Sister ‘O’Lescinksi’ is first female grand marshal for St. Patrick’s Day parade


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Each year, the St. Patrick Society of the Quad Cities chooses an individual who reflects “Irish spirit” to lead the parade as grand marshal. This year, that person is Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, the recently retired president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

Anne Marie Amacher
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, displays a slate given to her at a farewell Mass in May 2021. Sister Lescinski has been named the grand marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport next month.

“We look for an individual who has made a difference, a positive impact, whether they are well-known or your next-door neighbor. Sister Joan is both,” said Joe Dooley, a member of the St. Patrick Society Board of Directors. “Her dedication in the service of higher education and spiritual fulfillment has impacted the lives of countless individuals.”

This year’s Grand Parade will take place March 12. Sister Lescinski, who served the university from 2007 to 2021, is the first female grand marshal in the event’s 36-year history. The bi-state parade starts in Rock Island, Illinois, crosses the Talbot/Centennial Bridge and concludes in Davenport.


The mission of the St. Patrick Society is to honor and celebrate the life of St. Patrick and American-Irish heritage in the Quad-Cities. Although Sister Lescinski said she cannot claim to have any “Irish DNA,” the board’s selection was unanimous. Honorees do not have to be Irish, Dooley said, “but they have exhibited that same spirit in fighting the good fight — there have even been a few that found out later that they indeed had some Irish in the family line from long, long ago.”

Sister Lescinski said she has been “blessed to share in the gracious and hospitable Irish culture” throughout her life. Her mother’s best friend, who was 100% Irish, helped the Polish/Italian Lescinski family get in the spirit of each St. Patrick’s Day by posting a sign on the family’s door: “Welcome to the O’Lescinskis’ Home.” The Lescinskis’ lives were filled with Irish friends and in-laws. Many of her fellow Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet came from Irish backgrounds, Sister Lescinski noted.

However, her nomination and selection as grand marshal of the 2022 St. Patrick’s Day parade stunned her. “I’ve no doubt there are so many others who deserve this honor more than I do.”

Participate in Grand Parade XXVI weekend

The Grand Parade XXXVI weekend March 11-12 kicks off with the Gathering of the Clan Luncheon at The Great Hall of the RiverCenter in Davenport on March 11. There, the introductions of the Irish Mother of the Year, scholarship winner and grand marshal will take place. For more information, email or Advance reservations are due by March 7.
On March 12, celebration of Mass takes place at St. Mary Catholic Church in Rock Island, Illinois, at 10 a.m. Grand Parade XXXVI starts at 11:30 a.m. at 4th Avenue and 23rd Street in Rock Island. Participants will march through downtown Rock Island, cross the Talbot/Centennial Bridge to West Third Street in Davenport and travel east on Third Street to the RiverCenter. River Bend Food Bank will conduct a donation drive along the route ahead of the parade.
To participate in the parade with a family walking unit or decorated float, email The Post-Parade Bash will be in The Great Hall, RiverCenter, from 1-4 p.m. Admission is by St. Patrick Society Membership, with $15 annual memberships sold at the door. Two Irish bands and the Champagne Irish Dancers will perform.

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