Creating a greener lifestyle

October 25, 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.


Sister Marcia Allen’s work featured in international book of essays

October 22, 2021 by  

Journeying with Joseph is a new collection of Josephite essays created especially to commemorate the Year of St. Joseph. It was compiled by editor Mary Cresp, RSJ.

Sister Marcia Allen, CSJ, was contacted in the spring to be a contributor to the book. Her chapter entited, Joseph, the Cordial Servant, is the third chapter featured in the section entitled, Part One: Joseph’s Foundational Inspiration.

Editor Mary Cresp, RSJ, is a Sister of St. Joseph from South Australia.

“It’s a book of essays about the Sisters of St. Joseph in Australia and it’s more focused on the Australian experience of St. Joseph,” Sister Marcia said.

“The editor asked me if I would do a chapter on the spirit and spirituality of the Community,” Sister Marcia said. “I agreed to do that. As it turns out, I’m the only person in the U.S. who actually wrote for the book — everyone else is a member of their Community in Australia. They call themselves the Religious of St. Joseph rather than Sisters of St. Joseph. So they are RSJs instead of CSJs.”

However, they are related to the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“They are like a second generation of the sisters of St. Joseph as they don’t come from Le Puy, France, but they do come from France through a priest who was taught by Sisters of St. Joseph. Julian Woods was impressed by what he experienced, he invited them to Australia as missionaries where he co-founded a community with Sister Mary McKillop,” Sister Marcia explained.

She was later canonized a saint.

Sister Marcia met Sister Mary in 2003 when she came to Concordia to attend the very first Bearers of the Tradition Institute.

“She came because she wanted to know if the Religious of St. Joseph were related to the Sisters of St. Joseph in the U.S. and the rest of the world,” Sister Marcia said. “So she started here and she went to every archives in the United States and Canada. Then she ended up going to South America and Europe visiting all these congregations of St. Joseph. She ended up by saying ‘yes we are related’ to Sisters of St. Joseph.”

“Then she wrote a book called The Joseph Movement, an excellent, excellent book. This book was her next endeavor — gathering a group of essays together that explain the Sisters of St. Joseph of Australia. And she asked me to write for the book on the spirituality that goes with it.”

Sister Marcia said she found the other essays interesting reading as they explore the sisters’ work in Australia, New Zealand, Peru and East Timor.

“They are educators for the most part, but they do a lot of pastoral work as well,” she said.

A brief review by Patrick O’Regan, DD, Catholic Archbishop of Adelaine, reads, “It is often said that actions speak louder than words.’ In the case of St. Joseph this is so true. With no recorded utterances in the Scriptures, we have only to rely on his deeds. Journeying with Joseph is a timely publication not only for the Year of St. Joseph, but one which allows us to delve more deeply into how we might draw inspiration from him to follow more closely the path of being a missionary Disciple in a world deeply affected by Covid. The net is cast well and wide when you survey the topics contained in this book, and these show that while St. Joseph may not have spoken any words, his deeds were, and are, profound.”

A website for purchasing the book is available at

It also is available on most American book store websites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Sister Philonise professes first vows

October 21, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia welcomed a new member as Sister Philonise Keithley fulfilled a life-long dream and professed first vows as a canonical sister on Oct. 9 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Sister Philonise might not have taken the expected road to become a sister, but she always knew, since she was just seven years old, that she wanted to make that commitment.

Sister Philonise grew up on the south side of Chicago, and attended Catholic schools her entire life. That’s where she first met a sister.

“My first-grade teacher was so kind, and patient. She played with us. She taught us about everything from Mass to confessions,” she said. “I knew this was my calling even at that age.”

Sister Philonise continued on in Catholic schools and attended a Catholic Dominican college. She felt a calling to the Dominicans and to living a life of service, but she knew then it wasn’t the right time for her.

“Then life happened,” she laughed.

But she said that when she spent time with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and experienced how they treated and embraced each other, she was immediately hooked.

Now that she’s spent years in the formation process, and made a move to Kansas, she is more than ready for the next step in her spiritual journey.

“I haven’t had a day of regret,” Sister Philonise said.

“I’ve always been drawn to working with the elderly. That’s my passion. Especially people suffering with dementia,” she said.

“I’m always interested in hearing people’s stories. I’m always all ears.”

Currently, Sister Philonise is located in Hoxie, Kansas, where she, along with Sister Denise Schmitz, practice their ministry in the small western Kansas community. They moved to Hoxie in July of 2021. Previously they both worked out of Manna House of Prayer in Concordia. They call the Hoxie ministry “Manna House West.”

It’s a big change from Chicago.

“But I love it. The people have been so welcoming,” she said.

“I enjoy having the flexibility to be present in people’s lives. Whether it is helping with a blood drive, at the thrift store … there is so much to do in the community,” she said.

In her free time, Sister Philonise enjoys reading, walking and crocheting.

“Crochet seems to open my mind. I use it in prayer,” she said.

The theme of the ceremony was “There is a sacred thread connecting us to one another.”

A fitting motto for this sister with a talent for working with both people and yarn.

Sen. Elaine Bowers to be guest reader at Reading with Friends

October 21, 2021 by  

Kansas Sen. Elaine Bowers will be the guest reader for the November Reading with Friends at Neighbor to Neighbor. The event will be both in person and as a Facebook Live event at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 12.

November’s book will be “The Grumpy Monkey.” The hilarious #1 New York Times bestselling picture book about a chimpanzee in a very bad mood is perfect for young children learning how to deal with confusing feelings, especially during the transition of going back to school or preschool.

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, Nov. 12. 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

Sisters are Grand Marshals at Fall Fest

October 18, 2021 by  

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia were honored this fall by being named the Grand Marshals of the 2021 Concordia Fall Fest.

Fall Fest is an annual celebration that takes place in September. It is a fun-packed weekend of events, booths, live entertainment and delicious food in the downtown area of Concordia. According to the Concordia Chamber of Commerce, the event brings in over 6,000 visitors.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, president, and Sister Mary Jo Thummel, vice president, led the way as the named co-Grand Marshals in a decorated golf cart driven by Sister Jan McCormick. They were followed by a pickup driven by Sister Lorren Harbin filled with sisters in the cab and the back, and surrounded by a large group of sisters walking along carrying banners, waving to the crowd and tossing candy to children.

The event was blessed with perfect fall weather. After the parade, many sisters stayed downtown to enjoy the booths and activities, while others helped out at the Immigration Committee booth, the Neighbor to Neighbor Open House and the first annual Sister Ramona Medina Memorial Art Show.

“We were honored to be the Grand Marshals for the Fall Fest parade. As Concordia concluded celebrating its 150th birthday, it was a good time to reflect on our relationship with the city through our 137 years here,” Sister Jean said. “It has been a wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship. We are proud to call Concordia ‘home’!”

In selecting the sisters as Grand Marshals, the Chamber of Commerce noted that it was appropriate as the city celebrated its sesquicentennial year as the Sisters of St. Joseph have been in Concordia for 137 of those years, making it their home in 1884.

A chamber spokesman said, “Over the years, the Sisters of St. Joseph have generously given their time, talents and other resources to the community. They have been pillars in the community through the hospital, nursing home, school, Manna House of Prayer, Helping Hands food pantry, Neighbor to Neighbor, the community garden, and so much more. The Concordia Chamber of Commerce thanks the Sisters of St. Joseph for all they have done and continue to do for the community.”

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.

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.

From Russia With Love — The Story of the Keller Sisters

May 16, 2021 by  

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.

Sister Susan with some of her creations.

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“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.”

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