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Charlotte Vesley, OSB
The Queen of Chocolate

Reflection by Sister Mildred Slabenak, OSB
Wake Service November 16, 2008

It started early in life, this love for chocolates. Knowing Virgie’s weakness for them, her mother made sure that they were kept out of sight and out of reach, the urge for sweets would not be that tempting. The old-fashioned walk-in pantry with high shelves was thought to be a safe place. However, little Virgie was not going to be defeated when it came to indulge in a Fannie Mae. She therefore instigated her brother Chuck to help in the conspiracy. “I’ll boost you up and you get the box,” she told him. As the climb was about to be completed, Virgie suddenly heard her mother’s footsteps. Quick as a flash, Virgie took to flight, leaving poor Chuck hanging in mid-air, forcing him to take the punishment for the attempted chocolate robbery.

This example leads me into showing the sweetness and happy disposition of her life. Happiness, which is the meaning of her family name, was truly lived. She was born and raised by her parents, Charles and Mary Vesely in Cicero, and attended St. Francis of Rome Grammar School. On occasion she attended church services at Our Lady of the Mount. High school days were spent at Sacred Heart Academy. Here she observed the lifestyle of the Sisters. After graduation she decided to make her home with them, and so serve the Lord in prayer and work, under a new name, that of Sister Charlotte. Her beautiful voice was an asset to the community choir. At any given moment she was able to sing and carry the tune.

Sister Charlotte was trained, disciplined and exercised in performing many tasks. I’ll mention a few. At Sacred Heart Academy, she sponsored the freshmen, to whom she endeared herself. Her jolly and friendly ways uplifted their spirits, especially when they felt the absence of home and dear ones.

Later she was to be sent to Texas. At first this was thought to be a hardship. Going to the state of Texas with only one companion and to be a pioneer to a new mission, felt impossible. However, her qualms and fears quickly vanished. With a smile on her face and a concealed tear, she and Sister Raphael headed out to Texas where they were received with open arms. St. George’s Parish was not to be their home for the next several years.

St. Thomas’s another Texas mission was the fortunate recipient of her talents. Here, her gift of music was put to work. Many hours were spent in choir practice, thus producing beautiful singing. At the same time she managed to keep a full-time teaching schedule. Never the less, work did not prevent her from having a good time. She found ways and means to bring cheer at the end of a busy day. The holidays were also a delight. St. Nick and his angel always managed to bring gifts and yuletide joy.

Her ambition and knowledge led her to greater heights. Taking the opportunity of being school supervisor, she visited classrooms and also prepared young Sisters to enter the field of education with vim and vigor. Sister Charlotte also gave many years of faithful service to St. Mary of Celle Parish in Berwyn. As principal and organist she again experienced success. Her method to gain the love and respect of children was not a chocolate, but an open door to her office. The cure for a culprit or sick child was an aspirin, band aid, lolly pop or a kind word of encouragement. This was the soothing, sweet chocolate milk-shake that brought comfort or healing.

Sister Charlotte’s disposition enabled her to meet challenges bravely and cheerfully. Time came again to prove her courage. Benet Academy opened its door to have her impart the knowledge of English and Literature to classes of jolly teenagers. Like the intake of a cool chocolate drink, she found her task refreshing.

The high light of her life was to be elected Prioress of this community. Was this to be her crown of glory? Only time would tell. Tough, difficult, changing times prevailed. Her desire and determination spirited her to go forth and forge in a field that would flourish and prosper. She persevered and served successfully and untiringly for twelve years.

Pain and suffering spare no one. Sister Charlotte was not exempt. Powerlessness to move about and the partial loss of sight, confined her to a wheelchair. This was not sweet milk-chocolate, but rather that of dark bitter sweetness. Still her positive attitude, cheerful spirit and perhaps the indulgence of a chocolate allowed her to remain light-hearted and happy. Often, she was seen with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. She knew that the Christ within her was always the Master. He was her true life, strength, sight, peace and well-being. She trusted the working of her heavenly Father. She let go and allowed Him to do His work. Because of her patient endurance, may this queen be rewarded with a crown of gems, brightened by the gold of her pleasant smile and good works.

May St. John Bosco and all the Saints welcome her to the heavenly confectionery to enjoy everlasting sweetness.

As a tribute to her, let us become a radiating center of divine love and bring peace and harmony to those we meet. Let us be that yummy chocolate that spreads joy and good will wherever we go. Dear friends, should you indulge in a sweet milk-chocolate, please think of Sister Charlotte and remember her in prayer, and keep smiling.


Fifth Prioress of Sacred Heart Monastery from 1973-85, Sister Mary Charlotte Vesely died on November 14, 2008, at the age of 90. The Wake was held at Sacred Heart Monastery on Sunday, November 16 with the Mass of Resurrection and burial taking place on Monday, November 17.

The daughter of Charles and Mary Vesely, members of St. Frances of Rome Parish in Cicero, Virginia Vesely had one sibling, Charles, now deceased. She is survived by two nieces, Carla (Bob) Priban of Normal, Il. and Mary Ann (Joseph) Franks of Bolingbrook, IL. Her nephew, Mark (P.A.) lives in Cypress, TX.

A graduate of Sacred Heart Academy in 1935, Sister entered the Benedictines that same year, and made final monastic profession in 1937. Earning a B.S. in English from St. Scholastica College in Atchison, KS, and an M.A. in Education from DePaul University in Chicago, Sister Charlotte had a long career in education as teacher and principal. Sister Charlotte taught English, Voice and Music at Sacred Heart Academy. She was also involved with the Minim Department, where she taught Sacred Heart Academy’s elementary age students in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Sister Charlotte’s teaching career took her to Ft. Worth, Texas, where she opened up St. George School. She also served as the principal of St. Mary of Celle School in Berwyn, Illinois, and taught English at Benet Academy for five years. In 1973, she was elected Prioress and ministered to the Benedictine Sisters in that capacity for twelve years. Under her leadership, the community renovated the Academy in 1977 to be used as the monastery. Gifted with a beautiful singing voice, Sister Charlotte was a faithful cantor and choir member at the monastery. Following her years as Prioress, Sister Charlotte worked in Benet Academy’s Alumni Office and spent two years on the staff of Villa St. Benedict.