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Sister Jean Frances remembered for love of Christ, creativity

Sister Jean Frances remembered for love of Christ, creativity - (29-11-2017)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Jean Frances Dolan, OSB, passed away Monday, Nov. 27, at Our Lady of Rickenbach healthcare facility in Clyde, Missouri.

She was born on June 20, 1937, in Chicago to Raymond Dolan and Mildred Klempert Dolan and grew up in the Elmwood Park suburb. Her interest in religious life began when she was only 4 years old.

“I announced I wanted to be a nun when I grew up because the nuns lived with God,” she laughed. “My mother insisted I would change my mind when I got older, but I never did.”

Even as a teenager, she wasn’t afraid of hard work from the day she got a Social Security number. She worked as a bakery sales clerk every day after school and often on weekends and in the evenings. She later took care of her father, who had become partially paralyzed in middle age. Both jobs prepared her well for life in the monastery where she became a baker and worked in the infirmary.

While in high school, she confided to her chaplain that she was considering a vocation as a contemplative sister. He gave her a brochure about the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, but she took one look at the cover photograph of the beautiful Clyde chapel and changed her mind and returned the brochure.

“I was thinking of a simpler order. The Sisters’ chapel was too fancy for me,” she laughed. “Then the chaplain asked me, ‘Are you entering for the Lord or for the place?’ I answered, ‘The Lord,’ and he handed the brochure right back to me.”

It was the adoration of Christ that created awe in Sister Jean Frances’ life at an early age. The thought of giving her life energies to the adoration of Christ in the Eucharist, in a role of unceasing intercession for the world, seemed “a most noble and heroic self-gift and privilege.”

She left her home and, along with childhood friend Rosemary Therese Hanley who later became Sister Mary Lioba Hanley, OSB, entered the Benedictine Sisters in 1955 and made her first monastic profession on March 13, 1958. She made her final profession on March 21, 1963.

During her years as a Benedictine, Sister Jean Frances spent time at many of the congregation’s monasteries, including those in Clyde, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; Mundelein, Illinois; Tucson, Arizona; and San Diego.

“My family joked – ‘Join the Monastery, See the World’,” she said. “I loved the transfers to other monasteries because each was a new adventure. You are changed by every place you go and everyone you meet.”

In addition to the bakery and the infirmary, her tasks throughout the years included work in the sacristy, the printery, altar bread department, kitchen, portress, composing antiphons for liturgy and Clyde prioress. She later served as the congregation’s director of oblates and loved that assignment.

“I meet these beautiful people who are sincere in sharing their desire for something deeper in their lives,” Sister Jean Frances said. “To walk with them has been such a gift and one of the biggest joys of my life.” Indeed she was a dedicated companion in faith to the Oblates.

Sister Jean Frances found joy in many things, especially in nature and in creativity. In 2011, she released her children’s book, “The Horse’s Tale.” This was based on an incident found in a journal from the late 1800s involving one of the Benedictine Sisters, a blizzard, freezing children, and the Sister’s horse, which kept them warm and alive until help arrived. Not only did she write the short story, but she illustrated it, displaying some of the talent inherited from her father, a gifted artist. She was working on another small book just before her final illness.

She also enjoyed plants, flowers and taking photographs. Reading was another activity she treasured, with the expansion of ideas through words.

“I love learning,” she once said. “Self-knowledge breeds understanding and compassion for everyone.”

She was quick to laugh, treasuring silly events that tied the Sisters together. Her stories of misadventures in cooking were legendary. She recalled with fondness the time she “literally fell out of the elevator while bringing Cardinal Cody’s five-layer lemon cake up to the refectory. It went all over the floor and the walls, and I spent that festive meal with buckets and rags wiping up the mess.” On another occasion, “Sister Sean (Douglas) and I were un-molding Jello for a fancy feast and it landed on both of my arms, up to the elbows, instead of on the sheet we had decorated. We laughed until we cried.”

Over the years, Sister Jean Frances tucked away memories of Sisters and what she most enjoyed about religious life.

“I am so grateful for the community that is my family and that holds me through thick and thin,” she said. “Even after all these years I haven’t lost that awe and wonder of contemplative life that I felt as a teenager.”

Sister Jean Frances had lived at Our Lady of Rickenbach since 2008, suffering from asthma and difficulty in breathing, but she loved people, visitors and reading. She is survived by her sister, Patty, and her monastic family. Her funeral liturgy and burial at our Mount Calvary Cemetery are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.