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 https://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/HumanitarianRespiteCenter.shtml

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.

Sisters to host Border Immersion project Sept. 5-12

July 27, 2021 by  

Creating a greener lifestyle

July 19, 2021 by  

Even the smallest acts can be transformative… Consider any (or all) of these, to create a greener lifestyle:

  1. Stop junk mail, or at least recycle it.
  2. Use low-flow faucets and toilets.
  3. Turn your water heater down.
  4. Ask local utility companies (or other groups) for conservation information.
  5. Use latex rather than oil-based paint. Dispose of paint without threatening groundwater.
  6. Support local efforts to recycle tires.
  7. Buy cars that get the best mileage. Get regular tune ups and rotate and balance tires every 8000 miles.
  8. Clean and replace air filters on vehicles and on air conditioners regularly.
  9. Clean and keep in optimal condition all appliances, especially freezers and refrigerators.
  10. Wash your car yourself, from a bucket.
  11. Stop using moth balls, oven cleaners, air fresheners and permanent ink markers that are harmful to your respiratory system.
  12. Don’t top off the tank.
  13. Replace lawns with stonework and drought resistant plants. If you keep a lawn don’t cut it shorter than 2 inches, and leave grass cuttings on it as a natural fertilizer. Water in the early morning, and don’t water the sidewalk.
  14. Make sure your auto oil is recycled.
  15. Turn down the heat at the office when closed, or at home in unused areas, or when away for more than a day.
  16. Have an energy audit.
  17. Never burn trash.
  18. Properly dispose of all hazardous wastes or materials. Stop using poisons.
  19. Don’t buy anything that cost an endangered species animal its life.
  20. Don’t buy new when you can buy a good product used. Don’t throw away something that still works. Keep using it or pass it along.
  21. Before purchasing, ask, “Is this a want or a need?”
  22. Eat low on the food chain, organic if possible. Avoid GMOs. Eat at home as much as possible, and don’t waste.
  23. Turn off the water during the shower while using hair products. Don’t leave water running while shaving.
  24. Don’t use toxic products on yourself, your pets, your home or your land.
  25. Create a backyard wildlife refuge, bird sanctuary and/or vegetable garden.
  26. Consider solar panels or setting up a gray water system.
  27. Check seals on windows and doors. Repair and use weatherstripping.
  28. Let your dishes air-dry rather than using the drying cycle on the dishwasher.
  29. Ask leaders to take action on climate change.
  30. Avoid air travel when possible.
  31. Completely unplug from technology at least one day/month.
  32. Check companies’ green practices before investing in their stock.
  33. Take a daily walk, run, or bike ride in nature, or at least sit out on your porch and enjoy it.
  34. Recycle and up-cycle everything possible, rather than adding to the landfill.
  35. Become conversant in the economics, politics and science that can save creation.

FINALLY, Teach and encourage others to live ecologically respectful lifestyles.

 

CLICK HERE for more from the Ecological Integrity Committee.

To learn more about ecological integrity, or to offer ideas, contact Sister Judy Stephens at 785-243-2149 or jstephens@csjkansas.org.

Spaghetti Dinner impossible?

May 16, 2021 by  

It sounded like an impossible task. Take the beloved annual Motherhouse Spaghetti Dinner — along with the silent auction and the raffle, and turn it into a drive-thru and online event. However, after having to completely cancel the dinner and activities last spring, the Development Team, Leadership and Food Services staff knew that they had to step up to the challenge …. and make it: Spaghetti Dinner Possible!

And thanks to the overwhelming support and generosity of our Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia donors and supporters, our March 21 event WAS possible! And not just possible, a success!

Assistant Development Director Ambria Gilliland spearheaded the effort and was amazed by the community response.

“This year’s dinner looked a bit different, but it was so much fun. I’m grateful for everyone’s patience with us as we adapted to all the changes,” Gilliland said.

Some of the differences?
• This year the dinner was completely done by pre-orders.
• The dinner was done only as a drive-thru and carry-out.
• The usual silent auction instead was done as an online auction on the Hansen Online Auction website out of Beloit.
• We still sold raffle tickets, both in advance and that day, and honored any tickets purchased the previous year that was canceled. However, the drawing was done on a Facebook Live video later that afternoon.
• New Food Service Manager Jamie Balthazor had to plan for not just her first Spaghetti Dinner — but also how to prep, package and prepare for a dinner that would still be delicious after transport.
• There was a drive-thru bake sale table at the event.
• There were no grab bags this year. (But look for the grab bags to return in a new game at our upcoming garage sale.)
• And sadly, there was no way to invite people inside to sit and chat with the sisters this year due to Covid restrictions. However, many of the sisters came out to help direct traffic, take food to cars or just wave at the visitors from a safe distance.
“I was so pleased with the outcome of the dinner. It was so nice to see everyone if only for a few minutes,” Gilliland said. “We were excited to see several new faces come through the drive-thru. And our sisters had a blast waving at all of our new and familiar friends.”
Numbers from Balthazor in food services showed:
• 370 meals served
• 40 pounds of pasta prepared
• 30 pounds of hamburger used
• 385 breadsticks baked
• 385 ice cream cups served

Gilliland said that support for the auction, raffle tickets and general donations also increased, with an 83 percent increase in raffle tickets sold, and 84 percent increase in auction bids and a 568 percent increase in donations.

“I want to give a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported this event through meal tickets, raffle tickets, donations and prayers. It’s so heartwarming to see everyone come together,” Gilliland said.

This year’s raffle ticket winners were:
Monster Swing: Katy Brown
Quilt: Carolyn Schmitt
Grill: Carla Moore
$200 Visa Gift Card: Joyce Dinges
$100 Cash Prizes: Kelsey Koster, Kenton LeBlanc and Madlyn and Dale Swenson
$200 Cash Prizes: Delores Aytes and Cindy Dunlap
$500 Cash Prize: Father Jim Hoover

The bake sale also was a success.

“We sold out within the first hour! When we ran out of food, we sold cook books!” Sister Betty Suther said. “We sold all the pies we had made within the first 5 minutes. Everyone was in a good mood. Lots of fun!”
Sister Denise Schmitz also braved the windy morning to help with the bake sale.

“What a day of meeting and greeting folks who came out for the Spaghetti Dinner and bake sale! It was a beautiful way for me to have a short conversation and of saying thank you for their support of the CSJ of Concordia. Wonderful folks and we are so blessed,” Schmitz said. “Many sisters donated their time and talent making the baked goods. Even the wind couldn’t keep down the great conversations, fun and laughter.”

Thank you again for your generous support. We hope you had fun, and hopefully we’ll be able to invite you inside the Motherhouse for our Spaghetti Dinner next year!

From Russia With Love — The Story of the Keller Sisters

May 16, 2021 by  

Written by SISTER FRANCESCA KELLER
Compiled by TOM KELLER

Magdaline Keller was born, the first child of Peter and Mary Volk Keller, on Dec. 30, 1898, in the German town of Bezilvoka in southern Russia near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Clementine Keller was born in Russia, Sept. 25, 1906. She was the third girl in the family. Both parents of Magdaline and Clementine were born in Russia, along with their first six children. In 1908, the family came to the United States settling in Collyer, Kansas. Magdaline was 10 years of age and Clementine was 2.

Ten years after arriving in the United States, Magdaline entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, at the age of 20 and was given the name Sister Mary Francesca. In 1922, at the age of 15, Clementine also entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Renilda. In 1938, at the age of 21, Mary Keller, their younger sister, entered the congregation and was Sister Mary Antoniens Keller and later, Sister Mary Keller.

Sisters Francesca and Renilda shared memories of their time in Russia and their travels to the United States. Recently, Sister Francesca and Renilda’s cousin, Tom Keller, completed the genealogy of the family and sent a copy for the archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. In the genealogy, the story of the sisters’ family leaving Russia and traveling to the United States was included. In one of the sister’s files, it is written that “the migration was a response to Catherine the Great’s 1763 offer of free land, freedom of religion and freedom from taxes and military service. But when some of these freedoms were abrogated, many people moved to America.”
Sister Francesca recalled the long tiresome, seven-day voyage on the big steamship, “Kaiser Wilhelm II”. They settled at Collyer, Kansas, in the heart of the rich wheat land of Kansas. Eight more children were born there, bringing the total to 14 children.

She spoke of her life in Russia, her memories and where they lived and then began her story of her father, Peter Keller and family, emigrating to the United States. He was the first one in the Keller family to leave and so was her mother from her side of the family (Volk). Three years later, Francesca and Renilda’s uncles Tony and John, along with their families, migrated to America as well, leaving Russia because of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Sister Francesca wrote, “In the spring of 1908, Dad (Peter Keller) decided to migrate to America. This was a difficult step to take, because America was so far away. It took much preparation. The whole family had to go to Odessa to have our eyes examined. Dad had to go across one corner of the Black Sea to Nikolaiev to get our passports. We had to sell everything we had except the feathers, which we took along, and our clothes of course. Dad said if we dress like Americans we won’t have a hard time.

“Some said we should have an agent to bring us over like many of them did, but Dad said we will find our way without one. We finally sold everything we had to Uncle Valentine including our home place, 12 horses, 10 cows, pigs, poultry, machinery, wagons and our carriage. If I remember right, he paid us $12,600 for everything we owned.

“We decided to go by rail as far as Germany then take the ship, instead of taking a ship in Odessa across the Black and Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. That would have put us on the water all the way. Everything was packed into two big trunks made out of reeds, also a smaller one in which we kept the food. The feathers were packed into two big strong mattress covers that had served as mattresses on our beds. There were well marked in red paint with our names.

“The last day all our relatives, on both sides, including Grandma Volk, went to Razdelnia from which place we took the train. They all had supper together as a farewell meal. I came from Odessa with a friend of ours. When our eyes were examined, I was the only one with white spots on my eyelids called trachoma, so I had an operation to remove them. I was blindfolded for about a week and the good people I stayed with took me to the doctor every day. I came out fine even if my eyes were still a bit red.

“We visited around until midnight when the Flier train came through. Everybody seemed so sad and were crying when we left. They all stood by the train close to the window where we looked at them for the last time. Mom was inside and Grandmother on the outside and both of them wept bitterly. Dad was out on the platform waving his white handkerchief at them until they could no longer see us. As young as I was, this was one of the saddest times of my life and I am sure the folks would have said the same. The next morning, I remember Mom saying, ‘Now we are far from home,’ and she wept again.

“We rode on to Warsaw, Poland, which at that time was still under Russian rule. It was a beautiful city, what we could see of it. There were so many passenger trains and the cars were all different colors which impressed me. We stopped for some time then went on until we reached the German border where we had to get off and take another train. Before they let us on the train, they examined us, especially our eyes. We all passed.

“We rode on until we reached Berlin, what an immense city to see. We finally stopped on the west side of it and changed trains. On the way, we saw so many tall and beautiful buildings, even Kaiser Wilhelm II’s mansion. From Berlin, we went to Bremen. We had to wait around there for a couple days, as we came too soon. We all knew what the ship would look like as it had been advertised in Odessa on several big windows. It was the largest ship that then sailed the Atlantic. It had four big funnels and several stories with two big decks, one in front and the other in the back. The name of it was ‘Kaiser Wilhelm II’ which was written in large letters on the outside. It belonged to the North German Loyd Company.

“We again boarded a train and rode about an hour to get to the harbor where the ship was docked. The harbor was called ‘Bremerhaven.’ While the people got on, the orchestra played. It took quite a while to get the people and the freight on board. We were taken to the hold under the deck with a lot of people as we were traveling third class which we were told was a good way to go. Dad didn’t like the looks of this so he asked one of the lads if we could have something a bit more private. Yes, on the same floor of the deck there were two rooms, a small one for Mrs. Kraft, who was traveling with us, and a large one for us. This was fine as all our meals were served there too, so we had real privacy. It cost Dad 75 marks extra for these rooms.

“Finally, we were on our way, down the English Channel and we stopped at Dover, I believe, and took on more people and freight. Then on to France. We did the same as in England. After we sailed awhile, a small ship brought some more passengers and their baggage. It didn’t take us quite seven days to cross the Atlantic. We had four days of terrible weather, the worst in months, but the rest of the time it was nice. One evening they had a big dance on deck. All of our family except Dad and myself, including Mrs. Kraft, got sea sick. Dad took me to the boiler room where the engines were. That was quite an experience. They also had a map down there which had flags pinned on it showing where we were. Several times we passed ships which were going the other direction to Europe and people would wave at each other from the deck.

“Our last day aboard was beautiful. We sailed into the New York harbor which had many ships in it. We finally got to our dock with the help of several tug boats. This was about 6 p.m. All first and second class passengers unloaded right away. The third class had to wait until next morning because we had to be taken to Ellis Island to be examined again. I forgot to mention when we passed the Statue of Liberty, Dad said, ‘That must be a statue of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America.’

“At Ellis Island, they again looked at our eyes as well as the rest of our being. From there, we went to a big depot, purchased our tickets and some food to head on West. We didn’t know how to pronounce Collyer, so every time we changed trains. Dad pulled out his long ticket from New York to Collyer and the conductor took a piece off the ticket.

“We left New York at midnight and the next morning went through some pretty hilly country and Dad said, ‘If all America is like this I won’t stay long.’ However, when we got into Indiana and Illinois, it looked quite nice and much better. We went through Missouri at night and got into Kansas City in the morning. About 10 a.m., we rode through beautiful Kansas wheat fields for miles and miles. This was on Saturday, the 23rd of May. When we got to Victoria, quite a number of people got off.

“They came from the Volga in Russia. Many of their relatives were there to meet them. This must have been around 6 p.m. We finally got to Collyer, Kansas, around 10 p.m. and nobody was there to meet us. Dad had sent a telegram from Chicago to the Millers, but the agent was new, didn’t know who they were, so he didn’t bother. While we were there talking and wondering what to do, a young lad about 11 years old came to us and asked who we were looking for. We told him Franz Miller. He said, ‘They live just a short way across the railroad track and I’ll be glad to take you there.’

“It was about a quarter of a mile to the Miller house. We settled in a two-room house right next to the Millers, which belonged to them, until we got our own place later on about 5 miles south of Collyer. Dad helped the Millers with their wheat harvest which was very good that year.

We bought 160 acres of land without any improvements on it for $17 an acre. We had to fence in the 30 acres of pasture, make a well, and build a barn and house. We built the barn and lived in it until the house was ready. Our house was built of lumber and was 161’ x 321’ with just two large rooms. We moved in before it was completed because it got too cold in the barn. The barn was not all that tightly built and we woke up one morning with a bit of snow on us.

“In 1911, we got word that Uncle Tony Keller and Uncle John Keller wanted to migrate over here. They arrived in June of that year and what a welcome and rejoicing there was! There were now 30 Keller children in all.
The Keller brothers farmed as much as they could, but we didn’t get much of a crop the first year, and the second wasn’t much better. In 1912, we had so much snow that the roads were all closed but that did produce a better crop. Those were hard times and we even had to buy our seed wheat one year. We just couldn’t make much of a go of the farm, no crops, no feed for the stock. A number of horses died due to lack of feed. “Uncle Tony started to build a home with stone east of us. Time passed and we didn’t get any crops, so he gave it up. One year, the grasshoppers ate everything, so there was always something it seems. No wonder they gave up. Living that close together had its drawbacks, but I always enjoyed it.

“In the fall of 1912, Dad decided to go to Russia. He had asked Grandma Volk if he could come over and sell Mother’s inheritance and she said to come ahead. He left home right after our Barbara was born on Oct. 28, 1912. He had also gotten permission from Aunt Barbara’s children in Hague, North Dakota, to sell their inheritance that Grandfather Keller left them. It took some time to find a buyer and there were further delays, sending paper back and forth that our mother had to sign. He sold the land and sent them the money, and they would have lost it when the Revolution came. Dad got $3,000 for Mother’s property. We had such hard times in those days, so it really came in handy.

Dad visited all of his folks. He stayed with Aunt Mary. He finally came home in April of 1913 and we Kellers were all together south of Collyer in those days.

 

 

Living a Life of Giving

April 26, 2021 by  

Sister Susan Stoeber, a life-long career nurse, may have retired from nursing … but she hasn’t retired from helping people and bringing joy to people’s lives.

Sister Susan is well-known in the area from her 45 years as a nurse at the local hospital, now known as Cloud County Health Center, in Concordia. But she hasn’t let retirement from her career slow her down from giving back to the community and making people happy.

These days she works a few days at the Nazareth Motherhouse, maintaining a supply center of over-the-counter medications, personal hygiene supplies and other basic necessities and special requests for the sisters. She said she followed in the footsteps of Sister Charlotte Lutgen, also a retired nurse, who took care of purchasing and distributing supplies for the sisters for years. When Sister Charlotte retired, Sister Susan took over in about 2017.

“I do shopping, restocking and distributing. The sisters fill out slips and then I pick up the orders,” Sister Susan said. “Sister Charlotte continued to help as long as she could.”
But many people know Sister Susan for what she does when she’s not working — crocheting whimsical animals that are always in demand.
Starti

Sister Susan with some of her creations.

ng out
“I worked 45 years at the hospital here in town (Concordia). After graduation I started here and I stayed here,” Sister Susan said. “When I started as a nurse we didn’t have an intensive care unit, so I worked the MedSurg floor. That’s short for Medical Surgical floor. I graduated in 1970, and we got our Intensive Care Unit on the third floor in 1972 or ‘73, and then I was educated for that and that’s where I worked the entire time until things changed with technology and I started working between the two.”

She said she was always excited about medical advancements.

“We were a small hospital, but some of the new doctors there started new procedures, and that was exciting, and we got a lot of post surgical patients,” she said. “I saw a lot of changes between now and then.”

Retirement was a change.

“I miss it, that was all I knew.”

She said she had hoped to make it 50 years in her career, but with the changes in computer requirements it became too difficult to take care of patients and handle the technology.

Crocheting to help others

Another way Sister Susan is known in the area is for her crocheted animals. Thanks to her roommates she had as a nurse in Concordia, she learned to crochet and advance her skills.

Sister Susan lived with Sister Leah Smith and Sister Jackie Kircher since the 1980s. They are both now deceased.

Sister Leah taught her how to crochet and how to make rosaries — both of which she continues to do. Some of her rosaries and many of her stuffed animals can be found in the Nazareth Motherhouse Gift Shop.

“It keeps me busy. I have to be busy all the time,” she said.

Sister Susan said she started out finding patterns on Pinterest. If it is something simple like a small teddy bear she’s made before, she can make one in a day or two. If it is more complicated … well that depends.

“Now if it’s a new pattern and big, it can take a long time,” she pulled out an intricate, large stuffed alpaca. “This took me forever. The first try was real difficult. The second one I tried probably took me a week to make.”

Other popular designs she has made were baskets with baby dolls with a full wardrobe of crocheted clothes, various species of dinosaurs, and a crocheted ‘Baby Yoda.’
Her designs are usually at the Motherhouse Gift Shop, but she’s also shared them with Neighbor to Neighbor for their annual Holiday Boutique.

“I make a lot for N2N. Last year we had a little truck that one of the guys did and I made all of the little animals that went in the back.”

She has a dinosaur grouping planned for the next time N2N can host one of their events in person.

Sister Susan also does custom orders, including a group of 15 honey bees for a girls’ sports team.

“One girl asked me if I’d ever made a Baby Yoda. I said, no, but if I can find a pattern I will. So I made her a Baby Yoda,” she said. “If they come up to me and make a request I will try to do it.”

Her Baby Yodas have been a best seller in the gift shop and at the annual plant sale.

She also donates her work to charity.

“I called the Cloud County Resource Center one year and asked if she’d want a bunch of the small teddy bears and she was tickled pink. I took them two tubs of stuff to give to their Christmas programs,” she said. “This year I asked and they weren’t doing it due to Covid, so I took them to Neighbor to Neighbor and they gave it to all the kids for their Christmas packages.”

Currently she’s working on a bunch of teddy bears for a group in Lindsborg that is sending baskets to kids in need overseas.

Managing supplies

When she’s not crocheting, or helping out driving sisters to appointments, she manages the supplies. She said she tries to keep the shopping to once a week, but there has been more demand since more sisters have returned to the Motherhouse.

But the job has its benefits.

“The best thing about coming here and having this position is getting to know the sisters, because, as a nurse, you don’t get involved in the Motherhouse stuff a lot. I didn’t even come to a lot of the meetings, because of work. So getting to know the older sisters personally means a lot to me,” she said. “And I think that is the best part about this job.”

Prayers on Wheels

April 26, 2021 by  

Sister Janet LeDuc enjoys a fulfilling, yet difficult, ministry as a Hospice minister for Meadowlark Hospice, headquartered in Clay Center, Kansas.

“I love what I do. My goal, if I can do nothing else, I’d like to be a healing presence of compassion and care that can let people know that God loves them very much on their journey. And he is truly with them,” Sister Janet said.

Sister Janet has devoted her life to a ministry in health care. She entered the health care profession as a nurse in 1968, and became a certified hospital chaplain in 1978.

“And then I went back to study holistic health. In that experience I really found the love for working with the aging, the sick and the dying,” Sister Janet said. “And so over the years, especially since 2003, I’ve been involved with hospice, and I was on a hospice team and a palliative care team.”

Sister Janet was working at Mt. Joseph Senior Village in Concordia taking care of aging sisters, but was volunteering for Meadowlark Hospice. They were interested in her working full time, but at that time it wasn’t possible.
And then, it finally all came together. Sister Janis Wagner told her that she was moving back from Clay Center to the Motherhouse, so her house was available, and no sisters were at Mt. Joseph. She dropped by Meadowlark Hospice to talk to the director and discovered that their staff chaplain had just retired.

“I went home and prayed about it and thought about it and called the leadership team and now here I am in Clay Center,” she said. “I was already attending the Meadowlark meetings and being tested (for Covid). And now I’ve been more fully involved with the team. My heart has always wanted to be in hospice full time.”

Now instead of being in just one facility, Sister Janet often finds herself on the road.

“Instead of walking the halls of the hospital, I’m traveling through the community to be present with people in their homes or facilities, nursing homes, or wherever they are,” she said.

From left: Amy Burr, BSN, RN, and Program Director for Meadowlark Hospice with Sister Janet LeDuc, Hospice Chaplain, and Audie Hartman, RN, and Patient Care Coordinator for Meadowlark Hospice. They are all a part of the team at Meadowlark Hospice, which serves five and a half counties in the north central Kansas area.

Meadowlark Hospice serves multiple counties. She said her longest regular trip is an hour drive. But that can change at a moment’s notice.

“I have an average of eight clients at a time, so I choose when I travel and can do my own scheduling unless they call me unexpectedly. Then I move and I go there right away. And I never know.”

Amy Burr, BSN, RN, and Meadlowlark Hospice Program Director said that Sister Janet’s flexibility and willingness to respond wherever she can makes her a valuable part of the hospice team.

“I don’t think there is any person on our team that is ever hesitant to give Sister Janet a call because they are never fearful of ‘oh will she be able to do it, where is she at?’ You know that when you call Sister Janet and you need a prayer, even if she’s driving down the road where ever. She pulls over and has the prayer or whatever is needed for the patient at that time. If she can get to them she gets to them.”

And even a prayer can make a big impact.

“One instance is a family that she went and prayed with and she just absolutely prayed from her heart what she was feeling for that family. It was so beautiful how she did it, they contacted us and wanted a copy of the prayer that she read,” Burr said.

The only problem was, there was no written prayer. Those were Sister Janet’s thoughts at the time. There was no written prayer to copy.

The role of a hospice chaplain is important, not just to the patients but also to support the hospice staff.

“It’s a very important piece of what hospice is able to provide. We’re not just the sliver of the pie where we go in and make sure that people are comfortable. We’re making sure that people are comfortable on all levels,” Burr said. “And that’s emotional, spiritual, physical and all. And having that piece where people allow her to come into their homes and provide that comfort is very important in end of life journeys.”

Audie Hartman, RN, and Patient Care Coordinator for Meadowlark Hospice, said that having Sister Janet available as a chaplain, even sometimes just by phone, helps. She shared a particular story where she was in the field and was able to reach Sister Janet to assist her via her phone.

“I am not a spiritually strong person. I don’t feel comfortable praying. I don’t even know what to say, so I had that conversation with her at one point and she was able to provide me with resources and some songs I could play at the bedside. So that was very helpful, but then also being there for me that day when I was at a bedside, and it was a Covid unit and the family couldn’t get in.”

“They were on the other side of the window and I was in the room holding her hand. Sister Janet was on the phone praying for her. It was just a very sad, beautiful moment all in the same breath,” Hartman said.

Covid restrictions have caused unique problems for hospice caregivers. Many times they are allowed in the facility, while a family member is not. And sometimes they have to find a new way to communicate completely.

“With Covid at nursing homes — I’ve done it through the windows, I’ve done it through a phone speaker, and that was an effective way, but through a window doesn’t work. I think we all know that,” Sister Janet said. “And one of the greatest crosses to bear is that I may have the privilege to go in, but a family member can’t go in. So I always try to be careful what I say or I don’t say because I feel that one member of the family should be able to go in. I think how it would be if it was my family member. I’m grateful hospice can go in. But how painful that is. That is very painful.”

But acknowledging the family’s pain makes Sister Janet more effective.

“That’s what Janet’s done well during Covid. She’s acknowledged that their families cannot be with their loved ones and be there. She is very much abolishing that idea that hospice care is not just for that patient and she reaches out to those families as well and provides that support, that conversation that they need to have,” Burr said.

And that family support is part of the care that hospice provides. They provide bereavement care for family members for a full year after a death.

Sometimes that means meeting a family member in their home, or meeting them at a restaurant. Whatever makes them comfortable.

And sometimes the care comes in the form of a card.

“I never thought that a card with a prayer in it could be so powerful,” Sister Janet said.

But she was approached by a family member at a funeral who said that the prayer came at a time when they were very low and she will never know how powerful that message was.

“Well that helped me. Never underestimate the power of what you are doing. The power of sending a card,” Sister Janet said. “I just feel this ministry isn’t a ministry in isolation.”

Meadowlark Hospice serves Clay, Cloud, Republic, Washington, Marshall and the western part of Riley County.

The Interdisciplinary Group meets every other week to assess situations and address concerns.

And the end of the meeting, Sister Janet prays over the team.

“At the end of the meeting we have stones and we speak the names of everyone who died to remember them,” Sister Janet said.

“It’s a journey of mystery for all of us. We do it all together,” she said. “I feel honored and very happy to be a part of the hospice team and glad to do what I can.”

“Fire and Passion: The Mysticism of Bette Moslander”

April 24, 2021 by  

A collection of the works of Sister Bette Moslander now available  

“Fire and Passion: the Mysticism of Bette Moslander” is a new book and a labor of love for Sisters Marcia Allen and Gilla Dubé. The book is a compilation of excerpts from Sister Bette’s writings and talks and original chalk drawings from her personal journal, complimented by reflection questions written by Sister Marcia.

Additionally, the interactive book will contain links to a dedicated website that will offer entire texts of her talks, as well as audio and video presentations.

“We chose the title ‘Fire and Passion’ because these words express the essence of her life,” Sister Gilla said. “The fire, the passion and the mysticism — these were the three descriptors that spoke to me of her life and spirit.”

For Sister Marcia, Sister Bette was mentor and friend, going back to when Sister Marcia entered the postulancy and Sister Bette was a novice. Sister Bette, who entered the Community with a Ph.D. in theology, taught the newest members, postulants and novices. From there, Sister Marcia worked closely with her in the 1970s when she was elected vice president of the Community and Sister Bette was elected president. The two then worked together from 1980 to 2010 helping other communities with chapters, assemblies and working as consultants both in the United States and abroad.

“Everywhere she went she was always a speaker in demand,” Sister Marcia said. “She had a very charismatic presentation when she spoke and left a legacy of friendship around the world. And everywhere she spoke, people often would ask, ‘Can we have a copy of that?’”

“She would start out with some sort of a script, and then ab lib, but nobody knew that. After she died I decided that I would collect her written and oral works and see what could be made available,” Sister Marcia said. “What we found dated as far back as the 1950s and she was still teaching in 2010. That’s when I realized the task would be large.”

“I kept trying to figure out how to grasp the essence of what she said, without simply publishing volumes and volumes of words. Finally the idea to take excerpts of her talks and make reflection opportunities began to surface,” Sister Marcia said. “I

discovered that Sister Gilla would be able to edit and organize the material. So we chose the excerpts and I created reflection questions for each excerpt. We then organized the material into themes seen through the lens of mysticism: Discipleship, Love, Creative Energy, Vulnerability, Inclusion. Samples of Sister Bette’s chalk art enhance and illuminate the themes.”

Additional support for the project came from Sister Sherryl White, a Sister of St. Joseph of Baden, PA who created a special website for Sister Bette’s works. “The

website makes it possible for the reader to access an entire talk or text via audio or video or the written word. The reference given for each excerpt enables the reader to go to the website and find the whole text or talk,” Sister Marcia said.

The late Sister Bette Moslander, CSJ

“The guiding principle for me, and I’m sure for Sister Marcia, was the desire to honor the legacy of this woman,” Sister Gilla said. “I came into this not knowing anything about Sister Bette except by reputation, her leadership background and popularity as a speaker. I started reading her work and immediately got swept into her spirit – her fire and passion. What’s fascinating to me is that what she wrote in the 70s into the early 21st century is as relevant and prophetic today as it was then.”

“Our challenge was to present Sister Bette’s spirit and depict a true picture of her life’s commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A critical piece, as least as far as I’m concerned, is not just the excerpts, but the reflection questions that accompany each excerpt. The personal reflection questions that Sister Marcia offers bridge the reader with the meaning and spirit of the text and its implications for today and into the future.”

“We see this book as a personal reflection guide, a retreat guide, a group study guide,” Sister Marcia said. “There are no limits to possibilities in the use of this book. While the majority of her talks were given to women religious of various orders, she also spoke to various lay groups of women and men and priests’ organizations. Any talk she gave illuminated Gospel values and is applicable to any person who believes.

Her main theme was the root of the Christian life and the mission of Jesus. “Christians have to rediscover the soul of the Christian message,” Sister Bette said.

“Sister Bette offered challenge and consolation to individuals looking for hope in ordinary time, and she spoke to that,” Sister Marcia said.

“She was obviously extremely bright, yet what drew me was her tenderness so evident in the texts that I studied. When she wrote, there was such love and such tenderness,” Gilla said. “yet she had a way of challenging the status quo, challenging people not to settle for mediocrity.”

Sister Bette died on March 22, 2015. “Fire and Passion: the Mysticism of Bette Moslander” was printed by Consolidated Printing in Salina, Kansas. To pre-order, use the form below, click our paypal “buy now” link, email retreatcenter@mannahouse.org or call (785) 243-4428. Cost is $19.95. Shipping and handling is $4.50 for one book. Add an additional $1 for each additional book. Please make your check payable to Manna House of Prayer. As soon as they arrive from the printer they will be shipping!

 

 

Consider becoming a CSJ Associate

April 19, 2021 by  

Front Row Left to Right: Mary Denise Carleton, Myrna Shelton, Susan LeDuc, Susan Riordan, Nancy Welsh. Back Row Left to Right: Rosalita Flax, Mary Kenworthy, Amber Charbonneau, Bill Riordan, Dawn Knipp Desbien.

  Sisters of St. Joseph Associates are Christian women and men of all ages and from all walks of life. Associates experience: the joys of participating in small faith communities, a closer association with the Sisters of St. Joseph, growth in their spiritual life, meaningful opportunities to serve God and the dear neighbor, and communal support in living the mission in their daily lives.  If you have this desire we invite you and all Christian men and women to join us in our mission.

If you would like more information or are considering becoming a CSJA contact us at:

•  Catherine Seitz, Seven Dolors , Manhattan, KS  (785) 564-9282                               

•  Gerry Parker, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Salina, KS (785) 577-1650

•  Susan LeDuc, St. John the Baptist (Clyde) Concordia, KS (785) 249-3313

•  Dawn Knipp Desbien, St. Joseph’s, Damar, KS (785) 737-3622

The Associate Team Left to right: Catherine Seitz, Gerry Parker, Susan LeDuc, and Dawn Knipp Desbien.

 

Sisters stand against racism and misogyny

March 25, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, stand in solidarity with the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Leadership Council of Women Religious in condemning racism and misogyny in light of the recent violent acts against the Asian-American and Pacific Island communities.

The evils of racism and misogyny stand in direct opposition to the dignity of human life and our presence as the image and likeness of God in the world.

We pray for healing and peace for all who have been, are, and will be affected by violence due to racism and sexism in our world. And we pray that our God who unites us all will transform our hearts so that we may truly be one in Christ.

 

U.S. Federation Stands Against the Racism and Misogyny Directed Towards the Asian-American and Pacific Island Communities

 

The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph joins the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in condemning racism and sexism in all their harmful forms — whether the violent acts of white supremacists and misogynists or the daily acts of hate and discrimination that diminish us all.

We grieve with the citizens of Atlanta and the Asian-American and Pacific Island communities. We mourn with those who have lost loved ones to hateful acts of violence, with all who live in fear, and with all whose dignity is threatened by xenophobia and chauvinism. We lament the racism and sexism that continue to afflict our communities, threaten neighbors, and denigrate all we hold dear.

We acknowledge our own complicity in institutional racism and sexism. We vow to use our Gospel Charism and mission of unifying love for the healing and transformation of the world to commit ourselves to cleanse our hearts and rid our land of these twin evils. We promise to continue to use our collective voice and energy to build God’s beloved community where all are one.

To learn more about this issue and how to get involved, we encourage you to visit these organizations:

  • Asian American Advancing Justice- Atlanta:  a nonprofit legal advocacy group protecting the rights of Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and the Southeast
  • AAPI Women Lead and #ImReady Movement: supports AAPI women and girls with workshops and and research, and promotes movements such as #ImReady, which addresses issues like gender-based and racial discrimination and sexual harassment in the community
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: a national organization, founded in 1974, working to protect and promote civil rights for Asian-Americans

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