By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
QUAD CITIES — One has Irish roots and the other cannot claim “a drop of Irish blood.” They do share a common heritage as Catholic educators and children of God — Jeanne (O’Brien) Von Feldt, who is Irish, and Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, who is Italian and Polish. They led the Grand Parade XXXVI of the St. Patrick Society of the Quad Cities on March 12, Sister Lescinski as grand marshal and Von Feldt as Irish Mother of the Year. Parade organizers say it is the only bi-state parade in the nation honoring St. Patrick.
“I could feel my late husband Ed and my late parents Eddie and Kay O’Brien looking over me (from heaven), laughing and keeping me warm,” said Von Feldt, the principal of All Saints Catholic School in Davenport. She and Sister Lescinski rode in separate convertibles, with the tops down, on an unusually cold and windy day.
“This was so special,” Von Feldt said, adding “Thank God for hand warmers!” She felt honored to serve as Irish Mother of the Year and feels blessed by the community in which she lives and works. She will retire this year as principal to spend more time with her immediate family. She treasures the relationships she nurtured at All Saints, Regina Elementary in Iowa City and the broader community.
Sister Lescinski, who retired as president of St. Ambrose University last year, confessed that she felt stunned to be chosen grand marshal of the Grand Parade because she is not Irish. “But then I reflected on the wonderful and deep ways in which we are all connected,” she said in remarks during the “Gathering of the Clan Luncheon” on March 11 (read her remarks on Page 8).
She congratulated Von Feldt for her “well-deserved honor as ‘Mother of the Year’” and Quinn Frese for the scholarship he received from the St. Patrick Society. He is an Assumption High School graduate. “Both of you are people I am deeply honored to be associated with today.”
The St. Patrick Society selected Von Feldt and Sister Lescinski for the top honors “because of their commitment to education and the spiritual fulfillment of the people whose lives they touched,” said Joe Dooley, the society’s president.