June 2012: SISTER JOMARY TRSTENSKY
“Being Franciscan,” according to Sister Jomary Trstensky, “is a whole philosophy of life requiring one to be genuine in every aspect of one’s existence and to always put others above self.”
The daughter of Frank and Helen (Bressnan) Trstensky, she was born on June 12, 1938, in Springfield, IL. Throughout her childhood, she was an avid reader of books, enjoyed swimming and playing tennis and softball. “The feeling that I had a call to serve God as a Sister originated at St. Aloysius Grade School, Springfield, when Sister Angela, an Ursuline Sister and my teacher, spoke about religious life and that Sisters profess a commitment to God. I was intrigued by the beauty of a religious commitment and by the challenge of giving up everything to follow Christ’s call,” Sister Jomary explained.
Calling as a nurse and Sister
Although she felt called to religious life at an early age, she had no interest in caring for the sick until she joined the Future Nurses Club at Lanphier High School, Springfield. “Under the guidance of two very fine moderators, we visited every type of health care setting and examined the role of nurses. Together with a high school friend, I applied for a nurse aide job at St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, and was assigned to the pediatric department after school and on weekends. During a two-year period, we were mentored by Sisters Carmeline and Joseph Marie (Mary Ellen Rombach) who, along with the nurses, took a personal interest in our welfare and encouraged our interest in nursing,” Sister Jomary said.
After she began working at St. John’s, she developed a deeper interest in the life of the Sisters and noted their very hard work schedules, their frequent prayers, and their dedication to those who were sick and needy. “It was not uncommon that the Sister supervisor kept a stash of clothing in her office to pass on to children whose going-home clothes were shabby,” she said.
Upon graduation from high school, Sister Jomary chose to begin nursing school, and it was during a freshman retreat at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Springfield, that she felt some urgency to respond to God’s call. “The following Fall (1957), I entered the postulancy with the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis,” Sister Jomary said. While the path to religious life was clear for her, she recognizes that for those discerning a call to religious life, “a person in discernment needs to pray for a clear, unambiguous message.”
Sister Jomary is a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College (St. Louis, MO), a master’s degree in nursing from The Catholic University of America (Washington, DC), and a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Ohio State University (Columbus, OH).
Since 2007, Sister Jomary has served as the Provincial Superior of the American Province of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Prior to this, she served at Hospital Sisters Health System as President (1989-2006) and Executive Vice President (1988-89). In addition, she has served as the Assistant Administrator at St. Vincent Hospital, on the Province leadership team, and had nursing responsibilities at St. John’s Hospital (Springfield), and St. Mary’s Hospital (Streator).
On February 6, 1965, Sister Jomary was part of the surgical team that performed the first open-heart surgery in Springfield at St. John’s Hospital. “I was a young diploma nurse who was selected by Dr. Robert Harp, a young cardiac surgeon, to be part of this team in 1964. For the next year, we spent our after-hours in the lab with Dr. Harp learning from him. We laid the foundation for the heart surgery program in a community hospital setting without the benefit of a medical school. Those were exciting times in healthcare as cardiac cath, heart surgery, and renal dialysis were all introduced,” she concluded.