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Sister Terese Marie Havlik

Sister Terese Marie Havlik

When I recall Sister Terese Marie walking around the hallways at Providence, I always think of two things – her beautiful smile and her readiness to give or to receive a hug. Her sweet smile radiated kindness and love and seemed to come from a peace within, as the psalmist says in Psalm 131, her soul seemed quieted “as a child resting on its mother’s breast.” Indeed through the years she was described as “a quiet person.” Sister Maureen Sheahan who lived with her for many years said, “Terese was a solitary person and did not engage in many community, parish, or school events, even though she could be very social,” said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Terese Marie Havlik, who died on Monday, July 9, 2018, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 89 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 70 years.

Sister Ann continued:  Marie Florence Havlik was born on May 5, 1929, in Chicago, to Martin and Mary Jurasek Havlik. Her brother Martin, her sister Pauline, and her twin-sister Lillian, all preceded her in death. We are delighted that her niece, Sharon Legwinski and her husband Paul are with us today.

Marie Florence attended St. Ludmilla Grade School and Providence High School, where she was one of the brightest in her class each year and where, of course, she came to know the Sisters of Providence. She entered the community on February 2, 1948, six months after her graduation, and was given her religious name, Terese Marie. She professed both first and perpetual vows on August 15, 1950 and 1955, respectively.

Sister Terese Marie earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in Guidance Counseling from Northern Illinois University.

Terese Marie was an elementary school teacher all her life, teaching grades three and four initially, and then moving on to grades seven and eight. She ministered 57 years in the classroom, the last two as a substitute teacher. She frequently taught Language Arts and no pupil left her classroom without knowing how to diagram a sentence. Six years spent as a caregiver to her niece Renee rounded off her 63 years of active ministry. She served in Indiana and California, before becoming anchored in the Chicago area for 48 years, 20 of them at Divine Savior Grade School in Norridge. She returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, not too willingly, in 2013.

I had requested to see Terese Marie’s file from the Office of Records and said to Rosemary, “Given Terese’s quiet and unassuming persona, there probably will not be much.” I was wrong! I learned a great deal about her from the many papers in her file.

Her students greatly admired her and she must have been an excellent teacher. One student listed her as his favorite teacher at Divine Savior School. “She made me work harder in my studies. She was always there for me, and for that, I thank her.” A newspaper clipping attested to her creativity as a teacher, having her eighth grade students create small “spool puppets” for Catholic Schools week, using them to teach about avoiding drugs, gangs and violence.

Referencing her teaching, she herself wrote, “Each day of my religious life, I prayed this prayer which I taught to my eighth grade students: ‘Father, help me through this day that it may be spent in your service in all my thoughts, words and actions. Help me to fulfill your will faithfully out of love for you and for my brothers and sisters.’”

A doctor in Fort Wayne who was taught by Terese Marie as an eighth grader at St. John the Baptist recounted to Sister Jackie Hoffman the time when he and his classmates decided to play a joke on Terese Marie by leaving a dead mouse on her chair (or perhaps it was a bug or snake; he could not recall). Upon seeing the critter, the usually calm Terese Marie let out a yell, which of course, caused the students to erupt in gales of laughter and additional yelling. It was loud enough to attract the school principal who appeared in the doorway and sternly asked, “What is going on?!” To which a now composed Terese Marie replied, “Oh nothing, we’re just having a little fun.” The eighth grade student, now a doctor, was so impressed that Terese Marie did not bring down the ire of the principal on them and the sure punishment of several detentions, even though he knew the class deserved it.

In a questionnaire, when asked how she felt her life affected the lives of those to whom she ministered, she responded, “I teach and model different forms of prayer in my religion class. I have been told by my students that their prayer life has been deepened and enriched. I try to develop in them an awareness of God’s presence and closeness in their lives.”

She herself was a lifelong learner and had many pages of documentation in her file noting classes and workshops she had taken over the years in religious education, for professional growth, and for enrichment. She also attended cultural events and was a member of several professional organizations.

Sister Rosemary Borntrager shared this memory, “Sisters Terese Marie and Teresa Ann Callahan were at Divine Savior Parish in Chicago where my elderly parents lived. From time to time, the two sisters would go to visit them. After mom moved to a nursing home, dad was alone for the very first time, so I would call him in the evening to ask about his day and how he was. This one very hot summer night, I made my usual call. No answer. An hour later, I called and still no answer. By this time, it was almost 10 p.m., and I was panicking! So I called Divine Savior and asked if Terese Marie and Teresa Ann would drive over and see whether dad was OK. Bless them, they went right away. They found dad, standing with the hose and watering his precious garden and lawn in the cool of the night. Dad told me later that since they were in his way he was all set to aim the hose at them for a good watering when he realized just in time who they were.”

Terese Marie had a good sense of humor. A photo in her file reveals her standing by the portrait of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin in Rome for the beatification. This note was on the back of the photo: “Proof that yours truly was in Rome and not vacationing elsewhere.”

On the same questionnaire mentioned earlier, she wrote of Mother Theodore: “It was Mother Theodore’s person, energy and saintly living that drew me to her and eventually became the ideal upon which I model my life and ministry. When I visited Ruillé, I experienced closeness to Mother Theodore that has remained with me through the years.

In recent years, those of us here at the Woods frequently saw Sisters Millie Geisler and Terese Marie together on a daily basis. In the hall for a walk, ambling to church, going together to Taizé. One would assume they had been friends for life. Well, here’s the rest of the story told to me by Millie who said I could share it.

Shortly after Terese moved to Lourdes Hall, already with some memory loss, she came to Millie’s room and asked if she could please help her. Sure, was the reply, even though Millie had never seen or talked to Terese before that evening. When no specific help was mentioned, Millie sensed Terese was lonely, so she determined that she would let Terese stay as long as she wanted and help her in any way she could. That was about three and a half years ago! The visits continued; Millie befriended Terese and became her faithful companion, getting Terese where she needed to go, letting her come to her room whenever she wished. “I would have let her sleep in my bed, had she wanted to, and I would have slept in my chair.”

Millie said Terese loved Taizé service and said, Terese was “so thrilled during the second one that she attended that she was brave enough to light a candle and place it in the sand. She just beamed.”

I found this story very touching. We often talk about the importance of relationships, about “Helping Ourselves Meaningfully Engage.” I think for the last three and a half years, we have witnessed what that looks like in practice. I also believe that Millie beautifully modeled a ministry of presence, which can continue even when our own health diminishes. Thanks, Sister Millie!

Sharon, sister’s niece who is with us today said her memories of her Aunt Mary fell into three categories: service, education and beer!

Service: Aunt Mary always put her family ahead of her own needs. Whenever she was needed, she would be there. I remember when my mom, her twin, was having problems taking care of my dad who was failing. All it took was a phone call to her sister. Aunt Mary, after hearing she was needed, only asked, “When do you need me to be there?” Rain or shine, she would be there. She was so selfless! It was the same when Aunt Mary came home to care for each of her parents until they passed away. And again when her older sister, Pauline was ill. Aunt Mary assisted her nieces, Charmaine and Renee in caring for their mom. Then, Aunt Mary became both companion and medical advocate for her niece, Charmaine, as she battled pancreatic cancer. And finally, became the executor for Renee’s Special Needs Trust that Charmaine had lovingly created for her sister. Aunt Mary had a strong hand in helping this fund grow to become the generous donation to the Sisters of Providence upon Renee’s passing.

Education: Aunt Mary loved being a teacher. She was not only an educator in the classroom, but out of the classroom loved to inspire her nieces and nephews through reading. When Aunt Mary had extra points left from ordering scholastic books for her own students, she would use the leftover points to order free books for her young family members. They would always be so excited to see what “goodies” Aunt Mary brought them on her visits. I can remember her saying that “Reading was the key to learning.” She was so proud when each of them graduated from college, feeling she had a small role to play in their academics.

And, beer: Aunt Mary loved her beer! She was the daughter of the head executive of Canadian Ace Brewery in Chicago. As an adult, when Aunt Mary would visit our home in Wisconsin, during the hot summer months, she would always enjoy an afternoon snack of pretzels and beer sitting in the cool shade of our backyard tree with my dad. And when my husband, Paul, just happened to work for Miller Brewing Company, it became an automatic that he would send Aunt Mary back to the convent with a case of her much loved Miller Lite. Our family saying became, “Auntie, don’t forget – beer for prayers!”

And so, dear Aunt Mary, dear Sister Terese Marie, walk on! Enjoy your daily walks around the halls of heaven – meeting God face to face, reuniting with your beloved family members and hugging our dear Mother Theodore – for all of us!

Funeral services for Sister Terese Marie took place on Thursday, July 19, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Wake took place at 9 a.m., with Mass of Christian Burial taking place at 11 a.m.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Terese Marie in the comment section below.

Sister Terese Marie Havlik

Teacher for 55 years in schools in Indiana, California and Illinois

In Indiana: St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis (1950-54), St. Anthony, Indianapolis (1954-55), St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1959-65).

In California: St. Teresa, Los Angeles (1955-57), St. Joseph, Hawthorne (1957-58), St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys (1958-59).

In Illinois: St. Mark, Chicago (1965-66), Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago (1966-1977), St. Joseph, Downers Grove (1977-1985), Divine Savior School, Norridge (1985-2005).

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Leisten on July 14, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    Sr. Terese Marie was one of the most inspiring people I had ever worked with. We each had 8th grade home rooms at Our Lady of Mercy school in Chicago for the Six Years I taught there. She was wonderful to work with. In my early tears of teaching, I learned a lot from her. I only hoped that because of our close working relationship she may have learned one or two things from me too. The Archdiocese of Chicago School System surely misses her.

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