For 31 years, Sister Mary Jo Stoffel, SDS (formerly Sr. Boniface) entered grade school classrooms with great energy and enthusiasm. She remembers the light in the eyes of her first- and second-graders when they “got the lesson.”
The youngsters’ sheer joy for life, great parental cooperation and supportive colleagues all make for wonderful memories. So much so, that each class list she ever had is on Sr. Mary Jo’s nightstand and she remembers her students every night in prayer. She says two of her students still write her every Christmas.
She recalls the split class sessions with 55 students in her morning group when she taught in Landover Hills, Md. The teachers would take a 15 minute break and then 53 students came in for an extended afternoon session until 4:30 p.m.
“We (teachers) were all young and supported one another. We shared ideas and challenges. I loved teaching.” Sr. Mary Jo also taught at Mother of Good Counsel, Milwaukee; St. Therese in Schofield; St. Pius X, Wauwatosa; Holy Ghost, Dickeyville, St. Mark’s, Rothschild; and Notre Dame, Chippewa Falls, all in Wisconsin. She also taught at grade schools in Lakeville and Sauk Rapids, Minn.
In 1983, Sr. Mary Jo was asked to serve for a short time as secretary to the General Chapter in Rome, Italy. Later, she ministered in the Salvatorian Sisters’ finance office and Divine Savior Holy Angels High School finance office, both in Milwaukee; and for the School Sisters of Notre Dame provincial finance office also in Wisconsin. Today, she serves as an archivist for the Salvatorian Sisters U.S. Province.
Sr. Mary Jo’s religious vocation was fostered by her parents’ strong faith values and the Salvatorian Sisters who taught her at St. Paul’s School in Bloomer, Wis. “I wanted to help others and love God in a special way, and the Salvatorians did that with such joy,” she says. “My Dad wanted me to wait to enter but I did feel called. I remember thinking of being a Sister when I was very young. Our novitiate class was close and we literally grew up together. One of our novitiate teachers encouraged us to remain faithful to prayer throughout our lives.”
Sr. Mary Jo reflects the joy of consecrated life and would encourage religious life as a vocational choice today. “For more than fifty years, my vocation has been life-giving for me and life-giving for those I serve. Grounded in prayer and community support, it is a loving and challenging way of life in service to others. I believe in the life and want to do what God asks and make a difference.”