April 27, 2918 – West Bend, WI – Cookies and milk. That’s how Sr. Jolene’s vocation began. Her father was the janitor at St. Boniface when she was little, and she remembers sitting on the basement steps of the convent every Monday morning, watching the nuns doing laundry. When they were done, they invited her to the kitchen with them, and gave her fresh-baked sugar cookies and milk. The sisters were loving and caring, and, spending time with them, her love for them grew. When she began school at St. Elizabeth’s, she met the sisters there, and loved them too.
By the time she started high school, she knew she wanted to be a nun, so she went to the Mother House on Milwaukee Street for her Freshman year. She wasn’t old enough to formally enter the community, however, so she spent the following two years at the Academy of Our Lady, in Chicago. Her Senior year, she spent at an aspiranture that had recently opened in Prairie du Chien. She remembers there were seven girls who graduated together. Most came back into formation at the Mother House in Milwaukee, and then, somehow, she became the only one who stayed.
Her teaching degree is from Mt. Mary, and she subsequently earned a Master’s in Reading at Cardinal Stritch. Those of us lucky enough to know her while she was at Cabrini remember Sr. Jolene as a warm and wonderful 1st and 2nd grade teacher. So you might be surprised to know that, after leaving Cabrini in 1976, Sr. Jolene left teaching, and began a whole new segment of her long, rich, and varied career.
When Sr. Jolene came to Cabrini, it was her third teaching position. She began at Holy Cross right out of school. Her first class had 54 children. “Wow.” It was a big challenge for a new teacher, and she is grateful she had a good mentor teacher to help her.
After three years, she and two other teachers were invited to leave Holy Cross to open a new school, St. John Vianney. The school building wasn’t ready in time, so the first class was taught in the parlor of the convent. They brought student desks right into the convent. You could see cows out the window, and the kids were fascinated.
In 1968, she came to Cabrini, and she taught here for eight years. She began teaching 2nd grade. She loved working with the children who were preparing for their First Communion and First Reconciliation. She loved seeing how earnest they were, and how they changed, and began to see God in a new way. She loved helping to prepare them for an experience that would affect their whole life. Even then, the 2nd graders held a special, day-long retreat before their First Communion, with no other subjects that day, just preparation and practice, and gearing up for the Sacrament, to help the children be more conscious of how special it was.
She thinks of preparation for First Confession as helping children develop their sense of right and wrong, so they can understand it. But you don’t want to make them afraid of God. Instead, you want to do the groundwork for showing them how to be with one another and with God.
Sr. Jolene taught 2nd grade for three years, then taught a combined 1st and 2nd grade class for a year, and then taught 1st grade for four years. School enrollment was high, but also fluctuating, so it wasn’t unusual at the time to have…
Click HERE to read the rest of this wonderful article about Sr. Jolene by Kristin Brayer.