Kansas City Star column features Sister Julie Galan

February 13, 2012 by  

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KC Star columnist Tim Tankard danced an evening away recently with Sister Julie Galan — and wrote about it in his Feb. 8 column. CLICK HERE to read the full piece.

11th bishop of Salina Diocese named today

February 6, 2012 by  

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Bishop-elect Edward J. Weisenburger

Salina — Pope Benedict XVI today named Msgr. Edward J. Weisenburger the new bishop of the Diocese of Salina.

The announcement was made official at noon today in Rome (5 a.m. Central time).

Bishop-elect Weisenburger, 51, presently is the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City. He succeeds Bishop Paul S. Coakley, who was named archbishop of Oklahoma City on Dec. 16, 2010.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 19, 1987, at the cathedral in Oklahoma City by Archbishop Charles A. Salatka. He was parochial vicar of St. Mary Church in Ponca City, Okla., from 1987 to 1990. He then began canon law studies at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada, where he earned the pontifical J.C.L. degree.

Upon his return to the archdiocese in 1992, he was appointed vice chancellor and adjutant judicial vicar. In addition to Chancery duties he also provided weekend parish and prison ministries from 1992 to 1995 and served as an on-site chaplain for rescue workers in the weeks following the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In the fall of 1995, Bishop-elect Weisenburger was elected to the Council of Priests and appointed to the Archdiocesan College of Consulters. He has served as a member of the Seminarian Board for 15 years. In June of 1996, he was appointed vicar general of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. He has been an officer with the Archdiocesan Tribunal for almost 20 years and has served in various capacities, including promoter of justice for the cause of canonization of Father Stanley Francis Rother, Servant of God. On Oct. 2, 2009, he was appointed a prelate of honor to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with the title reverend monsignor.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger has served as pastor of two parishes, from 1995 to 2002 at Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, Okla., and from 2002 until now as
rector of the cathedral in Oklahoma City.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger was born on Dec. 23, 1960, in Alton, Ill., to Edward John and Asella (Walters) Weisenburger, the third of their four surviving children. His father, now retired, was a military officer and his mother, who was born and raised in Ellis County, Kan., was a homemaker. He spent two years of his childhood in Hays, Kan., but grew up primarily in Lawton, Okla., where he graduated from high school in 1979. He attended Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., graduating with honors in 1983. He then attended the American College Seminary at the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium. He graduated with honors, earning the pontifical S.T.B. in theology along with an M.A. in religious studies in 1986 and a master’s in moral and religious sciences in 1987.

He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America, is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Knight Commander in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. When time permits, he enjoys reading and occasional travel.

The date for the ordination and installation of Bishop-elect Weisenburger as bishop of Salina will be announced in the near future.

Academy’s project weaves together past and future

January 12, 2012 by  

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The curved outer wall of the new Chapel of St. Joseph is covered with aluminum "lace" inspired, in part, by the bobbin lace designs of Sister Ramona Medina of Concordia.

When the students at St. Teresa’s Academy were asked what the wanted in a new chapel at the Catholic high school in Kansas City, they had an idea that could be tough to translate into construction materials. The 563 girls said the new worship space — which would be part of the fourth building on the school’s campus — should have “a feminine feel.”

Sister Ramona Medina

The architectural firm of Gould Evans — including architect Tony Rohr, the father of a St. Teresa’s student — kept that in mind as research began. And ultimately the firm found its inspiration in bobbin lace patterns that date to the mid-1600s and a contemporary lacemaker who lives in Concordia, Kan.

The result is a stunningly unique exterior on the soon-to-be-dedicated Chapel of St. Joseph, which makes up part of St. Teresa’s new Windmoor Center.

The story of the exterior design, though, has to be woven into the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the school itself.

When the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in about 1650 in LePuy, France, they were among the first Catholic communities to accept ordinary women and to live among the people they served. Those early sisters were not wealthy or educated, and they had to work to support themselves and their ministries — especially by making lace, a common trade in that region of France. By the time of the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century, the new community of sisters had spread throughout south central France. Then, caught in the political turmoil of the times, the congregation was forced to disband, but was ultimately refounded at Lyon, France. In 1836, the Bishop of St. Louis, Mo. — then still a rough frontier town — sent a request to France for Sisters of St. Joseph to come to teach deaf children. The bishop had been advised to “…get the Sisters of St. Joseph because they will do anything.” Three women responded to the request and came to a log cabin in Carondelet, just outside of St. Louis, to start their first mission in the United States.

The completed Chapel of St. Joseph on the campus of St. Teresa's Academy, photographed at night.

In the next several decades, the Carondelet sisters would reach out across the United States, eventually forming roughly 30 separate communities of Sisters of St. Joseph from the “family tree” that began with LePuy. That expansion included missions that began in Canandaigua and Buffalo, N.Y., in 1854 and then expanded to Rochester, N.Y., in 1868. In 1883, six sisters from the Rochester community came to Kansas and a year later founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Meanwhile, the original Carondelet community founded St. Teresa’s Academy in 1866. The all-girls school moved to its current 20-acre campus at 5600 Main St. in 1909. On the cornerstone of the school’s first building the sisters inscribed the words of St. Teresa of Avila, which would serve as the motto of the Academy: “Deo Adjuvante Non Timendum” (“With the help of God, we need not fear”).

Even from the first, St. Teresa’s student received a stellar education. But what they did not learn was the art of bobbin lacemaking.

At some point in the long history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in America, knowledge of that traditional craft began to fade away. Sisters still worked to support themselves and their missions, but not through the artistry of handmade French lace.

Concordia Sister Ramona Medina, an artist who works in any number of mediums, was concerned that by losing the ability to create bobbin lace, Sisters of St. Joseph were also losing part of their heritage. So in 2003 when the Concordia congregation announced that the theme of its Senate that year would be “Creating Lace,” Sister Ramona took that as a sign that she should find a way to learn how to do it.

She found a lacemaker in Manhattan, Kan., who had been taught by a woman who learned the artistry in LePuy. And Sister Ramona says she still turns to Ronna Robertson when she has a particularly challenging bobbin lace problem.

A few of the 200 lace bookmarks created by Sister Ramona Medina and a crew of volunteers.

Today Sister Ramona and Sister Janet Lander offer annual lacemaking retreats at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, and numerous other sisters and CSJ Associates create the delicate and intricate lace pieces that are offered for sale at the Nazareth Gift Shop in the congregation’s Motherhouse. Lacemaking has also become something of a staple at Neighbor to Neighbor, the women’s center in downtown Concordia where Sister Ramona is one of the founders and directors.

Becky Flores, executive assistant at St. Teresa’s, said that when the architects from Gould Evans went looking for examples of bobbin lace, they found the work of Sister Ramona Medina on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia website. Ultimately, they used one of Sister Ramona’s designs, plus another piece gracing the office of St. Teresa’s president, Nan Bone, and several other designs from LePuy, Flores said.

They then turned the project over to Zahner Metal Manufacturing of Kansas City, which crafted the cut-aluminum panels that sheath the curved outer wall of the new chapel. The panels are 19 feet tall and the largest are 8 feet wide. During the daytime, the interior of the chapel has a dappled light, caused by sunlight coming through large windows covered with the metal “lace.”


The tabernacle veil, designed and created especially for the Chapel of St. Joseph by Sister Ramona Medina.

But St. Teresa’s administrators weren’t done with Sister Ramona yet.

They have also commissioned her to create a bobbin lace veil to encircle the tabernacle in the new chapel. The piece, which she designed, features the cross suspended in delicate filigree lace.

And just to be sure that St. Teresa’s supporters understand the significance of the lace designs, the school also commissioned Sister Ramona to create 200 bobbin lace bookmarks that will be given to those attending a special Open House at the Academy Jan. 18.

That’s where Sister Ramona had to call in the troops; sisters, associates and other volunteers have been making the bookmarks for weeks. Contributing bookmarks were Sisters Vivian Boucher, Cecilia Green, Mary Jo Thummel, Janet Lander, Doris Marie Flax and Loretta Clare Flax and CSJ Associate Myrna Shelton, as well as Chris Overkamp, Carolyn Thurston, Sarah Schleicher and Jennifer Simmons.

“Can you believe it?” Sister Ramona asked with a laugh as she looked through a multi-colored pile of bookmarks earlier this week. “They are all so beautiful and it’s taken so many women helping.”

Sister Ramona has been invited to the Open House Jan. 18, which will recognize the contributions of everyone who has had a role in the school’s “Inspiring Women Capital Campaign.” The effort has raised more than $4 million, and in addition to the new chapel and the four classrooms that fill the rest of the Windmoor Center, will also pay for renovations to a second building on campus, enhanced technology throughout the school and an increase in the endowment fund.

The Chapel of St. Joseph will be dedicated in a special ceremony Feb. 2.

For more information about St. Teresa’s Academy and the Inspiring Women campaign, go to http://stteresasacademy.org







First Messenger of 2012 now available online

January 10, 2012 by  

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The January issue of “The Messenger” goes in the mail today — and it’s available here for those who just can’t wait!

As is our tradition, this issue highlights the “jubilarians” plus it has updates on all the projects that are part of Neighborhood Initiatives, offers a special message from our congregational president, Sister Marcia Allen, and includes a hefty list of Coming Events.

To download a PDF of the complete issue, just CLICK HERE.

Eight sisters celebrate jubilees in 2012

January 3, 2012 by  

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In 2012, eight Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia will celebrate significant anniversaries of their reception into the congregation.

The “jubilee” recognizes the date on which each sister became a novice, or what was traditionally calling “taking the habit.”

For a list of the 2012 Jubilarians and more information about each of them, CLICK HERE.

Santa surprises kids at Neighbor to Neighbor

December 15, 2011 by  

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It was 10 days early and there was nary a flake of snow to be seen, but Santa dropped in anyway, surprising the children gathered this afternoon at Neighbor to Neighbor.

• • • • • •

Clearly, the three Sisters of St. Joseph who operate the women’s center were in on the surprise since they had a gift for Santa to give each child. In fact, the moms and grandmoms and other women who regularly visit the center in downtown Concordia also each received a gift as part of today’s Christmas Party. Volunteers who on other days help out at Neighbor to Neighbor were guests, too. There were about 15 children and 20 or so women taking part.

Sisters Jean Befort, Ramona Medina and Pat McLennon hosted the party, with assistance from full-time volunteer Ali Remick.

Eulogy for Sister Mary Reiter, July 17, 1925-Dec. 12, 2011

December 13, 2011 by  

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EULOGIST: Sister Mary Jo Thummel
VIGIL: Dec. 13, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

“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.

Christmas comes early for local organizations

December 3, 2011 by  

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The Bent Wind Ensemble performs Saturday afternoon as visitors chat and view the 11 trees that make up Christmas Tree Lane. The silent auction was a special part of the annual Motherhouse Open House this year.

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.

Guests get first peek at Christmas Tree Lane

December 3, 2011 by  

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Guests at Friday evening's "preview party" got the chance to see — and bid on — 11 Christmas trees decorated by local nonprofit organizations.

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.

Eulogy for Sister Lila Marie Schmidt, July 4, 1933-Nov. 16, 2011

November 18, 2011 by  

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VIGIL: Nov. 18, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia

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.




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