and was always willing to assist the girls in their sewing projects or their food preparations. Above all, the Sisters appreciated her as well, as she had a solid, loving, generous personality and often shared her cooking and sewing tips, especially with the younger Sisters who were assigned to cook while teaching at the parish schools.
Day 342: January 8, 2021
Duleba, Sister Mary Constantia b. 9/13/1900 d. 1/6/1968
Sister Mary Constantia had a spirit of perpetual youth and loved teaching children. She had a deep compassion for challenged learners and devoted more time in helping them. As the principal at St. Joseph School in Chicago for many years, she valued the lives of children, their spontaneity, and their desire to be respected. The students, and especially the Sisters who lived with her, delighted in her kind, servant leadership.
Day 343: January 9, 2021
Vrba, Sister Mary Casimir b. 1/12/1894 d. 1/6/1993
Sister Mary Casimir was a universally open-hearted soul who lived in simplicity. She was full of joy, hope, and loving service. Living at the Monastery all of her monastic life, she performed a vast variety of duties, such as vegetable gardening, upholstering furniture, painting wherever needed, and much more. Her saintly life of prayer continued to be fervent, including her 99th
year as she set aside everything else to be present in chapel for all the liturgical services.
Day 344: January 10, 2021
Sipek, Sister M. Ludwina b. 8/19/1886 d. 1/10/1944
Sister Ludwina was an immigrant from Moravia as were several other Sisters in our community. For most of her years in the monastery, she skillfully directed the kitchen staff to cook the meals for the sisters and also the meals for the girls in the early years of Sacred Heart Academy. Though appearing shy and retiring, she enjoyed a good joke and would chuckle until tears ran down her cheeks. In spite of her kitchen responsibility, she would always be punctual for prayer.
Day 345: January 11, 2021
Our Exceptional Hired Help (Part 1)
Eric Shumaker is our highly qualified maintenance man. His knowledge of technology helps him accomplish his diverse job description in the upkeep of our buildings and grounds. This is a mega undertaking. Above everything else, he has the prized gift of listening to the Sisters requests and treating everyone with courtesy and respect.
Ana Herrera is our genuinely kind, hard-working housekeeper who knows how to multi-task and is always ready to do more if she is asked. Though trained as a certified nursing assistant who worked in that capacity for a time, she is as well a mother of four children and housekeeping allows her to be at home with them during regular daily hours and on weekends.
Armando Flores was highly recommended to us for janitorial services, and we are pleased to have him work for us. His willing spirit is evident as he daily undertakes his routine in cleaning our environment: vacuuming, mopping, sweeping and collecting garbage. Having a big purpose and vision in life, he is as well, a trustworthy and obliging, gentle man!
Day 346: January 12, 2021
Our Exceptional Hired Help (Part 2)
Cathy Cawiezel works in our finance office and is always approachable and willing to help. She is a just and wise woman in her finance administration. Having been a faithful accountant for our Benedictine Sisters, she has now added the accounting services for the Friends of Imiliwaha (Tanzania) and Daybreak of Lisle.
Kara Gray enjoys her position as a beautician. On Friday mornings, she comes to trim or set the hair of our infirm Sisters, making them look presentable. Even for a ninety or hundred year-old Sister, a neat hairdo is important for her self-esteem, and these Sisters are grateful that Kara does this beautifying act for them.
Beth Hemzacek is an efficient secretary in our Development and Liturgy offices. Having a charming, gentle way, she does scheduling for the Sisters and volunteers, composes and edits both the LBW and the alumnae ECHO publications, manages a list of donors, and takes care of the correspondence for special events.
Ellen Rodman, R.N. is our part-time nurse that bubbles up with a loving interest in maintaining our good health. She is responsible for ordering medicines and other items, as well as being an advisor when making decisions. What a trusted confidant she is to our Sisters and employees; she is someone you would love to have at your bedside when you are sick.
Day 347: January 13, 2021
Volunteers Who Labor with Love
The Benedictine Sisters are very grateful for their many volunteers through the years. Volunteers have served in Liturgical posts for our Masses as lectors, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, carriers of the gifts in the offertory processions, or carriers of the cross and candles in the entrance procession. In other volunteer activities, they have taken the position of porters (receptionists), chauffeurs, tutors for our international students, computer-skill aids in posting daily posts for the Sisters’ 125th Anniversary, website managers, and helpers with mailings and for other personal requests. There is no end to the list of our volunteers who labor with love and love to help.
Arlene Malloy is a Benedictine Oblate, and she has been our volunteer for many years and serves in many places. Presently, she helps Beth Hemzacek in the Development Office and Sister Mary in manual labor at the Grotto. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she served as a Eucharistic Minister as well. Her early association with our Benedictine Sisters was at St. Mary of Celle in Berwyn and then St. Scholastica’s in Woodridge.
Janet Elischer and Betty Scheet are natural sisters. Betty has been a friend to the Sisters for years and has been ready to volunteer at a moment’s notice. The monthly calendars of stories were sent to Betty during this year of the Sisters’ 125th Anniversary. Janet would then do the editing and Betty would put the stories into Publisher to create two sets of posters. They were displayed for the Sisters in the Monastery and for the Residents in the Villa.
Day 348: January 14, 2021
Bratrsovsky, Sister Mary b. 1/14 (Eight Prioress: 2011-Present; Niece of Sisters Mary Immaculate, Mary Annunciata, and Mary Alma Bratrsovsky)
Sister Mary is well known in the Lisle community, having been a member of Benet Academy’s faculty for 37 years where she taught theology, introduced student retreats into the curriculum, and encouraged her students to work for social justice. She is the President of DAYBREAK of Lisle, which helps homeless families. She serves on several boards and committees, and she has worked for Villa St. Benedict from 2004 as the Integration Ministry Coordinator until her election as Prioress in 2010. As our present Prioress, she manifests all the qualities of a servant leader. Her approach is to develop a loving community by reaching out to each Sister and to understand her personal gifts and needs. She not only visits the sick at home and at St. Patrick’s, but she also visits the sick from Villa St. Benedict as well. Every day she inspires us with a meditation related to Scripture or the Rule of St. Benedict, and she is ever aware of our Prayer and Work environment. Her love of God’s earth is evidenced in her tending to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, grooming it by uprooting the weeds and beautifying it with flowers. Her other hobbies include sewing, woodworking, photography, and candle making.
Day 349: January 15, 2021
Our Chefs Have a Mexican Flair for Cooking– Alex, Francisco and Juan
(Pictured from left to right) Alejandro (Alex) Espinal has been working for us for 17+ years. He serves us well, and we especially look forward to his specialty of barbequed ribs or chili. He lives in Woodridge and in his free time (if he has some), he loves to spend time with his grandchildren.
Francisco (Frankie) Abundes from Bolingbrook came to work for us as a teenager, washing dishes and cleaning floors, but to be a cook was his goal. Now he is a master chef as he flips omelets, pleasing our requests every Tuesday. For special celebrations with guests, he prepares distinctively elite meals. Fishing is his recreation on off days.
Juan Leal is a faithful, hardworking chef being with us for over 8 years. He makes sure our meals are always ready and checks to see if we have plenty of food in our servery. He comes to us from Chicago. He too, likes to relax by going fishing.
Day 350: January 16, 2021
Koliha, Sister M. De Sales b. 3/22/1896 d. 1/17/1923 (Sister of Sister Mary Lioba)
Sister De Sales displayed a beautiful disposition by loving her vocation as a Sister, her teaching mission, and her own devoted family. However, with the symptoms and progression of tuberculosis, her health rapidly declined and she died at the age of 26, fortified with the sacraments and the Sisters at her side.
Day 351: January 17, 2021
Francl, Sister Maria Theresa (a.k.a. Sister Innocencia) b. 10/4/1910 d. 1/17/1968 (Sister of Sister Mary Generosa)
Sister Maria Theresa overflowed with self-giving qualities and was a constant source of edification, being committed to the Benedictine motto: “That in all things, God may be glorified.” As a principal in a school and as a local superior, she was a servant leader. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she left her mission post at the parish school, but she was determined to participate wholeheartedly in the Liturgy of the Hours at the Monastery, living up to the saintly innocence of her former name.
Day 352: January 18, 2021
Dzurko, Sister Ann Lucille (a.k.a. Sister Modesta) b. 11/21/1913 d. 1/17/2006
Sister Ann Lucille carefully applied her organizational skills in her teaching, which helped her students to learn responsibility and to make good choices. She imparted deep devotion to God, as well reminding the children about God’s loving presence. The motto “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” was the pattern of her life.
Day 353: January 19, 2021
Tesar, Sister Mary Alberta b. 3/2/1920 d. 1/18/1983
Sister Mary Alberta listened well, as Benedict instructs us to do in his Rule, and she was always ready to help at a minute's notice. She enjoyed the simple things of everyday living. Her high school students remembered her as a happy, endearing teacher. As she grew older, cancer dealt her a blow, but she remained patient, seldom complained, and gave a smile to all who visited her in her suffering.
Day 354: January 20, 2021
Felong, Sister Mary Crescencia b. 4/23/1896 d. 1/20/1980
Being a committed person to the Community and to her teaching role, Sister Mary Crescencia not only had a sweet smile and quick sense of humor, but she could also show her outright strength. A story is told of her ability to control a challenging 8th grade class of boys. In her Benedictine habit, she simply rolled up her sleeves in front of the boys and said, “I’m from Chicago. I can handle all of you.” She did it in a most remarkable way with God’s inspiration.
Day 355: January 21, 2021
Our Nursing Students Are a Treasure
Our student nurses are a treasure for our Sisters in our St. Walburga Care Center. With their youthful energy and their sweet, compassionate approach, our aging Sisters’ lives are rejuvenated with their loving presence. All these students are attending Lewis University in Romeoville, except Jaqueline Bacon who studies at St. Francis University in Joliet. We wish them Fernanda Zazueta (1), Gina Cappetta (2), Michelle Tacbas (3), Shania Gimenez (4), Tiffany Huang (5), Cary Thompson (6), Carissa Quasny (7), and Jaqueline Bacon (8) well in their studies and service.
Day 356: January 22, 2021
Gratitude to Our Chaplain, Organists and Cantors
Father Becket Franks, OSB, has been our chaplain for twenty-one years. We are very grateful for the privilege of receiving God’s abundant graces as he celebrates our daily Masses and is available for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. We look forward to his Sunday homilies, which inspire and challenge us to live holy lives.
Brother Charles Hlava, OSB, (pictured playing the organ) began studying piano at age 4. He studied organ at De Paul University while he was in high school and later at Benedictine University. Now he serves as an organist at St. Procopius Abbey, and he looks forward to the end of the pandemic to return to Sacred Heart Monastery to play the organ.
Sharon Christenson (pictured by the organ) has a lifelong history as a talented musician. Since age 4, she has been singing, playing the piano, flute and organ, giving piano lessons, and accompanying choral groups. She has played the organ for many church denominations, and now she has been playing the organ for our Masses since 2007.
Janet O’Brien, who is a resident in Villa St. Benedict, and Cameron Warland sometimes cantor together. Janet started singing as a child when she joined the Catholic school choir. Now her lovely contralto voice is profoundly reverent as she glorifies God. Cameron has a clear, baritone voice inspiring prayerful worship. He studied music at Benet Academy and at Miami University of Ohio. He is hoping to return soon after the pandemic.
Irma Conley had her start at St. Josephs’ Orphanage in Lisle with our Benedictine Sisters, as well as Sacred Heart Academy. She is now an organist at St. Irene’s Parish in Warrenville, and she is a willing resource to play the organ for our feast day or funeral Masses.