Our History Our Founder
The Founder and visionary of St. Felix Pantry, Sister Genevieve, was born Julia Ryskiewicz, of Polish decent, in Mosinee, Wisconsin on June 3, 1923. There were nine children in the family and Sister Genevieve was the second oldest. Fresh bread for the family needed to be baked daily and as Julia grew older her mother would give her a loaf of bread to take to their next door neighbors who were going through some hard times. Sister Genevieve feels that sharing the loaf of bread and seeing what joy it brought to the hungry family was the beginning of her desire to work on behalf of the poor.
Sister Genevieve recalls, “Sharing that loaf daily did something to my heart. That experience never got lost, and the desire to help the less fortunate grew stronger as the years went by. God must have been preparing me for these years.”
Sister Genevieve moved to Chicago many years later where she worked for a few years and then sensed the calling to the religious life. She wanted to join a Polish community of Sisters who took care of orphans, but instead she got on a street car that took her to the Convent of the Felician Sisters whose Franciscan order started in Poland in 1855.
After she completed her three years of training for the religious life she went on to complete schooling in the culinary arts. Sister Genevieve worked in Milwaukee, Rhode Island, Birmingham, and Centralia, IL. As the need became greater for dieticians in hospitals, Sister Genevieve took dietary courses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia to prepare for her new position. She eventually became the chief dietician in Centralia, IL and Corning, IA hospitals.
In 1953 about 125 of the Felician Sisters left the Chicago area province and began a new province in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Sister Genevieve continued her work as a dietician and also got involved in the Food Program and the Government Lunch Program. She opened the Convent doors to serve hot lunches to the public school children from nearby Woodlands School for five years.
After spending twenty-three years in Oklahoma she moved to the new Rio Rancho Convent in 1976. Sister Genevieve began to travel around the area to pick up day old bread from various businesses and gave the bread out of the trunk of her car. The need continued to grow and the pantry expanded to a one car garage.
It wasn’t long before two large buildings on Barbara Loop SE in Rio Rancho were acquired. One is the former Venezia Restaurant where the food is distributed to our clients and the other is an adjourning building where the clothing is given out. Who would have believed that from the trunk of Sister Genevieve’s car a large Food Pantry would emerge that is feeding an average of 1,000 households each week. We are honored and blessed to carry on the legacy of Sister Genevieve’s dream to give bread and other food to the hungry and poor and to restore their dignity and hope.