2013 Jubilarian – Arlene (Ann Stephen) Jekielek
She lived with the Racine Dominican postulants for a couple of days and later, she spent time with the IHMs. It was a dark and dreary day, and she remembers thinking, “No way, no how am I coming here!” But a gift for her mother made her choice apparent.
“I bought a planter for my mother during a trip to Bob Lo Island. The nun mentoring the trip looked at it and said, ‘I guess you made your decision.’ The planter was a nun in blue. I thought ‘I guess I did: the blue nuns.’”
Sister Arlene’s first ministry was teaching second grade. She became involved in the civil rights movement, and the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, “I found out as I was going over to school. I told the students that today was something special and started crying. A little boy whose family was very active in the movement said ‘that’s all right sister, I’ll tell them about it. Go to the back of the room and get ahold of yourself.’”
Sister Arlene taught high school in Florida for two years when her ministry path abruptly changed. She became head of the secretarial pool for the Archdiocese of Miami, which led to her going with the bishop as his secretary when he was given a diocese in Pensacola-Tallahassee.
He was later moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, and asked her to join him as his executive secretary. She was appointed chancellor, only the third woman chancellor in the United States, and oversaw the administration of pastoral care, archives and human resources.
“When they gave me my good-bye party, they told me they thought I was checking up on them when I’d visit the offices. It took a year before they realized I wasn’t! One of the maintenance men dressed all in black the day I left because he was sorry I was leaving. That really touched me.”
Sister Arlene took a sabbatical year before ministering as a secretary at St. Louis Community College in Missouri. She came back to Michigan to care for her parents and worked for the Congregational Business Office in Monroe, the Detroit Health Department, Covenent House and the Development Office at Marian High School. She eventually stopped and cared for her parents full-time until they died. Currently, she serves as Pastoral Care secretary at the Motherhouse, something she enjoys, although it’s difficult to see the sisters’ health decline. “That’s one of the hard things about living here, watching the sisters get sick and remembering how they were.”