Jubilarians 2019

Celebrating 485 years of service


There are eight members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio celebrating anniversaries of professed religious life in 2019. The service of these Sisters represents a total of 485 years of “Living the Gospel in joyful servanthood among all people.”

Platinum 75 Year Jubilarian (First Vows, 1944)

Sister M. Ricarda Witt

75th Jubilee

Sister M. Ricarda Witt came to the convent in Sylvania in 1938 from St. Ladislaus Parish in Hamtramck, MI. She entered the convent through St. Ladislaus School after eighth grade.

Over the course of 75 years in religious life, Sister Ricarda engaged in a variety of ministries in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota, including serving 42 years in education, 17 years managing inventory at Holy Cross Hospital in Detroit, and, since 2004, co-directing the Sylvania Franciscan Archival Department where she is credited for digitizing nearly 100 years’ worth of photographs.

Sister Ricarda’s favorite prayers are the Memorare, the Litanies of Mary and St. Joseph as well as Eternal Rest… for the poor souls which she finds herself praying all through the day.

Diamond 60 Year Jubilarians (First Vows, 1959)

Sister M. Francis Jerome Serewa

60th Jubilee

“God called me,” says Sister M. Francis Jerome. Her aunt, Sister Mary Pious, a Sylvania Franciscan, helped by encouraging and inspiring her niece. Sister Frances Jerome waited through high school and then tested her vocation further to be certain. After four years her vocational call had only strengthened and she entered the Sylvania convent in 1957.

Sister Francis Jerome came from St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Melvindale, MI. She attended public school in California and Michigan and later attended Lourdes College in Sylvania and Mary Manse College in Toledo.

Today, as she prepares to celebrate 60 years professed, she smiles, remarking that many people would be surprised to know that she’s still here, and “I love it.”

Sister’s many ministries include teaching elementary school for 16 years, a decade as an infirmary driver, serving as a core member of the Sisters’ House of Prayer, home care for family members and, currently, patiently providing Franciscan hospitality to visitors on the Sylvania campus.

Sister Frances Jerome has a humble helpful nature and is willing to always lend a hand to anyone who needs it. When asked, she loves assisting at liturgy and holding the host. She enjoys reading, collects religious articles and dreams of starting a project on the Divine Mercy of God. Her favorite quotation, which has helped her during her life is, “Stand firm now and persevere even if the hardship is great. God has already planned the moment when He will help you.”

Sister Gretchen Faerber

60th Jubilee

After graduating high school in 1956, Sister Gretchen Faerber entered the Sylvania Franciscan Community from St. Mary’s parish in New Ulm, MN. She waited until the State Fair closed that year, delaying just long enough to collect several blue ribbons for her pies, breads, jams and other talents learned on her small family farm.

Her 60 years in ministry includes 26 years in education, over a decade as the Moderator of the St. Francis Guild and 25 years directing the campus gift shops.

A guiding life principle for Sister Gretchen came from her mother and has aided her in all ministry: “We may be poor, but it doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people.”

A lifelong Minnesota Viking fan, Sister Gretchen easily found a common language with her seventh and eighth grade students in football. She coached cheerleading and went to all of the school games, getting to know them on their own terms while establishing mutual respect. As proof of her success, she recalls that once she was even able to convince an eighth grade class to give opera a chance in music class.

While moderating the St. Francis Guild, Sister was proud to have helped raise money for the first bus, 17 hospital beds and new dining room chairs for the Rosary Care residents and aging Sisters.

Since 2015 Sister Gretchen has concentrated her service on “Sister Gretchen’s Kitchen,” a ministry that acts as both a fundraiser for the Sylvania Franciscans and a cultural connection to many beloved Catholic culinary traditions. Her bake sales give her an opportunity to spend time with a core of loyal volunteer ‘kitchen helpers’ and she loves running into people around town who recognize her from Sister Gretchen’s bake sales.

As she reflects on being a Sylvania Franciscan, she is grateful to Father Kasel in New Ulm, who introduced her to the community and she hopes to continue to introduce others to the Sylvania Franciscans and their mission to care for all people.

Sister M. Helen Frances Spears

60th Jubilee

Toledo native Sister M. Helen Frances entered the Sylvania Franciscan community in 1954 as a student at St. Clare Academy, after attending Nativity school and Central Catholic. She enjoyed spending time helping the Sisters at the Nativity parish because they were joyful, loving, good listeners and she always felt accepted. She obtained degrees from Mary Manse College and LaSalle College in Philadelphia.

Since making her first profession 60 years ago, Sister Helen Frances has worn many hats in her ministry. As an elementary school teacher for 16 years in Minneapolis, Detroit, Toledo and Cincinnati, she delighted in teaching her young charges. Next she served for almost two decades as a Regional Coordinator for three different Ohio Diocesan Religious Education Offices.

At the Motherhouse she’s managed the Lourdes College Bookstore, acted as the St. Francis Guild Moderator and was a regular driver for the elderly Sisters. Since 2009, Sister has been in ministry at the Regina Conference and Spirituality Center, using her Franciscan gift of hospitality to welcome visitors and make them feel at home.

In her spare time, Sister enjoys dabbling in genealogy and visiting Sisters living in Our Lady of Grace and Rosary Care Center where her teasing smile and gentle laugh bring comfort and joy.

Sister M. Lois Anne Palkert

60th Jubilee

Sister Lois Anne Palkert, (formerly Audrey Palkert), moved to Minneapolis from Winnipeg, Canada with her family when she was 12. She came to the convent from Immaculate Conception parish, where she was inspired and influenced by the joyful spirit and dedication of her Sylvania Franciscan teachers.

After coming to Sylvania, she went on to earn a B.A. in Social Sciences from Mercy College in Detroit, a Master’s in Education/Mathematics from the University of Detroit, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of St Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

In her 60 years since first profession, Sister Lois Anne has served the people of God in a variety of ministries, from education to parish ministry to health care. She taught in elementary schools in Detroit and Toledo for over a decade before taking on the role of Novice Director at the Motherhouse and Math Instructor at Lourdes College, later becoming the Director of Lifelong Learning.

Sister Lois Anne served as Center Director for the Toledo Diocesan Lay Ministry and Permanent Diaconate Program, Director of Faith Formation for Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia Heights, MN, Pastoral Associate for St. Andrew’s parish in Granite Falls, MN and St. Joseph’s in Montevideo, MN. She was Director of Mission Integration at Trinity Hospital in Brenham, TX and now for rural hospitals in the Bryan, TX area.

Sister Lois Anne believes that whatever she does and wherever she serves it is about sharing the gift of presence. As mission director she is continually inspired by the dedication of co-workers, their commitment to the healing ministry of Jesus and their compassion and reverence for each person they serve.

As a Franciscan, Sister Lois Anne values the gift of creation and does all that she can to preserve and enjoy its splendor and diversity. She enjoys traveling across the country and world to experience its beauty, culture, history and geography. When not in ministry at St. Joseph’s, she’s likely to be found in art, science and history museums, presidential libraries, gardening, reading or enjoying the symphony.

She volunteers with liturgical celebrations at the hospital and Manor chapels, serves as a Eucharistic minister and lector, assists as a sacristan, and helps do whatever necessary to enhance celebrations.

At significant points in her life, Sister has reflected on the words from the prophet Isaiah: “Remember not the events of the past, the things long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” It is with eager anticipation that Sister Lois Anne approaches an uncertain future, but one filled with great promise.

Sister M. Lorena Dulas

60th Jubilee

Sister Lorena was born in Blue Earth, MN and knew she wanted to be a Sister since she was a little girl. She dearly loved her aunt who was a Rochester Franciscan and always loved being around her when she came to visit the family. When she was in school at St. Casimir, she saw slides of the Sylvania Motherhouse and knew that the Sylvania Franciscan community was going to be her home.

After graduating from St. Clare Academy, Sister Lorena continued her studies at Mary Manse College and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Sister Lorena quotes St. Paul, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being,” which is an apt reflection of her 60 years of professed service to the community.

Her 26-year ministry in education took her to elementary classrooms in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota, followed by a long list of titles that are a testament to Sister Lorena’s desire to serve the Church in any way needed. Her ministries included working in the Umbria Hall Print Shop, Assistant Lourdes University Bookstore Manager, staffing the Vianney Center in St. Louis, MO, Housekeeping, Switchboard Operator for the Motherhouse, and Housing Coordinator.

Although Sister Lorena has time these days to indulge some of her hobbies, such as working puzzles and reading mystery novels, she is still always looking for ways to be helpful. Since driving is one of her favorite things to do, she’s often called on to drive her fellow Sisters to appointments.

Sister has two wishes for the future: she hopes to get the chance to visit Branson, MO, and to continue to be a friendly Franciscan presence in people’s lives.

Sister Maria Pacelli Spino

60th Jubilee

Sister Maria Pacelli Spino came to Sylvania Franciscan community from Little Flower Parish in Toledo, Ohio, where she was taught by Sylvania Franciscans. She fondly remembers Sister Raymond helping to prepare her for First Communion and the encouragement of Sister Louise. The way they lived their lives inspired her toward her religious vocation. She enrolled in St. Clare Academy in 1953 and made first profession in 1959.

Sister Maria taught elementary school in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota for 30 of her 60 years in religious life. Since 1986, she has served in the finance office for the Sisters in different capacities, but primarily administering the Lay Employee Retirement Plan. Currently she divides her day between working in the finance office, helping in the mailroom and doing community service in Alverno Studio.

Sister delights in singing, reading, walking and travelling. She’s blessed to have three sisters living nearby and they treasure the many ‘Sister Trips’ they’ve taken together over the years. Sister Maria also enjoys being a ‘Marian’ in the community and the time she spends visiting and helping her elder Sisters.

Sister Maria lives by the saying, “God doesn’t love me because I’m good. I’m good BECAUSE he loves me.” She tries to treat the people she meets with love and respect and hopes to be of service to others wherever and whenever she can for a long as she is able.

Golden 50 Year Jubilarian (First Vows, 1969)

Sister Sharon White

50th Jubilee

Sister Sharon White is a daughter of the Presentation of BVM Parish in St. Paul, MN. She entered the convent after graduation from Archbishop Murray Memorial High School where she met both Benedictines and Sylvania Franciscans. Both communities impressed her as being filled with holy women who loved what they did. She knew that she wanted to be like them.

A Benedictine Sister advised the students in vocation club that they ‘not only receive a call to serve God, but they receive a call to a specific community.” In her sophomore year, Sister Sharon heard the call to the Sylvania Franciscans when she met Sister Helen Agnes and was inspired by her genuine honesty about religious life and her ‘free-spirit stance.’

As Sister Sharon celebrates 50 years of professed religious life, she couldn’t be happier with her choice. Her ministry includes 13 years spent teaching and 19 serving as principal, both in Ohio and Minnesota. She was elected to the Congregational Leadership Team for two terms, first as Community Councilor and then as Assistant Minister General.

In scripture, Jeremiah’s advice to “speak the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words,” serves as Sister Sharon’s mantra as she seeks daily to be a peaceful Franciscan presence who advocates for the poor and marginalized, with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Since 2009, she’s served as Program Director at the East Side Learning Center in St. Paul, MN, which works to ensure all children have the opportunity to read at grade level before 4th grade. Her dream is to institute a Pre-K literacy program for refugees and immigrants.

Highlights of her past 50 years include pilgrimages to Assisi, visiting Africa, being able to be in ministry in a variety of settings and for being able to share her journey with so many talented passionate women.

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