My relationship with Sister Jeanine stretches from that year (kindergarten) at St. Agnes Catholic School to over all of these years until the present day.
I remember clearly those good days at St. Agnes. Sr. Mary DeCarmel was the principal. One of our neighbors, Cathie Williams, would walk me to school, and if we got there early (I was in the morning class) I would stay in Sr. Jean Michael’s fourth-grade classroom for a while. The kindergarten classroom was in the basement of the old school, and one had to exit up a flight of steps on the playground. It was next door to Sr. Herman Joseph’s music room!
We all liked Sr. Jeanine a lot and she always had a lot of art classes. One of these was to take glass casters, put our pictures into them, and then put in some blue plaster. I kept mine for many years and in recent years gave it back to her!
My next memory of Sr. Jeanine was during the great 100th Jubilee celebration in 1973, visiting with her then.
The next important time for Sister and I was during the years that she was taking care of her brother Francis (“Babe”) after he had been mugged and beaten. I kept in touch with her then through Sr. James Marie, her classmate. I knew personally the sacrifice that she made to take a leave of absence from the community to take care of him, and then to eventually have to leave the community.
In those days I was in Chicago regularly to work on the Appellate Court for the Province of Illinois. I would stay at either St. Andrew’s or Our Lady of Grace. I would take the bus to her and Babe’s apartment and visit with them and at times go out to dinner. After she made the difficult sacrifice to leave the community to continue Babe’s care she was teaching at Our Lady of Grace. When I would stay with Fr. Tivy, I would visit her classroom, and “Miss McGinley” would proudly introduce me to her students!
One of St. Paul’s letters says (Romans 8:28) “All things work to the good for those who love God” – that certainly reflects the next part of Sr. Jeanine’s life when, after the death of her brother, she was able to return to the community. She called me to let me know and was especially grateful for Sr. Rose Miriam’s kindness and help in that important time. She was so grateful to be back in community and for her to be able to have the Dominican habit again and be back involved with kindergarten and primary students.
In the years that followed we always visited when I was able to come back to Springfield and visit the Motherhouse. She was certainly proud of her Irish heritage. When I would visit her, when she was taking care of “Babe,” there was an older Irish woman, Julia Duffy, living by herself in the same complex, and Sister would help her as well.
Sister’s faithfulness to her vocation is a powerful sign of “only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life” for all of us, her students, over these many years.
Her vocational story is also a powerful reminder that, trusting in God, “all shall be well,” as Julian of Norwich proclaimed. This is certainly a reminder of God’s everlasting presence and love and faithfulness to His people in these very challenging times.