Sister Dionne Sartor
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Sr. Dionne Sartor

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Date of Profession:
August 12, 1962

Parents, the late Carroll and Loretta Sartor, and the late Sisters Mary Hildalin Brown and Mary Madonna, Sisters of Notre Dame who taught her.

Reading, especially biographies and history, walking, and music.

Best thing about being a sister:
“Accepting the call.”

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“I responded to a call.”

When Sister Dionne Sartor was growing up in Sandusky, O., she remembers looking at pictures of sisters in the Maryknoll magazine and thinking, “I want to do that someday.”

Although she didn’t necessarily want to be a missionary like the women in the magazine, Sister Dionne knew she was destined for a life of service with a religious community.

It was an idea nurtured in her and her eight siblings by their parents, not so much in words, but by example, Sister Dionne says. “I could see . . . what they spent their time and energy on.” Whether it was her father contributing to the education of three seminarians through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith or her mother taking food to sick neighbors, the Sartor children got a clear picture of the Catholic faith in action.

In fact, two other siblings also chose religious life – an older sister, Sister Francine, is a Tiffin Franciscan, and their late brother, Father Alfred Sartor, was a Conventual Franciscan.

Despite wanting to be a sister when she was a child, Sister Dionne forgot about the idea while she was in junior high. “I guess I was a normal girl [who] liked boys,” she says. By high school, however, the thought returned and she was sure of what she would do. “It’s something you just know,” she says.

As a sophomore, she went to the Sisters of Notre Dame convent in Toledo and stayed two years. She had chosen the Notre Dame community because those sisters had been her teachers. “I was very happy there,” she says, but something in her said, “Keep praying and maybe I want you in another place.”

“Another place” turned out to be the Tiffin Franciscan community, which she joined in 1954, the summer before her senior year of high school. “Now my brother and sister were Franciscans, but that did not enter into my desire to go to Tiffin,” Sister Dionne says. “It was simply the spirit of [St.] Francis [of Assisi.] I had read his life and I loved his love of nature, simplicity, music. He was a very simple man and that is what drew me.”

When, as a new sister, she was asked what ministry interested her, Sister Dionne said she wanted to work with children, hoping she might be sent to the former St. Anthony Villa, an orphanage in Toledo. Instead, she was given a teaching assignment and later was asked to do social service work in Mississippi. Eventually, she was assigned to St. Anthony Villa and also has worked in parish ministry and education.

In the past, she says, a sister’s assignment would be handed to her in an envelope, but today each sister is encouraged to discern her own talents and gifts and where they might be most needed. Sisters look for ministry opportunities just as laypeople look for jobs, she says, although they submit their plans to the community for approval.

Until recently, Sister Dionne had been principal of St. Louis School in Custar, O., for three years. Before that, she had been pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Louis Parish and Immaculate Conception Parish in Deshler, O., since 1986.

At 70, she says, she couldn’t do what she does without prayer – at least not for long. “It’s everything . . . It connects me with my spouse. It gives me a focus. I could do the things I’m now doing perhaps if I didn’t pray, but I don’t know how long it would last and the focus would revert to self.”

She typically prays an hour a day, using the Liturgy of the Hours, and spending time in reflection on scripture.

For relaxation, she loves walking and reading history and biographies like No Price Too High by Alex Jones.

As she looks back on 50-plus years of religious life, Sister Dionne says her greatest joy has been accepting the call to be a sister, something she didn’t fully understand when she was younger.

“This has come later – that it was a call,” she says. In school, she was taught that the signs of a vocation were the desire to be a sister or good health. “I thought I had that, and so I thought it was my choice. But as I grew in life, it was not mine. It was a call. I responded to a call.”


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