MARCH 2004: SISTER JOEL JACOBI (entered eternal life on December 13, 2015)
As the year 1917 began, Marie Jacobi began her life on a farm in rural Belleville, Illinois. She was the third child born to Anna and Urban Jacobi. Eventually the family grew to include one brother and three sisters with Marie as the "middle button."
Making the Most of Life
The Jacobi’s were very involved with the activities of their local parish, Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville. They were a hard working farm family. All of the children helped with the chores--including hand milking the cows! Marie grew up during the Depression so the family had a rather simple life. While they did not have much money, they were well fed with produce from the farm and were happy. Dad played the guitar so the family had frequent sing-a-longs. Although they were not able to travel, they often visited aunts and uncles who lived nearby and enjoyed many fun times with their cousins.
When she was a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy in Belleville, Marie informed her parents that she wanted to be a Sister. While her parents were supportive of her religious vocation, they thought that she was too young to make this decision. So they encouraged Marie to learn more about life in general and the many options that were available to her. So while completing her high school education, she participated in many extra-curricular activities and "the fun things that teenagers do." Despite the fun and enjoyment, Marie continued to think and feel that there was more to life; the call to religious life remained strong. Upon graduation, she obtained a job as a seamstress at the Rayon Factory in Millstadt, Illinois. She worked there for a year; yet she was restless and still yearned for more from life.
A Decision Confirmed
When she was 19 years old, Monsignor Gruenewald, a diocesan priest who was the Chaplain at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, asked Marie if she had ever considered a religious vocation. She eagerly confided to him that she had been considering it for several years but did not know how to proceed. He invited her to meet the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis who were stationed in Belleville. She then visited the Motherhouse in Springfield within a week.
During that visit, Marie was impressed with the hospitality of the Sisters and the beauty of the Motherhouse grounds. While she was praying in the Church, she knew that she was being called to religious life and that she belonged there. Three weeks later, on February 1, 1936, Marie entered the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.
Eight months later on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis, Marie became a novice. After completing her novitiate, Sister Joel made her profession of vows on October 4, 1938. Soon she was enrolled at St. John’s School of Nursing where she obtained her diploma in 1941.
Focus: God, Health Care, Feeding The Poor
At this time, Sister Joel embarked on a long career of nursing. For about 15 years, she worked as a staff nurse providing direct patient care and later in a supervisory capacity. After obtaining both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Nursing, Sister assumed the role of nurse educator. She taught at St. John’s School of Nursing in Springfield, at Marillac College in St. Louis, and at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for the next forty years. Sister feels that it was a privilege to work with many students and to teach them not only the clinical skills needed to be efficient and knowledgeable but to impart the importance of being a caring person as well as a professional nurse.
Nursing was not the only field that kept Sister Joel busy. Following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, Sister Joel and several other Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Eau Claire, began to feed the poor in the area with food that was left over after the patients had been fed. Initially they served 10-15 families each week but as people learned that food was available though Sacred Heart Hospital, the numbers grew. Today St. Francis Food Pantry is a free-standing operation which serves around 400 families each week. Sister Joel has been involved in the Food Pantry since it began 25 years ago. Presently, she is the President of the Board of Directors and resident "Good Will Ambassador."
Sister Joel has journeyed from a farm in rural Illinois through 50 years of nursing and 25 years of feeding the hungry. At 87 years, she is still helping people and bringing the spirit of St. Francis to life in Eau Claire, Wisconsin!