JUNE 2013: SISTER JOCELYN SERWATKA
FRANCISCAN FROM BIRTH
Sister Jocelyn Serwatka was born in Madison, Illinois on August 20, 1925. In many ways she grew up "Franciscan." The Franciscan Friars served her home parish in Madison and frequently joined the Serwatka family for Sunday dinner. As a youngster, she often traveled to Springfield, Illinois to the Motherhouse with other young women. Her pastor took them along while he visited with his own sister, Sister Floribert Bienek, who was a member of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.
Educated and Educator
The influence of these trips was profound. Young Isabelle Serwatka decided to attend high school at St. Francis Preparatory School located on the grounds of the Hospital Sisters in Springfield. After a couple of years, she made another and more serious decision to enter the Community. She cites her exposure to the Sisters’ spirit of joy and hospitality as well as prayer and self-giving as significant influences on her decision.
Isabelle entered the Community on February 2, 1941. At the completion of her postulancy, she was given the religious name, Sister Jocelyn. After completing her two years in the novitiate, she professed her religious vows on October 4, 1943. At that time, she began her nursing education at St. John’s School of Nursing in Springfield. She received her nursing diploma in 1947. Soon Sister was assigned as the Assistant Director and School Nurse for the St. Francis Preparatory School. While she was serving at the Preparatory School, she made perpetual vows in 1948 and earned a Bachelors Degree in Education from Quincy College in Quincy, Illinois in 1955. She taught English to our high school freshmen and sophomore students for ten years.
Return to Nursing
In 1963, the Community made the decision to close St. Francis Preparatory School. Sister Jocelyn returned to nursing and served at several of the Order’s hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. She again continued her education and obtained a Bachelors and a Masters Degree in Nursing. When the community asked for volunteers to help in Chinle, Arizona, Sister responded. For about 6 months, she assisted the Administrator at the Chinle Extended Care Facility with organization of the nursing department and staff education efforts.
Later, Sister Jocelyn responded to another call to work with a company that managed nursing care centers. For seven years, Sister worked as a nurse consultant to improve the care of the elderly residents of these 12 nursing centers. When she tired of traveling throughout central Illinois and Iowa, Sister Jocelyn embarked on another apostolic endeavor and began to work in parish ministry. For the next 15 years, she served as a pastoral associate at St. Thomas Church in Decatur, Illinois. In that capacity, Sister ministered to sick, elderly and dying parishioners as well as with families who had experienced the loss of a loved one through death and with the parish seniors. Sister Jocelyn feels that this particular ministry was a special gift and a blessing to her personally.
Following retirement from parish ministry in 1998, Sister Jocelyn continued her work in the Justice Office for the American Province. As Coordinator for the Office, she focused on a variety of social issues and involved the broader religious community in advocacy endeavors, for which she was nominated by her Community to receive the Peace Maker Award from the National Franciscan Federation for her work for Peace and Justice. In the same year, she was recognized for her advocacy by the Illinois House of Representatives.
Sister also used her teaching background to tutor Sisters from other Provinces of the Community in English. These Sisters came to the USA to pursue studies in the United States or to prepare to serve in Haiti or in the Province’s mission in Tanzania.
In 2005, Sister was asked to go to Japan to teach English to Sisters of the Japan Province. She found this to be a very enriching and rewarding experience.
Having retired from the Justice and Peace Office after eight years, after returning from Japan, Sister returned to St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur where she had served as a Nurse in previous years to serve as Chapel Sacristan, where she continues to serve at present. She also serves as Sponsor for the Community's Associates in Decatur where monthly meetings are held in the home of the Sisters.
As she reflects on her 70 years as a Hospital Sister, Sister Jocelyn is grateful for her religious vocation to be a member of this Community, for her education, and for the various ministerial opportunities that were provided for her to serve the people of God. She treasures the rich memories of her community life. She believes that even in retirement one can continue to serve and to contribute to carrying out the mission of the Church, as she lives the charism of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis "to be and to bring Christ's Healing Presence."