On June 20, 1920, a baby girl was born on Grandpa Werth’s farm near Schoenchen, Kansas, the first child of Ruth and Frank Werth. She was baptized Martina that same day in St. Anthony’s Church in Schoenchen.
The Werth family was large; Martina was the oldest of 13 children. The family owned two homes: the farmhouse in the country, and a house in town which was closer to church and school. In the summertime, they all moved back to the farm.
By 1928, the Werth family moved to Antonino, Kansas. When Martina was old enough, she attended Our Lady Help of Christians School, staffed by the St. Joseph Sisters of Concordia, Kansas. There she was prepared to receive her First Communion.
The seeds of a religious vocation were beginning to sprout in Martina. She became acquainted with the School Sisters of St. Francis through her cousins, the Rohrs and the Youngers, who were living in another part of Kansas and had entered the School Sisters of St. Francis community. When Anna Margaret Rohr and Mary Barbara Younger came home for their postulant visit, one of the aunts asked Martina if she would want to go along for the Reception of the two girls and then join the community. Both Martina Werth and Martina Rohr felt called to do just that!
Martina left home on June 9, 1935, to enter the convent after receiving her parents’ blessing. She and her cousin Martina Rohr left with the Rohrs and the Youngers who were going for the Reception of their daughters into the School Sisters of St. Francis. You can imagine it was quite an adventuresome trip to travel from Kansas to Wisconsin by car in those days.
Martina entered the convent as an aspirant. At first, she was very homesick but refused to cry about it. Often she would hide herself and her heartache in the Adoration Chapel and prayed to remain steadfast in her vocation. Indeed, she did remain steadfast and was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis on June 13, 1939, and given the name Sister Clarella.
In 1941, after her First Profession of Vows, she was assigned to teach first and second grade and be the parish organist at St. Lawrence Parish in St. Lawrence, Wisconsin. Just as the school year was about to begin, Sister Clarella received word that her mother died suddenly at the age of 40. Sister Clarella missed the first ten days of school, so it was a very difficult first year on mission. However, the next three years there were enjoyable!
In the next years, Sister served as teacher and organist at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Chicago, Illinois; in Allenton, Wisconsin; Pierce, Nebraska; Monroeville, Indiana; Roselle, Illinois; and Butte, Nebraska. After teaching a summer school in Denver, Colorado, Sister asked to be relieved of duties as an organist. She continued as a teacher in Cherokee, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. In Omaha, at Our Lady of Lourdes, she taught for one year and then for 30 more years continued as a volunteer and support to the teaching staff until 1992. Upon retiring, Sister Clarella continued to volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes Convent for nine more years.
With her eyesight failing, she came to St. Joseph Convent, Campbellsport, in 2001. She served by visiting the sick and helping in the laundry, kitchen, or wherever help was needed. Her willing spirit and quick wit endeared her to the sisters and staff. During these years, her sisters would come to visit and they were a joy for all! Also at the same time they would visit with all their cousins, Sisters Germaine Werth, Anna Margaret Rohr, and Margaret Younger.
In 2013, with the impending closing of St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport, Sister moved to Sacred Heart. As she said, “Here, although my eyesight, hearing, and mobility are limited, I am still able to get around. I especially enjoy spending time in our chapel, where I pray for my family, our School Sister community, the Church, and the world.”
Sister Clarella had another nine enjoyable years at Sacred Heart. With her failing eyesight, she treasured her Magna-Lite Reader because then she could pray her Daily Office and read community and family mail.
Special celebrations were also part of these years. In 2019, she celebrated her 80th Jubilee in community. Those first prayers she said for perseverance lasted forever! In 2020, during the pandemic, she celebrated her 100th birthday. She received her birthday wishes from chapel, where she was on the in-house TV channel where all the sisters could see her and celebrate.
Sister Clarella, now we thank you for your 83 years of loving and serving God and God’s people as a School Sister of St. Francis. Thank you for the joy, wisdom, and wit you have brought into many lives. Now enjoy eternal peace and joy, and continue to pray for us all.