In Memoriam

We honor the sisters and associates who have shared their lives with us and who have died recently. A Mass is offered at each of our retirement homes for each of them.

Sister Mary Irene Deger
Sister Sophia Duris
Sister Benedicta Fritz

Sister Margaret Gazdik
Sister Nivard Hainault
Sister Mary Hettich
Sister Mary Kran

>>View archived commentaries

Sister Beatus Laible
Sister Agnes Meysenburg
Sister Maria Terese Patterson
Sister Doris Ann Polt 
Sister Margaret Mary Ryan


Associate Bette Crumrine
Associate Barbara Freeman Rayford
Associate Adalice Hurst
Associate Gwendolyn Faye Lawrence
Associate Dr. Joanna M. Roberts


To view live or archived services, and other selected events, visit the community’s streaming video page.

Associate Bette Crumrine

Born:  April 3, 1928
Died:  April 20, 2016

Bette Lou Crumrine passed away peacefully on April 20, 2016 at the North Shore Health and Rehab Facility in Loveland, Colorado at age 88.

Betty Lou Smith was born on April 3, 1928 in Minneapolis, MN to Louise Berner and Ray Smith. Bette spent her younger years in South Dakota and Colorado, often living with her beloved Aunt Edith and Uncle Henry on the farm in western South Dakota. Bette graduated from Rapid City High School in 1946. Following graduation, Bette moved to the Denver area where she met and married Frank Zamora in 1947. Bette and Frank were parents to three children: Maurice, Lawrence, and Karen. Frank’s service in the military took the family to Utah, New Mexico, Germany and Iowa.

In 1973, Bette moved to Des Moines, Iowa where she took a position with Iowa Job Service. Bette was passionate about her work and enjoyed developing programs and attending training in her chosen field. She continued working for the State of Iowa Department of Human Services in various capacities until her retirement in 1994. After retirement, Bette stayed busy as a volunteer and served for several years on the State Council for Community Action Agencies.

Bette met and married Clifford Crumrine in 1975. Bette gained three sons through this union: David, Douglas and Darrell. Bette and Cliff shared a passion for music hosting and attending Bluegrass gatherings with friends and family. Cliff and Bette also developed a strong spiritual connection and became active members of the Catholic Church. Cliff and Bette spent their later years traveling and working at RV parks before settling in Arizona. Clifford passed away in 2001.

Bette believed in connecting with others and continued on her faith journey in recent years. She was an Associate of the School Sisters of Saint Francis, she was ordained to deliver communion, and on October 4, 2014 she went through the Rite of Commitment where she was Professed into the Secular Franciscan Order.

Bette loved her family; she was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Cliff; a son, Morey D; and a sister, Dorothy. She is survived by a sister, Shirley Jones of MN; daughter-in-law, Nedra Zamora of Greely, CO; Lawrence Zamora of Loveland, CO; daughter-in-law, Pam Mason of Evans, CO; daughter Karen and Sharon Keith-Zamora of Pine, CO; son David and Diane Crumrine of Sioux Center, IA; son Doug and Sarah Crumrine of O’Neill, NE; and son Darrell and Denise Crumrine of Balaton, MN. Bette is also survived by her grandchildren: Tanya Jeske, Danielle Koontz, Telesfor Zamora, Tyson Zamora, Chase Zamora, Robert Keith-Zamora, Elizabeth Crumrine, Jenny Crumrine, Katherine Crumrine, Jacob Crumrine, Jessica Crumrine, Austin Crumrine, Mason Crumrine, Emily Crumrine, Ellie Crumrine and Calvin Crumrine. She has several great-grandchildren and extended family members that were all special to her.

A mass to remember Bette Lou Crumrine will be held at San Francisco de Asis Catholic Parish in Flagstaff, AZ on April 30, 2016, at 7:00 PM and a celebration of her life will be held on May 14, 2016 at 11:00 AM at the Poudre Canyon Chapel, in Rustic, CO prior to her interment. Memorial contributions can be directed to the Secular Franciscan Order, 1600 E Route 66 Flagstaff, AZ 86001 or the Humane Society US, Memorial Donations, 2100 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20037.

Sister Sophia Duris (Vincentella)

Born:  February 24, 1920
Died: June 7, 2016

 When listening to Sister Sophia relate her life’s story, you sense that maybe her first legal document was a passport! Her story begins with her parents coming to the United States – her father, Adam, from Yugoslavia and her mother, Pauline, from Slovakia.  They settled in Ford City, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Duris worked for the Pittsburgh Glass Company.  Sophia, born during the roaring 20s on February 24, 1920, was the second oldest in a family of nine – six girls and three boys. 

When she was a year old the family returned to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia to visit relatives.  While there, another baby daughter was born.  After a year in Europe, the family moved back to Pennsylvania and settled in Ford View, close to Ford City.  Sophia was enrolled at Holy Trinity School in Ford City for all of first grade and part of second grade. 

In 1927 the Duris family, along with several other Slovak families, moved to Kokomo, Indiana, where Pittsburg Plate Glass had a branch and required their employees to move to that location. Sophia completed her second grade and all of the third and fourth grades at St. Joan of Arc School in Kokomo.  With the Depression some jobs were eliminated and the Duris family moved back to their former home in Ford City.  Sophia returned to Holy Trinity School to complete grades five through eight.

School days were exciting and happy for Sophia. The School Sisters of St. Francis staffed Holy Trinity School.  Sophia greatly admired her second grade teacher, Sister Mercedes. While in that grade, she was smitten with the measles, and during her quarantine at home, she wrote a letter to Sister Mercedes telling her she wanted to be a sister just like her.  And that she did; not waiting until the fall to enter, as was the custom, she came to St. Joseph Convent, Milwaukee two weeks after graduating from eighth grade with the Sisters coming in for retreat. (Many years later Sister Mercedes related to Sophia that she still had her letter.)

Sophia made a quick, though tearful, adjustment to convent life. All the classes and activities of St. Joseph High School remedied her bouts of homesickness. Reception into the community was during June 1937, and she was given the name Sister Vincentella.  As was the custom, she completed her undergraduate work at Alverno College and did additional coursework at Mount Mary College, Northern Illinois University, Marquette University and Syracuse University either during the summer sessions or weekends during the academic year.          

Sister’s ministry was teaching, 62 years in all. Her first mission was her first love – Holy Trinity School in Mount Olive, Illinois, where she taught grades one through four for seven years. Then it was on to St. Charles School in Cassville, Wisconsin, for two years.  

Sometime and somehow during her years of study, Sophia also became involved in learning and teaching proper nutrition. Her fame as a nutritional advisor and management expert spread far and wide, and eventually came to the attention of the administration at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, in search of a Home Economics’ director to head the department.  In her capacity as the Home Economics Director she also taught nutrition and religion classes for 11 years.  She continued this ministry at Boylan High School, Rockford, Illinois, for nine more years.

Then it was back to elementary education, followed by a new career, Director of Religious Education, in several parishes in Kankakee, Illinois, for another 16 years. Sister Sophia prepared herself for this change by earning a master’s degree in Religious Studies, attending summer sessions for five years at the University of Detroit.  Her last mission was again in elementary education in McHenry, Illinois, for almost another 20 years.   What a great educator!

In November 2004 Sister Sophia headed for St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport to recuperate, but with the intention of returning to mission work.  She arrived at Campbellsport well equipped to continue a hobby which brought her so much enjoyment: stringing rosaries. In fact, for years Sister Sophia belonged to a Rosary Guild who made rosaries for missionaries, hospitalized people and even the Marines. Other hobbies included needlework and playing the piano. Life for her was never boring!

Along with several other sisters she moved from Campbellsport to Sacred Heart Convent in Milwaukee in 2013.  By this time her health had declined and her days were spent in prayer and presence with her new family of sisters at Sacred Heart.

Sister Sophia, your life has been an inspiration to all the thousands of people you have touched along life’s journey.  We are all so very grateful for your being the Franciscan Face of the Gospel!  Go now in peace, and receive the reward God Has prepared for you.   By:   Sister M. Louette


Associate Barbara Freeman Rayford

Born: November 4, 1941
Died: January 30, 2017

Barbara Freeman Rayford (“Bobbie Jean”) entered this beautiful life on November 4, 1941 in Marshal County to Mr. Henry Freeman, Sr. and Lucille Coleman Freeman who both preceded her in death. She was the third child of their ten children. Barbara began her early childhood education in Marshall County Public School System. She was baptized in the Catholic faith at an early age and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1959. Barbara attended Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, where she began her illustrious career of 50 years of service. During this time she served as Library Circulation Clerk, Secretary to the Vice President, and Secretary in the Grants and Development Office. She was a faithful servant and member of St. Joseph Catholic Church where she sang in the church choir, served on the parish council, member of Legion of Mary, and was an Associate of the School Sisters of St. Francis. Barbara departed from this life on Monday, January 30 at Trinity Mission Health and Rehab Center.

Sister Benedicta Fritz

Born:  September 2, 1924
Died:  December 24, 2016

Sister Benedicta was the only child of Clotilde and Frank Fritz, born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 2, 1924.  She was baptized “Clotilde.”  

Clotilde grew up in St. Philomena Parish.  Both her parents were very involved in parish organizations and projects.  She was taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis at St. Philomena School from kindergarten through eighth grade. Her love for the piano was instilled by her mother, who was an accomplished pianist and began teaching her when she was only five years old.  Entering  grade school, her piano study continued with Sisters Edana, Sixtina, and Stanislaus.  Those sisters, along with the principal, Sister Anthelma, had a great influence on her entering St. Joseph Convent after graduating from eighth grade in June 1938.

After entering the convent, she was chosen to continue in the study of music.  Sister Benedicta felt very blessed in having Sisters Seraphim, Imelda, Clarissima, and Theophane as her teachers.

Clotilde was received into the community on June 13, 1941, and given the name Sister Benedicta. The first year of Novitiate focused on spiritual development.  During the second year studies began for her at Alverno College.  She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance in 1946.  During and following her studies at Alverno, she began teaching piano, organ and music theory to postulants, novices, and other young students in a precollege department.  During this time, spiritual development continued in preparation for vowed life as a religious.  Sister Benedicta and her classmates made final vows on June 21, 1949.

Sister had obtained a master’s degree in Piano in 1952, having studied with Dr. Rudolph Ganz. During this time she performed many solo recitals and duet concerts with Sister Mary Hueller which were enjoyed by the whole community.

In 1958 Sister Benedicta was appointed to the Music Department of St. Joseph High School in Kenosha.  There, in addition to teaching, she was involved in all music productions.

When Sister returned to Alverno in 1963, she joined the piano staff and was very involved in the development of the Piano Pedagogy degree programs. Through the years, Sister treasured all her students, many of whom attained prestigious awards. 

During her ministry at Alverno, Sister served as accompanist for soloists and chamber groups. She especially enjoyed working with the Alverno College Chorus under the direction of Sister Laura Lampe. Sister felt privileged to also serve as accompanist for liturgies in Alverno’s chapel.

Sister retired from teaching in 2008, having given God 60 years of loving service.  She fulfilled the words of her favorite Psalm:  “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” 

After returning to St. Joseph Center, she especially appreciated the opportunity to be back at the Motherhouse and to have the availability of the Adoration Chapel.  Then, moving to Sacred Heart, she continued in her ministry of Prayer and Presence. 

Sister Benedicta, during all of your years of ministry, you have faithfully praised the Lord with your prayer, presence, music, and service.  Your favorite prayers were Psalm 150 and the Canticle of Judith.  Now you will “sing a new song to God” and praise God with your whole being.


Sister Margaret Gazdik

Born:  March 12, 1937
Died:  December 29, 2016

The Hebrew Scriptures ask the question: “Who shall find a valiant woman?”

We gather this morning to celebrate the life of a truly valiant woman, our Sister Margaret Gazdik.

Marge was born in the family farm house in Huntley, Illinois. Her parents, Anna and John, welcomed their first child and saw her grow into a valiant woman. She and her brother, John, attended grade school in Huntley before the family moved to Elgin, Illinois, where Marge attended Elgin High.

Upon graduation, she enrolled at Alverno College where she was first introduced to the School Sisters of St. Francis.  It was during these years at Alverno that she made the decision to enter religious life. Early on, Margaret’s love and dedication to the School Sisters was evident. She was received into the congregation in 1958, receiving the name in religion Sister John Marie. The qualities of prayer, generosity, kindness and hard work were witnessed in Margaret even when she was a young novice.

The School Sisters knew this valiant woman as a sister, a trusted friend, confidant and colleague.  Her dear friend, Sister Barbara Niemeyer, shared prayer, ministry, service to others, and daily life with Marge for many years.

Those of us in the Chicago area, especially her prayer group and area community, experienced firsthand her generous gifts of friendship, time and leadership. She never missed an opportunity to meet a need she became aware of.

This wonderful valiant woman was totally dedicated to her students, especially these past 38 years as she worked so lovingly with children who had special needs. These children, along with their parents and her colleagues, were certainly enriched by Sister Margaret’s great love, deep faith and professional expertise.

That experience was mutual – Marge often mentioned how these students and their families enhanced her life. Indeed, each and every one whose life intersected with Sister Margaret was blessed and enriched in many ways.

Our sadness and sense of loss are mixed with gratitude to God for having given Sister Margaret to all of us for 79 years. She certainly was a valiant woman!

Godspeed, Marge! We love you!


Sister Nivard Hainault

Born:  March 25, 1924
Died:  March 2, 2016

Mary Catherine was born on March 25, 1924. She was the ninth of 14 children born to Albert and Delia (Chandonais) Hainault, in Hubbell, Michigan.

When she reached school age, she attended St. Cecilia Grace School in Hubbell, staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis. After eighth grade, Mary Catherine thought about entering the School Sisters of St. Francis. Her father told her she was not old enough to make such an important decision, so she attended and was a 1942 graduate of, Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in Lake Linden. She entered the School Sisters of St. Francis in August of that year as a candidate and was received into the the community on June 13, 1943, and was given the name Sister Nivard. Her class numbered 43 and now there are 13 sisters and one associate. Sister Nivard professed her vows on June 21, 1945. A quote from Sister Nivard: “Since finances were limited in our big family, my dowry consisted of toothbrush, comb, finger nail file, and the clothes I was wearing.”

Sister Nivard held various teaching positions in the Milwaukee area, namely Holy Redeemer, St. Wenceslaus, St. Mary Hales Corners, and St. Catherine. While at St. Wenceslaus, she supervised Alverno student teachers as a critic teacher, and at St. Catherine, she was first a teacher for ten years and then became the principal. In 1973 she moved to Menomonee Falls where Sister Nivard ministered for the next 39 years. She was principal of St. Mary and St. James Schools. She was the Pastoral Associate and Director of the RCIA Program at Saint Anthony Parish in Menomonee Falls; Extrordinary Minister of Holy Communion; and involved in hospital ministry. Sister Nivard was a vital member of the Catholic Church in Waukesha County. For her 85th birthday, Saint Anthony Parish gifted her with a trip to Assisi, Italy, a lifelong dream.

Sister had a special devotion to St. Joseph and loved nature, especially colored leaves, birds, a beautiful sunset and butterflies, all of which made her a more-than-willing participant to trips to the North Woods of Wisconsin and Michigan.

In 2012, Sister retired to St. Joseph Convent and in 2013 was among the first residents to live in Maria Linden. She could often be found in the Maria Linden lobby after the noon meal keeping up with comings and goings of the other residents of Maria Linden. She always had a ready smile and a sharp wit to greet those passing by.

Sister Nivard was preceded in death by her parents; brothers Albert (Bud), Paul, Ted and Harry; sisters Henrietta, Alice, infants Claire and Dorothy, Loraine, and Betty. She is survived by her sibilings in Michigan: Joe of Edmore, Pat Lynch of Detroit, and Joan Poissant of Ishpeming; sisters-in-law Lillian of Marquette and Gretchen of Hubbell; as well as her community of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee.


Sister Mary T. Hettich (Theonard)

Born:  December 24, 1927
Died:   July 3, 2016

Mary was born on December 24, 1927, in La Porte, Indiana, to Cyril and Cecelia Rachor Hettich.  She was the third of seven children; all six of her siblings were boys. When Mary was eight months old, the family moved from La Porte to Chicago, Illinois, to take care of Mary’s grandmother, who had a stroke in her fifties.  In Chicago, the family lived just a block from St. Martin Roman Catholic Church, making participation in church and community events quite frequent.

The family was very close, and enjoyed being and working together. Mary’s mother knew and loved opera, and they often listened to opera on Saturdays. The family spent a great deal of time reaching out to others and helping those in need. They helped Mary’s grandmother, worked for the missions, and did what they could for those poorer than themselves. Mary entered the School Sisters of St. Francis at St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee after completing eighth grade at St. Martin’s Parish Grade School. Three of her siblings went to St. Meinrad’s Seminary in southern Indiana, and another attended Marmion Military Academy run by the Benedictines in Aurora.

Mary attended St. Joseph High School and went on to college, which was also at the convent at that time. She attended DePaul University in Chicago on Saturdays to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree at Alverno. When teaching in Iowa and Nebraska, Sister attended Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturdays and during the summers in order to earn a Masters Degree in Education Administration with a minor in history.

After many years of teaching, as well as the Vatican Council calling for teachers of religious education to update their credentials according to the Council’s requirements, Sister received a Master’s Degree in Religious Education in Spokane, Washington. She later took four units of clinical pastoral education in San Francisco, California, and worked as a clinical pastoral educator in hospitals in South Dakota and Missouri, as well as at School Sisters of St. Francis institutions at Maryhill, Sacred Heart, and Campbellsport.

Sister enjoyed both the education and using that education for others. She especially appreciated reading and research. She felt privileged to have the School Sisters of St. Francis as teachers when she attended grade school, high school, and in most of her college courses in the convent. She learned the value of excellence and a strong work ethic.

It seemed to Sister that the first years in the convent were very structured while living in the Motherhouse, as was religious life in most convents at that time. When on mission, the sisters were always very busy. Their work ethic at home, in their congregation, and from their German backgrounds was very useful as there was much work to be done. The School Sisters of St. Francis were always ready to do whatever was necessary. The beginning years were busy and very happy years. As members of the School Sisters of St. Francis, the sisters received quality educational preparation for whatever was needed to serve God’s people.

Sister Mary began her ministry as a teacher in Chicago and, after six years, went to Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. She spent five years at St. Mary’s School as a teacher and then started the new Good Shepherd School as a principal and teacher. In 1959, she taught at St. Rita’s in West Allis, Wisconsin, and then St. Joseph’s in Earling, Iowa. She moved to Omaha, Nebraska where she taught at Ryan High School and had many students that were aspirants to the School Sisters of St. Francis community.

During this time, Sister Mary, with the help of Sister Joselyn Brenner, coordinated all activities for the aspirants. The two sisters helped the religious education teachers in South Dakota for the next eight years. Although they moved five times in those eight years to better accommodate those they were serving, the work was always helping the teachers prepare their lessons and activities according to the catechesis outlined by the concepts of Vatican II. The two sisters at any time were working with anywhere from four to 12 parishes. These were some of Sister’s happiest experiences of mission life. 

From 1976 to 1989, Sister served the community for two terms as a member of the Provincial Team and two terms as the ministry and personnel director. She was then encouraged to begin pastoral ministry. Sister attended the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center, completing four units of clinical pastoral education. She then returned to South Dakota and worked as the chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton. Community called her back to Wisconsin, and she then served in pastoral care at Maryhill Retirement Center. She continued to serve the sisters after they moved from Maryhill to Sacred Heart.

From 1977 to 1979, she used her religious education preparation, again assisting several parishes in Nebraska. A move to Missouri gave her another seven years as chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Missouri. Another call from the community meant two more years of pastoral care at St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. In 2008, Sister retired at the Motherhouse in Milwaukee as a driver and volunteer. When Our Lady of the Angels opened in 2011, Sister Mary moved there and helped to build community with her sisters and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. It was there that she spent her final days.

Looking over her life as a School Sister of St. Francis, Sister was most thankful for the support of the community: respecting the sisters for who they were and for the work they were doing. Sister was very much a community person and wanted the very best for her community. Sister Mary appreciated God in nature and, when she had the opportunity in South Dakota, she would spend time outdoors and walk along the Missouri River, which is the boundary between Nebraska and South Dakota. She also enjoyed listening to classical music, reading history, learning about new fields, such as medical research, and visiting museums. Her religious life has been very rewarding and enriching.

And now, Sister Mary, you are learning what God has prepared for those who were faithful to their religious commitment. Enjoy your eternal reward.


Associate Adalice Marie Hurst

Born: July 10, 1919
Died: April 13, 2015

In April, Adalice Marie Hurst entered into eternal life. She became an associate at the age of 76 and was an associate for 19 years. She was part of the Great Plains Region, later know as Our Lady of Peace area. She committed herself to living the gospel through dedicated service to the poor and the sick. She believed in spreading a positive spirit of peace and joy. She also ministered to unwed mothers.

Adalice grew up in a small fishing village in Portugal and came to Boston to attend college. After graduating, she returned to Portugal where she met her husband, Lestell. They had three children, two boys and a girl. Because of her husband’s work, the family traveled all over the world. After his death at age 44, she and the children moved to the United States. Times were hard, but God was there for them. All of her children graduated from college and went on for master’s degrees.

Adalice lived in a nursing home supported by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Colorado. The sisters were in her room praying a night prayer when she died. Part of that prayer was the singing of the “Salve Maria.” Adalice died peacefully. Lord, give her eternal life.


Sister Mary Kran

Born:  February 2, 1917
Died:  January 2, 2017

As fitting her simple but profound nature, Sister Mary asked that we have very few, if any, personal remarks at this celebration. So to honor the spirit of her wishes, we will be brief.

Sister Mary was born in Chicago, the second youngest of four children born of Frank and Emily, all whom have preceded her into Heaven. Her long journey with us of 83 years began when she entered as an aspirant. In spite of her diminutive size, Mary’s ministry was primarily spent teaching junior high and serving as a school administrator both in Wisconsin and Illinois. Answering a specific request, she also served as an audit clerk in the business offices of St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois.

Before fully retiring, Sister shared her considerable gifts by tutoring small groups of children, also serving as a librarian and parish sacristan in her beloved Cassville, Wisconsin. Mary moved to Campbellsport in 2005, where she volunteered assisting the sisters. Her generous spirit continued when she was was one of the first to move to Villa St. Francis, Milwaukee, and, as she said, “I could continue to serve by listening to the people who don’t have many visitors.” A true spiritual Franciscan introvert, Mary loved watching the revelation of God in all forms of nature. She asked that this paraphrased poem by Mary Oliver be shared at this celebration.

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond
As for life, I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint, and soft as a spring pond,
both of these over and over.

And long pale afternoons besides and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest, still unhatched
though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen-
an angel, perhaps,
or the spirit of holiness.

Every day I walked out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort-
Along with human love, music love, dog love, water love,
little children love, sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flower.

There is hardly time to think about
stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,
and we will pretend to melt into the leaves.

As for death,
I can’t wait to be like the hummingbird, flitting to heaven.
Can you?


Sister Beatus Laible

Born: May 4, 1923
Died: April 21, 2016

Springtime is always exciting because it brings the expectation of nature’s rebirth, but the anticipation of an addition to the family heightens the excitement. On May 4, 1923, Joseph and Rose Laible became parents for the third time of a daughter, Clare. In all, six children—three boys and three girls—grew up on the Laible farm in Stuart, Nebraska. Their dad worked the farm while their mom took care of the children and home. Both parents were German Catholic so the home was a place of prayer, love and respect for others. The daily rosary was prayed in German. It was evident throughout Clare’s life that she was raised in a loving, prayerful and respectful home.

Clare had a happy childhood. For the first three grades, she and her sisiters and brothers attended a country school near their home because the Catholic school was ten miles away. While in fourth grade, Clare recalled that all the children stayed with their grandmother during the week and went to St. Boniface School, where they were taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis. Clare loved school and just loved the sisters. It was then that she decided to join the School Sisters of St.Francis after she graduated from eighth grade.

In 1940 Clare was received into the community and was given the name Sister Beatus. Her dream was to be an organist, but she was asked to go into nursing. Because it was a great need in the community, she graciously responded to the request. She attended Sacred Heart School of Nursing, did her clinical nursing at Sacred Heart Sanitarium,St. Joseph Hospital, St. Mary’s Hill Psychiatric Hospital, and then graduated as a psychiatric nurse. Sister Beatus worked at St. Mary’s Hill for 49 years in various positions: psychiatric nurse, head nurse, director of nursing, assistant adminstrator of the health care agencies, nursing service adminstrator, and then later as a volunteer in the pharmacy.

It was at St. Mary’s Hill that she met and worked with Sister Ellinda Leichtfeld. They became good friends, lived and worked together for several years. They even spent some vacations together in both Nebreska and Florida. Sister Ellinda, being a Chicago city girl, had some fun-loving unforgettable experinces as she tried to milk cows, feed calves, and unload a wagon of hay. Needless to say, Sister Beatus’ way outshone Sister Ellinda in these farming chores.

Even though Sister Beatus retired at the age of 73, she continued to volunteer in the community’s medical facilities – at Villa Clement and later in Sacred Heart Convent. It was in 2004 that it became evident that she herself needed more medical care, and after much prayer and many tears, she moved to a place she had grown to love: Sacred Heart Convent.

Even though her own health was declining, she always wanted to be the smiling caregiver. She was a very prayerful person, never complaining and always grateful for any help given to her – a trait she acquired in early childhood.

Now, Sister Beatus, with ever grateful hearts, we place you in the hand of the Divine Physician and Caregiver.

By: Sister M. Louette


Associate Gwendolyn Faye Lawrence

Born: December 10, 1953
Died: February 12, 2017

Gwendolyn Faye Lawrence was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on December 10, 1953, to the late Joseph Olando Lawrence and Dessie Mae Jones Lawrence. She was the third child of four children. She was preceded in death by a brother, Joe Michael.

Her education was in Holly Springs at St. Mary’s/Cadet Schools and later attended Madonna College (University) in Livonia, Michigan, and Nursing School in Detroit, Michigan. As a nurse, she competently cared for all age groups with medical and emotional difficulties. She especially enjoyed taking care of the elderly.

She was a faithful member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and an associate of the School Sisters of St. Francis, participating in a variety of community and church ministries. She was an active member of a local book club.

In January 2017, she made a pilgrimage to Israel, the Holy Land. She had the privilege of doing the first reading, 1 Kings 18:20-40, at the Stella Maris Monastery and Church, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

She departed this life on Sunday, February 12, 2017, and leaves to cherish her memories:  a sister, Joyce Ann Lawrence; one brother, Donald Olando Lawrence; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, church family, and friends. She was loved dearly. She will truly be missed.


Sister Agnes Meysenburg (Sylvestra)

Born:  March 3, 1922
Died:  July 20, 2016

On March 3, 1922, Sister Agnes came into the world as the eighth child of Henry and Amelia Meysenburg. She was born on the family’s farm outside of David City in the heart of Nebraska’s Platte Valley. She was baptized a few days later in St. Mary’s Parish as Agnes Loyola in honor of her mother’s friend, Sister Loyola. Her first memory was at age three when she visited her grandfather in the hospital and he gave her an orange.

When Agnes was in third grade, she nearly died from blood poisoning after stepping onto a rusty pitchfork. As the infection spread, she was bedridden and her parents asked Father Wageman to give her First Communion. After six weeks she returned to school in time to receive solemn Communion with her classmates.

By their actions, Agnes’ parents taught their children to accept others who were different from themselves. The children of the only black family in town attended the Catholic school. If Agnes’ mother who was driving her children to school saw the children walking, she would say: “Move over kids. We are taking the Colemans with us.” When questioned, she said: “They are all God’s children.”

Despite the hard work and long hours involved in farming, the Meysenburg family knew how to have fun. The nine siblings played board games, checkers, dominos and card games. Together with her sisters, Agnes spent time at the piano singing and harmonizing. On summer evenings their dad would pack the kids into the car and drive around the countryside stopping to examine fields of grain. The family also went to the county fair and parish socials.

After third grade, Agnes and her family moved to a different farm. She attended Presentation Parish School in Little Luxemburg, which was founded by her grandfather. Here she met the School Sisters of St. Francis and took private piano lessons from Sister Ellen Diez. Her oldest sister, Henrietta, joined the Ursuline order, but after completing ninth grade, Agnes followed her sister Amalia (Sister Clarice) to St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee. At the time of her entrance she weighed only 98 pounds and the superiors were concerned that Agnes would not endure the rigors of community life. But Agnes did more than endure; she thrived, and in 1940 at her reception was given the name Sister Sylvestra.

While completing a college degree in music at Alverno College, she taught music theory and violin to aspirants and postulants at St. Joseph Convent High School. After graduation in 1947, she began teaching at Alverno, which was then located at St. Joseph Convent. While teaching she went on to receive a master’s degree in violin and theory from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee. In 1954 Alverno College opened its new campus on Milwaukee’s south side and Sister Agnes moved to the new location. Through the years she taught violin, theory, and music of other cultures, and assisted campus ministry with liturgical music.

While at Alverno, Sister Agnes continued her studies. She spent a summer at Dartmouth College in Honover, New Hampshire, and a year at the California Institute of the Arts. Along with being exposed to East Indian Music and other cultures at the Institute, Sister expanded her knowledge by traveling to Europe, Canada, Latin America, and India. Her studies and travel enabled her to create five world music courses which she taught for 25 years.  Her most treasured trip was her pilgrimage to Assisi where Francis and Clare lived.

In 1974, while studying in California, she was commissioned by the community to compose the music for “We Will See You Face to Face” for the centennial celebration of the community on April 28. What a treasure she left us.

In 1975, as part of its centennial celebration the School Sisters of St. Francis sent five musician sisters, including Sister Agnes, to perform for sisters and lay people who were ministering in Honduras and Costa Rica.

Sister Agnes’ creativity extended into music composition, musical performances and poetry writing.  She composed several church hymns, the Mass of Peace and wrote the Pius XI High School’s alma mater. Her family, eager to hear her play the violin, asked her to make a recording. Their encouragement and financial support led Sister to record a CD titled Trilogy.  She also made a CD entitled Christmas Trilogy. She was always looking for ways to share her Eastern Indian experience and so she played the sitar at area schools. For years she wrote poetry and was a member of the Greenleaf Writers’ Group. Alverno College also published Musings of the Heart, a collection of her poems.

In 2003 Sister Agnes moved to St. Joseph Convent while continuing to minister at Alverno until her retirement in 2008. Still involved, Sister shared her talents with the sisters, participating in scripture reflection, singing in the Schola and the St. Joseph Chapel Singers. She also played the organ for liturgies at Sacred Heart Convent and led sing-alongs.

After moving to Sacred Heart Convent for medical care for a heart condition, Sister Agnes reflected upon the rich opportunities given her by her Franciscan community. She said, “If I had lived as a farm wife in Nebraska, I would never have experienced these wonderful opportunities.  I am eternally grateful. My greatest joy has been sharing the musical talent God gave me. I dearly love my Meysenburg family and I love my Franciscan family.” 

We are grateful Sister Agnes shared her musical talent with her community, family, friends, and students.  We are inspired by her contributions to the musical heritage of our community. We say goodbye to Sister Agnes and celebrate her life in prayer and song.


Sister Maria Terese Patterson

Born: January 14, 1930
Died: September 29, 2016

Sister Terry, as many of us know her these past years, was a very independent, innovative, and creative woman. She loved music, books, conversation, politics, and warm weather.

Eveline Patterson was born January 14, 1930, in Bakersfield, California, to Gladys and Robert Patterson. At that time her father was a State Senator in California and her mother had been his secretary. Her childhood had many moves around California. That’s why many people say, “She’s a California girl at heart.”

In 1932 Eveline was blessed with a little sister, Roberta. They remained very close their entire lives.

Eight years later, in 1940, the sudden death of the father from a heart attack changed the course of their lives. It was during the war and her mother went to work for an insurance company. Loneliness and ill health of the mother changed everything. In 1943 her mother was admitted to a tuberculosis sanitarium and both girls went to Mooseheart, Illinois, an orphanage for children of deceased members of the Loyal Order of Moose. Eveline and Roberta adapted well and their excellent education continued. Eveline was in every extra activity she could handle. She continued her piano lessons, learned to play the string bass, and was in the orchestra and band. By 1945, after the war, their mother’s health improved and she joined them at Mooseheart.

In December of 1947, during her senior year of high school, their mother died and Eveline became the guardian of her sister Roberta. This caused Eveline to change her college plans because she needed to be close to her sister Roberta. So in 1948 Eveline chose Alverno College of Music to continue her music education. There she met Sister Laura Lampe (Laudesia) who was her teacher, mentor, and friend for her lifetime. Ellen Mary Schwaiger and Eveline became friends as lay students at Alverno.

Eveline liked everything she experienced at Alverno. She even wanted to become a sister, but Eveline was not a Catholic. She inquired what she needed to do and Father Klink gave her instructions. She was baptized in our motherhouse chapel on October 31,1948. After two years of college Ellen Mary and Eveline entered St. Joseph Convent on September 8, 1951. They were received on June 13, 1952, and Eveline received the name Sister Maria Terese. She graduated from Alverno with a degree in Music Education with minors in voice and cello. Sister Terry was ready to begin a life-long ministry as a musician.

She started at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee and later moved on to Ryan High School in Omaha, a year at Forest Park, Illinoid, then to St. Benedict’s in Chicago where Sister Maria Terese and Sister Ellen Mary together developed an outstanding music program over some 16 years. During these years Sister Terry went on to get a master’s degree in Music Education, Voice, and later became a Kodaly Method Specialist.

In the spring of 1980 she accepted the position at Alverno College as Theater Manager and later assumed other positions working with Sister Laura Lampe. In 1989 she joined the Music and Education Division, working with Sister Ann Schlaefer and Sister Mary Diez.

In retirement, Sister Terry continued to minister wherever she was. Failing health came suddenly and, like many other events in her life, she accepted it willingly. In her last days she kept saying, “I’m ready!”

We thank you, Sister Terry, for your 64 years of faithful Franciscan living. Now you are at the Heavenly Banquet. Rejoice and “Sing a New Song.”


Sister Doris Ann Polt

Born: July 22, 1930
Died: October 28, 2016

Doris Ann Polt, the third of eleven children, was lovingly welcomed into the family of Andrew Polt and Cecelia German on July 22, 1930, near Pierce, Nebraska. She grew up on the family farm and attended St. Joseph Parish School, taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis. Doris appreciated nature and early on showed an energetic, creative and artistic spirit.

As Doris finished grade school, she felt called to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was received into the community on June 13, 1948.

The Catholic faith was second nature to the Polt family. In one way or another, everyone has been involved in parish or religious life.  Albert, who is in eternity, became a priest, and three girls became sisters. Besides, Doris, two are Benedictines, who are with us today.

Doris’ ministry took her to parishes; public schools, as a tutor or English as a second language; a resident artist in Bethlehem, South Dakota; and even to Africa as a missionary for two years. What talent and adaptability! Doris excelled in being a very capable, organized, and creative teacher, choosing to work with poor and/or high-risk children when possible. She shared an example of times when a child misbehaved. She would go into meditation at home and psychically bring the child into her arms, talk to him/ her, and note how much the child was helped. She considered all children special and in need of love.

Besides a Master’s degree in education, Doris also had gifts and training in various disciplines in metaphysics, mind control, and parapsychology. She gave workshops in mental health and stress management. Doris made use of that ability to control her own pain, shocking dentists by refusing to use an anesthetic in the dentist’s chair. As a hobby, she also used these gifts to draw affirmation portraits of people giving insights into their spiritual growth.

Doris had a deep love for her family. One of the tragedies of the Polt family was to lose Erwin in military service.

Having left for the convent so early, Doris did not grow up with several of the younger children. However, after we could choose our own ministry, Doris found ways to minister in areas near family, taking her to New Mexico; New Hampshire; California, to be with Father Albert during his dying process; Africa, to be with her missionary sister; and to live with her mother and her Benediction Sisters in Norfolk, Nebraska.  

After Doris’ mother died, she moved to Campbellsport to be present and helpful to our retired sisters, and later moved to Our Lady of the Angels, where her ministry was prayer and presence.

So as we say farewell to Doris, we remember her life as being rich, wholesome, and inventive as she lived and honored our Franciscan heritage. Quoting Doris, “I love the Benedictines very dearly and am immeasurably grateful to them, but every cell in my body is Franciscan.” 


Dr. Joanna Mary Roberts

Born:  March 12, 1938
Died:  December 22, 2016

Joanna Mary Roberts, MD, of Odd, West Virginia, passed away December 22, 2016 at Marion, Virginia. Dr Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, March 12, 1938, to William M. Roberts and Helen Emily (Grezchowiak) Roberts, who predeceased her, as did her brothers William M. Roberts Jr. and Robert W. Roberts. She is survived by her sister, Susan Ellen Roberts, PhD, of Poughkeepsie, New York; her dear friend Susan Burt of Mill Point, West Virginia, her goddaughters Sarah Burt-Kinderman Riley and Joanna Burt-Kinderman, also of Mill Point; her long-time coworkers, Sisters Helen Malcheski and Gretta Schmitz of the School Sisters of St. Francis; and her devoted caretakers, Thelma and Terry “Turkey” Hubbard of Marion.

Joanna Roberts was a devout Catholic who dedicated her life to the service of others through her outstanding medical skills. She was a 1960 graduate of Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, and received her MD degree from the University of Buffalo in 1964, one of four women in her graduating class. (Today over half the students are women.) She interned at the Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital in Buffalo and did a residency there in internal medicine, which she completed in 1968.

Dr. Roberts then went to Mound Bayou, in the delta of Mississippi, where she practiced in the Delta Health Center under the leadership of Dr. Jack Geiger of Tufts University, serving a population of poor black people. Dr Geiger had become interested in the health care needs of this area as a volunteer with the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964

The Delta Health Center was launched in 1967. As well as providing medical care, the staff focused on the social problems that undermined health in the region, such as hunger and unemployment. To ensure that members of the community could participate in decisions about their health and the future of their area, local people served on the board of directors and some joined the clinic staff. Beginning with this clinic and another in Boston, Massachusetts, the network of community health centers has today expanded nationwide.

While at Mound Bayou, she started working with members of a teaching and nursing order, the School Sisters of St. Francis, a, a relationship which lasted throughout her medical career. After four years of service in Mississippi, Dr. Roberts practiced for the University of Wisconsin serving a Native American reservation, and in 1974 moved to Beckley, West Virginia, to work with another neighborhood health center, the Mountaineer Family Health Plan (MFHP). In a couple of years, she established an independent practice in the tiny town of Rhodell, West Virginia, in the midst of an area devastated by the loss of coal mining jobs, but continued for several years to be affiliated with MFHP. The initial Rhodell Health Clinic was located in a building which had a pool hall and beer joint in the other half. In 1977 she opened the St Jude Clinic in Rhodell, where she continued to practice until poor health forced her to retire in 2012.

As one friend said, “Joanna Roberts practiced Cadillac medicine for a population who could for the most part just afford junkers.” Her diagnostic skills were well known, and patients were willing to endure long waits to be seen because they knew every patient would receive the best care Dr. Roberts had to offer. She made many home visits, believing the patient could best be understood in his home environment. Long before Medicare made palliative care a reimbursable service, she made "hospice at home" a regular part of her medical practice, enabling dying patients to spend their last days in the surroundings they loved best, never charging them for this service.

She wrote in a speech: “God is present in the poor—this has been a life-defining understanding for me. Church doctrine says God is present everywhere but especially in humans. He is a father with many children but those in need have his special attention- God hears the cry of the poor.

He loves us all the same but his special blessing to the poor is his closeness to them. Others are blessed with prosperity.

“One more observation to share with you. It has to do with what is stolen from the poor—dignity and self-respect. I have noticed that when the mainstream community has an attitude of disrespect, condescension, or disdain it has an infectious effect. Poor people incorporate this negative identification and dislike for themselves and pass it on to their children. It becomes a poison and a burden – sapping confidence.”

Dr. Roberts work was supported for many years by Joseph Hodges, Catholic Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, who recognized her special devotion to Catholic service by naming her a Consecrated Virgin in 1995. The bishop who conducts the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World by his ministry makes the virgin a “sacred person.”

A Funeral Mass for Joanna Roberts was celebrated at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Lackawanna, New York, on Wednesday, January 3. Burial followed at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna. Friends were invited to Dr. Roberts’ home on Odd School Road in Odd, West Virginia on January 7 and memorial service to celebrate her life.


Sister Margaret Mary Ryan

Born: August 22, 1926
Died: November 19, 2016

Margaret Mary was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 22, 1926, the second of three children of Leroy and Cornelia Jagers Ryan. Her brother Leroy became a Jesuit. His mother and his sister Kathleen were present at his ordination in India. Kathleen later attended Loyola University in Chicago, married, and was the mother of eight children.

Sister Margaret Mary recalled how her father was a great storyteller and made them feel special by making up a song for each of his children. They said night prayers at his knees and each May and October the family prayed the rosary together after supper.

When the children were in grades 4, 6, and 8 at the parish school, their father died of an illness he contracted in World War I. Their mother got a job as an accountant as soon as dad became ill and the summer after he died she made arrangements for the three children to go to boarding schools. Brother “Red” attended Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The girls went to Our Lady Academy in Manteno, Illinois. The next year they were nearer to home at Marywood in Evanston, Illinois. After two years in boarding schools they were able to come home and attend local Catholic schools. Their mother continued to work and the girls took on the household tasks.

Upon recommendation from her mother’s friends, Margaret Mary enrolled at Alvernia High School and there met the School Sisters of St. Francis for the first time. She had a desire to become a sister already at age seven but now she knew what kind of sister she wanted to be – a School Sister of St. Francis.

As soon as she was 15, Margaret Mary got a job – first at Andes Candies and then during junior and senior years at the telephone company. After high school graduation she took a job as a secretary for a year, saving a “nest egg” for her mother and also for her dowry needed before entering the postulancy in September 1945. She and nine other girls from Alvernia traveled to the motherhouse on a bus.

In June 1946 Margaret Mary with her 65 other postulant classmates were received. Margaret Mary received the name Sister Mary Fintan.

After all the preparation on the novitiate, Profession day came in June 1948. It was a special day of consecration, attended by her mother, her sister Kathleen, and several relatives. Her brother was in the Jesuit seminary in Ohio at that time.

Ministry for Sister included teaching two years in second grade and then continuing in high schools in Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, and Minnesota. Her degree in Science from Alverno and her advance degree in Biology helped to prepare her for these assignments. In 1980 she completed a specialty in Gerontology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha which prepared her as a parish minister in Omaha for 22 years, working with older parishioners, coordinating the RCIA, and other educational programs.

One of Sister’s delights was to go fishing. Back in 1971, Sister Leta Heese’s uncle introduced Sister Margaret Mary and some other sister friends to fishing at his cabin site in Okaboje, Iowa. He also taught them how to clean the fish they caught. Sister went fishing regularly and even went on fishing trips to Kansas, Minnesota, and Canada. Fishing was indeed her hobby of choice and continued to give her enjoyment for many years.

In 2003 when Sister Margaret Mary had to make a change in ministry, she happily made the move to the village of Campbellsport, volunteering as Eucharistic Minister and driver and spending time in gardening. There she also got aquainted with many sisters as well as renewed old friendships. She said, “The feeling I got was – what a privilege to live with all this goodness.”

Still another move came when St. Joseph Convent was closed. Together with many others who needed to move to new areas, Sister Margaret Mary came to Sacred Heart. Here, “living with goodness” continued.

Sister Margaret Mary, you too were a very special part of the goodness that many felt as you shared your life and ministry. We are grateful for your prayerful, joyful, and accepting spirit. As you enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation here on earth, now may you enjoy all with heavenly vision.