Lorraine was born on June 6, 1942, to Bernard and Eleanor Schmitz, who lived on a farm in Westphalia, Iowa. She was their twelfth child, having four brothers and seven sisters, and was never lacking for playmates. She was very close to her sister Arlene. Like all her brothers and sisters, she attended St. Boniface School in Westphalia and was taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis.
Lorraine was small in stature, yet a very energetic and outgoing person. She loved to sing, dance, travel, and paint. In 1956, at age 14, Lorraine followed her oldest sister, Bernice, who had joined the School Sisters of St. Francis 15 years earlier at age 20. Bernice stayed at home longer to help her mother with their large family.
After formation, Lorraine was received in 1960 and given the name Sister Bernelynn. She began her studies at Alverno College. After Profession, she began mission life as a primary teacher in Iowa and Nebraska. Not too many years later, she sought training to be a Montessori teacher and worked as a teacher and director at Our Lady of the Angels Montessori School in Omaha for 12 years. During her Montessori training, she met a fellow trainee, Larry Lesperance, from the Chicago area, who has been a life-long friend of 55 years. Larry came to Sacred Heart for the last time to be at her bedside a week before she died.
In 1981, Lorraine went to Cincinnati for a sabbatical followed by study at Mt. St. Joseph College preparing her for religious education and parish ministry. She returned to Omaha and was Director of Religious Education at St. Wenceslaus. Five years later, she moved across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, serving Holy Family Parish for the next 21 years as religious educator and pastoral minister.
In 2008, Sister Lorraine retired and moved to New Cassel Retirement Center. There, as a volunteer, she helped with liturgical ministries and led the singing at Mass. Lorraine’s interest in watercolor painting advanced and often she participated in art shows in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area. She traveled when she could.
Earlier, Lorraine had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This was the challenge of the rest of her life. In 2015, Lorraine chose to come to Sacred Heart because her Parkinson’s was beginning to affect her walking.
Sister Lorraine was a fighter! She was not going to let Parkinson’s rule her life. She always made another try. Over seven years she met the challenges: cane, walker, wheelchair, and total care.
This past year had some hard times when she couldn’t get her words out anymore. Lorraine never lost the ability to recognize the Lord in the Eucharist and daily she was ready to receive Holy Communion. Her big blue eyes would open wide, and she would say “Body of Christ.”
A week before she died, her sister Arlene came from Colorado and spent the weekend at her bedside. Not many words were spoken, but hand grasps said everything. Arlene said, “We talked about everything. I am at peace. I do not need to return for her funeral.”
Lorraine’s final week was a peaceful one as she quietly went home to her God. Now, without any limitations, Lorraine can sing and dance and play before her God.