By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Sister Joan Lescinski celebrated her 50th jubilee as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet in a setting that means so much to her: Christ the King Chapel on the campus of St. Ambrose University.
As the university’s president, she chose to commemorate a milestone in her vocation to religious life during the students’ 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning Mass on April 10.
A number of civic and business leaders also attended the Mass, along with four members of her congregation: Sisters Sean Peters, Kitty Hanley, Danielle Bonetti and Miriam Ukeritis. Sr. Joan thanked her special guests for their presence, but this celebration was especially dedicated to the students.
“Most of all, I am pleased to be with you, our students, to celebrate this milestone in my life: 50 years of serving God’s people and 50 years of commitment to the vows I took so long ago now. I hope that you will see in celebrations like this, and those that witness to fidelity to commitments in religious life, in the priesthood, and in the married state, that God is ever faithful to us, in our baptismal commitment. I pray that each of you in your lives will find that calling to which you can give yourselves wholeheartedly.”
Sr. Joan explained the renewal of vows that she and the other four members of her community were about to make. “The Sisters of St. Joseph live a life focused on God. This focus is lived in communal and individual prayer, in community life, and in service to the ‘dear neighbor,’ that is, all God’s people. To support this life we profess three vows:
• “Poverty: which calls us to live simply and not seek our happiness in material goods.
• “Religious chastity: which calls us to love all persons without distinction.
• “Obedience: through which we pledge to listen attentively to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as revealed to us through our religious superiors and community and through all those whom we meet in our daily lives.”
Father Chuck Adam, who presided at Mass, reflected in his homily on the thoughts that run through the mind of anyone who has been faithful to their vocation for so many years.
“I am sure, like Sr. Joan today, you look back and say, ‘I couldn’t have imagined on that day when I first made this commitment all that would have been asked of me and where that first ‘yes’ to God 50 years ago would have taken me.”
In those 50 years, “I’ve never doubted that ‘yes,’” Sr. Joan said in a later interview.
“Certainly, there have been years in my life when perhaps the ministry may have been more challenging or when personal things were going on with family and friends. During those years, when I have felt challenges like that, the strength of the community and my bond with the community pulled me through; the grace of God coming through my community. The community has certainly been my Rock of Gibraltar.”
One of the strengths of a religious community is its intergenerational wisdom, she said. “The intergenerational wisdom has been such a gift to me. I hope that in my life I can be as generous in giving wisdom away as has been given to me.”
Through the years, Sr. Joan has served in six different ministries, first as a high school English teacher and then in various leadership capacities at five different colleges (including one other presidency). In each ministry she has found strength through the academic community as well as prayer and reflection.
As president of St. Ambrose University for nine years, she especially appreciates working with dedicated faculty and staff, board of trustees, students and others. “They support me in my effort to do my ministry.”
During a jubilee celebration March 19 at the provincial house in Albany, N.Y., Sr. Joan had the opportunity to participate in a day of reflection. “We realized as we sat in this room at our motherhouse, looking over the beautiful vista of the Hudson River, this is where we were taught to pray … like Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.
“What’s happened to me and most people in religious life is that prayer becomes so much a part of your life, it’s almost like breathing.” Early each morning Sr. Joan makes a point of praying and reflecting, asking for the grace to perform her ministry throughout the day “the best way I can.”