Sister’s last stand: CSJ turns 90, keeps serving at hospital

| May 6, 2015 | 0 Comments
St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Ann Michele Jadlowski talks with Larry Celski of St. Adalbert in St. Paul during a Caritas session at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Paul. The group meets to help those affected by cancer. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Ann Michele Jadlowski talks with Larry Celski of St. Adalbert in St. Paul during a Caritas session at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Paul. The group meets to help those affected by cancer. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Turning 85 meant semi-retirement for Sister Ann Michele Jadlowski, a sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Having just turned 90, she continues to care for people at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Paul, founded by her order, but sees the need to invite Catholics to share in the mission.

“Our mission here is to continue the mission of our sisters, which was compassion to anyone who comes to our doors,” she said.

Sister Ann Michele has helped lead the spirituality department at the downtown St. Paul hospital for 37 years. The Sisters of St. Joseph once operated St. Joseph and had maintained a strong presence as staff members and volunteers. Sister Ann Michele is the only remaining sister serving at the Catholic hospital, part of the HealthEast Care System. As a certified chaplain, she distributes the Eucharist to patients and leads a support group — Caritas, Latin for “charity” — for people affected by cancer.

“I sit sometimes at night and think about the people I’ve met and the people I know, and it’s very enriching,” Sister Ann Michele said. “I know I have been given the gift of being able to listen and being compassionate. So, what keeps me here is knowing where I came from, knowing the experience I’ve had, and knowing about what I need to try to help to keep that going.”

She said while the diversity in St. Joseph’s spirituality department benefits the many people who come through the hospital’s doors, she knows patients want a Catholic presence and believes the community can preserve and even enhance the hospital’s Catholic identity.

“You don’t have to be a sister to do this kind of ministry,” said Sister Ann Michele, who has led the Caritas group for 27 years. She hopes CSJ consociates — vowed members who retain their individual lifestyles in the greater community but conduct the sisters’ ministries — can carry on what she calls the spirit of the sisters at the hospital. She wants the laity to become more involved, too, saying eucharistic ministers are especially important to patients.

“The kind of world we’re living in today when it’s rush, rush, rush, it’s crisis, crisis, crisis, at a time like that when you run into a patient who has a terminal prognosis, they want to talk about other things,” she said. “And that’s what the sister chaplains did, that’s what these chaplains do. There aren’t enough of us, but we can touch it in the eucharistic ministry, we can touch it in encouraging younger people.”

Religious life: why not?

The Minneapolis native and alumna of St. Catherine University in St. Paul spent nearly 30 years teaching and then in administration at high schools, including St. Margaret’s Academy, now Benilde-St. Margaret’s, in St. Louis Park. Not yet a religious sister, it was at the CSJ-run school where she got a glimpse of religious life.

“One day, I began to think like this, ‘Well, you know it’s [religious life] possible. But, why? Why would I do that? I don’t feel any drawing to that,’” she said. “And then the thought came, ‘Why not? Give it a try.’”

Along with celebrating her 90th birthday May 5, she’s celebrating her 65th jubilee as a religious sister this year.

“It’s been 65 years, and I’m still trying to figure it out in a sense that as time goes by, I’m beginning to understand a little bit more clearly what the call to religious life is,” she said. “It’s much simpler than you think it is, but you don’t understand it when you’re young. . . . It doesn’t mean necessarily what you do. It’s more, who have you become with God’s direction — are you hearing that the only thing that’s important is that you’re there for others and not yourself?”

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