Sr. Lourdes Boyer, OSF ’61

A Servant Leadership Spotlight on Sr. Lourdes Boyer, OSF ’61

Sr. Lourdes Boyer, OSF ‘61 currently serves as the general secretary for the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet. In her role, she gathers information about the Sisters and the congregation that is needed by the Church­—meaning Rome and the Diocese of Joliet. She keeps records on every living Sister.

“Sr. Faith Szambelanczyk ‘57, is the congregation’s current archivist and she is responsible for records of the deceased Sisters,” she explained. “We work closely with each other.”

Boyer grew up in Toledo, Ohio, in a family of ten. She met the Joliet Franciscans on her home turf—not in Joliet—because they were working in her parish. Two of her older sisters chose religious life, and one, Rita, chose to join the Joliet congregation. That allowed Boyer to learn more about Joliet and the college. When Boyer realized that religious life was also her calling, she followed in Rita’s footsteps because she, too, felt called to the ministry of the Joliet Franciscans.

“You’re not only called to religious life, but you’re called to a specific community,” she said.

She bagan work on her teaching degree at St. Francis. After graduating, she taught junior high math and music at a few different schools before returning to St. Francis in 1976 to teach math to college students, especially future teachers.

“I loved to get students in class who were scared of math. It was a joy to get people to love it. My first words were always ‘This course is mathematics—not theology—so do not take anything on faith. If you can’t understand it, ask me again, and I’ll tell you in another way,’” she said with a smile.

During this time, personal computers were being developed and because Boyer was interested in them, she was asked to manage what was known as the PLATO computer assisted instruction system. She then trained Sr. Marian Voelker ‘57, the congregation’s archivist, because they could see the benefit of computers for maintaining their archives. Voelker became very adept at working with the system, and through her research, she was able to find a program that was developed specifically for religious organizations. The program assigned numbers to each Sister which corresponded with key dates in their religious life, such as the date they entered the congregation, or the date they professed their vows. Now, at any point in time, Boyer can query all the Sisters that were in a particular profession class and print out important information about them—e.g. the time that they died or left the congregation.

Because of Boyer’s computer knowledge, she was elected to be the congregation’s general secretary in 1984. She served in that role until 1992, when she felt a calling to try something new and became the business manager at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Joliet. She did that for ten years, then was asked to be the coordinator of the Sisters living at Our Lady of the Angels retirement home.

In 2008, a new governing board was elected. Since none of the four sisters chosen had experience working on a governing board, they asked Boyer to serve, once again, as general secretary. She has continued to this day. Right now she’s in her 19th total year in the role.

Boyer has represented the Joliet Franciscans while USF has been preparing for its Centennial in 2020. She has been able to identify individuals in old photos and has even determined the approximate dates some photos were taken. In USF’s centennial year, Boyer will also celebrate her 60th anniversary as a professed Sister, so there will be even more reasons to celebrate the rich history and “Franciscan spirit” of not only USF, but also Boyer and the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.