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Sister John Rose Acker
Born: December 2, 1933
Died: July 6, 2013
The following statement from Sister John Rose Acker was read at her funeral homily:
On April 11, 2013, a Catholic Priest, Father Emil Kapaun, who served as an Army Chaplain was honored with the Medal of Honor posthumously. In the 1950 Battle of Unsan, he raced between foxholes to drag his men to safety. Prison life was brutal for Father and those who were captured with him. Father Emil immediately began to organize the captives and to breathe some life and hope into their situation. He shared his food and clothes, and in the end died of malnutrition and pneumonia.
The medal adds nothing to his life but it was a good time to show the way he lived and served others and that his ultimate goal was to do the will of God. He taught us that we do not live in isolation from our neighbors or say “religion is my own business.” You cannot separate Father Emil’s heroic charity and his valor at the service of others from his faith. We must not only be bearers of His name but also of his message.
It is valiant people like this priest who inspire me. As he ran past the guards, he blessed his captors and said “Forgive them…they know not what they do.” His nephew, who accepted the award, had this to say about what his uncle might say: “He would say, ‘Aw shucks! Are you kidding me? You guys did all of this for me? All I was really doing was my job. All I was doing is what I needed to do. All I was doing was what God directed me to do. There were a lot of braver men than what I am.’ But he would also look out at his P.O.W. buddies, and I know he would walk over to you guys today and wrap his arms around you and he would say, ‘I’m so happy you guys made it home. But please, don’t be sad for me, because I made it home, too’.”
Aw shucks! That’s how I feel, too. Don’t be sad when I go! Live the faith, and spread it, too. Then we can all meet at the Golden Gate in the Heavenly Jerusalem!
Sister Nila Bauer
Born: October 16, 1926
Died: July 16, 2013
By Sister Laureen Haben, OSF
In the town of Wilmette, Illinois, on October 16, 1926, a baby girl was born to Edward and Agnes Sweeney Bauer. They named her Eleanor to honor the cousin/godmother in a still growing family of already six girls—one of whom was our Sister Yvette—and one boy.
Along the way in her young life, when Eleanor was driving with her father ,she told him she wanted to be a sister. When Eleanor’s mother heard this, she told Sister Yvette but said she did not think Eleanor would fit.
When Eleanor was visiting Sister Yvette, Yvette took her to see Mother Stanislaus. Mother Stanislaus asked Eleanor if she wanted to be a Sister, and she said “Oh yes, I want to be a nun.” So after Eleanor completed eighth grade, she did come to live at St. Joseph Convent to become a sister, beginning as an aspirant.
No doubt it was because my hometown was near hers that she took a fancy to me. This bothered me because we weren’t supposed to have particular friends. We are friends, but not particular. She is now probably smiling when I say that. Here I am telling you what I know about this Eleanor who became Sister Nila on June 13, 1944.
Early on during her studies, while working on her bachelor’s degree in education, she became a teacher and passed her humor on to children in the primary grades in Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The humor even snuck in in her last night in the hospital when I said, “Good night, sleep tight.” And she answered, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Back to beginnings: Sister Nila spent only one week at her first mission because Sister Yvette was coming there and the two blood sisters couldn’t be together—so the superior thought. Another time she stayed only half a year because some Sister at a different mission in the country was coming to take Sister Nila’s place here in the city because the other Sister couldn’t be happy living in the country. Poor Sister Nila! As a happy sister she must have been considered ready for whatever change had to be—city or country. Through it all, she loved teaching.
In her retirement, Sister Nila still embarked on lifelong learning. Her favorite part of the newspaper was the sports section. After the Cubs, the Brewers had a place too.
Sister Nila’s learning continued even until now as she spent some of her time gathering family history to share with her relatives. She was proud of her Irish heritage from her mother whose maiden name, you may have noticed, was mentioned earlier. Relatives even made possible Sister Nila’s visit to Ireland. It is at this ancestry hunt that she displayed her wonderful memory, recalling happenings forgotten by every one else. Maybe we should pray to her to help us sharpen our memories.
As she cared for her aging mother and later Ida, her sister, Sister Nila became very much in charge—something she has never lost. She was a happy person, even counting and delighting in each step she managed to take in her therapy sessions and reporting them to me. She was also in charge in some of her retirement activities and she continued to be competent in what she thought were her needs. She wanted us to know she knew everything that was done to help her along the way. She knew. Don’t bother telling her. She knew and she could tell us.
She often remembered to say she was sorry for her impatience and shortcomings. If her words injured anyone, like St. Francis, she asked pardon of anyone she hurt. Her words of gratitude were expressed over and over again. I doubt that the ambulance medics ever heard so may thank yous from one person. One of our Sisters told me Sister Nila was caring and sensitive, a friend to everybody. I heard another sister talking to Sister Nila saying they were “best buddies, the best ones they ever had.” And another claimed to be buddies with her.
Sometimes Sister Nila would write or copy little prayers and send them to her friends. She readily wanted to show love. Rather than sadness, she chose to share joy. She truly wanted to be an instrument of peace. I think her mother now knows Sister Nila did fit in. Join the rest of us who know she is our friend.
Sister Margaret Eisele
Born: October 28, 1926
Died: June 16, 2013
Life began for Sister Margaret on October 28, 1926, in Fennimore, Wisconsin. She was the fourth of eight children born to Gertrude and Vern Eisele. Her father was well known in town, as he was the owner of the Eisele grocery store. Three weeks after her birth, she was baptized Mathilda Margaret at St. Mary’s Church. When she reached school age, she attended St. Mary’s School with her siblings.
It was here that she first encountered the School Sisters of St. Francis who staffed the parish school. One of the sisters she met during her school years was Sister Matthea Simon, who invited her to join the choir. Already as a youngster, Sister Margaret was expressing her love of music and singing. As many of us know, she had a beautiful singing voice and loved to sing and dance. She was not shy about singing solo in front of a group, like she did at her 50th Jubilee.
With the support of the sisters at St. Mary’s, she joined the School Sisters of St. Francis and was in the 1945 reception class, receiving the name Sister Irmine. With an education degree from Alverno College, she went on to be an outstandingly talented teacher for more than 35 years at St. Philomena in Chicago, St. Lawrence in Milwaukee, St. Mary’s in Buffalo Grove, and St. Anne’s in Barrington. Over those years, Sister Margaret prepared so many second graders for their First Eucharist, making it a special and memorable occasion for them. Putting on plays was something else she liked doing with her children. One of her best productions was the Passion Play performed by her second graders. She earned a master’s degree and was a principal for seven years, but she was happiest when her time as an administrator ended and she could return to her true love—teaching.
Her teaching career came to a close in 1988, but this did not slow her down. She remained active by coordinating the Ministers of Clare at St. Anne’s and organizing activities for the senior members of the parish. Her creativity manifested itself when she gathered the seniors together each month for a meeting and dinner. Each gathering had a theme, like “Hawaiian,” for which she and her helpers decorated accordingly. It was always an enjoyable time for all. And each year at Annie’s Attic, the garage sale, you would find Sister Margaret in the counting room seeing that all the proceeds were accounted for. This was her ministry until she retired in 2010 at the age of 84, 11 years after her heart bypass surgery.
For the last two years, Sister Margaret has been a member of Our Lady of the Angels community where she was loved and cared for by the sisters and staff. During this time, she appreciated the many visits and support of her sister, Elaine, her brother-in-law Dick, and her nieces Debra, Carmen, and Melissa. Even though she may have forgotten some things, some of us know she never forgot to care for her cat, “Snowball.” It brought her comfort and calm and was something to care about. She was a gentle and loving person who endeared herself to everyone who met her. She will be greatly missed at Our Lady of the Angels.
And so we are here today, celebrating the life of Sister Margaret. Sixty eight years ago she answered the call and during this time, loved the God who called her, was faithful to her vocation, dedicated to her ministry, served others, and was courageous and determined when health became an issue for her. Thank you, Sister Margaret, for sharing your life, love, gifts and talents with us—your family, friends, and School Sisters. May you rest in peace.
Sister Mary Jo Forst (Veronique)
Born: July 13, 1921
Died: June 23, 2013
Sister Mary Jo’s life began on the south side of Chicago on July 13, 1921. There she lived with her parents, Mary and Joseph, one brother and one sister, until she was 16 years old.
For the first eight years of her education, she attended St. Martin School in Chicago. She wanted to enter the convent after eighth grade, but her mother told her she should go to the public school for her first year of high school. She did so, and then attended one year of commercial at St. Martin.
Mary entered the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1937 at the age of 16 and became a novice in 1939, receiving the name of Sister Veronique. Sister attended Alverno College and received her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1944.
Her first mission was as a teacher in Fremont, Nebraska. From there she was assigned to other schools in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Illinois. She spent nearly 30 years in the field of Catholic education as a teacher.
In 1970, with the hopes of helping her mother who had cancer, Sister entered the Chicago School of Nursing and prepared to become a licensed practical nurse.
Sister worked in the Little Company of Mary Hospital on the surgical floor for 12 years before moving to Wausaukee, Wisconsin, to care for her mother and two other homebound patients. During the time that she did this individual nursing, she also did substitute teaching and pastoral ministry.
After her mother’s death, Sister came to Campbellsport and served as a charge nurse for six years. After completing those years of nursing service, Sister offered to help our sisters here in many areas, especially as an escort to the hospital and to doctor’s appointments.
When her health no longer allowed her to do that ministry, Sister would spend many hours reading newspapers and magazines and keeping up on world and local events.
Lately Sister was very concerned about being ready to move. She would often be looking for her suitcase. Sister Mary Jo, God has called you to Himself and you didn’t need to pack a suitcase. You have entered eternity with all of the good works of your religious life. Now you can keep us in your heart and in your prayers.
Sister Lorraine Hamik, SSSF
Born: February 26, 1926
Died: June 12, 2013
Sister Lorraine Hamik was born on February 28, 1926, on a farm about ten miles outside of Stuart, Nebraska. She was the fifth of nine children – four girls and five boys. Her parents, John and Louise, had their little girl baptized Irene Anna. The Hamik children and the children of a neighboring family walked together to a one-room school. In the winter, the teacher boarded at the Hamik home and Mr. Hamik would drive them all to school in a horse-drawn sleigh.
For one year Irene went to St. Boniface Catholic School to prepare for her First Communion. It was there that she got to know the School Sisters of St. Francis and they inspired her to join the community, which she did after eighth grade. Her sister, Therese, had entered the community earlier and was a novice. In those days it was not permitted for aspirants to talk to novices and so the two sisters concocted a method to share notes and letters. They would walk behind one another and drop notes so the other one could pick them up.
Irene was received on June 13, 1943, and received the name Sister Lorraine. Since she had no desire to be a teacher, she was delighted when she was asked to become a nurse. She studied nursing at Alverno College and as part of her education spent some time working at St. Joseph Hospital in Beaver Dam. In 1948 she received her degree in nursing from Alverno and was assigned to Sacred Heart Sanitarium where she stayed for almost 20 years, eventually becoming head nurse and supervisor of her floor.
When Villa Clement Nursing Home opened in 1965, Sister Lorraine was sent there as Director of Nursing and Facility Director of Services. She stayed there for more than 35 years. Although she appeared to be carefree and easy going, Sister Lorraine had high expectations of the nursing staff and worked to instill in each one that they were there to provide loving service to all the residents.
Later, when Villa Clement became Allis Care Center, Sister Lorraine stayed there and worked part time. One of her favorite times of the year was Christmas. She took great pride in decorating the hallways, making sure that each hallway was different than it had been the year before. It was then that she became known as “Sister Santa Claus.” Lorraine had a great love of plants and felt responsible for keeping the many plants throughout the building alive.
In 2008, Sister Lorraine realized that her health was beginning to fail and that she needed to leave her beloved Allis Care Center. This was a very hard decision for her. She had spent all of her years in ministry at two places – Sacred Heart Sanitarium and Villa Clement, later Allis Care Center.
And so Lorraine returned to the place where she had started her ministry - Sacred Heart. She spent her days praying, reading, playing games, and watching her favorite television programs. She moved to Our Lady of the Angels in early 2011.
Sister Lorraine remembered her life as always being happy – loving her family and friends in Nebraska and Milwaukee. When she wasn’t working, Sister Lorraine enjoyed doing different kinds of crafts, crocheting, embroidery, and most of all fishing. On August 4, 1987, she caught a 12 pound king salmon! What a thrill!
Sister Lorraine was a very gracious and grateful person. She could never say “thank you” enough for the education and opportunities she had received in her life and the wonderful care she received in retirement. She was an inspiration for all of us. And so we thank God for the life of Sister Lorraine and the many blessings God has given her.
Sister Marion James
Born: May 17, 1915
Died: July 25, 2013
Marion was born on May 17, 1915, to Marie and William James. She grew up in Chicago, living most of her childhood with her grandparents because her father died when she was only a little over a year old. At the time of her father’s death her mother was expecting the birth of her sister Ruth, but also needed a job to support the family. Her mother became a “nanny” for five other children.
With such a full house of children that Marion did not know, it was very difficult for Marion to adjust. It was clear that she would be more comfortable with her grandparents and so it was. Marion and her sister Loretta both lived with her grandparents. Sadly, Loretta got diphtheria and died. Marion’s Catholic grandparents raised her and sent her to St. Maurice Grade School in Chicago for all eight years of her elementary education.
Two of Marion’s cousins were Divine Word missionaries and so during her grade school years she faithfully read the Divine Word missionary magazines every month. She said “a light came from the stories and I decided to be a sister and devote my life to caring for orphans.’
She entered the School Sisters of St. Francis after eighth grade even though her mother and grandparents were opposed to the idea of her leaving home at such a young age. Marion said that her years in the convent high school were fine. Classes were easy and she loved the companionship of her classmates. She also loved the spiritual exercises. It was just getting up so early that she never really got accustomed to!
At the end of her first year she was called for and told she could go home for one month. This was due to the fact that she had become anemic and had a heart problem. In consideration, she was not given the more strenuous jobs which her other classmates performed. The following year, when all the candidates got the flu, Marion did not!
Marion was received in 1932 and given the name Sister Mary Finbarr. She was soon sent to teach second grade. She said of that first experience, “Things went fairly well with the 64 little ones until I asked them to write a theme so I primed the pump and wrote some of their ideas on the board. Then I asked them to write but they just wiggled and looked around, probably thinking, ‘Where did she come from?’”
That was her start in the field of teaching. During the course of her years of ministry, Sister Marion worked in elementary and secondary schools in Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and California. She said, “Teaching is my bag.” But it wasn’t only teaching in the classroom. While working at Marist High School she involved her boys in visiting a nursing home. She prepared them so well for that ministry that the residents thought they were “boys of the cloth.”
After 58 years she needed to discontinue teaching. She returned to Chicago and began new ministries: bereavement workshops, home visiting, and bringing Communion to the sick.
Sister Marion needed to retire to Campbellsport in 2002. She would say, “This is a good place here. I am grateful to belong to a community. We are rich in graces.” Here she continued her ministry of care, prayer, and presence still encouraging others with letters for as long as she was able to do so.
Sister Marion responded to God’s call in religious life for 81 years. Her life was characterized by two of her favorite sayings: “Expect a miracle and you will get one” and “”The Lord opens the door and all we need to do is to follow.” She also wrote, “My life values, as a woman of faith, are found in the Beatitudes and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
Sister Marion, you have lived those values well. Now the Lord has opened the door of eternity for you and you have followed. May you now enjoy God’s presence throughout eternity and have the joy of reuniting with your mother, father, and the rest of your family. Your School Sister family counts on your prayers.
Sister Fidelis Kaehny
Born: January 28, 1921
Died: August 14, 2013
Winters in Wisconsin can be very long and very cold. This was especially true for the winter of 1920-1921 in the area of Jackson, Wisconsin (the town of Polk), where William and Gertrude Kaehny lived on a farm with their three sons and four daughters and were keeping vigil over their ten-year-old son, Clarence, who was struggling with spinal meningitis. Young Clarence’s earthly life ended on December 30, 1920. It was just one month later, on January 28, 1921, that the Kaehnys were gifted with their fifth daughter who was baptized Clara Emma – named after her brother Clarence.
At the young age of 6, Polk Dairy School, a one-room schoolhouse with all eight grades, was the setting for Clara’s early education. Since the school was only one mile from the Kaehny farm, the children made the trek on foot each day. Being a frail child, this proved to be too strenuous for Clara, who developed leakage of the heart, and, consequently had to repeat first grade because of her many absentee days. Attending a small country school also had its perks. Clara got to skip the third and fifth grades because she was the only student for those grades.
When Clara was only 11 years old, she overheard a neighbor telling her teacher that Bill Kaehny died. Clara blocked the news, told a friend that it just couldn’t be true, hurried home, only to find her oldest sister coming down the driveway to meet her. Immediately she knew the truth. Her dad was fatally injured when a car turned into his wagon and he was thrown from the top of his load. His death left Clara, her Mom, and 19-year-old brother John to run the farm, which they managed to keep up. Clara had to finish grade school and high school and stayed at home. For ten years after completing high school, she worked intermittently at B. C. Ziegler Insurance and Loan Company. During World War II she worked at the Aluminum Company, where 20-millimeter shells were manufactured for the army. When the war ended in 1945, she returned to work at B. C. Ziegler.
After the death of her mother, Clara and a friend from work decided to make a retreat. Toward the end of the retreat, she spoke to a sister and told her that she wished to become a religious—but she just didn’t want to leave her brother alone. When asked if he was married, Clara answered, “No.” The retreat director responded, “He is old enough to find a wife for himself!” That was the nudge Clara needed to decide on religious life.
Toward the end of August, 1947, a 26-year-old Clara entered St. Joseph Convent and felt totally out of place with the younger 17- and 18-year-old postulants. However, it didn’t take long before she knew that convent life was a good fit for her! The following June 13, 1948, Clara was received into the School Sisters of St Francis and given the name Sister Fidelis. She was immediately sent to Sacred Heart Sanitarium, where she spent her two-year novitiate working the switchboard and supervising the patients’ dining room.
Always ready and willing, Sister Fidelis graciously accepted her new assignment: teach four grades and play the organ at St. Walburga Parish in Fletcher, Minnesota. Not only was she not prepared for either task, but she was in for the shock of her life: The pastor’s housekeeper was running the parish and school – giving all the orders while the pastor was on sick leave!
Life did improve. Sister Fidelis studied many summers to earn her bachelor’s degree from Alverno College. Following 19 years of mission life as a teacher/organist in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, she had the opportunity to do secretarial and clerical work for the Generalate and Provincial teams. She thoroughly relished and treasured getting to know the community members
Somewhere in between all these years, vacations were enjoyed. Sister Fidelis was gifted with a trip to Europe, where she visited several School Sister of St. Francis missions in Germany and Switzerland. An audience with Pope Paul VI, tours of Rome, and the Vatican sites were unforgettable experiences. A trip to California, where she met with other contacts, proved to be another experience of a lifetime as they traveled on to Hawaii and saw craters and the devastation areas after volcano eruptions.
It was in 1993 when Sister Fidelis, “Fiddles,” as she was affectionately called by her coworkers, realized that even though she enjoyed office work, it was time for a change of pace and requested to return to mission life again. Her wish was granted and she returned to Minnesota for a year and a half. Often times she remarked that she began and ended her mission life in Minnesota.
Another chapter of her life unfolded in 1995 when she was requested to help with the gardening in Campbellsport. Her response was, “Life goes on with so much joy and love.” When she could no longer help with the garden she continued to show love and joy through her smiles, giggles, and gentle presence.
The final chapter in Sister Fidelis’ life began this past May with the move from Campbellsport to Sacred Heart Convent. What a coincidence! Her first assignment as a novice was to work at Sacred Heart Sanitarium and her last was to be a loving presence to all at Sacred Heart Convent.
And, now, Sister Fidelis, may you rest in peace from all the labors of love and rejoice in the presence of the One who first loved you!
Sister Bernadette Kalscheur
Born: January 1, 1921
Died: August 6, 2013
Sister Bernadette Kalscheur or Sister Herman, or Bernie, as she was lovingly called by family and friends, was an extraordinary woman. When asked to describe Bernadette these words were quickly given: Dynamic, energetic, spiritual, relational, committed, family-centered, faith-filled, a go-getter, a passionate educator, a social activist. Certainly we could continue adding more and more descriptors, but Bernadette is already embarrassed by this.
Yes, she was a humble and holy woman who fittingly entered the world on a Holy Day -- January 1, 1921. Bernadette was the second youngest of the 17 children of Herman and Helen Kalscheur in Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. Her family was extremely important to her and we are blessed to have so many of the Kalscheur family with us tonight, especially her dear sister, Florence.
The St. Mary’s family was also central to her life. Bernadette and her brothers and sisters attended St. Mary’s School, about one mile from their farm, where she met the School Sisters of St. Francis. Now, many of us would say that our vocation came from our contact with the sisters; but that wasn’t quite the story Bernadette told.
When Bernie was 13 years old, she took a trip to Milwaukee with Sister Mark to see the convent. She was in awe of everything and reported that she was quite impressed with the little golden fence around the altar in the Adoration Chapel. Bernie was very excited about her trip, but when she returned home she did not say anything to her parents about her thoughts of religious life. It was not until she and her mom went out to feed the chickens and her mom asked, “Bernadette, do you want to go to the convent?” “Yes,” she told her mom, who immediately lit up with joy. This was the deciding moment, she was happy and she saw that “Ma” was happy. So Bernadette always told people that she got her vocation on the way to the chicken coop!
Having a faith-centered family prepared Bernadette for convent life; but that was not the only thing that prepared her. The favorite family card game of euchre also proved to be good training, especially when all the families joined in playing “traveling euchre.” Although this might be a stretch, Bernadette would probably agree that traveling around the euchre card tables at family events certainly provided good practice for her future of traveling to missions in India, Latin America, and Europe; a jubilee trip to the Holy Land; and an incredible educational journey that she had in 1971 behind the Iron Curtain in Russia, Hungry, Romania, Siberia, and Poland.
Whether traveling or in the classroom, we know that Bernadette was teaching (and learning) wherever she went and in whatever job she held. Without a doubt, Bernadette was an educator par excellence. In 1941 she began her teaching ministry in Nebraska, later she went to New York and Milwaukee; and then in 1954, Bernadette began 20-plus years at Alverno College. After a break to receive her PhD from St. Louis University, Bernadette returned to Alverno to serve as head of the education department.
Stories are many of how she trained teachers, not only for the classroom, but for life. Integrated into everything she taught, and rooted in everything she did, Bernadette was a woman of justice. In the turbulent 1960s she developed programs at Alverno that took students into the inner city of Milwaukee to walk side-by-side with the poor; for four summers in Milwaukee and Chicago she directed the Institute for Teachers of Disadvantaged Youth; with her students she lobbied the Milwaukee Public School Board for equal resources for all children, and she had the incredible opportunity to meet with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No wonder this dedicated woman won the Teacher of the Year Award at Alverno in 1968 and received the prestigious B’nai B’rith Human Rights Interfaith Award in 1969.
In 1976 Bernadette was elected to the Generalate Team as the Vice President of Personnel. In keeping with our commitment to follow the Gospel, this team called the sisters to have “a preferential option for the poor.” And, as we well know, Bernadette not only spoke these words but she lived them and spread the message within the community and beyond by serving on the Board for the Benedict Center and the Board for Project Equality; leading Encounter Teams on Justice and Social Change for the Lutheran Church of America; and for 20 years being a very active member of the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Sisters’ Council.
After her term of office was over, Bernadette looked forward to a new job which would bring her back to educational administration. She was going to be the Director of the LaFarge Lifelong Learning Program; however, the community had other plans. Bernadette was asked to temporarily take over as the Director of the Development Office.
As always, Bernadette responded with gusto. She organized her staff, initiated Friends Groups all around the country and began the annual Mass in honor of deceased loved ones now known as “Candles of Love.” Bernadette’s “temporary job” lasted for 13 years but the seeds she sowed with all the relationships she began are still being harvested today.
After over 50 years in community and at age 72, Bernadette said she was able to make the first career decision she had ever made. She went to St. Patrick’s Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, as a Pastoral Minister. At her farewell from Milwaukee, Attorney Dennis Purtell, the President of the Development Office Advisory Board, said, “When she gets involved in parish work, the people will not know what hit them!”
I venture to say that the people of St. Patrick’s were very happy with what hit them. Yes, the spirit of Bernadette flew in and found a home in Hudson. Working with many parishioners, Bernadette initiated program after program: RCIA; the Jail Ministry; a group for the divorced and separated; workdays with the homeless at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis; and of course the sister parish relationship with the returned refugees at our School Sister mission in Yalpemech, Guatemala.
Of course, in her “free time” Bernadette also took Communion to the homebound, welcomed new parishioners, did Bible study groups at retirement homes, met with ecumenical groups and, because she recruited so many men to join, she was named as an honorary member of the Knights of Columbus!
The parishioners from St. Patrick’s can tell us many more things that Bernadette did for them, but after 15 years and at the age of 87, it was time for Bernadette to bid farewell to St. Pat’s and move into retirement at St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport – finally a time to relax!
With all that has just been said, we can hear Bernadette saying, “It’s not me – it’s God! God is the source of my energy; God is the source of my life.”
Yes, God was the source of her life, which is probably why Bernadette Kalscheur came into the world on January 1, the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God and left us on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Now, we’re not sure if Bernadette was standing on the top of Mount Tabor on August 6th – I think she was probably at the chicken coop with her “Ma and Pa.”
And we’re not sure she was wearing clothes of dazzling white on August 6th – I think she was probably wearing her treasured Kalscheur family t-shirt that she had specially made for a family reunion.
But we all do know that God was saying, “Come, I have called you by name -- Bernie, Herman, Bernadette – come, I will hold you in the palm of my hand.”
Sister Janet Keck
Born: May 25, 1932
Died: July 17, 2013
The month of May is one of the most beautiful and eventful months of the year. This was especially true in 1932 in Aurora, Illinois. On May 25, William and Barbara Keck, along with their firstborn son, Bill, welcomed a baby girl, Janet, into the family. Her arrival completed the family unit.
School Sisters of St. Francis were a part of Janet’s life from the beginning. Her great aunt was Sister Stella Millen, and her cousins were Sister Edna Linster and Sister Louise Linster.
Janet grew up with many School Sister influences, attending grade school at Our Lady of Good Counsel and beginning piano lessons with Sisters Taso and Francelia. Janet was taught the Requiem and how to play Benediction so she could help in church. Then it was on to Madonna High School, where she continued piano lessons and played the violin in the orchestra.
After graduation, Janet entered St. Joseph Convent in 1949. Entering the novitiate in 1950, she received the name Sister Ceceliana. With a name like that, she was destined to become a musician. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from Alverno College and later studied voice at Northwestern University.
Mission life began for her in Wisconsin, then on to Chicago for seven years at Sts. Cyril and Methodius. She joined the Rockford Province, teaching at Boylan High School and Madonna High School (now Aurora Central), and then went on to St. Mary’s doing parish and liturgical ministry.
At this time in her mission years, Vatican II called for change in the liturgical life of the Church, and Sister Janet was a noted leader. While at St. Mary’s, she and Sister Carol Stevens of Our Lady of Good Counsel formed a combined choir composed of choir members from several Aurora-area parishes—this choir was known as the Aurora Chorale. The Diocesan Chorale in Rockford was already in action. These groups, directed by Sister Janet and accompanied by Sister Carol, performed throughout Rockford and Aurora. In the late 1970s, Bishop O’Neill purchased handbells, and together Sister Janet and Sister Carol formed the first handbell choir in the area.
During these years of joyful, spirit-filled ministry, Sister Janet was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Beginning in 1982 and each year thereafter, her mobility decreased but her spirit and drive grew more determined.
By 1997, her health warranted that she retire and move to Campbellsport. There she continued as organist for daily Mass and helped with funerals. She also enjoyed sing-alongs and conducting the rhythm band. Needing a cane or walker never diminished her spirit.
In 2005, Sister Janet sustained a fall which resulted in severe brain damage. She remained unresponsive for weeks. Now Sister Janet’s new mission began. The medical staff and many caring people urged her to new life. Her spirit radiated. Her joy was freely given to everyone. She couldn’t move a limb or do anything for herself—her mission was her joy-filled presence. Wherever she was, her friendly face and whispered greeting was given to everyone. Her last months were spent sharing her spirit of prayer and patience with the sisters at Sacred Heart Convent. God’s grace filled Sister Janet’s life, giving her what she needed each day.
Sister Janet, you were ready for the Lord. What a welcome! Thank you for your joyful presence.
Sister Eleanor King
Born: August 24, 1923
Died: September 21, 2013
Sister Eleanor was born on a farm in Johnsburg, Illinois on August 24, 1923, to Joseph King and Helen Miller. She had two sisters, Mabel and Sally, and one brother, Leo, all of whom have passed before her. Another boy had died in infancy. Theirs was a close-knit, loving family.
Eleanor attended grade school at St. John the Baptist parish in Johnsburg where the School Sisters taught. She did not go on to high school, but stayed home to help her parents, to care for a woman with MS, and to work in a factory. One of her grade school teachers, Sister Prudens Willis, was instrumental in her vocation to religious life, as was another classmate of hers who became a priest.
Eleanor left for the convent in 1942 at age 19. As a sister, she later received a high school diploma by taking correspondence courses. When the leadership of the community asked her what she would like to do, she said she wanted to be a homemaker. On reception day in 1943, Eleanor received the name Sister Albertine. After her canonical year, she was called to go to Our Lady of Lourdes in Omaha, Nebraska, to help the homemakers for three months. At that time, many sisters coming to serve at the Nebraska missions would stop there first.
After Sister Eleanor returned to Milwaukee for her profession, she was sent to St. Matthias in Chicago for three years, where she helped cook for 25 sisters. One time, the superior came into the kitchen while the cooks were preparing a turkey. She asked, “How many stitches did you give it?” What she really meant was, “how many times did you baste it?” That put the cook sisters in stitches!
Changes were in the air for Sister Eleanor when the Sacred Heart Fathers begged Mother Corona for sisters to work at their new missions in Mississippi. In 1947, Sister Eleanor, Sister Spes and Sister Joan Habinger were called in—they were to go to Walls, Mississippi. This parish was only for white people. There was much segregation back then, and they were told to stay only with white people.
When they arrived, they found very poor and dirty conditions—it was difficult to keep their white habits clean. The first house they were given was on a plantation, and the sisters had to walk across the cotton fields to get to the school. One day the priest from Holly Springs asked if someone could come to their all-black school so they could see what a sister looked like. Sister Eleanor went, and she says she will never forget how the children came running to look at her!
Sister Eleanor’s next mission was far north in Dorchester, Wisconsin, where she stayed for four years. She recalled how often they had venison, as that area was a hunter’s paradise. Her next assignment was to the small parish of St. Joseph in Richmond, Illinois. She was one of the “triple A’s” that year: Sister Anselm, Sister Agnes, and Sister Albertine. The pastor, Father Frank Miller, was very good to them. Sister was then sent to the neighboring mission of Johnsburg, her own home parish, for six years. During that time, her sister Sally, who lived in Des Plaines, developed MS. Sister Eleanor was able to live with her and be her caretaker. After that, she went to help out at Bishop Lane Retreat House in Rockford for a year. She returned to Johnsburg for two more years before leaving again to be with her sister.
In 1976, her final mission was at St. Mary’s in McHenry, Illinois. She stayed there for 23 years, working in the church sacristy and doing much pastoral work among the people, bringing Communion to the sick and elderly and visiting people. She became well known in the town. One lady gave her a better car, seeing that the old parish Mustang was wearing down. Sister Eleanor told her she couldn’t own it, but would give it to the parish.
It was a sad day when, on June 30, 2006, she and Sister LaClare Heynen had to close St. Mary’s in McHenry after 111 years of School Sister service there. Both chose to come to Campbellsport, Wisconsin, to retire, rest, and recuperate during that time of mourning.
Sister Eleanor’s family and friends kept in contact. She was thrilled to have the opportunity in October 2012 to attend a family reunion that began with Mass at the Miller Chapel in Johnsburg. Her mother had been a Miller whose family was among the first from Germany to settle in that part of Illinois. Sister Eleanor treasured the memories of that return to her home.
Now she has made her final return to her real home in the heavens. She will lie in rest with her family while we, her School Sister family, will remember her gentle and cheerful nature and her enjoyment of simple things, like watching the capers of squirrels outside her window, and playing Bingo.
So we bless you, Sister Eleanor, and know you are alive in the presence of God and in the hearts of all who have loved you. May you rest in peace forever.
Sister Georganne Kullowitsch
Born: November 10, 1926
Died: September 15, 2013
Don’t you enjoy visiting with someone and learning her life’s story? This someone is Sister Georganne Kullowitsch. She began her life story relating that both her parents, George Kullowitsch and Anna Reicher, were born in Klein Petersdorf, Austria, left their homeland, travelled to America, and settled in Chicago where they became United States citizens.
Her father was a most creative carpenter. A genius is the descriptive title his family used. His specialty was designing and constructing porch steps that were fastened without the use of nails.
Her mother was a loving homemaker who lulled her babies to sleep with German melodies. God blessed George and Anna with two sons who died in infancy. A daughter, Anna, was the third child, followed by Therese Rose, born on November 10, 1926. Two years later Mary made her earthly debut. The family included another son and two daughters who were stillborn.
The Kullowitsch family were members of St Martin’s Parish in Chicago. Since German was the language spoken at home, the girls learned and mastered the English language from their neighborhood playmates and friends. After Therese Rose graduated from St. Martin’s Elementary School, staffed by the School Sisters of St Francis, she enrolled in the two-year commercial program offered at St. Martin’s High School. Her mentor and influential commercial teacher was Sister Ares. Meanwhile, at St Martin’s Grade School, younger sister Mary was shadowing her favorite teacher, Sister Patrice. One day Sister Patrice turned to her and said, “Mary, you are going to the convent!” Mary thought, “Great, I’ll tell this to Therese!” Upon hearing it, Therese responded, “You are not going without me.” So it was, on August 28, 1942, that Ma and Pa Kullowitsch brought Therese and Mary to St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee.
Reception into the School Sisters of St Francis was on June 13, 1942. Therese requested and received the name of Sister Georganne – a combination of both her parent’s names. Mary received the name of Sister Martinus, in honor of their home parish, St Martin’s. As a second-year novice, Sister Georganne received her first appointment: to work in the finance office at Sacred Heart Sanitarium. This assignment lasted for 11 years, at which time Waupun Memorial Hospital opened and her accounting expertise was tapped for another 11 years.
After Vatican II and the Community’s movement into provinces, Sister Georganne elected to join the Holy Name Province in Chicago where she would be able to assist her parents and share an apartment with Sister Martinus. During the 20 years in Chicago, her many skills surfaced as secretary at Alvernia High School and De Paul University, and as material and inventory control coordinator at St. Joseph Hospital, Chicago. Her positive approach to life was her trademark. No matter where Sister Georganne worked or lived, it was always the best job to have, the best place to be and, above all, the most wonderful people to be with.
The Kullowitschs were a very close knit family. After their mother died, their father moved to Florida to be near Ann and her family. Sister Georganne and Sister Martinus also moved to Florida. Each worked at their separate ministries as the Bishop’s administrative assistant and in tutoring at Catholic institutions.
Being able to speak and understand German and having a Europass were great assets for them. During the 1960s, Sister Georganne and Sister Martinus had the opportunity to learn firsthand about their ancestry as they travelled throughout Austria, visiting relatives and seeing their parent’s homeland, then on to Switzerland, Germany, and Rome. An unforgettable experience!
For both of them 2007 was a year of transition. Both were experiencing health problem. It was time to come back North. It did take some coaxing from younger sister Sister Martinus to convince Sister Georganne that retirement—a life of prayer and presence with the Sisters at St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport—would be good. It didn’t take long for either of them to adjust to their new life. This past May, both moved to Sacred Heart Convent where they continued to share a room together and a life of prayer and presence with the sisters. It was homecoming for Sister Georganne!
Sister Georganne, we are grateful for your 87 years of life and especially for the 69 you spent as a School Sister of St. Francis being the face of the Gospel to countless people. Go now and be with your parents and other family members and all the wonderful people you helped along the way.
Sister Georgine Loacker
Born: May 27, 1926
Died: August 3, 2013
With the dear little sister whose desk
was across from mine
when we were postulants in 1943
a cherished relationship began.
It was confirmed 60 years later
at the time of our jubilee
in words that are precious to me.
She expressed how much
she appreciated my faithfulness all these years,
even though our encounters were minimal.
That was reiterated over and over
as she struggled in her last illness and called my name.
Her friends reach around the world
from here to South Africa
to Australia to Hong Kong
to Ireland, to England
and to more places than I can recall.
She was a friend to all she met.
No doubt George and Mary Oelrich Loacker
did not have a clue
that the baby girl born to them
on May 27, 1926 in Park Ridge, Illinois
whom they named Genevieve,
and that her gregarious nature made her a child of the world.
No doubt Rita, Louise, George, Hubert, Dolores and Ruth
as sisters and brothers did not know
that they had to learn
to share with the world,
their sister who became known
as Sister Georgine.
Having graduated from Alvernia High School
she went on to Mundelein College but only for one year
for her heart called her to St. Joseph Convent.
That brings us back to our desks as postulants.
For three years we were learning to be Sisters.
While we, of her 1944 class
were still studying at Alverno
because of already having a year in college completed
went on her first mission to Pius XI High School.
She was instrumental in convincing her Alverno living group
Sisters Joel, Austin, J. Dolores, and Margaret Earley
to invite Sister Margaret Busscher to join them.
And she did.
Studies carried her on through a bachelor’s degree
followed in time by a master’s.
while she was studying at the University of Chicago
for a PhD. she lived with our Sisters at St. Clare Parish
and gathered more friends.
She had a special knack of being friend to everyone.
She could slip in and out of family
to teacher, to learner, to classmates,
to nieces and nephews
talking about Shakespeare in the park,
to a six year old, who was deep into dinosaurs
and whatever might come between,
reciting poetry or preaching critical thinking.
She cherished the words of e.e. Cummings
“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born
Yours is the darkness of my soul’s return.”
She was not multi-task oriented,
but rather very focused on the task at hand
revising up to the last minute.
In other words,
don’t talk to her while she cooked supper.
A dear friend of the St. Clare days claims
Sister Georgine struggled with trusting herself.
That may be the reason why you might find her
on the third floor of Alverno College
in night clothes in the middle of the night
perfecting what she needed in the morning.
In a conversation
she could easily break into a line of poetry.
Clinging to Teilhard de Chardin’s words
“Friendship doubles our joy
and divides our grief’
carried her forward.
Time spent in meditation at the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Ill.
also carried her forward.
Be assured, all of you, that your name does appear
on the many mailing lists she held dear.
By Sister Laureen Haben, OSF
Sister Mary Blanche Mara
Born: May 5, 1909
Died: September 4, 2013
How do you summarize 104 years of life? We’ll try to do it as Sister Mary Blanche requested: “In my commentary, I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.”
So we begin. Blanche was born on May 5, 1909, the eldest of nine children of Carrie and Peter Mara, in Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Four sisters and four brothers completed the Mara family. When Blanche was ready to begin her elementary education, her Dad and a neighbor donated two acres of land to build a one room school since there was none nearby. Blanche could not speak English when she started to school but she learned quickly.
Her Mom was ill many times and Blanche had to take care of the house, cook, and get the younger children ready for school. One time when Blanche was in seventh grade her Mom was going to the hospital. She showed Blanche how to make bread before she left. However, with her Dad and so many growing children to feed, she soon ran out of bread and had to borrow some from a neighbor. Needless to say, after that she made sure that she baked more bread when the family was down to the last loaf.
Blanche completed her elementary education and then helped on the farm until she was about 18. For the next six years she worked in other homes or at a store.
Finally, being influenced by her mother’s sister, Sister Corbiniana, she entered the School Sisters of St. Francis at age 24. Being of short stature, she said that they tried to put her in the aspirancy. When Sister Viola found out that she was 24 years old, she “had a fit of laughing” and Blanche got her candidate’s collar.
At reception she received the name Sister Mary Egbert and she kept trying to “bear it in a worthy manner.” She says she enjoyed her novitiate since she was as “free as a bird” with no responsibility.
Her first mission as a homemaker was at Good Counsel in Aurora, Illinois. She loved cooking and baking and always tried to make it nice for the sisters. Other missions were Blessed Agnes in Chicago, St. Martin in Wisconsin, Osmond, Nebraska, Summit, Illinois, Milo, Iowa and then back to Illinois to Buffalo Grove, Aurora, Carol Stream, and Bensenville. She also was homemaker at the Rockford Provincial House.
As she said, when the changes came in religious life, “Wow, I did a lot of things.” She helped teaching English to some Spanish-speaking people in Aurora. She also worked in Naperville, cleaning house and taking care of children and was librarian at Sacred Heart School for two years. Then she went to Walls, Mississippi, and for nine years she helped Sister Virginia Reinl in school and wherever needed.
It was Sister Virginia that arranged for Sister’s 50th Jubilee trip with the Sacred Heart Fathers to Israel, Jerusalem, and Athens. She summed up that experience by saying “Oh, What fun!”
She also spent two weeks in Japan with her nephew Robert Mara’s wife and her Japanese family members. Other trips were taken within the United States, which she enjoyed very much.
When she retired to St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, in 1992, ever the faithful homemaker, she worked in the dining room with three other sisters. Later she was in charge of the volunteer kitchen. She also enjoyed the classes and the trips offered in the Life-Long Learning Program. When she was no longer able to help in the volunteer kitchen, she spent her days reading, praying, visiting the sick, and attending activities. She loved company, especially when her family visited.
Sister Mary Blanche, your energy and life has been a great inspiration. How else could we remember your 104 years of life except with joy and gratitude? You are a part of so many lives and you are gift to so many people. You fed and cared for many. Rejoice now that God has called you to the heavenly banquet. You were “ready for a long time.” Now you are sitting at the Lord’s Table.
By: Sister Charlotte Schuele
Sister Agnes Rose Pint
Born: October 28, 1916
Died: May 19, 2013
Everyone has a favorite time of year. In 1916 in Union Hill, Minnesota, not far from New Prague, Matthias and Barbara Lenz Pint knew that the fall season would be extra special. On October 28th God blessed them with a little girl, the second youngest of the four girls and four boys. The baby was baptized Agnes Rose in St. John’s Church, which was built on the land donated by her mother’s relatives, the first Lenz settlers in that area.
Union Hill was a small rural farming community where nearly all were somehow related to one another and all were closely united with the small Catholic Church community. The church bells called everyone to services on Sundays and Holy Days. If the bells rang at other times, it meant that someone had died and details of the funeral were available on the party-line telephone.
Sister Agnes Rose enjoyed relating stories about the 1920s and the 1930s, when life in the country was fun. Being on the youngest end of the family and having older brothers and sisters, she was spared hard work. Kerosene lamps provided the light – there was no electricity. Horses were still used on the farm and the horse-drawn sled with straw and blankets was their means of transportation to Sunday Mass in the winter. Milking was done by hand, and the cream separated from it was sold to provide money for groceries. Fido, the dog, would catch the chickens needed for butchering. Neighbors congregated to cut wood, butcher, make sausage, thrash oats, stack hay, visit and play cards, organize and enjoy church services and picnics. People didn’t need an invitation to come and visit. Anyone could stop anytime! With a bin full of potatoes, sauerkraut, pickles, canned goods, chickens, homemade beer, cider and wine, there was always plenty to eat and have a good time.
In 1924, Sister Agnes Rose’s sister, Gertrude, entered the School Sisters of St. Francis and became Sister Clement. Ten years, later Sister Agnes Rose and her sister, Loretta Ann, joined Sister Clement at St. Joseph Convent and in 1935, both were received into the community.
Sister Agnes Rose wanted to be a homemaker and cook for the sisters. Her greatest joy was making good meals as well as little surprises and parties for the sisters who taught all day. She wanted meal time to be a pleasant time, and her kitchen was always a welcoming place. At night, when the sisters were preparing lessons, she enjoyed reading, crocheting, needle work and checking out new recipes. This she did in Nebraska, Iowa, Chicago and Wisconsin.
Even though Sister Agnes Rose enjoyed 33 years of mission life, she found just as much happiness in the Motherhouse kitchen. It gave her more time to pray and visit with the sisters. She liked meeting and visiting with people she hadn’t seen for awhile.
As her health, and particularly her eyesight, was failing, she decided to move to Sacred Heart Convent where Sister Lauretta Ann was already living. Often she remarked, “I have come to a place of smiles, kindness and prayer.” She thought it was a privilege to spend time at the bedside of a dying sister and called it “sacred time.”
We will always remember Sister Agnes Rose as a grateful person, who made certain that everyone knew how grateful she was for her family, the community, and everyone who touched her life in any way.
Sister Agnes Rose, we are most grateful to you for being the gift you are to all of us!
Peace and all good!
Sister Catherine Ruskamp
Born: July 6, 1919
Died: June 29, 2013
Adapted from Sister Catherine’s autobiography by Sister Barbara Jean Potthast
Catherine was born on July, 6, 1919, one of 13 children of Joseph and Anna Gross-Rhode who lived on a farm between Dodge and Howells, Nebraska. The family faithfully attended Sacred Heart Church and School in nearby Olean where the School Sisters taught. Their mother had wanted to be a nun, but was told by one of the sisters that it would be better if she married and then added, “I have a feeling that you will have daughters who will one day become sisters.”
That seemed prophetic, so Anna married, and after having four boys, she prayed for a girl - and Catherine was the first. Her Mom dedicated her and those that followed to the Blessed Mother and prayed that they’d be given a religious vocation if that was God’s will. The girls did not know that until much later.
When Catherine was six months old, her one-year-old brother, Joseph, had serious blood poisoning in his leg; the doctor wanted to amputate. Again, Mom prayed and offered him to God as a missionary if he’d be cured. Little Joseph recovered and became a Capuchin missionary in Nicaragua for 51 years. Both parents had a deep life of faith and trust in God, and the children were caught up in it.
When Catherine was nine years old she took charge of her youngest brother who was mentally challenged, but very affectionate and dearly loved. When unattended he’d wander off to play or sleep in unlikely places: the sow’s pen, the tall cornfields, the back of the pick-up truck, the machine shed. The whole family would conduct a “search party. It was a sad day when, at the age of 22, he was the first of the family to die.
At the end of their school year in 1933, Catherine and Joseph approached their mother together and told her they wanted to enter religious life. They asked that “Ma tell Pa.” Though Mom remembered her earlier prayer, it was a big sacrifice for both parents to make, especially when, in the space of four years, five children left home after eighth grade to prepare for religious life. So it was that Catherine left home on August 26, 1933 to be an aspirant.
Catherine hoped to be a missionary someday like her brother, Father Florian – but not yet. After reception in 1936, by then known as Sister Alvina, she told Mother Corona she wanted to be a teacher. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at Alverno College, and later went on to receive a Master’s in Education at Fordham University in New York. Her first teaching assignment was in the rural town of Pesotum, Illinois, from which she says she “held vivid memories for a long time.” Next she was sent east to Staten Island, New York, then back to the Midwest to St. Alphonsus in Greendale, and finally west to Ralston, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; and Earling, Iowa. Sometimes she was principal, too. As the times and needs changed, she asked to try other ministries. So she went to Detroit to do parish social work for a year. Afterwards she taught and coordinated religious ed programs for seven years at the mainly Hispanic school of St. Therese in Aurora, Illinois. That was followed by a return to Colorado Springs and Omaha.
Catherine’s desire to work in Latin America was fulfilled in the ’70s when she was invited to participate in the Latin American Mission Program (LAMP). For five summers, she and a sister companion accompanied students from Boylan High School in Rockford, Illinois to Mexico. There they catechized children for the sacraments in the poor villages. From 1989 to 1991, Catherine stayed in Guatemala doing missionary work. Upon returning to the States, she taught Spanish language classes in the LaFarge Lifelong Learning program.
In 1997 she was invited to come to Campbellsport to teach Spanish classes. She did not only that, but organized Bible classes and a weekly sing-a-long. She would also feed the disabled sisters, care for plants and flowers, and helped with other outdoor work. It relaxed her to work with nature and to sing. She wrote in her autobiography:
“I believe that the contemplation of God’s gifts in nature draws a person closer to God. I firmly believe that the more love and joy one gives to others, the more love and joy we receive from others.”
Catherine, you have given that love and joy to us in this place and to all the many people of the two cultures whom you have served in your rich life of ministry. May God now bless you with eternal peace, love, and joy in your final resting place, and keep sharing with us who remain as we cherish our memories of you.
Sister Lucille Sauer
Born: February 24, 1922
Died: August 15, 2013
When viewing a 500- or 1,000-piece completed puzzle, don’t you have feelings of amazement, awe, and appreciation for the wonderful masterpiece that has been created? This is also true when we remember the life of Sister Lucille Sauer.
Lucille was the middle child born to Paul and Teckla Sauer, born on February 24, 1922. Brothers Gilbert and Silverius were older and David and Roy were younger. The family was raised on a farm in Addison Center near Nenno, Wisconsin, where German was the language spoken in their rural home. Being the only girl in the Sauer household proved to be a challenge at times, but Lucille, always knowing what she wanted, could easily hold her own Along with her four brothers she attended St. Peter and Paul School in Nenno, which was staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis. After high school graduation in 1937, Lucille worked in Allenton as a clerk in the Farmer’s General Store and then for Penny’s Store in West Bend, where she sold fabrics. Around that time she knew in her heart that she really wanted to dedicate herself to a life as a religious. At the age of 20, she travelled to Milwaukee to enter St. Joseph Convent.
Reception into the School Sisters of St Francis was on June 13, 1944, and Lucille was given the name of Sister Caritas—a truly fitting name. By nature Lucille was a very gentle, giving, and loving person who lived up to the meaning of “Charity” all her life.
Early in 1946 Sister Lucille started with little or no preparation to teach grade school St. William’s in Chicago. Then she went on to Petersburg, Nebraska, where she taught on the junior high level and also Home Ec to high school age students. Her next assignments included Madonna High School in Aurora, Illinois; Mount St Francis High School, where she was principal and director of the Aspirants in the Rockford; and after the Aspirancy closed, back to Madonna High School, where she taught and was the assistant principal. Following Madonna High School, she filled in as teacher/principal at St. Michael’s Rumanian School in Aurora for six months and then on to Bergan High School in Peoria, Illinois, where she was the assistant principal and dean of girls
Somewhere and somehow, mostly summer school and night classes between 1953 and 1962, Sister Lucille earned bachelor and master degrees in Education from Alverno College and Loyola University in Chicago. Still wanting to learn and take on a different role in education, Sister Lucille studied and earned a master of arts degree in Library Science from Rosary College in 1969. She then spent the next few years as librarian at Loyola University in Chicago and at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Later in 1986, she received certification as an elementary librarian in order to be qualified for a job at Sacred Heart School in Walls, Mississippi.
Life took on another focus when Sister Lucille was elected as a member of the Central Provincial Unit Executive Team in Milwaukee from 1974-1978 while overlapping this with other jobs – Administrator of St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, member of the Interprovincial Retirement Board, and also a clerical job at the Ziegler Audit Company in West Bend. From 1975-1981, she also served on the board of directors as a school representative for the Beaver Dam Community Hospitals. After this Sister Lucille decided she needed a change of pace and role and settled for teaching religion and serving as a reading specialist at Holy Angels School in West Bend. At the same parish, she taught sixth grade and was involved in teaching CCD. Sister Lucille couldn’t resist the invitation to return to Mississippi to work at the Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Walls where she stayed for seven more years.
Finally retirement seemed to be the right decision, but only if she could spend it as a volunteer driver for the Sisters at St Joseph Convent, Milwaukee, which she did until 2001, when moving to St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, where she could be fully retired and minister to others with her calm and smiling presence seemed to be right. In May 2013 Sister Lucille moved to Sacred Heart Convent and continued her ministry of prayer and presence with her ever-smiling and calm manner.
We see how Sister Lucille’s life as a student, grade and high school teacher, principal, librarian, clerical worker, sales person, leadership team member and driver for retired sisters; in Addison Center, Milwaukee, Chicago, Petersburg, Aurora, Rockford, Peoria, Walls, and Campbellsport; are all pieces of a puzzle—truly God’s masterpiece—Sister Lucille’s life!
Sister Evlyn Schnieders
Born: July 8, 1928
Died: August 10, 2013
Evlyn and I had an appointment scheduled for June 21. She called and cancelled because she wanted to visit her family—said she’d reschedule when she returned. On July 20, I met Evelyn at the Spirituality Conference and she was so very happy that she had gone to Jeff City, said it was the best visit she’s ever had. On Monday morning August 5, Evlyn called, saying she was going into surgery that afternoon. She said she thought this was going to be “it” and that she was ready; she was tired. On August 10 at about 1:00 a.m., Evlyn gave herself, one more time, completely into the arms of God.
Evlyn, known as Evie to her family, was born in Cole County, Missouri, onto this earth that she loved so dearly, on July 8, 1928, the third of eight children and the first daughter. From what heritage did Evlyn come? Her father, Robert, who farmed for his family through floods and the Depression, was also known for his integrity. Their mother said of him, “You children can be proud of your daddy; he had an honest and courageous reputation and wasn’t afraid to stand up for his rights.” Evlyn’s mother, Irma Craig Schnieders, from what I read of her memories, cared and created well a home and hearth for husband, children, guests, and animals. She lived the life of the Valiant Woman of Proverbs, in a 20th century world.
Evlyn’s father, in today’s language, was her hero and probably her first love. He died from a heart attack in March 1939. Evlyn was ten years old. This incident is one of the first Evlyn spoke of when she began sharing her spiritual journey with me over 25 years ago. She’s carried this loss through her life, not in self-pity, but as a wound in her sensitive heart.
In 1984, Evlyn received her certification as a pastoral minister and was staff chaplain at St. Mary’s Center in Jefferson City. During this time, she cared for her mother, until her mother’s death. The one thing I know of this time is that during the ups and downs of caring for a loved one, their understanding and love for each other grew and deepened.
About Evlyn’s siblings—the story continues and expands. How often she showed pictures and told stories of her growing up times and many more recent ones of each of you—stories that carried beauty and stories that carried pain and asked for prayer. She loved you all so very much. Last week I was given this booklet of letters that you, siblings, nieces and nephews, wrote her for her Golden Jubilee. And I can say with such certainty that you, too, loved your Evie.
Evlyn was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1947 and was given the name Sister Damien. She received her bachelor of science in education in 1951 from Alverno College. From here, Evlyn went on to be a teacher, director of religious education and organizer of social justice programs. As a pastoral minister, Evlyn gave retreats and conducted workshops for couples and for high school students. After three units of Clinical Pastoral Education, Evlyn served as chaplain for nine years in Jefferson City. Evlyn’s last ministries were here at St. Joseph’s, Campbellsport, where she served the sisters with her pastoral care for several years and now in her retirement she came to the sisters here in this house to be with them compassionately in their final journey to God. We thank you, Evlyn, for the ministry and care you’ve given to God’s people.
When I ask the question, “What legacy does Evlyn leave for us? What is this precious life she lived out during these 85 years? What do we inherit from her?” Probably each person in the chapel or anyone who knows Evlyn can name a gift they’ve received from her. For myself, the first and strongest awareness that comes is that Evlyn lived a contemplative life.
What do I mean? To contemplate is to take a long loving look at life, at any part of life, of which death is one part, and to become one with what one sees. Evlyn would see a flower and say “Oh! How beautiful” or “delicate” or “fragrant” and her fragile heart was touched.
Evlyn would get an insight into a book she was reading, an insight that would let her know the entire world is God living in and among us. About one particular book, The Eye of the I, Evlyn said something like, “I love that David Hawkins (author). I only have to see that book on my shelf and I just feel so good. It’s God’s presence right there on my bookshelf, every word of it.”
And, in the midst of her contemplative life, Evlyn had, as most of us know, an angry streak. She needed to acknowledge and accept this anger, and she did. She felt sorrow for any outburst; her love and her humility deepened. It was so much a part of her strong feeling, her passionate life.
As most of us know also, Evlyn would tear up very easily; she had such a compassionate heart. When the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl happened in Russia and then Three Mile Island here in the U.S., Evlyn would speak of these events and shed tears, dabbing her eyes as she did, feeling the suffering of the world. And mostly, if she saw or heard of a child suffering, the tears of her heart would flow.For you, Evlyn, everything was of God, the beauty and the pain, and you allowed yourself to become one with it. When we talked on Thursday, the day you decided to go into hospice, you were so ready, so willing to allow yourself to be taken by the One you loved when you loved the world. We thank you for showing us and giving us the legacy of a sensitive heart that knew well how to love.
Sister Thelma Ann Schwank
Born: September 15, 1927
Died: May 10, 2013
Thelma Mae was born on September 15, 1927, to Kathryn and Harry Schwank in Grand Island, Nebraska. She and her two younger brothers, Don and Jerry, were raised in the small town of Oshkosh, Nebraska. Her brother Don served in the Air Force and was killed in Korea in 1952. Her brother Jerry is living in California, but was unable to be here today.
Thelma Mae attended public school in Oshkosh, since there were no Catholic schools in the vicinity. Although she did not experience religious training in school, she always felt a desire to explore religious life. Two of her aunts were School Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters Secunda and Guido, and they were a great example to her. So at the age of 16 she came to Milwaukee to join our community.
Thelma Mae was received in 1944 and given the name Sister Kateria. She spent three years as a homemaker at Alvernia High School in Chicago and then was asked to take charge of the cafeteria at Holy Angels School in Chicago.
Sister then spent one year at Ryan High School in Omaha before being called to Milwaukee in 1962 to take charge of the St. Mary’s Hill kitchen.
In 1969, Sister requested to attend nursing school, and from 1970 to 1973 she worked in the respiratory department of St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
From 1973 to 1976 she and Sister Secunda went to Ukiah, California, where she worked in the Ukiah Hospital as an LPN. It was a greatly appreciated chance for her to be near her family.
After those three years, being lonesome for community living, Sister moved back to Wisconsin. She was hired back at St. Luke’s but was urged by the sister nurses here to work at Campbellsport. Indeed, she did come to Campbellsport, and here she stayed, working as a charge nurse, night supervisor, and aide until retiring to do volunteer service. She also worked with hospice and was helpful in various other ways within the convent. Sister dedicated 35 years of her life to be of service here at St. Joseph Convent.
Friends and relatives remember Sister as someone who had a positive attitude, a good sense of humor, and the ability to put smiles on faces and touch hearts. One of the hospice nurses said that in her visit notes she said “sweet things” about the sisters who were assigned to her.
Many remember her as being smiling, generous, kind, and caring. May Jesus, who is never outdone in generosity, now gift her with His smile forever.
Sister Charlotte Smits
Born: April 15, 1942
Died: October 1, 2013
Sister Charlotte was born in 1942 in Rockford, Illinois, as the third of four children of George and Julia Smits. All members of her immediate family are now deceased. Char had an older brother, George, a sister, Judy, who was a member of the Sisters of St. Agnes, and a younger sister, Patty. The family moved to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, when Char was about third grade. There she spent time outdoors whether watching her father build their home or in nature—running in the woods or building fires or looking at the night sky.
In the 1960s, after high school, Charlotte joined the Army and was always proud of her military service. After the Army, Charlotte joined the Sisters of St. Agnes and in the mid-1970s she transferred to the School Sisters of St. Francis. No doubt she told her grade school children of the Army years, so at the time of the first Gulf War in the ’90s, they asked her if she was going to be called up. (Maybe they would get out of a religion test.)
Char did a marathon for her fortieth birthday and prepared by running from 24th and Forest Home to St. Mary’s at about 92nd and Forest Home. She inspired Sister Grace Golata and me to cross-country ski, but while we sat in snow ditches, she whizzed past us. Charlotte also had us canoeing and camping, but she always remained the invincible expert. Barb Eichenseer, a close friend, accompanied her on many weekends at the beach, hiking in the woods, or watching the Green Bay Packers. Char bicycled to Minnesota with her sister and managed to do it with relative ease. More recently, when she needed an added oxygen supply, Char still cut the lawn with the tank on her back. Why slow down indoors when your heart is strong and you love being outside?
Over the years she taught at St. Mary’s, Menominee Falls and Hales Corners, St. Anthony’s and St. Rafael’s. Even after retiring to a few hours per week, she still volunteered to do more hours where needed.
The Italian poet, Dante, said that nature is the art of God and that is where Charlotte most found the divine presence. She loved traveling to every river and woods in Wisconsin or Illinois, especially the Kettle Moraine area. The loons in northern Wisconsin had a special significance. At home, early in the morning, you would find her in the backyard drinking coffee and reading the paper or watering flowers. She kept all the plants in our house alive—thank God because it adds so much to living. Her love for dogs was somewhat curtailed but she found other people’s animals to attend to and they seem to love her back.
Char would agree with Helen Keller, who said: “A lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”
But most of all, Char would probably understand what Anne Frank said, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”
Sister Lorraine Welker
Born: September 1, 1931
Died: August 18, 2013
Sister Lorraine was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 1, 1931, to Bert Welker and Lucille Lisner Welker. She has one sister named Grace and a brother, Bert Jr., who died in his early 40s. Her father was of Pennsylvania Dutch descent, and her mother was German, but the family spoke English in their home. Her dad was a foreman for the International Harvester plant in Illinois, while her mom often helped others with caring for children.
Lorraine received the sacraments of initiation in three different Chicago churches, beginning with Baptism at St. Philomena’s, First Communion at another church, and Confirmation at St. Peter Canisius. The family made many moves before Lorraine felt called to enter religious life. St. Priscilla’s was their parish at the time of her entrance to St. Joseph Convent, Milwaukee in 1948. Sister was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis on June 21, 1949, receiving the name of Sister Mary Bertello.
Sister studied for her bachelor’s degree in education at Alverno College and graduated in 1960. She later worked to receive certification as a reading specialist from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1975. Like many other sisters, she had already been on missions as a teacher at St. Rita’s in West Allis, Wisconsin; St. Maurice in Chicago; and in Kankakee, Illinois, before formal studies for her degree were complete.
In 1970 she spent a year in River Forest editing for the Laidlaw Book Company, then continued to teach in several more schools over the course of the years: St. Philomena’s in Chicago; St. Cyprian in River Grove, Illinois; one year in Staten Island, New York; back to River Grove; then to St. Philomena’s once again; St. Bonaventure’s; St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest; and in Chicago, Queen of All Saints Basilica School and Immaculate Conception. Sister Lorraine’s ministry in education broadened her experience of Chicagoland, having been in several of its parishes besides having grown up in this large city environment.
As a teacher, one of Sister Lorraine’s strengths was that she was a great storyteller for her young students. If they were naughty, she did not use any traditional corrections or punishments, but gave a unique warning, “I’m going to tickle you.” This must have worked better.
Sister was more than an educator, and demonstrated her excellent cooking skills when the community no longer provided every mission with a homemaker. She loved to socialize, too, at any group gathering or parish event. It is said that she was the life of the party when the Chicago sisters held their “Pat and Joe” celebrations. Her beautiful smile and inviting presence would put anyone immediately at ease. When a situation or conversation got too tense or serious, she often relieved the discomfort with a witty remark. Overall, Sister Lorraine was a happy and prayerful person, and after she could no longer communicate in spoken words, she continued to smile and even laugh.
In 2001, Sister took a year’s rest at one of the Chicago local convents before retiring at St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. What she had feared most about her mental health was gradually becoming a reality. By the end years of her life, she may or may not have known who was with her, nor could she ask, but what her family, friends, and sisters in community knew of Sister Lorraine’s life will not be easily forgotten.
At this time she is probably looking upon us from her new world of the spirit where she has met her Maker, her angels, and patron saints. We can imagine she has greeted God with the best smile ever, and He, in the person of Jesus her Spouse, has smiled back and welcomed her to share life forever in her real and everlasting home we call heaven. May you rest in peace, Sister Lorraine!
Sister Eunice Wundrow (Jordan)
Born: July 26, 1924
Died: June 1, 2013
Eunice came into the world in her grandparents’ farm home on Sunday, July 26, 1924 in Greenville, Wisconsin, and was baptized the next day at St. Joseph Church in Appleton. She was the first-born in the family of Walter and Irene (Behling) Wundrow, and was joined by a sister 18 months later, then by four brothers in the next 16 years. As the oldest, she and her sister had responsibilities early on of babysitting the boys and helping with household chores.
The family moved to Middleton, Wisconsin, when she was four years old, and she attended the public school there. Except for physical ed and sports programs, she enjoyed it. There were about 20 children in every class, and most students were Lutheran, with only three or four Catholics. She and a friend would exchange thoughts their pastors had preached about. It was an early experience of ecumenism! In sixth grade she came down with rheumatic fever. To pass the time in the long recuperation, she read many books. As a “Depression kid,” she never felt deprived; her parents knew how to stretch their meager income.
In high school, one assignment was to write a paper on career choices. Hers was on the nursing profession, but concluded she didn’t have the gifts for it. Her mother asked if she might want to be a sister. “No” was her immediate response. Yet when a classmate invited her along for a bus ride to visit St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee, she accepted. In June they returned to witness a Reception ceremony at which she felt very impressed. They stayed overnight at Sacred Heart Sanitarium. Eunice had no inkling that later she would spend many years working there!
When their small parish in Middleton was given a resident priest, Eunice began to attend daily Mass. This practice sparked her desire to serve God as a sister. When she talked to her parents about it, they asked that she spend the year after graduation testing her decision. She found a job as a teacher and library aide at the public grade school, which had just received government funding from the National Recovery Act. At the end of that “waiting year,” Eunice learned that Sisters Cuthbert and Agatha Adler were planning to accompany their cousin, Loretta, who lived in nearby Ashton, to enter St. Joseph Convent. She asked to go with them. Her decision was firm: she would join the School Sisters of St. Francis.
As a candidate, Eunice had her ups and downs. But by June of 1943 she was at peace and was received as Sister Jordan. One day in the second year of novitiate, there was an announcement that the community was building a hospital in Beaver Dam, and there would be a need for nurses. A slip of paper was passed for volunteers. Apparently, she forgot the conclusion of her high school career paper! Something deep within told her to sign up. The next morning she was notified that she was one of those chosen to go. That night she dreamed that she was the only nurse on a large ward of very sick patients and every one of them died! She was shaken by the implications and reported the dream to Sr. Archelaus, the novice mistress. Sister smiled, her jaw dropped, and she could see that she was amused. She says of that moment, “I was advised to give nursing a good try.”
The three-year program in nursing was based at Sacred Heart Sanitarium. Sister began classes there in September of 1945 feeling very happy as she went about her work. Her first assignment after graduation and passing her State Boards was right there at Sacred Heart San and after that, next door at Villa Clement. Recalling her dream, she wrote, “Fortunately everyone survived my ministrations!”
Sister Eunice had other abilities besides nursing. She was elected to community administration and served a six-year term as the Generalate’s Fourth Councilor from 1966-1972. Soon after that, she suffered illness for the next four years. After recuperating, she went back to nursing, this time at St. Mary’s Hospital, Milwaukee.
In 1980 she had the opportunity to move to San Diego, California, where she took more studies in nursing education, holistic approaches to nursing, and school nursing. She put her skills to use in various ministries. The last job was in a parochial school as the school nurse and secretary. She said she learned a great deal there working with the children and with a wonderful, dedicated staff.
In 2002, while yet in California, she was rushed by ambulance to the hospital for serious health failures. Her classmate, Sister Leanne Herda, came from Kentucky to stay with her. After nine weeks she had improved enough for a plane ride back to Milwaukee, and was then transferred to St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, to recuperate. It was here she remained and where God gave her strength of spirit to hold on for the rest of her years.
Now was the time she had to let go and let God take her into His care and into His eternal home. Sister Eunice, we hope and pray that you are resting in peace in the embrace of your Healing God whom you have loved and served these many years.