Pioneering Sr. Carol Frances Jegen dies

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

BVM Sister Carol Frances Jegen (Photo provided)

BVM Sister Carol Frances (Julia Anna) Jegen, 94, died July 7 in Dubuque, Iowa. She was 94.

Born in Chicago as the eldest of five children in her family, Sister Carol Frances entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1944, from St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. She professed final vows in 1952.

Sister Carol Frances was a theologian, teacher, author and activist for peace and justice. She was instrumental in developing Mundelein College’s theology major and peace studies program, which she also directed. She was a teacher and administrator at Mundelein from 1957 to 1991, and a professor at Loyola University Chicago from 1991 to 1994.

Sister Carol Frances also taught in Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

BVM Sister Paulette Skiba first met Sister Carol Frances when she was a student at Mundelein. She said it was clear to everyone who met Sister Carol Frances that she was a “woman of prayer.”

“Her activity flowed from her deep prayerfulness and intimate relationship with God,” Sister Paulette said.

Sister Carol Frances was one of the first women religious in the United States to earn a doctorate in theology, before going on to found a graduate program in theology at Mundelein College.

“Carol Frances was motivated by a concern she had for religious education,” Sister Paulette said. “She saw it as essential that religious educators and lay ministers have a strong theological foundation. She was a theologian who had a gift of making the theological tradition of the church understandable and practical.”

During her time at Mundelein, Sister Carol Frances started the Summer Institute for elementary and high school religious education teachers and its accompanying summer lecture series. She also helped establish the Mundelein Center for Religious Education.

The center developed a lending library for audio-visual religious education materials, which started the collection of the archdiocese’s Jegen Center.

Avis Clendenen, who succeeded Sister Carol Frances as director of the Mundelein College program in religious studies, said Sister Carol Frances’ gifts to the church of Chicago live on.

“She bestowed her lush theological acumen upon generations of women in Mundelein’s undergraduate program and scores of women and men in Mundelein’s graduate program in religious studies, preparing them to offer their treasures, talent and time to nourish the faith life of the church of Chicago,” said Clendenen, professor emerita of religious studies at Saint Xavier University. “To this day, one could go into a group of archdiocesan religious educators and pastoral associates and ask if their ministerial preparation included an encounter with Sister Carol Frances. Many would not only raise a hand but the smile on their faces would be broad because Sister Carol Frances was not only an exquisite educator, she was also an experience of grace.” 

“Many depended on the Mundelein Center for Religious Education to provide the most current and helpful materials in a post-Vatican II church,” Clendenen said. “In the early 1990s, the archdiocesan Office for Catechesis accepted the gift of the full Mundelein Center, and the Jegen Center was born to continue on with Sister Carol’s vision of a robust and living approach to catechesis.” 

In addition to her work as an educator, she was active in Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

One of her gifts was her ability to create networks of relationships, those who knew her said.

“Sister Carol was so well respected that she was able to easily facilitate bringing groups together,” said Father John Pawlikowski of Catholic Theological Union. “I remember in particular her impact on the process that led to the eventual formation of parish-synagogue dialogue groups. She was also instrumental in organizing the 20th anniversary celebration of Nostra Aetate with Cardinal Bernardin at Mundelein College in 1985.”

Sister Carol Frances is survived by her sisters Carol Belke and Cenacle Sister Evelyn Jegen.


  • women religious

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