A collection of photos and life stories as told by School Sisters of Notre Dame
How can the inner self be portrayed through photography? That was the question four advanced photography students attempted to answer last spring. The students visited with School Sisters of Notre Dame, spening hours asking questions and transcribing their stories. The bonds that were created between the students and these remarkable women made these photos possible.
Part Three of this three-part series features the photographic and written work of Mount Mary senior Michelle Dabel. Sister Georgeann has been called the heartbeat of Mount Mary. She is known for her famous fruit cakes and love of Star Trek. She can be found patrolling the halls, day and night, ready to help a student with a problem or fix a leaky faucet. The spirit of Mount Mary is embodied in Sister Georgeann’s kind, generous soul. She is the perfect person to feature in the final installment of this series.
Sister Georgeann Krzyzanowski grew up on the East Side of Milwaukee, on Brady and Franklin Streets. She is considered to be the matriarch of Mount Mary and is the director of special services.
“When I came here I was working at St. Hedwig on the East Side of Milwaukee. I was in the eighth grade when I left home to go to Prairie du Chien to the aspiranture, a high school for young ladies who wanted to enter the convent. My parents never told me no, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. After attending the aspiranture I went through candidature and then went to novitiate, where we were professed. My brother and I are the only children in my family. My mother would have liked more but I always told her she had enough with just the two of us.
I suppose you could say I had an advantage when I chose to be a nun. My mother’s youngest sister was a SSND, so I had some exposure to what the Notre Dames were like. My early education was at St. Hedwig, which was run by School Sisters. There were a number of schools in Milwaukee that were run by the SSNDs. I mean if you look at it we paid for the schools. We paid for this place! There was a time when Mount Mary was being built, and then the building stopped. There was a shortage of money everywhere; but we never missed a payment because our earnings went to pay for the school. Of course, the vow of poverty is much different than it is now; we would ‘skip meat’ and we would take that money and pay for the school.
I came to Mount Mary through another sister who was studying at UWM for her Ph.D. I had a bachelor’s degree in history and wanted to get my master’s degree in geography. Instead I went on to get my master’s degree in science, education and history with a concentration in geography. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would work here. I always felt that Mount Mary was such a prestigious place; yet here I am. I have been here since 1976.
I’ve gone through a lot, and have seen an incredible amount of change within the school since I started. I don’t teach here anymore because geography was dropped from the curriculum. I took over the position of building and grounds keeper in 1987. I am now the director of special services and the weekend and evening administrator. I live in the dorms with the girls; other than that, it is security and two other sisters who are here in the evening. Because all the lay people go home, I am the one responsible. At times I feel like I run the ship. At times it feels like I am running the show. I just keep going and doing it. You just keep doing it. I am very happy here.”
Sister Georgeann can be seen in her veil, running in most every direction every day. She is beloved by the entire Mount Mary community.