Who knew that German and Germany would play such a major role in the life of Sister Patricia Baier? A Chicago girl, Pat met sisters of different congregations as she went to four different Catholic grade schools. She was always attracted to the sisters.
Her first three years of high school were at Alvernia High. It was customary that once a year, a group of postulants would come and give a talk to the girls about religious life. Pat remembers Austin Doherty, who was part of the group that came to Alvernia in her junior year. She was so taken by Austin’s presentation that she went home and told her mother that she was going to be a sister. When Fall came, she was at the door steps of St. Joseph Convent.
Pat had studied Latin for three years at Alvernia, but there was no fourth year Latin offered at the convent high school. By chance – or by the hand of God – a class in German was initiated. Pat loved the class, and did very well because of her experience with Latin. Later, when Pat went to Alverno, she took both Latin and German.
During her first five years of teaching, Pat taught first and second graders at St. Nicholas in Aurora, Illinois, and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Franklin, Wisconsin. Later, she ministered at St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where she taught Latin and German for seven years. They were exciting years! She lived with many sSisters, many of them excellent teachers and she learned from them.
Seeing some of the Sisters applying for grants, she decided to apply for a grant in German. She was awarded the grant, so for nine weeks she lived and studied in Germany. This immersion included outings to different towns, and attendance at theaters and other cultural events. It also gave her an opportunity to visit our European sisters on two different occasions.
A year later, she went to Sigmaringen, Germany, to teach. The first year was challenging. It took time for the students to fully accept her.
After two years, she returned to the United States and taught for four years at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. When she was asked by the principal of the school in Sigmaringen to return, she did and taught there for seven more years.
As she thinks about those years in Germany, she recalls the simple lifestyle they had. There were two convents. The sisters would walk to town when they needed something. She recalls a day when she was going to walk to town to get a bar of soap, and some shampoo. Sister Gertrud said “I can give you a bar of soap and some shampoo.” A bar of soap was a bar soap, and shampoo was shampoo. No need to pick or choose the kind you might want. Life was just simpler.
In 1982, the Generalate Team came to Germany. Sister Barbara Kraemer asked Pat if they might take a walk up in the hills. As they walked, she told Pat that the Generalate was in need of a German translator and they were asking Pat to come back to the United States to take that position. So in 1983, Sister Pat became the German translator for the Generalate.
Sister Pat worked for the Generalate for about 34 years, and she was part of the Generalate team from 2004-2010. Through these years, Pat returned to Germany many times. She was a valuable resource to the different international teams.
Her next ministry took her to Our Lady of the Angels, where she was appointed the first personal services coordinator for our sisters. At that time, the south side of the building was completed, but the north side, which mirrored the completed side, was still under construction. It was a time of creativity as they helped the sisters get settled into their new home and to feel comfortable there. Her heart grew in love for our sisters. Even when she retired, she had a soft spot in her heart for the sisters at Our Lady of the Angels, so when she was asked to assist Sister Ruth Gengler at OLA, she gladly went back to be with the sisters. To this day, she feels a love and connection for our sisters at Our Lady of the Angels.
Pat also worked five years with the Archives, organizing German documents.
As Sister Pat looks back on her life, living in community has always been something she treasures. She remembers living with Sister Corrine for 28 years, many of those years on Lapham Street where they offered hospitality to many sisters, especially those visiting from India, Germany, and Latin America.
The woman from Chicago who spent many years in Germany and then stayed connected to Germany through her work with and on the international team in now celebrating 70 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. We bless her, and offer her our gratitude.
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