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Faith

Joliet Franciscans install new governing board, discern new direction

New leadership witnessing to Christ in changing world

JOLIET – “Here we go, Lord, you and I together. I’ll do my best, but remember: I’m depending on your help.”

It’s a favorite prayer of Sister Delores Zemont, president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet. The prayer also echoes in the hearts of five of the sisters installed June 25 as the congregation’s new governing board.

These sisters are Sister Dolores Zemont, president; Sister Rosemary Fonck, councilor and vice president; Sister Mary Jane Griffin, councilor and treasurer; Sister Barbara Kwiatkowski, councilor; and Sister Lourdes Boyer, general secretary. They were previously elected for the 2016 to 2020 term April 3 during the sisters’ general chapter meeting.

In the order’s 2016 directional statement, the sisters committed to “recognizing and confronting all forms of violence and injustice, such as racism, oppression of women and girls, human trafficking and hostility toward refugees and immigrants,” to minister to people of all ages as Christ would and to be “generous stewards and witnesses for peace.”

It’s a tremendous commitment in a changing world.

Part of the sisters’ prayerful discernment, they agreed, will be deciding the best means to implement that commitment over the next four years, especially in light of a dwindling and aging membership.

Meet the sisters leading the way.

Sister Dolores Zemont, president

Zemont entered the congregation in 1979. She has a bachelor’s in English from the University of Illinois in Chicago and a master’s in administration from the University of Notre Dame du Lac.

She has served as: director of campus ministry for the University of St. Francis in Joliet, director of the associate program for the congregation and pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Mokena.

In 2012, Zemont became president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.

Zemont “absolutely loved” campus ministry and parish work. She said helping people grow in their faith and direction in their lives was extremely fulfilling. This was especially true in Zemont’s work with college students.

But as much as Zemont felt those ministries shaped her, she still felt overwhelmed when she first became president four years ago. But Zemont feels she has grown spiritually and in leadership abilities.

“It’s very stretching,” Zemont said. “Nobody can explain to you what it’s like to be in charge until you sit behind the desk.”

Sister Rosemary Fonck, councilor and vice president

Fonck entered the congregation in 1966. She has a bachelor’s in sociology from the former College of St. Francis in Joliet. She also has a master’s in administration and supervision from Samford University and a master’s in religious studies from Loyola University in New Orleans.

She taught primary grades at St. Raymond School in Joliet and first grade at Annunciation school in Aurora. Fonck also served as a principal and teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Fairfield, Alabama; a teacher at the former St. Francis Academy in Joliet; a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s School in Sterling; and a principal at Sacred Heart school in Effingham.

Fonck then served as councilor for the sisters and teacher at St. Jude School in Joliet, president for the sisters and director for the Good Shepherd Catholic Ministry Center in Hayneville, Alabama.

When Fonck first left for Good Shepherd, she had no thought of coming back. Fonck loved her work: feeding hundreds of families every day, working with seniors and ministering to people “who had a deep relationship with God” despite their lack of material possessions.

But Fonck also saw returning to leadership as part of the vows she had taken – poverty, chastity and obedience – when she became a sister.

“I looked at this as one part of obedience,” Fonck said, “and put it in [God’s] hands.”

Sister Mary Jane Griffin, councilor and treasurer

Griffin entered the congregation in 1978. She has a bachelor’s in mathematics from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame. She also has a master’s in administration as well as a master’s in divinity from the University of Notre Dame du Lac.

Before entering the congregation and becoming a graduate student, Griffin was a math teacher at Marillac High School in Northbrook.

After entering, Griffin served in parish ministry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Chicago, was director of religious education in South Bend and was rector and adjunct writing instructor at the University of Notre Dame du Lac.

Griffin also served as mediator for the Neighborhood Mediation Project in South Bend; consultant for Reid and Associates in Oak Park; and novice director for the Sisters of St. Francis in Joliet. Since that time, Griffin has served as general treasurer for the congregation.

Like Fonck, leadership was never part of Griffin’s ministry plans. But Griffin feels that opening up her heart to God and to the sisters she loves took her down new paths.

That said, stewardship of the material resources is – at times – a daunting task.

“This opportunity to serve as treasurer has allowed me to know so many people in Joliet through that service,” Griffin said. “I’m very happy to have had that experience.”

Sister Barbara Kwiatkowski, councilor

Kwiatkowski entered the congregation in 1978. She has a bachelor’s in music from the former College of St. Francis in Joliet and a master’s in educational administration from Dominican University in River Forest.

She served as a religion teacher for the former Joliet Catholic High School, a religion teacher and dean of students at the former St. Francis Academy in Joliet, a teacher and dean of students at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, and assistant principal at St. Martin de Porres Academy in Chicago.

Kwiatkowski then served in pastoral ministry in Goiania, Brazil; administrative development and public relations at St. Rita High School in Chicago; as dean of students at Fenwick High School in Oak Park; in campus ministry at Joliet Catholic Academy; as vocation minister and director of initial formation for the sisters; and then went back to JCA as campus minister.

Like her sisters, Kwiatkowski loved her previous ministries, especially this last one. Kwiatkowski said JCA has a “great community spirit” and a “very caring, family atmosphere.”

In her new role, Kwiatkowski will be responsible for the spiritual aspect of the congregation – such as organizing prayer services and retreats.

“I like to be where I can do the most good,” Kwiatkowski. “I felt I really needed to listen to the call of my sisters [to leadership].”

Sister Lourdes Boyer, general secretary

Boyer entered the congregation in 1957. She has a bachelor’s in mathematics from the former College of St. Francis in Joliet and a master’s in education (mathematics curriculum) from the University of Toledo.

She was a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher and a parish organist for St. Rita of Cascia in Aurora; a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher and parish organist for St. Cecilia in New Rome in Ohio; a junior high math and music teacher and parish organist for St. Michael in Worthington, Ohio, and a math and music teacher for grades five to eight and parish organist for Immaculate Conception in Toledo, Ohio.

From there, Boyer became an instructor and PLATO Computer Center director for the former College of St. Francis in Joliet. She then became the general secretary for the sisters, the finance director for St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Joliet and the sisters’ coordinator at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home in Joliet.

In 2008, Boyer again became the general secretary to the sisters. In all her various ministries, Boyer always saw Christ in each person to whom she ministered. In that, Boyer feels most blessed.

“With everyone I meet, I get a personal relationship with God,” Boyer said.

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