Innate teacher and professional musician Sr. Louise Szkodzinski, BVM, who served as music director at St. Catherine of Siena Parish and as a music teacher at the parish school during her time in the Diocese of Phoenix, passed away Jan. 16 in Dubuque, Iowa. She was 95.
Originally from Cicero, Illinois, Sr. Louise was one of five children born to Joseph and Mary Biestek Szkodzinski. Her first language was Polish, but she learned English while attending first grade at a public school, discovering the following year she had a gift for music.
It was this gift she shared with the parish of St. Catherine of Siena where she served as music director from 1988-95. She also taught music at the parish school from 1988-89, and taught piano lessons during her entire time in the diocese from 1987-95.
“Sr. Louise was a talented musician whose compositions and classes dealt mainly with religious themes. Her love of music was transmitted to her students, who learned not only about music but developed an appreciation for it,” said Sr. Lynn Winsor, BVM, who lived with Sr. Louise in Phoenix and currently serves as activities vice principal and athletic director at Xavier College Preparatory. “Her creativity in the music classroom endeared her to her students and they developed a lifetime affection for music.”
When Sr. Louise was in the sixth grade she transferred to a Catholic school where she continued to study the piano and played for Masses and novenas. She later earned her bachelor’s degree in music from Mundelein College in Chicago and a master’s degree from the Chicago Musical College.
Sr. Louise taught music for three years in Chicago before answering the call to consecrated life, entering the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sept. 8, 1947. As a postulant and a novice, she taught piano, music appreciation and music theory to members of her religious order. She professed her first vows March 19, 1950 and lived as a BVM sister for the next 69 years.
Her friends describe her as an “amazing musician, a true artist” who staged more than 175 public performances in 10 states and Poland, and appeared on national television throughout her lifetime.
Sr. Louise taught and lectured in several American and international universities, and studied in Vienna, Egypt, Israel and Rome.
She was preceded in death by her parents and two sisters, Frances Narko and Cecilia Pugh and survived by her brother, Jerome of Lockeford, California, a sister, Christine Pitford of Paulden, Arizona, and nieces and nephews.
Memorials may be sent to Sisters of Charity, BVM Support Fund, 1100 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, IA 52003, or online at bvmcong.org.