Celebrating 125 Years of Lisle Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery
Day 121: June 1, 2020
Thome, Sister Susanne b. 6/1
Sister Mary Susanne is consistently alert to the monastery happenings and is ready to help with ordinary household jobs. She is one of the first to be in chapel for prayers. She prepares the microphones for Divine Office, lights the candles, and prepares whatever else needs to be done. She enjoys friendship with the residents and participates in their activities. She keeps track of their activities in order to notify the Sisters who might be interested in participating as well.
Day 122: June 2, 2020
Neuzil, Sister Mary Ludmila b. 12/25/1866 d. 6/1/1952
Sister Mary Ludmila emigrated from Czechoslovakia. Exactly twenty years after her birth, she came to join Mother Nepomucene. Since Mother Nepomucene did not know Czech well, Sister Mary Ludmila was needed to help her in business negotiations with the Czech immigrants whom they were destined to serve. Numbering just a few Sisters at the founding, Sister Mary Ludmila filled various roles from sub-prioress to being in charge of the orphanage and, of course, she performed many other duties in between. She was graced to be one of the longest survivors of the founding Sisters’ group.
Day 123: June 3, 2020
Chocholacek, Sister Mary Martha b. 6/13/1906 d. 6/1/1971
Sister Mary Martha is mainly remembered for her faithfulness in working with Sister Jerome in the bakery preparing bread and pastries. Sister Mary Martha, like her “Martha” namesake in the Gospel, was always busy about many things to please the Lord. Some of the hungry, young Sisters, remember how they would sneak into the bakery for some delectable treat and receive Sister Martha’s loving smile and a choice piece of fresh bakery.
Day 124: June 4, 2020
Vap, Sister Mary Floriana b. 5/19/1918 d. 6/2/1963
Sister Mary Floriana was a gentle and soft-spoken person. She was trained both as a teacher and as an organist, and was able to give organ lessons. Interestingly, Sister Mary Floriana never stopped her own organ studies at DePaul University. When Sister Roberta, one of her former students, entered the monastery, Sister Mary Floriana asked her to teach her the fundamentals of Ear Training of Sounds to prepare for a course she was taking. This is one of many examples that shows how Sister Mary Floriana was a humble soul; she respected Sister Roberta enough to become her student.
Day 125: June 5, 2020
Kovalcik, Sister Carolyn Marie (a.k.a. Sister Bonaventure) b. 1/1/1900 d. 6/2/1986
Sister Carolyn Marie entered on a historic date: February 2, 1920. It was the date that the official prayer of the church, namely the Divine Office, became an integral part of the prayer life of our community. Being an example of fidelity to prayer, Sister Carolyn Marie was dedicated especially to sacristy work where she loved to be around the altar praising God as she worked with flowers and sacred vessels. She was valued as an excellent primary teacher as well.
Day 126: June 6, 2020
Polak, Sister Mary Barbara b. 11/1/1882 d. 6/5/1957
Sister Mary Barbara was a diligent worker putting her heart and soul into everything she did. She never seemed to spare herself or avoid any hardship. “My God and my duty” was her leading drive. Since her room adornment was sparse, Mother Aemilia tried to provide some appropriate pictures. However, to her, pictures were unnecessary. There was only one thing she wanted and that was a crucifix which was everything for her that would be her daily reminder of how much Jesus loves us.
Day 127: June 7, 2020
Stasek, Sister Mary Leonardis b. 7/5/1901 d. 6/7/1977 (Sister to Sister Mary Callista and cousin to Sisters Julianna, Euphrasia and Columba)
Sister Mary Leonardis is remembered for her faith in God, the living strong supporter always present in her life. Teaching was her chief occupation during her forty-nine years of service to the students she taught. She was resolute in trying her best to care about them. Discipline in her classroom was a priority and she insisted on being organized and prepared for her classes.
Day 128: June 8, 2020
Bratrsovsky, Sister Mary Alma b. 12/10/1917 d. 6/8/2013 (Sister to Sisters Immaculate and Annunciata, cousin to Sister Marie Bartek, niece of Sister Coletta and aunt to Sister Mary Bratrsovsky)
Sister Mary Alma had varied ministries. At different times in community, she was the secretary, the treasurer and the sub-prioress. In her outside ministries she was a commercial arts teacher, math teacher, financial-aid director and typist for the Waste Management Company. In her retirement she loved to tat (an increasingly rare art form) making doilies, crosses and bookmarks. Thanks be to God for her incredible gifts during her seventy-six years of Benedictine life.
Day 129: June 9, 2020
Dubina, Sister Mary Regina b. 12/9/1922 d. 6/10/2005 (Sixth Prioress: 1985-1993)
Sister Mary Regina was a blessing to our community in many ways. She was a good sport, a happy and generous person with leadership qualities, and among other roles, she served the community as treasurer and later was elected the prioress. Her favorite years were spent at Benet Academy where she taught sophomore English and was involved in student affairs. She enjoyed traveling especially after she learned to drive. Mindful of the importance of her prayer life, she was faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours and had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Day 130: June 10, 2020
Williams, Sister Joanne b. 10/20/1939 d. 6/10/2013
Sister Joanne Williams was a talented and an innovative teacher. Later, she became the principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School on 15th
& Keeler in Chicago; a school affected by poverty. To defray tuition expenses, she entered into an agreement with Carson Pirie Scott to collect their excess clothing and home furnishings. She then invited the parishioners to shop for these items at a reduced price wherewith the proceeds were donated back to the school. Having a Masters’ degree in Design Education, she created an after-school program called, “Young Rembrandts” to keep young people off the streets. As a singer in the parish choir and committed to all the needs of the parish, with Bishop Dempsey she helped organize the West-Side Cluster of Catholic Parishes. Due to her outstanding work there, she was awarded the Humanitarian Award. When the school closed, she returned to Sacred Heart Monastery to become the Hospitality Director of Villa St. Benedict welcoming new residents to the facility in her God-given, gracious way.
Day 131: June 11, 2020
Beranek, Sister Mary Catherine b. 8/19/1887 d. 6/11/1982
Sister Mary Catherine seemed to a have a perpetual, cheerful smile as she did domestic work serving at St. Procopius College, St. Joseph’s Orphanage, St. Benedict’s Home and at the monastery. She endeared herself to the Sisters and everyone else she would meet. Even when she retired she kept busy crocheting or working on crafts in the Occupational Therapy Room. She lived to be a happy, 94-year old when the Lord called her to eternal life.
Day 132: June 12, 2020
The Original Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
The original Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto looked like this picture. However, the huge castle like structure in the background, which appears to be a shrine to passersby, is not part of the Grotto at Sacred Heart Monastery. The story is told that the Benedictine Sisters wanted a replica of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to be built just as Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in France. They commissioned Clarence Rambousek, the manager of our farm, to build it. This was a huge project of hard labor to build. It meant bringing gigantic rocks found on the Monastery grounds to the site. Some rocks would have to be blasted with dynamite out of the ground and some to be made smaller. Mr. Rambousek had never done this kind of work before but said: “There was never anything I couldn’t do or wouldn’t tackle.” So, he began working on the grotto in 1929, with the help of two teen-age boys from St. Joseph’s Orphanage. It took six months to complete this phase. The main part of the grotto was made of limestone rock as well as the altar and the eight arches.
Day 133: June 13, 2020
Statues in our Grotto
On February 11, 1858, our Blessed Mother first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at a grotto in Lourdes, France. Later on, upon her 16th appearance on March 25, Our Lady identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.”
In 1931, the statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Bernadette were donated by Mrs. Mary Vasumpaur. The Blessed Mother statue was placed in the niche and St. Bernadette’s statue at her feet. Through the years, both of these statues weathered many storms and were repainted several times. Yet, they remain the central figures for pilgrims to come and pray at this beloved grotto, asking Our Lady of Lourdes to intercede for them with her Divine Son.
Day 134: June 14, 2020
Krhovsky, Sister Mary Armella b. 6/7/1908 d. 6/14/1990
Sister Mary Armella was a kindly woman, minding her own responsibilities with love. When she was sent to teach at an inner-city school, she carefully examined the past records of the students in her class and noticed that many of them were not performing at their grade level. She set to work to devise methods to help them succeed. Then in her twenty-one years at that school, her hard work was rewarded, as students in each class left her classroom with a basic knowledge of reading, a good grasp of the time-tables and, without a doubt, a love of the Lord from whom all good things come.
Day 135: June 15, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Overview
This photo shows the expansive coverage of our grotto as it looks today. Sister Mary Bratrsovsky is the chief gardener planting flowers, pulling weeds, and watering this scenic, holy ground every day if not enough rain falls. Actually, the expansion of the original structure of our grotto continued in 1942. Mr. Rambousek built himself a wagon for lugging the stones, and the Sisters bought him a small farm tractor for pulling the wagon. Surprisingly, the heavy stones, gotten from Missouri and Wisconsin and placed on his carefully built wagon, weighed more than the tractor to his dismay. However, it was a determined effort on his part for the continuation of expanding and beautifying this sacred space.
Day 136: June 16, 2020
Han, Sister M. Gertrude b. 5/14/1880 d. 6/17/1901
Sister Gertrude had a short, life-span in the Benedictine life due to her serious illness. On the feast of Corpus Christi, she was at the Orphanage and Abbot Nepomucene along with Mother Nepomucene were present for the Holy Eucharist celebration. For her sake, the sacrament of Extreme Unction was administered and she pronounced her perpetual vows as well. Ten days later, she went to meet her merciful Lord at the age of 21.
Day 137: June 17, 2020
Sasek, Sister Placida b. 6/20/1876 d. 6/17/1946
Sister Placida emigrated from Czechoslovakia with her brother, Father Placid, and became a pioneer in the hard times of our founding. She was a good cook and worked wherever she was needed, mostly at St. Procopius College and St. Joseph’s Orphanage. Being a cheerful Sister, she edified everyone in her conversations even though she suffered from rheumatism. She was ready to accomplish whatever she was assigned to do with a grateful heart.
Day 138: June 18, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Fence & Memorial Bricks
In 2005, a security fence was added for safety reasons around the grotto area. In 2011, the fence was moved closer to the grotto. This allowed memorial bricks to border the fence line and a sidewalk to be built to reach Villa St. Benedict and Sacred Heart Monastery. The memorial bricks include (and can still include) names of living or deceased Sisters, family members, alums, and residents of the Villa.
If interested in purchasing memorial bricks, please contact BSSH Development Office at 630-725-6013 or email Beth Hemzacek at email@example.com
Day 139: June 19, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Walkway
This picture shows one of the walkways under the jagged limestone arch which remains inside the grotto area on the southwest corner. These artistically placed limestone rocks are still securely in place and remain an engineering marvel of longevity.
Day 140: June 20, 2020
Malichar, Sister Mary Aloysia b. 11/11/1877 d. 6/20/1948
Sister Mary Aloysia was a faithful worker as a cook spending most of her time at St. Procopius College. On Sundays, she was assigned to give instructions to the younger Sisters on the Rule of St. Benedict. This was a joyful time for the Sisters as she was quite entertaining. In her pastime, she studied German on her own as she wanted to learn how to pray the Our Father in German. She was known to use Czech or German phrases when she was annoyed though everyone knew she was not angry but rather making a joke of her annoyance.
Day 141: June 21, 2020
Flowers from the Grotto Beautify our Dining Room Tables
These flowers, cut from the plants in the grotto, are an example of the various flowers that serve as an attractive centerpiece to adorn the Sisters’ dining room tables throughout the summer months. In the photos on the right are a single red peony and a single sunflower. An interesting historical fact, this peony comes from a stock dating back over 100 years, having been passed down through three Bratrsovsky generations. It started in Wahoo, Nebraska. As families migrated, the roots were brought with them to Colorado and finally ended up here in Lisle. As can be expected, we love having these live flowers at our tables. They signify the vigor and beauty of our natural surroundings, worthy of God’s praise.
Day 142: June 22, 2020
Kallus, Sister Virginia b. 11/27/1927 d. 6/22/2019 (Sister of Sisters Andrea, Josephine, Mary Agnes and Angelica)
Sister Virginia was a person who demonstrated hospitality. She was ready to offer a cup of coffee and a piece of bakery at the spur of a moment to any guest but especially to the sick Sisters. She was willing to watch for the needs of the sick Sisters when the nurse was gone. Sister Virginia was a steadfast cantor at Lauds and Vespers and was able to chant with perfect pitch. Her fondest years in teaching were the nineteen years she taught first grade at St. Scholastica’s School in Woodridge. At home in the Monastery, she loved to pray the rosary with the residents. We will always remember her rubber-banded-book she carried around to remember to pray for her dear ones.
Day 143: June 23, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Flowers and Evergreens
The picture on the left shows a portion of the evergreen flower bed located outside of the fenced area, immediately east of the sidewalk. The Easter lilies in our evergreen garden sprout year after year after they are brought from their adornment of the chapel after Easter.
In the picture on the right in the midst of the stone structures, tiger lilies are proliferous perennials seen in bunches beyond the fence, located along the southeast area of the grotto.
Day 144: June 24, 2020
Vodraska, Sister Mary Winnefred b. 10/13/1891 d. 6/24/1974
Sister Mary Winnefred had experience teaching then became novice Mistress for seven years. After the seven years in the novitiate, she went back to school to serve as principal. She was very helpful to the first-year teaching Sisters; helping them not only with their classroom discipline but helping them as well with lesson planning. In her retirement from school involvement, her hobby was to make rosaries for the missions. We remember her as well, for being a great-aunt to David Burnett who became our faithful handyman for many years.
Day 145: June 25, 2020
Memorial Benches on the Sidewalk Trails
For our residents and Sisters who take long walks around our picturesque campus, the memorial benches are a comfortable station for a restful stop. These benches have engraved names of families’ loved ones who have died or of someone who has contributed to the welfare of our Villa or the Benedictine Sisters. The bench in this picture, engraved with the words of “Benedictine Sisters ” has been lovingly placed in the Grotto where our Residents especially enjoy sitting while praying and taking time to pray the Rosary in honor of Our Blessed Mother.
Day 146: June 26, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Northeast Flower Bed
A variety of flowers in our Grotto come from donations from a multitude of sources. We are grateful for the generosity of our benefactors and for our volunteers who spend countless hours weeding and planting. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us!
Day 147: June 27, 2020
Kozelsky-Sister Martina b. 9/4/1894 d. 6/28/1985 (Sister of Sister Ursuline)
Sister Martina was born in Czechoslovakia and came to our Czech community at sixteen years of age. Of her fifty-nine years in teaching, she spent twenty-two years at St. Joseph’s Orphanage. Caring for children became her zeal in life as she served the children with a mother’s heart. She attracted children with her humor and participated in all their events especially when she coached sports events. In 1956, when the Orphanage closed, she was heart-broken wondering if the children would be loved when they left. In her retirement years she was so happy when she was asked to assist in baby-sitting for Mothers who had short-term emergencies. The children would be brought to her for care and she gave them a grandmother’s love. In her spare time, she stuffed envelopes for the Ray Graham Association which serves people with disabilities. Along with Jesus she would love to say: “Let the children come to me and forbid them not.”
Day 148: June 28, 2020
Tontlewicz, Sister Ann Louise (a.k.a. Sister Annella) b. 1/8/1913 d. 6/28/1996
Sister Ann Louise was short in stature with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. Most of her ministry was in some form of food service at St. Procopius College or St. Joseph’s Orphanage. In her last assignment of twenty-eight years, she gave cheerful, loving service to the residents of St. Benedict’s Home for the Aged in Niles. Being very sensitive to the needs of the residents, whenever they were grieving or frightened, she would sit and listen to them, console them and offer prayers for them. With her own suffering she knew how to be patient and united with God in prayerful petition.
Day 149: June 29, 2020
Moniak, Sister Mary Regis b. 11/20/1905 d. 6/29/1996
Sister Mary Regis was a lovely, gentle, kind, conscientious and prayerful person. Her loving, gracious nature overflowed into the children she taught. In her last teaching assignment at St. James the Apostle in Glen Ellyn, one could note that while in church, the children would fold their hands, kneel erect and sing out with enthusiasm in response to the Liturgy. The children enjoyed being in church. When she was needed at the monastery to be the sacristan, she again performed her duties meticulously. Her beautiful floral arrangements in the chapel were expressions of her immense joy in serving the Lord.
Day 150: June 30, 2020
Our Grotto Today-Rosary
This picture was taken on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 2019. Here the Residents, as a group, prayed the Rosary at the Grotto. How wonderful these memorial benches were to accommodate the whole vast group in the days before the coronavirus social distancing order. This is such a peaceful scene of our praying residents among the trees, with sunshine piercing through those trees and, of course, the plants who are now receding in October’s weather. What wonderful memories!
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