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Transcript of video (June, 2005):

Sr. Jean Lenz

My name is Jean Lenz, Sr. Jean Lenz. I’ve been, in fact, I just came from the Cathedral to practice how to be a Golden Jubilarian.

(Note: Due to technical difficulties this video is in already in progress)

…to get a Journalism degree at Marquette University. Actually I guess I got everything but the degree. I did everything else and then went on to school in Theology at the University of Notre Dame, where I did get a Master’s degree in Theology. I mentioned that because when I finished with the degree at Notre Dame, I came back to the College to teach. And so I found myself back here again and it was just as it was going co-ed. I just remember my first assignment, my first teaching assignment. I remember going to the classroom and a number of young women came in and I think they were freshmen, if I’m not mistaken. I can’t remember that. But then all of a sudden, a whole group of Irish Christian brothers appeared on the scene and I had a classroom, I had about 40 people in this Old Testament class, that’s what I remember, it was an Old Testament class. It was one of the greatest challenges in my life and it really set me into College teaching.

So it was wonderful to be at the College. I’m trying to think, I can’t remember how many years, but I do remember that while I was here there was a Jesuit here by the name of Fr. David Clark. He was the Academic Vice President, if I’m not mistaken. He went on to become the President of Regis University out in Denver. He talked me into starting a Campus Ministry Department. He gave me an empty room upstairs that had to be a single bedroom in the past.

I remember cutting letters out of some felt and putting it on a banner and it spelled Campus Ministry, I hung it up and we just started. That’s how we started Campus Ministry, I mean I knew nothing about campus ministry, but I was rather privately tutored by Fr. Dave to start the program. So I got people to come and we ended up setting our agenda for the year and we had wonderful, wonderful activities.

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Fr. David would have mass for us everyday down in the lounge, on the first floor there. And I remember feeling real obligated to look at the readings ahead of time because he would come in from the office and he’d start vesting and then he would say "do you know what the first reading’s about, do you remember? Or what’s the second reading about?" Then he would get up and give this wonderful homily. So I always used to kid him about coming for the act of transubstantiation. We had, he was a wonderful leader here and it just touches my heart to see Campus Ministry has developed ever since that particular year.

Then we were trying to get a priest. Oh, I think I interviewed something like 24 people. We finally got a priest from the East; a priest, a Franciscan, by the name of Daniel Mulkearn.

. He’s still a dear friend of mine and he’s with his community out East now. But he got all kinds of programs going here. He did not want to be the Director of Campus Ministry, so he made me, not made me, but he convinced me I should be the Director. He would, you know, help develop everything; which he did.

Then I ended up being asked to go to Notre Dame, to come to Notre Dame, to help because they were going co-ed. And I, they were looking for some Sisters to help with that whole big moment. And I went there and I remember there was no job description for this for a woman. And I remember saying to the provost there "What if I only make it til Christmas?" And then he said "Well, we could arrange that. If you come and if you only make it til Christmas, we’ll get somebody else." But I said "Well, there’s no job description." He said "Well, I know. You just come share life and at the end of the year, we’ll look at what happened and then we’ll write our job description." And so that’s what I did. I ended up; this is my 32 nd year at Notre Dame.

But the thing that I hold so dear is that for about 27 of those years, I’ve been on the Board of Trustees here at the University. So it’s been wonderful to watch the history of the University. I must say, when I came on the Board, Sr. Vivian was the Superior General, I think at that time, and she was on the Board. So she was leaving and they asked me to be one of the Sister representatives. But I remember her saying to me, "You know Jean, you might be on the Board when they close the University, the College, down." And I just reminded her of that. Because it looked like could we make it. So many small Liberal Arts Colleges in the country were just financially so strapped. They just couldn’t find their way through all the changes. And we hadn’t gone co-ed, I can’t remember what year we went co-ed, but anyhow that was one of the things that looked like it might save us. But then the whole place just came alive again. So we were kidding about this the other night. I said "Vivian, do you remember the night you said to me "You might be on the Board when they close down."" I said, "Look at the place!" So, it’s been wonderful to be on the Board.

Then there were times when the University here got together with Notre Dame sometimes. Because when the University celebrated its 75 th year; they asked Fr. Heberg, who was the President Emeritus then at Notre Dame, if he would come and be the graduation speaker. So, at that time President Doppke was here and President Doppke was a Notre Dame graduate. So he thought maybe Fr. Ted would do it for a couple of reasons. Because he was a grad, but because eleven of our Sisters were at Notre Dame and helped in Ministry there. So anyhow, Fr. Ted said yes and he sent me, called, and then sent a little note and said why don’t you fly, he was going to fly over here. So I flew here with him for that graduation. He just had a great time here in this very room. He was in here, he met all the Board of Trustees people and he said to me "I’m doing this for the Sisters." And then after the graduation and everything was over, you know we had some refreshments and that. Then we flew back and he said he just thoroughly enjoyed coming in you know. Notre Dame has their graduation, this great big air conditioned basketball arena. But Fr. Ted is so at home wherever he goes. He loved the tent. We had the tent effect and for him it was just wonderfully Franciscan.

Anyhow and so, we got Fr. Ted here, you know here at our little College, our University. Then the nice thing was there were 3 or 4 people on the Board who were Notre Dame graduates. And so they got a big kick out of having him. Mike Hansen got a plane from someplace and went and got us, you know. So, anyhow, it seems like the University here has just been a part of my life all these years. My sister went here, my niece went here. I just can’t imagine my life without this place.

When I look back at special people, I think first I guess, I think of Sr. Rose Agnes because I met her when I was a freshman. She taught me Theology. She was studying Theology at St. Mary’s of Notre Dame. We were on the cutting edge already with Sr. Rose Agnes in terms of the Church, movement in the Church, women in the Church, and women going into Theology. I’m sure she’s the one that set me ready to go into Theology.

And then the other person was Sr. Seraphim who really taught me Journalism and writing. I can’t imagine my life without Sr. Seraphim. I think of her so often. I had an opportunity a couple years ago to sit and write some memoirs about Notre Dame. The book got published. I know I never would have done that, I mean it was all so much a part of my training from the University here. So it’s a little piece of history for the University and because the book deals a lot with the first women and all the different things that happened; not just the women, the men you know and the women. The stories, the stories. But I think how did I ever write that? I’m sure it was the reason; I never would have attempted that, people kept pushing me to do it. And then when I went to do it, it was like it just kept coming and coming and coming. Pretty soon I had this book and I thought, I guess I really did get educated in a certain amount of Journalism, you know to do something like that. So anyhow, Sr. Seraphim was real special.

Sr. Chrysantha was real special. She was the Dean. I learned a lot from Sr. Chrysantha. A lot of our sisters, Sr. Beatrice, oh my gosh, I learned everything I know about Shakespeare from Sr. Beatrice. I mean we could sit here and go on & on.

Sr. Tharla, Jane Marie, who is 93 years old. I was talking to her yesterday. She knows all my love life. I mean, she met all the fellas that I dated here, different ones. One I almost married before I decided to come into the community. But she always reminds me of that. So once I was campused, how many days, 27 days because I was late coming home. You got 3 days for the first minute and then a day for every minute after that. We got caught in a snowstorm someplace and the fella I was with, we just couldn’t get back here. So, later she confessed that she thought I eloped. Anyhow, because she knew it was a serious relationship. So Sr. Tharla is just one grand friend. She’s just a wonderful woman. She knew my family very well.

The other thing is I’ve stayed close to a number of the women that I graduated with. We had our 50th a couple years ago. So we all got together at Marge Hansen’s house. Someone is trying to remind me of something. What award? Did I get, oh I did, an alumni, from the College? Oh, I forgot, I can’t remember when I got that. But it was for women who went to the College for their professional accomplishments. That’s right. That’s got to be 15 to 20 years ago. I think the person who got it with me was Carolyn Murphy, who became, she just finished, she was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees here for 10 years. She just resigned. That’s right, I did get that. I forgot about that.

Anyhow, that’s some of what I remember at the College. The College of St. Francis was well known on the south side of Chicago. There were a number of folks that came here. It was just a great short ride on the Rock Island. You were far enough to be away from home, to be away from home. But not too far that your parents, even when I came to College for women to go away to College was still you know everybody didn’t do that in the 50’s; this was the late 40’s. But I distinctly remember my dad putting me on the train and giving me $5 for the week or for the 2 weeks. I was supposed to buy a dance bid out of that. You know dance bids then were like $2 or $3. I think my first year at the College, my College bill for the whole year; we have a copy of it and my brother just reminded me of this; was something like $850. That was for room and board. What’s interesting when we looked at it, that the most expensive part of my College education was my room and board not the education. I had all these PhD nuns teaching me. It was just an amazing thing, the kind of education we got.

I know when I left to go for graduate work in Journalism at Marquette, I guess there were moments when I thought I wonder if I’m ready for graduate school at a big Jesuit place like that. But once I got there, I just felt really my education, I was ready for that. Then to go on at Marquette, I mean Notre Dame. It was after the Council and our community wanted some sisters to go on in Theology because there were so many changes. I tried desperately to stay at Marquette. I never wanted to go to Notre Dame. I thought it was so Catholic that maybe they would never be able to make all the changes that the Council was asking for. Isn’t that wild? So, that was not my first choice. So I always feel like I backed into Notre Dame and stayed 32 years.

I always felt that my education here at the College prepared me for everything I did. At that time it wasn’t co-ed. We did a lot of things with St. Procopius which was a men’s College. Sometimes the University of Notre Dame fellas came here, Fornier Institute which was so heavily endowed by H.H. Smith. He brought in all those Catholic young men who went into Engineering. A number of them always came over. They were always in uniform. So the College, it’s been a wonderful place. It continues to do all these grand and glorious things. But with lots of grace, lots of Thanksgiving, and what else? Is there anything else?

I never hesitate to tell anyone to come to school here or to try to get a job here. Now I find myself, and folks here when they get into situations, sometimes they call me or I send things here that I think they might appreciate that. You know, we’ve had a problem with at Notre Dame and found some ways to deal with things. I tend to send that here. I was just talking to Lina Sims and she is doing so much more in Cultural Diversity and I work with that all the time at Notre Dame. So, she’s going to come with a group and they’re going to come to visit. She’s done that a couple times. They just pick up and come and we sit down. I show them what we have and you know get them to talk to people, to be a resource for them. I’m sure that’s Fr. Ted’s way. I’m sure I learned that from him. It was always like come to Notre Dame, talk to people, maybe someone could help you with this. So it’s been wonderful to be able to do that.