sister marie pasqualine frigo
November 10, 1926 - July 14, 2011
A model of kindness, compassion and service
"Gracious and welcoming, kind, thoughtful and compassionate-a model of how to live out one's life in service of others"-such were the words of esteem and love with which her sisters remembered and embraced her. As one sister said, "Her gentle but firm ways won the hearts of parents, students and staff at St. Joseph Institute, her only official ‘mission.'" As she grew older, her gentleness, generosity and compassion bloomed beyond SJI to others in need -at Nazareth, at a nearby retirement center and toward all who entered the building at SJI."
Barbarina (Sister Marie Pasqualine) Frigo was born on November 10, 1926, the eighth of 16 children of Camilla Richelieu and Pasquale Frigo. Her mother was born in the United States. Pasquale Frigo, her father, was born in Italy and came to the United States with $50 in his pocket and the dream of opening a cheese factory. Her mother assisted him in this dream and he opened the Frigo Cheese Factory in Wisconsin. Both of her parents possessed a strong faith, which they passed along to their children. In her oral history, S. Pasqualine noted that her mother always taught her children to trust in divine providence.
As a youngster, S. Pasqualine went to a public school called Golden Rule School in Iron Mountain. In third grade, she attended a boarding school in Oneida, Wisc., but later she would return home to Pound, Wisc., where she grew up. After attending Iron Mountain High School for 10th grade, S. Pasqualine noted that she "tended to be a little sassy," so her mother wanted her to attend a Catholic school. Her last two years of high school were as a boarding student at St. Joseph's Academy in Green Bay, Wisc., where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph. While at the Academy, she said she learned to be a student and thoroughly enjoyed it. She entered the community in St. Louis after graduating from high school.
S. Pasqualine received her first assignment in 1948 immediately after her profession; she was to teach and care for the children at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. There began her love affair with education of deaf children and service to their families. Sister was an educator, teaching primary and middle grades until 1960. She also slept in the dormitory with the children who boarded at the school. Every summer she studied at Fontbonne and learned at the Institute, being mentored by other sisters who had taught the deaf for many years. She credits S. Anne Bernadine Wackenheim and S. Laurentine Lorenz for the tutoring she received in teaching speech and language arts. By 1964, S. Pasqualine had received her degree from Fontbonne, so she began a master's program in language pathology at Northwestern University in 1964. After graduating from Northwestern, she became principal of the Institute. She spoke with gratitude for the sisters who were assigned there in the days after the rubella epidemic in 1964, which left many children deaf. The Institute was bursting with 175 children, 110 of whom were boarders.
After completing her time as principal, S. Pasqualine returned to teaching, this time in the upper grades. At age 65, she discontinued formal teaching and became a tutor, instructing one or two students at a time. She continued in this role until her death. For the last 20 years, S. Pasqualine led an active life of ministry: answering the phone at the Institute, teaching ESL, visiting a homebound cousin, taking communion to and praying with residents of a nearby retirement center, visiting sisters and residents at Nazareth, and tending to the finances for her local community. She was visiting nearby nursing home residents when she fainted on July 1 and was taken to St. Luke's Hospital with a bleeding ulcer that later brought about pneumonia.
A day or so after her admission, she recounted to S. Jean Meier that when S. Mona Marie Buergler died, she told Mona she would not be far behind. Recounting that moment, S. Pasqualine added that when she was admitted to the ICU, she told God: "Do you want me too? It's okay with me if you do, but I think I can still do some good work here." Instead, our loving God spoke to this faithful daughter of 84 years: "Well done, good and faithful servant. I want you now to come home and rest with me." And so, on July 14 at 9:00 p.m. S. Marie Pasqualine entered into new and eternal life to be reunited with her parents, her siblings, her friends and students who have preceded her. May she rest in peace.
S. Jean Meier
S. Rita Louise Huebner