Sister James Zembal



Tell us about your growing up years and family.

On September 17, 1931, I was born to Karol and Anna Zembal, the third child of three. Because there was only 1½ years between each of us, I did everything the boys did, learning quickly.

Please share a favorite story about your early community service.

On September 17, 1950, I entered the Novitiate in Sierra Madre, CA. After the three years there, I moved on to receive my bachelor’s degree in science at Mount Saint Mary’s in Los Angeles and my master’s degree in science from St. Mary’s in Winona, Minnesota. My master’s degree was paid for by the National Science Association. Being involved in education has held me in various areas. I taught science and other subjects for 30 years in public school systems and 30+ years teaching Adult English as a Second Language (ESL), including with 24 Sisters who came at different times. These sisters joined my classes for various reasons to support their ministries. They came from Brazil, Poland, and Indonesia. Even though I am retired now, I recently taught English to one of our sisters from Mexico.

Why did you decide to become a sister?

My parents believed in Catholic education, so I went to high school at St. Mary’s Academy in Toledo, Washington. I was educated by the Dominicans in grade school and thought then that I would be a Dominican. However, in my later years at the academy, the Holy Spirit moved me to St. Francis.

How do you share your Franciscan values and spirituality now?

I retired from ESL in 2014 while living in Redwood City. In 2019, I moved to Marian Residence, our convent in Santa Maria, living in a small apartment the 2nd floor. I can still do some cooking, art, gardening, and walking. We sisters living in the convent pray together every morning and evening.

What would you like us to know about being a Franciscan?

The best thing I did after retiring was to work at St. Anthony’s Dining Room in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables and fruits. We served 250+ guests six days per week. At the time, there was a regular group of us prepping produce and we shared many joys.

Please share a favorite quote or verse.

My favorite words are from Mother Magdalen: “God is so good.”

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