Sister Jean Ann Walton wins at annual Veterans Art Show

September 9, 2021 by  

Sister Jean Ann Walton’s quilt entry in the recent 3rd annual Veterans Art Show brought home a first place win.

The show, Aug. 19-30 at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas, is an annual competition for Veterans treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs national health care system.

“My quilt was entered in the Cut and Sewn Fabric category of the Visual Arts Division (VAD),” Sister Jean Ann said. “My first place win at the local level qualifies me for the national NVCAF against other 1st place winners in the spring of 2022.”

The quilt is named “A Study in Black and White with Turquoise Squares.”

Other categories in VAD are Combat Experience, Mixed Media, Acrylic Painting, Oil Painting, Watercolor Painting, Monochromatic Drawing, Color Drawing, B&W Photography, Color Photography, Special Recognition for Mental Health, Metalwork, Wood Model Kit, Applied Arts, Assemblage, Ceramics, Bead Work, Sculpture, and Mosaic.

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) is the celebration and grand finale stage show, art and writing exhibition, which are the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to further the rehabilitation milieu for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

Sister Jean Ann was a Vietnam-era Marine and served six years on active duty and five years as a Marine Reservist. When on active duty, she served as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor for women and as an illustrator.


Sister Rita Plante publishes poetry collection

September 9, 2021 by  

“The Donkey Who Shall Remain Nameless” may be Sister Rita Plante’s first book, but she says it has been in the making since she was a child.

The book is a compilation of her original poetry recently published by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

The book is divided into sections showing her progression as a poet, containing poetry from the 1960s up through the 2020s.

“My poem collection began in the 1960s, when, as a 20-year-old my inner thoughts began pouring out. Among the poems in the book you will see the path my life took,” she said.

“Some poems are to friends and others are written as verses in birthday cards. Some are reactions to what is going on in the world around me and others pure delightful musings from my inner poet.”

Sister Rita said as she approached her 80th birthday, she had folders and folders of her poetry organized by year. She realized she did not want her poetry thrown away.

“I talked to Sister Marcia (Allen) about putting them into a book,” she said. “We’ve been good friends for years and years since we grew up in Plainville. She said yes to the project, so I typed them up and sent them by way of email and she and Sister Gilla Dubé worked together on the project.”

“They were a great team,” Sister Rita said. “Gilla is a great photographer and Marcia is a whiz with words.”

“I have so appreciated reading the evolution of Sister Rita’s poetry from one decade to another. And of her courage to share that evolution with us,” Sister Gilla said.

Sister Rita lives and writes in Silver City, New Mexico, where she has lived for 20 years.

She is a frequent visitor at the hospital, leads groups in prayer, and once a week stands on a street corner and greets passerby with a wish and a prayer for peace and a nonviolent world as she has done ever since the events of 9-11.

In the preface to her work, Sister Rita wrote, “These are my poems, coming straight from my heart. They are my story. At the time I’m writing this I am 79 years old. These poems are 79 years of the life of this quiet poet who wrote her heart out sometimes in tears, sometimes in rage, sometimes in prayer and praise and sometimes in glee. I hope you find yourself in one of the poems and it speaks to your heart.”

Since the book was published, Sister Rita has had already a book signing in Silver City, N.M., and hopes to have a signing when she returns to Concordia this fall.

The book is $15 and is available for purchase from Manna House of Prayer, 323 East 5th St, Concordia, Kansas, 66901.
For more information, call 785/243-4428 or email

The book also can be purchased at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia’s gift shop at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Call 785/243-2113 ext. 1101 or email for more information or at the Concordia Tourism Center.

But what’s the deal with the donkey without a name?

It actually has a dual meaning, Sister Rita laughed.

In “The Last Word,” at the end of her book, Sister Marcia wrote on behalf of the donkey: “And I, the Donkey? Somewhere along the life it seemed that the ‘beast of burden’ became the symbol for this poet. Life moved along, carrying the load, stalling at times and, at other times, moving in rhythm to some inner music.”

However, it also became the code word shared between Sisters Rita , Marcia and Gilla for the U.S. Mail that carried manuscripts and notes back and forth from Silver City to Concordia.

“The manuscript would go back and forth and back and forth, and at that time, the U.S. Mail wasn’t doing too well, so I said to Sister Marcia, ‘We need to send this by donkey.’ That was our little gimmick. When ‘the donkey’ would leave Silver City I’d email her and let her know the donkey was on its way, but it might take a while because the weather was bad in the winter in the mountains but that was our little fiction story along with the serious poetry,” she laughed.

“I asked Sister Marcia if we should give the donkey a name and she emailed me back that ‘the donkey shall remain nameless,’ and that name just stuck,” she said.

Reading with Friends returns Sept. 10

August 31, 2021 by  

Reading with Friends at Neighbor to Neighbor will be both in person and as a Facebook Live event at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10.

May’s book will be “How to Babysit a Grandpa” written by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Lee Wildish. This New York Times bestseller is sure to be a great book to share over and over again.

This month’s guest reader will be Charlie Bowers.

Pre-registration is required to come to the live event at Neighbor to Neighbor, and masks are required in the building. Pre-registration also is required to pick up a free book in advance. However, the video will be free for anyone to watch on Neighbor to Neighbor’s Facebook page.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10. The video will stay on the Facebook page after the reading for anyone to enjoy later, in case they can’t make it at 10 a.m.

Sister Missy Ljungdahl, director of Neighbor to Neighbor, said the first 25 children to pre-register will be able to pick up a copy of the book whether the child is attending in person or online (one per family).

The story times for children 3 to 5 years old are on the second Fridays of the month and all begin at 10 a.m. To register, call Neighbor to Neighbor at 785/262-4215 or email

The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012. Neighbor to Neighbor is located at 103 E. 6th St. in downtown Concordia.

Creating a greener lifestyle

August 23, 2021 by  

To learn more about the Sisters of St. Joseph Ecological Integrity Committee, CLICK HERE.

Completely unplug from technology at least one day a month.


Eulogy for Sister Philomene Reiland — April 11, 1941 – Aug. 2, 2021

August 6, 2021 by  


Vigil: Aug. 5, 2021, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Mary Jo Thummel

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and organs,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.


Philomene (Barbara Frances Reiland) was born on April 11, 1941 to Edward and Philomena Monaco Reiland in Aurora, Illinois. She was the second of three children: James, Barbara, and Thomas. She is survived by James and Thomas.

Barbara says very little about her growing up years but I know she kept in close touch with her family members and always spoke well and proudly of each of them.

Barbara was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph from grade school through college. She remembers sitting on a piano bench in first grade. This is when she started taking lessons from Sister Edmund. In 5th and 6th grades Sister Irene taught her organ and violin. She loved her music lessons and found them fun.

Barbara felt called to be a religious from the time she was in 4th grade and started attending daily Mass. In the fall of 1955, she and a group of six other young women came from Aurora, Illinois, to attend the Apostolic School at Nazareth Motherhouse. She loved the school, the teachers, the good education she received, and felt that it was a really fun experience.

In 1959, Barbara entered the postulancy. She professed her first vows on Aug. 15, 1960, and was given the name Philomene. She professed final vows on Aug. 15, 1963.

About her early ministry, Philomene says, “I taught for 14 years in Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois and loved it tremendously!”

In 1980, Philomene went into church music ministry full time. Her duties in that ministry included coordinating liturgical music and music personnel, selecting and training song leaders and parish musicians, being a resource and assisting at weddings and funerals, overseeing the condition of all parish musical instruments and church sound system, being responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of missalettes and music issues and being available to help with the parish Religious Education Program. This is only a partial list, because, as many know the parish ministry contract usually ended with a statement that generally ended with, “and other duties, as needed.”

Several times I visited Philomene in several of the parishes, where she ministered and I know that she enjoyed working with all ages of students training and teaching anything having to do with music. She made learning music fun and the students reacted by giving their all and responding to Philomene with eagerness and enthusiasm.

Father Richard R. Kramer, who is a retired priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, and a dear friend of Philomene’s, had this to say about her and her ministry. “Philomene was a good witness to the Catholic faith and women religious. She had a tremendous sense of humor and loved to be around people. She is a real credit to the Sisters of St. Joseph!!! I can speak for many parishioners and friends when I say we truly loved you, Sister Philomene and will always miss you deeply. But now play your music and sing your personal songs to the Lord Himself and His angels.”

Philomene loved everything music. She had a bachelors in music education, and a masters of of arts in church music and liturgy. The piano and organ where her instruments of choice but she could also play the guitar, violin, string bass, bass guitar and accordion. She once played the accordion in the middle of Soldier Field in Chicago. Philomene also had a lovely singing voice and taught voice students. She has composed musical scores. In late 1981 she composed a Mass in honor of our Centenary Year, which we celebrated in 1983. She named it Mass Joseph Fili David.

In 1986, Philomene, asked for and was given a sabbatical year …  a year of sabbath …  to take time to study and sometimes travel. Philomene did both. Her parents had given her a Silver Jubilee gift of a trip abroad. She signed up for an organ study tour of East and West Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium. Highlights of her tour were the birthplaces of Bach and Handel, many of the places where Bach worked as a church musician and all the organs that the tour group could get their hands on — sometimes as many as four in one day. The most intense experience was the time in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain. It made all of them happy to be Americans and live in a free country.

The place of the arts in Europe were an inspiration to Philomene. The organs were in tip-top shape, the art work had been lovingly restored, the countryside was beautiful and they were constantly in awe at the marvelous sights.

Philomene says that her time of living in New York was a marvelous experience. She lived with the Sisters of Charity and was close to Broadway, Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Lincoln Center and Juilliard, where she was attending classes. The highlights of her time in New York were her organ lessons from a great teacher, her other classes and the dedicated students.

One other component of her year was Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality Program. She was excited by the fact that she found touchstones in his spirituality that she felt were compatible with our own charism. She considered her Sabbatical year most enriching and profitable spiritually and musically.

Philomene had a real heart for the poor and those that she felt were in need in some way. She personally did what she could for the poor near her living and working situation, wrote letters and petitioned city officials. She urged us to reach out to a number of groups through our St. Joseph Ministry Fund. Philomene could be a force to be reckoned with.

I believe that Philomene’s music was her deepest prayer. It was the expression of the Godly love at her core. When she helped us as a group to prepare for our special celebrations, she had a way of working with us that brought out the best in us and enabled us to make beautiful music together. She could make both us and the musical instruments she was playing sing praise from our hearts.

Philomene said, “My passions in life are praising the Lord, vocations and music! In the life of a CSJ there is never a dull moment! I have been a sister for 62 years and feel like it has just been a year. Every day is new, different and full of blessings and surprises!”

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and organs,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150 is called the musicians Psalm. It is an eloquent, passionate cry to all creation to give the praise of which God is due. It is a prayer of unlimited praise of God using everything that can be used to worship God. There are nine instruments named – trumpet, harp, lute, tambourine, dancing (ram’s horn), strings, organ, cymbals (two kinds). The many instruments symbolize that every class and group of people are called to praise God.

Philomene’s life was certainly one of praise to God through music! Over and over on her commitment slips she reiterated “I commit myself to use and share my musical gifts and talents in whatever way that I can, to give God glory.”

Philomene, we trust you are now truly sharing your musical gifts and talents with all the other heavenly musicians.

To make an online donation in Sister Philomene’s memory, click on the button below:



Video of Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Philomene Reiland

August 6, 2021 by  

Please click the link below to view.

Video of Vigil Service for Sister Philomene Reiland

August 5, 2021 by  

Please click the link to view.

It’s all about connections

August 5, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia has a long history of involvement in western Kansas. But over the years, as Catholic schools closed, health care systems changed and many sisters retired, fewer and fewer active connections to western Kansas remained.

Sisters Philonise Keithley and Denise Schmitz aim to change that as they put down new roots in Hoxie, Kansas, this summer.

They’ll be joining Sisters Bev Carlin and Loretta Clare Flax, both based in Hays, Kansas, in increasing the sisters’ presence in western Kansas.
Both sisters are based out of Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, Kansas, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“We’re with Manna House, but we are missioned for western Kansas. We call our apartments at Sheridan Estates ‘Manna House — West,’“ Sister Denise laughed.
For Sister Denise, who had formerly lived and worked for years in the rural community of Norton, Kansas, the move to the Hoxie area was like going home. For Philonise, who spent her life in a large city, it was more of a dramatic change, but she said she couldn’t be happier with their reception.

“Everyone has met us with open arms,” Sister Philonise said. “They are thrilled that we are here.”

While living in a large city Sister Philonise noted that she was surrounded by many more people, but that often you didn’t really even know your neighbors. In Hoxie she’s found that everyone seems to know everyone and they have quickly been made to feel a part of the Hoxie community.

The idea to have more sisters back in rural western Kansas has been an active discussion for months, however the two sisters finally made the move in June. They both live in Sheridan Estates, a one-level residential senior facility owned by Wes and Casey Bainter. The location allows them to be active with the residents in that location, as well as be centrally located to be involved in the Hoxie community.

“Our charism and mission is all about connecting with people. We bring each other closer to God,” Sister Philonise said. “Denise and I are gaining so much out of our time in Hoxie already. It’s enhanced our prayer life.”

While the sisters are still settling in, they are already getting involved in the community and making plans for the future.

“Our mission is our presence,” Sister Philonise said. “It doesn’t matter what job we do to accomplish that mission. We’re ready to help.”

A recent example was a “rhubarb party” in the common room at the residences. The sisters gathered residents together and they chopped and processed rhubarb to share. They’ve also established a prayer service. Sister Denise has been busy baking cookies for the residents and plans to continue making her jellies and jams — in fact she already has connections there for chokecherries and sand plums.

While the sisters are newly transplanted, they are looking forward to spending time with the community and parish members and exploring how to meet their needs.

Sister Denise said they hope to share their energy and enthusiasm and create a deeper connection with the western Kansas community.

In the meantime, the sisters stay connected with the sisters at Manna House thanks to modern technology including Zoom.

“Manna House keeps us grounded,” both Sisters Philonise and Denise agreed. “All the sisters there have contributed to this mission in some way.”

Their living arrangements were selected with the goal of easy access so that other Sisters of St. Joseph would be able to easily come out and assist or visit.

“The sisters are excited. Several have already been out to Hoxie,” Sister Denise said. “We expect many more to come as we get established.”

Sister Philonise said that whenever they discuss their mission in western Kansas with the sisters at the Motherhouse they get excited — especially those sisters that have lived or worked there in the past.

“They are all very interested in us, what we are doing and where we are staying,” Sister Philonise said. “So it’s not just us, we’re all there.”

“We hope to have an open house in September or October and have many of our sisters out to meet the community.”

Obituary for Sister Philomene Reiland — April 11, 1941 – Aug. 2, 2021

August 3, 2021 by  

Sister Philomene Reiland died Aug. 2, 2021, at Cloud County Health Center in Concordia, Kansas. She was 80 years old and a religious sister for 62 years. She was born in Aurora, Illinois, on April 11, 1941, to Edward and Philomena Monaco Reiland, the second of three children, and was baptized Barbara. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Feb. 2, 1959. On Aug. 15, 1959, Barbara received the habit and was given the name Sister Philomene. She pronounced first vows on Aug. 15, 1960, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1963.

Sister Philomene received a bachelor of science degree in music education in 1968 from Marymount College, Salina, Kansas. In 1976 she received a master of arts degree in church music from St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana. Sister Philomene did post graduate work in organ performance at the Julliard School of Music, New York.

Sister Philomene taught in Salina, Kansas; Chicago, Illinois; and Grand Island, Nebraska. She was the parish director of music in Concordia, Kansas, and Sterling, Illinois; assistant profession of music at Sauk Valley Community College, Dixon, Illinois, and director of music in Libertyville, Illinois. She gave private piano lessons in Grayslake and Sterling, Illinois, while serving as director of music at St. Mary Parish in Sterling, Illinois.

Sister Philomene was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by two brothers, James of Montgomery, Illinois, and Thomas of Raleigh, North Carolina. A Bible Vigil Service will be held 7 p.m. Aug. 5 in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Mary Jo Thummel as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m.  Aug. 6 in the Motherhouse Chapel, Father Barry Brinkman presiding. Masks are required. The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Chaput Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. 6th St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Philomene Reiland may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

To make an online donation in Sister Philomene Reiland’s memory, click on the button below:


Sisters volunteer on Texas border

July 27, 2021 by  

Sisters Anna Marie Broxterman and Dian Hall both have been to the southern border numerous times — whether to volunteer at charities or to provide education to others with the sisters’ Border Immersion program. Most of their experiences have been with the social services and charities in El Paso, Texas, Silver City, New Mexico, and surrounding communities.
However, their latest trip to the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, in June proved to be a completely new situation for the two seasoned volunteers.

Sisters Dian Hall (left), and Anna Marie Broxterman (right) meet with Sister Norma Pimentel in McAllen, Texas.

“The sheer amount of people at this location was just overwhelming,” Sister Dian said when asked to compare the McAllen facility with her previous experiences in El Paso.
While volunteering in intake centers in El Paso they would regularly see 50-some people come in, she said. In McAllen there was easily 400 to 500 people to service in the distribution center at any one time.

“It was just a sea of humanity in one giant room,” Sister Anna Marie said. “Walking in, we were both overwhelmed.”

However they quickly found their feet and started learning the background stories of the immigrants.

The facility serves as an intake center for immigrants legally seeking asylum. The majority of people had their asylum paperwork as well as information on a sponsor that the center volunteers could contact in order to help them make bus or airline travel arrangements.

Sister Dian said she was amazed by some of the stories she was told.

“One woman told me the story of how her two sons were murdered in Honduras because they refused to join a local gang. She fled the country with her one remaining son and infant daughter. Her husband had also been murdered,” Sister Dian said. “Another young couple was at the intake center with their two-year-old daughter. They had been retained in Mexico for several months and finally came across the border for asylum. They repeatedly said they now felt safe for the first time in their lives.”

The goal of their trip to McAllen was to explore the potential for an alternative site for a Border Immersion Experience in 2022, as well as to volunteer their services with Catholic Charities.

Both sisters said that it was clear the majority of asylum seekers were here not for a free hand out, but to escape imminent harm to either their family or themselves.

“We arrived Monday, June 21, in the early afternoon. Following a brief lunch, we walked several blocks to the Catholic Charities Respite Center. What we witnessed after being buzzed into the center was totally overwhelming,” Sister Dian said. “The Respite Center, a warehouse with multiple large rooms, was filled to capacity and beyond with immigrants. A security guard generously gave us a tour.”

“The first large room was an intake center which also offered an orientation via video and a vocal presentation. Also in the room was a ‘pharmacy’ which dispensed everything from Tylenol and cough syrup to shampoo, baby formula, toothpaste, feminine products, diapers, coloring books, and crayons, ” Sister Dian said. “The demand never ended. Lined up along one wall were mattresses to accommodate a night of sleep. There also were rest rooms available.”

The next large room the sisters toured had mattresses on the floor to provide nap time for kids, Sister Dian said. On one side of the room there were showers with scheduled times for women and men.

Sister Dian said the volunteers at the intake center were religious sisters, teenagers, and men and women who lovingly helped the immigrants at the center. The volunteers cooked meals, bagged dry milk, handed out toiletries and necessities, and interacted with each immigrant.

Tuesday morning the sisters wasted no time in providing service — Dian in pharmacy and Anna Marie in dispensing clothing.

On Wednesday, the sisters were able to spend a short period of time with Sandra, a coordinator on duty from Catholic Charities who provided them with contact information for other agencies in the area. This would give the team a clearer picture of educational opportunities for a possible future Border Experience.

Sandra asked the two to run some errands which included purchasing bags to be used by the families, bottles and sippy cups.

On Thursday they departed, but spent the morning visiting the local Catholic church and purchasing a few needed items for the center at a local store.

Sister Dian said that as they walked to the center to deliver them, they saw Sister Norma Pimentel, a Missionary of Jesus Sister, who serves as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. When Sisters Anna Marie and Dian commented that younger volunteers might be more of an asset to the center, Sister Norma reminded them that all are needed, and wisdom and age is so necessary and important to the people being served.

“It was a gift to be in the presence of so many generous and loving men and women as we walked among our brothers and sisters from throughout Central America and Mexico. The need for volunteers at the border is great.”

For more information on volunteering at the Catholic Charities Respite Center visit their website at

While we were waiting at the McAllen Airport for our ride to Dallas, we met two families who had been at the Center the previous day. Both families were on the plane with us to Dallas and were taking a connecting flight to Charlotte and to Baltimore to be united with family members. It was good to see them in route to be with their family.
It was a gift to be in the presence of so many generous and loving men and women as we walked among our brothers and sisters from throughout Central America and Mexico. The need for volunteers at the border is great, and something tells us that we will see McAllen again in the very near future. We are still discussing the possibility of planning a Border Experience in McAllen in 2022, but no definite decision has been made.

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