S. Frances (Fidelis) Hoffman Celebrated Her 50th Jubilee in 2013
What first drew you to the Racine Dominican community?
I first became acquainted with our sisters as a piano student at St. Bernard’s in Madison. It was there that I experienced the Racine Dominicans’ warmth and care. In meeting other sisters at a reception ceremony in Racine, I was struck by their spirit of joy, freedom, and individuality, despite living a rather structured (at that time) life in common.
What has kept you in the community all these years?
I treasure the continuing formation in Scripture, theology, spirituality, and understanding of the vows that I have received through the years.
Equally significant has been the example of those prophetic women among us who have paved the way to a greater articulation of mission and ministry, especially as it relates to the marginalized in our society today.
What is one particularly cherished memory of your years in ministry?
Two memories of being introduced to another culture remain with me. One occurred during
a summer early in my teaching career when, together with three other sisters, I taught reading and math to students in Kentucky. We worked to improve skills that had languished because the earthen bridge, the way out of their “holler” to the local school, had been washed away by floods, preventing school attendance. The second memory spans ten years that I spent teaching with our sisters in the Central City Catholic School System in Milwaukee where African-American parents sought to provide a values-centered, quality education in an area of the city often plagued by drugs and violence. This opened my
eyes to “white privilege” even as I came to appreciate black culture. I was able to explore and celebrate with my students and the entire school system a rich heritage of important figures, both past and present, whose contributions had not always been recognized in text books.
What is one thing people today should know about the Racine Dominicans?
Racine Dominicans are engaged in life with a passion. We strive to make a difference wherever we are, reading the signs of the times, being grounded in prayer and sharing our life’s journey together. We aim to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)
What do you enjoy doing at this time of your life?
I enjoy my ministry which involves serving as a companion to seniors in the Madison area, being a guardian and visiting base for my brother who was born with a developmental disability, and working at the Sun Prairie Public Library as a circulation assistant.
I am an active member of MOSES (Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity) and an advocate for the environment through our community’s Earth Focus Group. I take time for social justice activity and communication with others via the internet. I like to tend flowers in a little garden; I delight in the countryside; and I use drive time to listen to good books and music.
S. Fran Hoffman Bringing Quality of Life to Others
S. Fran Hoffman has been a Racine Dominican sister for nearly 50 years. Her ministries have been varied but continue to involve her in pursuing fullness of life for vulnerable populations. As a girl at St. Bernard’s in Madison, WI, she saw the spirit and joy of the Racine Dominican sisters and wanted to be a part of the community. “I wanted to become a sister as a response to God’s love,” she said. Indeed, she shares this love with many people in her work.
The two populations she works with the most are the elderly and persons with intellectual and developmental challenges. She takes care of her brother who was born with Down’s syndrome. As his legal guardian, she is responsible for his medical needs, scheduling his doctor appointments as well as family visits and other activities. She continued to assist people born with developmental disabilities as part of the Community Bridges Program of Care Wisconsin. In this position, she helped persons with disabilities access and thrive in their local communities.
In her current work at Catholic Charities, S. Fran continues to help vulnerable populations feel more connected to their community through her work in the CompanionCare program of Aging Services. This program, which started in 1999, promotes self-reliance and encourages continued engagement in community life. S. Fran has been a companion for more than three years and visits three elderly women, providing needed in-home support such as cleaning, laundry, and occasional light meal preparation. She also accompanies her clients to shopping trips, medical appointments, and other outings. One of the things she likes about working with the elderly is the satisfaction she gets by helping them maintain their independence. “I find much fulfillment in this personal interaction on a one-on-one basis,” she remarked. “The elderly often experience loss – loss of physical health, loss of their peers and friends, and loss of independence. It is a pleasure to interact with each of these wise women, helping them to maintain their independence.”
But S. Fran’s attention is not focused only on these two populations; she also maintains a commitment to social, economic, and ecological justice through political activism. For example, growing up on her family’s farm she developed a closeness with the Earth that she continues by being involved with the Racine Dominican Justice and Rights Earth Focus Group. One project she and other sisters undertook was to “adopt” a Ford dealership, urging the dealer and CEO of the company to manufacture more fuel efficient cars. S. Fran’s enthusiasm for her ministries enables her to act as an advocate for anyone that needs defending; whether that be the planet itself, the cognitively disabled, or the elderly.
Sister Frances (Fidelis) Hoffman
S. Frances was born in Madison, WI, and earned a bachelor's degree from Dominican College and a master's degree from UW Wisconsin-Milwaukee. For over 30 years, she taught in Catholic schools around Wisconsin, 10 of those years in the Central City Catholic School System of Milwaukee. Since 1997, S. Frances has worked at the Sun Prairie, WI, Public Library. For the past eight years, she has also been employed atMadison's Catholic Charities in the Aging Services' Companion Care Program.