2015 Jubilarian – Elizabeth (Joseph Sarto) Fleckenstein
Sister Elizabeth (“Tiz”) Fleckenstein grew up in Port Huron, Mich., the youngest of seven children. Two of her brothers became priests. Her family experienced a great loss when both priests lost their lives in a swimming accident in the summer of 1962.
She was taught by the Dominican Sisters at St. Joseph for eight years and then went to St. Stephen High School, where she was taught by the IHMs. During her senior year, her mother unexpectedly died. One of Sister Tiz’s teachers from St. Stephen watched over her, suggesting she visit the Motherhouse and consider a religious vocation.
At the time, Sister Tiz had a very active social life, but she “felt called to do something more with my life.” She went to Monroe and found the visit intriguing, however, she was conflicted about leaving her father home alone. She consulted with her brother, who said, “If that’s where God wants you, God will take care of that. You don’t have to worry.” With her mind at ease, and her father’s support, she made the decision to join the community.
Sister Tiz taught second grade a St. Timothy in Trenton, Mich., for six years and a year each at St. Joseph and St. Mary, both in Monroe. She was then missioned to the Motherhouse where she supervised the student teaching of the young sisters as well as being part of the Formation staff.
She “fell in love with the children of Detroit” when she was invited to teach third grade at Holy Redeemer, a post she held for five years before ministering as the school’s principal for another four years.
This was followed by six years as principal of St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood, Mo., before Sister Tiz returned to her beloved Holy Redeemer. She remained principal there until 2011 and then began volunteering at “The Gem Room” at the school, tutoring academically at-risk children. She collaborates with the dedicated staff to make a difference in her students’ lives and help “unlock their potential.” Over the years, she has enjoyed the opportunity to engage with families from other cultures and says that “has been a gift and a blessing.”
Traveling in Europe one summer with both lay people and men and women religious particularly deepened Sister Tiz’s appreciation for her life with the IHMs and the risks that Sister Margaret Brennan took to lead the community forward following Vatican II. Similar experiences helped to prepare her for her multi-cultural ministry in the city and at Holy Redeemer.
She is most grateful for “the women who saw and called forth gifts in me, affirming and trusting me to use them in ministries that have been part of my life.” Sister Tiz’s greatest joys have been “the ministries that I was called to that I never would have chosen,” and she recognizes their graces and blessings.