Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Eileen Marcinko, SCN Oral History

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Sister Eileen Marcinko
March 30, 2017
Florence Marcinko was born on a cold wintry day, the second of February,
1928—the feast of the Purification-Candlemas Day—the Feast of the
Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Sister Eileen writes, “I was an answer
to my mother’s prayers.” Florence, (Sister Eileen) was born on her
mother’s thirty-fourth birthday. Florence was told that when her mother first
held her, in her joy she offered her to God. God took her mother at her
word and eighteen years later--- to her parent’s dismay, on the very same
day, February second, 1946, she entered the novitiate of the Vincentian
Sisters of Charity.
Florence’s mother was Elizabeth Racho, born in1894, and her father was
Paul Marcinko was born in 1893. Her mother’s birthplace was Hazleton,
PA. Her father was born in Wilkes Barre, PA, was raised in Europe, and
returned to this country in 1910. Her mother was Greek Catholic.
Elizabeth had a first marriage at age sixteen and was a World War I widow
at age eighteen. She had one son, Joe Dropcik. Elizabeth, herself, had
family in the United States and came to this country in 1920. She was
indentured to a priest. She was a professional housekeeper and worked
for a Jewish family for two years. Florence’s father, likewise, had a first
marriage, but his wife died after six years. Paul was left to care for his three
children.
A marriage was arranged between Elizabeth and Paul. (Today this is called
a “blended” family with four children from two different sets of parents.) This
beginning family was composed of Paul’s children, age four, six, eight and
Elizabeth’s one, Joe, age eight. Paul and Elizabeth had three more
children. The names of all are: Big Joe Dropchik, Helen, John, Joseph
(Joey), Paul, Jr., Florence and Tim (Thomas) Marcinko.
Sister Eileen grew up in a Catholic and Greek Catholic neighborhood in
Munhall, Pennsylvania. She remembers her mother and the women of that
neighborhood gathering to quilt and to share friendship and conversation
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among themselves. Her mother knew all the Jewish Holidays and what the
traditions were. Elizabeth‘s life had certainly been enriched by exposure to
different cultures.
Her father was a rigger at US steel and cleaned the big chimneys. Sister
Eileen said that they knew when the unions had represented the steel
workers because her father came home cleaner. The union had negotiated
the installation of showers for the workers. She and her mother still had to
wash the dirty clothes her father wore, but her father did not have coal dust
on his person. The laundry process started with soaking the clothes on
Sunday night, Monday washing, Tuesday ironing. Wednesday patching and
sewing, Thursday baking, Friday, clean the top of the house, and Saturday,
the lower part of the house.
Sister Eileen was introduced to the Vincentian Sisters in 1935. Her grade
school, with eighth graders divided into boy and girl classes, was a very
strict Catholic school. Sister Columba Mihalek, who later became Frances
Louise, (Frannie Lou), was her wonderful eighth grade teacher. Sister
Columba was not as strict as others and allowed the girls to wear knee
socks and gave them more freedom in their dress. The eighth graders
went to the Motherhouse for retreat and Florence was very impressed with
the Academy girls. She decided that she wanted to go to the Academy.
Her parents were opposed, but her big brother said,” Let her go.” He
believed that she would not last very long and would come back home.
Sister Eileen now remembers that being at the Academy was a hard
adjustment. She was so homesick, but it did get easier. She began to
enjoy the all girls’ school. In fact, it got so easy and attractive that she
joined the VSC Community. She entered on her eighteenth birthday. The
hardest thing she had to give up was her pretty clothes. She says,
“wearing all that black” was so depressing. In her years as a Sister, she
has gone through five changes of habit. She was grateful for the years of
learning to sew, since Sisters made their habits and other clothing.
After making vows in 1948, she taught elementary school for six years.
During these years, she took classes from Duquesne University. She
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received her BA in Education in 1958; by 1967 she had her Masters in
American History, also from Duquesne. During these years, she taught all
elementary school grades and by 1968 she would begin teaching all high
school grades.
From 1963 to 1965, her ministry was in Montgomery, AL where she taught
history, English, religion, social studies and was the liaison for the student
council at St Jude’s High School (Catholic). St. Jude Educational
Institute was a ​private​, R
​ oman Catholic​ high school in Montgomery,
Alabama, United States. It was located in the ​Roman Catholic Archdiocese
of Mobile​, and was built as part of the ​City of St. Jude​ by Father Harold
Purcell for the advancement of the Negro people. St. Jude was opened in
1946 and offered a full college preparatory program as well as basic skills
and trade programs at night for adults.
She was there during the famous Selma to Montgomery march to register
voters in Alabama in 1965. The marchers stayed on the campus of the City
of St Jude. The Vincentian Sisters allowed them to use the facilities and
some of the marchers were treated at the their Hospital emergency room
for injuries sustained during the 54 mile walk….walking for 12 hours a day
and sleeping in fields along the way.
The "Stars for Freedom" rally was held, featuring singers ​Harry
Belafonte​, ​Peter, Paul and Mary​, and ​Tony Bennett​, and comedian ​Sammy
Davis Jr.​ The campus was listed on the ​National Register of Historic
Places​ in 1990, and is part of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic
Trail, created in 1996.
Sister Eileen wondered, “What did I know about segregation?” While
attending a meeting of local student councils from St Jude’s, George
Washington Carver, and Booker T Washington High Schools, she learned
what is was to be a minority. Those in attendance, teachers, high school
students, and high school staff were all African American, she was the only
white attendee. All participants were very polite and she felt no
discrimination from them.

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There was a one year stint as a Novice Director and then nine years as
secondary school teacher. In 1969, she served as a Coordinator for the
House in Johnstown, PA, and taught US history at Bishop McCort High
School. She returned to teach at Vincentian Academy for six years. In
1984, she became Junior Directress and Vocation Director at the VSC
Motherhouse for four years.
Her first year as Coordinator in Johnstown was the first year that the
Vincentian Sisters would have to take turns doing their own cooking.
Before there were older sisters who would do the cooking for a house.
Some Sisters knew how to cook, but Sister Eileen was not one of those.
Learning to manage the cooking was a new experience and Sister Agatha
Ferenchak helped with her new found chore. This new chore helped to
turn Sister Eileen into a “gourmet cook.” Cooking for 10 Sisters was quite a
challenge and making sure you did not waste any food or make meals
unappetizing for the house was an even larger challenge. Each summer
when returning to the Motherhouse campus, Sister Eileen would cook for
the priests on campus for three weeks. She delighted in making meals for
them and testing new recipes. Her motto has been, “cook simply and serve
elegantly.” She still has a Redemptorist priest friend who remembers her
good cooking and keeps in touch on holidays.
Sister Eileen made the decision that it was time for no more secondary
teaching for her. She served in St Lawrence Grade School in Monett,
Missouri from 1988-1993. Altogether Sister Eileen served God’s people for
forty years, twenty years in elementary school and twenty in high school.
She had taught in all grades, one through twelve. Her next mission was to
be a part of the formation team for five years.
After that ministry she served for eighteen years as parish secretary and
charity coordinator in Wauchula, Florida. Sister Eileen worked with the
Redemptorist priests at St Michael’s, which was the only Catholic parish in
the county. There were, however, two Spanish mission churches within the
parish boundaries. At St. Michael’s she served with Sister Barbara Makar,
pastoral minister, Sister Bernice Rechtorek, catechetical minister, and, and
Sister Mildred Minosky. St Michael’s has a large congregation in the winter
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where there are twelve RV parks with the “snowbirds”, (persons coming
just for the winter) swelling the resident parish attendance. .
Sister Eileen reflects on her life missions, “As a child I went to St Michael’s
School in Munhall, Pennsylvania, my first assignment was St Michael’s
School in Braddock, PA and I feel I have come full circle: ending at St
Michael Church in Wauchula, FL. It is with confidence and trust in the Lord
that I rise to meet the challenges of each day.”
Sister Eileen is also proud of her niece Eileen Marcinko, who as a
Vincentian Academy freshman in 1966 and entered the Voice for America
contest. She placed second in the State competition and won a full
scholarship to University of Pittsburgh.
Sister Eileen has retired to St Louise Convent….but still is active and
interested in everything……
Sister Eileen will have been here at Lourdes Hall on May 12 for six years--she has read 115 books and pieced innumerable puzzles. She is currently
reading a book on Woodrow Wilson--- 750 pages and loving it! ​(What else
would a retired history teacher love to do?)

Interviewed by Mary Gene Frank, SCNA
Comments by the interviewer are in ​italics
March 30, 2017

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Dublin Core

Title

Eileen Marcinko, SCN Oral History

Subject

Marcinko, Eileen, SCN; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

Creator

SCN Archival Center

Source

SCN Archival Center

Date

3/30/2017

Rights

Permission for any type of publication of archival materials, including text, photographs, video, or audio must be secured from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center before publication. Contact archives staff for appropriate forms and contact information.

Format

PDF

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

MMC-EileenMarcinko

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Mary Gene Frank, SCNA

Interviewee

Eileen Marcinko, SCN

Location

Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Citation

SCN Archival Center , “Eileen Marcinko, SCN Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed June 25, 2024, https://scfederationarchives.org/items/show/105.

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