Sister Jane Roberts SNDdeN
June 11, 1927 – September 29, 2018
“Show a strong character, my daughter; come on, it is time! With your children: kindness, patience, charity, concern in all trials. Talk sense to them, religion without doubt, but let us begin by sense; that is the most useful thing in the world for finding an entrance to their hearts.” (Letter 206, Saint Julie Billiart)
Sister Jane Roberts grew up in Batavia, Ohio: a small, rural community east of Cincinnati. She attended public schools there through her second year of high school. At that point, Jane enrolled in St. Xavier Commercial High School in downtown Cincinnati. The school, staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur had an excellent reputation for training good secretaries who had jobs waiting for them when they graduated. Jane later said, “That was my first experience of catholic school. I found that the Sisters were excellent teachers. I found they were kind and loving, and both of those things impressed me so I thought about becoming a Sister of Notre Dame at that time. I couldn’t enter after high school. My brother was in college, my father had had a coronary and could not work, and I felt it was my duty to stay at home and help support the family financially.”
Jane worked for a legal firm for three years after she graduated. By that time, Jane felt her family no longer needed her and she could answer the call to religious life. The attorneys she worked for wanted Jane to stay, but her father supported her decision. He said, “No – if this is what she wants she should do it.” So Jane entered the community in July of 1948, and she received the name Sister Robert Marie when she went on to the Novitiate. Most of the women who entered with her were just out of high school, and at first it seemed Jane did not have a lot in common with them, but as they grew older they became good friends.
Jane’s years in active ministry included three distinct phases. The first consisted of her years in formal education. Jane started her teaching career with 50 inner-city 3rd and 4th graders. She would later remember with gratitude all she learned about herself and about teaching during that first mission. Another Sister helped Jane set up her classroom and organize her time constructively between the two grades. That Sister also worked with Jane on her lesson plans every Saturday afternoon. The Sister-Supervisor taught her how to discipline children without spanking them. The children taught her about the gifts and challenges of diversity: ethnic, economic, and ability to learning. The children also taught Jane about community as they took care of one another. Jane took this valuable experience with her to other schools where she taught grades 3 through 8 over the next 12 years. When her superiors thought Jane would be a good principal or high school teacher, Jane tried each for one year and then returned teaching Junior High.
It was the late 1960’s, and Jane knew traditional methods for teaching religion needed to be re-thought and transformed to meet the needs of the Post-Vatican II Church. She took advantage of workshop opportunities and received permission to study catechetics to better minister in a changing Church. At the same time, Jane was assigned to the Boys’ School at the Summit where she put her studies into practice teaching religion to grades 6th through 8. She also taught language arts to 4th through 8th grades and did some remedial work with younger children. Jane loved her years at the Boys’ School: the subject matter, the students and her co-workers simply made it a very enjoyable experience. In 1973, she was asked to move to the Upper School and teach religion. Jane accepted the challenge. Besides her teaching responsibilities, she had responsibility for the Catholic Student Mission Crusade, the Sodality and Mission Day; she was chairperson of Religion, served as Sacristan, and was the Treasurer for the Summit Corporation. Her summers were occupied with teaching Summer School, working on the internal audit of the books, serving as purchasing agent for the school and finishing her studies in catechetics.
The second phase of Jane’s active ministry was her work as a Director of Religious Education at Christ the King Parish in Cincinnati and St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Morrow, Ohio. At Christ the King, she oversaw the CCD program and the religion classes in the school. Jane described her work at St. Philip’s as “building a CCD school.” For twenty years, she worked with dedicated St. Philip parishioners to develop a pre-school through high school religious education program. Jane found the men and women who made up her a volunteer faculty “a joy” to work with. She loved collaborating with them to create the program, loved watching the program grow, and loved watching a generation of parishioners grow into faith-filled young adults. Jane was at peace when she made the decision to leave St. Philips because she knew the program was not “her” but truly the work of the parish, and it would continue in good hands.
The third phase of Jane’s active ministry began while she was still at St. Philip’s. Jane later explained, “…a friend of mine was going through law school and I typed all of her class tapes for her. And then I decided that because I had worked for attorneys before I entered that I would like to do it again.” After her friend passed the bar, Jane took a sabbatical and studied to become a paralegal. At the same time she started working for the Sister who had passed the bar. Jane would continue working as a paralegal until health issues made it necessary for her to retire. This work was a double blessing for her. On one hand, she was working with another Sister in a non-religious profession that brought Jane full circle and utilized so many of her natural gifts. On the other hand, their work was a way to very concretely live the focus on the poor and abandoned that has been part of the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from the beginning. Jane said what she enjoyed most was the pro-bono work that focused on so many individuals and families in great need.
In community, Jane was known for her calm, quiet, determined presence. There, and in her various ministries, Jane appreciated the gift of friendship she developed with so many wonderful women and men. She liked nothing more than spending time with a good friend! Jane enjoyed the symphony, opera, plays – and the joy was doubled if they were shared with a friend. She loved cats, all things Xavier, and a really good cup of coffee. Jane stayed close to her extended family, and was an integral part of the families of many of her friends. When asked what was, for her, the most meaningful aspect of life as a Sister of Notre Dame, Jane answered, “the opportunity for prayer and the gift of friends who have walked with me, sustaining, inspiring and encouraging me.” As we gather to celebrate the gift of Jane’s life, we give thanks for the many ways she walked with, sustained, inspired and encouraged each of us and so many others. We thank God for the unique gift of Jane and for the many ways she faithfully made God’s goodness known to those around her.
Born June 11, 1927 in Milford, Ohio
Parents: Robert Roberts (born in Ironton, Ohio) and Maria Gadomsky (born in Cincinnati, Ohio)
Sibling: Robert Roberts
Baptized on June 19, 1927 at St. Andrew Church, Milford, Ohio
Confirmed on May 17, 1939 at Holy Trinity Church, Batavia, Ohio
Entered July 26, 1948 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: January 27, 1951
Final Profession: August 13, 1956
Bachelor of Science in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1959
Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana 1967
Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio 1975
1952-1954 St. Xavier Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1954-1962 St. Helen Parish School, Dayton, Ohio
1962-1964 Cardinal Pacelli School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1964-1965 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish School, Reading, Ohio
1965-1966 Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois
1966-1969 Immaculate Conception Parish School, Dayton, Ohio
1969-1976 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1976-1981 Director of Religious Education, Christ the King Parish, Cincinnati, Ohio
1981-2001 Director of Religious Education, St. Phillip the Apostle Parish, Morrow, Ohio
2001-2003 Sabbatical/Study, Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio
2003-2015: Paralegal, Cincinnati, Ohio
2016-present: Prayer and Service, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Died: September 29, 2018 at Mount Notre Dame health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
October 1, 2018