Schoolmates, sisters and part of a leadership team
The relationship runs long for four of the five sisters recently elected as the Sisters of Providence new leadership team.
Sisters Dawn Tomaszewski, Jenny Howard, Jeanne Hagelskamp and Lisa Stallings all attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College at the same time. While they did not all graduate together, they knew each other quite well.
“Jeanne, Lisa and I entered the Congregation together in 1975,” Sister Dawn said. “There were four others in our ‘band.’ Of the seven of us, all were at the college at the same time. Sue Pietrus (RIP) graduated in 1972; Jeanne in 1973; Lisa, Wendy Workman (RIP) and I in 1974; and Mary Ann De Fazio and Kathy Scheewe (she left after first vows) in 1975.”
Sister Jenny also graduated from the college in 1974. However, she took a little longer to make her way to the Congregation.
“Those of us discerning entering the Congregation after graduating from the college were asked to work at least a year before applying for entrance. I, along with Jeanne, Lisa, Dawn and others, applied to enter the Congregation in the fall of 1975,” Sister Jenny said. “I remember clearly the day when Sister Bernice Kuper called and said, ‘Jenny you have been accepted, and your entrance date is …’ And I said, ‘Thank you! Can I call you back later?
“Later for me was 1983. Though I missed being with my friends and classmates in formation, those years were very good and growth-filled years for me.”
Sister Lisa said while they all were at the college, there were never any specific discussions among all of them about entering the Congregation “I don’t know that I’d say there was a pact as such,” Sister Lisa said. “But I do remember a conversation with Sue Pietrus during which she said something like, ‘We don’t want to get to be old women saying maybe we should have tried it.’”
“In fact, I had no idea that Dawn and Lisa were entering in 1975 until after I had been accepted into the postulancy,” Sister Jeanne added.
In college they didn’t see much of each other in the classroom.
“I was a biology major, so we didn’t share many classes,” Sister Jenny said.
“We all had different majors, although Jeanne and I were in a math class together at one point, and she really changed my career path,” Sister Lisa said. “I thought I wanted to be a math major at one point, until the second semester of Sister Jean Fuqua’s geometry class. One day, I realized I was shaking my head in bewilderment while Jeanne was nodding hers in apparently perfect understanding. I knew at that moment all I needed to know about my future as a student or teacher of math!”
“I totally forgot that Lisa and I were in geometry together. I loved that class!” Sister Jeanne added. “But, because I was a year ahead of them, I didn’t share any of my core classes in common with them either.”
“I did have some basic core classes that would have included Lisa and Jenny, humanities for example,” Sister Dawn said. “Lisa and I were in a play writing class later on.”
In fact, Sister Dawn and Sister Lisa lived together their senior year.
“We were roommates,” Sister Dawn said. “But I don’t really remember talking with her much about joining the Congregation. Sue was probably the most committed to entering, but she was a little older than we were.”
“Dawn put up with me through the semester of student teaching,” Sister Lisa said. “It was my first experience of being a night person with a day job and her first experience of living with someone who sat up in bed at night and said, ‘forsooth.’”
“There was a very strong group of Sisters of Providence teaching at the college at that time,” Sister Dawn added. “I was very attracted to them and to their spirit. They were wonderful teachers. I wanted to be like them, and I could see myself in them.”
Love of music
One thing that connected all of them was a love of music.
“Music was probably what drew us together,” Sister Dawn said. “Sue, Lisa and I were all in chorale. That’s really how I got to know Sue and Lisa. And lots of us played the guitar – Jenny, Jeanne, Lisa and I.”
“We all did go to the 5 p.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Chapel and played guitar, and were friendly with one another,” Sister Jeanne added.
Sister Dawn said she is thrilled to have the opportunity to minister with Sisters Lisa, Jeanne and Jenny.
“Certainly those college days were formative in shaping my understanding of community, in sharpening my resolve to lead a life of service and in deepening my sense of God present in my life,” Sister Dawn said. “I am delighted to call the Woods my home and to have traveled community life as a Sister of Providence with these friends and classmates of mine!”
Sister Mary Beth Klingel – who will also minister on the leadership team – said she is looking forward to the next five years.
“I feel a closeness to and affection for each of the women with whom I will be serving,” Sister Mary Beth said. “I look forward to the future and whatever Providence has in store.”
Speaking of Providence, Sister Lisa’s answer to what brought the sisters on the leadership team together is quite obvious.
“Providence. Of course,” she said.
(Originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of HOPE magazine.)