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Sister Loretta Adler
Born: July 24, 1923
Died: January 17, 2013
All of us have met or known someone who is very neat, orderly and always prepared for any and every event. This describes Sister Loretta.
Sister Loretta had a copy of her Wisconsin birth record, which states that she was born in the County of Dane in the Township of Springfield. Her full name was Lorette Elisabeth Adler. She was the sixth child of Joseph Adler, a farmer, and Katie Ziegler, a housewife, and was born on July 24, 1923. According to the Adler Family Book, there were five boys and then four girls, of whom Loretta was the first girl.
Loretta’s early years were spent on the family farm, and at the age of 19 she was recommended for entrance into the School Sisters of St. Francis by Father Nicholas Schneider of St. Peter’s Parish. She was received into the community on June 13, 1944, and was known as Sister Melanie.
Her mission life was spent as a primary teacher. For more than 30 years she taught in Illinois, and taught for two years in Iowa. Always ready to help where needed, Sister Loretta then filled the position of companion and driver for the Holy Name Province in Chicago. In 1990, she felt privileged to return to Middleton and care for her mother. Following her mother’s death, she returned to Chicago to work in a learning center. This experience prepared her to move back to the St. Joseph Convent Motherhouse, where she was a volunteer teacher in the Milwaukee Achiever program. Later, while living at the Motherhouse, she was the faithful companion to many sisters on their doctor visits. This was done with much love and concern until she herself needed a companion, at which time she moved to Sacred Heart Convent.
It was at Sacred Heart that Loretta wrote this note, “Please put this into my folder. To be read at my Mass of Resurrection. Thanks a bunch.” (Signed) Sister Loretta
Called by Name –Isaiah 43:1-5
Song of Praise-Loretta
Good Morning, Lord, you have called me by name. I am yours. You are all good and worthy of all praise.
Every day I want to thank you for your precious gifts to me. Help me to share them with others—for a gift is truly not a gift unless it is shared with others.
Your gift of love and life, my entire being is but a reminder of your gift of eternal life to me because you love me.
Each day I will meet others, my family, friends, brothers, sisters, yes even my enemies. Together we will sing of your wonderful gifts as we gift each other. At times I may not be at one with your creatures and myself – there is a great need for reconciliation so that through your inner healing our relationships will be renewed with your Spirit of love.
Each day – everyone is called to follow you and your way to eternal joy. The precious gift of the Eucharist – food for the journey – blessed – broken – shared – refreshes us on our way.
Time – this precious gift – enables me to take it to heal and be healed – to use it to praise and thank you for your gifts of love and wisdom. In trust with your strength, not mine, I place my hand in yours – living one day at a time.
Always, forever, I want to thank you for your love and mercy that surrounds me.
Watch over all you creation and creatures – take care of them – especially me. Let all creation sing your praise and thanks.
ALLELUIA --- AMEN.
Sister Marie Burgireno
Born: June 8, 1940
Died: December 1, 2012
Marie was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 8, 1940, to Mary and John Burgireno. She grew up in Milwaukee with four brothers, Chuck, John, Mark, and Frank; and three sisters, Diane, Toni, and Kathleen.
Her grade school years were spent at St. Matthias where she was taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis. For her first two years of high school, she attended Pius Xl High School, after which she entered the School Sisters of St. Francis. She finished her high school classes at the Motherhouse as an aspirant, was received into our community on June 12, 1959, and was given the name Sister John Anthony.
Sister’s ministry was teaching primary grade students. She taught in Skokie, Chicago, Arlington Heights, and Waukegan, Illinois; as well as in Rosendale, New York. She was an excellent and well-liked primary teacher and carried out this ministry faithfully.
After a diagnosis of cancer in 1988, she began a time of treatment and moved to Alvernia Retirement Center. In 1991 she moved to Marian Hall and spent some time as a volunteer at St. Anthony’s on Mitchell Street.
With her health continuing to fail, Sister moved to Sacred Heart Convent. One Sister who was on staff there noted that in spite of her many health challenges, she was a very pleasant person. In 2002, Sister moved to St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, as her health continued to fail.
Enduring many health challenges took much emotional strength, but recently, for short periods of time, her joyful spirit returned. At such times we witnessed her true personality and we thank God that now she is experiencing a joy beyond all joys.
Sister Marie, now you can smile forever and smile on us as you bring our intentions before the God of Love.
Sister Rose Eschweiler
Born: July 11, 1912
Died: January 28, 2013
Sister Rose was born on July 11, 1912 and was baptized Rose Mathilda. In the year before her birth, three siblings had died of diphtheria. After such sadness, her parents, Frances Helen Fehring and Edward Charles Eschweiler were overjoyed when Rose was born. Sister Rose said that her dad told that that God had blessed him with a beautiful Rose. And Rose was also truly blessed with devout, loving and hard working parents and a wonderful family. She, along with five brothers (Gilbert, Roman, Father Carl, Father Fran and Father Ed) along with two sisters (Marie and Sister Ann) had a childhood anchored with love and great faith.
Rose was a beautiful and intelligent little girl. She was a quick learner, very energetic, and a vivacious child with long wavy red hair. At the age of 10, she did a two-week live window display commercial for the Singer Sewing Company at 36th and North Avenue. You can imagine her smiling as she sat in the display window demonstrating a child's model of the Singer sewing machine.
Sister Rose and her siblings attended St. Anne's Parish School, which was staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. But she was called to the School Sisters of St. Francis. She tells the story about the day after her first communion, when her mother brought Rose and her cousin to St. Joseph Convent. Both girls were in their communion dresses and they went to pray in the Adoration Chapel. While kneeling in the back of the Chapel, Mother Alfons came up to the girls put her arms around them both while explaining the Eucharist and pointing to the monstrance, telling them that Jesus was there. Rose said that she just looked at Mother Alfons and said, “I’m going to be a sister!” The other night when Sister Rose was retelling this story, she said, “Can you imagine? Here was Mother Alfons telling us all about the Eucharist and Jesus and I wasn’t really listening because I just wanted to be sure she knew that I was going to be a sister!”
Well, focused on her goal to be a School Sister of St. Francis, Rose walked through the doors of St. Joseph Convent in 1926 -- 87 years ago. When she was received as a novice in 1928 she was given the name Sister Carlotta, and she made her profession of final vows in 1936. Sister earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from De Paul University and a master’s in Education from Loyola University in Chicago. For over 50 years she ministered as an elementary and secondary teacher and also served as an administrator. She was a leader in education both in the community and in the Archdiocese.
The other day as Sister Rose was reflecting on her life, she spoke of her gratitude for being alive and active during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. She said, “I think I lived two lives in community, 40 years before Vatican II and 40 years after!” She found the Council's call for religious renewal energizing and challenging. Her spiritual life and her teaching ministry were both enriched and refocused during these years of change.
Sister Rose said that the most enriching discussions about Church, scripture and theology happened at “the cottage.” Without a doubt, the family cottage at Friess Lake was the place to be for retreat, laughter and spiritual growth. How could it be any different in a family with two religious sisters and three priest brothers? Not to mention Jane, a Salvatorian niece, and many family members who learned from Sister Rose, Sister Ann and her brothers – don’t just talk about the Church, but realize that YOU ARE THE CHURCH!
Yes, Sister Rose cherished her time at the cottage. She and Sister Ann, along with Father Carl, Father Fran and Father Ed had many insightful discussions about renewal issues and their love of the scriptures. They always included time to hear major theologians and liturgists. Certainly, for the Eschweilers, the cottage was a reflective, restful and pleasant place for family get-togethers and enriching discussions.
Sister Rose appreciated her retirement years, which began in 1979. She volunteered where community needed her, she did substitute teaching and she was especially grateful to be able to live with her sister, Ann. It was a blessing for her to be with Sister Ann and her religious community at St. Joseph Convent and at Sacred Heart Convent these last years.
As you know, Sister Rose never stopped counting her blessings -- and without a doubt, one of her greatest blessings was her family. She was especially proud of her nieces and nephews who were so faithful to her. So many of you are here today and you can be assured that she loved your visits and hearing about all that you did.
And anyone who spent time with Sister Rose knew that she was grateful for religious life and for all the opportunities to pray and meditate, to be active and to be challenged with new ideas. She seemed to be awed and amazed at her gift of a long life, and delighted in her final years, with the spiritual and personal sharing that she had with Father Ed, with all her nieces and nephews, with the sisters in community, with friends and former students.
Each day of her 100 years, Sister Rose placed her trust in a loving God, often simply just saying, “God is good!” and then with a gleam in her eye she added, “All the time!”
Sister Rose, we are grateful to you for your life commitment as a School Sister of St. Francis, for the faithful love for your family, for your constant pursuit of spiritual growth, for your gentle joy, and your beautiful openness to the rewards of eternal life. We can now imagine you in some great discussion at your new cottage in heaven. We also know you looking upon us and saying, “God is good!” and with that gleam in your eye, waiting for us to add, “All the time!”
Sister Nicole Goetz
Born: February 2, 1915
Died: March 30, 2013
For Sister Nicole, the Franciscan values of respect, collaboration, and quality service were the cornerstones of her life. She was never one to boast about herself, nor did she want anyone else to do it for her. In 2004, Sister Nicole wrote her own modest autobiography. It reads:
My parents, Mary Berhardt Goetz and Nicholas Goetz, were born in Germany, Mother in 1890 and Father in 1884. As young adults, each migrated to the United States. Eventually they met, married and settled in Roseland, a South Side area of Chicago, which was rapidly becoming home to immigrants from Europe.
I thank God for parents of deep faith, care, kindness, and good example. My father was employed at the Pullman Train Company as an excellent wood worker. My mother was known as a competent cook, baker, and seamstress. Both were very interested in our religious practice and in our education. I have fond memories of “homework time” in the evenings when my father listened to each child’s catechism recitation. Meanwhile, my mother, resting in her armchair, learned English by hearing the children read. Evening prayer in the living room closed our days.
Mary was my older sister and Therese was my youngest sister. I was the second child. Edward, Michael, Bernard and George were my brothers. All my siblings are deceased.
The School Sisters of St. Francis were my grammar school teachers at St. Nicholas School. As a junior in high school at St. Louis Academy, I felt the call to religious life. I entered St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee on September 1, 1930. After two years of postulancy and graduation from high school, I was received into the novitiate on June 14, 1932.
Years of teaching in elementary schools, high school, and college followed. Summers and weekends were time for advanced study. In 1954-1957, I was sent to Rome with Sister Mary Irene to study theology at Regina Mundi. On return, we both worked in the Formation program at St. Joseph Convent.
From 1970-1975, I worked at McCormick Theological Union as Book Review Editor for the Index to Religious Periodical Literature. When the office was moved to the South Side of Chicago, I worked in our community’s Chicago office as Theological Resource Person.
In 1989, I moved to Milwaukee and worked in the Provincial Office from 1989–2002, when I retired at the age of 87.
On May 12, 2004, Sister Barbara Kraemer, our Provincial, offered me a chance to retire to Clement Manor if I wished. What a gift! I am grateful to our administration and residents!
March 30, 2013 addendum:
For health reasons, Sister Nicole moved to Sacred Heart Convent where she treasured her final ministry of prayer and presence. And now, Sister Nicole, we are the ones who are grateful to you for your 81 years of living the Franciscan values of respect, collaboration, and quality service as a School Sister of St. Francis. Peace and All Good!
Sister Rosemary Hacker
Born: January 9, 1922
Died: February 18, 2013
As the saying goes, “Good things come in small packages!” This was certainly true when God gifted George and Lillian Hacker with the fourth of their five girls. On January 9, 1922, in Racine, Wisconsin, Rosemary was born weighing just three and one half pounds. She fit nicely in her dad’s shoe box!! Oodles of tender loving care and Horlick’s malted milk helped her thrive very quickly.
Rosemary loved to climb trees, hop a fence like the boys in cops and robbers, and was always running, or off on her bicycle. Soon it was time for kindergarten, and she joined her sisters at Holy Name School in Racine. She loved the half days of kindergarten so she could spend the afternoon with her mom all alone. Of course, her dad also gave her lots of attention.
Reading the funny papers and playing school were the learning tools that taught Rosemary how to read. Even though she liked school, she did find learning very difficult. Two of her older sisters were very smart so she was sick and tired of hearing her teachers say, “Why aren’t you like your sisters?” Her mother was her savior and told her, “God gives everyone different talents; you study and are a good girl and that makes us proud of you. You do not have to be like your sisters.” So that settled it. She was just herself and was very happy.
After completing grade school at Holy Name, it was time for high school. Rosemary knew she wanted to join her sister, Sister Lolita, who already was a School Sister of St. Francis. However, there was one high hurdle: she had to convince her mom and dad. After many hours of conversation her parents gave their consent. Rosemary could finally enter St. Joseph Convent, where she began her high school education. Now there was a new hurdle that Rosemary hadn’t expected. She got homesick to the extent of almost “throwing in the towel” and returning home. Knowing that Sister Lolita also got severely homesick and survived, Rosemary decided to follow her older sister’s example and stay. Rosemary also survived and in June, 1938, she was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis and given the name Sister Cecile.
She said she was one of the privileged few who got to stay at the Motherhouse and finish her college degree to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. Sister Rosemary was a good teacher, taught for 49 years and loved every minute of it. She taught all grades from one to eight. She said every grade had a certain advantage to it. She learned that rhythm is the secret to learning to read, so she had dancing and music in her classroom every day, no matter what grade.
After retiring from teaching, Sister Rosemary moved to the Motherhouse to do volunteer work until her health dictated a move to Sacred Heart Convent for medical assistance. She was most grateful for the care she received and spent her last years reading, praying and listening to music.
Now, Sister Rosemary, every time we hear rhythmic music we’ll know someone is learning to read. Thank you for sharing your secret.
Sister Noel Heisler
Born: July 15, 1914
Died: March 25, 2013
“I place before you death and life. Choose life.” This Scripture quote sums up Sister Noel who chose life and lived it with much gusto!
Sister Noel Heisler was born July 15, 1914, in Hartford, Wisconsin, and was baptized Helen. She was the ninth and last child of George and Helen Heisler. Three children died as infants and one at age eight; this was hard on her mother. Despite these deaths young, Helen knew the love of a close-knit family with those who remained.
Helen entered a public school kindergarten at age four. From second grade on, she walked to the Catholic school taught by the School Sisters. By third grade, she knew she wanted to be a sister. She was sure of it when she attended the reception of Sister Alice Marie Schwartz, who was from her hometown of Hartford. She hounded her parents for their permission to go to the convent as she neared eighth-grade graduation. Her mother thought she was too young at age 14, but her father gave consent. A farewell party was held for her at a Bing cherry orchard near Peshtigo. She remembered how sour the cherries tasted to her!
Sister Noel entered St. Joseph Convent on August 22, 1928. Adjusting was not easy; it took a long time to overcome homesickness. Yet she was determined to hold on and absorb everything about religious life. From the day of her reception in 1931, she couldn’t wait to be sent out to teach. It was in August that Mother Stanislaus needed a teacher. Of the three 17-year-old novices brought to her, Sister Noel demonstrated the most eagerness, and so she was the chosen one. In this way, she began her teaching career at St. Catherine’s in Milwaukee and loved those four years. She completed her novitiate after that, in 1935-36, and then was asked to “stay home” and complete her studies. She was one of the charter class to graduate from Alverno College in 1940.
She was then assigned to Racine for one year, and after that to Glenview, Illinois, where she taught for 18 years. In 1948 she was selected to go to St. Mary’s Academy at Notre Dame, Indiana, where she graduated with a master’s in religion and scripture. She continued to teach in Illinois in more of our schools: in Sublette, Stockton, McHenry and Winfield. She spent summers catechizing. Sister Noel loved every minute of her teaching ministry. But her life was yet to expand.
The turning point for Sister Noel came after attending an Institute on Women in 1966. She began a ministry of visiting the sick and became involved with minority groups and the poor. She listened to the experiences of our sisters in Mexico. That sparked in her a desire to do mission work in Latin America. In preparation, she took a Spanish language course and attended cultural workshops in Madison.
Three years later she had an opportunity to go to Juarez, Mexico, through the Latin American Mission Program (LAMP). For almost a year she and a School Sister companion went from village to village by mule, staying for two weeks in each place. For her it was a wonderful experience to serve these “beautiful people;” even the donkeys were “beautiful creatures.” After meeting with the Bishop of Tamaulipas, she worked at the poor mission of San Jose del Verde in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Life was hard, but her love for the people made it easy.
A different opportunity was presented to her when Sister Noel was asked by Sister Deodigna if she would teach English at St. Clare College in Costa Rica. She took up the challenge in 1971, and stayed to teach for three years while also working to improve her Spanish with another course. Upon returning to the States after three years, Sister became a bi-lingual teacher, librarian and special tutor at the culturally mixed school of St. Therese in Aurora, Illinois. Her last years of teaching were with the LaFarge Lifelong Learning program in Milwaukee, instructing adults and teaching crafts.
By 1985, macular degeneration had set in. It was time for retirement, and St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, was to be her home. Even there she had a zest for life, and showed it by her interest in the activities and events of the convent, the local community, and world affairs. However, her eyesight continued to deteriorate and physical problems caused much concern. Every time she’d feel really bad, she would say “Why doesn’t God just take me?” Her interest in life returned when she was feeling better. And so it went until the day that was just the right time for God to come and take her.
Today we celebrate your life, Sister Noel. We thank you for your presence and love in this community and among all those you have loved and served. You have spread LIFE wherever you went. What you have now is the best of new LIFE. May you enjoy it in the presence of God, who is LIFE itself!
Sister Martine Hundelt
Born: January 14, 1918
Died: November 28, 2012
It is a very special, loving woman whose life we celebrate this evening.
Sister Martine spent her childhood in rural Nebraska in the 1920s. She said, “My love of nature comes from those early years and open spaces: the gorgeous sunsets, the wild roses, and bluebells on the sandhills in the spring. My love of learning started during those years also in a one-room school house.”
Sister Martine was from St. Libory’s just north of Grand Island in central Nebraska. She lived in a rural area three miles from the local church with people of many nationalities and religions. She said, “I really appreciated my background and the diversity in my own family. Looking back, I think this helped me to be a better teacher.”
Eventually her family moved into town where the School Sisters of St. Francis taught at the local school. She related, “Those were difficult times in rural Nebraska and many people were poor. I was impressed by the sisters, especially by their prayer life which carried them through hard times. I was in 5th grade when one of the sisters read something which struck me. I started thinking, what if...?”
In the 1930s, she traveled from Nebraska to Wisconsin to attend St. Joseph High School at the motherhouse in Milwaukee. Sister Martine and 64 other women were received in 1934. She has just celebrated 72 years in community.
Overall, Sister earned a bachelor’s degree from Alverno, a master’s degree from Marquette, as well as a PhD in Modern European History from St. Louis University. Her ministry had an impact on people of all ages, from youngsters to older adults. She was a teacher par excellence. She taught in elementary and high schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota before serving for 24 years as a professor and chair of the History Department of Milwaukee’s Alverno College.
In the 1960s she received a Fulbright scholarship which allowed her to research the topic of the First Christian Democratic Party in Italy. She commented, “Studying at the University of Milan and traveling in Europe helped me to build my background to teach Church History and European History.” Sister Martine not only taught Church History; she made Church history! In 1968 she began teaching part-time at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and was the first woman to join the faculty. Nationally, she was only the second woman in the country to teach in a Catholic seminary. Upon retiring in 1990, she went on to serve the School Sisters and teach at LaFarge Lifelong Learning Institute and the Clement Manor Center for Enrichment in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
In the summer of 1969 she was a Fulbright Scholar in African Studies at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She earned the recognition of being a respected scholar in her field of study. And so, in 1970, Sister Martine was honored with a $1000 Teacher Excellence Award. Sister Martine furthered her education while on sabbatical during the summers of 1980-1982, taking graduate courses in Christian Spirituality at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. With such a distinguished background, it comes as no surprise that Sister Martine is listed in the 14th Edition of Who’s Who in American Women.
Always willing to serve, in the 1960s, Sister Martine participated in various phases of renewal in our congregation. She served ten years as chairperson of the government committee which drafted constitutions for new structures at the international and provincial levels. Sister Martine was a member of the School Sisters’ Institutional Board which worked directly with health and educational institutions sponsored by our community.
Sister Martine was a person committed to living the Gospel. Her enthusiasm for sharing the Good News was noted in her work outside the seminary, as she was a frequent lecturer for adult education on topics such as Church History, social justice, and peace issues. She served as a member and secretary for the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.
She has enriched our lives in ways that defy description. Sister Martine has been for us a living example of what it means to be Christian. She had the ability to be present, to touch lives in simple human ways, and to share deeply. Her smile and giggle were precious. But any reference to injustice would bring out another, more feisty side of Sister Martine, which we also cherished.
May what she shared with us remain in our memories and call us to the same kind of authentic love and service which she has left us.
Sister Theresa Marie Jarvis
Born: September 23, 1940
Died: October 22, 2012
Theresa Marie was born on September 23, 1940, in Rossville, Illinois, to Lillian and Thomas Jarvis, joining an older sister and brother, Clare and Irwin. She attended grammar school for two years in Watseka, Illinois; one year at St. Patrick’s in Kankakee, Illinois, and completed her grammar school education at St. Teresa’s in Kankakee. It was at St. Teresa School that she had School Sisters of St. Francis as teachers. She has said that she found her new teachers to be inspiring, kind, and happy women. They talked with the students, encouraged them, and laughed with them. Here Theresa realized that she, too, wanted to serve God’s people and to do it with the joy and spirit with which her Franciscan teachers did it. She wanted to become a School Sister of St. Francis.
Theresa entered the aspirancy on Sept. 4, 1954, with great anticipation. There she experienced from her classmates bonds of friendship, support, and love. She also continued to appreciate her School Sister teachers not only for what they taught but even more for who they were.
Theresa became a novice on June 13, 1957, and at that time received the name Sister Joseph Sarto. During her years of formation there were many calls for change both within and beyond the School Sister community. The sisters who were in the health care profession had many unmet needs and some of those sisters wrote proposals for the 1966 Chapter requesting that they be allowed to form their own province. Sister Theresa Marie suggested that the new province be called “Health Agencies Council” and the name endured. Sister Theresa Marie was also on the Steering Committee of the newly formed province.
Her ministries in health care were served at Waupun Memorial Hospital as an RN from 1962 to 1964 and as an instructor at Sacred Heart School of Practical Nursing in West Allis from 1964 to 1967. From 1967 to 1969 she was a student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She then returned to the Sacred Heart School of Practical Nursing in West Allis as the administrator from 1969 to 1981 and then, in 1981, she became educational administrator of the St. Luke’s School of Practical Nursing in Milwaukee until 1985.
In 1985 Sister began her 15 years of service here at St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, as Director of Nursing. From 2000 to 2002 she worked part time with Extendicare Health Services in Fond du Lac as an RN.
Sister experienced numerous health problems which made handling any regular job nearly impossible, but from 2002 to 2012 Sister served as a volunteer at Threshold, Inc. in West Bend. Her presence was deeply appreciated by both staff and clients.
One of her most recent accomplishments was to research and write the history of the Health Agencies Council.
In her personal story she wrote: “Through the years my relationship with Jesus has grown from doing something for Jesus to allowing Jesus to work through me as he wills. Hopefully by the time I die, my life with Jesus will transcend all other needs. For now, my arms reach around Jesus as I take refuge in his embrace.”
Sister Theresa Marie, we thank you for your example. You have indeed allowed Jesus to work through you. Your hope has been realized and his arms have reached out to you.
Sister Amalia Krajcik
Born: October 17, 1916
Died: January 9, 2013
Sister Amelia was born to Vera and John Krajcik on October 17, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois. She was the second of six children—three girls and three boys. Amelia attended St. Cyril and Methodius School in Chicago where she met the School Sisters of St. Francis. Early on, Amelia decided she wanted to become a sister just like the ones who taught her.
In 1930, Amelia entered St. Joseph Convent after graduating eighth grade. Her sibling, Sister Crucita, came home and took her to St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee. After completing high school and postulancy, Amelia was one of 70 women receiving the white veil of a novice on June 28, 1933. She was given the name Sister Assunta, which she kept until the 1960s when she resumed using her baptismal name.
Sister Amelia’s family was very important to her. She found the deaths of her two younger brothers—Johnny, during World War II, and Eddie, in a car accident shortly after returning home from military service—traumatic. Sister also remembered the deaths of her mother in 1962 and her father in 1966 as sad times of loss.
Sister Amelia was a teacher most of her life, serving in a number of parish schools. She also served as principal at St. Bernadine School in Forest Park, Illinois.
After school was out in 1970, Sister planned to study for her comprehensive exam in elementary school administration. That summer she had the opportunity to stay at her brother and sister-in-law’s home in South Carolina while completing her studies. Afterward she chose to look for a new teaching position in South Carolina.
For the next 28 years, Sister Amelia lived in South Carolina. She taught in a Federal School at the Marine Corps base in Beaufort for nine years. She was principal at St. Peter School from 1979 to 1988. One of her special memories during those years was Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States. The Pope stopped in Columbia, South Carolina, and celebrated Mass at St. Peter Parish. Sister treasured the memory of shaking hands with the Pontiff.
Along with the joyful times came sorrow when Sister Amelia lost her two sisters in 1988. Sister Crucita died on January 4 and Mary, the youngest, died on February 20. Sister found losing her two sisters so close together a difficult challenge.
For ten years Sister Amelia was Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education at Corpus Christi Parish in Lexington, South Carolina. In 1998 she moved to St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee, where she focused on prayer for others and serving the sisters with whom she lived.
We are proud of Sister Amelia for her strong commitment to the education of children through Catholic education and administration. Her care for others through pastoral ministry, along with service to her fellow sisters, reflects a lifetime of dedication to the people of God. We now rejoice with her as she delights in the rewards of heaven as God’s good and faithful servant.
Sister Martha Lanser
Born: March 30, 1935
Died: February 15, 2013
Sister Martha was born in Port Washington, Wisconsin, on March 30, 1935, to Frank and Lillian Lanser. She was the youngest of 12 children. She is preceded in death by four brothers—Edmund, Norbert, Ambrose and Jerome—and five sisters—Margie, Barbara Armella, Angie and Rita. Her sisters Alice and Gerry are with us today.
Sister Martha entered the School Sisters of St. Francis after eighth grade. She received her high school diploma at St. Joseph Convent. She attended Alverno College and earned her bachelor’s degree in Education and her master’s degree in Administration from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa.
Over the years Sister Martha taught more than a thousand students. Her favorite subjects were Religion and English. Her warm and caring personality motivated all students of all ages to do their best and work to succeed.
Those who knew Sister Martha knew her as a generous person who was willing to do anything for anyone. After 50 years of teaching, Sister Martha worked at Sacred Heart with our elder sisters. Nothing was too much for her when assisting the sisters in need.
Sister Martha’s job description at Sacred Heart was written in black and white, but, there was never any doubt that she made it come “alive within her heart” when ministering to our sisters. She always took whatever time was needed to talk with the sisters as she lingered in their rooms and helped them read their mail. Her smile, her time, and listening heart were always there. Everything was done in a kind and loving way.
How attentive she was to her duties of the sacristy. No altar cloth was too much to iron. No vestment was too much if it needed care. Every plant or flower arrangement was kept alive by her loving care and her little watering can. She was attentive to all the details of the liturgy and the many preparations for the administration of the sacraments. She loved the preparations for Holy Week services.
After leaving her Sacred Heart ministry, Sister Martha volunteered in our Mission Advancement Office, previously know as the Development Office. Her winning smile and willingness to do any job won over the Mission Advancement staff. She became known all around the Motherhouse as “Our Martha” because she gave her all to every task given her, and everyone wanted a small piece of her.
Everyone who knew Sister Martha loved her because of her friendliness and genuine love for others.
Sister Martha was always grateful. Often she, along with her best friend, Sister Joyce, would deliver some good homemade apricot cookies or the best-ever apple cake to the staff and to the School Sisters who lived in her neighborhood. Many evenings and afternoons, she and Sister Joyce would deliver food and clothing to the poor in the parish community and beyond. And always the same phrase, “We are happy to do it as long as we can.”
If you did something special for her, you could be sure it would not be long before she would send a note of gratitude and sometimes it came with some of her fresh bakery.
Martha, as we find that name in the Gospel, was about many things, but most of all she was about the things that really count – the matters of the heart - whether it had to do with our community, the neighborhood or the parish community. Some of her best phrases were – “As long as I can, I will,” and “We just have to make the best of it.” Those who lived and worked with her, remember her special phrase for any concern, “Let me pray to my sister, Armella, she never lets me down!”
When Sister Martha entered the community in 1949, her pastor wrote in his letter of recommendation:
“I am happy to recommend Martha to the Sisterhood. She is a good girl, with a pleasant disposition, a fine personality with a sincere and up-right character. She will be a credit to your congregation.”
We can now look upon that recommendation as truly prophetic. She was all of that and more!
Sister Martha, you will always be remembered and deeply missed. You will especially be missed by your most dear, precious and loyal friend, Sister Joyce.
Today, we remember and celebrate your life, a true Franciscan Sister. We ask that God reward you for a life well lived.
God bless you as you enter into the heavenly kingdom where you will be reunited with your family, your friends and all of our faithful School Sisters.
Sister Martha, we love you, we will miss you, but go now and rest in God’s heavenly love and peace. Amen!
Sister Veronica Margareth Lenz
Born: September 3, 1916
Died: April 18, 2013
Veronica Margareth was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to John and Edna Ann Lenz on September 3, 1916. She had an older sister, Dolores, and a younger sister, Julie, as well as a brother, John. She began her early education at St. Mary’s Visitation school in Elm Grove and St. Sebastian Parish school in Milwaukee. After another move to the school at Little Flower, now St. Theresa Parish, Veronica met the School Sisters of St. Francis. That is when Veronica said, “That’s the kind of sister I want to be.” Veronica didn’t want to go to the public high school, so at the age of 15, she went to St. Joseph Convent High School. In 1934, Veronica was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis and given the name Sister Mary Placide.
In 1935, Sister was sent out on mission to teach at St. William’s School in Chicago and taught there for ten years. She then moved to New York and taught at St. Mary Assumption and St. Monica schools for 13 more years. Summers were always busy taking classes at Alverno College to earn a bachelor of science degree, which occurred after 13 years in 1948. Sister Mary Placide didn’t stop there. In 1954, she earned a master’s degree in education from Fordham University. From 1959 to 1960, Sister taught at Alverno Elementary School and then taught for three years in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
When the sisters could go back to their Baptismal names, Sister Placide was glad to go back to Sister Veronica Margareth. In 1963, she began 23 years of teaching at St. Catherine Laboure school in Glenview, Illinois – first as a principal and then as a teacher. From 1986 until 2011, Sister spent 25 more years in Glenview, Illinois, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help as a teacher and tutor. Sister Veronica taught all the grades as needed. She would say, “Put me where you want!” but she liked the middle and upper grades best. Sister Veronica was known to be an exceptional teacher and administrator who helped many young sisters in the beginning years of their teaching ministry.
Sister Veronica described all her convent years as happy ones and found it easy to get along with everyone. Her hobbies were reading, puzzles, and sports. She described herself as an “ordinary person,” who was always on the go. Although always professional in her ministry, one only has to look at her photo albums to see that she was also a very playful person who loved a good time and especially a good party. Sister Veronica was thankful for all the people God sent into her life. After a fall down the stairs, Sister Veronica left Glenview and came to Sacred Heart Center in Milwaukee. A year later she moved to Our Lady of the Angels to continue her ministry of being a happy presence among the sisters and staff!
Sister Veronica, may you continue to delight in the presence of God. We will miss your gracious and happy presence at Our Lady of the Angels!
Sister Leora Leon
Born: May 31, 1918
Died: April 11, 2013
For most of us, there is an event—a word, a picture, or something that brings tears to our eyes…especially tears of joy or happiness. For Sister Leora, it was the sight of the American flag waving in the wind. She attributed this emotional response to the fact that her birthday was on May 31 and was always celebrated on Memorial Day weekend, where flags and parades were a part of the celebration.
Sister Leora—who was the oldest in the Leon family, having two sisters and two brothers—was born in Aurora, Illinois, on May 31, 1918. Her mother came from Luxembourg and was a creative cook and baker. Her father owned and operated a bowling alley. He worked very hard during the Depression years and suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 64.
The family had a very simple life. No matter how little they had, they always knew they would be well taken care of. Sister Leora had a very loving relationship with her dear mother. Even though her father seemed cold and strict, he loved her and her siblings, and she always knew he was a softie underneath. Her mother taught her how to cook and care for her brothers and sisters. Family life was always very important to her, and many of her stories centered on her family.
At a very early age, the realization that God was calling her to enter religious life was very strong. However, her parents thought she was too young to make such a decision, even though her dad’s sister, Sister Leonella, was a School Sister of St. Francis. After many conversations and a lot of pleading, her parents agreed that Sister Leora could enter the School Sisters of St. Francis when she was 18. It became very obvious to them that God and being a sister meant a lot to her. They realized that serving God and the people of God was her calling.
On June 13, 1938, Sister Leora was received into the community and was immediately sent to work at St. Mary’s Hill. This was a difficult assignment since she did not have the needed training. Later, though, she received her nursing training at Sacred Heart Sanitarium and at St. Joseph Hospital, and became a registered nurse. She worked in our own School Sister medical institutions—St. Mary’s Hill, Sacred Heart Sanitarium (later Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Hospital), St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, and the Motherhouse infirmary. She also worked at Doctors Hospital and Family Hospital in Milwaukee.
It was no secret that patients loved her for her tenderness, understanding, gentle care and sense of humor. Very early in her nursing career, a doctor was caring for a difficult patient and had tried everything he could think of to get the patient to respond to him. Finally he asked, “Is there anyone you will talk to?” The patient smiled at him and very calmly said, “Yes, I want Sister Dimples!” Sister Leora’s smile with her dimples proved to be the best remedy around, even to the very end of her life.
After 51 years, she retired from nursing and began working as a pastoral minister, visiting the sick and bringing Communion to the homebound at St. Matthew’s Parish here in Milwaukee. Sister Leora had fond memories of working there, and especially with her pastor, Father Jim Dammeir. Helping others, especially the sick and homebound, was always important to her.
Later, when Sister Leora needed care herself, she came to Sacred Heart Convent to share her ministry of prayer and presence. Here she enjoyed her time of retirement, and often said “Everything is taken care of, from my fingernails to my toes—even my wig! There isn’t anything the staff wouldn’t do to help us.”
Presently at Sacred Heart Convent, the sister staff is preparing for the Jubilee celebration. This year, Sister Leora would celebrate 75 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. In anticipation of the event, current photos needed to be taken. On a Friday, Sister Leora’s dimples were again captured on film. The following Tuesday, she asked to see the picture. After several minutes of studying her photo, she looked up and said “Now bring a camera that doesn’t make me look so fat!”
We remember Sister Leora as someone who had a positive outlook on life and found humor in many little things. Many times her words of advice were, “Try to accept things as they are and go on with life.”
And now, Sister Leora, we thank you for sharing your life with us, and we will remember to smile and accept everything God sends us as we go on with our lives.
Sister Madeleva Metten
Born: December 7, 1922
Died: December 21, 2012
By Sister Barbara Jean Potthast
Sister Mary Madeleva Metten was born on December 7, 1922, and named Dorothy Marie. She was the second oldest of the four children born to Harry Frank Metten and Anna Boerner Metten in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Her sister, Anita, and two younger brothers, Harry and Donald completed the family. They all preceded her in death, but were very much alive in spirit to her.
At home, Dorothy had been “Daddy’s little girl.” At the age of three, he took her to the shore of Lake Michigan and began to teach her to swim. She excelled in swimming later on and even became a lifeguard. She was a lover of other sports all her life. The close-knit family did many things together. Her favorite was a Sunday ride in their Dad’s first car and stopping for an ice cream treat!
Dorothy attended St. George grade school taught by the Notre Dame sisters. Around seventh grade she would stop and pay Jesus a visit every day in a church midway between school and home. She believes this is what inspired her to become a religious. She continued school in ninth grade at Washington Junior High and tenth grade at Bradford High in Kenosha. From there she left in 1938 at the age of 15 to finish at St. Joseph Convent’s high school after looking into other options of communities. It happened this way: She went with a group of girls from St. Mark’s to the reception ceremony at St. Joseph’s Convent. They met with Mother Stanislaus afterward who said that one of them was going to join the School Sisters - and pointed her out!
On her reception date of June 13, 1940, she was surprised to receive the name of Sister Mary Madeleva. That too was foretold. As a candidate, Dorothy liked poetry and when Sister Madeleva, the Holy Cross Congregation’s noted poet, came to give a poetry course, Dorothy took the class. Sister Madeleva had told them that when she dies, one of them could have her name. Without knowing what had been said, Mother Stanislaus and Father Klink decided Dorothy should have the name Madeleva! Our Madeleva went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in Education at Alverno College and master’s in Administration at Loyola University.
Her teaching career of 59 years was all spent in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. She taught at St. Monica, Whitefish Bay; St. Alphonsus, Greendale; was a teaching principal at St. Patrick, Beaver Dam, and also at Immaculate Conception, Saukville; and finally returned to Kenosha and taught two years at St. Mark’s and a whopping 32 years at St. Joseph High School. There she was available to help her aging parents. At St. Joe’s, Sister chaperoned a month of cultural -educational tours every summer for 16 years, taking in 22 countries. Otherwise, her summers had been spent teaching CCD, working in the reading center at Alverno College, and writing a religion series.
After her teaching years, Madeleva did tutoring in her apartment, visited and helped the elderly, and brought Holy Communion to Catholics in nursing homes. By this time her damaged lungs were causing breathing problems, a result of the Saukville school fire when the boiler blew up. She related how she was covered with smoke and soot as she stayed to help every child get out safely—truly an act of courage and love. Only after that was she rushed to the hospital.
Madeleva retired to Campbellsport in 2007. She was a model of joy and gratitude. Her outlook on life was “It’s important to keep a positive and happy attitude no matter what happens. It never helps to complain or become bitter.” She smiled and laughed a lot despite her pains, and even kept a folder of good jokes on hand to share. Her ministry of prayer and presence included lifting up the spirits of those around her. And she was so grateful for the care given her, saying, “This is a taste of heaven.” Now she’s tasting the real thing!
Both her parents died at age 90, and God willing, she wanted to live at least that long, too. God did will it. Exactly two weeks ago she turned 90. She also hoped to die here, “where people know me and I know them.” God arranged that, too. May God hear our prayers for her today and may her spirit of joy enliven us all. And if you look toward the sky, you might see the little red flag of her motorized chair waving to you!
Sister Nan Pfefferle (Roman)
Born: June 14, 1942
Died: January 3, 2013
I was born in 1942, the second of four children of Anne and Richard Pfefferle. I took my elementary education with the Benedictine Sisters at Queen of All Saints Parish in Chicago. Life was good for kids in my neighborhood and especially in my family. My dad was a true husband. My mother stayed home to raise her children, but made sure we had fun exploring our world. We had an athlete (my sister Barb always got picked first to play on the boys’ team), a student (me), an event organizer (Kathie), and a clown (brother Bill).
As I was preparing for high school, my family took up an offer to move to Appleton, Wisconsin, my father’s home, where he planned to join his three brothers in the family business. That changed everything. Life was different in Appleton. Instead of going to an all-girls academy, I went to a co-ed public high school with more kids in my class than in the whole school I’d expected to attend.
After high school I spent a year at Marquette University enamored of The Idea of a University a book by John Henry Newman. It was the best year of my life. John F. Kennedy was elected the first Catholic President of the United States. I studied the new theology with Bernard Cooke, and I lived next door to Mary Louise Signa, a very smart Alvernia grad, who planned to join the School Sisters of St. Francis. That year, I was able to attend Mass daily. Sometime during that year, I decided to finish college, paying my own way. My financial plan included going back home and working until I had enough money to finish school.
During that year two things happened. I visited Mary Lou at St. Joseph Convent and I received “the call” myself. That changed everything. In 1962, I entered the postulancy of the School Sisters of St. Francis. Instead of going back to the university, I went to Alverno College where I received an excellent education and joined a group of women determined to work together to proclaim the salvation of the world.
I have been a teacher all of my life. After teaching in the grades for a year, I graduated and went to Pius XI High School for 12 years. It was a great place for a young teacher to learn her craft. My colleagues were competent, dedicated and good humored. We loved our kids enough to require them to perform, but also had fun. I taught seventeen courses and had significant contact with 3,000 students.
During those years I became acquainted with the CW (Catholic Worker) House, Casa Maria, and that changed everything. Instead of staying at Pius and perhaps working my way up to teaching college level, I took the route of teaching those who had not succeeded in school. In fact, they were now under supervision of the Department of Correction. I was a contract teacher for WCS, Wisconsin Correctional Service, for 20 years, helping people prepare to re-enter the community more successfully.
When money from the state dried up, I moved on, still hoping to help more people out of poverty. I moved to Kentucky and soon was living with Sister Leanne Herda and working at Save the Children for former School Sister Marian Collette. I worked as the Vista Director (Volunteers in Service to America) for six years when funding ran out. That brought me back to Milwaukee and the Tau Volunteers. I have loved doing this work.
Now, I am enriched by the presence of both family and friends from several communities. I am especially blessed in being a long-standing member in three prayer circles: a group that gathers at the sites of homicides in Milwaukee’s inner city, a meditation group that tries to touch into the Spirit of the Mothers, and the circle that gathers around the dinner table at Casa Maria.
Since January of 2011, I have had a series of health issues to deal with, but God has been great in helping me prepare for these challenges. I have had a good life.
Addendum: I wanted so badly to celebrate my golden jubilee as a School Sister of St. Francis. However, my body could no longer keep up with my spirit. I will miss you all greatly, but know that I loved you all.
Sister Florence Russ
Born: July 12, 1914
January 21, 2013
Sometimes hearing someone’s name immediately triggers a thought or an image. When the name of Sister Florence Russ is mentioned, you can visualize Joseph’s coat of many colors, as her life’s story is varied and colorful.
To begin: Sister Florence was one of a family of eight girls and one boy. She entered the world on July 12, 1914, in Aurora, Illinois, and was the fourth child of George and Mary Bank Russ. Her parents migrated from Romania and were members of the Greek Orthodox Rite. Florence was baptized and confirmed, according to the Greek Orthodox Rite, on July 13 – the day after her birth.
Florence related that her childhood with her siblings was very happy. Her father was a plumber and was always home in the evening for family time. He loved and treasured his family and in many ways, spoiled the children – especially showering them and all the neighborhood playmates with candy. Her mother, too, was kind but was known to be the disciplinarian. However, when it came to going to church, saying their prayers, behaving and studying in school, her dad could be very strict.
All of the children went to St. Nicholas School in Aurora where the School Sisters of St. Francis taught. Sister Florence loved school, excelled in her classes, and admired all the sisters. It was her eighth grade teacher, Sister Theophilia Gieb, who was her inspiration and guided her to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis.
Sister Florence was received into the community in 1932, and was known as Sister Leon. Immediately after reception she was sent on mission to teach.
Sister Florence professed her first vows in 1936. Prior to profession, she was admitted into the Roman Catholic Church. As was the custom then, she earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree by going to school in the evenings and on Saturdays and attending summer school. For the first six years she was an elementary teacher, and then an elementary principal for 41 years in Wisconsin and Illinois. Her love for children made teaching a pure joy. Sister Florence treasured her education so much that as principal she wanted to give the sisters and lay teachers all the opportunities to further their own education and become the best teachers possible. She worked closely with Alverno College, mentoring many of the young sisters and practicing what she had learned from her parents – “The best way to teach is with kindness.” Sister Florence had the special ability of teaching everyone to believe in themselves and their gifts and to live by her motto – “I CAN! Never I CAN’T!”
In 1950, Sister Florence opened St. Alphonsus School in Greendale, even though the building was not completely finished. Her “I CAN” motto translated into working late at night cleaning old donated furniture, preparing the seventh and eighth grade classes she taught, along with her job as principal and living in an old farm house three blocks from school.
In 1967, along with Sister Pauline and Sister Genevieve, she started the La Farge Program for the senior sisters in our community. Life was always about education for her!
Sometimes the unexpected happens. In 1979, at the age of 66, Sister Florence had serious brain surgery. She recovered remarkably well but had to leave her beloved teaching/principalship. However, she still said, “I CAN!” and moved into parish ministry for nine years. Finally, Sister Florence thought about retirement and returned to the Motherhouse, where she volunteered in the Development Office, then as receptionist and then as cashier in the dining room.
As time moved on, Sister Florence realized that she needed to totally retire and move to Sacred Heart Convent where her new ministry would be one of prayer and presence. She often spoke of how wonderful her life was in a community where we care for one another.
Sister Florence has left us. But picture this scene: Sister Florence is standing in front of God saying, “Hurry up. Where do I go? What should I do?” God answers her, “Come, my beloved daughter. Sit at my right hand!”
Sister Ann Marie Trimberger
Born: December 15, 1919
Died: November 18, 2012
Ann Trimberger was born on December 15, 1919, to George and Margaret Trimberger in Chilton, Wisconsin. She was the youngest of seven children. When Ann was five years old, she started first grade at St. Mary’s School in Chilton. She was always full of life and mischief. Her mother used to tell others in German, “Vo die Annie ist, da ist larme!” (Where Annie is, there is noise!)
After graduation, she attended St. Joseph’s Preparatory High School in Milwaukee. In 1936, she was received as a Novice at St. Joseph Convent, much to the surprise of her mother, who had predicted in German that Annie would last two weeks in the convent because “Sie ist so vilt!” (She is so wild!) That was 76 years ago! At reception, she was given the name Sister Antoine. After the year’s Novitiate, Ann was one of the ten selected to attend Alverno College and earn a bachelor of education degree before beginning her teaching career in 1940.
Her first assignment was teaching third grade at St. Monica’s in Whitefish Bay. Since it reportedly was a difficult place, Mother Corona said she always thought about seven times before assigning anyone there. But Sister Ann spent seven happy years at St. Monica’s. She also was given the task of preparing her pupils for their First Holy Communion, a job she had to do even when she taught sixth grade several years later because, according to the pastor Father Dietz, no one else could do it like “Tony,” a nickname he used to call her.
After Father Dietz’s death, Sister Antoine was assigned to teach eighth grade successively for the next 13 years at Decatur, Illinois; at Glenview, Illinois; at St. Lawrence Parish; and finally at Our Lady of Victory in Chicago. In August 1960, after earning her master’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago, she was assigned to teach social studies at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, a position she filled for the next 50 years.
She loved the teenagers and was always at their service. As one of her many student teachers once remarked about her love for them, “I can tell. It shows every minute.” She also was a dedicated debate coach at Pius XI from 1962-1972. These years were filled with activities, sponsoring dances, movies, and tournaments in order to finance her debate trips to many cities east of the Mississippi. She got to be known as the “ticket sister” for selling athletic tickets for a 10 cent kickback on every ticket sold. Every cent was used for her debaters.
In 1967, after Vatican II, Sister Antoine was undecided whether to return to her baptismal name when the option was presented. No hesitation remained, however, when she claimed she distinctly heard a voice during a celebration of the Mass telling her, “You shall be called Sister Ann Marie.” Needless to say, because she was not the type who ordinarily heard voices, when she made this known to her confreres, they seized upon many opportunities to play practical jokes on her. One in particular was hilarious. As Sister was typing one day, a sepulchral voice boomed out the words, “You shall be called Sister Ann Marie.” A tape recorder had been secreted behind the typing room door.
In 1968, Sister was one of 25 in the United States selected for a Fulbright Grant to Japan to study the culture there. This unexpected opportunity opened the door to Sister’s love of travel. Here, too, during the seven weeks she was in Japan, her love of life and adventure manifested itself. She was one of the five out of the 25 members in the grant who ventured to climb Mount Fuji, 12,395 feet high. The Japanese have a saying, “He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a fool. He who climbs it twice is a bigger fool!” Sister realized the wisdom of the saying when she suffered from physical fatigue for a whole year after the foolish—but never regretted or forgotten—climb.
Sister Ann enjoyed a zest for life and a deep thirst to serve others. Her students knew they could approach her at any time and be made to feel important and cared about. And just as Sister approached life with a sense of love, appreciation, and adventure, so she approached death as another opportunity for the greatest adventure of her life: to meet the Maker of all the wonderful and exciting adventures provided for her enjoyment during her 93 years here on earth. May she enjoy her eternal life as she enjoyed her earthly life.
Sister Leota Wiederholt
Born: February 19, 1919
Died: January 11, 2013
If you ever saw a flower plant drooping, you could be certain that you also heard someone say, “Show the plant to Sister Leota. She’ll revive it!” We’ll always remember, Sister Leota, for reviving anything and anyone who was drooping. “Bloom where you are planted” best describes her philosophy.
On a large farm in Kieler, Wisconsin, on February 19, 1919, Peter and Anna Wiederholt were blessed with a baby daughter, Leota. She was one of seven children – three boys and four girls. Everyone had to learn how to do all the farm chores, even Sister Leota. Being the youngest girl didn’t merit her any privileges. She had to work as hard as the rest of the family. However, there was always time for ball games, tag, and riding on a board with wheels, which was Leota’s favorite.
When speaking of her family, Sister Leota’s eyes danced as she recalled the many happy times spent together. She often relived the fun and realized how her mom and dad had nurtured each one. They were taught to love God and each other. All the children attended Immaculate Conception School.
One of the younger boys was handicapped. Sister Leota shared a special love and bond with him and made sure he was included in all the fun. At the age of 17, Sister Leota traveled to Milwaukee to St. Joseph Convent, wanting to join the School Sisters of St. Francis and become a nurse. She was received into the community on June 13, 1937, and was known as Sister Milburga. During her postulancy and novitiate, she was assigned to work in the kitchen. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the community was preparing her for something other than being a nurse. She would be the homemaker on the mission- the ever-blooming flower brightening everyone’s day.
Her early mission life was spent in Milwaukee and Highland, Wisconsin, and in rural Nebraska. In 1948, Sister Leota was sent to Yazoo City, Mississippi, to keep house and cook for 14 sisters. She spent 50 years there and loved to recount her mission experiences. Her first 22 years were spent with the 14 sisters who staffed the two schools. The schools closed and left only three sisters. Quickly Head Start was begun and utilized the two school buildings. The program grew rapidly and enrollment increased to over 400. This necessitated the opening of four more sites. Sister Leota became the food server manager and had the responsibility of having the right amount of food at all the sites each week.
As the food service manager, Sister Leota felt she was on a vacation. When cooking and keeping house for 14 sisters, she felt a greater pressure as her day began before anyone was awake. She had to prepare breakfast, go to morning Mass and serve dinner while cleaning the house and doing laundry. As manager, her days began at 7:00 am, but she had the afternoon free to do sacristy work and roam around their 15-acre campus where she planted a vegetable garden and flowers and shrubs of every kind and color. Something was blooming all year round. She created the most scenic area in Yazoo City. In fact, the city presented her with the “Yard of the Month” award. Someone who visited there wrote, “I was deeply moved by the beauty of St. Francis Mission. There was a sense of being in a sacred place. The beautiful garden was some of Sister Leota's ministry. She planted the trees that surrounded the convent and other buildings. I was struck by all the birds and their song. Listening to their symphony was a treat.”
In 1998, after 50 years, Sister Leota retired. The parish celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving, held a reception and declared a Saturday in May as Sister Leota Day. In her farewell statement Sister Leota wrote, “Fifty years in Yazoo City didn’t seem that long. I was always busy. When you do work that you love, it becomes a part of you. It is hard to leave. This is the place I actually call home.”
Sister Leota came to Marian Hall and joined her sister, Sister Ann Petrine, in retirement. Later, she moved to St. Joseph Convent and when her health dictated a move to Sacred Heart, she graciously followed her lifelong philosophy and bloomed where she was planted! Thank you, Sister Leota. You have taught us to appreciate all of God’s beauty that surrounds us. You will always be with us, especially when the birds sing and the geraniums bloom.
Sister Rita Wiegand
Born: September 23, 1924
Died: November 18, 2012
Sister Rita was born on September 23, 1924, in St. Petersburg, Nebraska, to Henry and Barbara Wiegand. She was the second oldest of four girls and four boys; one child died at one year old. The family lived on the edge of town and owned a farm which was run by the oldest boy. Their father was a truck driver who often drove long distances, delivering mostly cattle.
The family belonged to St. John the Baptist in St. Petersburg and our School Sisters taught in the parish grade school and high school. Throughout her high school years, Rita felt that God was calling her to consecrate her life to him as a religious and to serve his people. The sisters had been part of her life for 12 years, and her great desire was to join them. However, her father asked that she stay home for a year after graduation to help her sick mother take care of the younger children. After that, at age 19, she left for St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee in late August of 1943.
Rita was received on June 13, 1944, and given the name she asked for: Sister Barbarine, to honor her mother. Soon after first Profession of Vows in 1946 she was sent to Aurora, Illinois, to begin her teaching career. Her next school was in downstate Pierron, Illinois. After 14 years of teaching in Illinois she was assigned to her home state of Nebraska: at Olean, St. Helena, Fremont, Omaha, Norfolk and Columbus. She also taught in Clear Creek, Iowa, and Ashland, Montana. Sister Rita loved teaching and being with children. She had a quiet and gentle firmness about her as well as being very organized and tidy. Parents were grateful to see their children thrive under her care.
Until 1955, Sister Rita’s summers were spent studying at Alverno College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education. In other years she did park work in Chicago, catechized at parishes that did not have Catholic schools, taught summer school, or took continuing education courses.
Because of eye problems, she had to give up full-time teaching in 1980, so for six years she worked as a receptionist at New Cassel Retirement Center in Omaha. When her eyesight improved, she went back to working with children as a library aide and a substitute teacher.
It was in 1993 when she felt it was time to come to Campbellsport to retire and to volunteer her services in any way she could. Until a few months ago, she still faithfully folded laundry every morning. “We have to help each other while we can,” she had said.
Sister Rita’s world fell into darkness the day blindness claimed what little sight she had left. Before that, she feared losing her memory. Sister did have a very probing, wondering mind and several conversations with her centered on topics of a spiritual nature. She expressed a strong belief in the power of the Cross and dedicated each day to a Person of the Trinity or Mary.
The last words I heard from Sister Rita on her death bed were soft-spoken but clear. They were three words all beginning with the letter “R”- no, not the three R’s of “reading, and ’riting and ’rithmetic,” but rather “Remember, Return, and Ready.” Whether it’s what Sister Rita meant or not, it is fitting to use them in these final words:
Rita, you want us to remember you even as you have passed from this earthly life.
Rita, you wanted to return to where you came from, the Hand of God your Creator.
Rita, you wanted to let God, and us, know that you were ready to leave this place and go to live in the eternal home God had prepared for you. And there, Rita, may you find peace, joy and happiness forever and ever. Amen.
Sister Marilyn Therese Wolfram
Born: March 4, 1929
Died: January 3, 2013
by Sister Agnes Marie Henkel
Sister Marilyn Therese Wolfram came into this world on March 4, 1929. She was the third child of Loretta (McDermott) Wolfram and William Wolfram. They were a farming family in Warren, Illinois. Marilyn, her brother, Bill, and sister, Arlene, grew up during the Depression years. She loved her family, her many nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews.
One of Marilyn’s fondest childhood memories was when her mother brought a box of goslings into the house to keep her company while she was ill. She also enjoyed riding her pony to bring in the cows from the pasture for milking. She loved Mother Nature throughout her life.
Marilyn attended public elementary and secondary schools. In addition, she took organ lessons from Sister Georgia Markus, a School Sister of St. Francis, in Stockton, Illinois. Prior to joining the School Sisters she served as the organist in her home parish, St. Ann. She also worked in an area bank. While Marilyn practiced and played the organ, she felt called to become a sister.
Marilyn entered the community in 1953 and was one of 80 novices who were received in 1954. She received the name Sister Mary Dennis. She professed her final vows in 1962. Sister attended Alverno College where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a minor in Liturgical Music.
She ministered as a teacher/organist in four Illinois parishes for 29 years. Marilyn earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Southern Illinois University. She also earned a Master’s Diocesan Certificate in Religious Education from Loyola University. While serving as a Director of Religious Education, Sister Marilyn relished the 21 years she spent working with adults through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in two Chicago parishes. After 50 years of ministry in the Catholic Church, Sister retired.
Sister Marilyn was a compassionate, caring woman, a peacemaker. She was always gracious, gentle, quiet and easily engaged in joy and laughter.
Sister Marilyn welcomed the Vatican II changes in the 1960s and felt it was a great time of spiritual growth for her. She returned to using her baptismal name, Marilyn Therese.
Sister Marilyn had a heart for the poor. She was open to ministering to the gay community and those in need. She had an awesome sense of integrity. She lived what she believed.
Sister Marilyn returned to her Maker on Thursday, January 3, 2013. She lived and died with joy, peace and great hope. She truly is one of God’s beloved.