Sister Lucinda Gajkowski

Sister Lucinda GajkowskiAfter 60 years in community, Sister Lucinda shares that “the thing that drew me to community in the first place is also why I have stayed. But it seems like such a short time ago!”

Lucinda first met the School Sisters at a career day at Mercy High School in Milwaukee. Sister Jordan came with a lay nurse from the Sacred Heart Sanitarium to speak with the students about Sacred Heart’s School of Practical Nursing. Lucinda was already interested in working within the medical field, and Sacred Heart afforded the opportunity to earn a license in one year rather than the longer and more expensive three-year program at other schools. “The wonderful Mercy Sisters also had hospitals in their ministry,” Lucinda recalled, “but I never felt called to join them.”

Sister’s mother worked as a “pink lady” hospital volunteer, so she was supportive of her daughter applying to Sacred Heart’s program immediately after high school graduation. “I loved taking care of my littlest sister and I saw nursing as a way to care for people. I always loved that,” Lucinda said. After obtaining her license, she applied as a layperson to work at Sacred Heart, where she got to know the sisters more personally. “I liked how kind and friendly they were to the patients.”

It was at this time that God nudged her more forcefully. One day, a 90-year-old woman, partially paralyzed by a stroke and burdened with a speech impediment, said in a clear voice, “You would be a good sister.” “I was taken aback,” Lucinda said. Some weeks after, her three-year-old sister showed her a photo of nuns in habits and asked, “Why don’t you wear a hat like this?”

She could no longer ignore God’s unexpected invitation from the very old and very young! While joining had been at the back of her mind, she had needed to hear God’s call in words. Caring for the sisters is what she wanted to do. She spoke with her religious co-workers, applied, and was accepted. She lived the words of Psalm 95: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.”

After working as a nurse at Sacred Heart for six years, and still loving the profession, Sister also heard the community’s call to respond to the needs of the time in other ways. “I wanted to help our sisters by earning a larger salary,” she said, “so I applied to serve as a nurse at Milwaukee’s Lutheran Hospital, where I worked for 11 years.”

A decade later, there were many structural and organizational changes occurring among health care providers at that time, so, again responding to an inner call, Sister Lucinda returned to caring for the sisters, but this time at the motherhouse and Maryhill Retirement Center. Wanting to assist others but needing a break from the bedside, Sister Lucinda shared her skills and filled several roles as a receptionist, switchboard operator, seamstress, and relaxed with yarn crafts. Many of her creations were given to those in need.  

After several years, the call to direct service returned. “For me, being a nun meant caring for the sisters’ physical and emotional needs,” she said. Remaining true to herself, Sister again applied to Sacred Heart. She served the most ill of our sisters, working the night shift for the next 22 years! “This was how I showed God’s love.”

Many sisters welcomed her quiet presence during long hours of sometimes-sleepless nights. Sister Lucinda said, “I loved nursing, taking care of my sisters, helping them. I liked providing something to someone needing something they could not do for themselves - and I felt needed, too.”

After these many years, Sister Lucinda recognized the need to care more for herself. The physical exertion involved in caring for others’ bodies had taken a toll on her own. She returned to stay with the Sisters’ Living Group at St. Joseph Center until renovations there required her to transfer again to Sacred Heart - this time as a resident. “I would still like to help, but I can’t do what I did before.”

While the renovations at Sacred Heart have changed the places where she served, Lucinda sometimes walks through the areas and remembers what was, who she worked with, visited, served. “The flashbacks are good ones,” she said. “Mostly I am grateful that I could learn how to please the sisters. They should put on my tombstone: ‘I loved being a nurse – Sister’.”

<< Back to Jubilarian list