Wednesday’s lunch reviews two years of progress

February 14, 2011 by  


After two years of “working lunches” to focus on addressing concerns in Concordia, the Community Needs Forum is changing direction — but not without one last working lunch to review what the group has accomplished.

The lunch is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nazareth Motherhouse, 13th and Washington streets. Everyone is invited to take part; you do not have to have attended earlier forums to join the process now.  Lunch is provided at no cost, and those planning to come are asked to RSVP to Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at 243-2149 or sisterjean@csjkansas.org.

Wednesday’s session will be the 13th in a process that started in the fall of 2008 with informal lunches at 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.  It will also be the opportunity for Sisters Marcia Allen and Jean Rosemarynoski, who organized the process, to introduce the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

“The idea of a speakers series originated in an informal presentation made by Police Chief Chris Edin at the working lunch in June (2010),” Allen said. “He said he wished he could talk to the public about creating an awareness about various crimes committed in the town, especially sexual assault among the young, and inviting citizens to help prevent them. That set us thinking.”

The free monthly forums will be held in the evening so more people from throughout Concordia will be able to attend, Allen said.

The first of the 2011 Concordia Speaker Series is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Concordia Schools Superintendent Bev Mortimer will talk about the challenges facing public schools and what USD 333 Schools are doing to continue to meet the needs of students, families and the community.

At Wednesday’s working lunch, Allen and Rosemarynoski will ask for updates on other projects that have grown out of the Community Needs Forum, including:

• The Concordia Year of Peace, which is continuing through 2011 as “Another Year of Peace.”

• The Concordia Community Garden of Hope, which is gearing up for its second year of operation on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property.

Agencies and organizations attending the lunch will also be asked to talk about any significant changes they see for 2011.

A day after the storm, it’s beautiful!

February 9, 2011 by  


Tuesday’s bitter cold and blizzard conditions seemed like they would last forever. But late this morning — Wednesday, Feb. 9 — the sun and blue skies returned to give us a winter wonderland. (A wonderland, that is, for everyone who doesn’t have to work out in the still 20 degree weather or drive the still snow-packed roads.)

The Nazareth Motherhouse is beautiful in any weather, of course, but this view of the snow-covered field to the south, looking north to the historic red-brick building is particularly striking after a heavy snow.

Donors pay for 1,302 square feet — so far

February 1, 2011 by  


The idea when the fundraising drive began to expand Neighbor to Neighbor was that people like to have a sense of what their money will pay for. Eight weeks later, donors have paid to renovate 1,302¼  square feet of the center’s upper floor at 103 E. Sixth St.

At $24.33 a square foot, that works out to $31,684 donated so far — or about 63 percent of the total needed to double the space available for the center in downtown Concordia.

• • • • • • •

At the same time, workers from the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse have been working in the upstairs portion of the building since Dec. 1.

When Greg Gallagher, facilities manager for the Sisters of St. Joseph, began planning work on the two-story building nearly two years ago, he knew that the project would be more resurrection than renovation — particularly on the second floor, which had not been used for anything other than storage for decades.

So when the first floor was cleaned out and the lath and plaster removed from the walls, that work was done on the second floor, too. The only other work upstairs was to remove the boards that had filled the three large windows facing Sixth Street and replace them with new vinyl windows.

Then the work upstairs stopped.

Downstairs, on the main floor, Nazareth Motherhouse employees completely refinished the 122-year-old structure, adding new plumbing, lighting, a heating and cooling system, interior walls, a complete kitchen, bathroom facilities, a laundry room, flooring and all the finishings.

When Neighbor to Neighbor opened in May 2010, it seemed to offer ample space for the women and their young children who would be welcomed there by Sisters Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina, the Sisters of St. Joseph who conceived of the center and now staff it every day.

From Monday through Friday, the sisters and volunteers offer classes and services that range from one-on-one tutoring for GED exams and book studies to providing a place to do laundry or take showers and classes in sewing, baking, lacemaking and household budgeting. Individual counseling services are also available as needed, as is help in navigating the social services maze. And, for some moms, the center has become a place to go with their young children, to give the kids a chance to play and the moms a chance to befriend other moms.

There is never any cost to the women taking part; all the programs are offered free, with funding coming from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, a handful of grants and individual donations.

“This is about one neighbor helping another,” as Sister Ramona explains it.

And the neighbors throughout Cloud County have responded — the center is often packed throughout the day.

So Gallagher and the sisters last fall began working on a plan to bring the upstairs back to life, in much the same way as was done downstairs.

Second-floor plans call for an art room, a private counseling or small meeting room, two more bathrooms, lots of storage space and a kitchenette that will look out over a large play area for children.

Sister Jean emphasizes the word “large” in that description of the coming work: “With more and more children, they really need a bigger space,” she explains, “and this is the only way we can provide that.”

Again, Motherhouse employees are doing the bulk of the work, which keeps the labor costs for the project low.

As February begins, workers have framed new walls upstairs and are stringing electrical wiring throughout the second floor. At the same time new ductwork for the heating and cooling system is being custom cut and fit. Employees doing the bulk of the work are Gene Gangstrom, Curtis Mansfield, Jim Helton, T.J. Hayne, Brad Snyder, Bob Kearn and Renn Allsman.

Gallagher expects the work will be completed this spring.

The center remains open during the upstairs construction. The sounds of work on the second level sometimes competes with conversation on the main floor, but not enough to deter women from continuing to come to Neighbor to Neighbor.

The fund drive is continuing as well. At $24.33 per square foot, donors may pay for the renovation of one foot, or 10 — or 100.  As of Jan. 31, there are 754¾ square feet not yet covered by donations.

If you’d like to help support Neighbor to Neighbor or any of the sisters’ other ministries, you can make a donation through a secure server with Amazon Simple Pay, simply fill in the amount of your donation and then click on the Donate button:

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New speakers series creates ‘a community informed’

January 28, 2011 by  


The challenges facing Concordia’s public schools will be the first topic tackled in a series of free public discussions that begins in February.

Concordia Superintendent Beverly Mortimer will give the first of eight monthly presentations scheduled for the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

The idea for the series grew out of the Community Needs Forum, which were lunchtime gatherings held throughout 2009 and 2010. Those “working lunches,” hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Motherhouse, identified what participants saw as the greatest needs in the community, the meetings have established smaller groups to seek solutions.

Some of the projects that grew out of the dozen lunches were a revamped Community Resources Guide, the Community Garden of Hope and the Concordia Year of Peace.

The idea for a speakers series grew from an informal presentation by Concordia Police Chief Chris Edin during a working lunch in June 2010. As he talked about getting information out to people throughout Concordia, Edin said, “I think in terms of a ‘community informed’ vs. a ‘community uninformed.’ I believe in a community informed.”

Edin will have his chance to work at creating a “community informed” when he is the fourth of the eight scheduled speakers.

All the speakers are non-elected experts in various facets of community life who serve the people of Concordia and, in some cases, Cloud County.

According to Sister Marcia Allen, the president of the Sisters of St. Joseph who has helped organize the working lunches and now the speakers series, “They are the people who can provide a sense of the big picture or whose piece contributes to the big picture” for everyone in Concordia and Cloud County. “They understand quality of life and the challenges we all face.”

All eight presentations are on Monday evenings in the auditorium of the Nazareth Motherhouse, 1300 W. Washington St. Each will begin at 7 p.m. with a 30- to 40-minute presentation by the speaker, followed by time for questions from the audience. Each 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 243-2149 or mallen@csjkansas.org.

The scheduled speakers and their topics are:

• Feb. 21: Bev Mortimer, Superintendent of Concordia Schools (USD 333) — “Strengths and Challenges in Our Schools.” Mortimer, who has been superintendent for eight years, will discuss the challenges facing local and state schools, including finances, resources changing demographics, and what Concordia Schools are doing to continue to meet the needs of students, families and the community.

•  March 28: Jim Wahlmeier, CEO of Cloud County Health Center — “Update on building a new hospital.” Wahlmeier, who has headed the local hospital since 2006, will discuss the aftermath of the failed 2008 hospital financing election and “what still needs to happen in order for a new hospital to be a reality in Concordia.”

• April 25: Kirk Lowell, Executive Director of CloudCorp Inc.  — “Local Economic Development: Fad or Fundamental.” Lowell, who has headed the economic development agency serving all of Cloud County since 1983, will give a brief history of CloudCorp and discuss the basics of economic development in rural communities.  The audience will have an opportunity to participate in a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats (SWOT) Analysis of Cloud County.

• May 16: Chris Edin, Concordia Chief of Police — “The State of Our Community through the Chief’s Eyes.” Edin, who took over as chief on March 1, 2010, will offer a one-year perspective on the past, present and future for the city of Concordia.

• June 20: Danette Toone, President of Cloud County Community College – “Cloud County Community College: A partner for today and into the future.” Dr. Toone has been president of the college since July 1, 2010.

• July 18: Susie Haver & Tammy Britt, Co-Directors, Cloud County Convention and Tourism — “Finding the 8!” Susie and Tammy will discuss the “8 Elements of Rural Culture” with a focus on helping others see their hometown with new eyes.

• Sept. 26: Larry Uri, Concordia City Manager — “Building Community.” Uri, who has been an attorney in Concordia since 1976, was named city manager in September 2008.

• Oct. 24: Cameron Thurner, Outreach Specialist for the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas (DVACK), based in Concordia — “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Rural Communities. Thurner, who has worked with DVACK for seven years, will specifically address issues in Concordia.

Eulogy for Sister Ann Therese Reinhart, Sept. 14, 1924-Jan. 26, 2011

January 27, 2011 by  


Jan. 27, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

Eulogist: Bette Moslander CSJ

Sometime ago Sister Ann Therese was quite ill and was taken to the hospital. Not knowing what this incident portended, and realizing that Ann Therese did not have a very extended life review, one of the members of the Leadership Council, knowing that Ann Therese and I had known each other from Marymount days, asked me if I would give her eulogy should she die. I agreed.

As I have reflected on her brief life review and her mission commitments through the years I am deeply moved and somewhat in awe of the mystery of the life of this woman, whom I have known for nearly 70 years and yet hardly knew at all. Her life is an enigma — a revelation of the faith and courage of a woman, crippled from birth by cerebral palsy, and the loving power of God who works in our human brokenness to do impossible things. Medical authorities describe cerebral palsey in the following terms, “Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders affecting body movement, balance and posture. It is caused by abnormal  development or damage in one or more parts of the brain that control muscle tone and motor activity. The resulting impairments appear early in life, usually in infancy or early childhood…. Many individuals with cerebral palsy have normal or above average intelligence.” Now, let me try to tell you a little of the story of Ann Therese Reinhart and her courageous and faithful journey through life.

As for the facts: Maxine Reinhart (Sister Ann Therese)  was born on Sept. 12, 1924, in Carroll, Iowa, at St. Anthony’s Hospital to Frank and Lillian Hess Reinhart. At birth she was diagnosed as having a mild case of cerebral palsy. It was not a severe case, affecting primarily fine motor skills but not her intellectual ability.   She was the oldest of four children, a brother John, and two sisters, Yvonne and Marylyn; all of her siblings have preceded her in death. Bill Bundy , a nephew, has been the family member who has kept in touch with Ann Therese in recent year.

Maxine attended Catholic Elementary School and St. Angela’s Academy in Carroll and after completing high school, she attended Marymount College, Salina, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in French and Spanish and Education and was certified to teach in high school. She graduated cum laude in1947.

Our lives first converged at Marymount. I cannot say I came to know her well during the year we were both students. I was a senior when she began as a freshman. We each went our own way, she was interested in languages and I was about to graduate with a major in chemistry and preparation for an internship in medical technology. Our social lives seldom intersected; her physical limitations prevented her from participating in the extracurricular activities that filled my free time. Our fields of interest — languages and chemistry labs — did not provide ground for common classes or social interests. I graduated in the spring of 1944 and three years later Maxine completed her college work with a B.A. in French. She began her career as an educator teaching in her home town.

What I learned as I moved through the archival material of Ann Therese’s life in preparation for giving her eulogy was that when she finished college she applied to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph but was refused on the grounds that her physical limitations  would make it difficult for her to carry out all of the requirements of convent living and work. It was a great disappointment to her but she set about furthering her own education and her teaching career apparently with another plan for entering the Congregation in due time.

Ten years later, on  June 9, 1957, in a letter addressed to Mother Helena, then Superior General of the Congregation, Maxine asked for admission to the Congregation for a second time. She explained what she had been doing during the 10 years between her first request and this one. She wrote, “After I received my B.A. degree from Marymount College in 1947, I attended Catholic University, Washington, D.C., where I did graduate work in French and education. Last year the opportunity to teach French at Kansas University afforded me the chance for more advanced work. Although I have not acquired the Master’s, I have several hours in that direction. Also I have taken correspondence work from De Paul University and Iowa University.” In addition Maxine indicated that she had been teaching French and English in high school and had translated a Spanish play that had been recently published.  She stated her case without apology, acknowledging that “she mentions the above” in order to show Mother Helena that she  has tried to prove her abilities as an educator and worker.

Knowing that her physical limitations might be a strike against her she wrote “Also in the past 10 years I have not been ill or missed any classes. God has been good to me and now I feel that I am ready to dedicate the remainder of my life to His service, if He so desires.” She reinforced her request with references affirming her ability to live the life from sisters at Marymount, her pastor and fellow educators. In her file there is an interesting letter from Sister Alberta Savoie, head of the language department at the college, who had been Maxine’s teacher during her years as a student. Sister Alberta wrote in support of her being admitted to the postulancy, “Maxine was here during which time her health was perfect; she did not even have as much as a bad cold. She was a model student in every way. As a Major in my department, she did very good work for me both in French and in Spanish.”

Who could pass up such a request?  Mother Helena’s response, of course, was to accept Maxine into the postulancy. Thus 10 years later, in the fall of 1957 the two of us showed up on the steps of Nazareth Convent within a few hours of each other, our diverging paths having once again converged.

Because both of us were experienced teachers in fields that were compatible with the life of Concordia Community of St. Joseph we were pressed into service immediately. Maxine was asked to teach French to her resistant band members and I was asked to teach a course in Sacred Scripture to postulants and novices. Together we progressed through the postulancy. When we received the habit and entered the novitiate, Maxine received the name Sister Ann Therese. We both continued teaching our fellow band members during the course of the novitiate.  Following temporary vows we moved down to Marymount, as was customary, and were ready to begin our mission life as Temporary Professed.

Sister Ann Therese spent nine and a half years teaching beginning Spanish in the Language Department under Sister Alberta Savoie. In 1968, when her services were no longer needed at Marymount, she was assigned to Notre Dame High School in Concordia where she taught for a year. Her next move in the fall of 1969 she went to Manhattan, Kan., where she taught French, Spanish and Latin for 16 years. In the course of her  years in Manhattan, Ann Therese was nominated by her principal as an outstanding teacher in elementary and secondary education. She received a plaque recognizing her exceptional professional achievement and dedicated community service. Sister Ann Therese was listed in the annual volume of “Outstanding Leaders in Elementary and Secondary Education” in 1976.

I have been told that when she returned to Manhattan some years later for a dinner planned by the Development Department she was enthusiastically greeted by former students who circled around her remembering her years in Manhattan and expressing their gratitude for all she had given them during her teaching years.

When Sister Ann Therese left the high school classroom in Manhattan in 1985 she went to Medaille in Salina where she lost no time finding a meaningful ministry working with Sister Margaret Louise. She helped the Spanish-speaking poor and elderly and assisted with work at the federally funded Vietnamese Center. At the time there were over 300 Indochinese Refugees in Salina. At the same time she taught Spanish at Sacred Heart Grade school grade 1-6 and English as a second language. On occasion, whenever Ann Therese showed up at Marymount we would have short visits, remembering our years in the postulancy and novitiate.

I came to realize that as she reflected back on her life it was evident to her that in God’s Providence the limitations she experienced were the charismatic gifts given to her that have enabled her to serve all levels of society, particularly the adolescent students who found in her a competent and patient teacher who understood their struggles and truly loved them. There was no doubt in my mind that Ann Therese was deeply committed to the mission and spirituality of Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Ann Therese retired in 1993 and lived at Medaille Center in Salina until she returned to the Motherhouse in 2004. Her health was slowly declining. She was in need of more and more physical care. During her years at the Motherhouse she acknowledged that she was often discouraged and inclined to depression. She valiantly refused to feel sorry for herself and did her best to be present to whatever was going on in the community. Reluctantly she transferred to Mount Joseph on Nov. 19, 2008. She found the years at Mt. Joseph difficult. Her semi isolation from contact with friends and companions only allowed the depression and behavioral changes to occur more and more frequently necessitating short visits to the hospital in Beloit where health care personnel were better able to deal with her depressive moods. Each time she responded and regained something of her positive view toward life.

As I said in the beginning Sister Ann Therese’s life was something of an enigma. She was, I feel certain, a deeply spiritual and intelligent woman who lived her life with dignity and  a certain nobility, in spite of physical limitations that would have rendered most of us prone to constant depression. As she moved deeper and deeper into the mystery of her life journey, her psychological and behavioral changes confused and were misunderstood by those who tried to be helpful. Communication became more and more difficult if not almost impossible. Actually this was the consequence of the cerebral palsy. But there is paradox in her life. In a way her ministry was always one of communication — in four languages— French, Spanish, Latin,and English. She was, one could suggest, a polyglot.

Finally, in the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 26, in the dark of the night, she came to the end of her journey. Peacefully she let go, abandoning herself freely into the mystery of the God of her lifelong Desire, the Abyss of Love, the loving God whom she had served faithfully throughout her lifetime.

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If you’d like to make a memorial contribution in the name of Sister Ann Therese, you may do so through a secure server with PayPal. Simply click on the button below.

Celebrating Jubilarians & all their gifts

January 18, 2011 by  


The annual “jubilarian issue” of The Messenger is now available, in downloadable PDFs. The January 2011 issue also celebrates National Vocations Awareness Week and is jam-packed with news about the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

We’ve created it in four PDFs so you can easily download it all, or just the section you’re most interested in. To download onto your computer, just click the links below:

January 2011 COVER

Our 2011 Jubilarians (pages 2-9)

“Beneath this ordinary exterior…” (centerspread on vocations)

The rest of the news (pages 12-20)

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If you’d like to make a donation to help defray the costs of producing and mailing The Messenger, you may do so through a secure server with Amazon Simple Pay. Simply fill in the amount of your donation and then click on the Donate button:

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Bishop bids farewell to congregation

January 16, 2011 by  


Visiting the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia for what will probably be the last time, Bishop Paul Coakley recalled his first visit six years ago, soon after he was appointed to lead the Salina Diocese.

• • • • • • • •

“I was touched the first time I celebrated Mass here because this is ‘Nazareth,'” the bishop told the sisters who had gathered for a farewell reception in his honor this afternoon. “Nazareth was the place Mary and Joseph found comfort, and I felt that warmth here. I was always welcomed here.”

Bishop Coakley, who will be installed as Archbishop of Oklahoma City on Feb. 11, has been a regular visitor at the Motherhouse since he came to Salina in 2005. This afternoon many of the sisters spoke individually with him, thanking him for his time here and to wishing him well in his new calling.

Sister Marcia Allen, president of the congregation, told him that our congregation was founded in the mid 17th century to serve in the way that Joseph did — with “cordial charity.” She went on to explain the 17th century meaning of the word cordial: a tonic to stimulate a weak heart. Today, she said, the sisters define “cordial” as a verb that means to activate, to animate and to invigorate.

“Those are qualities who have shown in your service here,” she told Bishop Coakley, “and it seems to me those are qualities that are important to an archbishop, too.”

To remind him of that definition and the cordial charity epitomized by Joseph, Sister Marcia presented Bishop Coakley with a statue of the saint — “and he’s working,” she noted wryly.

As is the sisters’ tradition, the congregation sang a blessing for Bishop Coakley, promising to be with him on his journey.

Earlier in the afternoon, Bishop Coakley spoke to the Salina Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, who were also meeting at the Concordia Motherhouse.

Bishop Coakley will formally say goodbye to the diocese in a special Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina. A reception will follow, and everyone in the Salina Diocese is invited.

Concordia chamber honors three sisters

January 15, 2011 by  


The three Sisters of St. Joseph who last year opened a center for women in downtown Concordia were honored this evening with the 2010 Kaleidoscope Award.

• • • • • • • • •

The award was presented as part of the Concordia Area Chamber of Commerce “State of the Community” dinner. Making the presentation was Chrissy Henderson, who had nominated the women behind Neighbor to Neighbor — Sisters Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina — for the award.

“They saw a need and they wanted to meet it,” Henderson said in making the presentation. “And whatever that need is — emotional, educational, spiritual — they are helping women and their children,” noting that she takes part in programs with her two children.

Neighbor to Neighbor opened in downtown Concordia in May 2010. Through the end of the year, the center had recorded more than 2,500 visits by women and their children from throughout the Cloud County area. A number of women are also fulfilling community service commitments by working at the center, and the sisters have recruited an array of volunteers to help provide workshops and other programs.

Sister Jean, Pat and Ramona were on hand to receive the award, but they had not been told about it in advance. All three were stunned by the recognition for their work.

The annual Kaleidoscope Award — in the form of a stained-glass plaque — recognizes a person or group who has “dedicated himself or herself to a project that advances Concordia, and … for exhibiting spirit in the pursuit of an idea, passion in the process and determination throughout the completion of the (project), seeking to improve the community.” Last year the award went to the Whole Wall Mural Committee.

Also last year, the entire congregation was honored as the 2009 Volunteers of the Year, receing the LeonGennette Award for Community Service.

That award recognizes the sisters’ work on a variety of projects, including Neighbor to Neighbor. Other projects cited were the Concordia Year of Peace, the Concordia Community Garden of Hope and the Community Needs Forum.

Eulogy for Sister Athanasia Weber, March 31, 1917-Jan. 12, 2011

January 14, 2011 by  


Jan. 13, 2011 at the Nazareth Motherhouse

By Sister Bette Moslander CSJ

We come together this evening, sisters and friends of Sister Athanasia, to remember and to celebrate the life of this woman, who in the course of her life epitomized the meaning of the metaphor, “a bundle of energy.”  Until the last couple of  decades of her life she was a woman always in a hurry, always creating a new production, always luring and cajoling others to enter into helping her with the next project, be it a May Day celebration, a musical stage production, or a grade school music recital. One can well imagine that had she not entered the convent she may well have become one of the great impresarios of Broadway. Instead she chose to be a Sister of St. Joseph in the little Kansas town of Concordia. I am privileged to share with you just a bit of her story.

Sister Athanasia Weber was born on March 31, 1917, the first child of Henry and Hazel Agnes Symonds Weber of Seneca, Kan. She was baptized Constance and was the oldest of four children, two of whom died in infancy. I know that Athie had many good friends here in Concordia and elsewhere, a few of whom are with us this evening. She will be missed by all of the sisters here at the Motherhouse and in the community. She was a woman whose presence will be missed.

Sister Athanasia’s musical interests and gifts were recognized early in her life. In her Life Review she noted that both of her parent’s families played for dances in the Seneca area. She was, naturally, encouraged, as a youngster, to take piano lessons and join the family bands. As her natural musical talent developed she often played duets with her mother, and accompanied her father when he played the flute. At an early age she recognized that God was attracting her to use her gifts in other ways and by the time she was 15 she expressed her desire to be a Sister of St. Joseph. She was acquainted with the community because her aunt had graduated from the nursing school staffed by the congregation.  Subsequently she entered the postulancy on June 1, 1932, received the habit Aug. 15, 1933, made first vows on March 19, 1935, and final profession on Aug. 15, 1938.

There was little doubt what ministry would be assigned to Sister Athanasia. She was a readymade music teacher. And it is a well-known fact that in the early days of the community music teachers were often the women who kept the local communities financially viable.  From the beginning the community was quick to put her musical gifts to work. Through the years she was assigned to a number of missions in Kansas: Concordia, Aurora, Salina, Beloit, Damar and Clyde. She also taught in Monett, Mo., Silver City, N.M., and Grand Island, Neb. She was so busy as a music teacher that it took some time before she completed her formal education, receiving a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Marymount in 1952 and 10 years after that, a master’s degree in piano at De Paul University in Chicago in 1962.

Teaching music was her lifelong passion. Perhaps it would be better to put it this way — developing the musical potential of people was her great passion.  She taught a wide variety of instruments although piano and organ were her special delight.  Day in and day out she taught music; preschool children, primary, intermediate, secondary, college students, even senior citizens were numbered among her devoted students. The age of her students made little difference. For that matter promising natural talent made little difference. In Athie’s mind every person held the potential for becoming a Rachmoninoff or a Mendelsohn. And if it didn’t turn out that way it was not for want of Athie’s affirmation or persistence.

By the late 1940s and during the ’50s Sister Athanasia hit her stride and perhaps her most creative days. In 1947 she was assigned to Sacred Heart in Salina and there she staged a pageant with 500 students. The extravaganza was a remarkable achievement but it only spurred her on. In 1950 she moved to Grand Island, Neb., where again, now an experienced impresario, she put her creativity to work. She produced a pageant with 550 students which far exceeded the capacity of the little St. Mary’s auditorium. Nothing would do but relocate the program to the Liederkranz, a large concert hall a block away from the school. In her life review she remarks, “Sister Lucy and Michael Ann marched the students back and forth through the alley until their time to perform came around.”  Grand Island had never before seen such a performance. (And I seriously doubt whether it has ever again had such an experience.) I am sure that today many people in Grand Island remember “that sister” who produced “that program,” even if they do not remember her name.

Beloit was the next place to share Athie’s talents and the citizens there enjoyed a similar production. Needless to say sisters who were on mission with her during those years retain memories of what those days that required of them, the ultimate, in cooperation and energy. There was hardly anything Athie would not ask of her friends for the sake of a stage production. But then, “It was all for the greater glory of God,” so who could refuse.

In 1959 Sister Athanasia was assigned to Marymount College and it was there that I came to know and admire her tireless energy and total devotion to music and to her students. Many were the times that we, temporary professed sisters, were drafted into her productions either as singers, or stagehands. One job was as important as another. Life was never dull, always spinning along with some new idea, some new creation with Sister Athanasia on the faculty.

Athie treasured all of her students and now and then one became her life long friend. Howard Reed was an outstanding student and accomplished pianist. He has returned most every year for a visit and in fact spent last Christmas afternoon at Mount Joseph with her.

By 1963 Sister came back to Concordia as the Motherhouse organist and music teacher for the aspirants. In addition she developed a large clientele for private music lessons and over the years her students presented music recitals and concerts in the Motherhouse Auditorium and the Brown Grand Theatre and any other stage she could find.

Annually one or the other of her proteges or singing groups would win state or national recognition. Sister Athanasia was always proud of her music students and saw to it that the auditorium was beautifully decorated for the recitals, the students properly attired and the press releases prepared for the next day’s Blade-Empire. Nothing gave Athie more satisfaction than praise given to one of her talented young students. After Vatican II and the change of habit, she always came to her students’ recitals in a lovely formal dress befitting the occasion. Athie believed in beauty, she believed in music and she believed in the generosity and good will of people.

By 1980 Athie realized that she needed still another outlet for her artistic talents. Her mother had worked as a florist and that art form had always attracted her. She requested approval to begin a study program in floral designing and related artistic crafts. She received certification as a professional floral designer from the Cliff Mann Floral School in Denver in 1981. It was an achievement she put to work with the same energy and zeal that she used her musical gifts. Motherhouse residents will remember her arts and crafts room with its forest of silk and paper flowers and ferns and other craft materials. All of us remember her many musical and artistic contributions for Motherhouse celebrations, jubilees, assemblies and other special occasions.

Through the years Athie’s commitments to mission sounded a constant theme. She was committed to using her gifts of music and floral arts for the glory of God and the service of others and spoke of that in different ways. Her last mission commitment, signed by Sister Pat McLennon, sounded the same theme: “I will continue to the best of my ability to play the organ (for liturgy,) and deepen my prayer life and render service to the dear neighbor.”

Within another year or two even that gift with the organ slipped away. Slowly Athie, multitalented as she was, let go, recognizing that she could do little more than the routine business of living, coming to meals and to Eucharist, always with a smile, a greeting, a little bit of conversation. Over the years we witnessed Athie’s slow but steady decline in health and energy. Her body was no longer able to keep pace with her buoyant spirit. It was not easy for us to see that energy and talent slowly slip away, but her interest in others, her faithfulness to God and to her vocation never faded.

And finally, she moved to Mount Joseph in 2004 where the diminishment of her talents continued to take its toll. She relaxed into the adjustment to her new schedule. She has lived there for over six years and has gone through days of great darkness and days of deep peace. For a while she became an avid reader and for many months kept both the Motherhouse and the public Library busy. After some time she became something of a recluse, spending a good part of each day in her room. She died Jan. 12, 2011.

And so for now, Athie, we send you on your way to your God where you can hand over the great production of your life to the One who really made it all possible. Athie, you have served your God with energy, excitement, zeal and great creativity and yielded over all of that gracefully and peacefully. I am sure your arrival in heaven will necessitate some reorganization of the heavenly choir, but that there will be hundreds whose lives you have touched on hand to welcome you.  May your heart rejoice and sing with delight in union with the Loving God whom you have served so faithfully. You were a model for many of your students who saw in you a life of talent and generosity. And for us, your sisters in the community, you modeled dedication and devotion to the dear neighbor and a delight in a life well spent for God’s glory.

Chamber exec hired to head sisters’ new effort

January 6, 2011 by  


Cheryl Lyn Higgins

A native Kansan and former Chamber of Commerce executive has been hired to head the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia’s new Neighborhood Initiatives Inc.

Cheryl Lyn Higgins started her new job today (Jan. 6).

Higgins was most recently head of the Winfield (Kan.) Area Chamber of Commerce. From 1996 to 2004, she was executive vice president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in McPherson, and then served for three years as president and CEO of the Junction City Chamber. She also served as director of Project WIN/the Welcome Home to Heroes Foundation in Junction City.

In her new role with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Higgins will serve as coordinator of the nonprofit corporation created a year ago. The idea is for Neighborhood Initiatives, under Higgins’ direction, to coordinate works of service sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, projects initiated and sustained by the congregation and activities the sisters undertake in partnership with others. Higgins will be responsible for ensuring that all those projects complement each other and for seeking out opportunities for new projects and partnerships.

The logo for Neighborhood Initiatives Inc. symbolizes the many projects undertaken by Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“She brings a wealth of experience in initiative, in collaboration and in leadership,” said Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Concordia-based congregation, as she introduced Higgins to sisters at the Nazareth Motherhouse on Thursday. “We believe she is exactly the person we need for this new idea.”

Higgins, who was born and raised in Winfield, Kan., and is a Catholic, said the coordinator’s position is a perfect fit for her. “It’s part of a personal journey,” she told the gathered sisters. “I share your faith, and I share your vision of the good works we can achieve.”

Higgins said she was particularly impressed with the sisters’ Neighbor to Neighbor center in downtown Concordia and with the congregation’s continuing work at bringing various aspects of the community together through the public forums that began two years ago.

“I get satisfaction in bringing people together and asking those questions: How do we improve the community? What would a better community look like?”

But, she noted, while Neighborhood Initiatives and her position are new, the concept is not: “It’s really the way our country was founded. There were many needs and few resources; we had to work together to raise a barn or build a school.”

Higgins attended Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University) and completed the Kansas Community Leadership Initiative. She has also served as a board member for several statewide organizations, and was president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Executives in 2007.

She has two grown children — a son who lives in Manhattan and a daughter in Galva, Kan.

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