Sister Mary Keller, Feb. 12, 1917-Sept. 19, 2009

September 24, 2009 by

Eulogist: Sister Christella Buser
Vigil: Sept. 21, 2009, at the Motherhouse in Concordia

It was an honor when Mary asked me to give her eulogy. Her death is a loss, but also a gift to us.

Sister Mary’s parents, Peter and Mary Volk Keller, and most of her siblings, came from Russia to America in May 1908. She was born Feb. 25, 1917, in Collyer, Kan., and was given the name Mary Magdeline. She was the 11th of 14 children; all of her brothers and sisters preceded her in death.

Her childhood and teen years were lived on a farm 1½ miles east of Collyer, and she attended grade and high school there. From 1935 to 1938, Mary and her sister Sue went to Denver to find work. They managed to find something with very minimal pay. On their days off a group of them got together to go to the movies, dances or amusement parks.

In 1937, she decided to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. After much prayer and discernment, on Feb. 12, 1938, she joined two of her sisters who were a1ready in the community: Sisters Francesca and Renilda. In her Life Story, she wrote: “Sister Sabinus, the Postulant Mistress, took me upstairs and had me dress in the postulant uniform. I immediately experienced a deep peace and joy and a feeling of “Yes, this is the place for me and this is where I am going to stay.’“ She received the habit and the name Sister Anthony on Aug. 15, 1938.

She recalled, “The novitiate years were good, but 1 had no desire to do them over.”

Mary’s first mission was Fairbury, Neb., where she was housekeeper for two years. The following year, she began her studies toward a bachelor’s degree to qua1ify to teach grade school. Her 33-year teaching career took her to Chicago and Aurora, Ill.; Concordia, Beloit and Salina in Kansas; Silver City, N.M.; and Grand Island, Neb.

After Mary received her master’s degree in education, she was assigned as principal of the grade schools in Grand Island and Salina.
In 1973, she changed her ministry from teaching to parish work. About her years of visiting the elderly and shut-ins she said, “They were very appreciative of everything and they were life-giving to me.”

In her yearly commitment statements, Mary repeatedly committed herself to praying for justice and peace in a world of violence and war, for the whole world that human rights and freedom may be respected everywhere: “To be a loving presence to one another and to be united in heart and spirit through our charism and the Eucharist.”

In her Life Story, she wrote, “I have always valued my religious life highly and have appreciated community life. I considered the renewal in the Church and religious life a great blessing. I welcomed the changes wholeheartedly.”

I visited Mary every week while she was at Mt. Joseph. Each time she would ask me to water her plant even though it did not need it. She would always ask me when I was coming back.

Toward the end of her life, she was not able to react to conversation, but her eyes always responded to the blessing I gave before leaving her.
Mary, this is my last blessing, but you will always continue to be a blessing to me. May you rest in God’s love.

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