Born to Life
October 17, 1925
June 13, 1943
Born to Eternal Life
October 27, 2022
Our Lady of the Angels
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Bernadette was born October 17, 1925, in Chilton, Wisconsin, to Eva Birkholtz from Brothertown and Martin Salm from Chilton. They and their children – eight boys and seven girls - lived on a 60-acre farm, three miles from Chilton.
Bernadette’s mother was a very efficient homemaker; she knew all about cooking, sewing, needlework and even how to cut hair. Bernadette’s father worked for the AA Farm Program. He and Monsignor Luigi Ligutti were the originators of the Catholic Rural Life Farm Program.
As a small child, Bernadette learned what the word “responsibility” meant. Her dad was gone often, even for days, and her mom, the hired man, and the children had to keep up the farm.
When Bernadette was preparing to go to the convent after eighth grade, her brothers had a lot of fun teasing her. She entered St. Joseph Convent on August 28, 1939. Studying to be a music teacher, she spent three years as an aspirant and two years as a candidate. As a second-year novice, on March 5 she was sent to St. Rita Parish in Milwaukee. She played her very first High Mass on St. Joseph Day.
Sister Bernadette was an accomplished musician. She had the opportunity to minister in Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, and Nebraska. In addition to playing the organ for weekday and Sunday Masses, funerals, and weddings, she taught school music and gave piano, violin, guitar, and voice lessons.
After her sabbatical in 1987-1988, Sister Bernadette decided to change careers. She and a friend walked the streets of Chicago, looking for the jobs listed in the newspaper ads. After knocking at the door of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers living on the Gold Coast in Chicago, the secretary let them in. Since the director was gone, she asked the secretary if she could observe her work – which Bernadette did while the director was gone. Upon his return, she was hired and she worked for the Maryknoll Fathers for 10 years.
After 43 years on various missions, Bernadette decided it was time to move to the “Big House,” as her family called it. In Campbellsport, she was part of the liturgical group and also gave piano lessons. At this time, she also wrote her autobiography. In it, she stated that she aspired to fulfill the goal set forth by our community: “Be the Face of the Gospel.”
Sister Bernadette’s final move was in 2018, to Our Lady of the Angels, where she participated in the life and activities of the community and continued her mission of “being the Face of the Gospel” to the other sisters and staff.