Remembrance of the Life of Sister Janel Crumb OSF CoL
Janel Crumb, a Sister of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minn., and Loretto Co-member, died in Rochester May 12. Janel had been an eager participant in many Loretto events and gatherings, along with her friend and fellow Franciscan, Severin Duehren; both celebrated the beginning of their Loretto commitments in 1985. Sister Janel’s funeral Mass was celebrated May 26. The following is a remembrance by Sister Joan Brown, OSF, which appeared in the Sisters of Saint Francis’s “YES” sheet:
“Sister Janel Crumb’s life, like the many landscape drawings and watercolors she created, is a canvas of vast horizons, locations, communities and people she served. Her life was art lived in works of justice and care for those suffering economic inequities. A vivid example of the integration of her art and justice are the intricate drawings of the Way of the Cross of the Farm Workers, expressing her life focus of social justice and the beatitudes. She was ever pleased to share her art. An example was gifting the stations of the cross to the United Farm Worker (UFW) movement because she knew this gift spoke to Cesar Chavez and those in the UFW.
“Katie, as her family called her, sprang from farm soil in Freeborn County, Minn. She was embraced by her father Winfred, her devote Catholic mother, Mary Anna, and nine brothers and four sisters. World War II, hard work and pulling together as a large family on a farm shaped her worldview, as it did for many of her era.
“The love of earth carried through in her art throughout her life as did the experience of having brothers in the war. The stories of her brother, who was among the first to step foot amidst the ashes, death and devastation of the nuclear-bombed Hiroshima, took root in her soul calling her to be a peacemaker dedicated to vows of non-violence.
“Janel did not drive but was always up for protest road trips with other Sisters joining hundreds of people at nuclear weapons sites. She travelled with others to the Nevada Test Site, Las Vegas, Nev.; Offutt Air Base, Omaha, Neb.; Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyo.; and many installations in Colorado to say no to nuclear weapons, while holding the gospel banner of peacemaking. On numerous occasions she joined community members at Fort Benning, Ga., to say no to the School of Americas which trained soldiers from countries in Central and Latin America where human rights were violated.
“Like her landscapes that depicted so many different geographies, her life spanned many ministries – from teaching young children to teaching students at the College of St. Teresa. Many students were inspired by her classes in art and social justice which gave unthought of perspectives and directions in their lives and left fond memories that live to this day. During her years at the College of St. Teresa, she initiated alternative classes which featured and gave voice to the Native American and African American students whom she befriended, so that they could survive in a dominant culture and thrive to meet their own goals. Living with the students in the dorms also made lasting impressions on lives and futures with many stories to share with laughter and tears.
“Mentoring other ‘newbie’ teachers was also a gift. Her style was magical in the ways as she called forth creativity in students, teachers, and those with whom she shared community. In the midst of hard work, ‘she was a great initiator of laughter and fun.’
“Community and friendships were pigments that helped her express her gifts through thick and thin. Her friendship of 71 years with classmate Elizabeth Gillis saw her through many adventures and difficulties, like her diagnosis of lupus in 1979, which altered her life in many ways. The election of Sister Gretchen Berg was a significant turning point for her and many in the community, setting in motion open canvases to live into new expressions of spirituality and service. All were punctuated with laughter and stories still retold, like the night of ‘silver satin’ libations to celebrate new horizons that might be possible, all in the service of life.
“Janel was introduced to the southwestern United States during art study in Colorado, and her heart was taken by the vast sky, natural beauty, needs of the people, diverse cultures and spiritual expressions. She loved living and working in Colorado, New Mexico, and spending sabbatical and retreat times in Arizona. Prayer was the essential water for her life’s portrait — a faithful stream in the desert times and joyful grace from the spring mountain stream at other moments.
“Even as she loved her life founded in gospel living through the inspiration of St. Francis and St. Clare, she also found that other perspectives on spirituality and ministry were enriching. Inspired by the social justice focus of the Loretto Sisters, she became a co-member; drawn to ecumenical expressions she was part of Church Women United meetings and prayers; inspired by indigenous spirituality she loved attending Pueblo dances that celebrated important seasonal moments in prayer and feasting; and New Mexico Hispanic popular spiritualities as lived in Bernalillo, N.M., added other dimensions.
“While in the Southwest, she worked with people without shelter, women in need and with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. A surprise ministry journey, the Ribbon Project, integrated her art, justice and non-violence passion to help people create with cloth and needle what they did not want to be destroyed by nuclear war. Thousands of ribbons created out of love, mostly by women, wrapped prayers of life and peace around Washington, D.C., and events in many states.
“Later in life at Assisi Heights, art and social justice ministries continued. The many art pieces at Assisi Heights were organized, archived, repaired and shared. She was also a faithful participant in Franciscans International. Community life, walking with Cojourners, and being part of life groups like Ahimsa in the West and the Rochester Life Group were life-giving. Her dedication to community informed her to often speak for justice and peace concerns at forums, general assemblies and chapters.
“In the end, the landscape paintings and portraits of life are about love. Our lives are expressions of the art of loving. The spiritual life is fed by an immense stream of Holy Love for those who can see, feel, know and express Love on their canvas of life. Janel knew and lived deeply – ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.’”