S. Jacqueline Kowalski
“It is hard to choose my happiest memory,” says Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Jacqueline Kowalski (the former Sister Sheila Marie). “I would have to say that I am happy that our Congregation is on the forefront of responding to the needs of God’s people, and that as Sisters, we are given the freedom to pursue careers that are meaningful to us.” This year, Sister Jackie celebrates 60 years as a religious.
From an early age, Sister Jackie had a connection with the Sisters of Charity. Her maternal grandparents were among the first settlers in Mount Clemens, Michigan, and donated land upon which St. Louis parish in Mount Clemens was built. Attending St. Louis School for all but two of her elementary and high school years, Sister Jackie said she was deeply impressed by the friendliness of the Sisters of Charity who taught at her school.
“Throughout my junior and senior years of high school, Sister John Francis Burns was my science teacher,” Sister Jackie says. “I loved her upbeat, outgoing manner and the friendly spirit in the Community. The possibility of a religious vocation was a constant intrusion in my thoughts during my senior year.” Sister entered the Congregation on Sept. 8, 1958.
While ministering as an elementary teacher at St. Saviour in Rossmoyne, Ohio, from 1961 until 1963 and St. Andrew School in Milford, Ohio, from 1963 until 1966, Sister Jackie was drawn to the children who had difficulties with learning. For the next decade, she ministered as a teacher and a principal at Springer School in Cincinnati, Ohio, a school dedicated to empowering students with learning disabilities. While also teaching, Sister earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the College of Mount St. Joseph (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1968 and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Cincinnati in 1970.
After 10 years, Sister Jackie felt a great need to work with children and families as a psychologist. She applied for graduate school at the University of Cincinnati, completing coursework for a dual doctorate in special education and psychology in 1980. That year, she won the Garvin Award for having the best doctoral dissertation in the College of Education.
Additionally, in 1980 Sister Jackie was recruited by the College of Mount St. Joseph to minister in setting up a diagnostic center as part of a community outreach program. Along with teaching in the Education Department, Sister served as director of the diagnostic clinic for 11 years (1980-1991), and helped develop Project Excel, the learning disability program for college students. In 1989, she founded the Seton Family Center in East Price Hill (Cincinnati), a non-profit organization that serves the mental health needs of people in the community and served as director until 2009, when she retired.
Nowadays, Sister Jackie serves as a volunteer in many capacities. “My hopes and dreams are simple,” she says, “I want to continue serving God’s people in whatever way is possible for me.” Sister is a facilitator at Resurrection School (Cincinnati) for students dealing with personal grief and loss and also leads retreats at the Mount St. Joseph Spirituality Center. For the past 25 years, Sister has enjoyed dabbling in art, especially pottery. She also plays guitar, sometimes leading singing groups.
“I am so grateful to my family, my Congregation and God for all the gifts I have been given and the marvelous opportunities I have experienced as a Sister of Charity,” says Sister Jackie.