High school girls can ‘Be-YOU-t-full’ at new camp

June 27, 2012 by  

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Each year at the end of Discover Camp, the oldest girls know it’s the end of their summer adventure with the Sisters of St. Joseph. Some of them have been in Concordia as Discover Campers for three years — when they were entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Then they “graduate” — and there has been nothing like Discover Camp for older teens.

That will change June 13 when Camp Be-YOU-t-full begins, designed specifically for Catholic girls entering ninth through 12th grades.

“Parents and teachers and the girls themselves have asked for something after Discover Camp,” explained Sister Beverly Carlin, the vocation director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. “So we sat down with some college-age women to get their ideas, and they all said this is such an important time, when girls are trying to figure out who they are.”

As a result of those conversations, Sister Bev and a team of college-age “camp counselors” put together the three-day Camp Be-YOU-t-full.

It will begin Thursday afternoon, June 13, and continue through Saturday evening, June 15, with the campers staying at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia. The cost is $75 and there are a limited number of $25 scholarships available. Registrations are available online; CLICK HERE for the form to print out and complete. Or, for more information, contact Sister Beverly at 785/220-7996 or srbevc@csjkansas.org

The registration deadline is May 31.

With the camp name playing on the word “beautiful,” the focus, Sister Beverly said, will be “discovering the beauty God created in us.”

Young women today struggle to “become fully who we are, and not just be like everybody else,” she added.  Issues of today’s culture, peer pressure and Catholic faith and values will all be camp topics.

But like Discover Camp, Camp Be-YOU-t-full will also feature games, crafts, swimming and a change to meet other girls from across Kansas and beyond. The camp will conclude with Mass at 6:30 p.m. Friday, followed by an ice cream social hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Campers’ parents are invited to join the girls for the Mass and social.

In addition to Sister Beverly and a number of college women, camp staff will include sisters and other volunteers. The team hopes to have about 20 campers taking part.





Eulogy for Sister Bernard Marie Schruben, July 3, 1921-June 22, 2012

June 23, 2012 by  

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VIGIL: 7 p.m. June 27, 2012, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Lucy Schneider

“Morning has broken!”  Oh, yes, it surely has!

It may be evening here in the chapel of Nazareth Motherhouse, but MORNING HAS BROKEN for our dear Sister Bernard Marie Schruben — Bernard Marie, that gracious woman whose life review closed with the ardent longing. “I very frequently think of what it will be like in heaven where I will see God.”  Now she knows.

Written in the late 1980s, these words merely make explicit what was implicit throughout her beautiful life.  In a very real way, Bernard Marie’s whole existence was a “Morning Offering,” the prayer taught her during religious vacation school.  “The prayer,” she wrote, “greatly fascinated me then and still does today.”  (Those Sisters taught vacation school in Stockton for a few years; earlier it had been students Marymount who did the teaching).

Who was this person with such a MORNING, new life, hopeful vision?  She was Margaret Teresa Schruben, oldest child of Leonard and Edna McKenna Schruben, born near Hoxie, Kan., on July 3, 1921.  Not a Fourth of July firecracker, she was a person who zealously lived out the fire of her Baptism (a Baptism, by the way, to which she rode with her parents in a horse-drawn buggy).   And where did she do this living?  First near Hoxie, then near Stockton.  Was she soaking in God’s light during those years?  Oh, yes.  She puts it this way: “I had a happy childhood shared with two brothers and one sister – Leo, John and Katherine. We ran in the hills, climbed trees and waded in the creek.  Unknowingly, I saw God’s wonderful creation throughout the four seasons.”

Seasons?  Yes, she had her seasons – literally and figuratively, spiritually and physically, ministry wise and retirement wise. Growing up with a country-school education, Margaret was “shocked when I learned that not everyone was a Catholic in the little country school.”  Speaking of the Catholicism of the day, she expresses directly and indirectly a certain fear of ridicule, a fear of the confession experience; in high school, she feared performing a piano solo: later, in the convent this fear carried over; she feared not being on time and, in general, as she wrote, “I was always afraid of doing something wrong.”  Did Bernard Marie move on from these “seasons of fear”?  It would certainly seem so.  Her seasons of trust, deep spirituality and “waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” reveal this growth.

And what of the seasons of her ministry?  Having worked at home and as a telephone operator before entering, she was “promoted,” after entering the convent, to breakfast duty with Sister Ursula Peterson.  This duty included scrubbing the kitchen floor on hands and knees.  Some promotion!  Speaking of Sister Ursula, we “mature” Sisters recall her quandary as to prayers and recreation. She very sensibly asked, “We always have to ask to make up prayers. When do we make up recreation?”

Season of ministry continued:  first, Silver City, N.M. – both St. Mary’s and St. Vincent’s.  Bernard Marie’s artistic, poetic nature spills out continually in her written life review as it did in life as a whole.  Having just completed retreat before going to Silver City, she writes, “One of the conferences of the retreat had been The Flight to Egypt. This kept coming to mind as the wheels of the train rolled down the tracks.”  In speaking of her eight years with the Mexican children of St. Vincent’s, she reflects her own character when she simply said, “They were very polite.”

Seasons of happiness in ministry?  All of them, it would seem. But of her nine years in Ellis County – Pfeifer, Schoenchen and Antonino – she claims, “These were my happiest years.” Junction City was Bernard Marie’s last teaching mission. Was it time for a change of season?  She wrote: “I came to the realization that I wasn’t teaching as well as in the former years, so, after 43 years of teaching – mostly in the first grade – I decided to change to something else. With the help of my coordinator, Sister Marilyn Wall, I came to the Motherhouse in July 1988. I am very happy here.”

Her service to others now took many forms, but perhaps the most unusual one was learning and teaching Braille – this after reading about Louis Braille. Her motives for learning Braille? To keep her mind sharp and, more importantly, to help people without sight or with low vision. The mother of one of the Motherhouse employees was one such person. Others were sisters living at the Motherhouse – notably Sister Mary Esther Otter. Learning sessions began and followed a regular schedule. From now treasured pin-pricked cards prepared by Sister Bernard Marie, Mary Esther advanced to the use of courses from the Xavier Society for the Blind and state-sponsored organizations. Talk about helping others learn a new language, Sister Bernard Marie surely did that – a compassionate and unique work of mercy for sure.

No doubt most of us think of her as the person in charge of the “good dishes and linens” and having everything ready for jubilee celebrations.  Well, on the eve of her own Golden Jubilee celebration, with all at ready, the usually capable but quiet Sister Bernard Marie called attention to herself – and that in a big, but painful way. Wielding a mop – in the air – as a member of the Bat Brigade on fourth floor, she fell and broke her hip. Her life patterns changed considerably after this incident.

The second half of Sister Bernard Marie’s retirement years found her – in 2006 – missioned to Mount Joseph Senior Village. This was two years after the initial group went there to live.  In her 2006 commitment to mission and ministry she wrote; “Daily I will pray that the Holy Spirit will bless the residents and workers at Mount Joseph with love and patience.” Not only that year, but all the remaining years until her death there – June 22, 2012 – her prayer was answered. Her winning smile, her participation in chapel services, rosary, monthly birthday parties – all these testify to her gentle cooperative community spirit. But her contemplative spirit also led her to be something of a recluse; she chose to turn down invitations to the Motherhouse or elsewhere.  She had God where she was; that was all she needed.

So how shall we label the Mount Joseph season in Bernard Marie’s life? Surely a season of gratitude. But that could also describe every season of her life. The first words in her life review are,  “In the beginning, I wish to thank God for inviting me to become a sister, and for the grace of perseverance. I thank my parents for the gift of life and for their religious example. I thank the community for the many spiritual opportunities given to me. My final thanks will be celebrating and sharing happiness with all the saints in heaven, rejoicing in the presence of the Triune God.”

Congratulations, dear Sister, You’ve made it!  Preceding you were your parents, your sister Katherine, your band members Sisters Alois, Marina, Amabilis and Mary Reiter; to follow you are your bothers Leo and John and the last member of your band, Sister Edwardine Flavin, plus the rest of us CSJs.  All of us whom you leave behind await our joining you in that final glorious chapter of the beautiful book that will tell “The Rest of the Story.”

Until we meet again, I love you, my friend, my sister. Christ’s peace!

• • • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Bernard Marie 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.

Concordia missionary to carry Little Dresses to Africa

June 19, 2012 by  

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During a visit this week to Neighbor to Neighbor, Chelsey Horkman chats about her upcoming mission to Africa.

The Little Dresses for Africa will soon be headed to Africa, packed in the luggage of a Concordia woman who will serve as a missionary in Burkina Faso for the next three years.

Chelsey Horkman learned about the 100 dresses made by women at Neighbor to Neighbor through a fellow member of The Wesleyan Church in Concordia. In fact, it was that church member, Sandi Hubert, who took the idea for the project to the women’s center in downtown Concordia to begin with.

Sandi Hubert shows off a "Little Dress" made from sunflower fabric as women gathered at Neighbor to Neighbor this week to meet Chelsey Horkman.

When Hubert first learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project from a sewing program on television, she talked with Sister Jean Befort at Neighbor to Neighbor about it. Sister Jean in turn talked with Sister Ramona Medina, another of the three Sisters of St. Joseph who run the center, and before long there was something of a mini manufacturing line of sewing machines set up.

More than a dozen women embraced the project and by early May they were halfway to their goal of 100 little dresses. As word about the project got out, donations of fabrics, thread and other sewing notions flowed in.

Then Hubert asked Horkman to help deliver the completed dresses when she goes to the small West African nation of Burkina Faso next month.

Horkman, a Concordia native and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, has being studying French in Quebec, Canada, for the past year as preparation for a three-year mission with Child Evangelism Fellowship. She leaves for Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in mid-July.

There are three other CEF missionaries serving in Burkina Faso, she noted, but she is the first  non-native to serve there and will be the only one in the capital city.

The small nation of Burkina Faso is within the red square.

Burkina Faso is roughly the same size as the state of Colorado but has about 3½ times as many people. The high population density and limited natural resources — issues shared with its neighboring countries — make that area of West Africa one of the poorest regions in the world. About 60 of the Burkinabe people are Muslim and another 15 percent practice tribal religions, with the remainder predominantly Catholic, according to the World Factbook.

The 25-year-old missionary, the daughter of John and Marj Horkman of Concordia, has already been to the equatorial nation three times, but each visit was for just a month. This time she is committed to a three-year stay with the goal of starting “Good News Clubs” for children and then teaching others to carry on her work.

Her goal in Ouagadougou, a city of about 2 million people, is “building relationships” with children as a way of introducing them to Christ.

That goal seems to blend perfectly with the Michigan-based Little Dresses for Africa Inc., a nonprofit Christian organization that began in 2007.

Founder Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown, Mich., believes that Little Dresses for Africa deliver a small dose of hope and love to girls across the poorest regions of Africa (and now, around the world), in the form of simple sheaths sewn by volunteers using mostly donated fabric and notions and then delivered by individual travelers — whether tourists, mission workers and even a National Geographic photographer — to wherever they’re needed.

So far more than 560,000 dresses from all 50 states have been distributed in 31 African countries, as well as Honduras, Guatemala, The Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico, Haiti and poverty-stricken areas in the United States.

Horkman will add to that flow 100 more dresses — each with a matching hair band and a label that reads “Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA.”

But that doesn’t mean the project is completed for the women at Neighbor to Neighbor, Sister Ramona adds with a laugh. “Now we’ll just start on the next 100.”


More about ‘Little Dresses’

The Little Dresses for Africa — sometimes called “pillowcase dresses” because the simplest way to make them is from pillowcases — are brightly colored sheaths with ribbon ties at each shoulder.

To create them, the downtown Neighbor to Neighbor center has become something of a mini-manufacturing line: On a recent afternoon, it includes one woman to cut the fabric, another to sew the seams, another to add binding to the edges and sew on the ties, still another to add the label (“Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA”) and a final woman to iron and package the dress and its also-handmade matching hair band.

To learn more about Little Dresses for Africa, you can go to the organization’s website: http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/


Eulogy for Sister Carmel Garcia: Jan. 15, 1939-June 12, 2012

June 13, 2012 by  

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VIGIL: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, 2012, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Esther Pineda


“This is what Yahweh ask of you...”  Those are the words Carmel would listen for during her life.

In her life review, she wrote, “Life is a journey and takes me to God’s will.” This is what she listened for — to do God’s will. “It wasn’t always easy,” she continues, “some days are beautiful and clear, others are stormy, cloudy or cold. And yet, I know my life, participating in God’s glory, has led me to look for and appreciate the treasurers He has given me.”

Reveca Lucrecia Onesima Garcia was born in Aragon, N.M. on Jan. 15, 1939, to Virginia Castillo and Ernest Garcia.  In Aragon, they lived in a rented house that was big enough to hold a store and post office. She said, “Both my parents had a lot of work to do; besides tending to the store, the post office and tending to me, they started to make adobes for our own house.”  Her sister Lucinda was born a little more than two years later and Rupert, her brother, followed Lucinda. She said the two of them were very close in age and relationship.

After their house was built, her parents finished the walls, floors and a narrow staircase to the second floor.  Her mother made the kitchen cabinets; she plastered and painted the walls. We can see where Becky (as she was called then) got her work ethic, her creativity, and the uncanny ability to do anything that needed doing (responding to God’s will!).

At the age of 5 she had two big dreams whirling around her head.  One wish was for a younger sibling. “I could hardly believe,” she says, “that Trini’s birth could so fulfill my wish. “ Her second wish was to go to school.

So she went to Bosque, N.M., with her paternal grandmother to begin kindergarten. In Aragon a first-grader had to be 6 years of age before Jan. 1 to start first grade. But Becky wouldn’t be 6 until Jan. 15, which would mean that she would loose a year before starting school.  By going to kindergarten in Bosque the year before, she was able to enroll in first grade in September in Aragon at a public school taught by Franciscan Sisters. Through their teaching, she began contemplating herself as a Religious. But when she completed the third grade, the Franciscan Sisters left Aragon. Becky said she missed the Sisters very much when they left.

At the beginning of her seventh grade, the small town of Aragon found itself with both Catholic and public schools. The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother of Milwaukee went there to teach. There were only three students in the seventh grade and none in eighth.  So, she says, “We asked if we could study seventh grade first semester and eighth second semester.” Their request was granted.

She fell in love with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and wanted to join them. But being only 13, her parents would not permit it; instead, they promised she would be able to attend a Catholic high school in Silver City, N.M.

She went to St. Mary’s, staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, as a boarder. Her experiences there “were happy ones,” she recalled. “I enjoyed studying and I worked for my room and board. My father told me not to run around and I obediently dedicated myself to four years of hard work.  After a few weeks, I changed my idea of becoming a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother. The warm relationships among the Sisters of St. Joseph to one another and to the students attracted me immediately, and I wanted to join them. Sister Clarice asked me to wait until I graduated from High School. Those four years, at St. Mary’s, helped me adjust from a totally Hispanic small village in Aragon to the richness of Mexican and American culture in Silver City.

On Aug. 27, 1956, Sister Clairce, the “house mother” for the boarders at St. Mary’s, was leaving to take up a new ministry in Salina, Kan., and Becky went with her to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. “I learned to adjust to the Kansas heat from the New Mexico mountain air,” she wrote. “The greatest challenge during my postulant and novitiate years was adjusting to a Midwestern culture, food and language. That was the price I experienced as I became bicultural.”

She received the habit on March 18, 1957, and made final profession on March 19, 1961. She was given the name Sister Marie Carmel. Other members of her band were Sisters Paulette Hake, Mary Francesca Arguelles, Mary Michelle Morissette, Christine Doman, Mary Anita Dion, Mary Jolene Keller, Mary Olive Curren and Jean Frances Sweat.

Upon completing the novitiate, she went to Marymount College in Salina.  It was quite an adjustment. When she graduated from high school in Silver City, she had the highest scholastic record of her class.  But at Marymount, she struggled and the English department made arrangements to tutor her in English.  The community asked her to major in Spanish.  She became a grade school teacher and felt she would never use her Spanish.

But, she says, “Little did I know then that a future would open up to me because of my Hispanic heritage.”

In August 1959, she went to teach first-grade in Chicago. Those were years of learning to live in a big city, to live in community and to teach first- and second-graders. Carmel made final profession during her second year at St. Joseph’s and St. Ann’s.

The next six years she was happily stationed in Gladstone, Mich.  Sister Wilfred was the superior and Carmel spoke of her as “a woman ahead of her time.”  She called living in community in those years a fruitful challenge and a blessing. And she became aware of her professional competence in teaching.

She began a master’s program in education at Kansas State University in Manhattan. While attending night classes, she began teaching in Junction City. Having several students from Fort Riley made her realize that she needed to provide a more individualized program for the students. Many had traveled the world and were very bright, so she began to provide individualized instruction for each student.

In 1971 she went to Abilene. Together with Sisters Marcia Allen, Betty Suther and Mary Jo Thummel, they designed an open school curriculum for the St. Andrew’s Grade school. The open school curriculum became a wonderful process of allowing each child to work at his/her own pace. “Professionally” she said, “I hit a climax; spiritually, I experienced a reawakening and entered a new search for God.”

Then, she said, ”God asked me to leave everything — go find myself — to re-gather the gifts that were mine because of my heritage, those gifts that led me to this Midwestern congregation, and to share them among my own people.

“I heard God’s call to go beyond the comfortable, to go forth as a Sister of St. Joseph —to what only I could give!”  That call took her to the Mexican American Cultural center in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1978, Carmel began working at the Catholic Youth Department of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas. Her administrative skills came in handy as she coordinated the Search Program and the Antioch weekends.

From El Paso, she ventured to Mexico. Her life review continues: “The next four years were among the richest and in the poorest situation of my entire life. In Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. Sister Judy Stephens and I shared two rooms — and those rooms held everything we had. Palomas is a desert in every sense of the word. It has been the deserts of my life that have made me appreciate all that we, Sisters of St. Joseph,  have and all that we can share with others.

From August 1981 through September 1983, Sister Carmel went to Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chichuahua. In Casas Grandes she was instrumental in introducing the Cursillo Movement to the Nuevo Casas Grandes  Diocese.  They built a center for the Cursillo weekend retreats for adults and youth and “her command of the Spanish,” she says, “improved.”

She experienced some difficulty with the priest with whom she worked.  At one point, during a reflection about the situation, she opened the scriptures in search for guidance. The pages fell open to the words, “It is time for you to return to the mountains.”  After consulting with her regional coordinator, she took the scriptures literally, packed her car, drove to Silver City and began working at the St. Francis Newman Center as Hispanic Pastoral Minister.  She was able to preach, yes, preach at the Spanish Mass every other weekend.  Because of her experience with the Cursillo Movement in Mexico, when the Director of the Cursillo Movement in southern New Mexico died, Carmel was offered the position.

Carmel became aware of the alcohol problems that exist in southwest New Mexico.  She participated in an intensive therapy program for adult children of alcoholics that she said “was quite helpful.” In 1988 she resigned form the Hispanic Ministry and began a master’s program in counseling at Western New Mexico University, in Silver City.   She did her internship at El Refugio, an agency that provided services to families affected by domestic violence.  She was offered a job as a counselor at El Refugio.

Eventually, El Refugio became a shelter for domestic violence education and services, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia leased Marian Hall to El Refugio for 11 years.

Eventually, Carmel became the director of El Refugio. Because El Refugio was out-growing the Marian Hall facility, Carmel and her board began searching for funding to build a new facility. To honor all the work she did, the Board of Directors named the new facility Casa Carmel.

In 2001, she returned to Concordia as the congregation’s development director. Through the development program, we Sisters of St. Joseph began asking the people to whom and with whom we ministered to partner with us and support us financially. During Carmel’s tenure at the Development Office, we celebrated 125 years presence in Concordia. Many opportunities were available for us to tell our story. Each year, the number of donors and revenue grew.

In 2006, Carmel’s brother Johnny died of lung cancer.  Her mother died the next year.  The deaths of her mother and brother took a toll on her.

In October 2009, breast cancer returned for a second time. After surgery and follow-up treatment, she went back to work in development. But, when the cancer returned a third time, she realized she needed to do something different.

She asked to be able to work part time for a few months, and then take a year sabbatical. She had inherited her mother’s handkerchief collection and she wanted to make each of her sisters and brother a quilt with those hankies. And, yes, she made a quilt for each of her siblings.  And all of them have come to Concordia to visit and are presently with us tonight.

One of the identifying marks of Carmel’s life is her strong presence to hospitality. While ill and not with much energy— friends came to visit her, here at Stafford Hall — her presence to hospitality was palpable; she insisted that we offer them something to drink, so we brought them water. Then at some point she asked if they need the bathroom and when the conversation waned and her energy depleted, she said, “Well, we should consider going out for supper.”  In a polite way, she was letting her friends know she couldn’t be present much longer. Being hospitable was definitely one of her great traits.

She ends her life review: “I am learning to become one with Jesus on the Cross and to offer my pain as prayer to the Cosmic Christ in becoming one with those who suffer.” She continues:

“As I glance at the maps that have been imprinted by my journey, I rejoice with the wonderful people, family, friends and modes of relationships that have made God visible to me. I have experienced many dark moments and long periods of time when I couldn’t find God. In this last year, as I have widened my lens to look back, dark moments became the most life-giving experiences.  What I needed in order to see them, was slower pace, time to reflect and wisdom to give language to the darkness. Throughout my life, I’ve had wonderful mentors who have guided me toward the light.”

That light came on Tuesday evening, June 12.

“My greatest mentor of all,” she adds, “is Jesus who says, ‘This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this; to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.’ ”

And Carmel that is what you have done.

• • • • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Carmel 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.

Eulogy for Sister Donata Bissett: Oct. 4, 1915-June 13, 2012

June 13, 2012 by  

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VIGIL: 7 p.m. June 15, 2012, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marilyn Stahl (Sister Donata’s niece)

Sister Donata Bissett began her life review by noting that she was named Catherine Louise after her two grandmothers, but that she was always called Louise. She was born in Plainville, Kan., on Oct. 4, 1915, the same day as two of her good friends, Doris Gilbert and Sister Agnes Bernita Green.

Sidebar: The doctor who wanted to assist the mothers and babies rushed from one home to the other and missed both births. It’s a remarkable coincidence that both Agnes Bernita and Louise’s parents had the same name, Clara and Edward.

Louise was the eldest of six children — Bill, Grace, Bob, Marce and Herm. She attended Sacred Heart Grade School and the Plainville High School, graduating in 1932. She stayed home for a year after high school and worked and passed the exams to receive a Kansas teacher’s certificate.

She planned to teach in a country school, but the pastor and a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia convinced her that she had a vocation. The only sisters she knew were those serving in Plainville, and she loved them and was happy to ask Mother Mary Rose Waller to accept her into the community. (Uncle Herm told me that her parents weren’t as happy as Louise about her decision. They needed her at home, both to help with the younger children and to provide some income.) She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia the same day as Sister Generosa Walker, Aug. 15, 1933.

Louise was supposed to receive her habit and a new name on March 19,1934, but she fell from the third-floor porch at the Motherhouse and injured her back. So instead she received the habit and her name, Donata, on Aug. 15, 1934, the same day as Sister Agnes Bernita and all the August band.

After the year of novitiate, Donata attended Marymount College and received her degree in 1939 with a major in home economics.  She mentions that she had not wanted to go to college, but preferred to serve as a cook and a housekeeper at a small parish convent. She was very lonesome at Marymount and hoped that there would be an opening for a cook/housekeeper.

After college, Mother Mary Rose did not approve of her serving an internship to become a registered dietitian. Instead Donata worked for three years at the original St. Joseph Hospital in Concordia and then went to Kansas State University in Manhattan and earned her master’s degree in Foods and Nutrition. She remained at St. Joseph Hospital, old and new, for 26 years, a very happy period in her life. Many of our sisters, especially Sister Gerry Kokenge and Sister Ann Joseph, have told me frequently how they loved their training and work with Mother Donata. As children, our family had the same joy of visiting her and being treated with love and kindness and receiving treats from the cow that produced chocolate milk and Neapolitan ice cream servings.

The new hospital opened in 1951, but it was not quite finished and Donata writes about trying to  prepare 80 individual diets on a small four-burner apartment stove.  In 1964,  Sister Veronica Mary Roy finished her internship and was able to assist Donata with special diets from 1964 to l965.

In the summer of 1965 Donata was privileged to make the tertianship in Silver City, N.M., for 30 days. This was a month of spiritual renewal that she appreciated very much.

In l965 Donata was transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Belvidere where she stayed for three years. She wrote that this was the first time she had ever lived and worked outside Concordia and she was very lonesome for the hospital and Motherhouse.  She returned to Concordia in 1968 and worked at St. Ann’s Nursing Home for one year and then returned to St. Joseph Hospital. She also taught Nutrition at Cloud County Community College for three semesters. She also visited St. Ann’s weekly and the hospitals in Sabetha and Seneca once a month. She remained at St. Joseph for another 25 years.

In 1983 Donata attended the Life III program at Chestnut Hill, outside Philadelphia. This was an enriching spiritual experience that dwelt on the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Donata was asked to retire from St. Joseph Hospital in 1988 at the age of 73. Thereupon she took a correspondence course to become a dietary manager so that she could serve at six hospitals and nursing homes as their registered dietitian. She helped with problems with menus, special diets, and provided in-service training for the staff.

In 1991 Donata attended the Sarah Sabbatical at Manna House of Prayer, and then In November she moved back to Plainville — with help from Sister Ann Glatter, who put all Donata’s possessions in her pick-up and hauled them to Plainville for her. Her mother was in the nursing home there and she could visit her every day. However, this was not a healthy time for Donata and she was often in the Hays and Plainville hospitals. So in 1995, she was asked to move to St. Mary’s Convent, but she was almost too weak to move. Her youngest brother, Herm and his wife, Tobe, went to Plainville during Memorial Weekend and took her back to Concordia with all her possession in their van.

Donata dearly loved St. Mary’s Convent. She had lived there previously when it was the nursing home for the students. Her room was close to the chapel and she could take the elevator to the dining room and to answer the phone, dry dishes and crochet and embroider.

When St. Mary closed in 1997, Donata moved to the fourth floor of the Motherhouse. At that point Donata wrote her life review and never wrote of her life again except to add a hand-written conclusion: “I do feel much better. God has been more than good to me. I bless Him.”

If I may add my own impressions of my aunt’s life, I want to say what I think you already know — that she lived a life of faithfulness to the Gospels and her religious life. She loved to visit our family and visit with the sisters. She loved to attend the yearly dietitian’s conferences throughout the country and to make retreats and help with community celebrations and fundraisers. Her brother, Herm and his family treated her to dozens of fun vacations during which they attended musicals and plays and sports events. They took her to Branson and Eureka Springs, Ark. She visited me in Washington and New York several times. She went with Sister Francis Joann on many a trip to South Dakota. She never said no to a trip.

Throughout her long life, she was devoted to the Catholic Church and to the congregation. Her entire life was her community, her family and her faith. It never entered her mind to question a pronouncement of the Church. Likewise, she was happy with the community’s every decision, every election, every assignment she was ever given. (As I listened to her talk, I was always wishing I belonged to her congregation — and her family, for that matter.) She never made a fuss about anything; she did her best and didn’t dwell on not being able to do the job, teach the class or take on extra duties.

I think all of us found it inspiring and affirming to always hear her positive and up-lifting conversation. She never made an unkind remark in her life, as far as I can tell. She had a marvelous memory of family relationships and loved to receive letters, phone calls and birthday and holiday cards. She spent happy hours reading the Plainville Times, the Concordia Blade-Empire, the Salina Journal and the Salina Diocese Register. I never heard her comment on national, state or local news, but I think she enjoyed being informed with what was going on in the world.

Throughout Donta’s lifetime of joy, faithfulness and dedication to her vows, she lived the beautiful words of I Corinthians, “love is patient, love is kind, love bears all things.” Her life was not easy, but she never complained and I think we have all been inspired by her graciousness and kindness and cheerfulness.

Many in the Concordia area know that for the last two or three years, Donata wanted to return to the Motherhouse to live out her life. She wanted to be with the sisters who entered the convent with her and where she had entered the community more than 75 years ago. That desire energized her and encouraged her determination to take care of herself and live as independently as she could return home. She has now accomplished her final wish.

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Memorials for Sister Donata 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.

Diocesan newspaper features Sister Ginger Pearl

June 12, 2012 by  

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The Southwest Kansas Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Dodge City, featured Sister Ginger Pearl in a lengthy article in its May 20, 2012, issue.

To read the entire feature story, CLICK HERE for the front page and CLICK HERE for the continuation on Page 13. (Each is a PDF that will download to your computer.)

And note on Page 13 that Sister Janet LeDuc is mentioned in the article to the left of Ginger’s.


Faith & Sharing: A Memorial Day tradition

May 31, 2012 by  

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The Concordia contingent to Faith and Sharing: BACK ROW, from left: Sheila Levendofsky, Charla Castle, Katie Christensen, Cindy Ponce, Sister Christella Buser, Jennifer Simons, Donnie Tate and Rachel Burgess. FRONT ROW, from left: Kathleen Norman, Anna Gravett, Anna Schmitz, Sister Julie Christensen and Tim Novak.

Many people view the long Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer and plan for barbecues and family get-togethers. Others continue the annual ritual of remembering loved ones by placing flowers on their graves and cleaning up around their tombstones.

But Sister Christella Buser marked this Memorial Day weekend as she has every one for the past 22 years: By joining others in a Faith and Sharing retreat.

The annual event — from May 25 to 27 — was at the University of St. Mary campus in Leavenworth, Kan.

The idea behind Faith and Sharing retreats grew out of L’Arche, founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier as a community where developmentally disabled and physically challenged adults and “assistants” would live and work together. The Federation of L’Arche International today has more than 130 communities in 30 countries, including L’Arche Heartland in the Kansas City area, which Sister Christella helped found 25 years ago.

Vanier held the first Faith and Sharing, an annual Gospel-centered retreat, in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario, and in 1990 Sister Christella was instrumental in bringing the retreat to Kansas. For the past four years, Sister Julie Christensen has been in charge of the logistics for getting the group from Concordia to Leavenworth. Sister Julie is the Youth and Young Adult Program Coordinator at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

This year’s participants will include L’Arche community members and others from Concordia and across Kansas. The participants stay in a residence hall at the Leavenworth college, and the retreat continues through late Sunday morning.

Sisters thank nursing staff during special week

May 10, 2012 by  

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As National Nurses Week was wrapping up, the sisters who live at the Nazareth Motherhouse were wrapping up a week of special thank yous. And the biggest token appreciation came this evening (Thursday) when the sisters treated the entire nursing staff to a supper of Subway sandwiches, small gifts and low-key recognition during a party at the Motherhouse.

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Meanwhile, director of nursing Alfreda Maley presented each sister who worked in the health care field as well as the “nurse’s helpers” among the sisters to single cut roses and applause.

The theme of the 2012 Nurses Week was “Advocating. Leading. Caring.” National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birth date of Florence Nightingale.

To Africa, with love, from Neighbor to Neighbor

May 4, 2012 by  

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Modeling the "Little Dresses for Africa" at Neighbor to Neighbor last week are, from left, Eisley Gibbons, Alexis Tiller and Olivia Christensen.

When Sandi Hubert of Concordia learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project from a sewing program on television, she knew it was a perfect fit for the women at the Neighbor to Neighbor center.

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“I thought this was an awesome project for the women learning to sew,” she said. So she talked with Sister Jean Befort, one of three sisters who run Neighbor to Neighbor, about recruiting women there to help.

Each dress has a label that reads, "Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA"

As it turns out, the project is a perfect fit for other reasons, too.

“This is looking out beyond our own little community,” explained Marla Jorgensen, one of more than a dozen women at Neighbor to Neighbor who have embraced the project.

“And people involved are givers, when before they may have been used to being receivers,” added Jean Wilcox, who regularly volunteers to teach sewing at the center.

Neighbor to Neighbor, which opened two years ago and is operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, serves the needs of women and women with young children throughout the Concordia area. And while it is designed as a welcoming center for all women, many of the regulars are women without many resources and in need of social services.

So this may be their first opportunity to give back, Wilcox said, and to join others from across the country in a grassroots project with big results.

What began in 2007 as a Michigan woman’s plan to make 1,000 dresses for the little girls she had seen while on a safari vacation in Kenya has grown into a worldwide collaboration of volunteers and donations. The idea is as simple as one neighbor helping another.

Little Dresses for Africa deliver a small dose of hope and love to girls across the poorest regions of Africa (and now, around the world), in the form of simple sheaths sewn by volunteers using mostly donated fabric and notions and then delivered by individual travelers — whether tourists, mission workers and even a National Geographic photographer — to wherever they’re needed.

So far more than 560,000 dresses from all 50 states have been distributed in 31 African countries so far, according to Little Dresses for Africa founder Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown, Mich. The nonprofit Christian organization has also sent dresses to Honduras, Guatemala, The Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico and Haiti, as well as poverty-stricken areas in the United States.

The women at Neighbor to Neighbor have as their goal adding 100 dresses to that number. They are more than half way there.

The “end product” — sometimes called “pillowcase dresses” because the simplest way to make them is from pillowcases — are brightly colored sheaths with ribbon ties at each shoulder.

To create them, the downtown center has become something of a mini-manufacturing line: On a recent afternoon, it includes one woman to cut the fabric, another to sew the seams, another to add binding to the edges and sew on the ties, still another to add the label (“Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA”) and a final woman to iron and package the dress and its also-handmade matching hair band. (And on this day there are also three little girls on hand to model the finished products.)

The women who have taken part are Jane Christensen, Verna Ferguson-Hamel, Nikki Haist-Richard, Marla Jorgensen, Genny Mihm, Alice Nondorf, Christina Pieri, Lisa Rabago, Cheryl Sulkosky, Ruby Tiller and Jean Wilcox. In addition, Ann Barnett and Lisa Bushett have made matching knit and fabric hair bands and ties to go with every dress.

Virtually all the materials for the dresses have been donated, said Sister Ramona Medina, another of the three sisters who founded Neighbor to Neighbor. “And as word of the work has gotten out, more donations of fabric, thread and binding have come in,” she added.

When the 100 dresses are completed, a woman from Hubert’s church, Concordia Wesleyan, will take as many as she can with her on her mission to the West African nation of Burkina Faso early this summer. Any she can’t take will be sent to the Michigan headquarters for distribution from there.

“One of (Rachel O’Neill’s) sayings is, ‘Joy is a new dress,’” Hubert said. “So this is women in Concordia spreading joy.”

To learn more about Little Dresses for Africa, you can go to the organization’s website: http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/

Manna House website gets a facelift, new features

April 30, 2012 by  

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The website for Manna House of Prayer in Concordia — mannahouse.org — has gotten a major redesign and has lots of new features to help you find workshops, retreats or services to fit your needs.

The most significant addition is online registration for most workshops and retreats, along with a calendar of events to give users a better idea of everything available at the spiritual retreat center operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Other improvements — including the option of paying online through PayPal — are still in the works but should be available soon.

You can CLICK HERE to check out the new online home for Manna House.


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