Sister Mary Jeanne Finske, CSC
(Sister M. Joanice)
Birth: February 5, 1925
Profession: February 2, 1945
Death: June 3, 2017
A memento for a Sister of the Holy Cross is defined as “written to honor a sister’s life and to lovingly celebrate her passions and achievements and the joy she brought to those in community with her.”
Frank McDonough, Sister Mary Jeanne’s nephew, has done that for us.
“Sister Jeanne loved to bake cookies with her nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephew and beyond! She made the best chocolate chips and she also made the yummiest caramel. (As my broken, worn-out teeth can attest to!) She also loved Hershey chocolate bars and pistachio nuts. Her favorite moments were spend time with her sisters with some fine wine and crackers watching television. She also loved playing card games, checkers, chess and backgammon. She was a very good violin and flute player as well.
“She loved spending time at the lakefront beach house with her family when the kids were young. I fell in love with fishing because of her. Sister Jeanne loved to fish and she took me fishing at Saint Mary’s Pond. When I grew up, she and I went fishing together. Jeanne loved studying and collecting rocks. Each of us have received at least one rock from her.
“Lastly, Sister Jeanne was a ‘second’ mother to all of Terry’s and Ann’s children. She was instrumental in keeping our families together through faith and God when times were tough at some points.
“Sister Jeanne lost her brother in World War II. His name was Robert ‘Bobby’ Wilmer Finske and he was 19 when he was killed in action on the USS Corvina the only American submarine to be sunk by a Japanese submarine during the war.”
Mary Jeanne Finske was born February 5, 1925 in Michigan City, Indiana. Her father, Wilmer Charles, owned and managed an independent grocery store. Her mother, Mary Josephine was a housewife. There were four children in the family—Robert, the oldest, then Jeanne, Terry and Anne. Terry is the only surviving sibling. Sister Susan Kintzele, a Sister of the Holy Cross, is a cousin.
Jeanne grew up in Michigan City, attended St. Mary’s grade school and St. Mary’s high school, graduating in 1942. At the age of 17 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, writing that her sole motivation was “The glory of God.” All those who knew her, worked with her, lived with her, prayed with her and enjoyed her many interests through 92 years of life will attest to this. Jeanne received the holy habit and the name Sister Mary Jeanne on February 2, 1943, made her initial profession on February 2, 1945. It would not surprise many to hear, from Sister Maura, a bandmate, that during novitiate days Jeanne, “always seemed to be in trouble, but she could just laugh it off.”
In 1946 Sister Jeanne received her first ministry assignment, teaching elementary grades at St. Joseph’s school, South Bend, Indiana, and then at St. Patrick’s school in Danville, Illinois. This was the beginning of more than fifty years of service in education at the elementary, secondary and college levels. She was principal at St. Mary’s Academy, Notre Dame, Indiana, and an associate professor at Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, Indiana.
For 26 years she served at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, using her gifts in many positions including: graduate assistant, dean of freshmen, professor and academic dean. Jeanne loved to learn, so she loved to teach others and share her learning. During the years she worked in schools, she was also pursuing her own education, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education; a master’s degree in education and social sciences and a doctorate in educational administration and social sciences. She also met all the requirements for a Life License in General Education from the State of Indiana. There were many opportunities for her to travel in the United States and abroad to participate in retreats, workshops, conferences, seminars and institutes which helped to deepen her spiritual life and enrich her knowledge of God and the world around her.
In 1978 Sister Mary Jeanne resigned her position at Saint Mary’s College to start the Roots of Learning Project in Flint, Michigan. This was a school for poor children taught by prisoners who had been trained to be teachers. Sister M. Georgia (Costin) oversaw the project. Sister Jeanne was the principal. After two years Jeanne moved on to continue her leadership in other schools until 1984 when she joined the Archives department at our motherhouse, Saint Mary’s. She retired from full time ministry in 2014.
As noted, Sister Jeanne had many interests. She was a true Renaissance woman. She loved music, played the violin and flute. She always played the violin at the traditional singing in front of St Michael’s statue on his feast day. She listened to the opera on the radio and eventually on television all day on Saturdays or whenever she could. She subscribed to the Opera Magazine and read it so she could learn more about the opera and share information.
She also loved rocks. Sister Mary Mulligan, another “rock hound” went to the Gem and Mineral Society meetings with her when Sister Georgia could no longer go. “All the old members ask about her,” said Sister Mary. Jeanne had a subscription to the Mineral and Gem magazine for her reading pleasure.
She enjoyed watching birds, so subscribed to the Audubon magazine to learn more about birds, which increased her love of God through the wonder of what she learned and observed.
Sister Suzanne Payette, CSC, a Sister of Holy Cross messaged “Sister Jeanne was such a vibrant member of the Holy Cross History Conference. I thank God for the privilege of having known her and shared with her.” This shows Jeanne’s 20 years of enthusiasm working in CSC Archives at Saint Mary’s. No magazine needed there. Shirley Pressnell, former administrative assistant in Archives, said “I was fortunate to work with her in Archives for a short while. I did get to know her and discovered how much she contributed and what a wonderful sense of humor she had.”
Lee Ann Moore, former volunteer coordinator and director of activities for Saint Mary’s Convent, said Sister Jeanne was, “A huge supporter of the Friends with Sisters program. She loved going out on the golf cart. She was also so supportive of the outside music programs that came here. She would arrive 30 minutes before the start to make sure she had a front row seat.”
There is one woman, a dear friend, Annabelle Buczkowski, that Jeanne would want mentioned. Sister Suzanne Patterson remembers the story of how the two met, “Jeanne was sitting on a bench near the Guest House when Annabelle was walking on the campus for the first time in 2002. They struck up a conversation and thus began a friendship that continued and deepened over the years.” Annabelle “emphasized Jeanne’s warm, outgoing personality, especially how Jeanne knew so much about each sister they met on their many walks around the campus.”
Jeanne’s sisters in community spoke of her as a happy person, genuine, loving, kind, generous and caring. Someone who lived life to the fullest. Said one, “Her sense of wholeness comes from a contemplative spirit.” There were humorous comments about all the erudite magazines she received and read and shared. It was said that Jeanne got the most mail on 2nd floor because of all her magazine subscriptions.
Toward the end of her days Jeanne was invited to join a group of sisters to discuss topics for the next General Chapter. She declined. She said she needed her time to prepare to meet God.
Dear Sister Mary Jeanne Finske, now you have met God. And you have shown us how to live “the glory of God.” We here on earth join you with your God in reciting lines from Psalm 95, “O sing a new song to the Lord, sing to the Lord, all the earth.”
Peace and joy, Jeanne.
Written by Family, friends and Sisters of the Holy Cross
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of the Holy Cross Ministry With the Poor Fund, Saint Mary's, Notre Dame, IN 46556