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Remembering Sr. Francelia Klingshirn

“The love of God is extravagant! Nothing small, nothing half-hearted, nothing mediocre can ever be worthy of a true follower of the suffering Christ.”

– Sr. Mary Francelia in a message to her fellow SNDs at the National Congress on the Apostolate in 1982.

Born: Margaret Ann Klingshirn,
November 11, 1917
Profession of Vows: August 16, 1938
Death: August 11, 2022

Early in the morning of this feast of St. Clare, dear companion of St. Francis of Assisi, Sr. Mary Francelia joined these saints, relatives and community members in eternity!

Sister Mary Francelia was born on November 11, 1917 in Avon, Ohio, the second child of Frank and Christina Kriebel Klingshirn and baptized Margaret Ann. Following her mother’s sudden death in 1925, Margaret and her siblings were raised by their maternal grandmother. Margaret’s grandmother was a “good disciplinarian and a spiritual lady” who believed that no young woman “would leave her home without knowing the arts of housekeeping, sewing, cooking and a bit of gardening.” When her father remarried in 1931, the family moved to Sheffield, Ohio and a step-sister and three step-brothers and eventually three half-brothers joined the family.

Margaret came to know the Sisters of Notre Dame first at St. Mary’s School in Avon and later at St. Teresa’s School in Sheffield. After completing three years in the local public high school, she enrolled at Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Road as a postulant on September 8, 1935. Margaret was invested as Sister Mary Francelia the following year and pronounced her First Vows on August 16, 1938.

Since she was eight years old, Sister Mary Francelia had wanted to become a “Sister teacher.” From 1938 to 1962, Sister ministered first as a teacher and then as principal in Catholic elementary schools in Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio and at the Campus School of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. In 1962, she was transferred to California where she ministered for two years (1962-1964) as principal and 8th grade teacher at St. Matthias Elementary School in Huntington Park. Afterwards, Sister spent six years as principal and superior at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Ventura and then one year teaching grade eight at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Downey.

Before coming to California, besides teaching, Sister Mary Francelia had been responsible for supervising practice teachers both in Ohio and at the Campus School. In September 1972, Sister was appointed Elementary Supervisor for the Notre Dame schools in California. Three years later, in December 1974, Sister Mary Francelia succeeded Mother Mary William Gara as Provincial Superior Rosa Mystica Province.

Sister Mary Francelia’s term as provincial introduced her to Notre Dame world-wide through opportunities to visit not only Germany and Rome but also Holland and Brazil and, as she wrote “broadened and enriched [her] in ways she never perceived.” Perhaps her most note-worthy achievement of her tenure was the construction of Notre Dame Center in Thousand Oaks.

After completing her term as provincial, she returned to her first love—teaching. In 1981, she was asked to open a Sacred Heart Parish School in Ventura. Beginning with a kindergarten and grades one and two, Sister systematically added a new teacher and a new grade each year as well as overseeing the necessary construction such implementation required.

In 1998, Sister Mary Francelia accepted a position with A. F. International School of Languages for Foreign Students in Westlake. Her work as an ESL teacher not only introduced Sister to a variety of languages and cultures but brought her into contact with many types of professional people who wished to be licensed or attend universities in the United States.

Sister Mary Francelia remained actively involved in education even after she moved to Notre Dame Center in 2002 both at the A.F. Language School and by helping our sister-guests from Korea with English. At the same time, Sister shared in the community’s hour of adoration and was responsible for the lovely flower arrangements throughout the house.

We are grateful for the wonderful example of Sister Mary Francelia as a master educator for all who knew her.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Notre Dame Center, 1776 Hendrix Ave, Thousand Oaks CA on Saturday, August 20 at 10am. Click here to participate via Livestream.

Do you have a memory of Sr. Francelia? Please comment below or send your stories to Jen Coito at [email protected]. If you would like to make a gift in honor of Sr. Francelia, please follow this link for more information.

I met Sister Mary Francelia in 1995, as a newcomer from Europe. Sr. Francelia agreed to work with me to build a language school for international students. Sr. Francelia embodied the all-encompassing goodness of God. She manifested integrity, honor and truth, and an unwavering, deep faith. How many thousands of lives Sister touched; how many students made better choices because of her! Knowing her was a path to see the goodness of God. My life would not have been the same without Sister Mary Francelia. She led and formed by being.

Andrea Fuchs, A.F. International School of Languages

Sr. Francelia was my principal at Sacred Heart School in Saticoy.  I graduated from there in 1994.  Now, I think of her daily as I drop off my three young daughters for school.   I’m sure Sr. Francelia would agree that their drop-off is much smoother than when my mother would drop me off.  She often had to give me stickers to stop my crying and make my day better.  So when I graduated from St. Bonaventure High School, Sr. Francelia was there to congratulate me, and of course, give me a sheet of stickers.  She always remembered me for that!

Monica Garmon Kennedy, Former Student

I learned about being a principal of a school from her. So grateful for her wisdom and words of advice!

Terry Miller
Assistant Superintendent Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Department of Catholic Schools
Sr. Francelia turns the first shovel to begin construction of Notre Dame Center on August 15, 1977. Also shown are Richard Belding, general contractor; Louis Sherer, Director of Public Works, City of Thousand Oaks; Sr. M. Pauletta Sibbing; Sr. M. Cornelia Ols; Sr. Francelia; Sr. M. Joann Schlarbaum; Rev. Colm O’Ryan, Associate Pastor of St. Paschal Baylon Parish; and Mayor Alex Fiore, City of Thousand Oaks.

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