Eulogy for Sister Jeanette Wasinger, June 3, 1938-Oct. 22, 2014
VIGIL: Oct. 24, 2014, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen
“Be of love a little more careful of anything.” (ee cummings)
In almost anything she wrote from 1980 on, Jeanette used that quotation as her flagship. It is a mantra, turned motto, from which her life flowed. She lived it. Be of love a little more careful of anything!
Jeanette Mae Wasinger was born in Hays, Kansas, the second of two children, on June 3, 1938, to Nick A. and Catherine (Katie) Stecklein Wasinger. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother Donald. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Virginia Wasinger, Virginia and Donald’s children Becky, Amy, Rene, Crystal and Mitchell, their spouses and children. She was always so proud of all of you. She says in her description of you: “They are dear to me.”
In one of her biographical pieces Jeanette commented that love had always been the focus for life for her. Nick and Katie surrounded her with love and brought their two children up in a loving atmosphere filled with affection and attentive care. Until their deaths, which occurred in 1998 five days apart, she received various correspondence from them addressing her as “my/our dear girl”, “dearest girl” or “darling girl.” Having first had a boy she, the girl, delighted their hearts from the beginning and continued to do that until the end.
Jeanette grew up in Hays, Kan., and then attended Marymount College where the influence of the Sisters of St. Joseph drew her to enter their community after one year of college. Following her initial formation years and first vows she taught fifth grade for two years at St. Joseph and St. Anne School in Chicago. From there she moved to Marymount College for five years. During this time she received a BA in Economics and Business Administration while serving as Treasurer and Manager of the Business Office.
In 1967 she began work on her Masters in Hospital Administration at St. Louis University with a residency at Providence Hospital in Seattle. With a fresh MHA she was assigned to St. John’s Hospital in Salina, Kan., as Associate Administrator. Her administration degree brought her to the Nazareth Motherhouse in 1975 where she spent four years administering the complexities of a very full convent replete with nearly 100 Sisters, many departments and a growing number of lay employees.
Within those years Jeanette became interested in the Intensive Journal Workshops begun by Ira Progoff from whom she learned the method for journaling and leading Journal Workshops. Following her four years in Motherhouse Administration she spent nine months giving full attention to studying the Journal method and gave at least 30 workshops herself during that period of time. She and Ira Progoff became fast friends during this process.
At the end of a nine-month hiatus she went to Manna House of Prayer in Concordia and continued giving Journal workshops while doing other programs, designing brochures and advertising.
In 1983 she was elected to the Executive Council as a Regional Coordinator for four years and then as Vice President for four years. In late 1990 toward the end of her years in leadership, while journaling she wrote: “Now – the open moment!”
It seems that at this time Jeanette began to even more seriously dedicate herself to her motto: be of love a little more careful than of anything – accompanied by her signature heart. Hearts are trump, she once said, and she meant it. In one of her biographical sketches she wrote: “I love to live and I live to love!” Indeed, that she did.
If we proceed with her journey we find her in Great Bend, Kan., where she served in their Heartland Spirituality Center from 1991 until October 1998. In her words her work with the Dominicans in Great Bend was that of “a spirt team member, spiritual director, workshop and retreat leader and friend.”
In October 1998, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Jeanette asked for a leave of absence from the Heartland Center to go to Hays to care for her parents. She called this time with her parents “precious, painful and transforming days.” Her father, though frail, died suddenly in late November of that year and her mother followed five days later. Being the only person who could close out her family’s affairs, she resigned from the Heartland Spirituality Center and moved to Hays. She said of that transition: “The Dominican Sisters have been a tremendous support to me. The(se) relationships will last for a long time, I hope.” (And the Dominicans with us these days will attest to that!)
Once again she turned a page in her journey. In her autobiography she wrote: “I am committed to simplicity.” And again: “My new life includes a sabbatical year and whatever unfolds from there. I am OPEN. I feel drawn to inclusive love, simplicity and the mission of unity. (Emphasis hers.) Those are aspects of the CSJ charism that I will focus on and pray to grow in as I enter this Sabbath year, the vigil of the new millennium, and an opportunity for new life!”
From March 1999 until January 2000 she spent a short sabbatical first with the community in Topeka and then a longer period of time at Wellsprings in Glen Falls, N.Y. In January 2000 until August 2004, Jeanette once again took up the work of Coordinator of Sisters’ Services at Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia. She then moved to Orange, Calif., to begin the ministry of Pastoral Care Associate at Regina Residence, the skilled care facility for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. There she received at each annual evaluation the highest rating in every category of her position’s requirements. She earned the coveted “Values Award” for her outstanding commitment to their value of SERVICE. The staff of Regina Residence recognized her compassion for, dedication to, and constant presence punctuated with creativity and realism not just for the Sister residents, but also for the staff at Regina Residence. She continued this work until December 2009.
On Dec. 22, 2009, she received the news that she had Stage 4, small-cell carcinoma of the lung with metastasis. In retrospect she wrote: “I had often wondered how I would move from this life to the next. What would take me there? Who would companion me? How would I be in the process?” Once again she had arrived at the “open moment.” She almost immediately realized that this turning point was not about her, but rather it was the opportunity to become the lover she had always hoped to be. She returned to Concordia and began her life from day-to-day. About the next several years, she wrote: “My awareness of beauty and goodness is heightened. I have no enemies and no unfinished business. I am grateful to everyone, and I feel great companionship. I find myself filed with love. It has been a time of abundant grace…. If cancer can be called ‘a gift’ I have received it. In the spirit of nonviolence, I do not ‘fight’ it. I call cancer my ‘sacred guest’ and I live my life as fully as I can.”
Jeanette loved life – and wanted to live it to the fullest. That’s why, even after she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, she resolutely took up the ministry of presence lived through extensive correspondence and personal visits. She attempted to be everything to everyone. Once she wrote, quoting Dan Berrigan, s.j., “These many beautiful days cannot be lived again but they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit and I take them in full measure with me toward whatever lies ahead.” She gathered up, soaked up and reveled in the life she was given. Those who knew her well, those who came lately to her acquaintance, those who sought out her advice and counseling – all received pressed down and overflowing the generosity of her loving presence. She was genuinely for others and all who came to her received the benefit of her many beautiful days. And to each she offered the invitation: “Let’s dance!”
(Friends and family were invited to share their memories.)
In December 2007 at a workshop titled “Death’s Mystery, Life’s Meaning” Jeanette, with some mysterious prescience, wrote a poem that I would like to read in closing. She sent it to Sister Mary Lou Roberts with this note: “If someone decides to integrate it (the poem) into my eulogy or Mass, that would be fine. Thank you.”
Come! O freedom,
my long desired friend.
I’ve passed you by so often.
Now I welcome you to take charge.
Free me of all burdens of life,
invited and uninvited,
that I have experienced.
Come! Dancing God
Sweep me off my feet into eternity.
Come! Friends, family, community and world.
Be with me now
as we have been one in enjoying life and
in our pain of misunderstanding,
conflict, fear and rejection.
Our dance of oneness is now
forgiveness, joy, delight and
Come! Death. I trust you
as much as I have trusted life.
Now come and sweep me into
We have read your poem here at your Vigil. You have shown your usual boldness, your hospitality and clarity, yet simplicity of soul in this poetry. Since 2009 we have seen your determined courageous hope in the face of your death that was always imminent.
In one of her more recent placement forms she said that she wanted to “live large” and “love large.” In her last mission statement (2013-14) she said: “I desire to surrender ALL that I am and all that I have to God. I will approach everyone in a spirit of nonviolence in judgment and in speech. I pray to be faithful in using this sacred time that I have on earth to “Be of LOVE a little MORE CAREFUL than of ANYTHING.” That she did. In one of my last conversations with her I expressed my dismay in the fact that she would not be with us as we made our way through these difficult times and into the unknown future. “Oh no!” she said. “I WILL be with you. Call me and I will be here. Let’s keep dancing.” I believe her.
Thank you, Jeanette, for your life lived fully, given fully and still giving. Thank you for the lavish love you shed on your family. Thank you for your immense love for and fidelity to the community and its ideals and purpose. Thank you for you. Yes, let’s keep dancing! Amen.
If you would like to make a donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Sister Jeanette’s memory, you may do so by clicking on the DONATE button below, or by sending it to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund , P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT… In June 2011, Sister Jeanette spoke to sisters at the Motherhouse about “The Challenge of Living and Dying with Spirit and Zeal.” To listen to that talk, CLICK HERE to go to the page that lists the audio recordings of it.
13 thoughts on “Eulogy for Sister Jeanette Wasinger, June 3, 1938-Oct. 22, 2014”
Jeanette, what a gift you were to us in Orange! I think if you weren’t born in Kansas you would have been an Orange CSJ . Thank you for sharing your spirituality and love with so many. As you danced in life with love, I look forward to continuing the dance with you with our loving God.
Jeanette, a saint among us, then and now. Thank you, Marcia.
Dear one, when you get tired from dancing,
take rest in Christ’s arms until
your refreshed. I look forward to seeing you
Thank you, Marcia, for so simply giving voice to the Jeanette we all dearly love. Her last breath sent out to all of us the gifts she honed in her lifetime. She will be with us as we continue on the journey. She promised!
Thank you Jeanette for your beautiful smile that reflected your gentle soul. I will never forget you.
Thank you Marcia…I can see Jeanette so clearly in your words….I am sure she was right there and will continue to be in her own inimitable way! Thank you and all for sharing this woman with us in so many ways. Love to all of you!
It has been a great joy and a great privilege to share in your abundant LIFE, dear friend Jeanette. Oh, how I will miss you! Thanks for the amazing dance!
To Jeanette: you are dancing with some beautiful people now. Life is a dance, sometimes you lead sometimes you follow. Bless you for always sharing your dance with me.
Thank you Marcia for so beautifully representing Jeanette – she lives on in our hearts and minds with her unique presence. Being touched by her love makes an indelible mark. Bless you, and all who loved her who are missing her just now.
I CELEBRATE SISTER JEANETTE AND ALL THAT SHE LIVED AND STOOD FOR! I SALUTE AND HONOR HER……….THANK YOU FOR ENRICHING MY LIFE AND SO MANY LIVES IN YOUR JOURNEY!
Dearest Jeanette, How deeply you have blessed us with your beautiful life and death. We love you and will miss your warm, gracious presence.
RIP lovely lady! May our God hold you in the palm of His hand! A very special person to say the least! I am sure God welcomed you home with open arms! My love and prayers!
Rest in Peace dear Jeanette and may God embrace you in Heaven. You will be missed.