Ann Michele Jadlowski spent half her life ministering to the sick and dying at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul and pioneered the use of support groups to help cancer patients and their grieving families.
Jadlowski, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, continued to provide outreach to patients at the hospital until just days before her death on Nov. 6 from natural causes. She was 94.
Her death marks the end of an era for St. Joseph's Hospital. Jadlowski was the last Catholic nun employed at the hospital founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet more than 150 years ago in response to a cholera outbreak. The sisters once operated the hospital and provided much of the care as administrators, nurses and therapists. Nearly 300 sisters worked at the hospital through its history.
"There is loss and there is sadness, but Sister Ann Michele's spirit remains with us and we will carry on her mission to serve others," said the Rev. Brian Gutzmann, director of spiritual health services at M Health Fairview, the health system that includes St. Joseph's.
Jadlowski, known as Sister Ann Michele, was a regular presence at St. Joseph's, where she distributed communion to patients and led a support group known as "Caritas" (Latin for "charity") for people affected by cancer and their relatives. The diminutive nun was often seen walking the hallways — praying with patients, listening to their stories and providing them with spiritual guidance.
Chaplains at the hospital called this "covering the house," and Jadlowski continued the work well into her 80s.
She was also a staunch advocate for preserving certain Catholic traditions at St. Joseph's, well after it was merged into a larger health system and was no longer operated by nuns. She insisted, for instance, that mass continue to be celebrated on the hospital premises and that priests be allowed to administer sacraments to sick patients.
"Sister Ann Michele had a long-lasting influence on hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years," said her friend, Sister Dolore Rochon, former vice president of patient services at St. Joseph's. "I'm sure she is in heaven now — and I'm sure that she's meeting all sorts of people that she has helped before."
Jadlowski graduated with a degree in history and music from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul (now St. Catherine University), and then entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet community in 1949.
She spent 27 years as a high school history and psychology teacher before shifting to chaplaincy work at St. Joseph's.
There, she helped establish three support groups for patients and their families, including one for children of cancer patients. Innovative for their time, these groups received multiple awards and were held up as models by the American Cancer Society.
Friends and co-workers described Jadlowski as calm and inquisitive and a compassionate listener who was always searching for ways to lift people out of their grief and suffering.
Maribeth Graves, the lead chaplain at St. Joseph's, recalled how Jadlowski helped her cope with her own mother's death from cancer a year ago.
"I remember her telling me, 'Your mother will have some really hard days. And she will have some really good days. Relish those good days,' " Graves said. "Listening to her words really helped me move the illness to the side and enjoy my mother."
Jadlowski is survived by her sister, Joanne Jadlowski, and nieces and a nephew. Services have been held.