For the past twenty-seven years, Sister Barbarine Houdek has served as a pillar of Franciscan spirituality, a loving mentor, and a caring friend for the faculty/staff members and thousands of young men that have passed through the doors of St. Francis High School. Her steadfast commitment to embodying the Franciscan virtues has also influenced everyone she has encountered in the local community. During her long tenure at the school, she has worked diligently as a consummate educator, serving as the librarian and teaching English. However, Sr. Barbarine’s positive impact has certainly extended well beyond the classroom and library. As a participant and supporter of countless Kairos retreats, morning Liturgies, enriching school activities, service trips, pilgrimages, theater productions, and Golden Knight football games, she has always been on hand to offer an encouraging presence, a joyful smile, and sound advice. Most importantly, her commitment to prayer on behalf of others has undoubtedly impacted many lives well beyond her sphere of influence. Consequently, it is with a heavy, but grateful, heart that the St. Francis family must say farewell to this special member of our community as she retires at the youthful age of ninety and returns to live with the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet, Illinois.
Sr. Barbarine was born on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1925, in Calmar, Iowa. She discovered her vocation as an aspirant while attending high school at St. Francis Academy in Joliet, IL. Upon graduating, she became a postulant with the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate and attending the College of St. Francis (now the University of St. Francis) and majored in history. After completing her undergraduate degree and her time as a novice, Sr. Barbarine transitioned into the classroom as a teacher. She completed her master’s degree in theater arts from Northern Illinois University in 1979 and moved to Southern California to work as a religion and theater arts teacher at Notre Dame High School in Riverside. Over the course of the next ten years, she taught at St. Monica Catholic H.S., Alverno H.S., Our Lady of Corvallis H.S., and Salesian H.S. With her heart set on working with the Capuchin Franciscans, Sr. Barbarine was thrilled by the opportunity to work as an English teacher at St. Francis beginning in 1989. Inspired by her mentor, Mary Ida Fair, St. Barbarine transitioned into the position of the full-time librarian where she has meticulously and diligently served the needs of the students for nearly three decades.
Sr. Barbarine will be dearly missed but her legacy will live on at St. Francis High School and in those she has so deeply touched throughout her time of service at the school. We wish her many more years of health and happiness as she continues her ministry back in her home state of Illinois.