Reading with Friends returns as a Facebook live event for January

January 4, 2021 by  

Reading with Friends at Neighbor to Neighbor will return in January as a Facebook Live event at 10 a.m. Jan. 8.

January’s book will be “A Loud Winter’s Nap” written and illustrated by Katy Hudson. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of ‘Tortoise’ who doesn’t like change and just wants to find a quiet place to nap — but his friends have other ideas.

Instead of coming to Neighbor to Neighbor as usual, just go to the Neighbor to Neighbor Facebook page to tune in for the story with guest reader Lindsay Metcalf. Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8. The video will stay on the Facebook page after the reading for anyone to enjoy later in case they can’t make it online 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 ahead of time (one per family).

“Lindsay is a reader that they won’t want to miss,” Sister Missy said. “We will have books and snacks available to pick up starting Jan. 6, in case the children would like to follow along in their own book as Lindsay reads.”

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.

Generous donors fund new washers and dryers for Neighbor to Neighbor

December 31, 2020 by  

Neighbor to Neighbor received an early Christmas gift when two sets of new washers and dryers were installed on Dec. 21. Thanks to the work of generous donors, the guests at Neighbor to Neighbor will be well served for years to come.

Why does Neighbor to Neighbor need laundry services?

“Since Neighbor to Neighbor began, one of the many services we offer is the availability of free washers and dryers for our women. The machines we had have served everyone well for 12 years. They are almost always used the entire day on every day we are open,” said Sister Missy Ljungdahl, director of Neighbor to Neighbor. “Women are trying to budget their money and make ends meet. This is one way we can help them with this matter.”

Josh Duvall moves one of the units into the laundry room.

This year, their current laundry equipment was showing signs of years of wear.

“We knew it was getting close to time to replace the machines and wanted to have things in place before ‘it was too late.’ When we were evaluating our needs, we knew the washers and dryers would need to be on top of the list,” Sister Missy said. “In visiting with Ambria Gilliland in the Development Office I mentioned that we would be needing new washers and dryers in the near future.”  

She didn’t realize how near that future would be.

“Within a couple weeks, I received a call from a dear friend of the Community, Connie Tavanis. Connie was calling from Massachusetts saying that she and Mary DeCramer were getting the funding for new machines and they would be here soon,” Sister Missy said.

“When I read that Neighbor to Neighbor needed to replace their worn-out washers and dryers I thought that my ‘band’ and I could step up to the plate and help raise the money to replace them,” Tavanis said.

A band is the name for a group of women who enter into religious life during the same year. She was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia’s band of 1964.

“We reached out to our families and friends to help us make this happen. Others who read the article in ‘The Messenger’ joined us, and before you knew it we had collected enough to buy two sets of top-of-the-line appliances,” Tavanis said. “I guess we all can relate to how important having clean clothes are to us and those we love. Thank you sisters for all your important work you do in the lives of all those who struggle. Your kindness and caring teaches all of us what is important … loving one another.”

From there, Sister Jan McCormick, Gilliland and Laura Hansen, all in the sisters’ Development Office, worked with Greg Gallagher, Motherhouse property administrator, to make the new washers and dryers a reality. And despite problems purchasing large appliances during supply chain disruptions due to Covid-19, they were able to take the donations and purchase the perfect sets.

“Greg did some research and found a set that we thought would be a good replacement. However, with many manufacturers shut down because of Covid, the units we wanted were no longer in stock. After much more research, another option was found. It was a bit more money than we had originally planned but we went ahead with the purchase,” Gilliland said. “After adding up all the donations received, I was astonished to discover that the amount raised was the exact amount of the purchase! Down to the dollar!”

Gilliland couldn’t wait to let Sister Missy know the good news.

N2N Director Missy Ljungdahl looks on as Justin LeDuc and Brad Snyder move a washer/dryer unit into Neighbor to Neighbor.

“Sister Missy was overjoyed when I told her. She mentioned that Sister Christella Buser always used to say that during Advent, God sends us little gifts. This was certainly an Advent gift!” Gilliland said. “We are all just so grateful for everyone’s support of this project. Clean clothes are something that many of us take for granted but not everyone has the luxury. I have to give a special thank you to Connie Tavanis, who was so touched by this project, that she rounded up her former band members and friends and asked them all to contribute. I know without a doubt, that the success of this project is due mostly to her.”

Maintenance staff at the Motherhouse installed the units on Dec. 21, just before the holidays.

“The machines were installed and within hours they had already been put to good use,” Sister Missy said. “Our women are happy to be able to have these laundry services. One woman has said that the money she would have to use at the laundromat is money she has put away for Christmas. Everyone has been gifted this year.”

Sister Missy wanted to again thank everyone who made this happen for the women of Neighbor to Neighbor.

“There are so many people to thank for the gift of the washers and dryers. Surely there will be some left out and for that I apologize,” Sister Missy said. “But let me try: Sisters Ramona, Jean and Pat, and Myrna Shelton for thinking up Neighbor to Neighbor and keeping it a welcoming place; Our development and communications offices for getting the word out of our needs; Greg Gallagher and our maintenance crew for purchasing and installing the machines; Connie Tavanis and Mary DeCramer for getting so many people involved with monetary gifts and letting them know about our work; and F&A Food Sales, here in Concordia, for donating laundry soap and bleach. We thank God for the privilege of being able to be here for the women and children of Concordia.”

Women can schedule a time to do laundry once a week at Neighbor to Neighbor.

“Please call if you need this service and we can put you on the calendar,” Sister Missy said. “We do have laundry detergent for your use. Finally, we ask that if you are doing your laundry, that you stay in the building.”

Neighbor to Neighbor is located at 103 E. Sixth St. in Concordia. It is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph. For more information, call 785-262-4215 or email

“These washers and dryers really are a blessing to so many women in our community,” Gilliland said. “Thank you!”


Manna House plays Santa’s helper with United Way of the Plains

December 16, 2020 by  

Manna House of Prayer in Concordia was delighted to play Santa’s helper this Christmas season thanks to United Way of the Plains. United Way of the Plains partnered with Good 360 and Toys for Tots to distribute 14,448 toys and games to children in 27 counties across Kansas, including Cloud County, this holiday season. Manna House was selected to distribute the gifts to families in need in this area.

Susan LeDuc, administrative coordinator of Manna House, along with the help of her husband, Jim, picked up a van-load of 120 toys in Wichita last week and brought them back to Manna House where the Sisters of St. Joseph sorted them into age groups and then wrapped many of the gifts. Then it was time to distribute to families that had fallen into the gaps between the other community relief programs.

“The families that were selected were mostly families with several children. We were careful to pick families who had not signed up for Christmas baskets or the Angel Tree,” LeDuc said. “Covid has caused them financial burdens. Almost every family is working or had been. Many of them are single parent families.”

LeDuc said that one mother told her they had been in quarantine and she had been unable to get any gifts. Then she said it didn’t matter because, “She didn’t have any money anyway.”

“Collaborations like this allow us to stretch donated dollars to help meet the tangible needs of non profits and the people they serve,” said Mark Stump, director of direct services for United Way of the Plains. “Last year we distributed more than $2 million worth of donated goods to 325 Kansas nonprofits.”

Through their Give Items of Value (GIV) warehouse, United Way of the Plains has the ability to accept donations from corporate partners and distribute them to nonprofits at no cost, helping them lower overhead expenses. United Way of the Plains was one of three sites selected nationally to participate in this pilot program to reach children in communities that do not have a Toys for Tots program. GIV has partnered with United Ways and other nonprofits in select counties to distribute the toys through their local assistance programs.

Donations include games, dolls, basketballs, soccer balls, electronics, stuffed animals and more for boys and girls age 0 to 14+.

“In a year when more families than ever are facing hardships, this program will ease their burdens and bring joy to children across Kansas on Christmas morning,” said Pete Najera, United Way President and CEO.

“I cannot begin to tell you how appreciative these parents were. It made me feel like Santa,” LeDuc said. “I truly was the one receiving the gift.”

“One mother said her 7- and 9-year-old commented that there was only 15 days before Christmas and wondered why there weren’t any presents under the tree yet.  Thanks to these organizations we were able to put presents under the tree this year,” LeDuc said. “Another couple could not thank me enough, just repeated thank you’s all the time they were here picking up the toys. Yesterday, a single mother came during her lunch hour to pick up the toys.  She remarked that the toys were so nice and that they were going to make her two daughters’ Christmas so special.  She cried going out the door.  Several asked, ‘You mean we get more than one gift per child?’  Just an overabundance of gratitude from all of them.”

Manna House of Prayer was established in 1978.  It is owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  Since its inception Manna House has served the poor through its Helping Hands ministry.  The Helping Hands ministry provides emergency financial assistance, temporary housing, and a small food bank.  It is entirely dependent on private donations and grants.


Sisters put pen to paper for Write for Rights

December 10, 2020 by  

Some of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia gathered together on the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 10, to participate in the annual Write for Rights campaign to honor International Human Rights Day.

“Write for Rights is a program of Amnesty International,” said Sister Anna Marie Broxterman, member of the Sisters’ Nonviolence Committee. “They send out letters about specific people who are imprisoned — and particularly in this year — in detention centers, who need to be freed because they have been treated unjustly.”

Sister Anna Marie said that Amnesty International has sent them the addresses of all of the embassies that need to be contacted, or in some cases the director of the detention centers.

“They send us information and their pictures. It tells us something about that person and their situation. They also send a mock letter to the embassy that we can use,” Sister Anna Marie said. “If anyone wants to write their own letter, there are instructions on how to do that effectively.”

Several tables in the Motherhouse dining room were covered with flyers containing the photos and the stories of this year’s group that Amnesty International found to be in urgent need of help. Also on the table was a stack of Motherhouse postcards created by Ambria Gilliland, assistant director of development, that the sisters could use to write directly to the incarcerated or detained person.

“If we want to send a card of solidarity to that person, we have postcards where we can write a brief note just to tell them that we are thinking of them and praying for them,” Sister Anna Marie said.

Another sheet in the room was a list of the persons who have been freed because of the letter writing campaigns.

“For this year, there was just one person from last year to whom we wrote that has had relief,” Sister Anna Marie said. “It also shows people from other years. We have been doing this for several years.”

“Today is Human Rights day, that’s why today is chosen to be the focal point for meetings such as this,” she said. “But I don’t have to have the letters postmarked until Jan. 31, so there is still time for people to be involved.”

Write For Rights is Amnesty International’s largest annual human rights campaign. People around the world write letters on behalf of people who need urgent help. If you are interested in writing, visit the Write for Rights website at for more information.


Sisters of St. Joseph give Resource Center a helping hand

December 9, 2020 by  

The Cloud County Resource Center is a busy place during the holiday season. There are donations of food and toys to sort, volunteers to organize and families that are in need of assistance.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, some of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia joined Tonya Merrill, director of the center, to lend a hand in sorting food donations to fill holiday food baskets and sort and wrap presents to brighten area children’s holidays.

Sisters Denise Schmitz, Christina Brodie and Ann Ashwood, along with CSJ candidate Angela Jones, dug right in on sorting the food donations. Bundles and boxes of nonperishable food needed to be unpacked and sorted into similar groups to make it both easier to fill the holiday baskets and to see what additional items needed to be purchased to fill the gaps. It sounds like a lot of work, but it can be rewarding for volunteers.

“Today was an amazing experience with Tonya at the Resource Center,” said Sister Denise. “Listening to what and how they help in Cloud County, along with other entities like the Girl Scouts and ABATE to make Christmas better is unbelievable. The generosity of donors can make the difference and help that many more folks, especially since we are experiencing Covid-19.”

Merrill said the Resource Center had just under 200 requests for holiday assistance. Families applied for the food baskets before Thanksgiving, although she said that the center does try to cover people who have had emergencies or people who have just moved to town and were unable to apply by the deadline.

In a normal year, many of the toys being wrapped at the center would go to the center’s Holiday Store. Due to Covid-19, the store was cancelled.

“In an average year we’d have two days of Holiday Store and those are usually 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. days. We’d take in about 100 kids a day, so we’d have between 50 and 100 volunteers total,” Merrill said. “Obviously that’s not possible through Covid so we changed to some new programs so it’s more contactless.”

“What we did instead is we booked groups of volunteers who already had contact with each other and who probably would be safe working together knowing that there would only be a couple of us as volunteers here so that there would be minimal risk on both sides. We have a couple of different groups coming all on different days,” Merrill said as she watched the sisters sort food items onto long tables in the center. “We’re just sort of getting started today. On Thursday we’ll do it again, and then next week we’ll start handing out what we already have packed to make room for the next rotation.”

“It was fun helping them with the food baskets, shopping and wrapping presents for children,” Sister Denise said. “There are many projects we can help with down the road. Cloud County is blessed to have Tonya and the Resource Center. There is still so much to get completed before Christmas, I hope that we can make another day to help them meet their goal this Christmas. Manna House enjoys our partnership with the center.”

In addition to the items already at the center, more toys will be coming.

“By then, (next week) gifts should be coming in off the Angel Tree so we’ll be matching them up with food boxes and the letters from Santa and then they will go out,” Merrill said. “The letters from Santa is a new program that took the place of the Holiday Store where families can apply to us for things that they need as a family. So if they need new shoes, or new coats or bedding — we’re trying to fill those needs as best we can. It’s normally stuff we’d cover with the Holiday Store, but since that can’t be contactless enough to keep everybody safe, we just had to shut it down. Which is a shame, but it’s the only way.”

The Cloud County Resource Center works closely with other agencies to help everyone in the community have a happy holiday.

“We try to fill all the gaps the best we can between the three agencies,” Merrill said. “The Girl Scouts will buy a bunch of toys for the little kids under 12, the ABATE Toy Run will cover the kids who are over 12 up to about 16 or 17 and then we’ll cover whatever is left and we’ll do all the food baskets.”

Merrill said she works closely with Kathy Ashland from the Girl Scouts and Camey Thurner from the ABATE Toy Run to make it happen.

“Everyone at the Cloud County Resource Center is so grateful for all of the volunteers that are willing to take time out of their own busy holiday schedule to help us out,” Merrill said.

‘Nobody Hugs a Cactus’ is N2Ns featured book

November 3, 2020 by  

November’s book for Reading with Friends at Neighbor to Neighbor will be “Nobody Hugs a Cactus” by Carter Goodrich.

Goodrich, the celebrated artist and lead character designer for Brave, Ratatouille, and Despicable Me, shows that sometimes, even the prickliest people — or the crankiest cacti — need a little love.
Marian Condray will be the guest reader.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13 at Neighbor to Neighbor.

Sister Missy Ljungdahl, director of Neighbor to Neighbor, said additional precautions will be taken due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Face masks will be required for everyone over 2 years of age, temperature checks will be offered and social distancing will be observed. Hand sanitizer will be available.

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. Each session includes playtime and a snack for the children, plus each child will receive a free copy of that day’s book to take home.

There is a limit of 30 children per session so parents must register in advance so that their child will receive a book. 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.

Link to video of Memorial Mass, 11-1-2020, Nazareth Motherhouse

November 1, 2020 by  

Please click below to view the Memorial Mass held 11-1-2020 in the auditorium of the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Leaving her mark on history

October 28, 2020 by  

Every archivist leaves behind a bit of themselves in the archives they oversee. The legacy might seem challenging, such as preparing for a congregation’s 125th anniversary — an event close to the archivist’s heart. It might be the simple, quiet act of documenting the lives of deceased sisters. Or it might be a quest for information to satisfy a genealogist’s random inquiry, which then turns the archivist into a bit of a detective.

Sister Bernadine Pachta did all that and more during her more than 25 years as archivist for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Sister Bernadine “retired” as archivist this fall, and was honored with a gratitude party and ice cream social Aug. 27 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

“I’m not really retiring, I’m just going to not be working maybe quite as hard as I was,” Sister Bernadine laughed. “Once an archivist, I don’t think you can ever leave it totally. So I just want to say, things will carry on, and Jean Ann will carry on.”

Sister Jean Ann Walton has assisted Sister Bernadine in archives for the last five years. She was appointed to succeed Sister Bernadine as archivist, taking on the role on Sept. 1.
“After she relinquishes the office she is willing to continue to serve as a consultant to Jean Ann when she is needed. And for that we are very, very grateful,” Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, president, announced during the celebration. “And it speaks so highly of Bernadine’s dedication and her love of Community.”

In 1995, while still working at Harvard University, Sister Bernadine was asked to be a field agent working with then-archivist, Sister Liebe Pellerin. She worked with Sister Liebe in that capacity for 10 years prior to moving to Concordia in 2005 to assume full-time responsibilities after Liebe’s retirement.

During those 25 years Sister Bernadine has fielded many individual requests from genealogists working on family histories, academicians doing scholarly research on women’s issues, historians and former students. She has been instrumental in providing material and giving input for the newly designed Heritage Rooms on the second floor of the Nazareth Motherhouse and was indispensable to Sister Sally Witt and her work on the book “Beyond the Frontier,” an updated history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, published in 2020.

She also has provided materials for Leadership Council of Women Religious and the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph. She has been an active member of the Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious. And, Sister Bernadine contributed significantly to the work of the Community’s 125th anniversary in 2008-09.

While the work of an archivist is often done behind closed doors and amid dusty files, Sister Jean noted the essential qualifications that make for a good archivist.

“Having a sense of history and having a knowledge of the community — while that is an essential aspect of the job, the job is so much more than that. Sometimes its like detective work, you know that something is there, you know somehow it is related but it’s not obvious,” Sister Jean said. “And so it takes going from one file to get a clue to another file to get a clue. Its detective work, you have to have great organization and decision making skills because each item that is stored in archives could be categorized under a dozen different headings and so you have to at some point make a decision, and then the real trick is you have to remember which category you put that in. But then it also requires a lot of confidentiality, a lot of trust. But most importantly it is a position that requires a real love of the work because of the love of the Community. And Bernadine has done that very, very well. She was excelled at that.”

Sister Bernadine thanked all of the archivists who came before her in the Community, particularly her mentor Sister Liebe.

“Liebe was a wonderful mentor. All I did was stand on their (prior archivists’) shoulders and keep going,” Sister Bernadine said. “I just feel there are so many wonderful things, and I feel this has been very much of a privilege, and also a capstone of everything I’ve done through my life.”

Fall into the October 2020 Messenger!

October 28, 2020 by  

We hope you enjoy our October 2020 edition of the Messenger!

Meet our newest sisters and celebrate with our 2020 Jubilarians. The print edition has been mailed, and it’s available here right now as a flipbook. To open the flipbook edition, just use the black tool bar under the image below to flip through the pages:

Also, that little magnifying glass icon in the black tool bar below the Messenger will let you increase the size if you would like!

Fall Spirituality — A seasonal retreat at Manna House of Prayer

October 16, 2020 by  

Manna House of Prayer will host a one-day Fall Spirituality retreat from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Manna House of Prayer, 323 E. 5th Street, Concordia.

Presenters will be Sisters Jean Ann Walton and Mary Jo Thummel.

Autumn is a time of ripening, coming to fullness and letting go into winter’s rest. Come and enjoy a day of letting go and receiving, embracing the dance of trust.

Cost is $50 and includes lunch.

Registration deadline is Oct. 21

For more information, or to register, call 785-243-4428, email or visit

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