In Memoriam

Sister Cyrilla Zarek, OP


In 1928, Mother’s Day fell on May 13, and the holiday took on a special significance that year when Mary Eileen Zarek, the future Sister Cyrilla, came into the world as the second child, and first daughter, of Michael and Cyrilla (Connor) Zarek.

The Zareks lived on Chicago’s South Side with Cyrilla’s parents, and remained in the family home even after both the Connors died while Mary Eileen was still very young. All the adults were very active in St. Ailbe Parish, and all three of the Zarek children – Patrick,  Mary Eileen, and Cyrilla Frances, who was born seven years after Mary Eileen – attended  the parish school.

The school was staffed at that time by the Nashville Dominicans, and Mary Eileen quickly came to love them, as did her mother, who often drove the Sisters places and frequently allowed Mary Eileen to ride along. Although Mary Eileen went on to be educated by the Franciscan Sisters of Joliet at SS. Peter and Paul High School, and greatly enjoyed her teachers there, when she felt called to religious life it was to the Nashville Dominicans.

Read more about Sister Cyrilla (PDF)

make a memorial giftMemorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. 

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Avatar  Mary Holland Ralya 9 months agoReply

My deepest prayers and sympathy for Sister Cyrilla and to her family. She was my family's principal at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Hampton, VA in the late 60s. I had the pleasure and honor to visit her twice in Chicago in 2012 & 2015. What a marvelous woman and sister she was! I loved her and was getting ready to send her a birthday card :( May she rest in the Glory of God forever, Mary Holland Ralya

Avatar  Wendy Colby 9 months agoReply

Sister Cyrilla was my mother's first cousin -- and after losing both my parents in 2020, I joked to her that she had become the matriarch of our family. It was delightful to talk to her even by phone in the last few years -- she always had such a joyful spirit and seemed so pleased to share stories. I have many fond memories of her and our family visits when I was a child -- and it was lovely to see one of the photos posted here of her with my grandma (Grace Zarek Turbyfill),my grandpa (Otho Turbyfill), Agnes Zarek (my great aunt) and Andy Zarek (my great uncle), along with Cyrilla and their parents. She so deeply touched all of our lives through her work, her prayers, and the way she cared for all. Upon learning of her passing, I went through a box of old family photos and found a typewritten speech she had given at Andy's ordination that included a quote from another priest -- "All we are we offer, life received as gift is given up as gift." I thought that was beautiful. Her life, her work -- an immense gift. May she Rest In Peace.

Avatar  Amanda McSweeney 9 months agoReply

Cyrilla has been an important member of my life for over 35 years. Cyrilla and my aunt, Mary Rita McSweeney were my mentors and surrogate mothers during my time at Loyola Medical School in Chicago from 1985-1989. She was present for every celebration in my life: my wedding, the baptism of my sons, and more holidays than I can count! How sad that Covid restrictions prevented me from seeing her during these recent years. May God bless her and keep her as she joins her family in heaven. I will miss her greatly.

Avatar  Fr. Tim Shillcox, o.praem 10 months agoReply

Sr. Cyrillic was my CPE supervisor in Chicago in the Summer of 1985. Adrian’s Barb Matievich, Sabina and Michael-Mary were also in my group.
I was terrified going in, since horror stories from Norbertine confreres had warped my expectations.
Cryilla paired me with a beautiful little parish, a retired pastor (Msgr. Wenceslaus Stanek), and helped me to face a paralyzing fear of preaching. She also, by her kindness, joy and wise soul, helped me to grow more comfortable in my own skin.
I owe her so much.
And I love the “Jesus” I’ve encountered in her!
God be good to you forever, Cyrilla!
Love, thanks and prayers!
Tim, o.praem

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