Sister Cathryn Kever is from Frankenstein, Missouri, where she was taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis throughout her grade school years. Being a sister and a teacher went hand in hand for her because that is how she experienced the sisters.
“They impressed me by how they were with each other and how they worked with us as children,” Sister Cathryn said. She saw how happy and prayerful the sisters were and she wanted to be like them. She remembers one sister in particular, Sister Minerva, who would take the Miraculous Medal of her rosary and press it on a child’s cut or sore and prayed for the child.
Later as a teacher, Sister Cathryn enjoyed seeing the light of understanding go on in a student’s eyes. This was very life giving for her “I knew I was a good teacher when I could help the students understand the topic,” she said. “I worked hard to think of different ways to approach the lesson to achieve that effect.”
As a science teacher in Mississippi, Sister had to teach the students how to dissect a frog. Her only previous experience with frogs was on their farm with her six siblings, when they caught them in the pond. So, she asked one of the bright students to come to school and between looking at the frog and looking at the diagram in the teacher’s manual, they practiced dissecting a frog. This still makes her laugh. She was following Sister Viola’s advice to use “honest pretention,” and she pretended she knew what she was doing the next day in class.
She is really proud of her teaching years, especially at Ryan High School in Nebraska. Sister Jane Elyse Russell was in her first graduating class. She also remembers several other young women from Ryan who became School Sisters of St. Francis.
She welcomed the changes following Vatican II and encouraged them in the community and in the Church. At that time, she switched from teaching to pastoral work, which she did for ten years. This led to prison ministry in Tennessee.
“The prisoners respected me,” Sister recalled. “They knew I was there to be with them. I never knew why they were incarcerated. That was not important to me.”
She and Sister Francita Schermann witnessed an execution on death row. “It is a terrible way to treat another human being,” said Sister Cathryn, who is very opposed to the death penalty.
“I think the time I felt the most like a School Sister was when I lived alone in Tennessee,” Sister said. “The people were so good to me as a sister, even if they weren’t Catholic. They felt I was one of them. My next door neighbor helped me one night when I called on him. A mother possum with her babies had gotten into my bedroom. The neighbor came and took care of the situation!”
For fun and relaxation, on Sundays after Mass, Sister rode her bike all around the town – seven miles, often with her little dog in the basket.
No single accomplishment stands out for Sister Cathryn; rather, she has loved all her experiences. She always tried to build on what she learned. Her motivation always was “Do the best you can, no matter what you are doing.”
Sister Cathryn has a strong belief that God loves her. She has carried this conviction with her throughout her life, especially in her 70 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. Congratulations, Sister Cathryn!
Complied by Sister Carol Ann Jaeger
<< Back to Jubilarian list