Sister Valerie Krochenski passed to her eternal reward on 22 May 2023, at Mary Immaculate Health Care Centre in Mundare, AB, at 95 years of age and 76 years in religious life.
Sister Valerie Sophie Krochenski was born in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, on 17 July 1927, the youngest of eight children of Ignatius Krochenski and Natalia Mady (Madaj).
Sophie completed her grade school with Grade 12 standing in Kindersley in 1946. After graduation, she took a year of business college in Saskatoon, and then, experiencing the call of of the Lord, she applied to enter the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. She was accepted, and arrived at the novitiate in Ancaster, ON, on 21 March 1947; she received her habit on 22 September of that year, taking the religious name, Sister Valerie. She made first profession of vows on 24 September, 1949, and final profession, 15 August 1956.
After the completion of her Novitiate, Sister Valerie attended Normal School (Teacher Training) in Hamilton, ON, and soon after, began a life-long teaching career. She taught grade 1 in Detroit, Michigan, and later, kindergarten in Toronto. In 1952, she was transferred to Edmonton, where she taught grades 5 and 6, for about eight years, while also taking summer courses at U of Alberta. After only four years of teaching, she was already receiving glowing reports from the Department of Education. A concluding statement from a detailed report on her class reads:
“Her rapport with the class and her understanding of their needs are of a high order. The students are progressing very well, and Sister Valerie has developed their ability to use materials, accept responsibility and conduct themselves acceptable in the classroom very successfully.”
In the school year of 1959-60, Sister Valerie had the opportunity to study full time, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, receiving her Standard Certificate in Teaching. She continued through summer courses to complete her Bachelor of Education in 1964, from USask. In 1960-61, she was appointed Secretary to the Provincial Superior in Toronto. She resumed teaching in 1961, at Sacred Heart Academy, later re-named Sacred Heart High School, which was owned and operated by the SSMI, in Yorkton, SK. She spent the rest of her grade-school teaching in that institution. Her rapport with her students continued to be exceptional. Her lessons were engaging and challenging and always brought out the best in her students.
Sister Valerie decidedly preferred the high school level. Her preferred courses were Biology, History and Christian Ethics. Today, the SSMI no longer operate Sacred Heart High School, but an annual award in Sister Valerie’s name is given for proficiency in Biology. But it was in the extra- curricular activities that she supervised, particularly the musicals, where she was best able to appreciate the gifts and talents of her students. After retirement, she maintained many close and dear friendships with her students, and with the staff with whom she worked. She was known for the love she showed to those whom and with whom she taught, and for her good common sense. At her retirement, a staff member spoke these words:
“[W]e will remember you always, for your dedication to your students and profession, for your optimism in difficult times, for your rational thinking and opinions in times of controversy … for your devotion to the true purpose of a Catholic school, for your skill at immobilizing a frog for the purposes of dissection, and for your conviction that, despite radical obstacles, the multitude of Christ’s followers will never diminish.”
In all, Sister Valerie taught for 32 years. She also served her Community in several leadership positions. She served as Superior in Edmonton, Yorkton, Toronto, Saskatoon, Ancaster and Mundare; and as Provincial Secretary, Provincial Councillor and Vice-Provincial Superior on the Administrative team of the Congregation. She was a moderator of the SSMI Associates in Saskatoon, and served at the Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centres in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. In Ancaster, she was administrator of the Mount Mary Retreat Centre, and was able to offer spiritual direction on request as well.
Sister Valerie had opportunities to develop her spiritual growth, through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, in Guelph, ON, a year of studies in the Credo program in Spokane, WA, and “Sojourn in the Land of the Bible,” a 10-month program of studies in the Holy Lands. She took occasional shorter courses, as well, such as Prayer Dynamic of the Psalms, and Christian Spirituality, at Newman Theological College, in Edmonton, a course on Religious Vows, Charism and Catholic Action. She took her spiritual life seriously, receiving spiritual direction, journalling and applying it to her personal and communal life.
Family was very important to Sister Valerie, and her vacation time was often spent with them. In the earlier years, she visited with her parents in Kindersley, SK, until they passed on. on, and later, with her siblings and in-laws, in Kindersley, and in British Columbia, Alberta and Arizona. But she would also enjoy relaxing times with her SSMI family, in various parts of Canada and the United States. She also enjoyed a European tour, in Italy, Germany and France, in 1973, and Austria and Ukraine in 1993. When she studied in the Holy Land, she was able also to visit Egypt.
Sister Valerie was predeceased by her parents, sisters Helen Kuz, Mary Grocholski and Ann Mazzei, and brothers Paul, Peter, Stanley and Walter and their spouses. She is survived by many nieces and nephews with their families, and the Sisters in the SSMI Congregation.
May her memory be eternal. Вічная Пам’ять!