Sisters Francis, Ilona and Rosanne Mensik
|From left: Sisters Rosanne, Ilona and Francis Mensik|
Three sisters – three stories
Sisters Francis, Ilona and Rosanne Mensik are “sister sisters” whose chosen religious names reflect their deep family roots and connections.
Sister Francis – the oldest – was baptized Rose Mary but chose a religious name based on her father’s middle name. Sister Ilona – baptized Patricia Ann – notes that her name is the Hungarian version of Helen and that their mother’s father was from Hungary. And Sister Rosanne – baptized Joan – combined two of her siblings’ baptismal names for her religious name.
Yet, their calls to religious life were as individual as they are.
A sign from God
Sister Francis recalls that she had School Sisters of Notre Dame for teachers as she was growing up, and it was when she was in eighth grade that she received a sign from God affirming her desire to enter religious life.
“My parents owned a grocery store so I would deliver groceries to the convent which was two blocks away,” Sister Francis said. “This was going on in my mind. In November I remember stopping in front of the rectory with bags of things, and there was one rose on a bush. I stood and looked at it. I was thinking as I was walking to the convent, ‘I want to become a nun; what am I going to do; how am I going to explain it to mom and dad.’ And when I saw the one rose, I stopped and stared at it and thought, ‘Oh, God, that’s my sign, thank you.’ So that part of it happened in 8th grade because I knew I had to tell my father and mother.
“The rose is a story in itself. There was another sister younger than I. Joan of Arc had just been canonized. My mother read her story so she named Joan, my second sister, that name. She died at 3 ½ years old from lupus sarcoma. And the day of her burial, instead of getting carnations, they gave us roses as they lowered the coffin. I can remember the rose dropping and just watching it fall into that empty space. I would always look for a white rose after that. It became a symbol for me.”
A thoughtful choice
Sister Ilona’s path was not as sure.
“Everyone asked if I was going to be a sister too,” said Sister Ilona, who is four years younger that Sister Francis. “But I said one in the family is enough. Well, I went to two years at Commercial High, and while I was there I used to say to people I was going to get married and have six kids. Then as I got older, I said I will get married and have four, then two.
“Then I started to think about it, and I don’t know why I started to think about becoming a sister. I remember being in church asking God to give me a sign. And one day one of the sisters who taught me at Commercial passed me in the stairway and said it was time for us to decide whether we wanted to go to a new high school for the next couple of years. She asked where I wanted to go. I said I wanted to go to Fort Lee which is where the girls go if they want to become sisters. After I said it I, realized God pushed me to say that. The sister asked if I told my parents or a priest and I hadn’t.”
Educators in all they do
Sister Rosanne, eight years younger than Sister Francis, also had been considering religious life, but she initially was drawn to the Sister of Charity.
“My dad was Glee Club and choir director of St. John the Nepomucene, and as I grew older, I took care of the children of Glee Club members,” Sister Rosanne said. “But I also wanted to take care of orphan children. I wanted to join Sisters of Charity. Then I applied for the candy striper job at St. Vincent’s in Bridgeport so I stayed with SSND. And my formation years were completely different than my sisters (Francis and Ilona). All the directors were different. Postulant and novice timing was different. I was in the first class to come from Wilton (Connecticut). I came here as a novice.”
Sisters Francis Ilona and Rosanne have been educators throughout their entire lives. Their ministries have included working with hearing-challenged children, teaching music and elementary school children, principal, computer teacher, librarian, working at a homeless shelter, development department staff and community leader. They continue to minister as volunteers.