December 6, 1904 – May 15, 1999
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans offers countless passages that are most worthy of our imitation. Sister Jane Frances emulated one of these in a very remarkable manner: “Christ did not think of Himself” (15:3) for throughout her life her first concern was the welfare of others, and the unbounded source of her energy was amazing especially since she was small in physical stature. Then, too, her spiritual vitality never seemed to wane.
It was in Saginaw on December 6, 1904 that Sister Jane Frances became the eleventh child of a family of twelve children, five died before the age of three, and three were called to religious life and two to the priesthood. Four days after her birth, Sister Jane Frances was baptized at their parish church of St. Joseph and was given the name of Rose Veronica. Eight years later she received her First Holy Communion at this same church and was confirmed by Bishop H.J. Richter at Sacred Heart, the neighboring parish.
At the age of seven she started school at St. Joseph, Saginaw where she was taught by our Sisters and experienced many happy and fruitful days through her grade and high school years until she graduated in 1924. Her next two years were spent in Grand Rapids at Sacred Heart College (Marywood), the forerunner of Aquinas College, to continue her education and to further her desire of becoming a teacher.
Her first year at college passed all too quickly; then in October of the second year, “the problem” of becoming religious came to her mind. After several weeks of thought, she spoke to Father Vogl, then the Chaplain of Marywood. The idea of embracing the religious life was really not entirely foreign to her as she already had two sisters in our Community, Sister Victor, who later was to become our Prioress General, and Sister Mary Jane. Then, too, she had our Sisters for teachers throughout her student days.
On September 3, 1926 she became a postulant when Sister Loyola Finn was the postulant and novice mistress and Mother Benedicta O’Rourke the Prioress General. The important day for the Reception of the Holy Habit of St. Dominic was August 23, 1927 and then she became known as Sister Jane Frances of the Blessed Sacrament. During her novice years, Sister Jerome Smithers was her mistress. On August 29, 1929 she made her First Profession of Vows to Mother Eveline Mackey, the Prioress General. Final Profession of Vows were made on August 30, 1935.
Sister Jane Frances had taught at St. Andrew, Grand Rapids as a postulant, and immediately after Profession, she resumed her teaching profession. For forty-four years Sister was an elementary and junior high teacher, and in addition to St. Andrew School, taught at the following places: Lake Leelanau; St. Francis, Traverse City; Holy Family, St. Mary, and St. Josaphat, Saginaw; West Branch; Alpine; Essexville; South Haven; and St. Mary Magdalen, Melvindale. In addition to teaching, she had the added responsibility of administration at West Branch and Essexville (during her second time interval at both places) and also at St. Josaphat. Sister was an excellent teacher and administrator. As some would say, “She ran a good school.” She was very approachable to teachers and students alike and cognizant of their needs.
In 1972 Sister Marie Therese Rouse and Sister Jane Frances launched a new program titled “Project Seek” whose purpose was to benefit the spiritual and material needs of Senior Citizens. Parishes in Grand Rapids and Muskegon were the beneficiaries of their challenging and much needed work. In 1975 they continued their work at St. Patrick, Portland but on a much broader base and provided Pastoral Ministry to all God’s people wherever the need might be.
Sacred Heart, Merrill became Sister Jane Frances’ residence in 1980. Here she assisted in whatever way she could, and she was especially helpful to her dear “big sister” Mother Victor who was also in residence there. After Mother had her second heart attack and came to Aquinata Hall in March 1982, Sister Jane Frances’ residence became Marywood and until Mother’s death in September 1983, she was able to be of much comfort and assistance to her.
Sister Jane Frances had her own pet hobbies – reading, listening to good music, Shakespearean plays, crossword puzzles, playing cards, and bingo. The latter interest she likely inherited from her dear mother. It is almost surprising that she had time for any of these as she could frequently be found in the Chapel, and she literally was always “running” around to do some favor for someone. She accompanied several Sisters for their Doctor appointments.
Her Dominican vocation was very important to Sister Jane Frances, and when asked recently what it meant to her, she replied with this beautiful, meaningful response: “My Dominican vocation to me means: 1) praying together; 2) recreating together; 3) sharing at mealtime not only food, but conversation – talking and listening; 4) our togetherness should become so strong through the above that we are quick to see the needs of others and be willing to give a helping hand without counting the cost or time.”
May she, who by her daily wholehearted and unselfish living fulfilled God’s command of love of God and love of neighbor in an exemplary manner, now receive a glorious reception to the joys and glories of life eternal with God and all the blessed.
Sister Jane Frances is survived by her nieces, nephews, and many friends.
Entered eternal life on May 15, 1999 at the age of 94 after 71 years of religious life
We commend Sister Jane Francis to your prayers.