Eulogy for Sister Jane Guenette, 1915-2012

November 11, 2012 by

VIGIL: Nov. 13, 2012,  Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia
EULOGIST: Sister Mary Savoie


I think that for many of us, when we hear the scripture passage, “ Let the little children come to me,” we think of Sister Jane Guenette. Why? Because her whole life on this earth was dedicated to ministry on behalf of children.

Sister Jane, a gentle, soft spoken, calm, prayerful and committed Sister of St. Joseph, has completed her journey on this earth.  A statement she repeated so often to the many children she taught was: “Stay close to Jesus.”   Jane lived that statement each day of her life among us.  And now, without doubt she is not only saying those words, but is in reality close to Jesus.

She was born in Dryburg, Mich., on May 22, 1915.  At her baptism her mother, Rubia Savoie, and father, Leonard Guenette gave her the name of Jane Alexina.

She was the fourth of 15 children — nine brothers and five sisters: Sister Marie Therese, Lucien, Albert, Albertine, Leo, Isadore,  Ernest, Theodore, Joseph,  Oscar, Gerald, Therese, Noella and Marie.  Eleven have preceded Sister Jane in death. One brother, Gerald and two sisters, Therese and Noella are still living.

Sister Jane many times said of herself, “I am a cradle Catholic, baptized when I was 8 days old and raised in a family where religion was always a priority. I grew up loving God from an early age.”

Jane Alexina completed her elementary education in a one-room country school near her home.  She completed her high school in a boarding school in Sault Ste Marie, Mich., a school operated by the Loretta Sisters.

On  July 30, 1933, at the age of 18, Jane Alexina Guenette made the long trip from Michigan to Concordia, Kan., and requested membership with the Sisters of St. Joseph.  On March 19, 1934, she was admitted to the novitiate, taking the name of Sister Mary Noella.  A year later, on March 19, 1935, she pronounced her temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Three years later, on Aug. 15, 1938, she made her final commitment as a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan.

In the process, she earned an educational degree from Marymount College and a degree in the Montessori Method of teaching children.

This makes it sound as if Sister Jane had a smooth and uninterrupted beginning of her five years as a Sister of St. Joseph.  However, as she so often repeated to me and also wrote in her life journal, all was not so.

Shortly after completing her novitiate, about two years after coming to Concordia and at the early age of 20 with a high school education only, she was sent to Chicago to teach first grade at St. Joseph & St. Ann elementary school.  She wrote: “I felt lost.  Even though I grew up in a family caring for young children, I had no idea what to do here as a teacher.

“So I wrote a letter to Mother Bernardine who was my principal during my school days in Sault Ste Marie with these words: ‘As a 20 year old with no teaching experience or know how, I do not have the faintest idea of how or what to teach these little children.  Please advise me.’  Mother Bernardine wrote back immediately saying, ‘I cannot tell you how to teach young children, but here is what you need to keep before you at all times, those who teach will shine in heaven for all eternity.’ ”

Jane’s response to this advice? “Well, that did not help me much in teaching but it did at that time give me the courage to go on.”

And go on she did!  Sister Jane taught young children in Chicago for 16 years. Following that assignment, she taught primary grades in Fairbury, Neb., and in the Kansas Catholic schools in Beloit, Junction City, Herrington, Damar and Kansas City.  These 54 years of ministry to and with children certainly provided daily opportunities for Sister Jane to teach not only the academics required during the primary years of education, but also to demonstrate by her life and teaching the virtues and values so important to Christian development during the early years of one’s life.

Of her many years of teaching primary grade children, Sister Jane said, “Teaching children during the primary years of their education was like being a gardener. I planted the seeds by showing children how to break open the seeds, that is, how to break apart the sounds of words. By spring of each year, the children blossomed like flowers and with joy and excitement told everyone around  them,  ‘I can read all by myself.’ ”

At the time of her 50th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Jane wrote this about her ministry  experience of teaching at Cure of Ars School in Kansas City: “For some reason, I was nervous about again teaching in a large city school after so many years of teaching in small rural schools.  So, before coming to Kansas City, I asked to make an eight-day retreat.  The last evening of this retreat, following several hours of heavy rain, I noted a full beautiful rainbow in the sky.  It was as if God was saying to me, ‘Jane, see this rainbow, its beauty gives hope and courage.  Go and fear not.  And remember, I go with you to teach my little ones how much a love them.’ ”  Those years in Kansas City were Jane’s last of her 54 years of formal classroom teaching.  In 1987, Sister Jane moved to the Motherhouse where she continued teaching reading to children on a one-to-one basis.  She said with excitement, “Now, I continue to teach phonics, teaching children how to unlock words.”

In one of Sister Jane’s recent commitment statements she wrote, “I commit myself to pray more since I am retired, to pray for my family and friends, for all the children in my classes and for their parents, and for my community.  I also work at seeing God in all I meet each day.  God has blessed me with many graces through thick and thin.  Maybe at the low times I didn’t appreciate God’s blessings, but as I look back over my life I realize that God has showered me with great love and care.  I hope and pray that I have been able to pass on this love to others, especially to the children in my classes.  I have loved and enjoyed our community and have never regretted coming back to retire at our Motherhouse.  My coming back to live here is what I call the vestibule of heaven. I am trying each day to practice what I used to tell the children in my classes: Stay close to Jesus!”

In conclusion, let me paraphrase a statement from I John 2:18-22 that I think Sister Jane would like us all to hold in our hearts: “This world’s last hour has come for me, but one last time I say to all of you, Stay close to Jesus.”  Thank you, Sister Jane, for showing us through your life and ministry the true meaning of these words.

And, as many of you know, Sister Jane was involved during the later part of her life with what is called Project Linus. This is an international organization dedicated to providing seriously ill or traumatized children with homemade security blankets; providing love, a sense of security, worth and comfort.

The number of such  hand-crocheted and knitted blankets made by Sister Jane for these children is too numerous to count, but here is one of those you made, Jane.  Take it with to heaven.  (Sister Mary then placed one of Sister Jane’s small blankets on her casket.)


Memorials for Sister Jane Guenette may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS  66901. Or you may make a donation in Sister Jane’s memory online, through a secure server with PayPal, by clicking on the DONATE button below.


9 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Jane Guenette, 1915-2012”

  1. Paul Guenette on November 19th, 2012 3:50 pm

    There’s a great family reunion happening in heaven. How Sister Jane kept us (and our children) all straight, heaven knows, but she cared deeply and profoundly and always seemed to have a kind word. A graceful, loving and patient teacher of children. She taught us about dum-dums and being good!

  2. Donna(Germain)Seymour on November 16th, 2012 5:03 pm

    Sister Jane – you will be greatly missed. Thank You for all the prayers you have said for my family. They were always answered!
    We are lucky to have you for our Aunt.
    Say Hello to Mom and Dad for me. Also Don.

  3. Bimbo Guenette on November 15th, 2012 7:19 pm

    Sister Jane, I love you and know you are with your siblings near Christ. Tell my parents Hi and yes I still want a sucker too. We’ll miss you…But will see you again!

  4. Pauline (Germain) Gorenchan on November 14th, 2012 8:55 pm

    Dear Sister Jane, you have always been such an important part of all our lives. You always lived your faith and showed by example your deep love of God. We are blessed, still, to have you with us now interceeding to the Lord Himself. Thank you.

  5. GERALD and MARY LOU GUENETTE on November 13th, 2012 7:39 pm

    Sister Jane you always be in our hearts. What a reunion in heaven with all your brothers and sisters. We will miss talking to you every week. Whenever she put our names on the prayer board our prayers were answered.We used to pray for Sister Jane Now we pray to her. She will be missed so much. Love you Sister Jane.

  6. Wilfrid, Rita Legault and family (cousins from Canada) on November 13th, 2012 11:20 am

    We were blessed to have you in our llives dear Sr. Jane and you were an inspiration to all of us….and a very special thank you for the many prayers that you added to your “prayer board” for all of us and we know you will continue to pray for us all up in heaven.
    Our deepest sympathies to all her family and close friends!

  7. Ann Marie (Guenette) Sheffield on November 13th, 2012 10:32 am

    Sunday, Heaven welcomed home one of God’s most devoted angels! For all my life Sister Jane has been an inspiration and a source of unconditional love! She would always tell me “Ann Marie, every day is a gift and a blessing”. I know she was a blessing to everyone who had the privilege to know her. I love you auntie and I know you will always be in my heart and by my side! I can’t wait for you to welcome me home one day….May you rest in peace <3 xx

  8. Yvonne (Germain) Flynn on November 12th, 2012 8:18 am

    To our Aunt, dear Sr. Jane….our families are indebted to you for all the many prayers requests you tacked on your “prayer board”. our prayers for you, and to you, will never stop. We will miss you.

  9. Dianne (Guenette) Hansen on November 11th, 2012 7:57 pm

    I was blessed to call Sr. Jane my Aunt. She was one of the most amazing women that I have ever known. Jesus has a very special angel in Heaven tonight and the Guenette reunion will be better then Heaven has ever seen!

    God Bless you Auntie Sr. Jane…I love you…till we meet again XO

Feel free to leave a comment...