How did you settle into life in Wisconsin? A discovery about N.E. Wisconsin that you didn’t anticipate or expect?
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: No, I was born in Wisconsin, in Brandon, Wisconsin. We moved to the U.P. when I was 4. My Dad’s and my Mom’s family, my aunts and uncles were from Wisconsin so we were constantly coming up over to Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Green Bay area. I liked Wisconsin…the snow and things. Joining the order, it was a happy thought, positive thing, that the Sisters were Packer fans, that was a big thing for me because I am a big Packer fan. It wasn’t challenging to get used to Wisconsin.
When in Formation, what made the most impression on you in terms of embracing your vocation? Something that reinforced your sense of being called?
“That was an opening to me to see that I could follow St. Francis…”
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: Reflecting on this, I was thinking of just this past summer with Sister Kathleen. For me, it’s been a working project to understand St. Francis, I knew the story of the stigmata and how can I reach that level and this summer we were reading the Way of St. Francis by Father Murray Bodo and it was so beautiful to go slowly through each chapter and to see how human St. Francis was. He had his difficulties with his father, he loved his mother but when he started the Franciscan Order, just those challenges, he would face and he had his doubts whether he was following God’s will. That was an opening to me to see that I could follow St. Francis in that smallness, opening my heart to God and trying to follow his will.
“I learned what community living is like, too.”
Sr. Carol Seidl: The Novitiate was a special time for me. Not only developing your prayer life but also learning about the vows and also, too, the different personalities in the Novitiate. I learned what community living is like, too. How to get along with different personalities you might say and then you have the support of all the Sisters in your Novitiate at that time, too. And then, too, seeing the older Sisters especially when they came back from mission and then all the different apostolates you can do, too. It was a good experience.
How does formation continue for you?
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: Now being a second-year novice, I still haven’t yet had too much study on it seeing how to slowly live out the vows more in my daily life especially how God is in certain events. I am learning how to be obedient, to learn humility. That’s how I am continuing to grow as a second-year novice.
Sr. Carol Seidl: The yearly retreat-we usually choose a time -it’s one week that you set aside that’s time for you and God, and it’s quiet time. It’s a time to reconnect to your foundations, why you are a Sister, and a time to reinforce your prayer life so that it truly is an important time of your life.
“I enjoy spending the time interacting, being, seeing how the young Sisters are growing in the Franciscan way…”
I think being back here at the Motherhouse, working with in the Formation Program, with the Novices and Postulants and Temporary Professed, it’s a good time for renewal, but I have to say I enjoy spending the time interacting, being, seeing how the young Sisters are growing in the Franciscan way and offering some advice at times also. I appreciate that.
So far, what has been the most challenging for you?
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: Most challenging for me as a Franciscan Sister is because we are apostolic, we are prayerful and we live in a community and I am so grateful for, and to have so many Sisters and I know I have to work on communication. That’s something that can be a difficult thing when being a novice I kind of take the road of listening to what I am told and I don’t always interact. If it’s something new, I might not ask for clarifications on how to do it right, so mistakes and things like that happen. It’s a good growing experience and I am grateful for all the kindness and understanding and talking through and helping me.
Sr. Carol Seidl: Well, I’ve worked in education for over 45 years as a teacher and as a principal and I’ve worked with a lot of fine young people, many I have brought to Camp Franciscan, and it’s challenging to find out why aren’t they choosing to come here, why aren’t they choosing Religious Life now a days.
There are so few that who are willing to give of their lives, their service to God and to the Church, to help others find God in their life. That part to me is challenging because you do so much to help young people these days, to keep them on the track, to encourage them to think about a priestly vocation, a religious vocation, and yet they think about it, but yet they don’t follow through. How can we change things so that they can really see that they are called to serve. God is calling some people.
What has been the most surprising for you?
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: The most surprising thing that comes to me into our conversations like at meal times is that when Sisters will bring out the stories of their going out on mission, their teaching. One Sister, when she was in her mission she was told that she was to play the organ. And she didn’t know how to play the organ. So I wondered will that happen to me? Is there something that I really am not comfortable doing, far out of my abilities. Well if God wishes, yes, I will do it. That was surprising.
Sr. Carol Seidl: I think the most rewarding thing is that I enjoy working with children, young adults, young teenagers, I loved teaching religion, seeing them growing in their faith life, even a little kindergarten child, watching them praying in Adoration, being able to help young people develop their prayer life in all ages.
And then, too, then when you leave a place, people, adults still keep in contact with you. I have friends from Mississippi and the first years in Arizona, Nebraska or even Rice Lake, Wisconsin. You don’t realize doing your apostolic work interacting with people, how you come across to them. Sometimes you do make a mark in their life that lasts a long time. And so they still feel attached to you, still feel like they want to keep in contact with you.
So it’s the friendships you develop over the years, even though as a Sister you move around a lot, you develop friendships where you are, to make those friendships grow, helping them out in their faith life, they want that connection.
“…most rewarding for me, especially in… the Novitiate, is the time for prayer.”
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: The most rewarding for me, especially in this time of the Novitiate, is the time for prayer we have, praying in chapel especially. It is very rewarding that I can go to spiritual direction, to get a sense of where I am, what I can do to improve my prayer life, working on Lexio Divina, reading the daily Mass readings, the Gospel as well as just reading the Bible on my own time to see how God may be speaking to me.
Sr. Carol Seidl: The opportunities that Community life presents. Because I have done things in 50 years of Religious Life that I never thought I would have done. And yet sometimes our Religious leaders in our Community see things in you that you don’t see and perhaps they want to challenge you, so they give you different assignments, things that you never thought you would do but they see some gifts in you. Sometimes it’s a way to grow your gifts and do try different things, you can do a wide variety of things.
Sr. Mary Jane Schwartz: I really like that in the Novitiate you are encouraged to play an instrument. I had some piano lessons before, but I really appreciate Sister Winifred’s one on one and helping me to really grow in this gift. Not just that I’ll be able to play the piano but I can take that into the classroom, share that music with the students that I have contact with. That’s important, too.