On November 26, 1926, the second of three daughters was born to Arthur and Catherine Treptow in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. They lived across the street from St. Mary’s Church, school, and convent. Soon the little girl was baptized at St. Mary’s and named Bernadine.
School Sisters of St. Francis were part of all their lives from little on. All the girls attended St. Mary’s School. Mom would often send a treat to the sisters, and Dad was ready and willing to take the sisters on needed trips to Milwaukee. St. Mary’s Parish was the center of the family’s spiritual and social life.
Bernadine’s older sister, Leona, entered the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1936, was received in 1937, and was given the name Sister Ado. She served in domestic work in our health care institutions and later as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Bernadine graduated from eighth grade but did not go on to high school. At age 16, she followed her sister Leona and entered St. Joseph Convent in 1942. She wanted to be a homemaker, so as a postulant she worked in the kitchen.
Soon Reception day came on June 13, 1943, and Bernadine received the name Sister Hermandine. She never went back to her Baptismal name. During the Novitiate, she was assigned to the kitchen when religion classes were not in session. During her second year Novitiate, she helped for a few months at St. Mark’s in Kenosha.
Profession day came on June 21, 1945, and her mission life soon began at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Aurora, Illinois; St. Mary’s, Pesotum, Illinois; and then to Holy Trinity in Mount Olive, Illinois. There, Sister Hermandine spent over 15 years making a home for the four sisters who staffed the school. She was always very happy when the parishioners brought her fresh vegetables from their gardens.
The sisters never stayed on the mission through the summer, but came back to Milwaukee to help as catechists where needed. Sister Joanne Thomas, Sister Hermandine’s candidate, tells us they always waited for the sisters’ return in August, hoping Sister Hermandine was one of them. The people loved her and they say they will never forget her smile and her giggle. Sister Hermandine, in turn, always liked it when the sisters who were studying at St. Louis University would be invited over when they had a free day.
After these wonderful years at Mt. Olive, Sister Hermandine came to the motherhouse kitchen at St. Joseph Convent, Milwaukee, from 1967 until 1998. This was a time of change after Vatican ll and many things changed, even in the kitchen. There were no more novices to peel potatoes and prepare vegetables. Retired sisters picked up those tasks. However, the joy of receiving fresh fruits and vegetables from sisters’ relatives on farms was appreciated.
Sister Roderic became ill and the kitchen staff changed. Sister Cecilia Zachman became manager, Sister Hermandine continued her work, and later Sister Francilda joined them, along with several lay employees, and Sister Lauriana was still in the bakery. Together, in new ways, they made a wonderful home and dining room for the retired sisters, served a noon meal to the LaFarge participants, and met all other needs. Sister Hermandine’s life as a homemaker fit into all of these changes.
Things continued to change, but Sister Hermandine continued working in the kitchen until 1998. Then she continued part time as the baker in the kitchen, since the bakery had been closed. On special days, she would serve her coconut macaroon cookies. She also helped with the evening meal.
Failing health brought Sister Hermandine to Sacred Heart in 2015. Here, she joined in prayer and activities. Soon a fall kept her in a wheelchair, but she never lost her laugh!
Sister Hermandine had a deep prayer life that was the guide of her whole life as a homemaker. She was always first when the community prayed the rosary, and never missed praying Evening Prayer with community. She also had great devotion to the Infant of Prague.
Sister Hermandine’s life as a homemaker showed all of us how our homemakers trusted in St. Joseph, and also how they believed their food would stretch so no one went away hungry. Thank you, Sister Hermandine, for your 79 years of faithful and joyful Franciscan living.