It’s not uncommon to meet a Sister who has a sister. . . who is also a Sister.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, families often proudly had two or more of their children elect to go into the convent or seminary and eventually take vows in their chosen communities.
Such is the case with the Sisters Paluszak. Sister Aloise Paluszak, christened Evelyn, was drawn to Sylvania Franciscans by circumstance, faith and the kindness of her teachers. Her own transformation drew her little sister, Geraldine, to follow in her footsteps.
Evelyn Paluszak (Sister Aloise’s Christian name) and her sister Geraldine were the youngest of nine children who attended Nativity School in Toledo and had Sylvania Franciscan Sisters as teachers. It was 1930’s Toledo; the community was poor but the girls loved their neighborhood and school very much.
When it came time to graduate from eighth grade, Sister Aloise’s teacher told the students that she needed to know where they wanted to go to High School when they came to school the next day.
All Sister Aloise knew for sure is that she was adamantly opposed to going to public school.
“I’m not really sure why I felt so against it. I think I’d felt so happy and safe at Nativity and I always loved our little neighborhood and I didn’t want to have such a big scary change.”
She had been to St. Clare’s once before when one of her teachers, Sister Marciline, took a few girls who were interested for a visit. “I remember stepping onto the campus and seeing the girls in their black and white and knowing, just knowing, that this is for me.”
“I remember telling my mom when she asked where I wanted to go for high school. I told her that I wanted to go to St. Clare Academy – but that I knew we can’t afford it. I was so happy when my mother beamed and told me that she would come up with a plan,” Sister Aloise recalls.
Soon Sister Marceline and Sister Thomas a Kempis came to the Paluszak’s house to talk with her mother and make arrangements. Her daughter would need a trunk, uniforms, pencils and a few personal items – all totaling around $50, which was a great deal of money during the Great Depression.
Mrs. Paluszak hosted a dinner party and invited their neighbors, including her married daughter who lived next door. Everyone was happy to contribute as much as they could spare to send Evelyn to St. Clare Academy.
She graduated eighth grade in June of 1941, and two weeks later her family drove her to the convent.
She remembers the lonesomeness of those first days, but that her homesickness did not last too long. Within two weeks the family came for the annual Franciscan Festival. She greeted them with joyful smiles and her lonesomeness miraculously disappeared. After that, she settled in and loved all that followed.
After graduation, Sister Aloise became a teacher. For 35 years she taught grade school and then high school math courses.
In 1982 she took a break from teaching and spent the year working in Public Relations at St. Jude’s Hospital in Texas. With no papers to correct for the first time in over three decades, she was able to use her evenings to pursue other interests.
After a year, she moved to St. Louis University to study the Ministry Program. She wanted to experience deeper spiritual opportunities to prepare her for Parish Ministry. Her first mission was at St. Michael’s in Gibsonburg, Ohio. Although her primary role was as Catechism leader, she used to joke that she did everything except say Mass and hear confessions.
At the age of 67, she decided she had enough energy to make one more change. She took the position of Pastoral Associate for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Temperance, MI. It was closer to the convent and family in Toledo, which made it ideal. While she was there the programs quadrupled and the parish was blessed with many new volunteer Catechists.
After nine years, part-time ministry followed. Assisting with burial services, visiting the sick and homebound with communion, and helping with the RCIA program are among her treasured memories.
She was delighted when Our Lady of Mt. Carmel threw her a surprise celebration for her 60th Jubilee and her family and parish members came together for a joyful gathering.
In 2005, Sister Aloise decided it was time to step back from active parish ministry and see how she could help out at the Motherhouse. There she spent a decade driving residents at Rosary Care Center to their doctor appointments. “Just name the doctor and my car knew where to go,” Sister Aloise laughs.
At the same time, she was still able to pursue her love of teaching in the ministry of Religious Education by helping to prepare children for the sacraments. Sister Aloise was also a volunteer at our Lady of Lourdes parish in the Hospitality Kitchen and assisted with the now retired St. Francis Guild.
It's been 71 years since Sister Aloise made her first profession and her service to the community continues. She found another beautiful way to minister when she ‘adopted’ a resident of Rosary Care Center. She accompanies her to Mass, musical events and Bingo. Evenings, Sister Aloise brings ice cream up to her room and keeps her company as they watch Jeopardy and Wheel of fortune together.
Sister Aloise Paluszak died in February of 2019. May she enjoy eternal rest.