Shortly before I started the fifth grade, my family moved from a farm in South Dakota to the farm where my mom grew up in Minnesota.
Naturally, with this move came a change in schools. I went from public school to a Catholic grade school. This was my introduction to sisters — as in nuns — as teachers. Sister Emily was my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher; Sister Louise was my seventh- and eighth-grade teacher.
These sisters had something good going. They taught me more than just reading, writing and arithmetic — kind of like the two sisters I know now. Sisters Janine Braun and Suzanne Slominski are the last two Benedictine sisters within the Catholic grade schools of the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Sister Janine will teach 15 sixth-grade students this year at Sacred Heart School in Freeport. That’s a bit of a change for her as the last five years she has been both the principal and half-time sixth-grade teacher at Sacred Heart.
“Our enrollment has continued to increase to the point that we needed an individual to fill each position,” Sister Janine said. “And, we have a wonderful individual that is willing to be mentored while she takes on the challenge of learning the administrative duties [as principal] so I can teach full time, my first love.”
Sister Suzanne will begin her 43rd year as a principal, the last nine at St. John-St. Andrew School in Meire Grove/Greenwald. “But this might be my last,” she joked. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do this for as long as I have.”
A 4-H field trip to an orphanage run by Franciscan sisters and attending St. Benedict’s High School in St. Joseph were two influencing factors on the path of Sister Janine Braun becoming a Benedictine nun. For Sister Suzanne Slominski, two positive role models — her fourth-grade teacher, Sister Almira, and Cathedral High School teacher Sister Mary Charles — inspired her to want to be like them.
Housemates since 1969, the two members of the Benedictine community now live in a rented home just outside of Sauk Centre. Their time together began when they were both at St. Paul Church in St. Cloud 47 years ago.
The convent at Holy Family School in Sauk Centre was their home along with 13 other sisters from 1972 to 2000. With the reduction in religious vocations, the two were the only ones left by 2003 and that’s when they moved to their present location on Sauk Lake.
Recently, the walking cast she’s been wearing due to a broken bone in her ankle has challenged Sister Suzanne. “It’s the pits. I’ve got to get ready for school,” she said. Her limited mobility this summer has increased her time spent on other activities — namely glass painting, crocheting and watching the Minnesota Twins play ball on TV.
Asked what has brought them the most joy in their lives, they both agreed that “seeing children achieve their full potential and blossom into faith-filled Christian adults” would rank near the top. Sharing the Gospel and Benedictine values, especially with the other women of their faith community, has also been a huge joy and blessing.
One more thing that brings them joy is George, their 9-year-old Shih Tzu dog. “Sister Janine is No. 1 with George. I’m No. 2,” said Sister Suzanne. “She feeds him, plays and goes on walks with him.” That might have a little something to do with that ranking.
Besides taking George for walks, Sister Janine also enjoys reading, time with family and friends, social media and cooking in her free time. “It’s a good thing she cooks,” admitted Sister Suzanne, “otherwise we’d be eating a lot of macaroni and cheese.”
I was blessed to be guided by religious sisters in my elementary school days. The same holds true for my children and many others. Sisters Janine and Suzanne: two friends — sisters in Christ — thank you for cheerfully doing the will of God.
Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.