It was thought Franciscan Sister Janet Tess resembled an actress who played the part of Joan of Arc in the early years of her life. However, her strength and determination to zealously commit herself to teaching for many years despite a serious stroke, may be a stronger shared connection with this saintly heroine.
Learn more about Sister Janet from Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie. To read entire reflection, click here: Franciscan Sister Janet Tess
Janet became acquainted with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity when they came to Tisch Mills each summer for two weeks to teach catechism. She attended classes every summer for 10 summers and knew the Baltimore Catechism by memory and loved the Bible History stories.
Her desire to become a Sister was sparked by a Redemptorist Missionary when she was nine years old. He told her that she looked like Joan of Arc in the 1928 movie. It was later that her mother told her that she had wanted to be a Sister. Her parents encouraged Janet when she told them that she wanted to be a Sister.
In a letter dated August 26, 1940 Janet wrote the following letter to Mother Perpetua:
Dear Mother General:
I am sending my application and doctor’s and dentist’s certificates. I wish you would write and tell me if I am admitted to the convent. I would also like to know if I can stay for two weeks or ten days without bringing along all the things required? If I feel I want to stay after two weeks, then I will get all the necessary things. Won’t you write as soon as possible?
Mother Perpetua responded quickly! Janet was accepted into the Postulancy. She entered, within a week, on September 1, 1940. She did stay and we are grateful! At the time of her Reception she received the name, Sister Sebastian. After Vatican Council II she returned to her baptismal name, and became known as Sister Janet.
When Janet entered the Community she did not know that Sisters taught academic subjects all day. On her first day here Sister St. John Francis asked her if she would like to go to school to be a teacher. Janet responded, “Sure, if that’s what you want me to do.” She started high school the next day. This was a dream come true. Janet could be a Sister and a teacher. Sister Janet received her high school diploma from Holy Family Academy in 1944. In 1960 she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Holy Family College with a Major in History and a Minor in English. Sister Janet especially enjoyed the creative expression of writing. She participated several summers in the Journaling Classes taught by Sister Ruth Ann. She was faithful to this art throughout her life.
In 1965 a life altering event happened. In her words I quote, “At age 42, I had a debilitating stroke. This changed my life, as now I had to learn to do everything with one hand. However, by God’s grace, I was able to teach 18 more years as a full-time teacher and then nine years in part-time or remedial work. My disability gave children in school an opportunity to help me. This helped me to be more accepting of help and I grew in gratitude that I could still keep teaching and walking.” Upon hearing of Sister Janet’s death, Sister Sharon Paul sent the following message, “When we were in grade school at St. Nicholas School, Zanesville, Ohio, she taught third grade and many of the students in my class jumped at the chance to take the cancelled stamps to her room just to see her kind, caring, grateful, enthusiastic face as she welcomed us to her classroom. I consider her one of my mentors over the years and a shining example of attracting and nurturing vocations.”