Many of our sisters trace their introduction to the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia to their educational history and Sr. Eileen Valerie Kulacz is no exception. However, for most sisters that introduction involved a student/teacher relationship. In Sr. Eileen’s case the connection grew out of a student/student relationship that began when she was a earning a degree in computer business systems at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “I associated with a group of older students on campus, one of whom was Sr. Gerald Helene Connelly,” Eileen explained. “She later became my sponsor. The IHM sisters who sponsor Marywood were quite surprised that I didn’t choose their congregation since Sr. Gerald was the only Franciscan on campus!”
Looking back over her life, however, Sr. Eileen realized that the Franciscan influence had been part of her life since childhood in both home and parish life. Both the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph and the OFM Conventuals served in her parish in Chicopee, Massachusetts. “As I look back, the Franciscan influence was always present, especially through my father who was a Franciscan at heart,” she recalled. In a video, The School of Fish, created for Neumann University’s Institute for Sport, Spirituality, and Character Development, Eileen described family fishing trips with her dad during which she learned the basics of family values, relationship- building, and care for creation.
After her entrance into the congregation, Sr. Eileen utilized her knowledge of business procedures and computer programming as she ministered in both healthcare situations and congregational ministries on both provincial and generalate levels. In 2009 she began her current ministry as executive secretary to the vice president of mission and ministry at Neumann University. Her duties there are multiple and varied—maintaining calendars, dealing with phone calls, typing varied reports and correspondences, assisting with budgeting, recording and typing minutes of multiple meetings, maintaining files—and the list goes on.
Like any position, Eileen’s ministry presents certain challenges—particularly challenges related to calendaring and multitasking. However, she readily acknowledges the blessings that flow from her position. “I minister with a great group of people,” she explained. “The work is energizing and interesting. I was never involved with education prior to this ministry so I am enjoying meeting and working with students. Exciting things are happening at NU!”
As is the case with many busy people, Sr. Eileen’s “free time” is often spent in reaching out to others. She enjoys sewing and currently works on two ongoing projects. “I make pillow cases for “Case for Smiles” which provides child-friendly, colorful pillow cases for three children’s hospitals in our geographic area (A.I. DuPont, CHOP, and St. Christopher’s),” she said. “I also make quilts for Riddle Hospital Hospice Unit. The children can take the pillow cases home with them and families of hospice patients who have died can keep the quilts.”
In outlining the various facets of her work over the years, Eileen specifically focused on the “multitude” of situations in which she has recorded and transcribed minutes for various meetings in both work situations and congregational gatherings—laughing that she lives “Minutes to Minutes.” She recalled a conference for congregational secretaries which she attended a number of years ago. Presenters stressed the importance and role of secretarial responsibilities especially in recording minutes. “Recording minutes at congregational meetings is really a sacred duty of recording salvation history being carried out in the congregation,” the speaker claimed. Sr. Eileen seems to have grasped the inherent message of that admonition—seeing the “sacred duty” not only in recording minutes, but also of seeing the “sacred” in all aspects of her ministry, the people with whom she ministers, and those in need who might benefit from her gifts.
Ann Marie Slavin, OSF