Soon Sister Frances Marie Sopko begins a new phase of ministry. In this installment of Vocation Stories, she reflects on how answering God’s call to be a nun has shaped her life.
Not many people can say they’ve looked into the eyes of a saint. But Ursuline Sister of Youngstown Frances Marie Sopko can!
In the 1990s, Sister Frances Marie traveled to Rome with fellow Ursuline Sister Jeanne Cigolle to meet Pope John Paul II. Sister Frances Marie describes the pope as very “personable,” and following his canonization, she cherishes her memories of “looking into the eyes of a saint.”
That holy experience is just one of many treasured events in Sister Frances Marie’s life as an Ursuline Sister. “We do have a wonderful community and I’m glad I’m part of it, that the Lord has directed me here,” she says.
In August, Sister Frances Marie Sopko will retire from her full-time ministry at The Ursuline Center, the educational facility operated by the Ursuline Sisters. She takes pride in her work at the Center over the last decade and considers the time her “contribution to the community and working for the Lord.”
Sister Marlene LoGrasso, who also works at the Center, values Sister Frances Marie’s ability to keep everything organized. “One of her biggest assets is her ability to remember things and set up systems,” Sister Marlene says, describing Sister Frances Marie’s methods for organizing the calendar and invoices. “She keeps all of that straight—now that’s amazing to me!”
Sister Frances Marie’s responsibilities included overseeing maintenance, housekeeping, and scheduling. With the wide variety of events that the Center hosts — recitals, family gatherings, and diocesan programs — her position kept her “going 24/7.”
Renee Harrison, receptionist for the Ursuline Motherhouse, has watched Sister Frances Marie going between the Center and the Motherhouse for many years. With a laugh, Renee adds, “There’d be times she’d come back and forth past the desk three or four times a day!”
Over the past several decades, Sister Frances Marie has served in a variety of ministries. She taught grades 1 through 8 in Youngstown Diocese schools for 40 years. Because the schools were small, she filled a variety of roles: teacher, principal, secretary and bookkeeper. “I did it all, so I had to rely on a lot of volunteer help,” she recalls, expressing gratitude for the support of parents, the home and school association, and the priests.
Sister Francies Marie notes the students she taught were very conscientious. She believed in being firm with them, and she says that as a result, they treated her with respect. Once when keeping a group of students after school to write essays, a monsignor stopped in the classroom, asking the kids if they thought she was mean. In unison they replied, “She’s fair!” Sister Frances Marie considers this one of the best compliments she’s ever received.
Sister Frances Marie’s ministries included bookkeeping at Assumption Village Nursing Home in North Lima. Of her experience performing clerical work at Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in North Jackson, she says, “It was a very spiritual time in my life. I had time to go on different pilgrimages and make many holy hours.”
Through it all, Sister Frances Marie has stayed involved in her religious community. She says she enjoys sitting and talking with the other sisters, as well as going places with them. She regularly attends First Friday events, a monthly series that features guest speakers about a variety of faith-related topics. Sister Marlene says she admires Sister Frances Marie’s commitment to continuing her spiritual growth. “She really absorbs and understands well what they’re talking about and can remember things that she’s heard.”
Now as Sister Frances Marie leaves her full-time position at the Ursuline Center, she looks forward to deepening her prayer life. “I will be able to spend more time with our Lord in chapel,” she says.