Sister Leanne Herda


Sister Leeann Herda

When asked how she feels about celebrating 80 years as a School Sister of St. Francis, Sister Leanne answered, “I have many wonderful memories.” Sister Leanne grew up in West Allis, Wisconsin. She was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in elementary school, but she chose to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis after attending Pius XI High School, where she was influenced by our sisters. She also had relatives in our community.

Sister Leanne completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Alverno College in 1949. She took graduate studies at Marquette University, and worked at Sacred Heart Sanitarium and in hospitals early in her vocation. But Sister Leanne had had a desire to be a missionary since her days at Pius, where she was president of the Catholic Students Mission Council.

She is most proud of her ministry in Kentucky, which began in 1979 living in the hills and “hollers” of Appalachia as a home health care nurse. She wanted to help people who could not afford expensive medications or costly hospitalizations, so Sister Leanne began learning about holistic methods of healing. She attended a gathering of nurses in 1981 in Atlanta and subsequently became a founding member of the American Holistic Nurses Association.

“I was happy to be available for the people,” Sister Leanne said, and she is proud to have empowered the people in holistic health. “I taught the people to carry on what I was doing. They still contact me.”

Sister Leanne drove countless miles on rugged, unpaved roads to visit her clients in their homes. Her stops included persons who were sick or physically impaired, as well as those who needed friendship and encouragement. During those years, she developed an appreciation for the splendor of the Kentucky hills, and she also saw beauty reflected in the people living there. Her advocacy to get the region’s roads fixed resulted in many people being provided with jobs.

Some of Sister Leanne’s best memories involve using her driving skills to take a number of sisters “west” to visit their families, and stopping to visit interesting places along the way. Her most memorable trip was one for which she admits she said “no” several times before thinking, “Why don’t I say yes?” Sister Nivard Hainault, her classmate and friend, had recently retired from many years of ministry at St. Anthony Parish in Menomonee Falls. The parishioners gifted her with a trip to Assisi for herself and a companion. Sister Leanne is very happy that she finally agreed. When recalling the experience, Sister Leanne exclaimed, “Now that was a memory!”

When she was told that there will be a Jubilee celebration at Our Lady of the Angels, where she now lives, Sister Leanne’s immediate reaction was, “I love parties!” followed by a big smile.

Sister Leanne doesn’t know where those 80 years as a School Sister of St. Francis went, but we know she certainly deserves to celebrate her many years in our community. Her dedicated service to the poor, and her work for justice, are still being carried on by those she ministered with in rural Kentucky.

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