Sr. Felissa honored for visionary leadership in ministry

Share
Sr. Felissa Zander has spent nearly 50 years educating children on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. She received the 2013 Tom Toohey Leadership in Ministry Award Oct. 9 at the Fall Conference in Rice Lake. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)
Sr. Felissa Zander has spent nearly 50 years educating children on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. She received the 2013 Tom Toohey Leadership in Ministry Award Oct. 9 at the Fall Conference in Rice Lake. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald Staff

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final story in a series of features about members of the faithful who received awards at the diocesan Fall Conference, Oct. 9, 2013, in Rice Lake.)

The director of St. Francis Solanus School, Reserve, has been recognized by the Diocese of Superior for her visionary leadership in ministry.

Recipient of the 1997 Lumen Christi Award from the Catholic Extension Society, Sr. Felissa has again been honored, this time by the Diocese of Superior, with the 2013 Tom Toohey Leadership in Ministry Award.

She received the recognition in October.

“I was surprised to receive the Tom Toohey Award,” Sr. Zander said. “I was privileged to know him and remember well when he was a religious leader in the Superior Diocese.”

Tom Toohey was the diocesan director of religious education from 1977 to 1990. He is credited with forming a statewide organization for religious education directors and for bringing a series of retreats to the diocese. He is celebrated as a man of vision.

Recipient of the 1997 Lumen Christi Award from the Catholic Extension Society, Sr. Felissa has again been honored, this time by the Diocese of Superior, with the 2013 Tom Toohey Leadership in Ministry Award.

She received the recognition in October.

“I was surprised to receive the Tom Toohey Award,” Sr. Zander said. “I was privileged to know him and remember well when he was a religious leader in the Superior Diocese.”

Tom Toohey was the diocesan director of religious education from 1977 to 1990. He is credited with forming a statewide organization for religious education directors and for bringing a series of retreats to the diocese. He is celebrated as a man of vision.

Sr. Felissa Zander is an educator, director and all-around multitasker at the tuition-free school on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation near Stone Lake.

St. Francis Solanus School traces its roots back to 1885. Sr. Felissa, a School Sister of St. Francis order, has been ministering there for more than 48 years.

“My vision for the school is to always keep it a Catholic school,” she said. “Though we teach all the subjects – religion, reading, math, English, science, social studies, art, physical ed, etc. – to ready the students for life in our world, the reason for St. Francis Solanus School as stated in our mission, ‘… is Christ, the unseen ever present teacher in its classes, the model of its faculty, and the inspiration of its students.’”

“Being a catechist is a great privilege and I love it all,” Sr. Felissa added. “I am grateful, and know that I still have much to do.”

Sr. Felissa’s priorities for her students are, as she summarizes, “Real purpose of life: learn of God, the love and beauty of the Trinity; learn that God has put us on earth to do good, to find out what God wants of each of us, and then do it the best we can with his help; to learn that it is easy to be a Catholic … pray, receive the sacraments, keep the commandments, and we’ll have it made through thick and thin; and finally, reach ‘the best is yet to come’ … God … heaven … truest happiness … perfection.”

It’s a tall order, one Sr. Felissa must fill on a minuscule budget. She relies on grants, donations and volunteers to fulfill her mission.

“Operating a non-tuition school means we have to keep begging,” she said. “The Superior Diocese has always helped us with direction, guidance, approvals, grants, whatever we needed, over the many years, and we are always grateful.”
She added, “Yes, we’ll be needing some more grants, if they are available.”

Donations from other denominations, members of diocesan parishes and individuals also help meet the needs of the mission and school. Money generated through grants and fundraising was used to renovate the interior and exterior of the church this year, and the next infrastructure project on Sr. Felissa’s wish list is a new roof for the school.

“That will be tackled next summer,” she said. “So, we are still fundraising and the community continues to help, plus many benefactors that we contact continually.”

Given her ambition, dedication and passion, it’s no surprise Sr. Felissa’s Ojibwe name is Mandakwe – Wonder woman.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *