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Transcript of video (June, 2005):

Sr. Therese Tusek

I’m Sr. Therese Tusek, formerly Sr. Stephen. I attended the College of St. Francis as a lay student. I began in September or August of 1946, intending to prepare to be a High School Math and Science teacher.

However at some point, the Lord entered my life, much against my will, and kept prodding me to become a member and to join a religious community.

I came from a nominal Catholic family, the youngest of eight children, and we always went to Mass on Sunday but that was about it. And so the idea of a vocation was not anything that was nurtured in me. It just was there.

And I started getting the thoughts about that when I was in the, toward the end of my junior year in High School at the Academy, St. Francis Academy. And I rejected the thought and it kept coming back at the most inopportune times; at dances, on dates, at picnics, etc… So I just ignored it until November of 1946.

I was a day student and the College offered the opportunity for a closed retreat for the students. And I was interested simply because I’d never done anything like that before. And so I went. It was a weekend, sometime in November. And it was in Clarendon Hills in a building that was probably like an old Victorian mansion.

And it was the days when retreat meant the priest stood in front and talked and you sat and listened and kept quiet. And at one point in the day, we were allowed to go outside for a walk but we were supposed to keep silent. So I went out for a walk and there was 1 other person outside, and it was Gretchen Steigerwald who was a senior at that time. She came over to me and introduced herself and said "Did you want to talk?" And of course I wanted to talk. So we did.

And she began telling me about herself, she was from someplace in Ohio, I can’t remember where.

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She had her life all in order. She was going to be graduating in the spring. Then that summer she was going to marry the love of her life, Ying, who was a pilot, that’s all I remember.

I remember saying to her, "How can you be so sure?" And she said, "Well, I’ve always prayed to find the right man and I think I did. I feel that I did." And I said, well that’s interesting.

She’s the first person I ever spoke to about the fact that I was feeling a call to be a religious. She gave me some advice. The advice was, you should talk to somebody. You should talk to a Sister because you need to find out if that’s real or not because otherwise you’ll never know, no matter what you do. So, I did.

I went to my, then Chemistry teacher, who wasn’t, I wasn’t really close to her. The Sister that I liked and was close to was in Ohio at the time. But when I went to the Sister who was my Chemistry teacher at the time, she laughed. And I thought, "good I’m off the hook." And then she recovered and said, "Well Terri, I just never thought of you as being a Sister, but you never know."

So she gave me a passage from St. Matthew’s gospel to pray over and think about. And it was that, you know, "ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you," etc… So I did.

And I came back, and at the time I had a very steady boyfriend with whom I thought I would be planning a future. So, Sam was very much a part of that. And I told him and he just laughed.

So I just went back to Sister and said, "You know I think I should look into this a little more. I want to be sure." So she took me to see then Reverend Mother Immaculate. She was very nice. I remember clearly, she asked me if I had any serious illnesses. I said yes. And she said, "Well, what is it?" And I said, "I have sinus trouble." We all laughed. And from there it just kind of snow-balled.

So, I entered the community in January, January 25 of 1947. Planning to stay 2 weeks to find out if I really belonged or not. And it’s been a long 2 weeks. I celebrated my Golden anniversary of profession in 1999. So I’ve been a Joliet Franciscan for a long time. And I’m very happy about it. I have much to be grateful for. For one thing, I have all my body parts work and I have good energy. So I’m very grateful for that.

I had the opportunity to be on the faculty at the then College of St. Francis. I honestly can’t remember the year. It came as a very, very much of a surprise. The Sister who was running the Home-Ec department, upped and left the community quite suddenly. I had been assigned to teaching Home-Ec simply because that’s what the community needed.

In those days you did what you were told to do, and the Holy Spirit provided everything else.

So, I was assigned here to head the Home-Ec department. I was like 32 years old, I think. Everybody on the staff was an awesome individual as far as I was concerned. They all had PhD’s, they were all a good deal older. It was the time in our religious life when your rank in community was most important. So I was always at the end of everything. I didn’t have a clue as to what I should be doing. But, I’m smart and I learned quickly.

We had a, I have a couple of very fond, funny memories. One of them was, that the Home-Ec department was in the part of the building that now houses the bookstore. There was a, excuse me, an office and then like a living room setting and then a large area that had cooking stations.

When I was assigned there, one of the first things I was asked to do was to teach nutrition to the student nurses. Those are the student nurses from St. Joseph’s Hospital. When we began the course, they, the College, decided to renovate the Home-Ec department.

So I had a group, and I don’t know how many, probably 20 some nurses seated in the food lab while they were jack-hammering the floor behind. It was really something else. One of the people in the class was one of my classmates, Sr. Grace Brouch, who is an RN at this point and stationed in Brazil. It was good to have her because she helped to reflect. I think I did a good job. They all said they learned, so that was good.

The other thing that I remember very clearly was a course that I can’t remember, probably clothing. It wasn’t clothing construction because I was very poor and weak in that area. But it was the background, like textiles and so forth. I had a very small class. Two of the people in the class were young Sisters from Carola, India. They were delightful. They had very little command of English. Their experience of our lives was so different that they giggled all the time.

I was very much, I was closer to their age and I could help them. I recall the day that they came. They were coming up the steps of the Motherhouse with the Sister who went to the airport to pick them up. And they immediate, every second or third step they pulled up their stockings. Someone told them before they came, that they had to wear shoes and stockings. They only wore a chemise under their habit, so they had no way to hook the stockings. So they kept falling. But they were delightful.

Anyway, they were in this class and I recall that they had trouble with the language. I would help them. I didn’t know Indian, or whatever they speak, but we got through somehow. But one of the things that I remember about that class, was one of the quizzes that I gave them was to match fabrics with articles of clothing. I recall that their response to an appropriate fabric for a man’s business suit was organdy. And I still laugh when I think of it.

The days I was at the College, 2 years. It was a very difficult time for me because I was so different then everyone else. I had a friend who was stationed over at St. Ray’s, Sr. Rochelle who eventually left, was good. She would stop by and I did have some younger companionship. But it was a difficult time.

The College had, a couple of the people that I really remember. The first day that I came down to breakfast after I had been assigned here, I met Sr. Claudia in the corridor. She was the tall Math teacher. She gave me a big hug and welcomed me. And that meant everything to me because I was really afraid of being here. Sr. Miriam Clare was one of my favorite teachers. I took courses from her in the summertime as well as enjoyed her company and her presence while I was on staff.

I don’t have a whole lot more to relate about the experience in terms of the school. I eventually found my way to being able to be comfortable with the Sisters in the Recreation room and that was good. I got to know them a little better, more as peers instead of just student and teacher.