Sisters M. Felicia (born Florence Bambenek; 1915-2000), M. Marilyn (born Magdalena Bambenek; 1917-2003), and M. Joel (born Mary Bambenek; 1921-2010) were three daughters of John C. Bambenek's first cousin, Joseph Z. Bambenek. Their eulogies are copied here from a Wicka family site now archived on oocities. org which may vanish at any time. Copyright is retained by the authors.
Sister M. Marilyn Bambenek
Sister Marilyn (Magdalene Bambenek) was born in Winona, Minnesota, on September 6, 1917, second of six children of Joseph and Mary (Wicka) Bambenek, five girls and one boy.
Marilyn's love for life and everything about it, her happy disposition, her playfulness, her spontaneity, come through strongly in her autobiography. She writes: "I tried out kindergarten when I was five years old, but did not find it to my liking. I wanted the brass ring of reading, writing, and arithmetic so I transferred to St. Stan's first grade. There I found grist for my educational mill."
She continues, "Our pastor believed in maturity for first Confession and Holy Communion. That meant I had to wait until I was twelve years old. By that time I was a confirmed sinner, but the Lord forgave me all."
During her school days in Winona she was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Stanislaus Grade School. In 1932, she began high school and was taught by the Franciscan Sisters at Cathedral High School, now Cotter High School. She writes that she loved everything about high school. "You might say I loved being educated." Graduation took place in 1935.
It was at this time that her older sister (Sister M. Felicia) told her she was going to Mankato to become a School Sister of Notre Dame. "We missed her a lot, but letters and visits made life livable again." Having completed high school, Marilyn visited Sister M. Felicia at Good Counsel. "I loved everything I saw. I decided on becoming a candidate and thought that doing that must be the nicest thing in the world."
Before leaving the Hill, she told Sister M. Merici she would be back in August, and she was. "Everything about the candidature enchanted me. I loved the college classes, the daily order, and the friendship and fun of my classmates."
In 1937, she was received into the novitiate and given the name Sister Marilyn. She writes that it was then that she prayed her promise to Jesus, "I wish with the grace of God to be fashioned into a living sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God, so that on my Profession Day I may say with all my heart and soul, 'Take me, dear Jesus, I am all yours.'"
Following First Profession in 1938, her first years of teaching were at St. Adalbert's in Silver Lake, followed by St. Philip's in Minneapolis. During the war years, she taught at St. Joseph's in Grenville, SD,"one of my favorite places."
She writes, "I enjoyed all my teaching missions: St. Casimir's in Winona, Blue Earth, LaCrescent, and SS Peter & Paul, Mankato. I spent happy years at St. Peter's in Hokah, and Guadalupe and Corpus Christi in St. Paul. The Community educated me in the grandest style at Mount Mary College, Milwaukee, St. Norbert's, DePere, WI and finally at St. Thomas College in St. Paul with a Master's degree in Remedial Reading. I also attended various enrichment workshops during the summers."
Following over 50 years as teacher of little children in the primary grades, Sister Marilyn came to Good Counsel in 1990 where she taught in the Learning Center until 1998. During those years, when the three Bambenek Sisters were interviewed by the Mankato Free Press, Sister Marilyn responded to a question with this answer, "People ask us how we feel, and we say, 'Fine.'" Then after a pause, "But we lie through our teeth. We're falling apart." Following a stroke in 1998, Sister Marilyn retired from teaching.
As only Sister Marilyn could say, "Life has always been an adventure. Like Pooh says to Piglet, I say every morning, 'I wonder what exciting thing will happen today?' Nature, animals, people, and mostly children are what I love." She loved reading and learning about new authors and advertising them to others. "If you ever want me, I'll be in some library," she said.
"I loved every minute of being a School Sister of Notre Dame. I loved all the spiritual treasures of being a sister. But mostly I loved selling the love of reading to the children. Thanks to Sister M. Kathryn Mayer and Sister M. Alonza Schwartz for their interest in and love for Children's Literature. For me, teaching was to 'Render ever bright the lives of children.'"
Her autobiography ends with these words, "I can never thank God enough for loving me, for wanting me as His Bride. My God, I love Thee!" May dear Sister Marilyn now be enjoying Heaven with the same joy she brought to her life here on Earth as a School Sister of Notre Dame.
Sister M. Felicia Bambenek
Our beloved Sister M. Felicia Bambenek, who made music to her God throughout her 84 years of life, died at Good Counsel Provincial House, Mankato, MN, late Sunday afternoon, February 6, 2000. Her sisters, Sister Marilyn and Sister M. Joel, who so lovingly cared for her during her many years of suffering, were present at the time of her death, a death which came so peacefully.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister M. Felicia will be celebrated February 11, with Community Vespers the evening before. Loving sympathy to her four sisters - Sisters Marilyn and Joel, Connie (Kiedrowski), and Martha (Wilson), - to the other members of her family, and to her Sisters in Community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She was preceded in death by her brother, Ray.
Sister M. Felicia (Florence Bambenek) was born to Joseph and Mary (Wicka) Bambenek in Winona, Minnesota, November 7, 1915. How appropriate that she, who loved music and taught it for so many years, was born during the Vesper hour, when the people of her home parish, St. Stanislaus, were participating in this service. She writes:"Perhaps my pious grandmother had uttered a fervent prayer for the advent of her grandchild while the choir chanted the Magnificat,for when she returned home from Vespers, the object of her prayers had become a reality. It was during that beautiful service that I was born." She continued,"As the years passed, our little family increased so that altogether we were five girls and one boy."
School days for Florence began in 1st grade at St. Stanislaus School..After graduation from 8th grade, she attended Cathedral High (now Cotter High School) where she graduated in 1933.
Of her vocation, she writes:"During the four years of high school, the thought of becoming a Sister never left my mind. Being quite active in the Young Ladies Sodality, I was very much at home with our Sisters. One day Sister Superior, Sister M. Vincenta, asked me to play the organ during vacation while Sister M. Arnoldine went to Summer School. This act brought me into closer contact with the Sisters and with Our Lord." After showering Sister with questions about the Motherhouse in Mankato, she made up her mind to visit there. "Next Sunday saw me on the train with Sister Superior, headed for Mankato. I fell in love with the Chapel the moment I entered it and made up my mind then and there to become a Sister."
Florence entered the Candidature August 26, 1934. At reception into the Novitiate two years later, she received the name Sister M. Felicia. She took First Vows in 1937. One of the greatest joys of her religious life was to have two of her younger sisters--Sister Marilyn and M. Joel--follow her to Notre Dame.
For over 60 years, Sister M. Felicia "made music to her God" as a classroom music teacher and in giving private lessons. In addition to teaching, she served as parish organist and choir director in parishes in Minnesota and New England, North Dakota. In Minnesota, she served in Wabasha, St. Stanislaus, Sacred Heart and St. Matthew in St. Paul, Morthfiled, North Mankato, St. Stanislaus in Winona, at SS Peter and Paul, Loyola High and Good Counsel Academy in Mankato, in Red Wing and LaCrescent, at St.Phillip in Minneapolis. For the past 27 years, she taught Suzuki piano in her music studio on Good Counsel Hill.
Besides teaching music, Sister at times also composed music. In 1979, for the 100th anniversary of Mother Theresa's death, she wrote the music, while Sister Mary Ellen Rys wrote the lyrics, of the hymn, "Like a Star." The chorus read like this:"Like a star in the dome, like a ray from the sun, a lamp to our feet, a candle in our home, light our way; lead us on. Mother Theresa, shine on."
In addition to earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from Mount Mary College, Milwaukee, Sister M. Felicia took courses in music from MacPhail School of Music, Minneapolis, as well as at a number of other colleges. She was a member of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, at one time serving as Chairperson of the Minneapolis region, and a member of the National Federation of Music Clubs and the Minneapolis Music Forum. At on time, she also directed the Twin Cities Boys Choir, as choir which will be singing at her funeral liturgy. Her piano students often excelled in competitions in which they entered.
Sister M. Felicia loved to enter contests. In 1953, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of powered flight, she entered a contest for teachers sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol. To her great delight, she was the winner and, along with another teacher from the area, enjoyed a wonderful week in Washington,DC. This was one of the highlights of her life.
Of her life of pain, that is, her struggle with lupus, which began in 1943 and which in 1947 developed into an arthritic condition, she wrote:"This has been a cross as it has always deterred me from being 100% active. But the 'drive' I have for being 'alive' has not hindered me from being productive, living, suffering, loving and communicating with God and people."
She ends her autobiography with these words:"I will leave the future in God's hands. I know that He loves me and knows me, and someday whin I breathe my last, I will know in one great instant why He loved me."
May dear Sister M. Felicia, who could write that she "loved every moment of religious life." now be delighting in the God she served so faithfully for more than 60 years as a School Sister of Notre Dame.