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Sister Diane Marie Collins stands with the Catholic Diocese of Würzburg, Germany flag behind her
at the World Youth Day festivities in Krakow, Poland.

The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago have had a long history in the field of education. Over the years, they staffed many parochial schools, providing Sisters for teaching assignments throughout several US states. Sister Diane Marie Collins was inspired early on by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago who taught her at Sacred Heart of Jesus Grammar School in Gary, Indiana. This led her to eventually join the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago in 1968. Sister made her first profession of vows in 1971 and her perpetual vows in 1977. Sister received her BA in English from Marillac College and her Masters in English from DePaul University.

She eventually was assigned to teach at Madonna High School in Chicago where she taught English, coached Speech and Debate Teams and ministered in School Social Work after receiving her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. "Since the age of four I was intrigued by the ministry of teaching. Education is a field in which the teacher and the taught form a community of interactive learning. It is always a joy to see the light appear in the eyes of the students be it the deeper understanding of a poem in literature or the Word of God."

Sister's New Position and Ministry

This love of teaching led Sister Diane Marie to continue her ministry in education in a new position after serving as general minister of the religious congregation. Since August of 2014, Sister Diane Marie has been a part of the pastoral team in campus ministry at the University of Illinois at Chicago at the St. John Paul II Newman Center. Sister is also the Coordinator of Liturgy and Music at the Newman Center. The main focus of this job is working with the young adults at the university who volunteer to serve as liturgical ministers.

Aida Pavello and Mark Medrano prepare before
Mass as altar servers.

James Thomas and Hansley Pais hold a sculpture of St. George in the Newman Center.

The students choose a ministry which Sister then teaches them how to perform. They learn about the history of that role in the liturgy and why it is an essential part of the Mass. This ministry also includes preparing the on-site chapel for various liturgical celebrations. This includes collaborating with the student liturgy committee to develop culturally distinct Masses which feature different rites and ethnic traditions. "No day is the same. Being on a university campus taps into my love of the educational environment. I enjoy the challenge and joy of interacting with young adults on a very culturally and religiously diverse campus and having the opportunity to share spirituality, faith and life with staff and students."

Students at the St. John Paull II Newman Center pose with Pope Francis.

Sister Diane Marie also works with other members of the pastoral team collaborating with a group from Madison, Wisconsin called Evangelical Catholic. This organization works with dioceses, parishes, and university campuses to form student leaders and staff to achieve the common goal of introducing people to the person of Jesus through reading, exploring and praying the Gospel.

Students are mentored and trained to interact with other students on campus through Bible study and discussion groups about life and faith.

"As the campus ministers we are being trained to mentor the students through weekly one-on-one meetings which include 'checking in' about their faith life and the progress of their small groups, and any other issues that might arise." She also facilitates a discernment discussion group centered on consecrated life and priesthood with Father Patrick Marshall, the Director and Pastor of John Paul II Newman Center. There have been a number of student vocations over the years. "Spiritual direction is another ministry that I am able to offer the students on campus since attaining my certification as a spiritual director last May. It is a mutual experience of growth in spirituality for the students as well as myself."

World Youth Day and Trip to Rome

This past July and August, Sister Diane Marie participated in a wonderful spiritual journey when she accompanied the Newman Center staff and students, first on a pilgrimage to Rome, and then later to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. The group spent four days in Rome. One of the highlights was a Mass at the altar where St. John Paul II is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. "It was quite an experience to see Rome through the eyes and expressions of the students. I will never look at sites like the Spanish steps, the Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain and others in the same way. To experience the awe and wonder and questions of the students doubled my enjoyment."

Students and Staff of the Newman Center hold the Chicago city flag on the streets of Krakow.
(From Left to Right) Molly Powers, Val Razo, Kasia Kozikowski, Gaby Hernandez, Mark Medrano, Kasia Soprych, Caroline Jankowski, Hector Hernandez, Rodrigo Hernandez, Sister Diane Marie, Father Pat Marshall,
Michael Esquivel and Kevin Powers.

The group then made its way to Krakow for World Youth Day. World Youth Day was initiated in 1985 by Pope John Paul II with the first official event in 1986. It is held every two to three years in various locations in different countries around the world. This year’s event was held July 26th through the 31st with the theme, "Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy." The group participated in many of the Youth Day events including the welcoming speech by Pope Francis, the Stations of the Cross and the closing mass with the Holy Father. Pope Francis’s message to the young adults stressed a call to more active participation in the life of the Church and in various ministries in any way possible. He also announced that the next World Youth Day will be in 2019 in Panama City, Panama.

A crowd gathers in front of the stage at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.
Over 2.5 Million people attended the festivities.

While in Krakow, the group stayed with two host families who opened their homes to the group with generous hearts and provided an authentic taste (literally and figuratively) of life in Poland. The group was also able to experience many of the sights of Krakow, including the shrines of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Shrine of Divine Mercy, the sanctuary of St. John Paull II, and the famous Salt Mines. The entire trip was a wonderful experience enjoyed by all, as they made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, especially getting the unique opportunity to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis. “Having this experience with two and a half million young people truly warmed my soul and gave me hope for the future of our Church."

The group visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Czestochowa, Poland.

Sister Diane Marie stands in front of salt sculptures of Saint Kunegunda in the Salt Mines of Krakow.

Hector Hernandez and Val Razo participate in the the Candlelight Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day.

The group also visited the Shrine of
Divine Mercy in Krakow.

Final Thoughts

Sister Diane Marie adds, "Discerning God’s will in my life through prayer and an awareness of his presence in people and circumstances continues to lead me from one amazing God-inspired life experience to the next." Her love of education and working with youth is inspired by Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik, the foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. "What I continue to learn and I believe what Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik learned as she lived out her relationship with God in action, is that striving to be an authentic presence of God’s love in this world is only possible when one seeks to know and do God’s will through prayer and a willingness to be surprised."

We thank Sister Diane Marie Collins for sharing her story with us, and continuing to do God’s work with the students at the Newman Center.

Sister Diane Marie and the students line up for a photo at World Youth Day.
(From Left to Right) Caroline Jankowski, Kasia Sopryc, Michael Esquivel, Val Razo, Mark Medrano,
Gaby Hernandez,Sister Diane Marie Collins, Christy Manaois