It was 1944 when a 14-year-old farm girl stepped into St. Joseph Convent. She brought with her a love of family, of animals, and of the earth. Those early years as an aspirant and as a postulant were filled with challenges, education, and orientation to religious life.
Then came novitiate, and then her first assignment to teach at St Anthony of Padua School. Here she experienced for the first time the challenges and failures of the foster care system, since the school accepted boys from the Carmelite Home for Boys.
The next eleven years Sister Bernie taught at the Alverno Lab School. It was a time of building deep friendships. She also enjoyed the large collection of classical music made available to her. Her desire to teach aboard came to fruition in 1969 when she went to Costa Rica. She loved the beauty of the country, its history and its people. Although there were challenges and struggles at St. Clare College regarding a shortage of teachers and directors, it resulted in the present day educational model used throughout Cost Rica.
Sister Bernie returned to the United States in the spring of 1983. She remembers the trees still dark with black braches and seemingly no life. Then slowly they bloomed with green life, beautiful and full of splendor.
She remembers seeing a sign in front of a church indicating the times of the Masses and noticing that each Mass was in a different language: Polish, English and Spanish. Having been out of the country, it struck her that here was a respect for different cultures and the richness each brings to the other.
Sister accepted employment at Alverno College in the Education Department. It was here she was invited along with Sister Fran Hicks and Sister Nancy Hansen to attend a presentation by the Religious Resource Center on the needs of the southwest. The three sisters answered the call to minister in the southwest, specifically El Paso. With the approval of the provincial team, plans were made for the fall of 1985.
In those first years, Sister Nancy continued her nursing in a clinic, Sister Fran did parish work in Fort Hancock, and Sister Bernie worked with Ruben Garcia in a refugee center. It was here that Bernie realized the great need for a women’s shelter. This was the birthing of La Posada, a shelter that gave women a safe place to live, a place where they could grow in their own worth, and eventually take their place in society.
Sister Stella Dolan, IHM, was part of the early beginnings of La Posada but sadly, after two years, Sister retired. Fortunately Sister Kathy Braun volunteered at La Posada, where she brought guidance, support, and strength. During this time, with the help of Legal Aid, La Posada became a legal entity. This made it easier to receive grants to aid in their work.
Sister Kathy and Bernie had other jobs to provide for their living expenses. When Sister Kathy left La Posada, Sister Joselita Lacoursiere and Sister Mary Ann Eichenseer came to assist with the work of La Posada. Both sisters attended classes to gain strength in speaking Spanish. Sister Joselita took over the finances and wrote grants. Her work was vital to La Posada. Sister Mary Ann was in charge of dealing with the donations: clothing, furniture, and food. She saw that each woman who left the shelter had what she needed to start a new life. “I will always be grateful to these three sisters for all they did for La Posada and for me,” Sister Bernie said.
After retiring from La Posada, Sister Bernie taught English to adults. One of the parishes provided the space and a stipend for her. Shortly after they retired they got a call from the Franciscan volunteer organization asking them to take one of their volunteers. The living situation had not worked out for her and she needed a place to stay. After some conversation, Josie and Sister Bernie agreed to accept her into their home. They had had experience with many Tau Volunteers but they were older now. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for the three of them and Sister Bernie is still in contact with her today.
During her years in El Paso, Sister Bernie belonged to a prayer group that gave her support. It was a group that brought her joy and strength.
In 2009, Sister Bernie moved to the motherhouse and then to Maria Linden. At this time she has decided to move to Sacred Heart. Sister has many stories she can share with you, especially around her ministry in El Paso, and the many women she has assisted in finding their personal value.
“I am most grateful to all who have been a part of my life,” Sister Bernie said. And Bernie, we are so grateful that you are part of our lives. May God always walk with you, and may you always know his love.
<< Back to Jubilarian list