2015 Jubilarian – Genevieve (William Joseph) Petrak
Sister Genevieve (Gen) Petrak grew up on a small berry farm in Minnetonka Township, Minn., with her older brother and parents. She spent her summers picking strawberries and raspberries. She felt at home in nature, feeling a sense of God’s presence.
Her father died suddenly when she was 12 years old. Her mother continued to run the farm alone, as her brother was in the United States Navy. After high school, Gen worked in the purchasing office of the local farm implement company for six years before entering the IHM community. IHM Sisters had come to staff the school in the newly established parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary. Gen became acquainted with the sisters when she volunteered to type the parish bulletin on Saturdays. Witnessing a spirit of joyfulness and a sense of community among the sisters, her own desire for more meaning in her life and her mother’s support were major factors that led Gen to join the IHM community.
After four years at St. Raymond and one year at Blessed Sacrament, both in Detroit, Gen was delighted to be missioned by Mother Anna Marie Grix to her own home parish at Immaculate Heart of Mary, mostly for the sake of her mother. After seven years, Gen felt the desire and call to be part of team ministry at the newly established Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville, Minn., where she served in various ministries for 12 years, the last few years as liturgist.
A desire and call for ministry in Africa, which Gen had dreams of as a child, was awakened in her last years at Burnsville. After completing her master’s degree in pastoral studies at St. Thomas University, St. Paul, Minn., sub-Saharan studies at Notre Dame and Maryknoll, Gen was missioned to Mutoko, Zimbabwe. During her 13 years in Zimbabwe, she worked as a teacher in Mutoko and Embakwe and lastly in the townships of Mubvuku and Tafara in collaboration with the Redemptorists in formation and parish ministry.
Gen was the first to come and the last to leave Zimbabwe. “All my time in Zimbabwe was pure gift,” she says. “It stretched me and challenged me as no other experience … I have come to appreciate, on a much deeper level, the beauty of being human through the eyes of another culture.”
After leaving Zimbabwe, Gen served as a pastoral care minister at the IHM Motherhouse and was then asked to be a member of the Motherhouse administration team. After retirement, she continues to be involved in liturgy.