Salvatorian sponsorship’s impact on Divine Savior Holy Angels High School

Sponsorship coordinator Sister Grace Mary Croft with DSHA student

The Sisters of the Divine Savior serve as religious sponsor for three Milwaukee institutions, including Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA). DSHA brought together two Catholic, all-girl high schools founded across town from one another. In 1970, Divine Savior High School and Holy Angels Academy forged an affiliation on the belief they would become stronger by facing the future together. As a result, a new generation of proud alumnae, faculty, staff and students were born. To celebrate our 125th anniversary in the USA and our long-standing relationship with Divine Savior and DSHA High Schools, we invited faculty, staff and alumnae to reflect on how Salvatorian religious sponsorship has touched their lives.

Patrick Dawson, DSHA Social Studies teacher, 29 years
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The Salvatorian Sisters are my heroes. Their sponsorship of DSHA has inspired thousands of DSHA graduates who have gone out in the world and made a real difference. I started at DSHA the same year Sister Virginia Honish became principal, and I so admire the many years of her steady, inspired leadership. For example, on the morning after the September 11th attack, she stood outside to greet students as they arrived at school in the midst of all the worries. (And she and then-President Ellen Bartel went ahead with having the Quad floor poured that same day).

I think the best thing to happen at DSHA in recent years is the VOCARE program, where seniors spend two weeks doing community service. I don’t think VOCARE would have been possible without the inspiration and commitment of the SDS. The VOCARE commissioning ceremony with all the candles and presence of many of the Sisters is one of the highlights of the school year.

They have been so committed to social justice issues. I still vividly remember a 2006 student assembly where Sister Patrice Colletti talked about the Salvatorian Sisters’ efforts to fight the evils of human trafficking. Another memory ̶ on the humorous side: One year the senior prank was bras strong across the school driveway with a big banner that read, “Seniors are busting out!” Principal Sister Virginia, ever practical, yet showing her sense of humor, had the bras washed and donated to a women’s shelter. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade!

Chris Weiss, DS ‘70 and DSHA Social Studies teacher, 39 years

Salvatorian sponsorship profoundly affects my everyday interaction with students.  How? I connect the delegated responsibilities (Salvatorian Core Values) to every class, keeping each class grounded in the Salvatorian mission. I deeply believe these responsibilities call all of us to act differently in our world. A phrase from the Salvatorian mission I strive to live by and promote: women of faith striving to be given over to the Father and open to all peoples, we collaborate to promote justice and improve quality of life in our world with a preferential option for the poor.

For 39 years I have watched the work of the Salvatorians help build Christ’s Church — students have become women of faith who make a difference in this world through their actions. Having attended Divine Savior High School myself, I can attest to the experience of having Salvatorians as teachers and directing my faith formation. I can honestly say that Salvatorian sponsorship affected my life as a young person at DS to serve the marginalized and vulnerable.

The Salvatorians and the Kirsch (my maiden name) family have a long history. My German immigrant parents married in 1935 and immediately joined Mother of Good Counsel (MGC), a Salvatorian parish. My oldest sibling was born in 1936 with six more to follow, all going to MGC. It was a turbulent, anxious time for German immigrants. The Salvatorians were my family’s anchor, as they supported all families no matter who they were. My Mom often spoke of the Sisters asking for supplies, canned food, anything that could be boxed up and sent to post-war Germany. They organized volunteers from the parish to box and ship to Europe. My parents often spoke of the kindness and generosity that Salvatorian Sisters showed through their ministries. It reminds me of the first Tuesday of the month when our DSHA students volunteer to make hundreds of sandwiches for those in need in the Milwaukee area. The tradition of providing for those in need continues to be a strong Salvatorian collaborative activity.

I first met Sister Maureen Hopkins, SDS when she became the Salvatorian Sponsorship Coordinator for DSHA.  She loved to tell the story of her first encounter with my brother Bill. Sr. Maureen recalled being 19 or 20 years old when she was asked to take over MGC’s 6th grade class with about 65 students back in 1947-48. Standing in the threshold of the classroom, she saw my brother shooting spitballs at the ceiling!  She told me, ’I just stood there looking at all the spitballs.’ My brother looked at her, smiled and introduced himself. Sr. Maureen smiled back, knowing she had to find a way to connect to the students. Imagine 50 years later, Sr. Maureen came to my sister-in-law’s wake and funeral because ‘Billy needs to know he is loved and supported.’ Sr. Maureen made known ’the goodness and kindness of Jesus’ because that’s just what Salvatorians do!     

My experience with Salvatorian Sisters really began when I entered Divine Savior High School. There were many Sisters who changed the trajectory of my life. Sr. Mary Lee Grady, SDS was my freshman Latin teacher but she was more than that. I had just lost my father a few months before and I was a lost soul. I cannot say I did well in Latin at all that year, so I was asked by Sr. Mary Lee to attend her “summer school.” I built a lasting relationship with Sr. Mary Lee and I never forgot her kindness and support at that time in my life. Sr. Mary Lee taught me to go beyond the classroom as a teacher. I try to live up to that commitment now.

After believing I could not ‘do’ math, I had Sr. Rosaria Kaiser, SDS as my math teacher for two years. Sr. Rosaria was the only teacher who had the patience to teach me. I have always credited her with helping me pass calculus in college.  

Sr. Carol Thresher, SDS imparted a love for political science and history, which inspired me to become an active, involved citizen. She ignited a passion and curiosity for all social studies subjects and I am forever grateful. My love of libraries started at DS.  During my four years there, the place I went every day during study hall was the library.  Sr. Ferdinelle Kinzer, SDS was so kind to me.

Sister Virginia Honish between two DSHA high school girls.
Sister Virginia Honish with DSHA students

For 18 years. I had the honor of serving as a teacher under the guidance of Sr. Virginia Honish, SDS. She was a stabilizing influence at DSHA, very approachable, warm-hearted and nonjudgmental. She engaged with and listened to her faculty. You could count on Sr. Virginia for a smile, conversation about the Packers and, of course, dogs. Sr. Virginia’s door was always open, and she committed herself to honest communication and problem-solving. I learned to take all these traits into the classroom because added all together, it’s a recipe for successful teaching and leading!

Claudia Sanders, Custodian, 19 years
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I started working at DSHA as a custodian and became lead custodian in 2008-2009. The best thing about working at DSHA is seeing the girls come in as freshmen and how they learn to live the mission of the Sisters of the Divine Savor. The sisters bring the goodness and kindness of Jesus with them when they’re in the school for different activities with students and teachers. I’m also able to be myself around the people I work with and talk to my co-workers about anything. I have a memory of Kathie Daily who worked in the Sisters’ Development Office for many years. She was so kind and good to everyone. Since then, I’ve come to know her daughter Katie Pickart, and Katie’s daughter Lilly, who graduated from DSHA a few years ago. At DSHA, the goodness and kindness of Jesus comes through in many people.

Dan Quesnell, Principal, 11 years
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In my role as DSHA Principal, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the school, including academics, campus ministry, student services and co-curricular activities such as athletics and theatre.

The Sisters of the Divine Savior and their sponsorship is a gift to us and most importantly to our students. Their mission is to make known the goodness of kindness of Jesus Christ. Delegated responsibilities (to improve the quality of life, promote justice, preferential option for the poor, responsible stewardship, and collaboration) inform the heart of our work with young women, whether hiring a new teacher, delivering a lesson or inspiring faith formation.

We have linked the Salvatorian mission very publicly to our Salvatorian Service program. Service experience at DSHA culminates with the Salvatorian Service Award conveyed upon seniors at their honors night assembly. We appreciate that the sisters regularly attend our school Masses, participate in VOCARE send-off and welcome-back ceremonies, and serve in our Campus Ministry and Advancement Offices, as well as on the board of directors. Moving our Catholic mission forward is a work in progress, always informed by the charism and influence of the Sisters of the Divine Savior.

I am touched by the sisters’ care for DSHA — its students, staff and parents who make up this amazing community. They show their care with their presence at events, in guiding students through the Salvatorian Service Awards process, and through their prayers in behalf of our families. When we make deliberate connections to the SDS mission, I know the sisters are touched by our efforts to breathe life into their vision to make known the goodness and kindness of Jesus.

Our 125 Year Celebration

As we look back on our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA, we invite you to reminisce with us. We've launched all 5 time lines with historical milestones and stories that bring to life the experiences of our sisters who came before us.

Era 1: 1895-1920
Responding to Immigrant Needs

The missionary response of hearty immigrant women religious characterizes the first 25 years of Salvatorian Sisters’ presence in the United States ...

Era 2: 1920-1950
Expanding in an “American” Church

By 1920, life for a Salvatorian Sister in the USA was radically different than it had been 25 years earlier. World War I ....

Era 3: 1950-1970
Embracing Renewal

Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A Changing, captures the high energy of this era.  Change was afoot both outside and inside the Salvatorian convent walls...

Era 4: 1970-2000
Building Collaboration

Events of the mid-1960s renewed the collaborative energy that had always characterized Salvatorian life. Cloistered living ...

Era 5: 2000-2020
Searching for New Footing in a Changing World

When the new millennium arrived on January 1, 2000, Salvatorian Sisters were already five years into our second century on USA soil.  Our ...