Sister Paulea Kraft has a quote from Sister Joan Chittister that she feels symbolizes her life as a School Sister of St. Francis very well: “We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life. How could we tire of hope? So much is in the bud.”
As an eighth grader, Sister Paulea was asked by her teacher, Sister Andria, where she was going to high school. Sister Andria suggested the aspirancy at St. Joseph Convent. Before that Sister Paulea had no idea what she was going to do and was delighted when she had a specific direction.
She remembers walking up the long flight of cement steps that led to the convent door. Upon entering, she felt excited about being with the happy group that she met. A new time began for her. After some time, though, she discovered that what she had chosen was not what she expected. She felt, though, that was all yet “in the bud.”
When Sister Paulea was sent to Alverno College, she was surprised because she did not think she was smart enough to go to college. In time, though, and through much adjustment, everything began to come alive for her. Her college years and her classmates helped her to be more positive in her thinking.
The first ten years of mission life were spent at St. Benedict in Chicago teaching second grade. She loved working with the little ones and discovered that she was a creative teacher.
“It is amazing how time passes by, and I never noticed what God had planned for me,” Sister Paulea said. She went to Nebraska and worked with small children in the schools. When her parents moved to California and she found out that her mother had become sick, she asked Mother Superior if she could move to Hemet, California, and help take care of her. Permission was granted and she spent the best 30 years of her life caring for the sick. Again, she found so much was yet “in the bud.”
During her years at Hemet, Sister Paulea found herself with a new heart. She gave the sick and the dying her everything. She felt like a midwife as she worked with patients in hospice. She formed a bereavement group and to this day, she continues to hear from some of the people in the group. When Sister hears from these individuals, she responds and continues her comforting of the grieving. Sometimes these individuals mention another person who has lost someone and Sister Paulea tells them “if you know their address, I will write to them.”
Spirituality was another of the “buds” opening more fully, as was working with what she called the “Little Church,” children ages five to seven.
At age 89, Sister Paulea retired to Sacred Heart Convent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Just recently, she received three boxes from a doctor friend that she had worked with at the hospice. In the boxes were 12 calla lily plants that Sister gave to the chapel at Sacred Heart. She wrote to her friend and told her that these plants will send back the prayers of the sisters to bless her and her husband, who is scheduled for a kidney transplant.
The bud continues its opening process.
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