Sister Jean (Marian Jean) Arkenberg
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?’” (Matthew 25:37)
“This short section from St. Matthew seems appropriate for Sister Jean Arkenberg. The one word I have heard most often in referring to her is ‘humble.’ Her service is summed up so well in this selection and in her humility. I can hear her saying, ‘But when did I do those things?’ Many people in this church could help her to remember when she did many things because the second most often word I have heard in reference to Sister Jean is ‘generosity,’” said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Jean Arkenberg who died March 8.
Born Dorothy Jean Arkenberg Nov. 22, 1923, in Chicago to Raymond and Dorothy (Cullen) Arkenberg, she was one of seven children. She attended Maternity BVM School, Chicago, and graduated from the Providence Juniorate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She entered the Congregation Jan. 5, 1941, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1943, and 1949, respectively. Sister Jean earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in elementary education from Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.
Sister Jean spent more than five decades teaching elementary and junior high school students. Her first classroom was at St. John Evangelist, Newburgh, Ind., in 1943. In Indiana, she also ministered at St. Patrick, Fort Wayne; Holy Cross and St. Ann, Indianapolis; and St. Paul, Sellersburg. She spent two years at St. Patrick, Fayetteville, N.C.; three years at Ascension, Halethorpe, Md.; and one year at St. Ann, Washington, D.C. In Illinois she taught at St. Mark and Immaculate Conception, Chicago, and St. Joseph, Downers Grove. She spent more than a decade at Our Lady of Providence, St. Louis. Sister Jean returned to the Woods in 1998 and provided volunteer service.
“As mentioned earlier, Sister Jean will be remembered for her great generosity. First of all by her sister, Sister Catherine, whom she visited so often during the time she has been in Health Care. Everybody who walked down the hall past Sister Catherine’s door can attest to the love and devotion of the two sisters that was so evident during their visits. Sister Jean never forgot her good friend Sister Donna O’Neill, whom she brought to church and sat with when Sister Donna could no longer go alone,” continued Sister Mary Ann.
“Sister Jean ministered as a seamstress here, and many sisters have clothing that was made or altered by her. I know of one sister who had knee surgery, and before she could let Sister Jean know that she would like to have culottes for her therapy exercises, she was presented with them by Sister Jean. Another of her great contributions as seamstress was helping with the beautiful banners that are used in the church throughout the year and the scarves we wore for the beatification and canonization of Saint Mother Theodore,” Sister Mary Ann said.
“Sister Jean’s kindness was also seen by the young sisters who lived with her through the years as she helped them with anything they needed in their early days in the classroom. This interest in young people did not stop when Sister Jean returned to the motherhouse. Many of the Providence Volunteer Ministers have mentioned to their director that Sister Jean was a special person who impacted their lives. Sister Jean’s quiet, humble, prayerful demeanor and service were a gift to all who knew her.
“Sister Jean also liked to have fun. The Cubs and Bears games were great times for her. She watched them whenever possible and cheered them on. Sister Jean cherished the vacation time with her sister-friends in Michigan. Sister Jean’s devotion to family is well known to all who knew her,” continued Sister Mary Ann.
“Sister Jean, we will miss you, but know that you are enjoying the reward you so richly deserve,” concluded Sister Mary Ann.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Jean was celebrated March 13, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by three sisters, Sister Catherine; Marian Domkowski, Chicago; and Zita Andree, Lombard, Ill.; and one brother, Raymond of Brookfield, Ill.
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