Sister Cyrilla Jackels, OSF
Sister Cyrilla Jackels reflects on her call to be a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity.
Hometown: ‘Little Chicago’
I lived in the country on a side road off of Highway 55 in what was known as “Little Chicago”. Yes. We had a dance hall, a tavern, and a supper club about 1/4 of a mile away from the Jackel’s residence, a 280 acre farm near Little Chicago. At that time I did not know what “Big Chicago” was like.
Our parish was St. Mary, Kaukauna. I attended the new St. Mary School with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from kindergarten through 8th grade. I learned much from my teacher, Sister Azarius Engledinger. Then I attended Kaukauna High School.
I was born into a large family—10 in all; however, a brother and a set of twins died before I was four or five years old. My sister Agnes died when I was 18 and had just entered the Convent. She died on Valentine’s Day. Mother Perpetua said she was “special”. I was the second youngest; I had two brothers and five sisters in between. Nicholas Jr. and Christina Schmidt were my parents. They were relatives of Father Peter Salm and Father Martin Schmidt. I took my name from a cousin, Sister Cyrilla Schmidt, a sister of Sister Mary Edward Schmidt.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem is my patron saint. I never knew about him before. I celebrate on his feast, March 18.
Were Sisters or priests influential in my vocation? Yes. They were good and kind and I wanted to be like them. In school the Sisters asked us to sort papers or other little jobs. Sister Anicetus Groessel did not actually help me to discern my vocation; however, her goodness led me to be one of them.
Teaching was the main apostolate in my life. I was involved in sports in the afternoons. In Peru baseball was initiated. Can you imagine—they had never seen a bat and didn’t know how to use it. They soon learned what a foul ball, a grounder, and a fly were. They learned just three outs came fast at first. The coach worked hard to have a super team; soon they were winning as they competed with neighborhood schools. Volley ball was a boy’s game at first.
“Were Sisters or priests influential in my vocation? Yes. They were good and kind and I wanted to be like them.”
In Religious life my very rewarding experiences came with the different assignments. The next assignment was just as rewarding as the last one. I was happy wherever I was. I served six years at the Oneida Boarding School (all boys); St. Paul’s, Manitowoc—one year; Whitelaw, Wisconsin—three years; eight years in Hawaii; 31 years in Peru; 12 years in Zanesville, Ohio, volunteering at the hospital; at St. Francis Convent in Manitowoc helping out in the House of Prayer; and then to St. Rita’s 4th floor at the Motherhouse to join the 30 Sisters on their journey. I learned much from them. I reckon the next place—Heaven (if I am good enough). Sometimes I marveled that I was so happy. Wasn’t religious life supposed to be more of a challenge?
As I anticipate my Diamond Jubilee as a vowed religious, I thank the Lord for the gift of perseverance, and I pray for all that will follow. Consecrated religious life is walking with Lord, stumbling at times, getting up again while holding the Lord’s hand.
If anyone is interested in the discernment of religious life—I would say “Come and See”.