The foundation of Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School may have been built in 1961, but the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania formed the cornerstone of the educational foundation the school has today. The same energy and passion the sisters displayed for decades at the school was apparent again when Sister Ann Carmen stole the show at the 2013 Red and Black Affair.
As Sr. Ann Carmen stood atop of her chair and waved to the crowd, the audience erupted into a thunder of applause to honor the Sisters’ 51 years of service to the school.
|Sr. Ann Carmen. (Photo courtesy
of Photo Works, Inc.)
Over the years, 73 sisters lived their vocation both in the classroom and in the lives of their students. When the doors of Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School were opened in 1961, the impact of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania was immediately felt. The sisters were asked by Bishop Rehring to help lead the formation of the new high school and operate it as well.
In the early days, the sisters were the teachers, administrators and leaders of the school, but they also called the school building their home. Sisters lived inside the school in the early 1960s. It was quickly apparent they needed a more comfortable living environment, so an on-campus convent was built to house them.
“We loved and love them (students),” said Sr. Ann Carmen. “It wasn’t a job. It was us being a part of their lives. These students are our legacy.”
And the students loved the sisters just as much. Jerry Brown, a ’77 graduate, remembers the sisters pushing him toward academic success in high school, which translated into success in college and business as well.
“As a stubborn and all-knowing teenage student who often looked no further ahead in life than what was happening on the weekend, I was tenderly nudged, gently prodded, and often firmly pushed to participate in classes, clubs, or events that, at the time, I saw no use for,” said Brown. “But the Sisters were looking much further down the road than I was. They weren’t concerned with me just exceeding in high school; they were more concerned with me exceeding in life.”
In the decades to follow, as the number of sisters began to dwindle, they eventually left the convent for a smaller, off-campus living quarters. In the summer of 2010, the convent at St. Kateri Catholic Schools was converted into classroom space, housing the music and art departments and was renamed the Sister Rose Angela Education Center.
The final Sylvania Franciscan Sister, Sr. Ann Lorette Piekarz, retired from teaching kindergarten in the spring of 2012. But while the sisters may no longer be roaming the halls of the high school on a daily basis, the impact they had on the schools will be everlasting. But the impact the schools had on the sisters is almost just as powerful.
“We bring just as much energy to the mission,” said Sr. Ann Carmen. “We are always asking ourselves, ‘How can we be present? How can we have an impact for the good? Is there something I can do to help Stritch?’ We ask ourselves these questions almost daily.”
(Story courtesy of St. Kateri Catholic Schools. Reprinted with permission from the 2012-13 St. Kateri Annual Report)