“The Challenge of Living and Dying with Spirit & Zeal”

June 28, 2011 by  

Sister Jeanette Wasinger, June 4, 2011, in Concordia.

In December 2009, Sister Jeanette Wasinger — then working as a spiritual director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, Calif. — was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to the liver. She decided against aggressive treatment that might prolong her life, and her doctor thought she might survive until Easter — so she came home to Concordia to die. A year and a half later, she is still very much alive, and very much changed by that “gift” she received in the doctor’s office.

On June 28, 2011, Sister Jeanette spoke to the Sisters of St. Joseph gathered at the Nazareth Motherhouse about her journey. Although, as she says, she talks about death every day, this was the first time she spoke to a group about what her diagnosis has meant in her life.

Below are three mp3 files, numbered 1, 2 and 3, and each about 8 minutes long. To listen to Sister Jeanette’s entire presentation, just listen to them in order.




Small garden in Hays, Kan., has a big mission

June 7, 2011 by  

A volunteer helps install the 4-foot fence donated by the St. Joseph Knights of Columbus.

Alton Ashmore gingerly handles the tomato plants he donated for Saint Joseph's Garden in Hays, Kan.

HAYS, Kan. — Don’t mistake this unassuming patch of earth on Ash Street for so many other unloved neighborhood lots. This small patch — roughly the size of a smallish bedroom — has been tilled, composted, fenced, planted and now watered with tender loving care. And the fruits of its harvest will benefit the Parish Food Pantry of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

When Sister Janet LeDuc, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, moved into the Ash Street house last summer, she almost immediately realized that its yard would be the perfect place for a small community garden.

So in early March she mailed a letter to parishioners asking for their help. Donations of time and materials came in from both individuals and groups: The St. Joseph Knights of Columbus put up the simple 4-foot fence, Northwestern Printers donated a waterproof sign and others showed up to till, then re-till and add compost and new soil. Just after Easter Father Gilmary Tallman and Sister Janet gathered with several of the volunteers for a blessing of Saint Joseph’s Garden. And not long after that, Alton Ashmore arrived, tomato plants in hand.

Providing fresh produce to the Parish Food Pantry is just half the mission of the small garden, Sister Janet said. Her other hope is that the project builds a community of people interested in gardening as well as local self-sufficiency, sustainability and service to their neighbors.

Congregation welcomes newest agrégée sisters

June 2, 2011 by  

Two women who couldn’t seem more different spoke with one voice Thursday afternoon when they became the newest Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan.

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In a Mass at the sisters’ Nazareth Motherhouse, Jan McCormick of Chapman, Kan., and Sharon Hayes of Kansas City, Mo., professed their vows as agrégées – a new form of membership in the 128-year-old congregation of Catholic women.

Jan McCormick

The 57-year-old McCormick graduated from Chapman High School and immediately went to work. But after nearly a decade, she enrolled at Cloud County Community College in Concordia and eventually graduated from Marymount College in Salina with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on chemical dependency. During her two years in school in Concordia, she met several Sisters of St. Joseph. But it was at Marymount — then operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia — where she really connected with them, she said. And when she went to work at St. John’s Hospital in Salina — then also operated by the sisters — she came to know even more about them.

By 1999, McCormick had moved back to Chapman and there she met Sister Carolyn Juenemann who was starting a CSJ Associates program. “I joined it, and it was life-giving and there was a real connectedness,” McCormick recalls.

She went to work in the Army’s substance abuse program where she is now a risk reduction analyst, yet her real passion was her deepening commitment to her CSJ Associates group.

Sharon Hayes

Meanwhile, Sharon Hayes had only a passing knowledge of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Hayes, 65, had felt called to religious life very early. Born and raised in Denver, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. (The two congregations, along with nearly 20 others in the U.S. and Canada, share a history but are today separate and autonomous.)

Just out of high school, Hayes joined the Carondelet sisters and then attended Fontbonne University in St. Louis and then Avilla College in Kansas City, with majors in nursing and minors in psychology and theology. She went on to the University of Arizona to earn a master’s in science in physiology and nursing.

Then, after seven years as a Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, she made the decision to leave the congregation.

“For Catholics, the 1970s were crazy,” she says now. “The Church was modernizing but that meant tremendous upheaval in religious life. I left to search…”

It also meant a career in nursing, with ever increasing responsibilities, and a life in the Kansas City area.

And while no longer a member of the Carondelet sisters, “I stayed very close to members of that community for all those years,” Hayes says. “In some ways, I was always part of them, and they were always part of me. I didn’t know the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan., but the broader Sisters of St. Joseph connection went back to when I was about 6.”

Unbeknownst to Hayes, the Concordia sisters had come up with something that would make that connection even stronger.

Over several decades, the Sisters of St. Joseph who shared roots in the original 17th-century French congregation — which includes both Concordia and Carondelet — had been studying their early history. In Concordia in about 2005, there was particular interest in a form of membership called “agrégées,” a French word that means attached to.

An agrégée — pronounced ah-greh-ZHEY — was a woman who undertook the same work and mission as the original Sisters of St. Joseph in LePuy, France, but for various circumstances could not take the traditional three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Instead, she made a single vow to be faithful to the congregation and to God.

After deep study, the Concordia sisters introduced agrégée membership and accepted the first candidate in 2006. Sister Rosabel Flax of Ness City, Kan., became the first professed agrégée in 2008, and three others soon followed.

Several of the Concordia sisters talked with Jan McCormick about agrégée membership, “but I didn’t know if I wanted to give up my Associates group,” she says with a laugh.

Ultimately, McCormick decided to become an agrégée candidate, to see if she was called toward religious life. But she remained unsure — until the fall of 2010.

McCormick had spent a couple of years as the driving force in organizing the St. Joseph Orphanage Reunion that was held last October in Abilene, and at the end of an exhausting and exhilarating day at St. Andrew’s Church, she finally knew the direction she needed to take. “That was the turning point,” she says. “I knew then that these were the women I wanted to be part of.”

About the same time McCormick had starting planning that orphans’ reunion, Hayes was attending a retreat with the Carondelet sisters in St. Louis. It was December 2008 and Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Concordia sisters and one of the “pioneers” in creating the agrégée form of membership, was giving a presentation on two programs offered at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia. Both of those programs focus on the history and original mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph — and both explain agrégée membership in depth.

Hayes signed up for the spring program on the spot. “I’d never heard of the word  ‘agrégée’ before, but I loved what I heard. It was consistent with how I lived my life,” says the retired nurse who now volunteers as a medical advocate.

On Jan. 1, 2010, Hayes became an agrégée candidate.

As candidates, each has a mentor for study and prayer. They have also worked with Sisters Better Moslander and Marcia Allen, who were principally responsible for designing the agrégée orientation program.

And McCormick and Hayes worked together to plan a vow ceremony that fit both of them.

“When Sharon and I first started talking about it, we knew we wanted it to be simple,” McCormick said on the day before the ceremony. “We wanted a weekday Mass without much hoopla.”

“We’ve done what we’ve done our whole lives without ‘credentials,’” Hayes added. “I’d rather walk the walk louder than I talk the talk.”

That, says Moslander, reflects the true origins of the agrégées, as well as the potential for the newest members of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “It’s a different kid of religious life for 21st century Catholic women,” she said. “We and the people they serve are truly blessed.”

With Hayes’ and McCormick’s professions Thursday, there are now six agrégées and five candidates among the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

To learn more about the agrégée program, CLICK HERE for more information.

Student finds a home in new program at Manna House

June 1, 2011 by  

Community college student Cindy Ponce weeds a flowerbed in front of Manna House of Prayer on a recent sunny morning.

Twenty-year-old Cindy Ponce has only one complaint after living among the Sisters of St. Joseph at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia for five months.

“There’s no one my age,” says the Belize native who’s studying business at Cloud County Community College. “I would like to have friends here to hang out with.”

It’s a mild complaint, one very much overshadowed Ponce says by all the good things about living at Manna House, but still one the sisters there have taken to heart. And it explains, in part, the creation of a new program to begin late this summer.

The sisters and staff at Manna House are turning one wing of their landmark building at East Fifth and Olive streets into St. Joseph Scholar House, a residence hall for women students from the local college.

“Cindy was living with us, and we were thinking about ‘community’ for her,” explains Sister Julie Christensen, at 29 the youngest member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and one of the women who live at Manna House. “This just felt like something we could do.”

Sister Julie’s “this” is a program that focuses on education, service, leadership and “being your best person,” she says. At the same time, it gives young women students of all faiths — many, like Ponce, away from home for the first time — a chance to grow and learn about themselves without many of the distractions prevalent in dorm life on campus.


When the opportunity to attend Cloud arose, Ponce was living with her parents and three siblings and attending Sacred Heart Junior College in San Ignacio, Belize, a tiny country tucked below Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with Guatemala to its east and the Caribbean on its west.

She had gotten to know Christa Schmidt, a young woman from Axtell, Kan., who was working in Belize, and then met Christa’s parents, Giles and Roxie Schmidt. The elder Schmidts sponsored Ponce to come to the United States to attend Cloud, where their younger daughter Abby is also a student.

But living in the dorm at Cloud was too expensive, so the Schmidts worked out an arrangement with Manna House: Ponce has been there since January, and helps with chores and other shared tasks.

The cultural adjustment was not that difficult, Ponce says. Belize is the only Central American country that has English as its official language, so that was not a barrier for her. And she comes from a big family — another three siblings had already left home — so she was used to sharing her quarters.

She was also familiar with Catholic sisters. As a Catholic herself, she says, “I knew some sisters (in Belize) and I thought they’d be like that.” But she recognizes that some people may still harbor stereotypes about women religious. She says some of the other young women she’s met while at Cloud may be hesitant about even coming to visit her at Manna House, “but I tell them, ‘They are way more different than what you think!’”

Ponce says it took her just a couple of weeks to get over feeling like a “guest” of the sisters. “It didn’t take long for me to adapt to being here,” she recalls. “I just told myself this is home.”

And as she got more comfortable, she got to know the Manna House sisters and staff better. “I guess I didn’t expect them to be so funny, so caring and so loving,” she says now. “Yet I always have my own space. Whenever I want to do something on my own, there’s always a place for it.”

That’s the kind of experience the sisters hope other young women will have as residents of St. Joseph Scholar House.

There are rules — maintaining a grade-point-average of 3.3 or higher, sharing some chores (including cooking and kitchen duty), making a commitment to community service, as examples — but there are also the benefits of always having a quiet place to study, of being a part of a small community of women who care deeply about each other and of sharing a college experience with fellow students who are equally interested in their education and their place in the world.

There is also a benefit of cost: The fee for St. Joseph Scholar House is $1,800 a semester, compared to $2,150 for the least expensive dorm package at Cloud.

“We have so often worked with people in mid-life and older,” says Sister Betty Suther, administrator of Manna House. “This shifts us to younger people and allows us to share what we have with them.”

For Cindy Ponce, it seems to be working. She decided to take a break from classes this summer and is staying on as a volunteer at Manna until school begins again in August. She helps with meals — including making her favorite Belizean dish, rice and beans with chicken — plus working in the garden at the Nazareth Motherhouse, weeding the flower beds that surround Manna House and doing whatever other tasks the sisters need.

She has another two semesters at Cloud before she decides whether she’ll continue at a four-year school or return to Belize to begin a career.

Until then, Manna House is home. “Sister Betty met me when I first got here and welcomed me; she told me to make myself comfortable,” Ponce recalls with a laugh. “I am still welcomed and still comfortable.”


To learn more about St. Joseph Scholar House, go to www.mannahouse.org or call Sister Julie Christensen at 785/243-4428.


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Faith & Sharing: A 22-year Memorial Day tradition

May 24, 2011 by  


Many people view the long Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer and plan for barbecues and family get-togethers. Others continue the annual ritual of remembering loved ones by placing flowers on their graves and cleaning up around their tombstones.

But Sister Christella Buser will mark this Memorial Day weekend as she has every one for the past 21 years: By gathering up people to join her in a Faith and Sharing retreat.

This year’s weekend is at the University of St. Mary campus in Leavenworth, Kan., and Sister Christella will be one of four facilitators leading the 42 participants from central and eastern Kansas.

The idea behind Faith and Sharing retreats grew out of L’Arche, founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier as a community where developmentally disabled and physically challenged adults and “assistants” would live and work together. The Federation of L’Arche International today has more than 130 communities in 30 countries, including L’Arche Heartland in the Kansas City area, which Sister Christella helped found in the late 1980s.

Vanier held the first Faith and Sharing, an annual Gospel-centered retreat, in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario, and in 1990 Sister Christella was instrumental in bringing the retreat to Kansas.

This year’s participants will include L’Arche community members and others from Concordia, Belleville, Salina, Overland Park, Olathe, Lawrence, Leavenworth and Kansas City. The theme for the 2011 gathering is “Grace: Weaving the Colors of Our Life.”

The weekend’s other facilitators are Sisters Ann Lucia Apodaca and Lucy Walter, both Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, and Father Kevin Cullen of Rockhurst College in Kansas City. Sister Julie Christensen, a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, is among the volunteers.

“There will be a dance, art projects, classes, music, performances and a Mass,” explains 86-year-old Sister Christella as she gets ready for the weekend that begins Friday morning with a van trip to Leavenworth. “People tell me this is the best weekend of their lives.”

The participants stay in a residence hall at the Leavenworth college, and the retreat continues through late Sunday morning.

Priest details new language for worship

May 13, 2011 by  

Father Frank Coady speaks to sisters at the Nazareth Motherhouse Friday, May 13.

The director of the Office of Liturgy and Worship for the Salina Diocese came to the Nazareth Motherhouse Friday (May 13) to explain the new English translation of the Roman Missal to Sisters of St. Joseph.

• • • • • • • •

But Father Frank Coady, who is also the priest supervisor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Salina, also discussed the meaning of much of the symbolism of Catholic worship.

Almost a year ago, the Vatican formally approved the new translation, which will change some of the words Catholics have used in their worship for the past 40 years. The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has written that the new missal — which will be in use beginning with the first Sunday in Advent (Nov. 27) — “is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language.”

Coady told the sisters that while it seems unfamiliar to them now, it is a more literal and more accurate translation of Latin to English.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a website to help parishioners become more familiar with the new translation. It is http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

Four from Salina & Concordia join CSJ Associates

April 2, 2011 by  

In a simple ceremony at the Nazareth Motherhouse Saturday afternoon (April 2), three women and one man made commitments as Associates to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. At the same time, two new candidates to become CSJ Associates were welcomed by the community of sisters, and seven Associates renewed their commitments.

• • • • • • • •

Also on hand were five people called “inquirers,” who have formally expressed an interest in becoming a CSJ Associate and are in the first stage of the process.

The ceremony concluded the annual Associates Retreat held at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

The most touching moment of the afternoon was when Sister Ann Glatter read a letter to new Associate Jane Christensen of Concordia, from her daughter Sister Julie Christensen. Sister Julie was not able to attend the ceremony because of a conflict with her duties in Youth Ministry, but in her letter she said she was able to answer the call to religious life because of her mother’s deep spirituality and love of God.

The other new Associates are Myrna Shelton of Concordia and Bill and Susan Riordan of Salina. They bring the number of CSJ Associates to more than 30 in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

The new Associate Candidates are Catherine Seitz of Manhattan and Rosalita Flax of Ness City.

The Associates renewing their commitments were Sheryl Bahr of Rossville, Kan.; Karma Smith-Grindell of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Nancy Welsh of Topeka; and Carol Arts, Betty Bombardier, Rita Collette, Susan LeDuc, all of Concordia.

The inquirers were Annette and Tim Coonrod, Linda and LeRoy Splichal and Trudy Ringer, all of Belleville.

CSJ Associates are women and men who are committed to Gospel values, desire to deepen their spiritual lives, give themselves in service to the dear neighbor, are committed to building community and feel drawn by the charism, spirituality and mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph. They meet regularly for prayer and sharing either in groups or one-on-one, and often take part in the congregation’s events.

For more information, click on one of these links:
Why be an Associate?
The Associate life
The steps toward becoming a CSJ Associate

Or, read one of the stories written by these special people who already serve as CSJ Associates:
Dave and Jayme Schwantes
Ora Rede

For more information, contact one of these sisters or associates:
Sister Jean Befort at jeanbefort@sbcglobal.net
OR Sister Janet Lander at janetmarycsj@yahoo.com
OR Associate Karma Smith-Grindell at grindell@ksu.edu
OR Associate Stephanie Hudson at sehudson@kc.rr.com

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)

• • • • •

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:


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.

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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