Sister Adalbert’s birthday honors her life’s gifts
Sister Mary Adalbert Stal shifted a bit in her wheelchair, moving rhythmically side to side. Her arms and hands did more – conducting as friends played music and songs rang out in her honor.
When the music switched to Polish – “Stol lat, stol lat, niech zyje zyje nam” (100 years wish to continue living) – she sang right along with them.
At 100 years old, Sister Adalbert is vibrant, happy, and just as prayerful and thankful as ever.
“Her life was very well lived,” said Sister Bernadine Lepak.
Sister Adalbert was born May 23, 1917, and celebrated her birthday Friday, May 19, at her home in Willow Brooke, 1800 Bluebell Lane, Stevens Point. She was surrounded by more than 50 people, including Sisters of St. Joseph-Third Order of St. Francis (SSJ-TOSF), clergy, residents of Willow Brooke, students from years past, friends, family, and others she has touched over the years.
“We come together to raise our blessing cup to and for Sister Adalbert, to celebrate the 100 years of life and in recognition of the brightness, wisdom, faithfulness and compassion that you, Sister Adalbert, have given and brought to the lives of so many people,” Sister Michelle Wronkowski said during the service.
“We are blessed for all the love you have given these 100 years,” she said. “We are blessed by the miracle of your life.”
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza read a resolution that declared Tuesday, May 23, 2017, as Sister Adalbert Day in her honor, then hugged her and joked with her. Sister Adalbert laughed openly.
One Sister burst into tears as she moved forward to extend her congratulations. Sister Adalbert opened her arms wide, a smile spreading across her face as she welcomed her.
“When I was born, she held me in her arms and said ‘this one is staying here,’” said Sister Sandy Lasecke.
Years later when Sister Sandy decided to join another community, Sister Adalbert told her no, she had to stay with the SSJ-TOSF. Sister Sandy did.
“She had a way,” said Sister Mary Ann Stoltz, who was a member of one of Sister Adalbert’s eighth-grade classes at St. Peter School, where she spent 12 years teaching and being in charge of the roughly 100 altar boys.
“She treated every child, no matter their level, with the greatest respect,” Sister Mary Ann said. “No matter who went through her class, you knew what it was to work hard, but you also came out feeling good about yourself because she brought that out in you.”
So much so that when the eighth-grade basketball team took first in a tournament, they promptly ran to her door and rang the bell just to share it with her, Sister Mary Ann said.
“She challenged us,” she said. “You just felt like you were doing something with your life.”
Sister Adalbert modeled that behavior and work ethic throughout her life.
In Meriden, Conn., her family belonged to St. Stanislaus Parish, staffed by SSJ-TOSF. When they moved to East Chicago, Ind., they belonged to a church by the same name, also staffed by SSJ-TOSF. Through her grade school years, Sister Adalbert came to love the Sisters and after one year of high school, in about 1931, she entered the congregation.
Five years later, she began her teaching career at St. Mary’s in Pulaski, Wis. Six years later, she became the eighth-grade teacher at St. Peter School in Stevens Point. She remained here for the next 14 years, the last two teaching typewriting, shorthand and bookkeeping at Maria High School.
And again, all of her students had respect and love for her, Sister Mary Ann said.
“She was so disciplined,” she said. “Not only did she make you work hard, she was a fun person too. Along with personality had to be your character. Personality is who you are, character is who you become.”
In 1956, Sister Adalbert took a year off to get her master’s degree from Marquette University, which launched her career in leadership, beginning with returning to Stevens Point as principal of Maria, where she stayed for seven years. She then became the founding principal of Resurrection School in Green Bay.
She also served in Provincial leadership as Treasurer for SSJ-TOSF, administrator of River Pines (now Atrium), secretary for Central Board members in South Bend, Ind., the congregation’s assistant treasurer, and in 1984, the Central Treasurer.
During the South Bend leadership period, she also cared for her ailing mother.
“I marveled at how gentle she was,” Sister Bernadine said.
Sister Adalbert credits – in several publications celebrating her service over the years – the Sisters and the congregation.
“All the years as a religious has helped me to see the Church as people, but especially the years I spent living with my mother and taking care of her,” Sister Adalbert said as part of her 70-year celebration of service with SSJ-TOSF.
“It was at that time that I experienced the Church as healing and uplifting, the sharing of real life situations with neighbors, friends and sisters at the Motherhouse and those living in the area,” she said.
In 1988, Sister Adalbert moved into the finance office at St. Joseph Congregational Home in South Bend. Seven years later, she was part of the corporate move to Stevens Point, where in December 1995 she continued work in finance.
Just 10 years ago, at the age of 90, Sister Adalbert resigned that position.
“She was just delightful,” Sister Bernadine said. “She always lived life to the fullest.”
That includes playing bingo, dice, cards, listening to music – polka is her favorite – and “never letting the grass grow beneath her feet,” Sister Bernadine said. “Anything she could do, she was very active.”
She continued that same character during her celebration, at times folding her hands and closing her eyes in reflection, at others grabbing hands to shake and sharing smiles.
In a celebration of her 80 years in service, perhaps she herself said it best:
“Life is short, so you might as well spread the good,” Sister Adalbert said. “It’s too short for anything wrong. Give a helping hand. Thank God every day for friends, for those who care for your needs, for those who help out one way or another.
“Life is great,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to reach your goals. Grasp them. Develop your gifts and talents. Enjoy them. Life is filled with joys, graces, blessings. Share them.”
Just as she has throughout the years.