Major renovation to improve beauty, practical aspects of chapel
WAVERLY (SNR) - As the Marian Sisters celebrate the 60th jubilee of their founding, they’re embarking on an ambitious project to “Build Something Beautiful for God”—a renovation of their chapel.
The much-needed project will aim to make the chapel the “most beautiful spot in our convent,” the sisters announced. “It should reflect the beauty of our lives as brides of Christ and should show the public by its beauty what is most important to us—Christ.”
The current chapel at Marycrest Motherhouse has been in use for 50 years, with few improvements other than needed repairs, padding on the pews, and carpet on the floors. The new renovation, designed with the help of Father Jamie Hottovy, Char and Jean Kriz, and other consultants, will ensure the place of worship makes use of art, design, and architecture that reflects the dignity of the space.
Aesthetical features and designs will stay true to the sisters’ Marian and Franciscan heritage and will help tell the story of religious life and the Marian community in particular. Preliminary plans for the project, which has been approved by Bishop James Conley and the Diocesan Building Commission, include stained-glass windows to help with lighting and add a spirit of contemplation; three murals along the back wall, depicting (tentatively) St. Francis, the Assumption of Mary, and St. Joseph; and renovating, restoring, and modifying the altar, ambo, and pews. Other changes will include upgrades to improve lighting, air quality and circulation, and the sound system, which will extend into the lobby area for overflow.
The Marian Sisters first seriously discussed the project, which is expected to cost about $500,000, more than a year ago. Since then, the Sisters have been saving their “pennies,” turning in stipends from projects, donations from birthdays, and monetary Christmas gifts. Basically, any money given to the community that was not from salaries or earmarked for something else has been saved for the chapel. Their contributions, now totaling more than $50,000, together with a leading donation of $250,000 from longtime Lincoln residents Tom and Rhonda Peed, ensure the project can begin.
“We now turn to our families, friends, and the many people who touch our lives to help us bring this good work for the Lord to completion,” said Sister Cecilia Ann Rezac, major superior. “During our 60th Year of Jubilee, we aim to beautify our chapel anew and make our chapel a small and simple foretaste of the heavenly realm,” she said.
“We thank you in advance for your contributions of prayer, finances, and time to help us do something beautiful for the Lord.”
The Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln: 60 years of service
Second in a series of four articles celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Marian Sisters
WAVERLY (SNR) - When Sister Marta Silna and Sister Theresa Gottvaldova, the two foundresses of the Marian Sisters, escaped from the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia in 1950, they did not know where Divine Providence would take them or what kind of apostolic work would be theirs. The two sisters were registered nurses and had been working in Czech hospitals. Sister Marta had also been an instructor in a nursing school.
Once safe in a convent in Austria, the sisters began ministering to other escapees in a camp for displaced persons. When Bishop Louis Kucera, Bishop of Lincoln, heard from an immigrant Czech priest, Father Jan Smutny, that the sisters were there and that “they were young enough to work,” the Bishop began a process to bring them to the Lincoln Diocese.
Sister Theresa was the first to arrive in Lincoln in 1951. She began serving at St. Thomas Orphanage, taking care of the babies. Sister Marta, who had earlier obtained a visa to Canada, joined her in 1952 as soon as she was able to get papers to immigrate to the U.S. At St. Thomas Orphanage, the two sisters began a long history of service to the Lincoln Diocese.
Soon young women joined them in caring for the children at the orphanage, and the nucleus of a new religious community was formed in the Marian Year of 1954.
As the young community grew and as the number of orphans reduced with placement in foster homes, the sisters began serving in other apostolates outside the orphanage. In 1960 three young sisters began teaching at St. John the Apostle School in Lincoln for three years, until the B.V.M. Sisters of Dubuque would be able to send teachers.
In 1963, four sisters began teaching in the Pauline Center, a catechetical center in Holdrege. They taught CCD in 11 parishes, traveling 500 miles each week to reach more than 800 children: elementary grades after school and high school students in the evenings. On Saturdays, the sisters taught in five different parishes. In January 1964, Villa Marie School for Exceptional Children opened its doors with Marian Sisters staffing the positions of teachers and housemothers.
A year and a half later, 1965, another important apostolate opened for the community: teaching in the diocesan high schools. Two sisters were assigned to teach in David City at Aquinas, and two were sent to teach at Bishop Neumann in Wahoo. Two years later a Marian Sister began teaching at Pius X High School in Lincoln.
Through the years, the sisters taught at elementary schools in Lincoln parishes: St. Mary, Sacred Heart, Blessed Sacrament, St. John the Apostle, St. Patrick, and North American Martyrs; as well as St. Mary in David City, St. Wenceslaus in Wahoo, and St. Andrew in Tecumseh. Currently the sisters are still teaching in the three high schools and five of the elementary schools.
Sisters were also assigned to teach in parish elementary schools once a week to help enrich religion programs in York, Beatrice, Plattsmouth and Nebraska City. Meanwhile, other sisters began to do health care at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Community Health Center.
Today the apostolic field includes sisters serving in the Diocesan Chancery and Blessed John XXIII Center as well as St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes. Two sisters are also now involved in prison ministry. And, of course, there were always sisters serving at the Marycrest Motherhouse in positions of administration, formation, library work, groundskeeping, cooking, and sewing, all that was needed to make the convent a real home.
Beginning with Sister Marta and Sister Theresa, the sisters have served wherever there is a need in the diocese, doing what needs to be done as stated in their charism: “Doing God’s will joyfully in imitation of Mary and St. Francis.”
In all these apostolates, God has been directing the community to fulfill the vision Sister Marta had for it as she wrote in the Constitution Guide of May 1963: “Our community will be a powerful dynamo, directing the energies of each individual member, so that, together, we may influence the world and bring the message of God’s love into it.”