The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Lenz retires after 35 years of service

Puja Parikh | Monday, December 8, 2008

Sister Jean Lenz, O.S.F., special assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs at Notre Dame, formally announced her retirement from the Office of Student Affairs on Dec. 3.

She will retire at the end of the fall semester after 35 years of service to the University.

“While Sr. Jean has certainly earned the right to enjoy a relaxing retirement, she is a valued and beloved member of the Office of Student Affairs, and I know I speak for the entire senior staff in saying that her daily presence in the office will be missed tremendously,” said Father Mark L. Poorman, Vice President of Student Affairs in an e-mail sent to colleges within the department. “Sr. Jean’s dedication, wisdom, and commitment to the University are unparalleled.”

Lenz, however, is ready to move on.

“My body was saying to me: I don’t want to do this anymore,” Lenz said. “It became very clear to me that it was time to step aside from doing administrative ministry. I knew that once I retire I didn’t have to pick up and make a drastic change in my life and that I would be able to stay on campus and continue doing ministry besides administrative work.”

Lenz, a Franciscan sister of the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, came to Notre Dame from Marquette where she pursued a master’s degree in theology. After six years, Lenz, along with 10 other Franciscan sisters, were asked to come back to the University and take part in the University’s transition to a coeducational institution after 130 years in an all-male environment.

“I remember getting the letter from Notre Dame asking me to come help. It was really walking into the unknown when I first came here. I only planed to stay a year or two and just help them get started with their programs. Little did I know that I would later go on to become the rector of Farley Hall,” she said. “My time with Farley Hall is so memorable because of all of the women I came to know. They were all so wonderful and bright.”

After serving as rector of Farley Hall, Sr. Jean switched to administrative ministry and entered the Office of Student Affairs in 1984.

“I’ve worked with three Notre Dame presidents, and its been a great gift,” she said. “I have so many memories from the years. I remember Fr. Jenkins when he was a student here because he had friends in Farley. I remember the coeducation process here. What an important step it was that Notre Dame opened its doors to women. And we never had big upsets, it was a gradual shift. But those first women, they were real pioneers.”

Lenz plans to continue ministry at the University and assisting youth with spiritual direction. She will help students who have basic religious questions, are interested in the Catholic faith, or want to figure out what they will do after leaving the University.

“I went from the very pastoral to teaching to administrative work,” Lenz said. Administrative work is so different. I just got to a point where it seemed time to leave that kind of administration and the typical stress that goes with you. And I have done pastoral teaching before and really enjoy it.”

Poorman said that Lenz will be missed.

“During her time at Notre Dame, Sr. Jean has been a consistent spokesperson for the Catholic character of the University and she is a pioneer of coeducation at Notre Dame,” Poorman said. “Her compassion, warmth, deep faith, and great humor are an inspiration and joy to everyone who knows her…”

Lenz will also continue to reside in Farley Hall and assist with ongoing programs. She has been involved with the University’s London Program, where she served as rector and chaplain from 1973 to 1983, in addition to being an adjunct instructor in theology. Sr. Jean is also the author of “Loyal Sons and Daughters,” an account of her years at the University.