Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity experienced a memorable Catholic Schools Week in Marinette, Wisconsin. On Sunday, January 30, 2022, we were invited to lead music at the Holy Family Parish for the 10:00 a.m. liturgy. Pastor Father Celestine Byekwaso was quick to welcome Sister Myra Jean Sweigart, Sister Theresa Feldkamp, Sister Elaine Turba, Sister Kathleen Murphy, Sister Caritas Strodthoff, Sister Maria Guadalupe Martinez Lopez, Sister Mary Jane Schwartz, Postulant Katie Logan and Sister Julie Ann Sheahan as we set up in the front choir area of the church. Sister Myra Jean Sweigart was asked to tell a little about us and expressed our delight to be present at this Eucharist.
Was this the first time our Sisters have sung for Mass in Marinette? No. Our Sisters came to town in 1921 and at that time came to St. Anthony Parish. It seems fitting that the Franciscan spirit was already present among the people before our arrival. Our Sisters served until 1982 teaching at various buildings with different names over the years and having various grades depending on the enrollment. In 1975 the Sisters started commuting from Holy Spirit, Menominee, Michigan. It was time for others to serve and they have done so beautifully.
After Mass we not only met relatives of our Sister Patricia Sevcik, but also heard some good stories. One of these memories was about one of our Sisters going every day for a month to the hospital to bring homework to a student who had been hit in a car accident. This was one time that homework was especially well received and the consistent company created a relationship that neither the teacher nor the student forgot even many years later when meeting each other a second time for a parish event when the student was now an adult. Indeed, our Sisters in heaven continue to smile upon this special town and its people.
On Monday of this Catholic Schools Week we were invited for breakfast with grades 6-12 at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy. Students were grouped in teams for the week and ate with their team mates. Father Celestine, Father Robert Chinnapan, Deacon Dave Denby, Deacon Charles Schumacher, Sister Cecilia Joy Kugel, Sister Julie Ann and Katie each joined one of the tables. Principal Jonathon Keepers provided conversation starters which helped to create a friendly sharing while enjoying pancakes. After seconds and thirds of the pancakes were enjoyed, students climbed the bleachers and guests formed a panel to respond to student questions on vocations, prayer, personal lives, etc. Students also distributed hand-written cards to the panel to show their appreciation adding another personal touch to the gathering.
In the afternoon, we visited the elementary children PK3-5 grade at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy building in Peshtigo. This is a school that has a playground area perfect for all times of year, but especially for winter. The snow banks were already transformed snow forts and children wore warm snow suits so that they could enjoy recess whole-heartedly. Before taking a visit to all the classrooms we were introduced to Mike Cattani Director of Academic Services. He sent greetings to Sister Catherine Gilles who he got to know in the past Silver Lake College Educational Leadership Program.
In the classrooms we had hoped to leave behind a little Franciscan spirit whether in the form of a San Damiano Crucifix color sheet, learning the prayer Lord Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace with hand gestures or a simple game/prayer about 6 Franciscan saints. We were touched by the genuine goodness of the faculty and students. We also distributed a hand-made item whether tau crosses, PAX or Joy bracelets or prayer cubes with Franciscan Saints to each child.
After experiencing this peaceful school environment at both campuses, we couldn’t help but feel hopeful for the Church and the world in this geographical spot. We are praying that other families will choose Catholic Education for their children in Marinette, Peshtigo and nearby Michigan. For more information on St. Thomas Aquinas Academy click here. St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us. We also pray for the young women God is calling to be Franciscan Sisters from this place and ask our Sisters in heaven for their prayerful intercession.