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Sister Jane Marie Osterholt

Sister Jane Marie Osterholt

“ … but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)

“This reading seems to sum up what Sister Jane Marie’s ministry was centered upon — teaching children about God’s love and impressing upon parents their responsibility for their children’s religious education,” said Sister Catherine Livers in her commentary for Sister Jane Marie Osterholt, who died Sept. 14, 2012.

Mary Jane Osterholt entered this world Sept. 3, 1944, in Celina, Ohio. She was the oldest of seven daughters of Walter and Luella (Hartings) Osterholt. “As they were growing up, Sister Jane Marie was the organizer and leader of their games and always the ‘big sister’ to all of them,” said Sister Catherine.

Sister Jane Marie attended St. Hyacinth Grade School in Fort Wayne, Ind., and two years at Central Catholic High School, also in Fort Wayne, before graduating from Providence Aspirancy at the Woods. She entered the Congregation Sept. 17, 1962, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1965, and Sept. 16, 1973, respectively. Sister Jane Marie earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in religious education from Marygrove College, Detroit. Sister Jane Marie received her doctorate in theology from St. Mary-of-the-Lake in Mundelein, Ill.

Sister Jane Marie commenced teaching in 1967 at St. Thomas Aquinas in Indianapolis. In Indiana, she also ministered at St. John, Loogootee.

“At one point when Sister Jane Marie needed a change, she took a year for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). After the year she told me that she could never thank the Congregation enough for this opportunity, for it changed her life. There are such moments, if we are faithful to God’s inner voice, when everything falls into place and we are transformed to a deeper level in God’s love. Clinical Pastoral Education was one of those moments for Sister Jane Marie,” shared Sister Catherine.

During her CPE, Sister Jane Marie ministered in hospitals in Illinois and Michigan. In 1977, Sister Jane Marie returned to religious education at St. Cyprian Parish, River Grove, Ill. She also served as director of religious education at St. Luke Parish, River Forest, Ill. From 1991 to 1996, she served as a leadership formation consultant for the Religious Education Office for the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

From 1996 to 2006, Sister Jane Marie ministered in various capacities at Lisieux Pastoral Center, Kankakee, Ill. In 2006, she was elected to Congregation leadership and served as a General Officer until 2011.

“Last evening, I received a call from Sister Mary Ann Leahy in Florida who asked me to tell everyone how much Sister Jane Marie meant to them. When Sister Jane Marie was on the General Council and assigned to Florida, she had the greatest respect for each sister, listening to them carefully and with such loving care for each individual,” said Sister Catherine.

“One of Sister Jane Marie’s exceptional gifts was her presence to others. When speaking with her, one always had her undivided attention, and even when she was ill, she would always stop what she was doing to give her full attention. She was deeply committed to her family and friends and would travel miles to be with them on holidays.

“Sister Jane Marie was organized. I remember being on the committee getting all the material we could from other congregations about Providence Associates. Sister Jane Marie was the liaison, and at the break she would take our information and put it into perfect form,” continued Sister Catherine.

“Last year, Sister Jane Marie went on sabbatical, and during that time she visited Sister Doreen Lai in Singapore and then went on to Vietnam to the Dominican motherhouse. We have educated quite a few young sisters at our college, and they have been such a gift to us. When Sister Jane Marie returned she had a lingering illness and went for tests. When they were completed she found out that she had cancer of the liver and pancreas, and it had advanced to stage four. We were shocked, stunned, saddened. How could this be?” said Sister Catherine.

“As the days passed, Sister Jane Marie’s sister Theresa came to be with her and spent many hours there. We saw the loving care of her two agents, Sisters Jody O’Neil and Mary Ryan, and Sister Martha Wessel who went with her for treatments. They would return to Owens Hall and tell us that she was doing pretty well, and we hoped and prayed for a miracle. We watched the devoted nurses and helpers, the Ministry of Care team, especially Sister Nancy Bartasavich and Father Dan Hopcus, and we hoped and prayed for a miracle. We saw Sister Jane Marie fighting to live, walking the halls to keep her strength, walking to church for Mass every day when she was able, and we hoped and prayed for a miracle. Sister Jane Marie was no stranger to suffering, and as the sisters visited her in Mother Theodore Hall and shared their love and gratitude, it was a healing time for her.

“On Sept. 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when Sister Jane Marie was en route from the hospital to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, our loving God came down and took her home. Did we receive a miracle? Yes. Sister Jane Marie was spared from perhaps weeks of intense suffering. And so we say goodbye to a devoted and loving sister and friend. Sister Jane Marie, may you rest in peace,” concluded Sister Catherine.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Jane Marie was celebrated Sept. 19, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by all of her sisters.

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