Religious retiree issues lifelong homework assignment

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Benedictine Sister Josine points out some of the symbolism and craftsmanship that  went into creating a quilt as part of her retirement gift. St. Thomas the Apostle students and staff presented it on the final day of school June 7. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Benedictine Sister Josine points out some of the symbolism and craftsmanship that went into creating a quilt as part of her retirement gift. St. Thomas the Apostle students and staff presented it on the final day of school June 7. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Benedictine Sister Josine Krausnick, who spent 45 years teaching at St. Thomas the Apostle School before retiring June 7, required one last thing of students and any Catholic who attended Mass the final day of school.

“I am an incurable teacher. Therefore, I’m going to leave you with a homework assignment. Listen up because it’s a lifetime assignment,” Sr. Josine told a church full of students, teachers and students.

“Your assignment is to go about in your life doing good. The second thing… happened at the marriage feast at Cana when they ran out of wine. There’s something that Mary said to the servants that she also says to us: ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ That’s it,” Sr. Josine said.

She reminded students that God speaks to His people through Scripture, commandments, parents, teachers and each other. Sr. Josine, who is the last of the school’s founding order on campus, demanded that students listen to God speaking to them in all of those ways.

The Benedictine Sisters came to St. Thomas the Apostle 60 years ago at the request of the founding pastor. Lay staff members took up teaching positions over the years. Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, joined in 2006.

Sr. Josine came in 1965 as a second-grade teacher. She also taught seventh grade and held a variety of school and parish roles over the years. That is, except for the five-year break Sr. Josine took starting in 1973 and the year off in 2007 to battle cancer.

“These people prayed me through it,” Sr. Josine said.

She returned as a classroom aide who wore plenty of other hats. Sr. Josine took the role of crossing guard, social studies teacher and geography bee coordinator. She darted to the office to help answer phones at times too. Sr. Josine spent her last months on campus helping with the eighth-grade musical and Passion play. She also donated her calligraphy skills to the school.

“I tried to do stuff that would make them miss me,” Sr. Josine told The Catholic Sun during her farewell reception.

Megan Kase, who had family connections at St. Thomas since her dad was a student in the ‘50s, viewed Sr. Josine as matriarch of the school. Kase became her student in the ‘90s and loved social studies so much as a result that she majored in history in college. She called Sr. Josine’s triumph over cancer a testament to her faith and spirit.

“She continues to set an example of deep friendship with our Lord,” and charity to others, Kase said.

Diane Fournier, art teacher, agreed. She said St. Thomas the Apostle School is filled with many blessings — Sr. Josine being one of them. Fournier coordinated a school-wide quilting project so that Sr. Josine would have a tangible memory of the staff and students. Each grade designed its own square and everyone signed their names on the back.

Students also brought handmade cards and spiritual bouquets to the reception.

“Who I am is because of Sr. Josine. She inspired me with the love of Christ,” Nancy Baker-Wilson said. The 1973 alumna valued her teacher’s English lessons and perfectionist ways.

Mary Coffman, principal, will long cherish the example of the sister she called a “strong yet loving presence” on campus. It was Sr. Josine who said that “teaching should be and is a true vocation.” It’s something God calls people to do — far more than a chosen job or career path, Coffman said.

“She strove for excellence no matter what she was teaching through her love,” Coffman said. “She had a very peaceful spirit. She was always a strong yet loving presence on our campus.”

Sr. Josine told students and staff not to worry about her. She is going to the order’s motherhouse in Minnesota to work in the archives and plans return trips while visiting family in Mesa.

 

Final day

Several teachers and a principal spent their final day at school in recent weeks before their retirement. Don Graff, retired as principal of Christ the King in Mesa. He served there for five years, but as an educator for 45 years.

Rose Mischke spent 42 years teaching math and eighth-grade homeroom at St. Jerome. She was also key to starting the popular Mexican dinner with proceeds allowing students to help local refugee families adjust to American life.

Other retirees include:

  • Nancy Mokelke after 20 years at Most Holy Trinity (related photos)
  • Cindy Zuleger after 16 years at St. John Vianney Preschool in Goodyear
  • Kathy Hart, who spent 11 years teaching second-graders at St. Timothy in Mesa and the seven years prior at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe

A separate story on David Gonsalves, founding principal of Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale, ran in The Catholic Sun‘s May 16 print edition and online.

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