Eulogy for Sister Redempta Eilert

July 26, 2011 by  

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VIGIL: July 26, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia

EULOGIST: Sister Bette Moslander


We are gathered here to remember and to honor Sister Redempta Eilert who died on July 25, 2011.I feel privileged to comply with her wishes that I give her eulogy. Sister Redempta entered the postulancy of our Congregation on Sept. 8, 1933, was received into the novitiate in March 18, 1934. She made temporary vows on March 19, 1935, and perpetual profession on Aug. 15, 1938.

Her extensive life review reveals the kind of woman we all knew Sister Redempta Eilert to be. As I read it I was struck by the comprehensive nature of her memories of her early life lived out in the midst of an extended and loving family in the Beloit and surrounding area. It chronicles life in rural America in the early to mid-20th century, a lifestyle known by so many of our Sisters. As her life review moves on it renders an account of life in a religious community prior to the Vatican II renewal as well as some of the painful struggles religious women experienced during the years following the Council. It is a detailed, clear and accurate account reflecting Sister Redempta’s disciplined and responsible approach to her long and productive life.

She was second of 13 children born to Frederic and Elizabeth Selting Eilert on Nov. 29, 1913 in Scottsville, Kan., a small rural community located not far from Beloit. She was baptized and given the name, Margaret. The Eilert family and the Selting family were always closely connected and as those of us who have known members of both families remember that those ties were strong and enduring even as women from each family entered our community.

The life review describes Margaret’s parents’ efforts to provide their growing family with the necessities of life relying on the produce of the family farm. Her father, Frederic farmed as did most western Kansas farmers, using horses and mules. When Margaret was about six year old the family acquired a Model T Ford and a few years later the farm work was made easier when her father could purchase a Caterpillar Tractor. “This changed the work pattern on the farm considerably,” she recalls.

Clearly the family was self-reliant and industrious and the children thrived. Both parents were strong supporters of Catholic education and both Margaret and her older sister, Gertrude, (whom we knew as Sister Frederic) attended the Catholic grade school in Beloit. The two girls often stayed with either the Eilert or the Selting grandparents and would walk 3 to 4 miles from their farms to get to school. As the girls entered  into the mid and upper grade school years Rev. Joseph Selting and his sister, Lena offered to take over the education of Gertrude and Margaret. The two girls moved into the parish house in Father Selting’s parish in Flush where they lived a strictly disciplined life and attended a school taught by the Benedictine Sisters.

When Margaret was 10 she contracted rheumatic fever and for several weeks suffered intense pain. Fortunately, her illness was correctly diagnosed by a doctor in Wamego, Kan. Early treatment resulted in a cure with no permanent damage to her heart and within a few weeks of bed rest she was able to return to normal school activities. Completing the eighth grade Margaret dropped out of high school for a couple of years but eventually returned and earned her high school diploma in three years. During her senior year Father Selting was assigned to a new parish in Horton, Kan. During that year Margaret lived with the Benedictine Sisters so that she could complete her high school. It was about this time that Margaret began to consider entering religious life.

The Benedictine Sisters offered her a scholarship at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan. Father Selting encouraged her to accept it and guided her enrollment in the basic freshman courses. It was during a college student retreat that she knew with certainty that she was called to religious life although to which community, the Benedictines or the Sisters of St. Joseph, was not clear. Margaret leaned toward the Sisters of St. Joseph whom her family knew better than the Benedictines and the decision was made when she received a letter from her sister Gertrude telling her that if she would come to the Sisters of St. Joseph, Gertrude would join her. They entered together on Sept. 8, 1933.

Redempta’s account of her early years in the community describes frankly the emphasis on work and busyness of life in the postulancy. She notes that the mistress of the Postulate was kind and helpful, but “seemed to believe that sanctity would be achieved through scrubbing and cleaning.” She accounts for the assignment of her name, Redempta,  that she came to love, although at the time she preferred the name of Sister Elizabeth Marie. She and Sister Frederic received the habit on March 19, 1934, at which time they and the other postulants were entrusted to Sister Isabelle, whom she describes as a “wise person with a sense of humor who tried to lead us into a life of prayer, silence and recollection.”

Her first assignment as a vowed religious was Marymount College to earn her 60-hour certificate. It was soon evident that Redempta’s leaning and talent was in the area of the sciences. The high schools and the college were in need of developing professionally competent teachers who could sustain the educational mission of the Congregation. Redempta was asked to return to the college and complete a major in chemistry. Her life course was thus determined. She commented that while initially she did not care much for chemistry she eventually came to love it.

Upon completion of her baccalaureate she was assigned to the high school in Boonville, Mo., where she taught General Science and Math and began to learn how to negotiate the give and take of forming a “reasonably peaceful community.” This one-year assignment at Boonville was her only year of mission life away from Marymount.  That summer she was assigned to attend the Institutum Divi Thomae in Cincinnati, Ohio, a research center in the sciences to prepare for teaching at the college. In the fall of 1942 Redempta returned to Marymount, having completed her master’s degree at the Research Center. In the ensuing years she enhanced her degree with a number of National Science Foundation grants gradually acquiring a solid body of knowledge about her field.

With great reserve and kindness Redempta describes her difficulties as she integrated into the community at the college and the faculty of the Chemistry department. She gradually established her self-identity as a member of the college faculty. Her frank account of interpersonal differences within the department reveal the normal conflicts that can occur between highly competent, professional women who are committed to the same high ideals and hopes but who take different approaches to methodology in the education of students.

In a kind of summary statement Redempta wrote, “As I ponder the 46 years that I spent at Marymount, there were moments of pain and moments of joy. Prior to Vatican II, when we were immersed in the letter of the law, many unreasonable demands were made on us.” She goes on to describe the pressures of serving on committees, responding to students extra curricular parties and activities, studying and preparing her classes while at the same time strictly observing the rules regarding lights out and early rising bells and a  heavy schedule of community prayer.

In her extensive description of the renewal years initiated by Vatican II, she offers her reflections on the radical changes that occurred; changes in the prayer life of the community, the wearing of the habit and the choice of ministries were difficult for her to accept initially. Gradually however she was able to accept the changes and to recognize the gains as well, always respecting those with whom she disagreed. Throughout these years she participated actively in the Senates and Assemblies and brought to the consideration of the members the values of her disciplined yet charitable positions.

Among the changes she found to her liking was the move out of the College with several of the sister faculty into a small group living situation in the summer of l969. She remembered the years of small group living as “years of genuine community living, built on mutual trust, love, tolerance and willingness to pray together and allow for individual differences.”

In 1988 she resigned from Marymount and moved to Concordia and lived in the community on South Mound. She spent her days at the Motherhouse serving at the reception desk or teaching GED students or harvesting the fruits of the large garden. In early spring of 1998 she moved to the Motherhouse. She records with chronological precision the gradual encroachment of the diminishments and losses of her health and strength as she grew older; a couple of transitory ischemic attacks, difficulties with her eye-sight, the death of her brother Al in a fire that destroyed the family home, of her brother Eddy in a wheat bin accident and the death of her beloved sister, Sister Frederic, after a period of deafness and demensia.

As Sister Redempta brings her life review to a close, she reflects on the way she saw her service in the community in the light of our apostolic mission. “Certainly I view my work at Marymount as a contribution to the field of Catholic higher education… I hope that as I taught and interacted with the students some of the peace and love and sense of values that a life of prayer and dedication fosters was absorbed by them…. I was a tiny cog in the wheel that was Marymount and its mission ‘to be a community of learners where persons of diverse ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic heritages share in an ongoing search for truth in an environment conducive to human and Christian values.’”  She closes her reflections by listing a number of things for which she was grateful in the course of her life.

In these last years of her life Sister Redempta found it enjoyable to play a few hands of bridge after supper before she retired in the evening. She developed her own skill with the same patience and perseverance as she brought to the intricacies of chemistry. In fact she was engaged in card game when the sisters noticed that her response movements were not quite normal and called for a nurse who thought it best for her to come to third floor Stafford.  It was her last card game and she won — hands down.  By 9 a.m. she had won the prize — and that’s because God always has the highest trump.

It is not possible of course to do justice to the life of this woman but we celebrate her life that was fully poured out in the service of God and the dear neighbor. She was, without doubt a valiant woman, who lived her convictions and her dedication as a Sister of St. Joseph without wavering.
To make a memorial contribution in Sister Redempta’s name, click the DONATE button below:

What ‘wonders’ do you see in your hometown?

July 18, 2011 by  

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Susie Haver and Tammy Britt brought their trademark energy and humor to the Nazareth Motherhouse Monday evening as they encouraged their audience to see rural Kansas through new eyes.

• • • • • •

Using the “Eight Elements of Rural Culture” developed by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the co-directors of the Cloud County Convention and Tourism office walked through each of the elements and how you can find them everywhere – if you’re looking.

The free hourlong presentation was the sixth of eight monthly presentations scheduled for the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

The “Eight Elements” were developed by Marci Penner and her father Mil, who founded the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 1993. “They traveled around Kansas visiting small towns,” Haver explained, “and they were looking at these places with different eyes.”

What the Penners saw were eight features or aspects of community life that attract visitors. Those eight are:

  • Art
  • Architecture
  • Commerce
  • Cuisine
  • Customs
  • Geography
  • History
  • People

Some elements – like the architecture and history of the Nazareth Convent — are easy to identify, Haver and Britt said. But it might be harder to identify the wonder of a local custom — like ordering a soda fountain drink at the Hodge Podge in Glasco. (That’s one of just 38 operating soda fountains in Kansas, Haver noted.)

The duo also offered some examples of their favorite places throughout the county: Dean Holbert’s general store on Highway 9 toward Beloit, Grassland Gardens in Miltonvale, Bob’s Toy Barn in Clyde, the stone arch bridge at Rice and the National Orphan Train Museum.

“Think about those places in terms of the eight elements and you starting seeing them differently,” Haver said. “The elements have really made a huge difference.”

So, too, have the energy and enthusiasm Haver and Britt brings to the tours they offer throughout Cloud County. Unlike most tourism officials, they serve as tour guides to accompany and assist large groups visiting the area.

They are also instrumental in organizing some community events, including the upcoming KS150 Quilt Fest planned for October. Information about their efforts is available at the Convention and Tourism office at 130 E. Sixth St., Concordia, and online at

The 2011 Concordia Speakers Series is an outgrowth of the Community Needs Forums that were held throughout 2009 and 2010 and hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. More than 100 individuals and representatives of local organizations and agencies took part in those “working lunches” to identify concerns in Concordia and Cloud County, and then work toward solutions.

The two final speakers in the series are Concordia City Manager Larry Uri on Sept. 26 and Cameron Thurner, an outreach specialist for the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas, on Oct. 24.

KU grad student documents ‘green congregation’

July 18, 2011 by  

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From the July 11 issue of The Oread, the University of Kansas employee newsletter:

“In north central Kansas, a group of nuns is fighting for the Earth. Rachel Myslivy intends to tell their story before it’s lost to the ages.

Myslivy, research assistant at the KU Center for Research on Learning, has won a grant to document the environmental activism of the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Convent and Academy in Concordia, Kan.”

To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

Tourism takes the stage for tonight’s Speakers Series

July 17, 2011 by  

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Cloud County’s head cheerleaders will bring their energy and enthusiasm to the next presentation in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series Monday evening (July 18).

Susie Haver and Tammy Britt, co-directors of the Cloud County Convention and Tourism office, will discuss the “8 Elements of Rural Culture” with a focus on helping others see their hometown with new eyes.

Their talk will be the sixth of eight monthly presentations scheduled for the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series. It begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Nazareth Motherhouse, 1300 W. Washington St. Haver and Britt will give a 30- to 40-minute presentation titled “Finding the 8!”  There will be time for questions from the audience, and the session will end no later than 8:30 p.m.

There is no charge for any of the sessions and the public is encouraged to come to any or all of them. No registration is needed, but if you’d like more information, you may contact Sister Marcia Allen at 785/243-2149 or

The 2011 Concordia Speakers Series is an outgrowth of the Community Needs Forums that were held throughout 2009 and 2010 and hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. More than 100 individuals and representatives of local organizations and agencies took part in those “working lunches” to identify concerns in Concordia and Cloud County, and then work toward solutions.

The two final speakers in the series are Concordia City Manager Larry Uri on Sept. 26 and Cameron Thurner, an outreach specialist for the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas, on Oct. 24.

Messages Home: Sleeves rolled up amid Montana flood damage

July 15, 2011 by  

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On Sunday, June 12, I completed six peaceful days in a spiritual retreat at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, Kan.  That time to recharge turned out to be vital because by noon the next day I had received the expected phone call from the Red Cross and by 7 a.m. Tuesday, June 14, luggage in tow, I was headed to Montana for a 17-day disaster assignment.

At the airport in Bozeman, Mont., I joined seven other volunteers from throughout the U.S. who were awaiting the arrival of the “Red Cross shuttle” to the temporary headquarters in Billings.  We were joining about 60 other Red Cross volunteers who were scattered throughout the flood-ravaged areas of Montana. Volunteers were rotating in and out as they tended to managing the disaster headquarters, assessing damage from the massive May floods, opening case files to provide financial assistance, operating shelters for the flooded homeless, delivering and serving meals and supplies, warehousing, nursing, providing mental health services and on and on.

Many volunteers are retirees; some are unemployed; some are using vacation time to serve. Those who took on this assignment ranged in age from 18 to 75.

Eighteen-year-old Sean opted to waive his high school graduation party in order to be available for this disaster.  Thirty-one-year-old Martin was devoting his six weeks of vacation to his volunteer duties.  A veteran of three military tours in Iraq, Martin most recently responded as a Reservist in Japan — sleeves rolled up in the tsunami waters removing human casualties. Seventy-five-year-old Sue had just completed two weeks in Joplin, Mo., where she trained and supervised 10 four-person teams that tended to the needs of families who lost members to death in the tornado.

For me, at 65, this was my second summer responding to calls from the North Central Kansas Chapter of the Red Cross to volunteer as a Disaster Mental Health Counselor. In July 2010, I went to the Rio Grande area of Texas to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Alex.

This summer it was the Crow Reservation, south and east of Billings, and more flooding.

In the course of my 17 days, I physically re-located seven times. My luggage remained packed and ready for the next site to serve.

Since my primary role within Red Cross is that of mental health, I remain attentive to the pulse of those directly affected by the disaster, as well as the volunteers who are tending to the victims of the disaster.  What an awesome match for me as I continue to live the Gospels as expressed by my Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia: loving God and neighbor without distinction! It just seems so natural for me to show up, be present and keep my sleeves rolled up.

I traveled with another volunteer, Cheri, into homes for disaster assessment and to support her and the families as she opened cases.  While she was documenting the facts, I listened to human stories of loss, of waiting and of destruction. While we were driving to another home, I listened with Cheri as she de-briefed in readiness for the next assessment and potential case opening. She was in her first Red Cross assignment, and she said I helped keep her sane. We were a splendid team!

With the exception of my Red Cross peers, all of my interactions were with men, women and children among the Crow Tribe. The shelter and the homes we visited were all on the reservation; the interactions I had each day with flooded households included only the Crow. We volunteers were blessed to have a Native American liaison with Red Cross to assist in bridging gaps between the ways of “white privilege” and the Crow.

Another way to work at bridging those gaps is through the children. One such experience was a day when I was reading a book with — versus to — a child and responding to the child’s questions about my hair texture and skin color, while one of the adults in the family initially listened close by, That allowed the window of trust to open with the adult, and hands and names and hugs were more easily reciprocated when I eventually introduced myself to the rest of the family.

As I was saying my goodbyes on my last day, one of the tribal members told me, “Just when we get used to a person, they leave.”

Three weeks later, that man and his family of five remained homeless and were still living in the shelter, separated from the familiarity of their food and ways within their own home. Those same three weeks later, I am among the blessed to have a home to return to, with a heart filled with graced and priceless moments.

— Sister Loretta Jasper is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan. The Cawker City native holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., and a post-graduate certificate in play therapy from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan.  For the past two years, she has worked in a government-funded program that provides support for military families where one parent is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. She will return to that job when school begins in the fall.

July’s ‘Messenger’ now available!

July 12, 2011 by  

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Sister Marcia Allen writes about summertime — and it’s a busy one for the Sisters of St. Joseph. Discover Camp, a fact-finding visit to El Paso, two new sisters and the annual celebration of jubilarians, all packed into 16 pages. Check out all of those plus our regular features, including our calendar of upcoming events. The downloadable PDF is created in two-page spreads so you can see the Discover Camp photos and the color photos of the jubilarians exactly as they appeared in print.

CLICK HERE to download the entire issue.

“The Challenge of Living and Dying with Spirit & Zeal”

June 28, 2011 by  

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Sister Jeanette Wasinger, June 4, 2011, in Concordia.

In December 2009, Sister Jeanette Wasinger — then working as a spiritual director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, Calif. — was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to the liver. She decided against aggressive treatment that might prolong her life, and her doctor thought she might survive until Easter — so she came home to Concordia to die. A year and a half later, she is still very much alive, and very much changed by that “gift” she received in the doctor’s office.

On June 28, 2011, Sister Jeanette spoke to the Sisters of St. Joseph gathered at the Nazareth Motherhouse about her journey. Although, as she says, she talks about death every day, this was the first time she spoke to a group about what her diagnosis has meant in her life.

Below are three mp3 files, numbered 1, 2 and 3, and each about 8 minutes long. To listen to Sister Jeanette’s entire presentation, just listen to them in order.




President urges community to see college’s economic value

June 20, 2011 by  

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Dr. Danette Toone responds to a question following her presentation Monday evening as part of the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

As Dr. Danette Toone nears her first anniversary as president of Cloud County Community College, she is clearly proud of both the college and the community she’s become a part of.  She’s also convinced that she has the background, the energy and the enthusiasm to tackle any challenges that lie ahead.

She brought that conviction to her presentation Monday evening as part of the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, welcomes audience members to Monday evening's presentation.

Toone was raised in Brookville, Kan., just southwest of Salina. After her father was killed in a car wreck when she was 8, her mother — then in her 30s — went back to school at Marymount College and graduated with a degree in social work. “I saw a strong woman raising three children without state aid,” she told her audience. And she would return to her mother’s story throughout her talk as she emphasized the importance of access to education for even the most “non-traditional” students.

Her own path to a college presidency has been similarly non-traditional, she said.

Instead of following what she called “the normal pathway to a presidency” — through instruction, as a faculty member and then dean and then vice president — Toone “came up through economic development.”

Before taking over at Cloud on July 1, 2010, she was vice president of academic and community initiatives at Temple (Texas) College, where she has been since 1998. She received bachelor’s degrees in finance and economics from Washburn University and a master’s degree in finance/management from the University of Texas at Odessa. She received a doctorate of education administration and community college leadership from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009.

“A community college is a critical piece of economic development,” she said. “I’m not sure most people think of it that way.”

Dr. Danette Toone, left, and SIster Marcia Allen chat in the moments before the presentation begins Monday evening.

She noted that Cloud, with campuses in Concordia and Junction City, has about 150 full-time faculty and staff members. There are another 175 part-time faculty and staff working on one of the campuses or at the 39 high schools served by Cloud, she said.

“They pay taxes, they buy groceries,” she noted. “That’s economic development.”

Added to that is the money spent by students while attending school at the Cloud County and Geary County campuses. One solid number she cited was roughly $2 million a year in purchases by students shopping at the Concordia Walmart.

“If you think a community college is not important, think what Concordia would be like without it,” she said.

But while she said Cloud does an “amazing job of getting students here,” that’s not enough. “It’s not just about opening the door; we also have to ensure our students are successful.”

She noted that about 70 percent of incoming Cloud students have “deficiencies” in at least one area of reading, writing or math, and they require extra attention to succeed. That means more focus on individual learning plans and “developmental” or remedial classes, particularly in reading.

“The old ‘vo-tech’ model doesn’t exist anymore,” Toone said. “This is a high-tech world, and even the burger-flippers at McDonald’s have to read and use computers.”

The mission of a community college, she said, is to “provide the scaffolding” from where a student is today to where he or she needs to be for success in life.

She cited a recent analysis by Georgetown University that estimates 482,000 new jobs will be created in Kansas by 2018 — and 75 percent of those will require some sort of post-secondary education. “Figuring in the jobs that already exist,” she added, “by 2018, 64 percent will require post-secondary education” of some type.

One example of the kinds of new jobs that will exist, she said, is wind energy, where Cloud has been a leader with its associate of science degree. The program was recognized earlier this spring as one of seven in the country to receive the American Wind Energy Association Seal of Approval.

Toone gave the fifth of eight scheduled presentations in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series. The free public talks were an outgrowth of the Community Needs Forums that were held throughout 2009 and 2010 and hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Upcoming speakers in the series include Cloud County Convention and Tourism co-directors Susie Haver and Tammy Britt on July 18 and Concordia City Manager Larry Uri on Sept. 26.

Discover Camp: A summer evening of barbecue & water balloons

June 18, 2011 by  

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Friday was a full day for Discover Campers at the Nazareth Motherhouse, but what camp would be complete without a cookout?

• • • • • • •

So the campers and sisters from throughout Concordia gathered on the lawn for an evening of games, conversation, hot dogs, hamburgers, s’mores, team cheers — and a spirited standoff with water balloons.

But even after all the outdoors fun, their day was not done yet. The campers ended the evening with a movie and more discussion before heading to bed to be rested for another full day on Saturday.

For photos from earlier in the day Friday, CLICK HERE.

‘Riders on the Orphan Train’ highlights reunion

June 11, 2011 by  

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Music and storytelling were the orders of the day Saturday as descendants of Orphan Train riders and other visitors came to the Nazareth Motherhouse as part of the Ninth Annual Orphan Train Reunion in Concordia.

• • • • • • • • •

The reunion began Friday morning, with most events at the Morgan-Dowell Research Center, which is part of the National Orphan Train Complex and Museum in Concordia. But late Saturday morning the program shifted to the Motherhouse, with the Sisters of St. Joseph as the hosts. The morning program of  “Riders Stories” was followed by lunch and then a special presentation of  “Riders on the Orphan Train.”

The presentation combines music with photographs, audio and video, and was created by Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster, both of Austin, Texas. Moore, an author and musician, included a reading from her upcoming novel about the Orphan Train as part of the program.

Before the program began, two descendants of Orphan Train riders shared short stories. Judye Ruffo of Lincoln, Neb., talked about her mother, Ann Harrison, who at 102 was not able to come to Concordia for the reunion. Harold Dupre of Opelousas, La., told the story of his father, who was one of about 100 orphans who were sent to Louisiana in 1907.

Between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were placed out during, what is known today as, the Orphan Train Movement. The name is derived from the children’s situations, though they were not all orphans, and the mode of transportation used to move them across 47 states and Canada.

When the orphan train movement began, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living on the streets of New York City.

The National Orphan Train Museum is housed in a renovated 1917 Union Pacific depot located just a couple of blocks north of downtown Concordia. To learn more, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about “Riders on the Orphan Train” by Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster, CLICK HERE.




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