"When you're well trained, you can step into a new role and flex your skills and experience to serve in new ways."
As a child, Sister Carol Jean Zais, SDS rode her bike four miles to the two-room Sacred Heart School in Edson, Wis. She liked to stay after school to help her teachers ready their classrooms for the next day. It’s how she first came to know the Sisters of the Divine Savior.
“I found the Salvatorian Sisters to be warm and welcoming,” Sr. Carol Jean says. Soon enough, she was on the welcoming end.
In her former vocation ministry, Sr. “CJ” would host visits from women who were discerning a call to religious life. As novice directress, she also led new members in formation studies. Sr. CJ found vocation ministry challenging yet exciting. Fewer women were entering religious life than when she made first vows in 1965, but women who connected with her were passionate about serving in an apostolic community. Sr. CJ is grateful for how the SDS congregation was preparing her for vocation ministry, even while she served in education for many years.
Sr. Carol Jean’s four years as a principal in the Diocese of Green Bay in the 1990s were challenging yet exciting too. Tight budgets and shrinking enrollments pushed parish schools into survival mode. Under Sr. Carol Jean’s guidance, schools in Antigo, Wis. consolidated and became All Saints Catholic School System. She also served as principal at Sacred Heart School in Sauk Rapids, Minn., and taught in Wisconsin at St. Pius X, Wauwatosa; St. Mark’s in Rothschild; and Notre Dame Middle School in Chippewa Falls. Sr. Carol Jean served three years in Province leadership as well.
“When you’re well trained, you can step into a new role and flex your skills and experience to serve in new ways,” Sr. CJ says. She’s living that belief once again since moving out of vocation ministry. Her latest ministry takes her back to school — but not in a classroom. For the last three years, Sr. CJ has served at all-girls Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee. She assists with details for programs and activities that enhance student life, including service projects organized by the Campus Ministry staff.
Sr. CJ says, “I love going to work. The DSHA school community has so fully adapted our charism, I feel like I’m surrounded by Salvatorians carrying out our mission every day.”
Sr. CJ earned a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University, and a master’s in education administration from the University of Wisconsin. She also earned a certificate from the Institute of Religious Formation at St. Louis University. There’s no question, Sr. CJ is still a teacher at heart. She encourages women to “be attentive to God’s call, find a good spiritual director, and do their homework by visiting several different religious communities.”
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