"Life Steeped in the 'mysticism' of the 'ordinary' daily human experiences"
These words were written by Sister Celine as the last verse of a thank you note to her family and our community. Before I read her note of thanks, let me reflect on her life based on a Magnificat she also wrote during retreat in 1988.
“My soul exults and rejoices in you Yahweh my Savior. You bestowed countless blessings on me--- and always held me in the palm of your hand.”
“What a beautiful day! The sky is blue; the sun is shining….One day closer to spring”.
These words Celine often spoke at breakfast table in the last few months of her life. She longed for the beauty of the new growth of spring and the brightness of the new day sun. The beauty inside the monastic walls, the decorations in chapel and the outside world always touched her. Her love of nature took her for many a walk outside with Sister Margaret or going on a trip with Villa St Benedict, St Joan of Arc Golden Agers, the Park District to the Flower Show or through Morton Arboretum as the seasons changed. She traveled to different parts of the world with her sister, Cele, enjoying the beauty of each trip. She loved singing praise to God, whether it was singing the “Easter Alleluias”, leading prayer as a cantor, taking her science classes on a nature hike, walking to the Grotto with the sisters in the novitiate to sing a Gelineau Psalm or visiting Father Gilbert and his many rose bushes at St Procopius Academy. Her dedication to community involvement, community prayer, singing in choir and lectio was a constant. These were many ways for her to express her joy and love. Yes, her soul still exults in the Lord.
“You have given me the loving and stable support of my community and my family and friends.”
Sister Celine Laketek, (Rose) was the fifth of six children born to Czech immigrants, John and Frances Laketek on February 12, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. She is preceded in death by her parents, 2 brothers, Father Victor and Father Gilbert of St Procopius Abbey; and two sisters, Anne Kment and Mary Binder. Her sister Cele remains as the sole survivor of this close knit family. They grew up in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, a community closely connected with their church, St Vitus. Almost every corner had a church of a different ethnic back ground; even today you identify yourself by the church you belonged to. She was taught by the Benedictines at St Vitus Grade School and came to Lisle to attend Sacred Heart Academy along with her sister, Cele. Sister Celine’s aunt, Sister Josephine Prince and a cousin, Sister Dolorosa were Benedictines and that’s how she came to be introduced to the monastery. She entered Sacred Heart Monastery in August 1937, making her Monastic Profession on August 15, 1939.As a child Celine grew up during the Depression. When her father lost his job, the family became very poor. Yet her mother always had something extra for a neighboring family that might also be struggling. The concept of taking care of and being with her sisters in community began with family influence. It was very important to Celine to have a connection with community. She spent many a day or night sitting with a sister that was hospitalized. She regularly visited the sick and did pop in visits to the Benedale residents. If only a couple minutes, she stopped in to reassure them that someone remembered them and was praying for them. If we had guests she made sure she introduced herself and talked with them. She made weekly phone calls to friends that lived alone, making a connection and promising to pray for them.
In her most recent years Celine would often say, “Don’t get old, it’s no fun.” She had her share of surgeries throughout the years. Celine was very private about her own well being; in fact she thought it was none of our business. On one occasion she went to the hospital for a serious surgery and probably told only the Prioress about it. As she was leaving with a small suitcase to go to the hospital, one of the sisters told her to have a good time, not knowing she was having major surgery! As the aging process caught up with her, she dealt with a loss of hearing. Hearing aids and she were not good friends. I remember her telling me a few times how lonely she felt because she couldn’t hear the conversations at table. She wanted to be connected with us. Celine always gave her piece of wisdom to us. It would be highly unusual for her not to make a comment at the dining room table or a community meeting.
Sister Geraldine is a lifelong friend. They grew up together, went to the same schools and entered the convent together. They remained good friends throughout the years. Recently Sister Geraldine wrote to Celine “The last time I came to Lisle you and I came to the realization that our earthly sojourn some day will end, and we said our good-byes, knowing well that we would never see each other again. Now, Celine, it seems your strife is almost over and your battle has been won. I wish I could be with you in person for this last journey. We’ve walked a long way together and I trust we will one day be together again.” “Let us continue to pray for each other as we always have. If we do this, our friendship will reach its fulfillment in the love of God and his holy mother. Yes, family, community and friends were her love and support.
“You have guided me in the various ministries of my life. I believe in your unconditional love. I entrust my life and all those I hold as precious to your faithful love.”
Sister Celine started her teaching career in 1939 at St Michael’s Grade School and then moved on to Holy Mount, St Joseph Orphanage and the Junior High at Sacred Heart Academy. Gifted will a good mind, she studied at and received a Bachelor’s of Science degree from St Louis University. She then taught Biology for 3 years at Sacred Heart Academy until she was asked to be the Novice Mistress. For 16 years she helped form those who entered our community. We all have many stories to tell, whether it was working in the garden, dusting chapel, working in the laundry, climbing apple trees, picking beans, doing dishes or having class with Sister Mistress. We learned the liturgical year and all the feasts; read “Little Placid”, studied the Rule and learned Gregorian chant. It had to be a proud moment when each of her understudies became professed as a part of this community.
With the change of administration, Celine went back to teaching Junior High students in Queen of Peace School, Wichita Falls, Texas, St Joan of Arc, Lisle and St James the Apostle, Glen Ellyn.
One of the loves of her life was reading. Her sister Cele tells of the times they would go to the library to bring back arm loads of books. When asked what they would do with all those books, they answered “Read them!” When they couldn’t find any more good books at one library they would go to another library to fill their appetite for reading. With this in mind, it is no wonder that Celine would go on to study Library Science, getting a Masters Degree at Rosary College and then spent 10 years as Librarian at St Joan of Arc School. While still at St Joan of Arc, she was also the Sub Prioress and house coordinator at the monastery. It was during this time that she saw a need to take care of our retired and aging sisters. Knowing she would need some training for this work she went by train to Hinsdale Hospital School of Nursing to become an LPN and then worked in the infirmary for many years. She also extended her services to the local community as she went on a regular basis to the Park District to take blood pressure for the senior citizens.
Always knowing the importance of being active and moving around, Celine took an exercise course called Body Recall. She would have exercises with our infirm sisters and also with the Assisted Living residents. She would have the group “catching butterflies, playing the piano, or tossing a sponge ball to help keep their muscles toned. She knew that even if you are infirmed and in a wheelchair, there still are exercises that can help you. This also became another way for her to mingle with and be present to the Villa St Benedict residents.
In the final chapter of her ministerial life, Celine was the community archivist. She worked many hours organizing our history. A special bulletin board was put up in the 1st floor hallway of the new monastery so that she could display pictures of our farm, early building projects, snake hill (Maple Avenue), the original convent building and grounds, the chapel old and new. She wanted us to always remember the past and the sisters who got us here. Yes, Celine was given many opportunities for enrichment and studies; these blessings she turned into going the extra mile to use her talents and energy for her community, Villa St. Benedict residents, family and friends.
And as a final thank you, Sister Celine wrote the following words. (I quote): “I am grateful to God for the years spent in the service of the church in this community.I thank all my OSB Sisters for their love and support. I am grateful to my family for their steadfast and caring presence in all life and for their unfailing goodness to me at all times. My appreciation for my community and family has, indeed, increased through the years. I thank God for the gift of a simple, unheroic life and for the grace to be of service to others. My life has been steeped in the “mysticism” of the “ordinary” daily human experiences.”
Sister Celine, we thank you for your faithfulness and ever present love to all of us. Yes, as Sister Geraldine said “we’ve walked a long way together”. May you rest in peace!