Sister Joan Puls wrote these words of remembrance with an introduction of clear instructions from Sister Cecilia.
Cecilia was someone who knew how to prepare. In her 90-plus years, she prepared countless meals for others. She prepared for visits to her family and friends. She prepared numerous cards and notes throughout the years for her fellow sisters, her family, friends, and co-workers. And she prepared for this celebration today.
She gave Sister Joan detailed notes many months ago, and clear instruction for these words of remembrance. “Don’t make it too long!” Cecilia said.
Cecilia was the seventh of eight children born to Philomena and Louis Zachman. She was born on a farm in Rogers, Minnesota, on August 21, 1926. Her middle name was Lidia, a name she never liked.
The Zachmans were a close-knit family. Her mother and father would often join the five boys and three girls in games. Their favorite summer game was water fights. Can’t you just see Cecilia giggling as she turned the hose on one of her siblings?
It was Cecilia’s lot to do the housework and cooking while Rosalia, four years younger, took care of the chickens, cats, and dogs.
Cecilia was only 14 years old when she entered the convent. The name given her at her reception in 1943 was Sister Sylvan. Both her sisters, Genevieve and Rosalia, followed her into religious life. Two of her brothers became Oblate priests, and three brothers married. Cecilia often spoke lovingly of her family and her many nieces and nephews.
Cecilia’s mother must have done a masterful job in teaching Cecilia the art of homemaking. Already as a young Junior Sister, she became the homemaker at St. Wenceslaus in Milwaukee and then in Fort Atkinson, Iowa. Her reputation preceded her to St. Beatrice in Schiller Park, Illinois; St. Mark’s in Kenosha; and St. Monica’s in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. How many cookies and breads did she prepare for the annual sale during those years?
In 1966, Cecilia became the homemaker for the sisters at Pius XI High School. It was during those years that she earned her high school diploma.
In 1970, she began her 21 years of service as director of the Motherhouse kitchen. There were hundreds to feed every day, including LaFarge students. She did everything: ordered the food, directed the cooks, planned the meals, baked, pitching in wherever she was needed – and always, you can be sure, with a smile or a humorous quip.
In 1993 she had a special challenge. Cecilia became the coordinator at Marian Hall and continued in that role until 2000. She said these were her happiest years in community.
Her ministry didn’t end there, however. She discovered new gifts that she could offer to the elderly, serving as a volunteer pastoral minister at Mt. Carmel Nursing Home.
In 2009, she amazed all of us by her quick recovery from serious bypass surgery and in 2012, from a broken hip. She lived at Maryhill Convent and later at St. Joseph Center, always grateful for the blessings of retirement. In 2015, she moved to the renovated Sacred Heart where she continued to be a source of joy to others.
Cecilia always knew the importance of balance in her life: work and fun, praying and playing, serving, and socializing. Anyone who has ever lived with Cecilia knows her insistence on both working hard and playing hard. She loved to talk, but she was also a good listener. She was an honest woman and a joy to be around. She was someone who genuinely loved life. She loved people, traveling to visit her family, playing cards, eating pizza with her friends, and praying with those to whom she offered care.
We will miss you Cecilia – your twinkling smile, your hugs, your faithful companionship. You, who were such a good planner, have now been planned for. We know you have been welcomed home, just as you so often welcomed others into your life. Good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of you heavenly homecoming!