Sister Serena Ziolkowski
“John testified to him and cried out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” (John 1:27)
These excerpts from the Gospel of John seem to sum up the way Sister Serena saw her life as a Sister of Providence. Through her many years as a teacher and administrator and her life here in service to her sisters in various capacities, we see one who saw herself as servant of a great and loving God,” said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Serena Ziolkowski, who died Dec. 13.
Jennie Cecilia Ziolkowski was born April 13, 1918, in Saskatchewan, Canada, to John and Mary (Nestor) Ziolkowski. She was one of eight children. Jennie was educated at Lafayette Grade School and Providence High School, both in Chicago. She entered the Congregation July 16, 1936, and professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1939, and 1945, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and history from Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, and a master’s degree in education from Xavier University, Cincinnati.
Sister Serena commenced teaching at Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago, in 1939. In Illinois, she also ministered at St. Mary, Aurora. In Indiana, her pedagogical ministries included St. Anthony, St. Catherine and St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis; St. Margaret Mary, Terre Haute; Sacred Heart, Evansville; St. Paul, Sellersburg; and Sacred Heart, Whiting. Sister Serena spent several years in California at St Therese, Alhambra; St. Joseph, Hawthorne; and St. Joseph, Lakewood. She spent one year as the assistant to the communications coordinator at the Woods and three years as the curriculum coordinator for the Diocese of Gary (Indiana). Sister Serena also ministered as a teacher at Lady Isle, Portsmouth, N.H.
“Sister Serena returned to the Woods in 1987. During her retirement years she kept very busy at Providence switchboard, taking care of St. Anne Shell Chapel, tutoring, and for many years, passing the mail. She had perfect attendance at that job and kept it up until just a few months ago. One of the sisters who worked in the mailroom told me that after she could no longer pass the mail she would have one of the nurses wheel her past the mailroom about nine o’clock in the morning. It seems that she was the self-appointed supervisor who checked to see that the sisters’ mail was being taken care of,” continued Sister Mary Ann.
“Lest you think that Sister Serena did nothing but work, I want to assure you that she spent time in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel every morning and every afternoon. She spent many hours with the God she loved and served so well. This is a practice she continued even after she went to Health Care in September of this year,” said Sister Mary Ann.
“Sister Serena enjoyed a good time. When she first came to the Woods she organized a square dance group, which continued for quite some time. She also enjoyed playing cards and would get a group together or just join another group. This is one of the last activities she enjoyed. Anyone who heard her laugh would know immediately that she was having a good time,” continued Sister Mary Ann.
“Thank you for your years of love and service to God and all of us. We will miss you and I hope that I for one will follow your good example of serving others as long as I have the health to do so,” concluded Sister Mary Ann.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Serena was celebrated Dec.18, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sibling, Helen Ziolkowski of Glendale, Ariz. She was the sister of the late Sister Mary Amadeus Ziolkowski.
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Sister Serena was my fourth grade teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School in Chicago. i was about 10 years old. One time, out of many, I had to stay after school. I had always thought that Sister Serena was pretty. I was putting my “stay after school” time in, while fooling around with my loose tooth. While working on the loose tooth, i penned a note to Sister Serena telling her that I thought that she was pretty. Upon being released from “stay after school” time. I presented Sister Serena with the note, asking her to not read it until after I had left. Next day, after school, Sister Serena told me that I had given her a very nice note but, she asked, where did all of the blood, on the note, come from ? She seemed concerned about the copious amount of blood, smeared all over the note. She seemed to be relieved, and even laughed when told that it was just a loose tooth. She was a fine person. I wish now that I had contacted her later on in life, i would have asked her if she remembered the loose tooth student. I am now 89 and have never forgotten what a fine, understanding and patient person that she was. i hope that her life was filled with happiness.