Sister Mary Jo Witucki, SDS, a veteran educator of 48 years, passed away on Saturday, September 5, 2015. It was the feast day of Blessed Mary of the Apostles, co-founder of our religious congregation, the Sisters of the Divine Savior.
When Sr. Mary Jo celebrated 50 years as a Sister of the Divine Savior in 2005, she reflected on the importance of that milestone, saying, “The value of 50 years is how each day was lived, and as a teacher, what happened each day in the classroom. When a teacher sees her students doing their best to reach their potential, they are the shining stars . . . in the universe of the classroom.”
Sr. Mary Jo’s ministry as an elementary educator spanned from 1955 to 2009. During that time, she also served as principal for 13 years. She ministered in many Catholic schools staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Savior throughout Wisconsin, including Mother of Good Counsel, Milwaukee; St. Paul, Bloomer; St. Therese, Schofield; St. Joseph, East Bristol and St. Mark, Rothchild. She also taught in other Wisconsin Catholic schools: St. Peter, Tilden; St. Charles, Chippewa Falls; and more than 25 years at St. Anthony in Athens.
The La Crosse diocesan Catholic Times newspaper once quoted Sr. Mary Jo to say, “To form these young minds, to see their goodness and potential and to help them grow and bloom is an honor. I also feel humbled and privileged to be able to help form them. Above all, the greatest challenge is dealing with children with all kinds of brokenness. How do we reach children with broken hearts, bitterness and troubled family situations? But what a ‘wow’ moment when the student learns to trust again!”
Clearly, her education ministry reached far beyond teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. She saw the potential of her students and saw into their hearts and helped them heal. Sr. Mary Jo’s life reflects the Gospel message, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to these.” Mark 10:14
Sr. Mary Jo was born Elizabeth (Betty) Witucki on October 10, 1937 in Athens, Wis. in the Diocese of La Crosse. One of six children born to Florian & Cecilia (Schreier) Witucki, she attended Holy Family School in Poniatowski, Wis. At age 13, she entered the Sisters of the Divine Savior Congregation in Milwaukee. She received the name Mary Jerome when she entered the novitiate in August 1954, and later changed her name to Mary Jo. She pronounced first vows on August 13, 1955 and final vows six years later.
Sr. Mary Jo graduated from Divine Savior Convent High School and received her bachelor’s degree in education from Milwaukee’s Alverno College. Throughout her years in education, she attended workshops, in-services and enrichment classes affirming her strong belief in the value of lifelong learning.