BENEDICTINE SISTERS
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Benita Jasurda, OSB

Reflection written and read by Sister Mary Bratrsovsky, OSB
Wake Service December 20, 2018

Colossians 3:10-17

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I love you Jesus. Good night Jesus.

It was October 13, 2018 around 9 pm that I was at the St. Walburga Care Center nurses station looking up a report when I heard those closing words Sister Benita said before going into her world of sleep. I immediately wrote them down, put them in my room, prayed them that night until now. Wow, most of us worry about what thoughts will come out from us in our slumbering, semi dementia moments. Not from Benita, she was a profoundly simple, spiritual woman.

I told her the next day that I found those words to be a prayerful way to go to sleep and Benita responded with a “why not “and then followed with her ever grateful statement we have all heard many times, which she learned from her mother who said how blessed we are to have every need taken care of here at the Monastery such as food, clothing, friends and an opportunity to spend more time in prayer and in helping others.

Being grateful is an outstanding Jasurda family trait. On October 3, 2018, her only living brother, Frank, who resides in a nursing home in Wisconsin wrote the following: “Dear Sister Benita, I’ve been planning to write you for some time. We’ve been blessed with wonderful parents. Dad was certainly a go-getter. Built the barn in 1927 and the house in 1931, the year I was born, and mother was full of LOVE. We are the two survivors of our wonderful family .Growing up on the farm was such a wonderful thing. And I believe growing up in a rural atmosphere was also a good thing for the two of us. We both chose different careers. I certainly loved the farm. Glad to see that Ed (his son) is carrying on and doing a super job. And you certainly chose a loving career. This writing is becoming difficult. I don’t know what else to say, I am glad that we chose the careers that we did. Much LOVE, I remain your brother, Frank.”

A friend, confidant, co-worker, team member are just a few of the descriptive words that define the person of Sister Benita Jasurda, who was the daughter of John and Mary Jasurda, one of 10 children born in Phillips, Wisconsin. Sister received her early education in a one-room school, where her love for reading developed rapidly and continued into high school and throughout her monastic life. Benita was drawn to Sacred Heart Monastery in 1949, when Sister Louise and Sister Raymond, who taught summer school religion at St. Mary’s Parish in Phillips, invited her to come with them to see if monastic life was right for her.

Sister Benita earned her B.S. in education from DePaul University, an M.A. in Theology from St. John’s University, and an M.R.S.in religious studies from Loyola/Mundelein University. She spent many years as both a teacher and principal in the Chicago area parochial schools. She also taught at Sacred Heart Academy, then Benet Academy and continued in service as the Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at St. Raphael’s Parish in Naperville. Bishop Imesch asked Sister Benita to coordinate Campus Ministry with the other directors of colleges and universities in the Joliet Diocese during her twelve years in Campus Ministry at Illinois Benedictine College (now Benedictine University). Following this ministry, she returned to the Monastery as the Administrator of Queen of Peace Retirement Center, now Villa St. Benedict.

Sister Benita served her community as Sub-Prioress and Monastery Coordinator for 17 years. In addition to her service at the monastery and the diocese, Sister Benita was active in the local community. She was a member of the Rotary Club of Lisle, where she was voted the first woman president in 1994. With a special invitation from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Naperville, she was privileged to go with them on their Mission to Slovakia extending her ministry. Sister was the contact person for Contemplative Outreach serving Chicago’s far western suburbs, which included facilitating a weekly group meeting of centering prayer at the monastery. In addition, she was active with our Benedictine Oblates, who as laypeople study the Rule of Benedict and integrate the Rule into their daily lives. Despite her advanced degrees, Benita never boasted of her credentials. Her goal was to "live life as a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved; to live in the present moment and above all, trust in God.” She will be remembered for being actively involved in seeing and being the face of Christ to all in her everyday life. She was passionate about engaging students and adults in retreats and adult formation programs. A co-worker Frank Giangrego wrote “Sister Benita was an amazing woman who loved life and brought joy and laughter into her daily ministry. She remembered everyone’s name and made each person feel accepted and loved by her. She was a person of deep faith and prayer. I loved working with her on youth retreats especially the prison retreats. She was always there for you and reflected Christ’s love. I will miss her laughter and her great smile. I will never forget her goodness and kindness. May she rest in peace!”

Sister loved singing and dancing, she loved people and knew literally everyone from her various ministries and never forgot them. How pleased she was to know that the Benedictine Sisters expanded their ministry to the elderly in their Villa St. Benedict setting. She loved to participate in this growing ministry. A diehard Green Bay Packer fan, Benita will be affectionately remembered for her positive response when asked how she was feeling today by saying “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” (Something she remembered from the movie: Mary Poppins.)

For our bulletin board Sister Jo Ann wrote: "Sister Benita lived her life with great prayerfulness, hospitality, dedication, positivity, intensity, integrity, humor, wisdom, humility, simplicity, gentleness and compassion.” Does that description fit her? Do those descriptions mirror the content of the letter to the Colossians read at the beginning of this reflection?

You are invited to come to our dining room after this service to share your story/memory to put truth to these virtues being exemplified. Thank You! And thank you Benita- we will see you in heaven!



The Homily by Fr. Becket, OSB
Mass of Christian Burial December 21, 2018

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. In her latter days, whenever I would ask Sister Benita how she was doing, she would always remark, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. On one hand, I was always amazed she could pronounce the word in its entirety. On the other hand, her response seemed childish. The movie “Mary Poppins” transformed the absurd term into a household word in 1964. Basically, defined it means, "extraordinarily wonderful yet delicately fragile." In retrospect, what did Sister Benita know that we didn't know? In essence, it was the joy of salvation.

Sister Benita knew the joy of salvation here, on this mountain. Here at this table she found the best of wheat and the choicest of wines. Here God fed her to be teacher, principal, sub-prioress for seventeen years, novitiate "directoress," director of campus ministry for twelve years, and the first woman president of the Lisle Rotary Club. Here in this Benedictine community she knew the love of God deeply and it is here that she discovered that she was extraordinarily wonderful yet delicately fragile.

True that our sister in Christ was always open to new possibilities but we also knew that the more complex matters of day to day matters appeared not important to her. Even titles were not important. At the young age of twenty-five, I joined the campus ministry team at Illinois Benedictine College. Sister Benita succeeded then Brother Bernie Glos as the director of the ministry team. However, Dr. Richard Becker refused to give Benita the title of director of campus ministry. The team was incensed with the administration. What was Sister Benita's reaction? "Who cares about titles," she would say in her high pitched voice. Whenever she would come to work in the morning, I would greet her with “Hi boss," since Benita was my very first boss in the schools. Finally, she lost her patience with me. "Becket," she snapped in her high pitched voice, "I'm not your boss." Funny, for a woman who assumed many positions, these places of power never changed her because she knew the joy of salvation.

A few days ago the Benedictine Sisters released an obituary of Sister Benita on FACEBOOK. I shared their news release and former students of IBC came out of the woodwork. Janis Vacca Wojnowski said, Benita was great, my freshman year she had a bunch of us at the convent and taught us how to make macrame plant holders. Maureen O’Hearn Gonzalez said. Sister Benita was the principal at St. Joan of Arc during my grade school years. I kept in touch with her through the years. She was a wonderful person. Father Patrick Mulcahy, who is with us today, said, [Benita] got me through some tough times in college and I'll never forget her. After the wake last night in the sisters' dining room, many of us agreed that Sister Benita empowered us to follow the Spirit of God to do things we never dreamed of, things that changed our lives. Her joy of salvation fell on us like the morning dew and we became better Christians. No-thing and no-one could come between her and the love of Christ. We saw this conviction in her voice, in her face, and in her ministry.

As we move towards Holy Communion we praise God for a monastic life well-lived. Down deep our sister in Christ was confident that Jesus had gone ahead of her to prepare a place for her on the mountain. Yes, in the latter days of her life, Sister Benita knew the absurd term, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But, to borrow a few words from the Prioress, Sister Mary, we knew a wonderful religious woman with a profoundly simple spirituality with whom we experienced the playful wisdom of the Almighty. Thank you, Boss!

Eternal rest grant into her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen. May all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


From the Archives

Sister Benita Jasurda, the daughter of John and Mary Jasurda, is one of 10 children born in Phillips, Wisconsin. Sister received her early education in a one-room school, where her love for reading developed rapidly and continued into high school. Benita was drawn to Sacred Heart Monastery in 1949, because of Sister Louise and Sister Raymond, who taught religion at St. Mary’s Parish in Phillips.

Sister Benita earned her B.S. from DePaul University, an M.A. in Theology from St. John’s University, and a M.R.S. from Loyola/Mundelein University. She spent many years as both a teacher and administrator in the Chicago area. She also taught at Sacred Heart Academy, then Benet Academy and continued in service as the Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at St. Raphael’s Parish in Naperville.

Sister Benita served as Director of Campus Ministry for the Joliet Diocese. In addition, she worked for twelve years in Campus Ministry at Illinois Benedictine College (now Benedictine University). Following this ministry, she returned to the Monastery as the Administrator of Queen of Peace Retirement Center. Sister Benita has been the Sub-Prioress and Monastery Coordinator from 1993 until 2011.

In addition to her service at the monastery and the diocese, Sister Benita has always been active in the local community. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Lisle, where she was voted the first woman president in 1994. For the past four years, Sister Benita participated with Our Saviour Lutheran Church of Naperville in their Mission to Slovakia. Sister is the contact person for Contemplative Outreach serving Chicago’s far western suburbs, which includes facilitating a weekly group meeting at the monastery. In addition, she is active with Benedictine Associates, laypeople who study the Rule of Benedict and integrate the Rule into their daily lives.

Sister Benita looks forward to continuing her service in extending the Benedictine charism to the local community and to modeling spirituality in her everyday life. She strives to ‘live the ordinary life with extraordinary love.” Sister is pleased to know that the Benedictines are going to be able to expand their ministry to the elderly in the growing Villa St. Benedict setting.

In conclusion, Sister Benita shares, “I hope to continue to live life as a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved; to live in the present moment and above all, trust in God.”