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// VOL 11 //

// NO 3 //






Best friends




My family...


Dear Friends of Nazareth,

The upcoming holiday season,

beginning with Thanksgiving and

ending with the Epiphany, is a season

which is like no other as we celebrate

“family.” Within this holiday season,

we see many illustrations of the Holy

Family, especially the birth of Jesus.

These artworks depict such serenity

and peacefulness. You might be

thinking, “Not like my family!”

Every family has the potential to be

holy. What does God mean when

scripture records, “Be holy, for I

the Lord am holy”? The most basic

meaning of holiness is to belong to

God. This describes a relationship that

God has established and desires with

all people, especially families. Family is

all about relationship and a holy family

is one in which the relationship with

God is important.

How does a family cultivate this

relationship? Like any relationship,

our relationship with God takes time

and practice. Relationship with God

is cultivated by practices which I

am sure you already do within your

families. Let’s look at a few:

First, families prioritize their

relationship with God through

worship. Going to Mass as a family

and attending spiritual opportunities

“Be holy, for I, the Lord,

am holy.” (Leviticus 20:26)

offered by parishes as a family creates

real participation in the life of the


Second, families live out their faith

at home by practicing devotion. For

example, praying before mealtime

and creating holiday traditions in

your family contribute to a simple

devotional life within the family.

Devotion brings faith into everyday

life where the work of authentic

spirituality is begun.

Third, families that live and work as a

team lead each other to discipleship.

Things such as celebrating birthdays,

establishing Advent and Lenten rituals,

and reading Bible stories together

create an atmosphere of God-in-theordinary.

In the end, family holiness is whatever

enables you and your family to

celebrate the love that comes from

God’s own Heart. It helps you and

your family discover all the ways that

life is a gift and allows you to help

each other become everything God

created you to be.

So is your family, my family, holy? You

bet! No matter how your family is

configured, striving to find God in the

ordinary, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph

in Nazareth, puts you on the road to

holiness one step at a time.

During this holy season, I want to

assure you, dear Friends, of the

prayers of all the Sisters in Holy

Family Province for you and your

families. You will all be remembered

most especially during the Novena to

the Holy Family.

May you and your loved ones have

a Blessed celebration of the Birth of

Jesus and a happy and holy New Year!

Lovingly in JMJ,

Sister M. Barbara Jean Wojnicki

Provincial Superior


We invite you to pray with us, to listen to God’s call with us and to love with us

as we find God in ordinary experiences. Learn more about our community life,

our ministries and our mission at nazarethcsfn.org/join-us. Or contact

Sr. Emmanuela Le, CSFN, National Vocation Director, at 972-641-4496 x111

or vocations@nazarethcsfn.org.




4 An Extended Family:

Holy Family Service

Corps’ Volunteers




12 English Around the World:

Sharing Language with

Sisters and Seminarians



VOLUME 11 //



Nazareth Connections is published

three times a year by the Sisters of

the Holy Family of Nazareth

in the USA.


Tammy Townsend Kise


Sr. Clare Marie Kozicki

Sr. Jude Carroll

Sr. Lucille Madura

Editorial Board:

Sr. Angela Szczawinska

Sr. Barbara Frances Samp

Sr. Carol Szott

Sr. Jude Carroll

Sr. Kathleen Ann Stadler

Sr. Lucille Madura

Sr. Marcelina Mikulska

Sr. Marcella Louise Wallowicz

Sr. Mary Louise Swift

Sr. Teresilla Kolodziejczyk

Katherine Barth


6 Sr. Marcella Binkowski,



8 Testing the Waters: What is


10 The Beginning of a

Holy Family: A Vocation



16 Srs. M. Blanche (Stephanie)

Zalewski, M. Eileen Drummy,

M. Marcella (Eleonore) Falat, M.

Monica (Olimpia) Mikutel


19 Funding the Needs of

Our Sisters


McDaniels Marketing

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please contact:

Communications Department

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth

310 N. River Road,

Des Plaines, IL 60016

847-298-6760, x144





Sr. Marcella Binkowski, CSFN, Dean of Students at Holy Family

University, with Kayleen Hutchinson, a senior at the university.




An extended





In August, the Sisters of the Holy

Family of Nazareth (CSFN) and Holy

Family Institute (HFI) welcomed

Liz Fairchild, 27, of Fairfax, MN,

and Mathew Jury, 23, of Conneaut,

OH, as Holy Family Service Corps’

inaugural volunteers. The service

corps program is designed to

provide volunteers with a rich sense

of service, community, faith and

professional development.

After a rigorous application and

interview process, Liz and Mathew

were chosen to live in community

on Holy Family Institute’s Emsworth,

PA campus and volunteer at various

ministries in the Pittsburgh area,

gaining hands-on experience.

They were also each assigned a

Sister Companion, a CSFN who

volunteered to share this journey.

The Sister Companion aspect of the

program provides volunteers with

opportunities to experience the

warm, family-like hospitality of the

Sisters while giving them a personal

guide to assist with challenges that

may arise during the year.

“I admire these young people for

taking a leap of faith to find out how

God is calling them and to be open

in faith, love and hope for the journey

that lies before them and within

them,” said Sr. Maria Kruszewski, who

serves as Liz’s Sister Companion. “I

also enjoy their youth and spirit and

how their eyes light up when they talk

about their experiences.”

Liz, who graduated with honors from

Minnesota West Community and

Technical College with an associate’s

degree in child development, said, “It’s

really nice to have a Sister Companion

since I’m so far away from my family.

Sr. Maria calls me every night to see

how I’m doing. It’s reassuring to know

that someone is there to help me.”

Sr. Gerri Wodarczyk, who serves as

Mathew’s Sister Companion, is helping

him with what he calls his “informal

discernment process.” In her role

as Delegate for Religious in the

Pittsburgh Diocese, she connected

Mathew with a discernment retreat

where he was able to meet other

young people considering their


“Ultimately, the Sisters in Pittsburgh

and our Sister Companions have

served as our new extended

family during the service corps,”

said Mathew, who graduated with

a bachelor of science degree in

criminalistics and forensic biology

from Mercyhurst University in Erie,

PA in May 2017.

Sr. Gerri describes herself as a

“pioneer” in this program, as she

learns how to serve as a companion.

“I take opportunities to text, e-mail,

phone or visit with Mathew,” she

said. “I have invited him for a few

experiences within my diocesan

ministry and have tried to introduce

him to the lived experience of our

CSFN charism in the everyday.”

Following this inaugural year, CSFNs

in collaboration with HFI and other

sponsored ministries plan to continue

growing the program with as many as

10 volunteers accepted annually.

As part of the program, volunteers

receive an opportunity to earn an

education grant at the conclusion of

their service.

Reflecting on this new experience,

Sr. Gerri said, “I enjoy the opportunity

to learn from another generation of


* * *

For more information on the Holy

Family Service Corps program, including

information on how to apply, please

contact Lynn Guerra, volunteer program

director, at 412/766-9020 ext. 1304 or

Guerra.lynn@hfi-pgh.org, or visit


Sr. Karen Kellereski, Mathew Jury,

Liz Fairchild, Sr. Gerri Wodarczyk

and Sr. Audrey Merski

Liz and Mathew with Sr. Karen


Liz with her Sister Companion,

Sr. Maria Kruszewski




how her day was going, what was on

her schedule to do, etc. Sister is a

very kind person and very easy to talk

to, so I felt comfortable coming to her

with problems I was having.

Sr. Marcella

Binkowski, BFF


by Kayleen Hutchinson, Holy Family

University student

Coming from Scranton, I didn’t know

anyone when I first arrived at Holy

Family University [in Philadelphia].

One of the first friends I made was

Ryan Keller, and he was the person

who convinced me to go to an open

Student Government Association

(SGA) meeting, which led me to

officially joining SGA and also meeting

my BFF [best friend forever]: Sr.

Marcella Binkowski, CSFN.

During this SGA meeting, I brought

up some points during the open floor

discussion. I remember Sister leaning

over to me once I was done talking

and saying all the points I made were

very good. She was glad someone

was finally bringing attention to them.

After that first encounter with Sister,

I found myself popping into her office

to say hello every time I walked by.

This eventually evolved into me going

into her office a few days a week just

to talk about school, work, home,

I also find it amazing how, with all she has to do as

the Dean of Students that she still manages to find

the time in her hectic schedule to sit with and get

to know students, like me, on a personal basis.

– Kayleen Hutchinson

One of the problems I had was

affording my books. I went into

Sister’s office and talked with her

about how money is tight. With books

being so expensive, I wasn’t sure

how my family and I were going to

be able to afford them. That’s when

she offered to see if I would qualify

for a Barnes and Noble scholarship

that would help pay for the books I

needed for my classes. Luckily, I did

qualify, and thanks to Sister’s help,

that scholarship has greatly helped

my family and me financially by paying

for my books. Without Sister, I would

have never found out about the

Barnes and Noble scholarship. I would

probably be a lot worse off financially

than I am today.

Sr. Marcella has been a great influence

on my life. I see every day how

she handles completing all of her

responsibilities and tasks in just a

mere 24-hour day. If you have ever

taken a glance at her calendar, you

would swear someone spit a bunch of

Skittles all over it with the different

colors for the seemingly never-ending

meetings she has day in and day out!

I also find it amazing how, with all she

has to do as the Dean of Students,

that she still manages to find the time

in her hectic schedule to sit with and

get to know students, like me, on a

Sr. Marcella with HFU student

Kayleen Hutchinson


personal basis. I always jump at the

opportunity to tell anyone that will

listen how great Sister is, and that she

is my BFF. Having Sr. Marcella in my

life has truly been a blessing, and I am

very grateful for all that she has done

and continues to do, not only for me,

but for all the students here at Holy

Family University.

* * *

Kayleen will graduate with a bachelor’s

degree in criminal justice and with a

minor in sociology from Holy Family

University (HFU) in Philadelphia in

December 2017. She plans to continue

with HFU’s criminal justice Master’s

program and hopes, eventually, to do

social work with older adults.

Sr. Marcella Binkowski entered the Sisters

of the Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN)

in September 1964 and currently serves

as Dean of Students at HFU, a sponsored

ministry of the CSFNs. She holds a

doctorate in education from Vanderbilt


Is there a Sister of the Holy

Family of Nazareth who

inspires you? Tell us your

story, in 500 words or less,

and we may share it with

other friends of Nazareth

in upcoming publications.

Submit your Sister Story

to Tammy Townsend

Kise, Communications

Director, ttownsend@

nazarethcsfn.org. (All

stories will be reviewed and

edited. Publication is not


Pray the

Holy Family

Novena with

the Sisters

The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the

Sunday between Christmas and January 1. This year,

the Feast falls on December 31. Since 1989, friends of

the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth have joined

us in praying the special Holy Family Novena, written

by Sr. Cathy Fedewa, CSFN, for the nine days leading

up to this feast.

We invite you to join in spirit with this worldwide

time of prayer and to use this Novena at any time of

the year. To order copies of the Novena, available in

English, Spanish and Polish, please use the form on

page 19 or visit nazarethcsfn.org/about-us/nazarethprayers.









by Sr. Michele Vincent Fisher, Provincial


Several years ago, I purchased a

painting at a Nazareth Academy High

School Art Fair. Not only did I want

to support the student artists, but I

was deeply drawn by the image in the

painting. It was an image of a young

woman taking a walk on the beach.

Her gaze seemed to be both outward

into the distance and at the same

time, downward, at her feet, as she

temptingly dangled one foot out into

the water, as if to be testing it.


At the time, I was serving as the

province Vocation Director, and I

immediately saw in this painting a

perfect tool to start a conversation

with those who would come to me

to discern their life’s direction. I hung

the painting in a prominent spot in

the hallway outside my office so that

everyone who passed by could get

a glimpse of it. When I moved to

Chicago in 2013, the painting came

along with me and still sits in my

office, inviting me into its story. It

speaks to me about discernment and

faith and dreams and possibilities. It

invites me in my everyday choices and

decisions to dare to go deeper, to risk

the unknown and to “test the waters”

of promise and possibility.

This journey we call “life” is like the ocean, ebbing and flowing, drawing us out

into the depths and back again to the safety of the shore – a rhythm that echoes

the rhythm of our own breathing and pulse.

– Sr. Michele Vincent Fisher

This journey we call “life” is like the

ocean, ebbing and flowing, drawing us

out into the depths and back again

to the safety of the shore – a rhythm

that echoes the rhythm of our own

breathing and pulse. Discernment is

like the boat that takes us from one

point to the next, following the tides

and the winds. Genuine discernment

helps us to really embrace life’s

adventures, to get the most out of

every experience, even the ones that

at first seem insignificant. It is up to

us how much we are willing to engage

in this art of discernment as we go

through life.

Many people have heard the word

“discernment” and consider it as a

basic means of decision making in

which one carefully weighs the costs

and benefits or the pros and cons of

a particular decision or invitation and

then makes the most advantageous

choice. While this is certainly one

part of discernment, it basically comes

down to a question of “What’s in it

for me?”

For us as Christians, discernment is

not just about what is good or bad,

advantageous or disadvantageous, but

it is about what is transformational.

Discernment begets the question not

of “what’s in it for me?” but “how

will this transform the world around

me?” Discernment seeks the good

of the other as well as the common

good. Discernment searches for the

affirmation that the happiness I seek

is the happiness that comes from

aligning my dreams with the dreams

God has for me, without falling into

the trap of thinking that God has

only one plan for my life and He’s not

telling me what it is!

God wants us to test the waters! If

Saint Peter didn’t have the courage

to step out of the boat and tread

on the sea, he never would have felt

the saving grasp of Jesus’ arm, nor

experienced the power of his own

faith. Testing the waters doesn’t mean

that I have to fully immerse myself into

every possibility that comes my way

or treat life like a buffet where I pile

my plate high and end up overstuffed.

Testing the waters through good

discernment means losing my fear

of the “what if’s” or “should haves”

that keep me from experiencing the

fullness of life. It means looking both

ways before I cross the street, but also

taking the next right step, aware of the

signs of life all around me and being

attuned to the internal stirrings within

me. Testing the waters through a good

discernment process gives me the

time I need to hold the experience

and the courage I need to let it go

when I no longer need it. Good

discernment helps me to understand

that I am not only in this world to

shine my light, but to shine it together

with others and for others. As I

cooperate with the action of grace

in my life, am I able to feel the sand

shift beneath my feet, ready to risk the

waves, willing to test the waters?

Sr. Michele entered the Sisters of the

Holy Family of Nazareth in June 1989.

She currently serves as a provincial

councilor in Des Plaines, IL.

LEFT: Rebecca Gutherman and her

fiance Joseph Conte, Read their

discernment story on page 10. Photo

by Mary Gutherman and Mary Kate


ABOVE: Sr. Michele at Ocean City,

NJ beach with young women of

CREW, a week-long service and

community opportunity.




The beginning

of a holy family


by Tammy Townsend Kise,

Communications Director

Joseph (Joe) Conte and Rebecca

(Becca) Gutherman first met at

Immaculata University’s Welcome

Week in Malvern, PA during a

“graffiti dance,” an icebreaker activity

sponsored by the school. At the event,

each participant received a white

t-shirt and a marker. They were asked

to introduce themselves by writing

their names on each other’s shirts.

Sometime during the event, neither

remembers the exact moment, Joe

Conte’s name appeared on the left

shoulder of Becca’s shirt, a discovery

she didn’t make until several years

later when she came across the shirt.

As education majors, Joe and Becca

shared many of the same classes and

worked on projects together. “But,

what really brought us together,”

said Becca, “was our involvement in

school activities.” They became good

friends, serving together in student

government and as orientation

leaders at the university. With a

budding friendship and common

interests, it would seem only natural a

romance might blossom.

But, this relationship was different.

While a student at Nazareth Academy

High School in Philadelphia, Becca

began to express a desire to enter

religious life. She spent the next eight

years praying for “little God winks,”

discerning with two communities of

Catholic sisters, including the Sisters

of the Holy Family of Nazareth


“For so many years, she was known

as the girl who was going to become

a nun,” said Joe, who admits it was

intimidating for both of them to

consider dating. “This wasn’t like

dating another young person in

college. I knew if I was going to go

down this road, I had to be sure.

There could be no doubt.”

Raised in what he describes as “a

traditional Catholic family,” Joe, the

middle of three children, turned to

prayer. For almost a year, he had

many conversations with God about

Becca. “There were so many times

I spent in prayer asking, ‘Are you

sure about this? Maybe I’m doing the

wrong thing.’ It really put my faith

and especially my trust in God to

the test.” Surrounded by words of

hesitancy and doubt from so many

people, Joe knew he was going against

the grain.

“I always believed when I found

the person I wanted to marry, I

would know,” he said. “If I were to

give a moment to it, I would say

Friday, September 12, 2013 at the

intersection of Cheyney and Glen

Mills Road in Glen Mills, PA. It was

5:42, a warm evening with a red sky.

They had just cut the corn in the field

at the corner. I stopped at the fourway

stop. I was the only car, and as

I pulled forward, I knew. I just knew

with absolute certainty this was the

woman I was going to marry and

spend forever with.”

For Becca, the oldest of three girls,

the process was a little longer. At

the time Joe came into her life, she

was considering the pros and cons

of which religious community to join.

“My heart was being torn,” she said

about deciding which community to



“Our senior year [at Immaculata

University], I was still pretty set on

entering religious life,” recalls Becca.

“Joe and I prayed together as friends

and when we were away [separately]

during our weeks of service and

pilgrimage, I realized that I missed

being with him. I missed his friendship,

the conversation and spending time

together. There was a feeling of safety I

had when he hugged me. It was almost

as if we were finally home where we


While they dated, Becca, who is

a campus minister and theology

teacher at Mt. St. Joseph Academy

in Flourtown, PA, continued the

discernment process, staying open to

all the possibilities God might have for

her life.

The summer of Becca and Joe’s

second year together, she spent a

week with the Sisters of the Holy

Family of Nazareth near Chicago,




















“building community, praying together

and having fun.” The desire for that

sense of community she experienced

with the CSFNs was so strong that,

on returning home, she thought it

was time to break up with Joe. Once

again, both Joe and Becca turned to

prayer. They prayed about the need

for community in their lives. “God

kept sending me God-winks pointing

me to Joe,” Becca remembers. “Joe

seemed to be the answer to many of

my prayers.” She also noted that Joe’s

initials are JC and he is a carpenter.

On May 9, Becca’s 25th birthday, she

was scheduled to volunteer at the

soup kitchen after school with some

of her students, but the woman who

runs the kitchen called to let her

know they would be closed that day.

“My evening freed up, so I called Joe

and asked if he might want to get a

small dinner and celebrate quietly,”

Becca said.

They decided on a picnic on Back

Campus, the quad behind Immaculata

University’s main buildings. While

Becca laid out a picnic blanket and

brought out the tacos, her favorite

meal, Joe knelt down on one knee in

the place where many years earlier

Becca told him she wouldn’t date him.

“My heart exploded,” she said.

In December, Joe and Becca will

profess marriage vows to each

other, slightly different vows than

the ones Becca thought she would

be saying. “Joe is my best friend,” she

said. “Religious life or married life,

he’d always be my best friend. For

me, marriage is such an important

vocation in the Church. There’s no

question that wherever we are, we

will be involved in furthering the

mission of the Church.”

And what do they look forward to in

their new journey together? “I can’t

wait to grade papers while he reads

the newspaper. And maybe take walks

together. And, of course, raising a

family,” said Becca. As a CSFN told her,

the world needs holy families, too.

* * *

A version of this story first appeared in

our July 2017 e-newsletter Nazareth

Encounters. Becca continues to serve as a

volunteer at various events for the CSFNs

and remains close to the Sisters who

helped guide her. Becca has also written

about her discernment process since

2011 on her blog “Road Less Traveled”


Becca and Joe will profess their

marriage vows on December

8, 2017 on the Feast of the

Immaculate Conception. Photo by

Mary Gutherman and Mary Kate


Sr. Michele Vincent Fisher, CSFN, with

Becca in 2010.




English around

the world:



Following the XXIV General Chapter of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN) in Rome in 2015, delegates agreed that

CSFNs in initial formation would learn Polish or English, depending on their native language. In response to a May 2016 letter

from Sr. Barbara Jean Wojnicki, provincial superior, asking for U.S. Sisters willing to go to Poland to help Sisters learn English, both

Srs. Mary Ellen Gemmel and Angela Cresswell answered the call.



by Sr. Mary Ellen Gemmel, CSFN

“We are not human beings on a

spiritual journey. We are spiritual

beings on a human journey.” These

words of Stephen Covey, well-known

speaker, author and educator, come

to my mind as I reflect on my recent

experience of going to Poland to help

our Sisters with the English language.

After months of preparation, on May

29, I set out to see what I could do.

Equipped with prayer books given to

me by Fr. Paul Kennedy, pastor of

St. Katherine of Siena Parish,

Philadelphia and having practiced

some helpful expressions in Polish,

prepared lessons and collected our

community brochures, I arrived in

Krakow and spent one night before

the Sisters from Kielce, two and half

hours from Krakow, came to pick me

up and take me to our convent.

Questions about where I would begin

crossed my mind as I took time to

rest after the long journey across the

Atlantic. My questions were not

answered right away. I was also

concerned that time was short, but

trusted in the Lord and the joy of

meeting our Sisters despite limited

ability to use language to

communicate. Daily conversation

revealed that we, as Sisters of the

Holy Family of Nazareth, have the

same concerns about family ministry.

We make many of the same efforts

in promoting vocations and we

experience the same journeys in

helping our Sisters, young and old,

enthusiastic or struggling.

From May 30th to June 30th, ours

was a human journey, graced by our

unity in Blessed Mary of Jesus, the

Good Shepherd, fueled by a desire

to do what we can to get to know

one another and to share what we

have for the good of all. By listening


attentively and faithfully, by sharing

our thoughts on community, prayer,

ministry, vocation promotion, current

events, Catholic education, our history,

our hopes and dreams for Nazareth,

we were able to experience God in

the everyday events of our lives.

I can only place myself before the

Lord and repeat with the psalmist,

“What return can I give to the Lord

for all He has given me?” on this

human journey that has enlivened

my spirit.



by Sr. Angela Cresswell, CSFN

The country and birthplace of Blessed

Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd

(Frances Siedliska) has attracted me

since I entered Nazareth. In the days

of my initial formation, I was drawn

to the mystery of our Foundress and

the story of her life and experiences

in Poland. Fifty years ago, it was much

more common to hear Polish spoken

daily by native Polish Sisters as well as

our American Polish Sisters. Because I

have always been a lover of foreign

languages, I longed to learn that

complicated language punctuated by

the ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ sounds.

My two attempts to study Polish

formally at Holy Family College (now

Holy Family University) fueled my

dream to speak fluently. But alas, what

you do not use, you lose, and I

resigned myself to a solo study of

materials. Over the years, more sisters

from Poland became part of our

American Nazareth and I assisted a

few in learning English. With this

experience, my desire to visit Poland

increased, along with that of teaching

English to our Sisters there.

I accepted the invitation to teach

English during the summer. I think I

responded in the affirmative before

Sr. Barbara Jean Wojnicki finished her


In Poland, the most pervasive and

exhilarating feeling was being

‘at home in Nazareth’ despite the

differences in language and culture. I

was as much a student as any of the

Sisters. I admit that at least a half-hour

of each class period was spent

laughing with my Sisters. My short stay

in Poland leaves me deeply grateful –

especially for our Foundress’ vision

of a Nazareth with no borders – for

thus we have become. I hope I have

left my Sisters with a sense of that

same gratitude.

LEFT: Sr. Angela with her Sister

students in Poland.

ABOVE: CSFNs in Poland sharing

language and laughter with

Sr. Angela.

ABOVE: Sr. Mary Ellen sharing a

love of learning with her Sister




In 2011, Holy Family University in

Philadelphia, with support from the

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth,

began a program to teach English

to seminarians in Vietnam. In 2015,

the Vietnamese government officially

gave permission to open the Catholic

University and the Holy See approved

the establishment of the Catholic

Theological Institute, the first universitylevel

Catholic theological institute in

Vietnam. The opening of the Institute

and University came after a nearly

40-year ban on Catholic schools by the

Vietnamese government. This year, our

Sisters returned to Vietnam to continue

their work helping future priests.




by Sr. Julianna Tran, CSFN, Director of

the English Program for Vietnam at Holy

Family University

At the beginning of our

Congregation’s mission in Vietnam

in 2010, I believe the intention

was to learn more about

Vietnamese culture and traditions

with the hope that, in the future,

we could extend our mission

efforts. In January 2010, I had the

privilege of accompanying

Sr. Janice Fulmer, then CSFN Superior

General, and Sr. Jana Zawieja, then

CSFN Secretary General, on a visit

to Vietnam. For political reasons, the

Congregation was unable to establish

a CSFN community in Vietnam at that

time. However, to honor the request

from Bishop Dominic Nguyen Chu

Trinh of the Xuân Loc Diocese,

Sr. Janice invited Sr. Francesca Onley,

then President of Holy Family

University, to provide English language

instruction at St. Joseph’s Seminary

in Vietnam. I was also invited to join

Holy Family University in carrying out

the Congregation’s mission. My dream

of becoming a nun to serve the poor

and vulnerable had been ingrained in

my mind since I was seven years old.

Although teaching English is not

directly aimed at serving the poor, my

hope is that, if the seminarians

become good priests, they will have a

great influence on thousands of souls

who may be living in material or

spiritual poverty.

The English language students we

work with have the utmost respect

and admiration for their teachers,

and they are always enthusiastic and

polite, allowing the teachers to create

a fun and exciting environment. It is

rewarding for us to observe

the impact of our efforts almost

immediately, as students improve

from the first week to the end of

the course. The students’ efforts

have been absolutely inspiring, and

they give us a sense of fulfillment and


It is a privilege to take part in training

future priests for Vietnam and also for

the Church. The presence of the

Sisters has had an impact on the

seminarians not only helping them

learn the English language, but also

encouraging them to look forward to

serving the Mission of the Church.

Since 2011, the English Summer

program has served more than 600

seminarians. In July 2017, Srs. Michele

Collins, Madeleine Rybicki, Valerie

Powidzki (Holy Spirit Province in

Australia), myself and two lay

volunteer teachers were privileged to

attend the ordination ceremony of 18

seminarians at Cathedral of Xuan Loc.

Those candidates are the first group

among the 50 students who studied

English in summer 2011.




by Sr. Michele Collins, CSFN

While serving the congregation as a

member of the general administration

in 2010, there was a strong desire to

open a mission in Vietnam in order to

extend our outreach to families in a

country where some of our sisters in

the U.S. already had cultural roots.

Although I was well aware of the

beginning dreams for such a mission,

I did not become acutely interested

in teaching English in Vietnam until

2014 when there was a call for Sister

volunteers to help teach English to

the seminarians at Xuan Loc. The

Holy Spirit planted a strong conviction

within me that I had to volunteer. I

thought if I was accepted, it was God’s

will; and, if not, then teaching English

to seminarians was not meant to be

the way I would do missionary work.

I remember how wonderful it was my

first year to be a part of the dedicated

volunteer staff of Holy Family

University and to enjoy the good will

and gratitude of the students. The

opportunity provided a unique way to

share values and beliefs inherent in

the Vietnamese and American

cultures, as well as build diverse

relationships within the Church and

the Holy Family University family.

Since 2014, I have returned each

summer to teach English at the

seminary. This past summer I was also

blessed to teach English to the first

class of priests and religious brothers

at the Catholic Institute in Ho Chi

Minh City. The experience not only

enriched my life, but most importantly

it also helped enable the students to

further enrich their study of theology

and sacred scripture.

I have had many rewarding moments

during the past four summers in

Vietnam. Each one is unique to that

particular year and class. Each summer

there is always a new class of

students, new volunteers and changes

within the seminary community.

Through the years, seminarians

become priests, some priests become

bishops or a bishop retires, and the

volunteers build new relationships

and find new native landscapes to

explore on our free weekends. All

these moments form the whole which

makes us one in the family of God.



by Sr. Madeleine Rybicki, CSFN

My missionary call began in the

third grade. Sr. Virginia, CSFN, was

preparing us to receive our First Holy

Communion. She said that when we

make our First Holy Communion,

we fall in love with Jesus and we

help others by praying for them,

contributing to the pagan babies and

to the poor, and helping missionaries

by selling Christmas cards. By doing

what we could do and praying for

them, we were missionaries. In fourth

grade, I used my fifty-cent allowance

to buy books about the lives of saints.

That is when I fell in love with Father

Damien, whose missionary work led

him to work with lepers. As a young

Sister, I discovered that missionary

work does not necessarily mean

leaving the country.

My out-of-country missionary work

opportunity came when Sr. Janice

Fulmer was elected Superior General

of the Congregation. Sister asked me

to go to the Philippines to provide

training for the Sisters working with

young boys in the group home and

other places. Words are inadequate to

express my delight, joy and gratitude I

experienced in those three months. I

hoped that the time would never end.

Then, in 2015, Sr. Julianna Tran, CSFN,

asked me to join the others in

Vietnam teaching English to

seminarians. My heart skipped a beat

as I answered “yes” without


My first year in Vietnam was like being

at a thirty-day renewal program. At

Mass, hearing the seminarians singing

in their language as well as in English

was glorious.

The Vietnam experience is a chance

to give back the gift of generosity that

I received from my family and the

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

My mom and dad taught me to always

help wherever I can, just as they did.

In 1969, I fell down a cliff to railroad

tracks at Holy Family Institute while

trying to help a child who had fallen.

As I fell, I asked Jesus to help me as I

began my Act of Contrition. He heard

my prayer. I consider it a miracle that I

am alive and can do what I do. That

experience has allowed me to have

empathy, love and the willingness

to help others. God willing, I will

continue to share my talents, skills and

life experience with and for others for

several years to come.

Sr. Michele Collins working with

seminarian students in Vietnam.

Sr. Julianna Tran in Vietnam.

Sr. Madeleine Rybicki among her

students in Vietnam.



In Memoriam

Sr. M. Blanche



January 14, 1925 -

July 27, 2017

Stephanie Zalewski was born in

Chicago to Walter and Casmira

(Matyskiel) Zalewski, the seventh of

eight children. She attended Holy

Trinity Grade School and Holy

Family Academy in Chicago, both

administered by the Sisters of the

Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN).

One day, 18-year-old Stephanie was

flipping through a Catholic Digest

when she saw an inch-square picture

of a sister with the caption, “Why

don’t you become a nun?” She

smiled and put the magazine away,

but continued to be bothered by the

question. She consulted her former

teacher, Sr. Canisia, who said she

thought Stephanie had a vocation.

Stephanie’s response was, “What do I

do with it?”

Stephanie entered the CSFNs on

February 2, 1943, became a novice

on August 18, 1943 and received

the name Sr. Blanche. She professed

first vows on August 2, 1945 and

perpetual vows on September 1, 1951.

For 43 years, Sr. Blanche taught not

only in the Chicago area, but also in

Marayong, Australia, Texas and North

Dakota. She received a Bachelor of

Science Degree in Education from

De Lourdes College in Des Plaines,

IL. She completed the Clinical

Pastoral Education Program at Loyola

University and earned a Master’s

degree in Spirituality at Mundelein

College, both in Chicago.

From 1988 until 2009, she ministered

in pastoral care at St. Mary of

Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, sharing

her gentle and loving presence with


When Sr. Blanche was a patient at

Mayo Clinic, she heard a little boy

sobbing in the room next to her. His

giraffe was missing an eye. Sr. Blanche

cut two buttons from the bottom

of her habit and sewed them on the

stuffed animal for eyes, calming the

small boy. Later, when Sr. Blanche

inquired about the boy, she learned

that he had died on the operating

table. Her kind gesture may have been

one of the last he experienced.

Sr. Blanche once said, “If I had my life

to live over, I would have chosen to

discipline myself sooner, to hope for

the best, expect nothing and accept

whatever is. It seems to me that

would be a means of conforming my

will to the Will of God.”

She died peacefully on July 27, 2017. A

Mass of Resurrection was celebrated

July 29 at the Provincialate Chapel in

Des Plaines, IL. Interment was at All

Saints’ Cemetery.

Sr. M. Eileen


August 8, 1948 -

August 11, 2017

Born in


Eileen was the third child of James

and Virginia Drummy. In December

1963, during her first year at Nazareth

Academy High School in Philadelphia,

the tragic death of her sister, Maureen,

had a traumatic impact on Eileen. The

love and concern of the Sisters of


the Holy Family of Nazareth became

a healing balm that she would later

share with others.

After graduating high school in 1966,

Eileen continued her studies at Holy

Family College (now Holy Family

University) in Philadelphia, where

Sr. Lillian Budny, CSFN, became a

defining influence on her life and

vocation. After completing a B.A. in

History in 1970, Eileen remained close

to the Sisters, taking a position in

medical records at Nazareth Hospital.

Responding to God’s call, she became

a postulant on September 7, 1975

and a novice on August 14, 1976. She

professed her first vows on August 12,


After her final vows on January

19, 1985, Sr. Eileen returned to

the medical records department

at Nazareth Hospital. She earned

an Associate Degree in Health

Records at Gwyndd-Mercy College

(now University) in 1985 and using

her gifted intelligence and savvy

technological skills, she ministered in

healthcare as a coder for more than

30 years.

Sr. Eileen was inspired by scientific and

medical discoveries, fascinated with

mechanical and technical systems, and

explored the cultural and historical

opportunities in the Philadelphia area.

An avid reader, she enjoyed crossword

puzzles, and the works of Thomas

Merton, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis,

Charles Schulz and others. She was

a fan of NPR, Public Television, the

Philadelphia Phillies, cooking shows,

the DIY Network and was a reliable

source for the horses in the running

to win the Triple Crown.

Through her struggles and ill health,

she remained a bona fide original who

understood that the value of wellness

lies in wholeness. Her sense of humor,

quick wit and unassuming nature

enriched her family and sustained lifelong

relationships with faithful friends

who were blessed to know her.

With this final illness, Sr. Eileen was

calm and peaceful, knowing she had

the companionship of her loved

ones on this final journey. She quietly

passed away on August 11, 2017.

The Mass of Resurrection was held

August 17, 2017 at Mount Nazareth

Chapel in Philadelphia. Interment was

at the community cemetery.

Sr. M. Marcella

(Eleonore) Falat

March 18, 1924 -

September 15,


Eleonore was

born in Chicago on March 18, 1924

to Stanley and Catherine (Moskwa)

Falat. The youngest of seven children,

she attended St. Michael School and

transferred to Holy Family Academy

in Chicago for her junior and senior

years. Following graduation, she began

working at Catholic Charities of

Chicago with Bishop Wycislo.

During World War II, Eleonore’s

brother Walter was killed in Germany.

Although she had wanted to enter

the convent earlier, her mother would

not allow her until another brother,

Raymond, returned home from the

Army. With her mother’s permission,

the 22-year-old Eleonore entered the

Congregation on January 12, 1946. She

professed first vows on June 27, 1948

and perpetual vows on August 14,


Sr. Marcella received a Bachelor of

Science in Education from Loyola

University and later a Master’s in

Education and Supervision from

Sienna Heights College.

From 1948-2008, she served as

teacher and principal at schools in the

Chicago area, including Holy Trinity,

Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Patricia,

St. Ladislaus, St. Emily, St. John the

Baptist and Mary of Nazareth. She also

spent three years at St. Andrew the

Apostle School in Texas. Additionally,

she served as a Provincial Councilor

and Director of Ministry.

One of her former students, who

later became a Benedictine priest,

described Sr. Marcella’s serenity and

unobtrusive goodness when he wrote,

“I think often of your kindness and

encouragement to me as a young

boy. You are a wonderful example of

a religious – dedicated, supportive, a

great teacher and above all a leader...”

Sr. Marcella retired in 2008, serving

as a receptionist at the Provincialate.

She was eager to stay involved in the

rhythm of community life and was

a wonderful example of how to age

with grace and dignity.

She once wrote, “I hope and pray

that when my mission on earth is

complete, I can hear these words:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant,

enter into the joy of your Lord.’”

On the evening of September 15,

Sr. Marcella was called home to God.

Her funeral liturgy was celebrated

on September 19 at the Provincialate

Chapel in Des Plaines, IL. Interment

was at All Saints Cemetery.



PAGE 18...



Sr. M. Monica

(Olimpia) Mikutel

August 8, 1915-

September 29,


Olimpia Mikutel

was born to

Stanislaus and Maryann (Butrym)

Mikutlel on August 8, 1915 in

Norwich, Connecticut, joining siblings

Malvina, Monica and William.

In eighth grade, at St. Joseph School,

Olimpia felt strongly that God was

calling her. Her older sister Malvina

was then in a religious formation

program with the Sisters of the

Holy Family of Nazareth. Prayerfully

considering her own vocation,

Olimpia discussed her future with her

parents and the next phase of her

spiritual journey began to unfold.

After high school, Olimpia became

a postulant. On August 13, 1933, she

received the white veil of a novice and

the name Sr. Monica. On August 16,

1935, she made her first profession

of vows. Six years later, on August 12,

1941, Sr. Monica professed her final


Sr. Monica spent her 62 years in

ministry at Nazareth Hospital in

Philadelphia, except for one year in

1947, when a nurse was needed at

St. Christopher Home for Children at

Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY. She received

her nursing certification at St. Mary of

Nazareth Hospital in Chicago in 1938

and a Bachelor of Science degree in

nursing at Villanova University in 1958.

At Nazareth Hospital, Sr. Monica

served as supervisor of nursing

floors, director of nursing services,

assistant nursing supervisor and

patient representative. In September

2002, Sr. Monica began her retirement

at Mount Nazareth in Philadelphia.

With increasing age, health problems

necessitated that she move to

the infirmary floor, where she

experienced the loving care that she

had extended to others for so many


During the Religious Jubilarian

Mass on September 24, 2017, at the

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and

Paul in Philadelphia, Sr. Monica was

honored for her 85 years of religious

life, topping the list of 283 other

sisters, brothers and priests who also

celebrated milestone anniversaries in

the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Five days later, in the early evening of

September 29, 2017, Sr. Monica was

welcomed to her heavenly home. Her

wake and Mass was held on Thursday,

October 5 at Mount Nazareth Chapel

in Philadelphia. Interment was at the

community cemetery.

Donations in memory of a

deceased sister may be mailed

to Development Office, Sisters

of the Holy Family of Nazareth,

310 N. River Rd., Des Plaines,

IL 60016. Please include a note

with the name of the Sister

you are giving in memory of.

Donations may also be made

online at nazarethcsfn.org/



We are once again pleased to offer our friends and family oplatki for the

Christmas season. "For the uninitiated, oplatki ('oplatek' is the singular form)

are paper-thin wafers of unleavened bread, embossed with symbols from

the Christmas story," explained Sr. Carol Mockus, Philanthropic Gift Advisor,

Mid-Atlantic area. Our oplatki (2 x 4 inches) are baked by our Sisters in

Nowogrodek, Belarus.

Oplatki are shared on Christmas Eve with the head of the table saying a prayer,

thanking God for the family's blessings and asking forgiveness of anyone he or

she has injured. A piece of oplatek is broken off, shared; the oplatek is passed on

and the ritual repeats itself. This symbol of unity is made available to you with

the sincere prayer that you will be find peace of mind and heart as you recall

the sacred mystery of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Blessed

Virgin Mary.


You can order these special wafers using the form on page 19 or at



Funding the needs of our


by Kathi Barth, National Development


Over the years of working in the

CSFN Development Office, I have

many times heard people say, “Why

should I give money to support

that? It just goes to Chicago.” That

is true, all donations do go to our

provincialate offices in Des Plaines,

IL, near Chicago. But I’d like to take

a minute to explain a bit of how

religious life and our province works.

Consider the Acts of the Apostles,

Ch. 2: 42-47 which is considered the

basis for religious community life:

“All who believed were together and

had all things in common; they would

sell their property and possessions

and divide them among all according

to each one’s need. Every day they

devoted themselves to meeting

together in the temple area and to

breaking bread in their homes.”

“Each one’s needs” – that’s the key

phrase here. Yes, all income goes

to our province office – donations,

Sisters’ salaries, Social Security. But

from this income, all the bills of the

Sisters are paid – their living expenses

and their medical expenses.

Even the cost for the Sisters who live

in nursing facilities are paid by the


All the Sisters’ needs are met. You

never have to worry that one of the

Sisters you care about is not getting

what she needs.

The Sisters each took a vow of

poverty when they entered the

Congregation. They very consciously

make the effort to live simply and not

waste money. I’ve seen examples of

this over and over in the ten years I

have worked for the Sisters.

They trust that all of their needs will

be met. And I hope you can, too.

I would like to sponsor a Sister. My choice is Sister________________. (If you do not choose a Sister to sponsor,

we will choose a Sister for you.) Enclosed is my yearly gift of $_______. Minimum suggested gift is $120 per Sister

you would like to sponsor.

Please send me the Holy Family Novena booklet.

How many? ____English ____Polish ____Spanish

Please send me oplatki (size: 2” x 4”). Quantity: ____

Enclosed is my total gift of $_______________.

Please make checks payable to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Name: _________________________________________________________

Address: _________________________________________________________

City:_________________ State: ____________________Zip:__________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: _______________________________________

Please complete this form and return it to:

CSFN Development Office, 310 N. River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60016-1211



310 N River Rd

Des Plaines, IL 60016




U.S. Postage


Des Plaines, IL

Permit No. 340



Did you know we have a program

which allows you to become

personally involved with one of our

sisters? One-to-One with a Nazareth

Nun is primarily a prayer relationship,

yet once you are part of the program,

the extent of your interaction with

the Sister is up to you and the Sister

you sponsor.

Sister will remember you daily in

prayer and send cards for special

occasions, while sponsors are asked

to support their special Sister with

a suggested minimum gift of $120,

renewable annually.

If you have a particular Sister you

would like to sponsor, let us know. Or,

we can choose a Sister for you.

To sponsor a Sister, please complete

the form on page 19 and mail it to

our development office.

We, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, are called to extend the Kingdom of God’s love among ourselves and

others by living the spirit of Jesus, Mary and Joseph whose lives were centered in the love of God and one another.

We witness to this love through dedicated service to the Church, especially in ministry to the family.

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