Memories of Sister Fabia Dzienis, OSF
All the people Sister Alodia interviewed had in some way or other contributed and influenced the history of the entire structure and character of Alvernia College. Since my position required that it be preserved I had the pleasurable duty to put on the computer all the gathered information.
I had been part of Alvernia College for many years and I feel I am part of the pattern that constitutes a whole; therefore, some of my history is forthcoming as of November 16, 2000.
It was June 29, 1931 when I left my parents, two sisters and three brothers from 318 Carson Street, Manayunk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Sacred Heart Convent in Mt. Alvernia, Reading, Pennsylvania. Upon my arrival at the Sacred Heart Convent reception room there were three young girls from Shenandoah, Pa. waiting to be greeted and accepted to start our convent life. A stately Sister, reserved and very pleasant, just the kind I pictured and expected a nun to be, greeted us with a very warm welcome. She was Rev. Mother Angela, the Superior General of the Bernardine Sisters.
Since I had just graduated eighth grade from St. Josephat School, Mother Angela, directed me and the three other girls (Sophy Lopata, Helen Polubinska, and Julia Nowek from Shendoah, PA.) to go to Sister M. Victoria who was in charge of the Internates, as the young girls aspiring to enter the Bernardine Sister Convent were called at that time. It was there that I and the others with the same aspirations attended High School classes for three years. Our senior year was spent as postulants, an introductory year or first year in preparation for convent life in the religious community. The following year was the Novitiate, a year of intense study of community and spiritual life which would lead to Profession. In the Novitiate real convent life begins. During that time Bernardine Sisters mission is pursued, the Rule is studied and life in community is lived.
The first nine years I spent as a grade teacher, starting with second and third grades in Kulpmont, Pa., then one year as a fourth grade teacher in Nicetown, Pa. Followed by seven years in Central Falls, R.I. teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grades respectively.
At that time I was asked by the Provincial Superior, Sister M. Victoria if I would like to study for Medical Technology, since my disposition was suited for that kind of hospital work. I was floored! In the first place I did not want anything to do with sick people, then I had no idea what Medical Technology was about. Needless to say, I was very much disturbed.
After some considerable thought and prayer I realized that I came to the convent to do God’s Will through my Superiors. Therefore, with fear and trepidation, I told Sister Victoria that I would accept, if this is what is wanted of me to do the rest of my life instead of teaching.
The remainder of that year I tried to learn what Medical Technology was. At that time (1939) there was very little information I could find since it was a very new hospital profession. I also learned that 90 semester hours of science studies were required, which I did not have since my major was in Elementary Education and that almost completed.. To obtain the necessary science requirements I went to College Misericordia in the fall of 1946. Now that the necessary requirements were complete one more hurdle had to be met and that was an Internship of one year at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. There I learned what Medical Technology was and what I needed to do to meet my superiors’ expectations. I was thankful that this did not require much contact with the sick, since I could never be a nurse. This job was working with sick person’s body fluids and tissues in a laboratory with patient involvement at a minimum. It turned out to be very interesting for me because it was based on looking for reasons why people are sick, and that created a challenge which I enjoyed.
After completing my internship I was assigned to a small hospital in Osceola, Nebraska where I spent four years while the community was building St. Joseph Hospital in Hazleton, Pa. In 1949 I took the Registry Examination in Lincoln, Nebraska, passed and became a Registered Medical Technologist.
In 1952 the Community acquired Buxton Hospital in Newport News, Virginia which was renamed Mary Immaculate Hospital. I became the Medical Technologist there for seven years. Laboratory work was not very extensive at that time outside of the most common procedures. However, Medical Technology was growing with a proliferation of many new procedures necessary for diagnosis, resulting in a need for Medical Technologists. With the aid of Dr. Beecroft, the Pathologist, a school for Medical Technology was opened. Unfortunately, this endeavor was not pursued for long, because St. Joseph Hospital in Hazleton, PA and Sacred Heart Hospital in Chester, PA were opened and a need for changing personnel was apparent. These changed resulted in my relocation to St. Joseph Hospital in Hazleton to be the supervisor and chief Medical Technologist and worked for twenty-three years.
Time spent in St. Joe’s was a time of learning and implementing new procedures due to the great progress in medicine and requests by doctors to improve their skills as diagnosticians. Here too the need for Medical Technologists was apparent and not available. Therefore the Registry permitted me to train Laboratory Medical Assistants as helpers to the Medical Technologist, who were required to have a college degree in Bachelor of Science. This Medical Assistant Program at St. Joseph Hospital existed until Mr. Gimmer, the Controller was hired. Previously, Dr. Foldes, the Pathologist for both institutions, St. Joseph and State Hospital had a School for Medical Technology at the State Hospital. Since quality technologists were desired we became affiliated with Penn State to allow the students to achieve their goals as well as internship in both hospitals. My supervisors and I became Adjunct Professors.
Naturally, students of that caliber also needed to be remunerated accordingly. However that was not the case in St. Joseph Hospital Laboratory. Every Medical Technologist who was hired, after a year or so, left St. Joseph employment for better paying jobs in other hospitals. Because of this fact, it made it impossible to retain good qualified Medical Technologists at St. Joseph’s Hospital Laboratory. My two very good and reliable Supervisors told me of their intention to look for a better paying position elsewhere, if their salaries were not increased. At this point I decided to ask for increases in salary for my laboratory supervisors. First, I presented this problem to the Administrator and then to the Controller. The Administrator did nothing about it and the Controller told me that “if the salaries were to be raised for the laboratory technologists mine, (which was not what a Laboratory Administrator’s should be), will also have to be raided and I should go back and continue as is.” (I interpreted this statement as “mind your own business”).
I knew that nothing would be done with Administration and in the meantime as long as I was there, the girls will leave for better paying jobs. The future for me looked bleak. As a result I felt that I should be the one to quit and spare the girls the need to relocate, and myself the agony and aggravation. This decision came almost on the spare of the moment after my visit to the chapel and in my subconscious I heard “Resign”. With no second thoughts, I sent a letter of resignation to my Provincial Superior, Sister Bonaventa and an intent of resignation to Sister Edwinalda and Dr. Foldes as of July 1, 1981.
That summer was full of anxiety while waiting for an answer from Sister Bonaventa, I felt like a man without a county – useless and unwanted. Finally, I was told to come to Reading. After presenting my problem, my situation was understood and I finally felt like I was still a part of my Community. Since this was the end of August and all assignments of Sisters were complete, I accepted to fill a much needed place in St. Joseph Villa to care for the retired Sisters. That was not really to my liking but I agreed and spend the rest of 1981 to October 3, 1982 at the Villa tending and praying with the old Sisters.
At that time, necessary personnel changes had to be made and Alvernia College was left without a bookstore manager. Because of this need and lack of time, I was told to take over that position. With no knowledge in business transactions and fear of refusing, I had no choice but to accept and do the best I could with the help of God, since it appeared this is where God wanted me to be and to work.
Since I love a challenge, I wasted no time to learn what I could in the business of a Bookstore Manager. I got some books on Business from the Library and proceeded to learn and do my best in managing the bookstore.
At that time the bookstore was located in a small room in the Campus Center. I managed it alone with the help of work-study students. However, Alvernia College was growing rapidly and the need for a bigger area became essential. An area in the Bernardine Hall on the ground floor, formerly a Mechanical Room, was cleaned, painted, and bookshelves and counters were installed became the new Alvernia College Bookstore. It looked like a fine store and I was very proud of it. Business was good and with the help of two regular salesgirls and work-study students, college bookstore needs were met.
College growth continued and the need for a larger bookstore was a necessity. No other place on campus was available. The new administration decided to house a large bookstore in the new Student Center. It was also agreed to lease the new bookstore under Follett management. That ended my career as a Bookstore Manager.
At that time I was ready to retire, but I felt I could still be useful if not physically at least mentally. Since I had some expertise in computer and a knowledge in Polish I was assigned to catalog and prepare for the WEB our collection of Polish Books. This collection of over sixteen hundred volumes from many sources, included some very rare volumes. This assignment turned out to be very interesting and informative, but lasted only one year. As of year 2000 I am working on a new assignment with Sister M. Alodia to prepare information for the College Archives.
Submitted by Sister Fabia Dzienis, November 16, 2000.
The University Archives are located at the 951 Morgantown Offices on the first floor. Please contact Sharon Neal, Library Director to schedule an appointment.