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Vita of Sister M. Jean Linder
1926 – 2015
The Linder household was abuzz on June 2, 1926. It was a Wednesday and twin girls had been born to the wonder and amazement of their parents, Anna and John Linder, and to their six older sisters. On Sunday, June 6, Margaret Mary and Rosemary were baptized by Rev. Michael McFadden at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Payne, Ohio. Catherine Linder Gonya and John Ditlinger served as Margaret Mary’s godparents. Later the eight girls became big sisters to two boys, Maurice and Jim.
Margaret Mary attended school in Payne, Ohio. She was confirmed on October 22, 1935, by the Most Rev. Karl J. Alter, Bishop of Toledo. On August 6, 1945, Margaret Mary applied to the Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin. In response to the question, “Why do you want to become a religious?” she responded, “To be more Christ like by following in the footsteps of St. Francis.”
On August 12, 1946, Margaret Mary received the habit and was given a new name, Sister Mary Jean. She professed her first vows in 1948 and her perpetual vows on August 12, 1951.
Studying at the College of St. Francis, Joliet, Illinois, Sister Jean received a Bachelor of Arts degree; she also studied at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in English. As both teacher and/or principal in elementary schools, Sister Jean served in Miller City, Bucyrus, Landeck, and Peru. She also taught in secondary education at Lima Central Catholic High School and Toledo Central Catholic High School.
Called to serve as the President of the Sisters of St. Francis from 1970-1974, the early years following Vatican Council II, Sister Jean, following in the footsteps of Mother Francis Schaefer, led the community in renewal with its Gospel call to biblical justice in all areas of life. Imbued with “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me,” she became a member of the original group of 47 women religious who launched NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby in 1971.
After her term in administration, in 1975, Sister Jean participated in the ARC (Apostolic Religious Communities) renewal program in Rome, Italy. From October – December of 1976 she did an Internship in Spiritual Direction and Directed Retreats at the Jesuit Renewal Center in Milford, Ohio, and then ministered to many others as a spiritual director.
Bishop Michael J. Begley named Sister Jean the Vicar for Women Religious for the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, in January 1977.
Sister Jean was again called to leadership by the congregation in June 1977. She served as Councilor and Coordinator of Placement for the Sisters of St. Francis until 1982 when she was elected as Community Minister of the Sisters of St. Francis.
Following her years in community leadership, Sister Jean spent one year in retreat ministry at Living Waters Reflection Center, Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and then from 1987 to 1993 she served the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, as the Director of Planning.
Sister Jean was Assistant Director at Living Waters Reflection Center, Maggie Valley from 1994 to 1998. During this time she celebrated her Golden Jubilee. Pondering upon the years past, she reflected, “Creation is so beautiful, God’s love so intense, and life’s surprises so wonderful that I have been breathing, smiling, saying, ‘Thank you, God!’ many times every day these 50 years. It’s a wonderful world. It’s a wonderful life, but most of all, ours is a wonderful God!”
In 1999 Sister Jean returned to the Diocese of Charlotte as Administrative Assistant for Vocations. Throughout her years, in many areas of leadership, Sister Jean was an active participant on numerous boards and committees for the congregation, for the church and for the civic community.
After working in the Charlotte Diocese, Sister Jean returned to Tiffin where, for the next 10 years, she served as librarian for St. Francis Convent Library. She oversaw the renovation and renewal of the library and deepened her own love for reading.
Reflecting on her life at this time, Sister Jean noted, as significant life challenges and happenings: the prolonged illness of her twin sister, Rosie; the death of her sister Rita; helping her sister, Gen, move from her apartment to St. Francis Home; and her own illness forcing her to spend the entire month of May either in the infirmary or hospital! AND turning 80!
Celebrating her 60th Jubilee on October 15, 2006, Sister Jean paused in gratitude and hope saying, “Because I have experienced Jesus’ faithfulness to this promise in my life these 60 years as well as his overwhelming love for me, I have total confidence in the rest of the promise … ‘and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
In 2010 during the demolition of part of the motherhouse and the renovation of Holy Family Hall, Sister Jean moved into St. Francis Villas with Sister Romana Pifher (to whom she was immeasurably grateful) and, in 2012, into St. Francis Home where she experienced the challenges of moving, adjusting, and letting go, as she lived her service as a Minister of Prayer.
Sister Death welcomed Sister Jean home on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015, to the embrace of Jesus whom she served all her life. She now experiences in new ways, “It’s a wonderful life, but most of all, ours is a wonderful God!”
She is preceded in death by her parents, Anna (Schall) and John Linder, and by her sisters: Catherine Linder Gonya, Marie Linder, Josephine Linder Huguenard, Rita Linder, Rosemary Linder Perrine, Genevieve Linder Wilson, and Sister Helen Linder, O.S.F. Surviving is her sister Theresa (Linder) Baumle, and her brothers, Maurice Linder and James Linder.