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Faye Jahnigen
Associate Faye Jahnigen

By Associate Melinda Mullin

What one notices most about Associate Faye Jahnigen during Adrian Dominican Associate Zoom meetings are her highly articulate contributions to discussions, her careful listening when others speak, and her ready laugh attesting to her sense of humor. What is less obvious, but at the heart of Faye’s Dominican Charism, is that she lives life as a continuous pray-er. She truly believes that she is in the presence of God at all times and tries to make every situation a prayerful one. Through continuous prayer and lifelong education, Faye has embraced a wide range of experiences in her life.

Growing up in the Detroit area, Faye attended Santa Maria Grade School, run by Sisters of St. Rita, an Italian order. She attended Blessed Sacrament High School and Girls’ Catholic High School, both run by Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters from Monroe, Michigan. 

After high school, Faye joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Alabama for basic training. She describes the experience as culture shock for a young African-American woman in 1960s Alabama. While stationed in Germany, Faye became what was then called a tertiary, or lay, Dominican. Sixty-four years later, she still keeps in contact with the parish in Germany.

Faye’s last post during her time in the Army was at the Presidio in San Francisco. During one of her weekend jaunts down the California coast, she visited Santa Cruz, loved it, and decided to move there. Faye feels blessed to live by the ocean and Sea Cliff State Park, as it is here that she can see the awe of God’s creativity manifested. It was in Santa Cruz that she met the Adrian Dominicans, Sisters Rita Eileen Dean, OP, and Jane Celeste Fries, OP, who invited Faye to join them and their Mission Group. 

Faye has had a long career in healthcare, including working in residential care homes, acute care nursing at Stanford University Hospital, and finally as a radiology technologist at Santa Cruz Medical Clinic for 23 years. It was there, she says, that “I really learned and honed my craft,” and she credits Dr. Victor Mockus for helping her become skilled in reading X-rays.

Faye taught X-ray technician students how to position patients to get the best view of underlying bone structure for diagnostic purposes, a job she really enjoyed. She also worked with the coroner on forensic investigations, suicides, executions, and exhumations. During this time, Faye saw, too often, the cruelty humans inflict on each other. Through it all she felt called to help and to pray especially for those who had no one to pray for them. 

As a perpetual student, Faye is fascinated by languages and cultures. Her passion started in grade school while listening to the Italian Sisters speak in their native language. As part of Latin studies in high school, she performed plays and skits, her most memorable being Catiline Orations, a set of speeches given to the Roman Senate by Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 BC. While working as a radiology technologist she learned Spanish to better communicate with some of her patients. 

Faye learned German during the three-and-a-half years she was stationed in Germany and she joined a local judo club that gave judo demonstrations at nearby towns. Seeing Germany as lived by the locals, she developed lasting affection for the country, its people, and its food. 

Since then, whenever Faye travels, she tries to learn some of the language and culture ahead of time, such as for her trip to China where she visited the Great Wall, and for a three-week solo trip to Japan. While in Japan she rode on the bullet train and enjoyed the Japanese specialty unagi, grilled eel over rice. She delighted in learning about Japanese customs, such as having special shoes to wear only in the bathroom.

Faye has been playing the flute for 25 years and studies with a teacher from Kazakhstan. The teacher lives with her elderly mother, who only speaks Russian or German, giving Faye an opportunity to speak German and pick up a few Russian words as well. While Faye is quite proficient on the flute, she prefers to play for herself or with her teacher for the flute teacher’s mother. She says she is too nervous to play for anyone else.

Her fear of performing, however, doesn’t keep her from serving as cantor, acolyte, and lector in the 40-plus years that Faye has attended Mass at Resurrection Parish in Aptos. She practices ahead of time, asks the Holy Spirit for extra assistance, and reminds herself that these are God’s people. Besides, as she says, they can’t see her knees knocking behind the lectern!

 

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