Louise Szkodzinski, BVM (Christiane)

Louise Szkodzinski, BVM (Christiane) died Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 10–11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Cicero, Ill., on Aug. 11, 1921, to Joseph and Mary Biestek Szkodzinski. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1947, from St. Pius Parish, Chicago. She professed first vows on March 19, 1950, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1955.

Louise taught music for many years on the college level in Dubuque and Chicago. She gave piano lessons in Phoenix, where she also served as music director and teacher. In later years she gave piano lessons in Chicago.

She was preceded in death by her parents and two sisters, Frances Narko and Cecilia Pugh. She is survived by a brother Jerome, Lockeford, Calif.; a sister Christine (Allan) Pitford, Paulden, Ariz.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 69 years.

Jeff Wagner, former student and friend of Sister Louise, shares a tribute on his YouTube channel "in memory of my great teacher and friend. She was, and is, a source of inspiration to me." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD3N6lb8cDU

Sister Louise Szkodzinski, BVM (Christiane)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Jan. 25, 2017

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Louise Szkodzinski.

Ludovica (Louise) Szkodzinski was born on Aug. 8, 1921, in Cicero, Ill., to Joseph and Mary Biestek Szkodzinski. She joined older sisters Frances and Cecilia; a brother, Jerome, and a sister, Christine, later joined them. Her father emigrated from Poland in 1916 and married her mother two years later. Together they operated a bakery from 1922 until 1950 when they moved to California.

Polish was Louise’s first language. She learned to speak English while attending first grade at a public school. She discovered her musical talent in the second grade while taking piano lessons. In the sixth grade, Louise transferred to St. Pius Catholic School where she continued to study the piano and played for Masses and novenas. She attended St. Mary HS on a four-year piano scholarship and studied under Sister Virginia Gaume (Matilde).

While majoring in music at Mundelein College in Chicago, Louise studied under BVM Sisters Rafael Bird and Anna Ruth Bethke. After graduating, she taught music from kindergarten through eighth grade at Our Lady Help of Christians in Chicago, while maintaining a private piano studio and working in the family bakery. She won a scholarship with Rudolph Ganz, a Swiss pianist, conductor and composer, and graduated with a master’s degree in music from the Chicago Musical College. She taught music for three years in Chicago at Annunciation and Our Lady Help of Christians elementary schools before answering the call to consecrated life.

Louise entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1947. She received the name Christiane upon her reception on March 19, 1948. As a postulant and a novice, she taught piano, music appreciation, and music theory to members of her religious set. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1950, and lived 69 years as a BVM.

Louise taught music at St. Mary HS, Mundelein College, and Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. She served as chairperson of the music department at Mundelein from 1958 to 1970 and was deeply involved in the Mundelein-Loyola Charismatic Prayer Group. Her degree of preparation and enthusiasm for her courses and dedication and concern for her students was total and unwavering. An innate teacher, she combined her teaching and performing abilities to give lecture-recitals in high schools throughout the Midwest. At the international level, she lectured at the Kraków Conservatory of Music in Poland.

Louise did her doctoral study at the University of Indiana under Hungarian Gyorgy Sebok, an internationally renowned pianist.She loved to combine study with travel. In addition to her time in Poland, she spent five weeks studying at the University of Vienna and enjoying the city where many of the great composers lived and thrived musically. She also participated in a prayer and study tour of Egypt, Israel and Rome.

Louise was the director of music at St. Ignatius Parish in Chicago. She also ministered as choir director at St. Benedict Parish in Montebello, Calif., while caring for her mother. After a traumatic earthquake disrupted her life there, she moved to Arizona where she served as a liturgical minister at St. Catherine of Sienna Parish, a Latino parish in Phoenix.

Louise was an amazing musician, a true artist. While she loved teaching, she loved performing even more. During her lifetime, she gave over 175 public performances in 10 states and Poland, and made appearances on both WGN in Chicago and ABC television. In an interview, Louise commented, “It just happened gradually . . . Because I taught at the college level for 39 years, I felt that I had to continue learning new piano repertoire. I teach much better those masterpieces that I myself have performed.”

Even after moving to Wright Hall in Chicago in 1996, she continued to teach piano. “My retirement years [here] have been some of the happiest of my whole life,” wrote Louise. “Piano teaching has always been a favorite activity. Now that we have a music room [at Wright Hall], I teach Suzuki piano to children and adults. I also coach two pianists who are already accomplished musicians in their own right, [which] encourages me to continue studying music technique and repertoire in light of their needs. I can honestly say that I am still learning how to teach and I continue to be stimulated.”

Louise had a strong work ethic and showed a consistent concern for high standards whether teaching or performing. She did everything with gusto. While some often missed her subtle sense of humor and clever wit, her contagious laugh never went unnoticed. She was passionate about learning and her passion inspired many students. She gave hope to others like herself who embraced the changes that swept through both the church and the congregation in the 1960s, while offering understanding to those who feared change.

As Louise looked back on her life, she reflected, “I am truly filled with gratitude for the many opportunities God has given me. The BVMs have been most generous in encouraging me to develop my musical talents.” Unfortunately, declining health in her later years stole her ability to do what she loved most. In the Gospel selected by Louise, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” No stretch of the imagination is needed to envision Louise seated at a grand piano in her heavenly music studio. Play on, Louise!

Click here to read wake stories.