December 13, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
“I have loved you with an everlasting love. I am constant in my affection for you.”
Jeremiah 31:3 & 4 (Jerusalem Bible)
This Bible quote and Psalm 139 were very important backdrops for Mary these last few months, so we will use them as the underpinnings of our sharing as we gather this evening to remember and celebrate her life.
Sister Mary Reiter was born July 17, 1925, on a farm south of Beloit, Kan., to Thomas Reiter and Ella (Eilert) Reiter. She was the fifth of ten children and was named Elizabeth Ann. Mary was born in the season of harvest amidst the gathering of wheat, garden produce and canning. I wonder if this set the pattern for the fullness of life that Mary seemed to enjoy. Part of the richness that blessed Sister Mary’s life was her siblings:
Arnold Joseph, Leonard, Lorena, Mary, Lila, Pauline, Maxine, Joan and Rose Ann. All but Lila, Maxine and Joan have preceded her in death. Though Mary doesn’t mention much about the interaction with her siblings in their younger years, she does mention that her childhood was very happy. She has also written about a number of trips she later shared with family members and their enjoyment of one another and entering fully into the fun of the moment. I know that Mary treasured her family and the times she spent with them.
Mary’s elementary education took place in a one-room country school. Mary never tired of learning and – in her own words, “I avariciously devoured the few books available to me even reading several of the same books over and over.” In 1939, Mary entered St. John’s High School in Beloit. She lived with a family in town during those years and worked for her room and board. She graduated in 1943.
After attending her first Catechism class in grade one, she went home and memorized the Catechism from cover to cover. At this young age, she already had a desire to become a Sister. This desire remained with her throughout her school years and when she was a senior, Sister Margaret Ann Buser helped her write her letter of application to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. A few months later, on Sept. 8, 1943, she entered. She attributes her vocation to the deep faith of her mom and dad. Her mom voiced the desire to have one of her daughters become a sister and her two aunts Sister Christopher Reiter (her father’s sister) and Sister Casimir Eilert (her mother’s sister) were held in high regard.
Those who received the habit with Mary were Sister Bernard Marie Schruben, Sister Mary Alois Lauscher, Sister Edwardine Flavin, and Sister Amabilis Hasselbring. They made first vows on March 19, 1945, and final vows on August 15, 1948. The sister name given to Elizabeth Reiter was Sister Mary de Paul. In 1978 she dropped the de Paul and became simply Sister Mary. The two remaining members of Mary’s band, Sister Bernard Marie Schruben and Sister Edwardine Flavin reside at Mount Joseph Senior Village.
Immediately after making first vows, Mary was given a correspondence course to begin her college education which took eighteen summers and seventeen hours of correspondence. Mary graduated from Marymount College in 1962 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and obtained her Master’s Degree in Physical Science in 1972.
From 1945 to 1960, Mary taught elementary school…every grade from kindergarten through eighth. In 1961, Mary was asked to teach science and math in high school which she did until 1985. Her teaching missions included Manhattan, Damar, Vincent, Salina, Herington, Junction City and Beloit – all in Kansas – Aurora, Ill., Silver City, NM., Fairbury and Grand Island, NB., and Boonville, MO.
In the summer of 1986, Mary took a Sabbatical attending the Focus Program at Gonzaga in Spokane. She speaks of it as an enriching experience for body, mind and spirit. After finishing her Sabbatical, Mary became Director of Religious Education at St. Mary’s in Salina from 1986 to 1989 and Director of Religious Education and RCIA Coordinator at St. Fidelis in Victoria from 1989 to 1993. During the following year, not being able to find a position that seemed to fit her, she moved to Medaille in Salina. In 1994, she, Sister Doris Marie, and Sister Viatora Solbach were hired to do Pastoral Ministry at St. Mary’s in Ellis, KS. Mary ministered there until 2000 when she felt called to come “to be of service at the Motherhouse”. The many ways she found to be of service at the Motherhouse are too numerous to mention. She faithfully carried out this ministry, to the best of her ability, until the point of her death early Monday morning, Dec. 12, 2011.
Mary loved to journal and write and has six pages of memories written about each of her years of mission experience. She includes many of the highlights and low points she encountered in each place. At the end she has a written comment, “I learned an awful lot about myself as I wrote down these memories.”
Like most of us, Mary was well aware of her shortcomings and what she called the areas blocking or hampering her union with God and the dear neighbor. Mary gives us a peek into her depth through some of her last retreat notes, which she shared with me. It was during this retreat — made from Feb. 19 to 26, this year – that the Scriptures that I mentioned in opening, (“I have loved you with an everlasting love. I am constant in my affection for you.” [Jerimiah 31:3-4; Jerusalem Bible] and Psalm 139) became very meaningful to her. She came to a deep realization of God’s love for her in all her gifts and imperfections. She speaks of the pain and suffering that has begun to be a part of her life and how God walks with her even in her suffering. Though Mary didn’t yet know that she had pancreatic cancer, God seemed to be readying her heart and spirit to know and accept His love even in the suffering and humility needed to be ministered to by others. She speaks of God knowing her in her weaknesses and strengths, in her generosity and in her helplessness and reiterates many times…”I have loved you with an everlasting love. I am constant in my affection for you.” She was very touched by the thought of God’s constant affection for her. She speaks of her insatiable thirst and hunger for knowledge — especially Godly knowledge, the Mass, contemplative prayer, Advent prayer, living nonviolently, the “Falling in Love for a Lifetime” 30-day retreat and many other religious experiences which she was privileged to have. Mary was grateful for the many opportunities for spiritual growth that were offered her by the community.
In her most recent Commitment Statements, Mary speaks of being attentive to the Spirit and a faithful witness to the good news of God’s unconditional love for each of us. She desired to have a positive approach to life and to be a leaven of hope.
The last conversation I had with Mary was this past Saturday morning. She kept speaking of a girl baby who had been born. I’m not sure who this baby was. She was having a little trouble getting all the words together in a manner that satisfied her. Later, (because of references in the conversation) I wondered if it was some foretelling of her own rebirth into the arms of God. Before I left, we prayed together and then she said to me. I don’t know if you’ll need to give that eulogy today or tomorrow and smiled. It wasn’t very long ago that Mary had asked me to give her eulogy. I told her it would be a privilege but also asked her why she had asked me. She said that she knew I would do it in a plain way without frills. I guess Mary considered herself a plain woman and in a way she was but she also brought frills to our lives through her gift of crocheting beautiful pieces out of thread (antependium) as well as the love woven through her life.
Mary’s life review ends with this quote, “I view my life as a constant miracle of God’s love and forgiveness. I try to share my love with all whose lives I touch. Oftentimes when I feel things are going very well an unexpected cross comes from an area I least suspect. I view all of these as ways of keeping me honest. …I give thanks to God for all that has been and all that is still to come.”
Mary we also give thanks to God for all that has been gift to us through your life. We hope your insatiable thirst and hunger has now been satisfied.
• • • • • • • • •
Memorials for Sister Mary may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901.
Or, if you’d like to make a donation online, you may do so through the PayPal secure server. Just click on the DONATE button below.
December 3, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
Visitors toured the Nazareth Motherhouse Saturday afternoon — and paid special attention to the 11 decorated trees that lined both walls of the auditorium.
• • • • • • • • •
The brightly decorated exhibits made up Christmas Tree Lane, and by the end of the afternoon each was going home with the highest bidder in the silent auction that began Friday evening. The Sisters of St. Joseph added the new Christmas Tree Lane this year as a way of helping local nonprofit organizations raise much-needed funds in a year that has been hard on both the groups and the people they serve.
Local organizations were invited to decorate a Christmas tree for the event, and 11 groups accepted the invitation. The trees were provided free to the organizations, thanks to a Seize the Moment grant from the Community Foundation for Cloud County.
The groups then sold tickets to a special preview party Friday evening, and placed donation boxes by their tree. Then visitors bid on the trees, with the high bidders announced at 4 this afternoon. The winning bids ranged from $100 up to $210. Each organization will keep all its proceeds from the ticket sales, donation boxes and the auction.
As visitors were checking out the trees, they were also entertained by a number of local musicians, including Irene Brown, Patrick Sieben, Jean Hamel and the great Society Singers from Cloud County Community College. The sisters provided refreshments as well, and offered tours of the historic Motherhouse, which was built in 1902 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The sisters have hosted a Christmas Open House for a number of years, but their development office decided this year to organize Christmas Tree Lane as a way to help struggling local nonprofit groups, said development director Sister jean Rosemarynoski. Many government grants and other funds have been cut, she said, at a time when local people need the help more than ever.
The nonprofit organizations decorating trees were:
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cloud, Mitchell and Republic Counties
- Cloud County Health Center
- Cloud County Health Center Auxiliary
- Cloud County Community Resource Center
- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
- Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas (DVACK)
- Helping Hands
- National Orphan Train Complex
- NCK Honor Flight
- NCK Paws
- OCCK Inc.
For more photos from the Friday evening preview party, CLICK HERE.
December 3, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
They came, they saw, they oohed and ahhed…
• • • • • • • •
Guests at Friday evening’s Christmas Tree Lane preview party at the Nazareth Motherhouse were the first to see the 11 decorated trees that make up a special fundraiser for the local nonprofit organizations taking part.
Christmas Tree Lane continues today (Saturday, Dec. 3) in conjunction with the annual Motherhouse Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. There is no charge for admission, and tours of our historic building will be available, along with refreshments and live musical entertainment. Performers include Irene Brown, the Great Society Choir of Cloud County Community College, Patrick Sieben and the Bent Wind Ensemble.
Christmas Tree Lane is designed to benefit local nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of people in Concordia and the surrounding area. Each of the 11 organizations that asked to take part has decorated a 4½-foot Christmas tree that will be sold to the highest bidder in a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction, plus any donations received will go directly to each organization.
The trees range from the simple (a Charlie Brown theme from the National Orphan Train Complex and Museum) to the ornate (pearls in lilac and white from CASA), with edible (“Sweet Visions” from Helping Hands) and patriotic (red, white and blue from NCK Honor Flights) thrown in.
The winning bidder for each tree will be announced at 4 p.m. today.
The guests at Friday evening’s gathering had been invited by each organization, and were treated to wine and hors d’oeuvres provided by the participating groups and the Sisters of St. Joseph, which sponsored, organized and hosted the event.
The idea, according to development director Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, was to give local organizations a chance to raise a little extra money at a time when funding is tight and their services are needed most. During the preview party, a representative from each participating group gave a 2- to 3-minute talk, explaining what services it provides and how it serves local people.
The trees were provided free to the participating organizations thanks to a Seize the Moment grant from the Community Foundation for Cloud County.
The nonprofit organizations decorating trees are:
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cloud, Mitchell and Republic Counties
- Cloud County Health Center
- Cloud County Health Center Auxiliary
- Cloud County Community Resource Center
- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
- Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas (DVACK)
- Helping Hands
- National Orphan Train Complex
- NCK Honor Flight
- NCK Paws
- OCCK Inc.
November 18, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
EULOGIST: Sister Lucy Schneider
Hello, dear relatives and friends of Sister Lila Marie Schmidt and all the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
What a shock to hear Wednesday afternoon that Lila had quickly gone to God! What a sadness. And a lesser shock yesterday to learn that she had requested that I give her eulogy. Not really a surprise, for Lila was and is my good friend, my Sister, with many shared experiences and memories. I just pray that these words this evening will do justice to his generous and valiant woman.
George Cohen’s song goes like this: “I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy, a Yankee Doodle do or die. A real live nephew — we’ll change that to niece — of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July.”
That’s what Lila was: Born on the Fourth of July, 1933.
A few years ago she showed her pride in have a July 4 birthday by entering a national contest, the winning of which would have given her a trip to the Capitol and other prizes. Though not being picked as the winner, just entering the contest showed the interesting and interested spirit that characterized her whole life.
Lila was the eighth of 13 children. Her parents were Catherine Breit Schmidt and George J. Schmidt. Within sight of the strikingly beautiful church in Pfeifer, Kan., the 13 grew up challenged by dust storms and hot, hot summers and the Great Depression. Lila said she had a very loving mother and a strict father who was a good provider, progressing from real poverty to being a well-off farmer and rancher and a good manager. The farm of Lila’s birth was the one her grandparents had homesteaded 50 years earlier.
The siblings were closely bonded and continued so throughout the years. Visits — including a recent one — to Lila by Leroy, Kenny and Patty bear out that statement. Lila acknowledged that the brothers and sisters had the usual sibling rivalries and disagreements, but whenever one of them was sick, she found it in her nature to take on their pain and suffering. It remained easy for Lila to continue this empathy and compassion for the people she cared about.
Lila entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 2, 1949, at the age of 16, having gone to two years of high school at Sacred Heart in Salina while staying with one of her married sisters. Lila said of entering, “I was following in the footsteps of two of my sisters, so I thought. Sister Ann Clare passed away in 1951 at age 25; I was still in the novitiate. My mother passed away two years later, never getting over the grief of her daughter’s loss. … My other sister in the Order left a few years later. Even though I knew she was doing OK, I missed her a lot. My father died in March 1981 at the age of 80.”
Lila became Sister Fabian when she entered the novitiate on March 19, 1950. Her first profession was March 19, 1951, and she professed perpetual vows on July 5, 1954. (Remember, her birthday was July 4.)
Today is the feast of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who once said, “We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self.” Some people may have had the impression that Lila, too, cultivated a very small field, but they would have been wrong — very, very wrong. And her heart surely held back nothing for self.
Although highly intelligent, Lila was not sent to school when going out on mission. Rather she was put in charge of dietary departments in hospitals, schools and convents, She admitted to perfectionism, which made for excellent service to all involved but which took its toll on her.
Vatican II opened “a whole new horizon for me,” Lila said. “I was ready to put all my experience to use. I volunteered for the Jesuit missions on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota.”
The Jesuits, the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Charity and the native people all looked up to Lila, and she wrote, “They thought I was God since I could do everything that needed to be done.” And they loved her greatly. In the Lakota language, the word “Lila” is pronounced Leela and means very, very. The word “waste” — pronounced wash-tay — means good. So they affectionately called her “Sister Leela Washtay” — Very, Very Good.
Loving her work there, Lila expected to live out her working days in South Dakota. But that didn’t happen; burnout and perfectionism took her to a lifetime low. Emmaus Community in St. Louis brought her the life-giving, life-saving help she needed, through Sister Julia Harkins, a Sister of St. Joseph of Boston.
Lila’s new field of ministry broadened to include work at Salina’s Pathfinder House, a halfway house for recovering alcoholics. There again she was much appreciated for who she was and what she was able to do for them, in terms of food and community building.
During this time she lived and shared life with the children of St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, with the wise Father Wasinger and with Sisters, including Mary Lou Roberts, Therese Blecha and me. Those years at the Children’s Home plus our common reservation experience led Lila and me into a friendship that only deepened through her years in Concordia. We occasionally celebrated that friendship with lunch at the Kirby House in Abilene, followed by a visit to the Indian Center, also in Abilene.
Before coming to the Motherhouse in 1995, Lila developed a clientele in Salina for her home health care and companioning ministry. Families’ relationship with her, as I know from personal experience, continued long after the death of the patients. Among the pictures of Lila — on the table in the entry of the dining room — you will find a painted tribute by one such relative.
Speaking of lifetime connections, there were four women friends who worked with Lila at Meadowbrook Junior High in Kansas City. Their annual visits to Lila continued over the years, with the four becoming three, then two, etc. The Lakota have an expression, Mitakuye Oyasin (meaning All My Relatives), and that was certainly lived out by Lila, with all those she ministered to wherever she was.
The Lakota expression is meant to include not just humans but all of creation. And in recent years, the finches in the Motherhouse Aviary became part of Lila’s relatives; the admiring and prayerful times she spent in their company attest to that fact. And fittingly, the picture of Lila on her memorial card was taken with the aviary and its happy inhabitants in the background.
Turning mounts of dough into rolls and loaves with the aid of many young Indians’ hands was one of Lila’s talents. Another was turning containers of beads into medallions, barrettes, watchbands and the like. Those works of beauty may also be seen on the table downstairs. My favorite story about her beautiful work is this: The Indian superintendent of St. Francis High School and Lila greeted one another in a friendly manner one day, and then she asked him if she could borrow the medallion he was wearing. She promised to return it the next morning. He gladly gave it to her, and she returned it as promised — and was able to duplicate it exactly after that brief time examining it.
Lila wasted by no time in going from this life to the next, entering the hospital one day and dying the following afternoon, Nov. 16, 2011. So, since little else remains to be said this evening in her remembrance and honor, I will waste no time either.
Dear Lila, we say to you pilamaya — that is, in Lakota, thanks you, dear Sister, for a faith-filled, service-filled life to the dear neighbor, a life given over to Mitakuye Oyasin — All My Relatives: family, Sisters of St. Joseph, those you ministered to, the finches and all of creation. Since such a large part of your heat remained on the Rosebud reservation, the community’s choice of flowers for you reflects that reality. The pink rosebuds here tonight are taking the place of the pink wild roses for which the Rosebud reservation is known and named. Goodbye for now, dear good friend, “Sister Leela Washtay.”
Memorials for Sister Lila Marie Schmidt may be sent to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901.
If you’d like to make a donation in memory of Sister Lila Marie, you may do so through a secure server with PayPal. Just click on the Donate button below.
November 3, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
Sister Maria Augusta Mendes Bispo has been elected coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in Brazil.
In the community elections in late October, Sister Joana Marias das Graças de Sousa was named vice coordinator, while Sister Luciene Maria de Carvalho was re-elected treasurer and Sister Patricia Neihouse was named councilor. The new team will take office in mid January, for a term of three years.
Sister Maria Augusta will succeed Sister Donna Otter as coordinator.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia founded the Brazil Mission in 1963, from a base in Teresina, the capital city of the state of Piauí in northeast Brazil. Over the years, they have reached out to neighboring cities and states, and today have three mission houses within the city of Teresina, as well as in Picos and Guaribas, both in Piauí, and in Graça Aranha, Maranhão. There are 15 sisters in the Brazil Mission, plus four postulants.
Sister Maria Augusta was born and raised in Amarante, Piauí, and worked as a teacher for several years before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1980. She professed her first vows in 1983, and her perpetual vows in 1989 in her hometown of Amarante.
She served in diocesan and parish ministry in the southern part of the state of Pará, and after attending the Center of Theology and Spirituality in Rio De Janeiro joined the mission’s Formation Team in Teresina. She later served in Amanarte and then served in Teresina for three terms as treasurer of the mission.
In 2008, Sister Maria Augusta was asked to go to Guaribas, Piauí, as Coordinator of Education for Youth and Adults at the State School there, and in 2009 served as Supervisor of Curriculum for that school under the State Department of Education, and then in 2010 served as co-director of the school.
Today she lives in Guaribas and does pastoral work, while also supervising the Associate Member Program for the Brazil Mission, working with CSJ Associates in five cities throughout northeast Brazil.
As coordinator, Sister Maria Augusta will have primary responsibility for the development and growth of the Brazil Mission. She and the vice coordinator, treasurer and councilor will make up the Coordinator Team of the Mission.
October 18, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
Teen volunteers, the two-day QuiltFest, a new chaplain, a celebration of the International Day of Prayer and reflections on four sisters we’ve lost… The October issue of The Messenger is packed with news and information — and it’s in the mail today. But if you want it faster than the U.S. Postal Service will get it to you, CLICK HERE for a downloadable PDF.
October 11, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
EULOGIST: Sister Jodi Creten
THE DASH ( Shortened form)
By Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning …to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between the years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth,
and now only those who love her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
A life is measured not by the year of birth or the year of one’s passing, but by the dash between the two, as poet Linda Ellis reminds us. Lucille was blessed with quite a long dash measured in years — 80 — a nice round number. But how did she live that dash of 80 years that sped by in the wink of an eye?
Lucille’s dash was enthusiastic, full, fulfilling, overflowing and totally given to life and to others. She lived with gentleness, generosity and great heartedness. She was also a woman of tremendous hospitality. Lucille had an enthusiasm for life, and it showed in her demeanor and in her eyes. Having watched, observed and been mentored by this woman of faith for some 54 years, I know that she was up to the challenges, great or small, that were presented to her. Whether it was a difficult new mission assignment, changing from grade school teaching to that of high school, whether it meant teaching all girls in the apostolic school to all boys in a seminary, she could switch gears with acceptance, grace and aplomb. The Maxim that always comes to me when I think of Lucille is Maxim 39, “Be nothing to yourself and be utterly given to God and to the neighbor.”
Lucille Catherine Herman, born on May 22, 1931, in Hays, Kansas, was the younger of two daughters born to Mike and Bridget (Wasinger) Herman. Her parents have preceded her in death. Her sister, Francie, husband, Frank, and their children, Gene Leon, Mary Kay, Chris, Connie, Joan, Gloria, Peter and Dianna, along with their families are here with us tonight. We offer our deepest sympathy to all of you, whom she loved so dearly.
When Lucille was born, her parents had picked a different name for her, but Aunt Sally Herman, wanted her to have the same name as another niece godchild named Lucille, who later became our Sister Vera Klaus. And so it was!
In her life review, Lucille spoke fondly of her childhood: “I recall my childhood as a very delightful time in my life. Another girl in the neighborhood, Alice Befort, and I became best friends at the incredible age of three. We were inseparable until I entered the convent. With only two weeks’ difference in age, we went all through school together, even trying to sit in the same desk when we entered first grade, because we wanted to protect each other from the principal who was known to have a rubber hose that she used on bad children.”
In the second semester of her freshman year, Lucille decided to enter the convent. Let’s listen in on the family conversation around the dining table: “I told my family during supper one evening. Reactions were varied, but the meal came to an abrupt end for all of us. My mother’s response: ‘If that is what you want, and it makes you happy, fine.’ But that night after she had gone to her bedroom, I heard her crying as she and my father talked about it. My father’s response to my announcement: ‘Just remember, if you don’t like it, this is always your home.’ My sister’s response: ‘Oh, yeah! You will be a none-at-all!’ We all know that that teenage response gave way in later life to ‘someone for all!’ One day, sometime later, my father said that if I enter and then decide to leave, it will be for one of two reasons: either because I couldn’t have all of the ice cream I wanted or because I could not go to the theater every time the movies changed.”
To the present, Lucille has loved milk shakes, and we often sat together at DQ or Sonic here in Concordia where she could delight in her favorite treat. And movies? She always enjoyed them!
Lucille was taught by the Sisters of St. Agnes for nine years and admired them as educators but was never drawn to their community. As she says: “It is the mystery of vocation.” And besides, her aunt, Sister Adeline Marie was a Sister of St. Joseph! So, on Sept. 1, 1946, Lucille entered our CSJ community, receiving the habit on March 19, 1947, and the name Sister Mary Richard. Her first profession was on March 19, 1948, and she was finally professed on May 23, 1952. Lucille is survived by her faithful band members, Sisters Christella Buser, Margaret Rourke, Mary Savoie and Vivian Boucher. She is predeceased by band members Sisters Helen Hake and Rose Vaughn. To her band members and to her Circle “R” sisters — Therese, Cese, Carolyn, Lala, Polly, Dorothy, Jan, Shirley, Mary Lou, Lucy, Marilyn S. and Leo Frances — we offer our prayerful support. [NOTE: Sister Leo Frances Winbinger died in the early afternoon on Oct. 5, just hours after the death of Sister Lucille.]
We are all aware of Lucille’s expertise as a dedicated and very fine educator, but did you know that her first mission in 1949 was to New Almelo, Kan., as housekeeper? She has always loved things neat, clean and well organized, but could she cook? Not really! Did she cook later on in life? Not really unless it was on an outdoor grill! But under the guidance of Sister Fulgentius, she says: “I learned to put together some respectable meals!” Living with Carolyn Juenemann these last years, Lucille knew that she wouldn’t have to cook, and that was a relief to her!
Lucille’s love for English literature was probably first nurtured by her superior on mission, Sister Maura, who became a fast friend of the Herman family until her death. An aside about Lucille’s love for lit: shortly after I had first moved to mission in Atlanta, Lucille called and said that she was coming for a literature conference, and would we like to join her at the Fox Theater for the live play “Hamlet” starring Mel Gibson? Would we?! We were there with bells on, and after the performance, we quickly sped to the back door of the theater to catch a glimpse of Mr. Gibson. Not only did we catch a glimpse, but we were in his face and shook his hand before he had a chance to enter his limo!
In 1952, Lucille went to Marymount College to begin certification for teaching, and from that time on, her teaching career spanned the gamut from first grade through high school. Lucille spoke fondly of all of her missions and she would often regale me with stories about certain students and faculty members with whom she kept in touch through the years. I never met many of those folks, but I knew them through the word pictures she painted. Lucille taught grade schools in Manhattan, Concordia, and Gladstone, Mich., but in 1961, she was asked to change gears and enter secondary education. She said, “When the time came to leave Gladstone, I was so sad.” She came to the Apostolic School where she “taught for eight years with half of them as director.” Another aside: I was an extremely happy person when Lucille left Gladstone because that year I was in the novitiate, and if she hadn’t been around with her gentle guidance and encouragement during those difficult times, I don’t know where I would be now! I thank God for the gift of her presence at that time and for many times thereafter.
Lucille spent her last year of teaching high school in Grand Island, Neb., and in 1968 she was asked to take the position of Director of Secondary Education at Marymount. She spent time preparing for her tenure there by getting her master’s degree at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1969, she became full-time Associate Dean of Students. Listen to her words about some colleagues at Marymount: “ During this time, I learned to appreciate two of the greatest persons with whom I have ever worked: Jean Sweat and Larry Muff. I could not have asked for a better mentor than Larry.” Of the 10 years Lucille spent at Marymount, the last two were as Alumni Director.
When Lucille’s position at the college was terminated, she found ministry as an educator for eight years at Savior of the World Seminary in Kansas City, Kan., followed by a year in public relations at Notre Dame de Sion Upper School in Kansas City, Mo., and then on to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., for another eight years.
Again a change, when she was appointed to community ministry as the Secretary General of the Congregation from 1995-2005. There was no place where she didn’t leave her mark of excellent ministry. At the end of her term in community service, she accepted the assignment of Director of Alumni for Marymount, a position she held until her passing.
Quite a dash, wouldn’t you agree? But the dash has more to do with how one was rather than what one did! And in community, we call that presence.
Elaine Prevalet, SL, in her book, “In the Service of Life,” states that “power is best expressed when we are exercising the gift of being in cooperation with others.” And “to have the sense of being where one belongs, doing what one is given to do, is one of the most liberating experiences of life and one of life’s greatest blessings.”
Lucille’s dash put her in many situations and in many places with a great diversity of personalities, but she had the inner God spirit and qualities to always meet the challenges. When we went to New Orleans to help after Hurricane Katrina, Lucille was there with hands and heart ready, as she did also in Greensburg, Kan., after the tornado there, and again in Chapman, Kan., because she knew she had gifts that could serve community with community, and she knew that because of the depth of her prayer life that moved from the contemplative interior to the apostolic exterior. She had so many friends as evidenced by the many cards and kind words of gratitude she received during her illness. She worked easily with others, always networking and making contacts that would be of service to another. She was never half-hearted or lukewarm. She was not ostentatious. Nothing was beneath her care or attention, whether it was hauling a carload of recycling from Concordia to Salina, making beds at the Motherhouse, serving a meal to the homeless or painting or cleaning toilets. She loved what she did and she did what she loved with sleeves rolled up, a smile on her face, and her big, brown eyes twinkling, always ready and willing to meet the “dear neighbor” wherever that one may be found! What a gift she was to all of us! Get ready, God, here she comes!
From one who loves literature, to the one who loved it dearly, I’d like to share this poem by Sherman Alexie. This poem’s meaning has revealed itself more to me in these last days spent in Lucille’s presence. Perhaps it takes on meaning for you also.
Late Summer, Early Fall
She catches a moth,
by sun and windows.
Cradles it outside, uncups
her hands and lets it fly.
How often do we humans save
what can be saved?
a young woman has redeemed our kind
by releasing a moth.
O, she half spins and laughs,
and her laughter flutters along with the moth.
This woman catches me watching her.
I laugh and catch my breath.
Make a note. On Oct. 5, 2011, beauty defeated death, and our sister, our aunt, our friend and companion, Lucille, went home to the God she so faithfully served.
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October 10, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
“My life of ministry is thanksgiving to God
for all the gifts He has given to me.”
S. Leo Frances Winbinger
This simple mission statement of Sister Leo Frances reveals how she lived her life with acceptance and gratitude to God for whatever was asked of her or given to her. It was in this spirit that her life revealed God’s presence, and spoke God’s words of acceptance and thanksgiving.
Theresa Elizabeth Winbinger was the first child born to Leon and Frances Baxa Winbinger, June 18, 1930, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia.
In her own words she described her birth: “This bundle of loveliness and joy was very much welcomed in love and thanksgiving. There was another reason for the joy because I was the first girl baby on both sides of my family.” A few years later her brother Charles was welcomed into the family. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother and nephew Charles. She is survived by her sister-in-law Kathleen and her nieces Beth, Deborah, Kristine, and Amy and her nephews Matthew and Greg.
Theresa grew up in Cuba, Kan., and she was baptized at St. Isadore Church, a mission of St. Edward’s in Belleville, Kan. She attended Bates Rural School in Republic County. It was a one-room building. She remembered that there were only six students, three in first grade and three students in the eighth grade. She attended religious vacation school in Belleville taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Theresa loved music and her natural talent was discovered at an early age. She sang her first solo when she was just 2 years old. She said a vocalist usually needs and accompanist so she began to take piano lessons when she was in the third-grade from a professional teacher. She practiced at home on what she described as a manually operated instrument that supplied compressed air through foot feeders by using pedals. She said she practiced her piano lessons on this instrument as long as the keys held out. She played for her first High Mass when she was 8 years old. Later on she wanted to be in the school band and so as a fifth-grade student she began lessons on the clarinet.
When Theresa attended Belleville High School many of her hopes and desires were realized. She was not only in the band, she was a member of a clarinet quartet woodwind trio, marching and concert band, girl’s glee and mixed chorus. She continued her piano lessons so that she could perform well and to accompany these music groups.
Theresa was fortunate to receive a scholarship from Marymount College when she graduated from high school. During her freshman year at Marymount she felt called to religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph.
Theresa entered the postulancy on Sept. 7, 1949, and was received as a novice March 19, 1950. She was given the name Sister Leo Frances. During the novitiate she said she “studied the Constitution and other qualities needed to fit the bill as a prospective Sister of St. Joseph.” She made first Profession March 19, 1951, and Final Profession March 19, 1954.
Her band members are: Sisters Therese Richstatter, Alice Marie Stalker, Jacquelyn Kircher, Mary Jean Assell, Lila Marie Schmidt and Rita Ann Mazanec. Two of her band members preceded her in death, Sisters Susanna Collister and Dismas Cartwright.
Following the novitiate Sister Leo Frances was sent to teach fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grades in Herndon, Kan. The following year she was sent to Sacred Heart in Salina and it was then that she began teaching classroom music, choir and private lessons. The year she was to make final profession she was teaching in Gladstone, Michigan. She expressed a deep disappointment because she wanted to come home for the profession ceremony but was asked to make her profession in Gladstone due to the distance. In her usual gracious way she expressed her gratitude for the generosity, concern, and hospitality, of the pastor, Father Matt LaViolette who presided at the ceremony.
During her active years of ministry she also taught music at schools in Plainville, Tipton, and Manhattan, Kan.; Chicago; Boonville, Mo.; and Silver City, N.M.
In 1973 she came to the Motherhouse to work at the reception desk.
It was during these years that her health began to fail. During the time I was her regional coordinator it was necessary for her to have a shunt put in to drain fluid from her brain. The doctor told us that she would gradually loose her ability to walk and she would experience memory loss. At that time I talked to her about moving from the Motherhouse to St. Mary’s. I told her about the long-term diagnosis and promised her that we would always care for her. She expressed her gratitude to me for telling her and she said that she knew she would have very good care at St. Mary’s. Sister Macrina often spoke about how well she adjusted and how gracious she was to the Sisters and her care takers. She lived at St. Mary’s for ten years and then in 1997 she moved to the newly remodeled Stafford Hall.
During that time she and Sister M. Kevin shared a room together and they became very good friends. They prayed together every day, they enjoyed watching the same old movies on their TV, shared letters and news, and looked after one another when they were not feeling well. They were both happy and always expressed their appreciation for one another and the wonderful care they received at the Motherhouse.
In 2004 the community made a decision to move some of our Sisters to Mt. Joseph Senior Village. I visited with Sister Leo Frances and Sister M. Kevin about this decision and asked them to be in the first group to move. They both said they would be happy to move but they had one request; they wanted to room together at Mt. Joseph. I said that we could arrange that for them. They were both aware that they each could have had a private room.
I helped them pack and move over to Mt. Joseph. Every time I went to visit Sister Leo Frances would say, “Thank you for letting me be here. We are physically, spiritually and psychologically cared for.” There were times when I knew she must have been suffering extreme pain, especially in her feet, but she never complained. Everything was always wonderful and she was always thankful.
When Sister Mary Kevin died, I went to the little gathering room to tell Sister Leo Frances. It was a sudden death and it was a great loss to her. She cried and for several months after she would talk about how much she missed her dear friend. Then she would say, “There’s a mother deer and her baby outside our window. I like to watch them.”
What I always appreciated about Sister Leo Frances was her constant spirit of acceptance and gratitude. In her own simple way she had an ability to be present to each encounter and respond wholeheartedly. Her life was definitely not an easy one. She experienced trials, doubts, and failures, but she always seemed to counter them with gratitude, trust, and faith.
Sister Leo Frances died Oct. 5, 2011 at Mt. Joseph Senior Village. Her gifts to us of acceptance and thanksgiving have now blossomed into the fullness which she zealously nurtured during her life with us as she is embraced in the fullness of God’s life in abundance. May she rest in peace.
Those wishing to make a gift in the memory of Sister Leo Frances may make an online donation through our secure server with PayPal, by clicking the button below.
September 25, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
In what has now become an annual tradition, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee filled its Fall Fest booth Saturday with an array of items — including small candy bars marked as “A Little Piece of the Peace” — designed to remind the community of its continuing efforts.
The committee was also asking people to fill about a simple anonymous survey about their top concerns relating to peace and nonviolence.
Throughout the day, committee members handed out Year of Peace buttons, stickers and signs, and sold “Another Year of Peace” shirts.
The Concordia Year of Peace efforts were launched at Fall Fest two years ago, and then were re-dedicated as Another Year of Peace beginning in January 2011. The committee continues to plan projects that emphasize peace, nonviolence and public civility.
September 20, 2011 by Sarah Jenkins
EULOGIST: Sister Pat McLennon
“The strange paradox of the Gospel is that the first effect of God’s love is our own self, and our transformed self is God’s love made present to all whom we encounter.”
— Francis Bauer, OSF
While reflecting on the life and spirit of Sister Frances Cabrini it was clear to me, and to so many of us, that her journey with God was never half-hearted. In her quiet and unassuming way she was attentive to God’s love and it was this selfless love and presence that she brought to all of us and to all whom she encountered.
Sister Frances Cabrini didn’t write a life-review and we only have a few articles about her life and years of service during the 63 years she lived as a member of our community. Tonight we simply want to remember and celebrate her life among us and how she touched so many of us throughout the years with her gentle, compassionate, and loving heart.
Mae Catherine Wahlmeier was the sixth child of 15 children born to Aloysius and Ruth Sphorer Wahlmeier, April 4, 1930 in Jennings, Kansas. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Norbert, Paul, and Robert and her sister Virginia. She is survived by her sisters Loretta, Rita, Elaine, and Jane, and her brothers Vincent, Hugh, Galen, John, Louis, and Carl. She is also survived by her sister-in-laws Francia, Catherine, Kay, Janet, and Linda and her brother-in-law John as well as, nieces and nephews. This large family has been a wonderful support to Sister Frances Cabrini and she often expressed her love and appreciation for them. The family also counted on her prayerful support and enjoyed her visits.
Mae grew up on a farm in Jennings. Being a middle child in a large family she and her brothers and sisters helped milk the cows by hand every day, helped with the younger children and some of the house chores. Mae attended the Jennings Consolidated Grade and High School. She loved music and taught herself how to read music and play the piano. Later she had some music lessons and played other instruments in the school band. She was a good student, popular, and enjoyed going to dances and other school events. Mae graduated from high school June, 1948 and enrolled at the St. John’s School of Nursing in Salina, Kansas.
Mae was only in the nursing program a short time when she felt called to religious life. She wrote a letter to Mother M. Chrysostom December 2, 1948 indicating that while she was home during Thanksgiving vacation she secured permission from her parents become a Sister of St. Joseph. She requested an application to enter with the class in February. She was 18 years old and felt that she could better serve God by following this vocation and expressed her belief that she could really be happy. She was accepted and Mae entered the postulancy February 2, 1949 with Sister Maureen Kelley, Sister Mary Agnes Drees, and Sister Francine LaGesse. She was received as a novice August 15, 1949 and was given the name Sister Frances Cabrini. She professed First Vows August 15, 1950 and Perpetual Vows August 15, 1953.
After she completed the novitiate, Sister Frances Cabrini returned to St. John’s Hospital to complete her studies and she received an R.N., degree from Marymount College in 1953. Her first mission was at the hospital in Sabetha, Kansas where she worked for nine years. She was then sent to Rawlins County Hospital in Atwood, Kansas, where she served for six years as the hospital administrator, as well as a lab and x-ray technician– a skill she had learned out of necessity in Sabetha. She reflected about this in an interview saying, “We were almost frontier people. We were finding our way and trusting God.” In 1968 she was sent to St. Mary’s Hospital in Manhattan as assistant Administrator.
During the many years she ministered in the hospitals there were a few times when she sacrificed the work she was doing in order to fill a needed position in the hospital. One example of this was when an Administrator at the Manhattan hospital was fired and she was asked to be the interim-Administrator. The hospital was going under financially and employee morale was low. In her usual way she responded to these challenges wholeheartedly and her calm and kind presence brought a sense of well-being to the situation. With her leadership the hospital got out of the red and the employees felt secure in their job. Sister Frances Cabrini is highly respected by the Manhattan people.
After 20 years of service at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manhattan she was asked to serve as administrator of St. Mary’s Convent, the retirement center for our community in Concordia. Ten years later, St. Mary’s was closed and the Sisters moved to the newly remodeled Stafford Hall at the Motherhouse. Sister Frances Cabrini was asked to serve as coordinator of health-care services at the Motherhouse and in 2004 her position was expanded to include our Sisters residing at Mt. Joseph until her retirement in June 2008.
During the years that I served on the Council and worked closely with Sister Frances Cabrini, I was struck by the gentle and quiet way she went about the care of our Sisters at St. Mary’s, the Motherhouse, and Mt. Joseph. She was totally self-giving and attentive to God’s presence in the ordinary and extraordinary life experiences of the Sisters in her care. We can’t begin to count the times she was called during the day or in the middle of the night to accompany a Sister to the hospital or to be with a dying Sister. The next day she would be up doing her daily visits with each Sister at Mt. Joseph and Stafford Hall. She brought them their mail, news of the day, and checked to see how they were feeling and if they had any other needs. She never complained of being tired or over-worked.
In addition to the on-site care Sister Frances Cabrini gave to the Sisters she spent many hours accompanying Sisters to doctor appointments, visits to their families, shopping, and just out for an enjoyable ride to see the autumn leaves, Christmas decorations, or the wheat fields. She was especially sensitive to Sisters suffering from memory loss. It was not unusual to see them sitting in her office, taking them for a walk, assuring them that they were in the right place. She gave each one a sense of security and peace.
Her life was not all work and no play. She thoroughly enjoyed traveling. In 1990 she and Sister Rose Alma Newell went on a two week American Heritage Tour. She kept a journal of all the places they visited and she was very interested in learning American History. Later, she accompanied Sister Myra Joseph to Ireland to visit her family. It was Sister Myra Joseph’s last trip home. They stayed with one of her nephews and he took them all around. Sister Frances Cabrini kept a very detailed journal of their trip. It was obvious that she enjoyed every minute of it.
Her yearly mission statements reflected her commitment to being available to those in her care and provide spiritual, medical, and nursing care for them as well as, to help create a home-like atmosphere for the Sisters at the Motherhouse and Mt. Joseph. She was also sensitive to our employees. She saw to it that they were respected for their contributions and provided resources for their work. Sister Frances Cabrini knew that to love with the love of God required the will to be attentive and self-giving. These qualities formed and shaped Sister Frances Cabrini’s life in mission.
In 2008 Sister Frances Cabrini visited with the members of the Executive Council and asked to retire after 20 years of service to our retired Sisters at St. Mary’s, the Motherhouse, and Mt. Joseph. She told us that she was experiencing extreme fatigue and wanted to move to the Motherhouse and rest. During the past three years her health has consistently declined. She died early Sunday morning, September 18, 2011. May she now be at peace in the fullness of God’s love.