S. Lois Aceto, OP, Receives Award
On April 30, 2017, S. Lois was presented with an Outstanding Educator Award from the Kenosha-Racine Counties Chapter 1123 of Phi Delta Kappa in the Student Union at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus.
S. Lois was among three agencies and thirteen individuals to receive the Outstanding Educator Awards.
Two young women aspiring to become educators were also awarded scholarships at the banquet.
Congratulations S. Lois!
From mini-bio in newspaper celebrating jubilarians in 2000
S. Lois Aceto's 50th Jubilee
Sister Lois Aceto, from Kenosha, received a Bachelor's degree from Dominican College in 1962. She taught at schools in Illinois, New Mexico and Wisconsin, including St. Joseph and St. Mary, Racine. From 1964 to 1970, she lived and ministered in Bolivia. During the 1970s, she studied tropical rural medicine in Spain. She has served as jail counselor for Racine County Jail, a crisis technician for the Crisis Center, an intake worker for Racine County Courts, and liaison for Wisconsin Correctional Service, director of the former Vision House and of the Conflict Resolution Center. She does prison ministry and teaches conflict resolution for Racine-area schools and organizations.
Her Journey toward Justice
S. Lois Aceto came to the Racine Dominican community at an early age since her mother often visited the motherhouse as a sacristan and brought her along. As a child, she liked what the sisters were doing and really began to appreciate their stress on education, truth, and justice as she grew up. S. Lois has filled her over 65 years as a Dominican sister with many different ministries in different parts of the world. She has studied medicine in Spain, served the poor in Bolivia, and now teaches others to be mediators as the director of Racine’s Conflict Resolution Center.
S. Lois spent seventeen years in Bolivia, and remembers that she and the other missionaries often got involved in things they didn’t expect. Some of the projects she took on included working with kids on the street, in brothels, and in orphanages. In Tarija, a little city bordering Argentina, S. Lois took 25 delinquents from the orphanages and started a new home for boys. She calls this experience “the joy of my life.” As S. Lois helped many of them learn to read and get back in school, they often became leaders in their classes, and she delighted in “seeing them grow into real men.” They helped name the home “Nueva Esperanza,” – New Hope, and it is still thriving today.
S. Lois began her experiences in Bolivia in 1964 with three other Dominican sisters. “When we went we were not prepared to do anything,” she said. “We spent weeks riding the bus to find what we could do.” Eventually, S. Lois came to work with youth in the city of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital. She taught religion for three years in a girls’ school, and then joined a social justice center started by the Dominican Fathers which brought high school and college students together to work on different issues.
Later, S. Lois moved to the barrio and ministered to the poor there. “Often, the outer parts of the city are actually the most impoverished, not the inner-city,” she explained. In these poor outer areas, S. Lois noticed an extreme lack in medical services. In response to this need, she started a clinic which is still flourishing with medical and dental programs for the families. As another way of helping the poor, S. Lois studied medicine in Spain, finishing courses in midwifery and leprosy.
S. Lois returned to the U.S. in 1981 and continues her justice work today, but in a different way. She remembers that she didn’t have much direction and suffered from culture shock after spending so much time in South America, but the oppression she saw in Bolivia paralleled that which she saw in jails and this is what attracted her to prison ministry and criminal justice. She has worked in this ministry for over 29 years, teaching conflict resolution and restorative justice at Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) and Racine Youthful Correctional Facility (RYOC). S. Lois loves this ministry and views it as a way of preaching. “It thrills me to see these guys grasping onto new ideas and a way to live their lives differently,” she said. “It’s incredible to see the guys come alive and see the spirit working within them.”
S. Lois also teaches criminal justice courses at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI and mediation training at the Conflict Resolution Center, but views all of her previous ministries as some form of teaching, and has a real passion for it. The advice she has for all her students comes from her own experiences, since she never did any job she didn’t love: if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, then don’t do it. Since most people in the community did not know about what she did in Bolivia years ago, S. Lois shared her experiences in her book called Journeying toward Justice. In the preface she writes, “I have changed from the naïve, youthful, exuberant woman I was. But even now, in my 70s, I retain my enthusiastic desire, my compulsion, to journey toward justice.”
Check out S. Lois's YouTube video program, "Lighting the World with Truth" where she tackles interesting, and often, difficult topics that are socially and culturally relevant.