Patricia (Pat) Essmann was raised in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and educated by the Sisters of St. Agnes from grade school through college. She is grateful for the care and education they gave her, and she still makes bed quilts for their hospice home. They have 27 beds and she says they can use as many quilts as she can give them.
As a child, Pat had a desire to hear the stories of St. Francis, and admired his care of the
animals and his love of nature. She had pets as a child and tried to care for them as St. Francis would have done. As she got older, she realized that Francis also had a deep love for the Church and cared deeply for all people. He was a good model for her, and she believes that is why she was interested in teaching religious education to the children that "didn't matter" in those years. There were problems and difficulties, but she was glad she persisted until she retired in 2007.
Pat has four sons; her husband died nine years ago. They were married for 48 years and she still misses him a lot. She lives in Lomira to stay close to her family because they are precious to her.
The person who first attracted Pat to the School Sisters of St. Francis was Sister Mary Jo Horstman. They met when they scheduled a meeting to discuss a position in a parish that Pat had resigned from and in which Mary Jo was interested. Within a couple of years, Pat got to know Sister Mary Jo and our sisters very well. Mary Jo invited her to be an associate. Pat said she had to learn a lot more about the community, so she read some books and visited St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport and the motherhouse in Milwaukee. “It all seemed a good fit for me,” she said, and she became an associate in 1997. Now it has been 25 years, and Pat’s love for St. Francis and Franciscans remains steady with her.
During the 20 years she knew Sister Mary Jo, Pat says Mary Jo was a great support to her in her ministry as a director of religious education in the Fond du Lac area. Together they attended all but the last four Spirituality Conferences in Milwaukee, and made many retreats in La Crosse. Pat tried to be of help to Mary Jo through her many surgeries and the times she had to move to a new residence. She felt, she said, that God had sent her to be Mary Jo's guardian angel.
Pat truly enjoyed meeting many other sisters and associates and getting to know some of the sisters as close friends. They often needed help, she said, and so she supplied that help. She would do cleaning, run errands, and take them to appointments. She much enjoyed taking them to their Jubilee celebrations when they could no longer drive themselves. Especially enjoyable also for her were the Area Community meetings. These gave her a real sense of the School Sisters of St. Francis community. "I found the sisters to be great women – intelligent, organized, well-educated, and lots of fun.
Pat felt she should be contributing to the community somehow. She didn't have a lot of financial resources, but she could sew. She loved to make quilts and a variety of quilted items, so she made a few things for a Pancake Breakfast event. They all sold! So she has continued with joy making items for events since 2010. During the height of COVID-19, there was no Pancake Breakfast so in 2021 the Associate Relationship office had a sale of many things which Pat had made. Modestly she comments that “it went well.”
“Over the years many things have changed the way we live our lives and our commitment to the community,” Pat reflected. “The changes in congregational structure, the changes to the facilities, and the aging of the community make it hard for many of us to adjust our lives. Then there are also the great changes in the world we live in. I believe that these changes and the adjustments they require are given to us by God. I also firmly believe that God is always with us, no matter what, and loves us eternally.”
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