Sister Dorothy Drobis (formerly Sister Irene Therese)
Adeline Dorothy Drobis was born February 20, 1932, in Chicago to August and Veronica Kowalski Drobis. She attended Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Mercy and St. Mark elementary schools, and Providence High School in Chicago – all places where she came to know the Sisters of Providence, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Dorothy Drobis, formerly Sister Irene Therese, who passed away on October 15, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 88 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 68 years.
Sister Ann continued: An only child, her Polish parents so valued education that they did not allow Dorothy to help with after meal dishes and other household chores. She was to study!
After graduation from Providence in 1950, Dorothy wanted to enter the community, but her mother, especially, wanted her to work and to wait a few years. Eventually, Dorothy was allowed to enter February 2, 1952, with her parents’ blessing. One of her aunts, however, was not pleased – Dorothy had earlier promised to be her bridesmaid. The wedding took place on the very day she entered. Fortunately, the aunt understood! As Dorothy’s journey continued, she received her religious name, Sister Irene Therese. Later, when we were asked about going back to our baptismal name, she wanted to go to Adeline … but the song “Sweet Adeline” was popular then and she thought it would be too vain, so she returned to her middle name, Dorothy.
Dorothy was received into the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence August 15, 1952, and on the same date made her first and perpetual profession of vows, in 1954 and 1959, respectively.
Dorothy earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s in elementary education from Northern Illinois University. Both degrees held her in good stead as she taught in elementary school for 40 years in Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and most frequently, in Chicago.
Dorothy loved teaching and from all accounts was excellent at her craft. She especially liked fourth grade and loved teaching in underserved and poorer parish schools. Knowing this, her cousins would give her a check each year for her to buy teaching supplies for herself or give to other teachers. And doesn’t this sound like Dorothy? At the end of each school year, her cousin Karen would receive an itemized list accounting for every penny spent by her or by other teachers.
Having no siblings, Dorothy was fortunate to have nine first cousins on her mother’s side who from early ages and into adulthood, loved to celebrate together for special occasions: Holidays, weddings, showers, baby christenings. In fact, from what has been shared with me by her cousin Karen, especially, they did not need much of an excuse to come together.
Evidence of this celebrative spirit and of the cousins’ special regard for Dorothy was the way they celebrated her Jubilees. For her 25th at Maternity BVM School, the family had quite a large reception and meal for family and friends. Before the gathering, Dorothy’s instruction to her sisters was, “Be sure you clean the baseboards.” Besides hosting the party, her housemates surprised her with their own special 25th Jubilee greetings, making use of a lookalike front page of the daily newspaper, which screamed the headline – Adeline Drobiskowski celebrates 25th Jubilee!
(You see, Dorothy had let it slip one time that “way back,” the family name had been Drobiskowski, so she got plenty of razzing about that. In fact, she got plenty of razzing about a lot of things, especially from Sisters Patty Fillenwarth and Laura McLaughlin, her housemates at BVM convent!)
For her 50th Jubilee, to honor Dorothy’s years as a dedicated teacher, the cousins created an honors program annual scholarship at the University of Illinois at Chicago to be awarded to a junior or senior majoring in education who intended to teach in an urban environment.
For her 60th Jubilee, the cousins pooled their resources and adopted alpacas at White Violet Center – four of them! Her family loved her reaction – “she was like a little girl again.” But, dear cousins, there is “a rest of the story” I don’t believe you know. Dorothy went to her General Officer and explained how much she liked the gift from her family and went on then to lament, “But what am I going to do with four alpacas!! I need a new pair of shoes!” Needless to say, she was soon shopping for the new shoes and all was well.
When Dorothy retired from teaching, she enjoyed a sabbatical year at Aquinas Institute of Theology. Besides the usual nervousness of a ne endeavor in a new place with strangers, Dorothy was very concerned that the program involved men religious as well as women. She felt she should have a long, modest bathrobe! Her cousins took her shopping. She tried several on, having them check its length to make sure it completely covered her ankles. Having finally found one, she expressed her concern that it was too expensive. The cousins quickly pointed out that the robe was on sale that day AND they also had coupons. Only then did she acquiesce to the purchase.
Dorothy’s frugal nature often surfaced. One story told and re-told at BVM convent was that she inquired about saving three green beans left from the evening meal. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Drobiskowski, throw them out!” was the exasperated reply from Sister Laura. With all this teasing, it seems incredible that Dorothy would often tell others that her years at BVM were some of the happiest of her religious life.
Dorothy was also known for “rituals.” In the classroom, it was the response to her signal that children put their books away, folded their hands on the desk and became very quiet. In the convent, it was her ritual of sitting in the same chair every day at breakfast. Sometimes, her housemates would tease her by deliberately sitting in “her” chair. She also seemed to have a “ritual” of asking questions. She would often ask questions of her principal, Sister Patty, about the day’s routine, time of meetings, other arrangements, etc. All of this questioning occurred while Patty wanted to begin her day in quiet. In later years, when sister drivers would take Dorothy to doctor’s appointments, questions would abound all the way there and back. Many of us know that Dorothy was a worrier, so perhaps answers to her many questions eased her mind and gave her assurance.
After retiring from teaching, Dorothy spent five more years in Chicago managing the Memorial program at Misericordia Home. In 2000, she returned to the Motherhouse where she was coordinator of transportation for health care for five years before engaging in a variety of ministries in residential services.
While at the Woods, Sister Dorothy companioned and mentored two women on their journey to become Providence Associates, Nancy McCaskey and Donna Gilmore. Nancy shared, “As a lifelong Episcopalian, I often peppered her with questions about Catholicism during our meetings. Her answers were ever ready; her faith was palpable.
“The more time we spent together, it became evident that she was much, much more than a companion or mentor. We are blessed to have been Sister Dorothy’s friends. She later accompanied me along my path of conversion to Catholicism.”
Providence Associate Donna Gilmore remembers Dorothy as “a quiet unassuming lady who was steadfast in her faith and had all the answers to my many questions. I also took delight in the fact that she liked Chinese food and chocolate ice cream! Everyone who knew Dorothy will deeply miss her.”
Nancy also recalled that “Sister Dorothy loved to tell jokes and would often write them down, as a reminder to share them when next they met. She generously shared stories about her childhood, and her decision to become a nun. I was in awe of her strength and convictions.”
During Dorothy’s years as a resident in health care, her cousins continued to be very faithful to her, visiting her often, to Dorothy’s great pleasure and delight.
As we can see from this brief sketch of Dorothy’s life journey, God has been her Good Shepherd and she, in turn, has been a good shepherd to others – sharing God’s love and her teaching skills with children for 40 years, as well as being faithful and dedicated family member, sister in community, companion, mentor and servant to others. May she now enjoy those green and restful waters of abundant life in God’s presence for all eternity. Lay your worries aside now, Dorothy, and rest in peace.
Funeral services for Sister Dorothy took place on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Virtual Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Funeral Outside Mass at 11 a.m.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Dorothy in the comment section below.
Memorial contributions may be made in Sister Dorothy’s honor to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Sister Dorothy Drobis (formerly Sister Irene Therese)
In Indiana: Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1954-56); Teacher, St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis (1956-58); Teacher, St. Anne Mars Hill (1958-59); Coordinator of Health Care Transportation for Providence Hall, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2000-06); Health Care/Residential Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2007-16); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2016-2020)
In North Carolina: Teacher, St. Patrick, Fayetteville (1959-62)
In Oklahoma: Teacher, Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City (1962-65); Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Tulsa (1965-66); Teacher, Immaculate Conception, Tulsa (1969-70)
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Joseph, Downers Grove (1966-69); Teacher, St. Sylvester, Chicago (1970-73); Teacher, St. Andrew, Chicago (1973-76); Teacher, Maternity BVM, Chicago (1976-84); Teacher, St. Mark, Chicago (1984-94); Coordinator of Memorial Program, Misericordia Home-North, Chicago (1995-2000)
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