Celebrating 125 Years of Lisle Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery
Day 151: July 1, 2020
The Cornerstone of the Original Monastery-Established in 1911
This cornerstone shows first the initials of the Latin Benedictine motto: U.I.O.G.D. meaning: “THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED.” This is followed by: “PAX,” which means PEACE.
Written in Czech the translation of the remaining words reads, “THIS CORNERSTONE IDENTIFIES THE BUILDING OF A MONASTERY AND TEACHERS’ COLLEGE FOR THE BENEDICTINE SISTERS ESTABLISHED AND BLESSED ON JUNE 16, 1911.”
Day 152: July 2, 2020
The Completed Monastery—View from Maple Avenue
The mandate for the Benedictine Sisters to serve the Czech people of Chicago was a serious one. By 1911, the community growth was increasing rapidly as young ladies who had vocations to the religious life were applying to come. They would need to be formed in the Benedictine lifestyle as well as trained to be teachers for the Czech parochial schools. All these signs called for the building of a monastery for a stable home, which would be a Teachers’ College for the Sisters as well. It was gratefully decided to dedicate the monastery to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose name would be honored throughout its future.
Day 153: July 3, 2020
Spinler, Sister Rose Alice (a.k.a. Sister Mary Anastasia) b. 3/12/1906 d. 7/3/1980 (Sister to Sisters Adela, Mary Bertha, Mary Wendeline and a twin to Sister Mary Milberg)
Sister Rose Alice came from a big family proudly raised on a Minnesota farm. With this background, Benedictine community life was easily adjusted to. Her closeness to the earth and family life, prepared her well for gardening, cooking, baking, sewing and particularly, tending to the flowers especially the roses. She was a person who saw only good in people and in the world, grateful to God who is all goodness and love.
Day 154: July 4, 2020
Sieg, Sister Carolyn b. 7/4
An embroidered verse on a lovely lace piece hangs on the wall in Sister Carolyn’s room. The verse from Psalm 46 reads: “Be still and know that I am God.” This saying daily inspires Sister Carolyn with spiritual wisdom and confidence in God. In community or wherever she is, she lives in prayerful thought, exemplifying her joyful and positive outlook by treating everyone with kindness and understanding. As a former first-rate teacher and later a successful principal, she now enjoys tutoring our international Sisters who are living with us and are students at the College of DuPage and Benedictine University. As a past principal, she has been invited to be a diocesan mentor for new principals. Thus, she is able to apply again the knowledge and spiritual guidance based on the many graces she gained through her many fruitful years as teacher and principal.
Day 155: July 5, 2020
Cihak, Sister Mary Evangelist b. 1/2/1883 d. 7/4/1956
Sister Mary Evangelist was gifted with high aspirations for her monastic life as well as having a mother’s heart. She spent her life in leadership roles particularly at St. Joseph’s Orphanage where the children would come to her with their troubles, big and small. She always knew how to advise and console them. Her patience and love for the orphans made them feel at home.
Day 156: July 6, 2020
Air View of Sacred Heart Academy Connected with Sacred Heart Monastery
Another milestone in the Benedictine Sisters’ history was the enormous project of building Sacred Heart Academy along with the chapel, auditorium, and gymnasium. The Benedictine Sisters, besides staffing Czech parochial schools, had several young ladies interested in studying classical and college preparatory courses. This gave the Sisters the impetus to open a high school academy for girls. In the first several years it was a boarding school, but once farmland in the Lisle area opened up for sale to developers, families with high school age children moved in and wanted to have a Catholic day high school. Gradually, Sacred Heart Academy enrolled both boarders and day students. However, in 1967 the Sacred Heart Academy for girls was incorporated into St. Procopius Academy, which had been a boarding school and day school as well for boys. The school then became a day school for both boys and girls, adopting the new name of Benet Academy, a coeducational institution.
The picture on the right shows the Cornerstone of Sacred Heart Academy -dated 1929.
Day 157: July 7, 2020
Dedication of the Shrine “Maticka”—1922
This rustic tree shrine in our backwoods behind the cemetery featured a picture of Maticka (pronounced: Ma-tich’ ka in Czech). Maticka means tender-hearted mother. A close-up picture of Maticka, the Blessed Mother holding Jesus while pointing to his heart burning with love, was a quiet favorite meditation spot for the Sisters to visit. In the midst of God’s wooded nature, it was easy to pour out one’s soul to a mother who cared about our pain and sorrows. Let us always remember Maticka and pray, Sweet Mother, in this “valley of tears,” we pray for our broken world suffering from pain and injustices. Intercede for us with your Divine Son that peace would fill our hearts and may all humanity turn to your tender-hearted Motherly care. We ask you this in Jesus’ name. Amen
Day 158: July 8, 2020
Piha, Sister Mary Hildegarde b. 9/23/1881 d. 7/8/1970
Sister Mary Hildegarde taught and then became principal staying in our Benedictine schools for 68 years. In her retirement she served with grace as the Monastery receptionist. It was amazing to see how devoted she was to her family as well as to the Sisters. Annually, during the Easter season, she would invite her entire family clan who would fill the parlor with joy and celebration. She would give attention to them all. What a dynamic scene of family unity and love this was!
Day 159: July 9, 2020
Statue of St. Joseph
The statue of St. Joseph has a welcome place on our Benedictine landscape. Whether the statue of St. Joseph overlooks a flower garden or is moved behind our new garage as if to watch our daily activities, St. Joseph models Benedictine virtues for us. The two Benedictine mottos are his as well, “Ora et Labora” and “That in all things God may be glorified.” How intensely he lived these values! Being always in touch with God as a “just man,” he models prayer for us and teaches us to seek God’s will whenever we are in a troubled situation. We know as well that as the Father of the Holy Family, he approached his work with love, using the tools and talents he had to bring success to the work of his hands. In this way he was able to supply the needs of Mary, his beloved spouse, and his foster Son, Jesus. Though the Bible does not tell us this, he must have shared whatever he produced in his shop with his relatives, neighbors, and friends, as well as with the neighborhood widows and the poor.
Day 160: July 10, 2020
Knapik, Sister Agnes b. 7/10
Sister Agnes grew up in Toronto, Canada, and loved her Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church. When she learned that Sacred Heart Monastery in Lisle was hoping to found an Eastern Rite community, she visited and was accepted as a candidate in 1960. In 1965, with the other Byzantine Sisters, she came to Warren, Ohio, where they built a beautiful Byzantine Benedictine Monastery. She taught mostly junior high classes and guided the youth ministry program in the parish school until it closed. At this time in her retirement, she loves to read and visit art galleries and appreciates how educational and inspiring many of the TV programs are. She is grateful to God and her Sisters for the many opportunities and graces that have been hers over the years.
Day 161: July 11, 2020
Feast of St. Benedict
We see here a carving of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. St. Benedict and St. Scholastica were twins born in 480 A.D.in Italy. Benedict, since he was male, had privileges denied to women of his time. As a result, we know that he became a prominent leader and St. Scholastica followed her brother in their similar vocations after he developed his spiritual plan for life. St. Benedict, whose feast we celebrate today, was a holy man. Even in his boyhood he was blessed with God’s grace and withdrew from the world, preferring to spend himself laboring for God rather than joining his friends in the pleasures of life. Spending time alone in contemplation with God for three years in a cave, he began to be sought out to lead. He gradually gathered together young men who would be his followers in a monastic way of life. Writing his famous RULE at his monastery in Monte Cassino whose membership increased rapidly, he was enabled to found twelve more monasteries throughout Europe. Due to his influence, Europe was saved from the destructive Barbarian forces. St. Benedict, intercede for us, your followers, and help us spread the Gospel message, loving the Lord as much as you did. Amen.
Day 162: July 12, 2020
Denissoff, Sister Maria Renata b. 12/3/1933 d. 7/12/1962
Sister Maria Renata was born to a prominent family in Belgium. Her father was a university professor and an Eastern-Rite Priest. The family moved to the United States when her father was invited to teach Philosophy at Notre Dame University and Sister Maria Renata came to our Sacred Heart Academy. Being introduced to our Benedictine life, she applied and entered our Monastery soon after graduation. Then, receiving her college degree in Theology, she became the Religion and French teacher at Sacred Heart Academy. Always living an exemplary life of virtue, she had a spiritual closeness to our Lord. The Lord was surely pleased with her, calling her home while she was still young, as she was diagnosed with Leukemia and died at the age of 28.
Day 163: July 13, 2020
Pictured on the left, our former gazebo was on the north side of our Monastery close to the kitchen. The gazebo was built as a summertime shelter, used for picnics or other outdoor events such as cookouts and entertainment. Pictured on the right is the present gazebo for the Villa where summer events are held.
Day 164: July 14, 2020
Our Former Picturesque Pool
Our former picturesque pool attracted friendly inhabitants that became our welcome neighbors. This picture shows a mallard duck with her recently hatched ducklings enjoying an afternoon swim. Our Sister Wendeline Spinler, of happy memory, used to feed this family and when they were on dry land, the little ducklings were seen following her around the buildings.
Day 165: July 15, 2020
The Sunken Garden—1950
The Sunken Garden was a classic beauty. The sunken area was formed by excavating the dirt to about nine feet below the surface of the surrounding land, and this lower area was then lined with evergreen bushes and hedges to surround it. An inner pond was filled with bubbling water that contained gold fish and water lilies blooming in the summer months. In the background was and still is a statue of the Guardian Angel, and the limestone rock staircase still allows you to go down into it. Though the Sunken Garden still exists today, it no longer has the inner pond and the hedges are no longer there. Willow trees have been planted there instead to absorb the water in times of flooding.
Day 166: July 16, 2020
Guardian Angel in The Sunken Garden
The Guardian Angel, standing behind a small girl and shielding her, was symbolic of the protection Guardian Angels gave the girls who were students here at Sacred Heart Academy. Today, the Guardian Angel still stands there no longer symbolic of the protection of our former students, but protecting all of us: the Sisters, our precious residents, and all of our wonderful workers and volunteers.
Day 167: July 17, 2020
Aerial View of The Grotto and Surroundings—1935
This picture, unfortunately in black and white, takes in more than the Grotto. It includes all the foliage on the southeast side of the campus as well as the Grotto in the background. This was the time before Maple and Yackley Avenues were developed. The Lisle area was mostly a farming community in this period of our history, and we Benedictines had acres of farmland with woodland as well.
Day 168: July 18, 2020
Today’s Grotto in Natural Color
Let us sing together, ready? …
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.
You reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, ave Maria!
In heaven the blessed thy glory proclaim.
On earth we, thy children, invoke thy fair name.
Ave, ave, ave Maria! Ave, ave, ave Maria!
We pray for our Mother, the church upon earth,
And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave ave, Maria!
Day 169: July 19, 2020
A Restful Spot Honoring David Burnett
This photo shows a restful bench dedicated with thanks to David Burnett by our Benedictine Sisters. David was our faithful handyman in charge of our buildings and grounds for 39 years. The cupola that stands opposite of the bench is the former artifact that stood on the roof of the Benedale building for many years and now symbolizes David’s appreciated tenure. Here is, as well, the starting point of the walkway that extends around our entire campus. It is a favorite path to follow for many of our residents and Sisters to exercise. As they walk, they can observe the beauty of nature by listening to the sounds of the bird calls, seeing the variety of flowers in the grotto and enjoying the warmth of the sun and often the cool, delightful breeze.
Day 170: July 20, 2020
Kolar, Sister Mary Aquina b. 6/30/1891 d. 7/20/1983
Sister Mary Aquina had a younger brother who also became a Benedictine. To her regret, Father Basil died a year before she did. When he died, she jokingly remarked, “That isn’t fair. I should have died first.” She was known as a witty person, peacefully accepting her inconveniences especially in those early days of hardships. She held up well while teaching for 49 years, always displaying an easy-going disposition. Her clever story telling amused her students and gave them a moral lift to live life fully and joyfully in praise of God who made us.
Day 171: July 21, 2020
Nadzam, Sister Mary Johanna b. 6/4/1894 d. 7/21/1965
Sister Mary Johanna was born in Hungary and spoke the Slovak language. After the early beginnings of our community, she was sent to teach at St. Joseph’s School in Chicago settled by Slovak people. Sister Benita recalled how Sister Mary Johanna was her happy companion in that school and how together they shared their lives with parish members. They liked to visit with the Sisters from St. Vitus too, especially at Christmas time to form a support community.
Day 172: July 22, 2020
Soukup, Sister Joan Marie (a.k.a. Sister Ernestine) b. 7/6/1939 d. 7/21/2004
Sister Joan Marie was a member of our community, then, sometime later, she was needed to go home to take care of her mother. Upon her Mother’s death, she returned and continued her mission of teaching, this time teaching junior–high students at St. Joan of Arc School. She was a demanding teacher, a good-listener and a friend her students could count on. She made a lasting impact on her students as she challenged them to learn the Christian precepts for life and to spread the Gospel joy wherever they went. Her fruitful life was cut short when she was called to God’s eternal home after suffering from a brain tumor.
Day 173: July 23, 2020
Former Gymnasium Is Now Our Sacred Monastery
The history of the Benedictine Sisters has been a continuous change in accordance with the signs of our times. Through the years as one ministry closed, a new one opened up. Our newest ministry became the construction and our relationship to Villa St. Benedict. This then meant we would need to move our monastery structure toward the east, which was the vacant gymnasium. To remodel the gym would be a unique engineering proposal, since another floor would have to be added and other additions would have to be made for residential occupancy of the Sisters. Almost unbelievably, in 2005, this plan became a reality. Now, 15 years later, this is still the way our exterior monastery looks.
Day 174: July 24, 2020
The Great Peace March of 1986
In the summer of 1986, the great peace march for global nuclear disarmament stopped here. As Benedictine Sisters, our overarching dictate is PAX. We want peace in our hearts as well as in our country and in our world. St. Benedict is known to have brought peace to Europe in the 6th century. This is why he has been given the title: “The Father of Europe.” With this peace-minded Benedictine heritage, we were ready and much honored to welcome the Great Peace Marchers coming from Los Angeles, with Washington, D.C. as their destination. With all the equipment needed for 680 peace marchers, a procession of trucks, some with storage cabins, and buses moved onto our campus to set up a campground setting and settle the marchers for a good night’s rest.
Day 175: July 25, 2020
One of the Colorful Tents for the Marchers
This yellow tent was one of the colorful tents the marchers set up for the night. The tents were not only yellow, but there were also more pastel colors of green, blue, and pink. They represented a strikingly beautiful, peaceful site when they were all set up on our sacred grounds in the evening sunlight. Normally every evening the marchers would arrive at a designated park to set up their tents for the night, enjoy each other’s company, watch videos, and pray. They came from different ethnic groups, races, and religions.
Day 176: July 26, 2020
A City of Peace at Rest
In the darkness of the night, the peace marchers slept peacefully. They knew that in the morning the sun would shine and God would be their light and guide. Who were these marchers? These were people formerly from twelve different countries. Most of them gave up their full-time jobs to do this work for the sake of peace. They knew this march would be tedious and would last for several months. Some left their families behind while some came as a whole family with children. A Japanese Buddhist monk joined the group, because he knew what it was like in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He said it was a miserable nuclear war that should never, ever happen on our planet again.
As a “Thank You Gift” to our Benedictine Sisters, the marchers presented us with a peace tree sapling. Now thirty-four years later, it has grown in height and width and stands strong on our grounds. It still reminds us to pray for peace on earth, undo our embedded racial structures, and help us promote equal rights for all. May the God of PEACE open our eyes to be aware of those who are oppressed and love them as God loves us. AMEN.
Day 177: July 27, 2020
Nykiel, Sister Karen b. 7/27
Sister Karen is the Director of our Benedictine Oblates and meets every month with these interested lay people who desire to learn about and share Benedictine spirituality. She offers other spiritual lectures about biblical characters, especially women. She is conscientiously involved in social justice issues, keeping the rest of us abreast of the current issues facing the world. Her involvement in Rotary International Club and PAX Christi Illinois are important to her. Once a professor of chemistry and physics at the College of DuPage, she later taught world religions at Benedictine University. With this background, she has much to offer her audience.
Day 178: July 28, 2020
Mack, Sister Charlotte (a.k.a. Sister Paschal) b. 1/1/1930 d. 7/28/2004
Sister Charlotte’s parents both died by the time she was 11 years old which brought her to St. Joseph’s Orphanage. At age 15, a family, noticing her to be a mature, level-headed teen-ager, wanted her to take care of their family housekeeping needs which meant leaving the Orphanage for good. At age 18, she took a typing job to support her younger brother who was in a T.B. Sanitarium. Though she was working hard she felt something was missing. At her nephew’s kindergarten graduation at Our Lady of Lourdes School, she reunited with the Benedictine Sisters knowing then, that she too wanted to be a Sister and began the process of becoming a Benedictine. In her religious life, she was able to serve in several roles: teacher, cook, care-giver, sub-prioress and kitchen supervisor. When she became a resident at St. Patrick’s, other residents found her to be a good counselor.
Day 179: July 29, 2020
Pasternak, Sister Mary Boniface b. 8/13/1898 d. 7/29/1969
Sister Mary Boniface was a trained seamstress known to sew not only for the Sisters but also for the Monks at the abbey and the Orphans at St. Joseph’s Orphanage. She was very faithful to prayer, had a willing spirit to help wherever and a deep sense of gratitude for favors. In her final illness with throat cancer, she was most patient knowing that her suffering was redemptive if offered to God with love.
Day 180: July 30, 2020
Matous, Sister Mary Zita b. 10/28/1866 d. 7/30/1955
Sister Mary Zita and Sister Benedicta from St. Scholastica’s in Chicago along with Mother Nepomucene from St. Benedict’s Monastery in Carrolltown PA, formed the nucleus of our community on the feast of St. Joseph in 1895. Sister Mary Zita had a very dignified bearing and spoke English with a Czech accent. The younger Sisters loved to listen to her as she related amusing stories about their early years of things that happened in the founding process. She was a cook all her religious life but when she became blind she spent her days in Chapel praying for all the intentions of the community and the whole world. (See also March 19th
Day 181: July 31, 2020
Stasek, Sister Mary Callista b. 9/29/1897 d. 7/30/1974 (Sister of Sister Mary Leonardis)
Sister Mary Callista lived a simple, humble dedicated life. By nature, she was quiet and tried to be kind toward the Sisters as well as to her students. Teaching was her ministry for 53 years. One of the greatest pride and joys of her life was to see two of her nephews become priests. Both Father George and Father Leonard were diocesan priests in Wisconsin.
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