Eulogy for Sister Leo Frances Winbinger, June 18, 1930-Oct. 5, 2011

October 10, 2011 by  

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VIGIL: Oct. 9, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia
EULOGIST: Sister Pat McLennon

“My life of ministry is thanksgiving to God
for all the gifts He has given to me.”


S. Leo Frances Winbinger

This simple mission statement of Sister Leo Frances reveals how she lived her life with acceptance and gratitude to God for whatever was asked of her or given to her.  It was in this spirit that her life revealed God’s presence, and spoke God’s words of acceptance and thanksgiving.

Theresa Elizabeth Winbinger was the first child born to Leon and Frances Baxa Winbinger, June 18, 1930, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia.

In her own words she described her birth: “This bundle of loveliness and joy was very much welcomed in love and thanksgiving.  There was another reason for the joy because I was the first girl baby on both sides of my family.” A few years later her brother Charles was welcomed into the family. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother and nephew Charles.  She is survived by her sister-in-law Kathleen and her nieces Beth, Deborah, Kristine, and Amy and her nephews Matthew and Greg.

Theresa grew up in Cuba, Kan., and she was baptized at St. Isadore Church, a mission of St. Edward’s in Belleville, Kan. She attended Bates Rural School in Republic County. It was a one-room building. She remembered that there were only six students, three in first grade and three students in the eighth grade. She attended religious vacation school in Belleville taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Theresa loved music and her natural talent was discovered at an early age.  She sang her first solo when she was just 2 years old.  She said a vocalist usually needs and accompanist so she began to take piano lessons when she was in the third-grade from a professional teacher. She practiced at home on what she described as a manually operated instrument that supplied compressed air through foot feeders by using pedals. She said she practiced her piano lessons on this instrument as long as the keys held out.  She played for her first High Mass when she was 8 years old.  Later on she wanted to be in the school band and so as a fifth-grade student she began lessons on the clarinet.

When Theresa attended Belleville High School many of her hopes and desires were realized.  She was not only in the band, she was a member of a clarinet quartet woodwind trio, marching and concert band, girl’s glee and mixed chorus.  She continued her piano lessons so that she could perform well and to accompany these music groups.

Theresa was fortunate to receive a scholarship from Marymount College when she graduated from high school. During her freshman year at Marymount she felt called to religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Theresa entered the postulancy on Sept. 7, 1949, and was received as a novice March 19, 1950.  She was given the name Sister Leo Frances. During the novitiate she said she “studied the Constitution and other qualities needed to fit the bill as a prospective Sister of St. Joseph.”  She made first Profession March 19, 1951, and Final Profession March 19, 1954.

Her band members are: Sisters Therese Richstatter, Alice Marie Stalker, Jacquelyn Kircher, Mary Jean Assell, Lila Marie Schmidt and Rita Ann Mazanec. Two of her band members preceded her in death, Sisters Susanna Collister and Dismas Cartwright.

Following the novitiate Sister Leo Frances was sent to teach fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grades in Herndon, Kan. The following year she was sent to Sacred Heart in Salina and it was then that she began teaching classroom music, choir and private lessons. The year she was to make final profession she was teaching in Gladstone, Michigan. She expressed a deep disappointment because she wanted to come home for the profession ceremony but was asked to make her profession in Gladstone due to the distance. In her usual gracious way she expressed her gratitude for the generosity, concern, and hospitality, of the pastor, Father Matt LaViolette who presided at the ceremony.

During her active years of ministry she also taught music at schools in Plainville, Tipton, and Manhattan, Kan.; Chicago; Boonville, Mo.; and Silver City, N.M.

In 1973 she came to the Motherhouse to work at the reception desk.

It was during these years that her health began to fail. During the time I was her regional coordinator it was necessary for her to have a shunt put in to drain fluid from her brain.  The doctor told us that she would gradually loose her ability to walk and she would experience memory loss.  At that time I talked to her about moving from the Motherhouse to St. Mary’s.  I told her about the long-term diagnosis and promised her that we would always care for her.  She expressed her gratitude to me for telling her and she said that she knew she would have very good care at St. Mary’s.  Sister Macrina often spoke about how well she adjusted and how gracious she was to the Sisters and her care takers. She lived at St. Mary’s for ten years and then in 1997 she moved to the newly remodeled Stafford Hall.

During that time she and Sister M. Kevin shared a room together and they became very good friends. They prayed together every day, they enjoyed watching the same old movies on their TV, shared letters and news, and looked after one another when they were not feeling well.  They were both happy and always expressed their appreciation for one another and the wonderful care they received at the Motherhouse.

In 2004 the community made a decision to move some of our Sisters to Mt. Joseph Senior Village.  I visited with Sister Leo Frances and Sister M. Kevin about this decision and asked them to be in the first group to move. They both said they would be happy to move but they had one request; they wanted to room together at Mt. Joseph.  I said that we could arrange that for them. They were both aware that they each could have had a private room.

I helped them pack and move over to Mt. Joseph.  Every time I went to visit Sister Leo Frances would say, “Thank you for letting me be here. We are physically, spiritually and psychologically cared for.”  There were times when I knew she must have been suffering extreme pain, especially in her feet, but she never complained.  Everything was always wonderful and she was always thankful.

When Sister Mary Kevin died, I went to the little gathering room to tell Sister Leo Frances.  It was a sudden death and it was a great loss to her.  She cried and for several months after she would talk about how much she missed her dear friend. Then she would say, “There’s a mother deer and her baby outside our window. I like to watch them.”

What I always appreciated about Sister Leo Frances was her constant spirit of acceptance and gratitude. In her own simple way she had an ability to be present to each encounter and respond wholeheartedly.  Her life was definitely not an easy one.  She experienced trials, doubts, and failures, but she always seemed to counter them with gratitude, trust, and faith.

Sister Leo Frances died Oct. 5, 2011 at Mt. Joseph Senior Village. Her gifts to us of acceptance and thanksgiving have now blossomed into the fullness which she zealously nurtured during her life with us as she is embraced in the fullness of God’s life in abundance. May she rest in peace.

Those wishing to make a gift in the memory of Sister Leo Frances may make an online donation through our secure server with PayPal, by clicking the button below.


Year of Peace booth at Fall Fest offers peaceful treats

September 25, 2011 by  

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Sister Anna Marie Broxterman chats with a couple filling out the survey at the Concordia Year of Peace booth at Fall Fest Saturday morning.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski staffs the Concordia Year of Peace booth at Fall Fest Saturday morning.

In what has now become an annual tradition, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee filled its Fall Fest booth Saturday with an array of items — including small candy bars marked as “A Little Piece of the Peace” — designed to remind the community of its continuing efforts.

The committee was also asking people to fill about a simple anonymous survey about their top concerns relating to peace and nonviolence.

Throughout the day, committee members handed out Year of Peace buttons, stickers and signs, and sold “Another Year of Peace” shirts.

The Concordia Year of Peace efforts were launched at Fall Fest two years ago, and then were re-dedicated as Another Year of Peace beginning in January 2011. The committee continues to plan projects that emphasize peace, nonviolence and public civility.

Sister Frances Cabrini Wahlmeier: April 4, 1930-Sept. 18, 2011

September 20, 2011 by  

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VIGIL: 7 p.m., Sept. 19, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

EULOGIST: Sister Pat McLennon

“The strange paradox of the Gospel is that the first effect of God’s love is our own self, and our transformed self is God’s love made present to all whom we encounter.”

— Francis Bauer, OSF

While reflecting on the life and spirit of Sister Frances Cabrini it was clear to me, and to so many of us, that her journey with God was never half-hearted. In her quiet and unassuming way she was attentive to God’s love and it was this selfless love and presence that she brought to all of us and to all whom she encountered.

Sister Frances Cabrini didn’t write a life-review and we only have a few articles about her life and years of service during the 63 years she lived as a member of our community. Tonight we simply want to remember and celebrate her life among us and how she touched so many of us throughout the years with her gentle, compassionate, and loving heart.

Mae Catherine Wahlmeier was the sixth child of 15 children born to Aloysius and Ruth Sphorer Wahlmeier, April 4, 1930 in Jennings, Kansas. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Norbert, Paul, and Robert and her sister Virginia.  She is survived by her sisters Loretta, Rita, Elaine, and Jane, and her brothers Vincent, Hugh, Galen, John, Louis, and Carl. She is also survived by her sister-in-laws Francia, Catherine, Kay, Janet, and Linda and her brother-in-law John as well as, nieces and nephews. This large family has been a wonderful support to Sister Frances Cabrini and she often expressed her love and appreciation for them. The family also counted on her prayerful support and enjoyed her visits.

Mae grew up on a farm in Jennings. Being a middle child in a large family she and her brothers and sisters helped milk the cows by hand every day, helped with the younger children and some of the house chores. Mae attended the Jennings Consolidated Grade and High School. She loved music and taught herself how to read music and play the piano.  Later she had some music lessons and played other instruments in the school band. She was a good student, popular, and enjoyed going to dances and other school events.  Mae graduated from high school June, 1948 and enrolled at the St. John’s School of Nursing in Salina, Kansas.

Mae was only in the nursing program a short time when she felt called to religious life. She wrote a letter to Mother M. Chrysostom December 2, 1948 indicating that while she was home during Thanksgiving vacation she secured permission from her parents become a Sister of St. Joseph. She requested an application to enter with the class in February. She was 18 years old and felt that she could better serve God by following this vocation and expressed her belief that she could really be happy. She was accepted and Mae entered the postulancy February 2, 1949 with Sister Maureen Kelley, Sister Mary Agnes Drees, and Sister Francine LaGesse.  She was received as a novice August 15, 1949 and was given the name Sister Frances Cabrini.  She professed First Vows August 15, 1950 and Perpetual Vows August 15, 1953.

After she completed the novitiate, Sister Frances Cabrini returned to St. John’s Hospital to complete her studies and she received an R.N., degree from Marymount College in 1953. Her first mission was at the hospital in Sabetha, Kansas where she worked for nine years.  She was then sent to Rawlins County Hospital in Atwood, Kansas, where she served for six years as the hospital administrator, as well as a lab and x-ray technician– a skill she had learned out of necessity in Sabetha.  She reflected about this in an interview saying, “We were almost frontier people. We were finding our way and trusting God.”  In 1968 she was sent to St. Mary’s Hospital in Manhattan as assistant Administrator.

During the many years she ministered in the hospitals there were a few times when she sacrificed the work she was doing in order to fill a needed position in the hospital. One example of this was when an Administrator at the Manhattan hospital was fired and she was asked to be the interim-Administrator.  The hospital was going under financially and employee morale was low.  In her usual way she responded to these challenges wholeheartedly and her calm and kind presence brought a sense of well-being to the situation. With her leadership the hospital got out of the red and the employees felt secure in their job.  Sister Frances Cabrini is highly respected by the Manhattan people.

After 20 years of service at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manhattan she was asked to serve as administrator of St. Mary’s Convent, the retirement center for our community in Concordia. Ten years later, St. Mary’s was closed and the Sisters moved to the newly remodeled Stafford Hall at the Motherhouse. Sister Frances Cabrini was asked to serve as coordinator of health-care services at the Motherhouse and in 2004 her position was expanded to include our Sisters residing at Mt. Joseph until her retirement in June 2008.

During the years that I served on the Council and worked closely with Sister Frances Cabrini, I was struck by the gentle and quiet way she went about the care of our Sisters at St. Mary’s, the Motherhouse, and Mt. Joseph.  She was totally self-giving and attentive to God’s presence in the ordinary and extraordinary life experiences of the Sisters in her care. We can’t begin to count the times she was called during the day or in the middle of the night to accompany a Sister to the hospital or to be with a dying Sister. The next day she would be up doing her daily visits with each Sister at Mt. Joseph and Stafford Hall. She brought them their mail, news of the day, and checked to see how they were feeling and if they had any other needs.  She never complained of being tired or over-worked.

In addition to the on-site care Sister Frances Cabrini gave to the Sisters she spent many hours accompanying Sisters to doctor appointments, visits to their families, shopping, and just out for an enjoyable ride to see the autumn leaves, Christmas decorations, or the wheat fields.  She was especially sensitive to Sisters suffering from memory loss.  It was not unusual to see them sitting in her office, taking them for a walk, assuring them that they were in the right place. She gave each one a sense of security and peace.

Her life was not all work and no play.  She thoroughly enjoyed traveling.  In 1990 she and Sister Rose Alma Newell went on a two week American Heritage Tour. She kept a journal of all the places they visited and she was very interested in learning American History.  Later, she accompanied Sister Myra Joseph to Ireland to visit her family.  It was Sister Myra Joseph’s last trip home.  They stayed with one of her nephews and he took them all around.  Sister Frances Cabrini kept a very detailed journal of their trip.  It was obvious that she enjoyed every minute of it.

Her yearly mission statements reflected her commitment to being available to those in her care and provide spiritual, medical, and nursing care for them as well as, to help create a home-like atmosphere for the Sisters at the Motherhouse and Mt. Joseph. She was also sensitive to our employees. She saw to it that they were respected for their contributions and provided resources for their work. Sister Frances Cabrini knew that to love with the love of God required the will to be attentive and self-giving. These qualities formed and shaped Sister Frances Cabrini’s life in mission.

In 2008 Sister Frances Cabrini visited with the members of the Executive Council and asked to retire after 20 years of service to our retired Sisters at St. Mary’s, the Motherhouse, and Mt. Joseph.  She told us that she was experiencing extreme fatigue and wanted to move to the Motherhouse and rest. During the past three years her health has consistently declined. She died early Sunday morning, September 18, 2011.  May she now be at peace in the fullness of God’s love.







Serving in a new way: A conversation in Ellis, Kan.

September 14, 2011 by  

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Participants at Saturday's "community conversation" in Ellis, Kan., discuss what they like most about their city.

The director of the Ellis Alliance had been thinking about a “community roundtable discussion” for some time.  But, says Dena Patee, she was reluctant to propose, let alone lead, such an event herself. In a city of just 2,000 residents, she knew it would be difficult to appear neutral. “There’s a tendency to think you’re taking sides, or promoting one idea or another,” Patee said.

Ellis Alliance Director Dena Patee, left, and Alliance Board member JoAnn Schoenthaler discuss what would make Ellis even better.

Enter Cheryl Lyn Higgins, the coordinator of Neighborhood Initiatives and the leader of last Saturday’s “community conversation” in Ellis.

One of the many goals of Neighborhood Initiatives, which is a new office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, is to reach out to communities where sisters serve and offer whatever assistance is needed in bringing people together to talk about challenges and solutions.

Sister Doris Marie Flax has served as pastoral minister at St. Mary’s Church in Ellis since 1994, and introduced Higgins to Patee and several other community leaders. As a result, Higgins offered her services — free of charge — to organize the Saturday meeting and then walk the 20 or so participants through the process of really looking at their community.

“In a small community, it’s sometimes difficult to lay out the facts when you’re there with all your neighbors and people you’ve known all your life,” Higgins explained. “Somebody coming in from the outside can say things that someone inside the community cannot always say. But someone has to say, ‘Elected officials can’t do everything’ and ‘We have to be citizens in our community.’ ”

According to Patee, Higgins was exactly the person needed to start the conversation.

“It was so much nicer that Cheryl Lyn came out and did the facilitation,” she said. “She was so comfortable and calm; she was flawless in her presentation.”

And, she notes, everyone at the meeting knew that Higgins was just there to help.

Higgins’ assistance — and, in fact, the creation of Neighborhood Initiatives in 2010 — continue a tradition the Sisters of St. Joseph have lived out since their founding 128 years ago. In their early days in Kansas, the congregation founded schools and hospitals to educate young people and provide health care, services that were crucial in the communities where they lived and served.

As the need arose, they founded orphanages and nursing homes to provide care for children and elders who needed it.

“Those were all needs relevant to their times,” Higgins explained. “Today rural communities are concerned about sustainability — that’s what makes these community conversations relevant to this time and to the communities where sisters serve.”

The process began with small groups listing “What we like about Ellis,” and items like good schools and active organizations were included by almost every group.

Then came a harder question: What would make Ellis even better?

Participants came up with a list of 14 suggestions, ranging from developing more housing of all types to creating a business incubator and building a community center.

The final two questions were the hardest: What are the priorities and who will work toward them?

Ultimately, four topics made that list — housing, business development and a business incubator, a community center and cleanup of Big Creek — and participants volunteered to serve on a committee for each one.

“My dream is that everyone who signed up to volunteer will show up and take an active role,” Patee said with a laugh. “That may not happen, but this was very, very positive.”

The next step in the process, Higgins said, is to present the four goals, as well as other information from the meeting, to the Ellis Alliance Board of Directors and then to the Ellis City Commission. That should happen early in October.

Meanwhile, Higgins is looking at other cities where there are Sisters of St. Joseph with the hope that Neighborhood Initiatives can be of service there, too. The program is funded by the Sisters of St. Joseph so there is no cost to the cities that participate.

Remembering 9/11 and the Beatitudes of Reconciliation

September 10, 2011 by  

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A visitor to this site Saturday (Sept. 10) asked about the Beatitudes of Reconciliation, written many years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. As a quick web search will demonstrate, today they are widely quoted by many groups that focus on unity and nonviolence.

As we remember the awful tragedy of 10 years ago today, it is appropriate that we publish them here in honor of all those who lost their lives and those who were forever changed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Beatitudes of Reconciliation

Blessed are those who are willing to enter into the process of being healed,
for they will become healers.
Blessed are those who recognize their own inner violence,
for they will come to know non-violence.
Blessed are those who can forgive self,
for they will become forgivers.
Blessed are those who are willing to let go of selfishness and self-centeredness,
for they will become a healing presence.
Blessed are those who will listen with compassion,
for they will become compassionate.
Blessed are those who are willing to enter into conflict,
for they will find transformation.
Blessed are those who know their interdependence with all creation,
for they will become unifiers.
Blessed are those who live a contemplative life stance,
for they will find God in all things.
Blessed are those who strive to live these beatitudes,
for they will become reconcilers.

— Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas

Old friend visits for a double celebration

August 26, 2011 by  

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Sister Agnes Bernita Green, left, chats with Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons over dinner Friday afternoon.

The golden  jubilee celebration was a couple of months late in coming, and the birthday party was a week early. But old friends don’t quibble about exact dates.

• • • • • • • •

So on Friday (Aug. 26), the Sisters of St. Joseph invited Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons to the Motherhouse in Concordia, to honor him for his 50th anniversary as an ordained priest and to celebrate his upcoming 83rd birthday. The Sisters also wanted to thank the man who led the Salina Diocese as bishop for 20 years for always being a friend to the congregation.

Speaking in reference to the Gospel from that morning’s liturgy, the story of the Good Shepherd, Sister Marcia Allen, president of the congregation, said that although the Sisters “were not always docile, you were always patient, compassionate when we were grieving and always kind.”

Bishop Fitzsimons led the diocese from 1984 until his retirement in 2004, when he returned to a parish ministry in Ogden, Kan. But when Bishop Paul Coakley was appointed archbishop of Oklahoma City this past February, Bishop Fitzsimons was pressed back into service across the diocese.

He celebrated Mass with the Sisters before joining them for dinner. In addition to a stack of greeting cards that was several inches thick, the Sisters presented him with a birthday bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. Bishop Fitzsimons thanked the gathered Sisters for the gift, the cards and all their prayers. “It’s always good to be among old friends,” he said.

‘Working lunch’ focuses on events & work to be done

August 17, 2011 by  

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Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, right, offers a blessing after Sister Marcia Allen, left, welcomed participants to Wednesday's "working lunch" at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

At least a dozen local organizations and agencies will take part in Concordia’s first-ever Volunteer Fair, participants at Wednesday’s “working lunch” at the Nazareth Motherhouse learned.

And while plans for that event — designed to bring together groups that need volunteers and local residents willing to help — are being finalized, other new community events are being launched.

• • • • • • •

Nearly 30 people attended the lunch, which was the 15th gathering in a process that started in the fall of 2008 and hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In addition to identifying what participants see as the greatest needs in the community, the meetings have established smaller groups to seek solutions.

On Wednesday, a number of committees updated the larger group on upcoming events:

• Neighbor to Neighbor is hosting an open house this evening, from 5 to 7 p.m., to show off the just-completed renovation project that has doubled the space of the women’s center in downtown Concordia. The public is invited to stop by.

• A free showing of the 2004 movie “Hotel Rwanda” is set for Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the Cook Theater on the Cloud County Community College campus. Co-sponsored by the college and the Concordia year of Peace Committee, the 7 p.m. movie will be followed by a discussion led by Sue Sutton and Brenton Phillips.

• The Concordia Volunteer Fair is set for Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Motherhouse. Organizations and agencies, ranging from the Concordia Fire Department to the Brown Grand Theatre, will have displays, so local residents can find out more about how they can volunteer. Other groups that expect to have displays are Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Concordia POW Camp Association, the Salina chapter of the American Red Cross, the North Central Kansas Regional Medical Rescue Corps, Cloud County Museum, the National Orphan Train Museum, the Concordia School District, the city of Concordia, Manna House of Prayer and Neighbor to Neighbor.

• On Sunday, Sept. 18, the Motherhouse will host a Peace Fair, sponsored by the Justice and Peace Center of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee and Pax Christi of Salina. That even commemorates the International Day of Peace and will offer a wide array of free activities for adults and children.

• The next presentation in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series will be Monday, Sept. 26. Concordia City Manager Larry Uri will discuss “Building Community” in his talk, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Motherhouse Auditorium. All the presentations in the Speakers Series are open to the public without charge.

Also during Wednesday’s lunch, Year of Peace committee member Patrick Sieben reported on the National Night Out events in Concordia Aug. 2.

Sieben said “probably hundreds of people participated” in more than 20 neighborhood parties across the city as a part of the nationwide event, which was sponsored locally by the Year of Peace Committee and the Concordia Police Department. “This was a good, fun thing,” Sieben said, “and we’re going to do it again next year.” The national event is always held the first Tuesday in August.

New discussion that came up Wednesday included an idea to help local nonprofit organizations come together to raise funds.

Holly Brown, the former director of Big Brothers Big Sisters who has just started work in the Sisters of St. Joseph Development Office, asked those at the lunch meeting whether they would be interested in something like a “Christmas Tree Lane,” in which local organizations could decorate trees that then would be used as fundraisers. The event could be held in conjunction with the annual Christmas Open House at the Motherhouse, she said.

Brown is leading a committee to consider the idea.

Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, also asked the group if human trafficking and its connection to immigration were topics of concern. “There have been recent news reports of trafficking in the Wichita area, and I don’t know how much people here know about it, and think it’s an issue here,” she said.

Allen along with several other sisters recently attended a national conference held in St. Louis where human trafficking was a main topic on the agenda.

After more discussion, most of the participants said they need more information about trafficking and its impact locally.

The final working lunch for 2011 is planned for Nov. 16, with the quarterly meetings scheduled through the first half of 2012. Everyone is invited to join the process; you do not have to a have attended an earlier lunch or other meeting to take part now. If you’d like to be added to the list to receive an email reminder of the next lunch, contact Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at





Nebraska native follows her heart home

August 12, 2011 by  

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Sister Pat Eichner in her garden at the home she shared with three other members of her congregation in Concordia.


With a master’s in business administration from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and five years experience as finance officer for her congregation, Sister Pat Eichner clearly has a head for business.

But her heart has always been in parish ministry.

Now her head and heart come together as she takes over as parish minister in Greeley, Neb., working with Father Don Buhrman.

For Sister Pat, it is also a return to her home diocese and a chance to be closer to her parents and siblings.

“When I started talking with (Sister) Marcia (Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia) about going back to parish ministry, I told her I wanted to go back to the Grand Island Diocese. My family is there, I grew up there.”

And that was just fine with Father Buhrman, who has been pastor of Greeley, Spalding, Ericson and St. Libory for two years. For most of that time, Father Sid Bruggeman was there to lend a hand as associate pastor. But when he was reassigned earlier this summer as pastor of St. Libory and the veterans hospital in Grand Island, that left Father Buhrman alone in Spalding as the only full-time minister to the three remaining parishes. (A retired priest, Father Jim Murphy, does help with Sunday Mass in Ericson.)

“Having Sister Pat here as a religious presence is going to be huge,” Father Buhrman said. “It means we’ll be able to do so much more in terms of pastoral ministry and adult education.

“And with her background in finance, it ensures that we are responsible and accountable in our parishes,” he added.

The 49-year-old Sister Pat is just as enthusiastic: “I get excited when I think about what I can do with the people there, the different programs we can introduce…

“Just being among the people again, that’s so important to me,” she added. “And, of course, it’s being back in Nebraska.”

Her parents Don and Mary still live in Sister Pat’s hometown of Ogallala, as do her sister and brother-in-law, Terry and Calvin Hoover, and their two sons. Her brother Tim, wife Becky and their four daughters live in Scottsbluff.

Sister Pat was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1986 — coincidentally, both she and Father Buhrman celebrated their 25th jubilees this summer — and then she served as a youth minister in Salina from 1991 to 1993. For the next six years, she had the same duties in North Platte, Neb., and in 1999 became the pastoral minister in Gothenburg.

It was during those years that Sister Pat got to know Father Buhrman a bit. “I worked with him on a youth retreat, maybe 15 years ago,” she recalled, “and we were in the same diocese, so our paths crossed.”

In 2006 — as she was working toward her MBA — the congregation’s Leadership Council asked her to come to Concordia to serve in the finance office.

Her five years here were a blessing, she said. “I’ve gotten to know the sisters here and to see the inner workings of the congregation from the perspective of the administration,” she explained with a laugh. “That’s an opportunity all the sisters living away (from Concordia) should have.”

But, she concedes, her heart was always in Nebraska, and with the people in the parishes.

She also relishes being the first Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia working in these parishes. Until November 2009, when Sister Roberta Semper died, Dominican sisters had always served the parishes.

“Through me, the people there will get to know all of our community,” Sister Pat said.

And she doesn’t expect any hesitation from the parishioners.

“This is a very welcoming diocese; that’s part of why I’m so excited about going back,” she said. “It’s a very comfortable diocese to work in; you’re in partnership with the bishop and priests there, and I’ll be home.”







Sisters bid farewell to Motherhouse chaplain

August 5, 2011 by  

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Sisters at the Motherhouse and from throughout Concordia and Salina spent an hour Thursday afternoon thanking Father Jack Schlaf for his five years of service as their chaplain.

• • • • • • • • • •

In particular, they cited his pastoral approach to the sisters, the depth and meaningfulness of his homilies, and his compassion and care for all the women of the congregation. Sisters also noted his service as a “fill-in” priest throughout the Concordia and Belleville areas.

And they joked with the man who in his five years at the Motherhouse became more than just a chaplain. “I’m ready to call you ‘Brother Father Jack Schlaf’ and welcome you as a member of our community,” said Sister Lucienne Savoy, drawing laughter and applause from the gathered sisters.

Father Schlaf’s last day as chaplain will be Aug. 15, and in retirement he plans to move to Colorado Spring, Colo. On Aug. 16, Father Jim Hoover, who has most recently been the parish priest in Wilson, Kan., will take over as Motherhouse chaplain.

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.
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