Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph has served others for 65 years

by KIMBERLEE SABSHIN
Mon, Dec 8th 2014 04:00 pm

Sister Loretta Janiszewski, FSSJ, has served her community for more than 65 years. Throughout that time her ministry of both teaching and serving in a pastoral ministry has enabled her to grow in her faith while helping others.

Sister Loretta was born in Baltimore, Md., as one of seven children. She attended grammar school at St. Stanislaus in Baltimore and remained there until high school. At that point, tragic circumstances brought her to the Buffalo area, but this led to a productive ministry and joining religious life.

"Our former motherhouse was across the street. She came there in 1945," Sister Karen recalled. "Her sister, Sister Regina Janiszewski, FSSJ, died at 24 years of age in 1944. Sister (Loretta) came here for the funeral, and she wanted to stay. They kindly told her, 'Go home, pray about it and finish your high school.' She entered (the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph) on Aug. 15, 1945."

Sister Loretta first taught at St. Columba School in Buffalo in 1947. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Detroit and served in Dearborn, Mich., from 1950 to 1956, at St. Sebastian School, which opened the year she began. She then taught at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Silver Creek from 1963 to 1965, was principal of Sacred Heart in Medina from 1965 to 1970, and taught at Mother of Divine Grace in Cheektowaga from 1970 to 1972 before leaving the Western New York area.

"I always taught first grade. I had no problem - I had control of the children, and the parents were very cooperative. I haven't been teaching since 1996," Sister Loretta said. "I don't think I'd be able to cope with the things that are happening now in the schools, with all these machines. That's why I'm glad I'm able to go into another ministry that's more up my alley. I can do that better."

Sister Loretta moved to Trenton, where Mother Colette Hilbert first founded the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph with four other sisters in 1897, to teach at St. Stanislaus School in 1972. After leaving from 1976 to 1988 to serve in Chicopee, Mass., Sister Loretta returned to St. Stanislaus to teach from 1988 until the school closed in 1996. Sister Karen arrived in Trenton in 1994. The sisters were asked to remain in New Jersey, so they continued to serve as pastoral ministers and visitors for the sick and impoverished.

"When we closed the school, new doors were opened. We started visiting the sick and the homebound at nursing homes, bringing Jesus to them," Sister Loretta said.

Sister Karen said much as the Diocese of Buffalo has experienced merging in recent years, the Diocese of Trenton merged many of its parishes, and three of the parishes, including St. Stanislaus, became known as Divine Mercy Parish. As time went on, the Polish neighborhood where they served became the home of a large Hispanic population, allowing for more cultural diversity and opportunities. They continued to serve there from 1996 until June of this year, when they returned to the motherhouse in Hamburg.

"We began, in our own way, to begin serving the poor there," Sister Karen said. "We opened a soup kitchen on Thursdays. If there were any donations of food or clothes, we were out distributing them to our neighbors, and then there were a couple of halfway houses. We really got involved with working a lot with the poor, besides taking care of the spiritual aspects of the parish."

Working with people of other cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds also enabled Sister Loretta and Sister Karen to gain empathy and acceptance for everyone, regardless of their personal struggles. Sister Karen frequently ministered to marginalized individuals. "We began to accept them. When you know someone's story, you become nonjudgmental. We started to become a listening ear."

"We realized there were so many people that were in need. The crime rate in Trenton was going up, and whenever we heard of a shooting or stabbing, we were trying to be available to the families, just to give them a little bit of comfort. Sister Loretta still keeps in contact with the homebound," Sister Karen added.

According to Sister Loretta, her motto in high school was "So let your light shine," and the high school she attended, The Catholic High School of Baltimore, is celebrating its 75th year of existence this year. While in Trenton, the sisters had an open door policy, and they tried to be a beacon of light to their community. When people were sick or unable to go to Church, Sister Loretta said the sisters would go to them.

"We would go to their homes and bring Jesus to them. If they wanted a priest, we would get in touch with Father and he would come and listen to their confessions," Sister Loretta said. "I enjoy ministering to the people of God. No matter where I was, I had no problem bringing Christ to them. They appreciated my visits. The priests would go to listen to confessions, if they were homebound or in the hospital."

Sister Loretta said the experience of serving all over the country allowed her to grow and learn because every place has different ways of doing things. "You're growing spiritually, because the churches were under different dioceses, and therefore they required things that others didn't," she added.

Today, even in her retirement, Sister Loretta continues to live out her mission by ministering to people of God at The Courtyards, LLC, an independent adult care facility in Hamburg, and continues to "bring joy to our sisters in our Colette Hilbert Health Care Center," Sister Karen said.

With the Retirement Fund for the Religious Appeal this month, Sister Loretta said she formerly spoke at the weekend Masses on behalf of the retirement fund. She recalled how at every Mass, the scripture passages would be used to mention the fund and ask for help. Since she is of Polish heritage, she spoke at Polish Masses and would sometimes translate for parishioners to encourage them to donate to the fund. "The Retirement for the Religious Fund is a true blessing for all the congregations," Sister Karen added.

"I think we all share in the treasure of the religious fund. I don't think we would be able to be sustained if people were not generous with their donations," Sister Karen said. "We all, in one way or another - it may not be us, personally, but it's for the whole congregation. The Retirement for the Religious Fund is a true blessing for us - not only for our congregation, but for all the congregations."

To donate to the Retirement Fund for Religious, visit Share in the Care.org.

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