Sister Alice Marie Stalker — Oct. 3, 1930 — July 7, 2020

July 8, 2020 by  

Sister Alice Marie Stalker died July 7, 2020, at Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas. She was 89 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for 70 years. She was born in Aurora, Illinois, on Oct. 3, 1930, to Robert Kenneth and Veronica Lucille Schopp Stalker, the oldest of seven children, and was baptized Alice Marie. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 7, 1949. On March 18, 1950, Alice Marie received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Mary Urban, later returning to her baptismal name Alice Marie. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1951, and final vows on March 19, 1954.

Sister Alice Marie received a B.A. in English from Marymount College in 1963. Sister Alice Marie taught in Damar, Salina, Concordia, and Beloit, Kansas, and in Grand Island, Nebraska, for a total of 44 years. In 1983, Sister Alice Marie served as librarian at Sacred Heart Grade School, Salina, Kansas. She retired and moved to the Motherhouse in 2008.

Sister Alice Marie was preceded in death by her parents and four siblings. She is survived by two sisters, Charlotte Christian from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Kathleen Schneider from Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A Bible Vigil Service will be held at 9:30 a.m. July 13 with Sister Marilyn Wall as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. with Father Barry Brinkman presiding. Due to the safety precautions for Covid-19, the bible vigil and funeral mass will be private. However, both will be live-streamed on the Sisters of St. Joseph Facebook page.  

The internment of cremains will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Nutter Mortuary, 116 E. Sixth St., Concordia, Kansas, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Alice Marie Stalker may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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


Eulogy for Sister Elizabeth (Beth) Stover — Oct. 16, 1941 – June 7, 2020

June 10, 2020 by  

Vigil: June 11, 2020 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogists: Sister Mary Margaret Nacke and Sister Mary Savoie

Sister Mary Savoie begins:

Sister Beth Stover was born Oct. 16, 1941, the daughter of Paul John Stover and Marie Angela Grennan Stover on the family farm about 3 miles northwest of Beloit. At her baptism she was given the name Margaret Elizabeth. She was the youngest of five daughters: Mary Ellen Thummel Truex, Dolores Eck (deceased), Sister Colleen Stover (deceased), and Jane Morch.

Sister Beth was 5 years old when the family moved to the city of Beloit where she attended St. John’s School  until she graduated in 1947. During grade and high school she was an active member of the Girl Scouts.

She learned to play the organ at her local church under the direction of Sister Athanasia. Early on, Sister Athanasia said to her, “Go sit at the organ and play.”  Beth replied, “I can’t play the organ.”  But Sister replied, “Go sit there and play.”  So she did and that was her first organ lesson.  She was church organist throughout her high school years.

In September of 1959, Sisters Coleen and Beth entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia, Kansas. When they left home, their mother told them, “tell people that your dad is a farmer. Do not tell them he runs a liquor store.”  Both Coleen and Beth received the religious habit on March 19, 1960, and Beth received the name Sister Ellen Dolorus. She made final profession of vows on March 19, 1966.  

After completing the novitiate, Sister Beth went to the House of Studies at Marymount College, Salina. While there, she began her training to be a registered nurse, but later changed her major program and became registered as a laboratory director. Upon the completion of that program, she served as director of laboratory services at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Concordia from 1965 to 1971. Following that ministry, she attended St. Louis University, and in 1975 attained a Master’s Degree in hospital administration. In 1976 she accepted the position of Hospital Administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Concordia, Kansas, where she served until 1987. During those years, she also served as a member of the Kansas Hospital Administrators Board of Directors, as well as president of that organization for several years.

During the last few years as Administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital she gave many hours of competent advice and service during the building of Mount St. Joseph in Concordia.

During the spring of 1989, Sister Beth was hired as Pastoral Associate at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, and in 1993, she accepted the position of Director of Catholic Charities for the Salina Diocese.

In June of 2008, Sister Beth was elected to serve on our Leadership Council.

In December of 2016, she moved to the Motherhouse where she continued involvement in many in-house ministries.

Sister Margaret Nacke continues:

In Road to Character, the author talks about “Resume Virtues,” skills brought to the marketplace; “Eulogy Virtues,” the qualities talked about at a funeral such as integrity, commitment, generosity, courage and sensitivity. Both types of virtues are important, worth pursuing and judge how we remember persons, but I want to recall these virtues relative to Sister Beth.

Sister Beth was a woman of integrity — committed to the church, congregation, her family, and the ministries in which she was involved.  She was a friend and steady companion to Sister Ann Glatter. When bags of sweet corn and rhubarb came from Sister Ann’s Nebraska farm, Beth and Ann spent hours in the peeling room, readying these gifts for the kitchen to prepare. In this work they were major beneficiaries to the congregation in providing healthy food for our table at the Motherhouse. 

One of Sister Beth’s strongest assets and great values to the congregation was her ability to examine information presented to members prior to and during meetings, and her fearlessness  in articulating the results of her thinking about that material at Community meetings. She showed great courage in speaking out about important matters.  She spoke from her conscience, her experience and her judgment. She asked a lot of questions which helped us to hone, expand and clarify thinking. In other words,  Sister Beth perused documents sent to Community members seriously; never hesitant to share the results of her reflections for the benefit of all of us.

Another virtue Sister Beth exhibited was her sensitivity to keeping confidences. She knew, when she was  a member of the leadership team and in discussion with a group, that which could be shared and that which remained leadership business.

Lastly, Sister Beth was a woman of multiple talents used wisely for the needs of the congregation and civic community. When a need arose and Beth was asked to take on a new ministry, she obliged; she never hesitated. 

Sister Mary Savoie concludes:

I have known Sister Elizabeth (Beth) Stover personally and as a skilled, committed and competent professional  Sister for many years. Perhaps the period in her life when she demonstrated these skills most was during the time that she served as hospital administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital here in Concordia. I especially appreciated her commitment as a Sister of St. Joseph during the time when we as a congregation were in the process of transferring ownership of our hospitals. I often told her how much time, talent,  energy and support she manifested and her reply was always, “That is what I knew was right for us to do at that time in our history.”  Not only did Sister Beth competently represent the congregational decision to transfer ownership of our health care systems,  but she also communicated this decision in a positive and effective manner to all the doctors and hospital staff. 

Another experience where I witnessed Sister Beth’s committed and competent professional skills was during the time that she and I served as community representatives on our NCAC board of directors.  Sister Beth always came to those meetings so well prepared and contributed very effectively.

Nor should we forget the many years that she served as a member of our Executive Leadership team. In that position, Sister Beth was always very conscious of her responsibility to reach out to members of the congregation, especially those in need of assistance.  She also continued her concern for happenings in the civic community of Concordia and beyond.

All in all, Sister Beth took every aspect of her ministry very seriously. Her ability to incorporate and collaborate with those around her stands out also as one of her outstanding personal and professional  skills and talents.

At the age of 78 and during her 60th year as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Beth Stover left us for her eternal home on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

These are just a few of the ways I will mention here today that Sister Beth’s commitment as a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia were part of her life among us.  We thank you, Sister Beth, for the time you spent with us and we ask that you continue to remember all of us as you enjoy your new eternal home.

Memorials for Sister Beth Stover may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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



Sister Elizabeth (Beth) Stover — Oct. 16, 1941 – June 7, 2020

June 8, 2020 by  

Sister Elizabeth (Beth) Stover died June 7 at Cloud County Health Center in Concordia, Kansas. She was 78 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph for 60 years. She was born in Beloit, Kansas, on Oct. 16, 1941, to Paul and Marie Grennan Stover, the youngest of five children, and was baptized Margaret Elizabeth. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, on Sept. 8, 1959. On March 19, 1960, Beth received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Ellen Dolora. Later, she went back to her baptismal name of Beth. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1961, and final vows on March 19, 1966.

In 1964, Sister Beth received a B.A. in chemistry from Marymount College, Salina, Kansas, followed by a M.A. in hospital administration from St. Louis University in 1975. Sister Beth served as a medical technologist and lab supervisor at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia, from 1965-1971. From 1975-1987 Sister Beth served as administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Concordia. Sister Beth was elected as Vice President of the Congregation from 2008-2012; and served on the Leadership Council from 2012-2016. She retired to the Motherhouse in 2016.

Sister Beth was preceded in death by her parents and two sisters. She is survived by her sisters, Mary Ellen Truex, Odessa, Texas, and Jane Morch, Wichita, Kansas. A Bible Vigil Service will be held at 9:30 a.m. on June 11 with Sisters Margaret Nacke and Mary Savoie as the eulogists. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. on June 11 with Father Barry Brinkman presiding.

Due to the safety precautions for Covid-19, the bible vigil and funeral mass will be private. However, both will be livestreamed on the Sisters of St. Joseph Facebook page. The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Chaput-Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. Sixth St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Beth Stover may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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


Obituary for Karma Imogen Smith-Grindell, CSJ Associate

November 25, 2019 by  

Karma Imogen Smith-Grindell passed peacefully in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2019, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Karma was born Nov. 28, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio, at 1:14 p.m. When first measured days after birth, she weighed 3 lbs. 10.5 oz. Her estimated birth weight was 3 lbs. 13 oz. She was born about 6 weeks early, and her twin brother who preceded her in birth died shortly after her arrival. She was not expected to survive, but defied the odds and returned to the home of her mother and father, Margaret Hayes Smith and Laban Conrad Smith, on Dec. 31, 1940. Her name was a testament to her birth story: Karma (Sanskrit — “Destiny”) Imogen (Greek — “Beloved child”) and (Gaelic — “Maiden”).

Karma’s younger brother, Hartman, was born in 1944. Karma’s father was a Navy officer, and the family relocated numerous times during her childhood for his postings. Her homes included Auburn, Ala., Galveston, Texas and the Canal Zone, Panama. She remembered with particular fondness the years in Panama. The family eventually settled in Terre Haute, Ind., where her father was a professor of English at Indiana State University. They enjoyed summers at family farms in Wisconsin, and had a litany of pets, including several dogs, ducks and chickens.

After graduating from Wiley High School in 1957, Karma spent a summer in France as a camp counselor. She then attended the University of Michigan where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She entered Harvard graduate school in 1962, where she was re-acquainted with her high school debate partner, Michael LR Donnelly, who would become her first husband.

They were married in 1964, and had two children: Anna Callysta was born in Boston in 1966, and Maxwell Conor was born in Madison, Wis., in 1969. The family would move to Manhattan, Kan., in 1972. Karma worked at Kansas State University as director of the English as a Second Language program, and was a doting and attentive mother. After the dissolution of her first marriage in 1981, Karma stayed in Manhattan for several years, then lived in Concordia, Kan., where she became an ecumenical member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Although not Catholic herself, Karma remained a committed and active participant in the CSJ Associates for decades thereafter. She also lived briefly in Pendle Hill, Penn., at a Quaker community.

After leaving academia in 1983, Karma became a Licensed Practical Nurse, providing hospice and home care to elderly residents in the farm country surrounding Manhattan, Kan. She later added skills in massage and energy work (shiatzu and jin shin jyutsu) which she applied generously to any who suffered the slings and arrows of physical or emotional injury. Fascinated by human psychology and the puzzles of our inner beings, Karma was for many years a learned practitioner of the Enneagram personality system, and an active participant in the vibrant international community of Enneagram students.

Karma married the love of her life, Rob Grindell, on July 8, 1989. For more than a decade, Rob and Karma traveled the world and reveled in the joys of each others’ company. Destinations included many of our United States by small plane (Rob piloting, Karma navigating), Greece, Mexico, Canada, Belize, Hawaii and Europe. Karma also made a memorable solo trip to Leh, Ladakh, as a participant in an international Buddhist women’s conference. Karma spent much of her adult life pursuing spiritual growth, and considered herself a Quaker catholic Zen Buddhist (lowercase “c” intentional).

After a long battle with cancer, Rob passed away on Dec. 19, 2000. Karma remained in Manhattan until 2006, where she was a beloved member of multiple spiritual communities. In 2006, she packed house and home and moved to Colorado Springs, where her brother Hartman and his wife Nancy lived. She continued to travel extensively, including many trips to California to visit her daughter Anna and grandchildren Maya and Dante. Her son Max’s family — wife Kelly and daughters Claire and Caroline — were blessed to have her nearby, and she was a frequent short-term guest in their household in Littleton, Colo., where the resident dogs would celebrate her arrival with wags and kisses.

Throughout her life, Karma was beloved by her community and friends as an individual who personified kindness. Alzheimer’s never robbed her of her inherently sweet and loving disposition, and to the end her caregivers adored her.

She is survived by her brothers Hartman and Nancy Smith of Jacksonville, Fla., and brother Forrest and Shiela Smith of Terre Haute, Ind.; her children Maxwell and Kelden Donnelly of Littleton, Colo., Anna and Burman Deshautelle of Agoura Hills, Calif., and Michael Grindell and Jennifer Grindell of Atlanta, Ga.; and grandchildren Claire, Caroline, Dante, Maya, Maclean, Samantha and Grace (all over the place).

A service in Karma’s memory will be held in the spring in Manhattan, Kan.

In lieu of flowers, please direct donations in Karma’s memory to Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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


Eulogy for Sister Lucy Schneider — Jan. 15, 1927 – Nov. 10, 2019

November 12, 2019 by  

Vigil: Nov. 12, 2019 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Betty Suther

“There are only two or three human stories,

but they go on repeating themselves

as fiercely as if they had never happened before,

like the larks in this country

who have been singing the same five notes over and over

for thousands of years.”


This quote from Willa Cather is how Lucy ended her life review (and indeed her life!) along with the words from Scripture: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”. This seems a fitting beginning for this reflection on the life of Agnes Adele Schneider, known to us as Sister Lucy Schneider. Sister Lucy left us to join the heavenly chorus on Sunday morning, Nov. 10, 2019, at 12:55 a.m.

We offer our sympathy to Lucy’s family and friends gathered here this evening, especially to her sister Mary, her many nephews and nieces, to her two living band members, Sister Doris Marie and Mary Augustine, and to her dear friend and companion Sister Therese Blecha, and to all of us Sisters of St. Joseph who have appreciated and loved our Sister Lucy these 70 years.

Agnes was born on Jan. 15, 1927, to Lucy and John Schneider six miles west of Salina, their sixth and last child. Her siblings were Frances, John, Margaret, Mary and Lucy. Their father, John, died in 1956 and their mother, Lucy, in 1977. Her sister, Mary Ryan, is her only surviving sibling.  

The Schneider family remained close and they often gathered at the family farm. This farm, referred to as “the Land” or the “pasture,” had a great influence in their growing up. During World War II, much of the farming was done alongside their father. By the time she was old enough to help with the farming, the three oldest siblings, Frances, John and Margaret (Sister Monica), were gone from home and the younger three, according to Lucy, “did the farming, joyfully though laboriously with Father supplying all the know-how and preparations.”

Agnes and her siblings attended Sacred Heart School in Salina and the girls attended Marymount. Music was a vital part of her life. The Schneider children had all taken music lessons from early on. Agnes continued studying music at Marymount as well, but she especially loved “playing by ear” as it gave her the most enjoyment. (It was always fun to have Sister Lucy at the piano. All anyone had to do was name a song and she would play it and we would all join in the singing! She’d often make up clever lyrics to familiar tunes for our many festive occasions.)

Agnes entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1948, and entered the novitiate on March 19, 1949. At that time she received the name “Lucy,” (her mother’s and her sister’s name). Following first vows in 1950, Lucy was sent on mission to Grand Island, Neb. In the years that followed she was missioned to teach in high schools in Manhattan, Sacred Heart in Salina, Concordia and at Marymount College. In the meantime, she also earned her master’s in English at Marquette University in the early ’50s. During the 1960s she attended Notre Dame University earning her doctorate in literature in 1967. Her dissertation, Willa Cather’s “Land-Philosophy” in Her Novels and Short Stories, proved to integrate her own love of the land in rural America.

Upon returning to Marymount, she chose to live at the Children’s Home in Salina during the 1970s and enjoyed ministry there with Sister Mary Lou Roberts, Sister Therese Blecha and Msgr. Alfred Wasinger. She continued to call that “home” no matter where she ventured in ministry. In fact, she said about the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home: It has “grown right into the flesh and bone of my life … I went there in 1969 and have never really left there in any final sense.”

In 1976, Sister Teresa Regal was already working at Red Cloud Indian School, Holy Rosary Mission, at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. She encouraged Lucy to come and join her. This began her love for the Native American people! She spent a year – 1977 — in Pine Ridge and then returned to Salina and Marymount heading up the English Department while living at the Children’s Home.

It wasn’t long before she returned to the north and to Red Cloud Indian School and Holy Rosary Mission where she taught English in the high school, acted as librarian, played the organ for Masses, helped with many other activities of the reservation and just sharing life with the Lakota people. In 1983, Lucy changed locations and moved to our Lady of Sorrows Parish, St. Stephen’s, Lower Medicine Root in Kyle, South Dakota, and St. John of the Cross in Allen, South Dakota. For 14 years Lucy imbibed the culture of the Lakota people. Their culture, their land and their language created within her a genuine reverence and love for all things Lakota.  

She remained there among the Lakota people until June of 1991 when she took on the ministry of coordinator of community services at the Motherhouse, along with Sister Doris Marie Flax. She held this position with Sister Doris Marie for three years, and then with Sister Janice Koelzer, for five more. Lucy loved her time at the Motherhouse. In her words this time “gave her an opportunity to love and appreciate with gratitude the essential goodness of the Sisters and the lay employees.” Of particular note during these years was the land hurricane of 1992 and her admiration and gratitude to Jerry Gallagher who courageously and generously led the Motherhouse household through this difficult time. Also and not least, most of us will remember Maude Dog, whose steady presence graced the outside and sometimes the inside of the Motherhouse.

Following the eight years as Motherhouse coordinator, Lucy directed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Concordia. During the next few years she facilitated the coordination of the RCIA programs between Concordia and St. John the Baptist Parish in Clyde, dividing her time evenly between these two parishes.  

In July of 2000 Sisters Therese Blecha, Lucille Herman and Lucy moved to the community-owned house on 15th street in Concordia. During the years following her “retirement” from full-time ministry, (around the time of her 80th birthday!) Lucy loved playing the organ at the parish, playing for parties at Mt. Joseph Senior Village and Sunset Home, Inc., and sometimes entertaining at Marquis Place, an assisted-living facilitiy. She was also a Eucharistic minister at the hospital, a proofreader for the CSJ newspaper, served at the local food bank, wrote eulogies for “Grains of Wheat,” created song parodies for special occasions and did many of the other “invisible” jobs within the local Concordia community. Lucy described this time as the “FULL TIME PASCAL MYSTERY!”

Although Lucy suffered physical setbacks in the remaining years of her life, including Meniere’s disease and breast cancer, she continued living life to its fullest. Lucy’s love for life and for the land inspired all of us. After many happy years on 15th street, she moved to the Motherhouse in 2015 where she continued to be an inspiration to us. Her spirituality was evident in the way she lived her life. Her devotion to St. Joseph began as a small child. In her life review she said that she always prayed to Joseph “to know my vocation, to have continued peace in our family, and to have a happy death.” This devotion endured throughout her life, even until her death.

Lucy moved to Mount Joseph Senior Village in January of 2018. While there just last July, with a Mass celebrated by her nephew Father Bob Schneider in celebration of her 70th Jubilee, family and friends gathered to share stories and remembrances of Lucy’s full life. Those of us gathered there were enriched by the many stories shared by nieces and nephews and friends telling of their obvious love, appreciation and admiration for Lucy!

Reading Lucy’s life review is like reading poetry! For example, she tells about “the thorn in the flesh” that has occurred a time or two in her life — in ministry, in human relationships — “but also [in] pastures and fields and hills, wheat and gardens and rose rocks, cattle and dogs and cats, meadowlarks and magpies and music, pasqueflowers and sunflowers and alfalfa fields, winds and rains and snows, songs and poems and stories, not to mention grandpas and grandmas, mothers and fathers, teenagers and children and babies. P.S. Windmills!” Nothing is immune to suffering. This wisdom shaped her life. She learned it the hard way as we all do. She learned it in her own experience and from the land which she so dearly loved.

And here’s another quotation from her Life Review: “Someone has spoken of the Incarnation of Jesus in terms of ‘the scandal of particularity’ — Jesus’ being one man, of one time, place, culture. Like my Brother Jesus, I, Lucy, as one person, limited also by time, place and culture. The Father graciously wills it so. And God also graciously wills Jesus’ resurrection and that of “all our relatives,” as the Lakota people say, mine included.” Thus her vision of life came full circle!

In Willa Cather’s novel, “O Pioneers,” Lucy loved the quotation we heard in the reading for this evening’s vigil and it bears repeating:

“We come and go,

but the land is always here,

and the people who love it and understand it,

are the people who ‘own’ it, for a little while.”

Dear Lucy, your presence among us has, like the land, left its loving mark on us and all who have known you, and we are grateful for the gift of your presence these nine-plus decades. We have known you and loved you and we have “owned” one another for a little while. May you now enjoy your new home in “the land” where all your relatives who have gone before you reside!


Memorials for Sister Lucy Schneider may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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






Eulogy for Sister Nancy Meade — Dec. 10, 1938 – Oct. 14, 2019

October 17, 2019 by  

Vigil: Oct. 17, 2019 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Faye Huelsmann

I am privileged to share some of the life of Sister Nancy.

Music and musicals — only two of the gifts that defined Sister Nancy Helen Meade’s life. Nancy had a naturally cheery and welcoming smile and typically called people ‘sweety’ or ‘honey’. Even as I touched her arm to get her attention when she was bent over and simply waiting, waiting … she asked, “Honey, What can I do for you?”

Nancy was born Dec. 10, 1938, in Abilene, Kan., to Cornelius Samuel Meade and Minnie Belle Lake. Born two months early and weighing 3 pounds, she was baptized immediately. Nancy was the youngest of six children. She had three brothers and two sisters, all of whom are deceased. Her sisters were Frances and Mary Ann. Her brothers were Jack, Robert and Larry. She has several living nieces and nephews.

Nancy’s brother, Jack, gave her the nickname “Bird” during their early years because she was always singing.

After completing grade and high school in Abilene, she attended MaryMount College in the fall of 1957. Her plans were to major in music and chemistry and maybe be a med-tech since she had a sister who was a med-tech. During that year, Nancy made the decision to follow a religious vocation. I quote from an article written about Nancy when she celebrated 25 years of service in Boonville, Mo. About her vocation, she said, “You don’t really decide to become a sister. It’s like there’s this little voice that keeps bugging you saying, ‘Maybe this is the kind of work you need to be doing. Do the Lord’s work.’ ”

The following September 1958, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, the sisters who opened and staffed MaryMount College. She stated that she has never ever regretted the decision to become a sister.

Following her formation years, she was assigned to Aurora, Ill., to teach music, her first love and her first mission. She taught classroom music in the following years in Gladstone, Mich., and then went to Boonville, Mo., where she spent a total of 28 years. She also gave piano lessons.

She taught music in New Mexico for two years before returning to Boonville. During all those years she also obtained a master’s degree in music education from the University of Colorado, a degree in theater from Stephen’s College and obtained a certificate in youth ministry.

In regard to her music, she said she really loved doing musicals. To quote her, she said, “It was a blast.” For many years she involved the junior high students from the Catholic school and local community in the production of many musicals. Asked which was her favorite musical she readily said, “Peter Pan.” This even included the flying part! She had many who helped her in whatever way they could. A few of the other musicals she directed were “Oliver,” “Brigadoon, “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Oklahoma.” She produced a musical every year in Boonville during her years there. Someone told me she had it down to a science and each year most of the same crews came back to do their part, such as lighting, piano help and construction.

The students vied for playing the chosen main characters. Boonville’s famous Thespian Hall Theatre invited her to use their location after several seasons. That was a rewarding invitation! Those who worked with her acknowledged how good she was at getting people involved. Indeed, there was plenty to do and Nancy did a good job of directing so that everything ran smoothly.

In addition, she made sure you were having fun while you worked.

Nancy was accomplished in being the youth minister in the parish, a ministry she was invited to do in the 90s. She accepted this work after being assured that she could still teach religion in the school and work with the youth the rest of the time.

She loved taking students on trips to Washington D.C., helping with youth retreats and offering support to student groups. I imagine she went canoeing with some of them. Certainly Nancy loved canoeing and in one incident they got in a swirl and were dumped from their canoe — along with her dog — but managed to hang on to a log until they were rescued.

Nancy said she quit working when her hearing became impaired.

That was about 2004. Nancy was always an avid reader and during retirement years she had time to read. Those who supplied books to her had a hard time keeping up with her.

Even though she was retired, she did accept an invitation from Sister Pat Lewter and myself to come to Grand Junction, Colo., to live with us and help at our counseling center with office work for a year. She took on a project of making about 15 drums from various items she collected, decorated them and taught drumming to some of the adolescent groups held at CEC.

Now for a fun incident! A sister friend of hers from The Sisters of Charity, Linda Dean, lived in Grand Junction. Before Nancy knew it, her friend had talked her into submitting a peach pie for the Peach Festival held every year in Palisade. She had a delicious fresh peach pie recipe and to the astonishment of all of us, she won first prize! And of course, I got her recipe.

In her life history she stated that while living at the Motherhouse, she enjoyed helping out with jobs that needed to be done such as helping in the vegetable room — all the veggies brought in from the garden needed to be prepped!

Also included in what she said about her final years was, “My desire now is to grow spiritually through making retreats, reading and sharing with others. I am grateful for having grown up in a wonderful family. We loved each other, prayed together and shared experiences together. I loved the Mass and my years as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

In summary, I believe Maxim 64 fits her life: “ Strive to be kind always to everyone and unkind to no one.”

Memorials for Sister Nancy Meade may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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





Eulogy for Sister Geraldine Kokenge — Feb. 26, 1928 – Oct. 14, 2019

October 16, 2019 by  

Vigil: Oct. 16, 2019 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Marilyn Wall

Sister Geraldine Mary Ann Kokenge was born on Feb. 26, 1928, in the midst of a dust storm. Her parents were Lawrence Kokenge and Frances Rosa Rallinger. She was the second oldest child and the first daughter. Her siblings were Raymond, the older brother, and three younger children, Helen, Elmer and Lorine (Peggy). Raymond and Helen preceded her in death. Elmer and Peggy, as well as numerous nieces and nephews, survive.

The family lived in the country near St Benedict, Kan., with their grandparents until Gerry was three years old. They then moved to Seneca where her dad was employed as a mechanic. Gerry attended Sts. Peter and Paul grade school. She said her early years were very difficult. She was a tall child and was seated in the back of the classroom. She was not able to see the blackboard so missed a lot of what was taught. She enjoyed playing with the neighborhood children. The family lived on the edge of town and had a lot of fruit trees and a large garden. She watched and helped her mother preserve the produce for winter. No doubt she began her cooking career there. Even in the last few years she would talk about the two pear trees they had and how the children did not like to eat them because they were gritty. Finally, her mother started making pear butter and that made eating them so much easier.

After graduating from high school, Gerry got a job at the Seneca Hospital. There she worked with Sr. Matthew Vopat who, Gerry says, was an influence in her vocation.

Gerry entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Feb. 3, 1947, along with Sister Ann Catherine Wiltz who was from Sabetha, Kan. She entered the Novitiate in August of 1947 and received the name of Sister Mary Justina. Her first profession was in August of 1948 and Final Vows were in August of 1951.

Sister Gerry’s main ministry in the community was in the kitchens of many missions and schools. She has remarked “Every place I went I enjoyed.”

Gerry considered herself most fortunate in that as a young sister Sister Maxine Lutgen was her mentor in the Motherhouse kitchen teaching her how to cook and bake. Gerry especially remembers Sister Maxine showing her how to make the 30 to 40 loaves of bread that were needed for the Motherhouse Community.

In her own words: “We would mix all of the ingredients together except the flour … making a “sponge” and waiting for it to bubble – then we added the flour and kneaded and formed balls of dough which would then rise in the pans til ready for the oven.” Gerry has also told me this procedure several times in the past years, and every time I hear it I think: “Isn’t this just like the presence and patience of our Creator God?”

Sister Maxine set her up for her many years of cooking and baking and Gerry always spoke of her with the utmost esteem and gratitude.

Further assignments took her to many places in Salina, Kansas: St John’s Hospital, Marymount College, St. Mary’s Convent and Sacred Heart Cathedral School and rectory and Sacred Heart Junior-Senior High School. She served in many other places including Schoenchen, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Concordia, Grand Island, Neb., Oakley Kan., and Junction City Kan.

Sister Marcia Allen, who lived with Gerry in Junction City, said that “wherever she served, Sister Gerry’s loving nourishment added greatly to the quality of community life of the Sisters. Three meals a day for 20-some people might by some people be called drudgery, but Gerry’s ready and generous spirit never hinted at the burdens that might have accompanied her work. Her meals were delicious and nourishing and served with a spirit of hospitality. For us, she was the yeast of which Jesus spoke.”

One of Gerry’s last ministries as a cook was Central High School in Salina, which she enjoyed and became good friends with many of those working with her. There, she noted, one had to follow strict State guidelines. At one point the cooks were perplexed because the students were not eating their chili well. Gerry asked if she could add a bit of sugar to the recipe to bring out the flavor. It helped a lot and they even got the recipe changed by the State. Gerry also cooked at Kansas Weselyan College and loved the interaction and joking with the students, about 1500, who attended school there. They were especially fond of her biscuits and gravy. Gerry’s humor was always evident and enjoyed by all with whom she worked.

In all of her years of ministry Sister Gerry lit up when she spoke of her ministry of cooking and one sensed the joy she found in preparing meals for others.

In thinking about Sister Gerry and her ministry one realizes how her ministry colored her spirituality, and that as she prepared leavened bread, she also became leaven for those whom she served and loved.

Sister Joyce Rupp has a lovely reflection on being a handful of dough and being asked by God to be leaven for a whole batch of people so that faith will rise in hearts. As the dough is kneaded and formed beyond its expectations so we are shaped by daily dyings to self so that God can be our rising strength and we can love enough to be shared.

In 2000, Sister Gerry moved to Medialle Center in Salina. During her time there she volunteered at the Senior Citizen Center and at the public school and began to do tole painting. She painted on baskets and wooden objects and discovered, by surprise, that she was really a very good artist. When Medialle closed in 2006 she moved to the Motherhouse. There she visited Mount Joseph and did helpful works around the Motherhouse. She painted many items and some were sold in the gift shop here.

Gerry moved to Mount Joseph in January of 2018. She lived out the rest of her life there and left us on Oct. 14, 2019.

Gerry, we believe that you have risen with Jesus.

We believe that you know now the whole story of God’s incredible love for you.

We trust that you are celebrating with those who have gone before you,

But we will expect your presence and help here also.

As you are now with God, in a new way, your presence is God’s presence.


Memorials for Sister Geraldine Kokenge may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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





Sister Norma Schlick: June 8, 1930 — April 8, 2019

April 11, 2019 by  

VIGIL: April 11, 2019, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen

Norma Schlick was the youngest of five girls born to Walter and Cecilia Bohnart Schlick on a “dusty rural Nebraska farm not far from the little town of Wood River.”
She was born on June 8, 1930. Her older sisters, Leona, Alice, Loretta and Marie, have all preceded her in death. Her brother Theodore “Ted” survives with his wife, Mary.

She says of her early life that they were a happy family and that their social life revolved around their one-room public school that was two miles from their farm. They attended the Wood River Catholic Church and were taught the Baltimore Catechism by a stern Irish pastor, the Rev. T. D. Sullivan, every Saturday afternoon. She said that these classes were scary but she enjoyed getting a holy card when she could recite perfectly.

What she called a “traumatic event” was the sale of their rental farm in 1942. It was sold to the government for the installation of a munitions factory. The family moved to Grand Island and the children were enrolled in the St. Mary’s Catholic School. It was here that Norma met the Sisters of St. Joseph. She gives credit to her teachers, Sisters Alberta Marie, Wilhelmina, Cosmas, Sabina Marie and Ursula, for her vocation. She said she not only admired and was inspired by them but she also simply fell in love with them!

Norma entered the community in September 1947 at the age of 17. She received the habit March 19, 1948, and was given the name Sister Mary Walter. She made first profession March 19, 1949, and final profession March, 19, 1952.

She began teaching in Salina, then moved to the very small rural mission in Collyer and from there moved to the community’s largest school, St. Joseph and St. Ann’s in Chicago. Following this she was asked to go to St. Louis University to study and prepare to teach German language and literature at Marymount College. This she did, earning a B.A. in 1959 with magna cum laude and M.A. in 1961, and then went on for a year of study in the German and Russian languages at the University of Munich, Germany, on a Fulbright Scholarship.

In the summer of 1963, she earned a scholarship for studies at the Institute of Contemporary Russian at Fordham University in New York. In the summer of 1965, she studied German literature at Harvard. In her life review she calls these years of study a turning point in her life. Once her studies in German were complete, she taught in the language department at Marymount College.

In 1969, following the Renewal Chapter, Norma was appointed Director of Placement for the Community. She initiated a procedure which enabled the community to make the transition from assignment of sisters to where they would live and what work they would do to assisting them in their choice of work and where they would live.

In 1971, she was elected to the Executive Council and left Salina for Concordia. She served as Regional Coordinator from 1971 to 1975 and then was elected vice president from 1975 to 1979. At the same time, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Saint Mary Hospital in Manhattan, Kan., and the Saint Joseph Hospital in El Paso, Texas. As vice present, she was director of personnel and ministry for the entire congregation.

It was during these years, 1975–1979, that she contributed to a project that most of the communities of St. Joseph and our members in particular considered her most generous contribution — not just to our community but to communities of St. Joseph in general.

With four other Sisters of St. Joseph — Marie Anne Mayeski, of Orange, CA; Mary Pat Hastings of Cleveland, OH; Virginia Quinn of Rutland, VT; and, Patricia Byrne of Baden, PA, — she spent hours, days and months over several years researching and composing the document that was eventually called our “Core Constitution.” This group spent their summers working in the shadow of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s US Federation Research Team A as that group researched and translated our primitive documents.

The Core Constitution Committee used the material the Research Team provided, plus the contemporary reflections on the CSJ Life produced by the participants of the Federation Life Institutes where members of CSJ communities across the United States and Canada reflected on their lives in mission under the influence of the CSJ spirit and spirituality. All of this material became the sources from which the Constitution Committee drew up a basic template that illustrated the fundamental Rule for all Sisters of St. Joseph, at least in the United States.
What Norma contributed to this work was her ability to clarify and synthesize complex concepts and produce an articulate statement that said concisely what was meant. It was from this Core Constitution that our own post Vatican II Constitution was written. We have Norma to thank for our success in producing the document of which we can be proud to use as our Constitution for our Concordia Community of St. Joseph.

At this time, she said that she was ready for something else. Having spent almost 30 years in the community she “decided to choose works that interested and challenged” her, to use her words. Thus, she became the Communications Director for the Congregation. She loved creating the first newsprint paper, “The Sisters of St. Joseph,” and doing the other public relations work required. After five years of this work, she became secretary for L’Arche Heartland in Kansas City, a non-profit organization dedicated to group living for persons with handicaps under the direction of Sister Christella Buser.

She took a year’s sabbatical in 1986-1987 in what was called the “Active Spirituality Program for the Global Community,” held in Cincinnati. During this program, Norma experienced many opportunities that created a heightened awareness in justice issues.

She attended programs from NETWORK, Quixote Center, Common Cause, Center of Concern, the D.C. L’Arche community and others. With her conscience sharpened, she wrote many letters to the editor. At the end of this program she was appointed General Secretary for the Congregation and continued this work until 1995. She enjoyed these years, she said, because it allowed her to put her gifts and talents to good use for the service of the community.

In the 1990s, Norma became aware of the fact that sisters who were preparing to retire or already in retirement needed assistance in the transition from active employment to what is called in the usual progression of life, retirement. Recognizing that sisters never retire from the mission, but only from specific works of service, Norma began courses at the College Misericordia in Dallas, Penn., over several years that certified her as a “Retirement Planning Specialist Religious.”

Norma had a brilliant mind and was an excellent student. During her studies she became conversant not only in German but also in Russian. She studied these languages for the sake of their literary contributions and could read, write and speak in both.

She was also an impeccable proof reader in English. As I checked back over her transcripts, I wondered why she graduated only magna cum laude and found that she had Bs in chemistry and physics, with straight As in every other subject. I suppose that she can be forgiven this, given the fact that she was fully competent in German and Russian AND English!

Perhaps the gratitude tribute from the community at the end of her years as Congregational Secretary sums up her talent as well as her contribution best. It reads as follows:
“Thank you for your dedication — for remembering, for reminding, for bird-dogging, for record keeping, for your accuracy, for your stable presence, for anticipating vital details and keeping us out of lots of trouble, for helping us do the nice things, for making us look good. Thank you for all the thank you notes, the get well notes, the sympathy notes and the congratulations you sent in our name. Thank you for knowing what to save and what to throw away; thank you for your writing skills, your peerless proofreading skill; your intelligent application of policy and procedures; your perfect sense of the appropriate; thank you for being able to say the important things in 25 words or less; thank you for safeguarding and safekeeping the corporation as well as the Congregation for these years; thank you most of all for your generosity in doing all of this. Thank you for being with us, your sympathy and empathy, your support and your presence. We have relied on you totally and you have been faithful and strong, giving and forgiving. We needed you and you were here — totally here. And what’s more we could rely on your beautiful singing voice. In fact, you taught us to sing German Christmas carols! Thank you so much.”

Toward the end of her life Norma took charge of the prayer board here at the Motherhouse. She received prayer requests from people throughout the country and sometimes, the world, and carefully kept them posted for community prayer. She had a system for posting and reporting and eventually rotating intentions off of the board.
About her personal life she said that she loved, above all, this community … what it stood for and the individuals in it.

She took seriously the life to which she was committed. She said that the Senate decisions were especially precious to her. The one that she particularly treasured was the decision in 1991 in which we emphasized “How we want to be with one another and with the earth.”

She also valued her ties with her family. She said at one point that “the school of human experience has taught me many things about life and death.”
Those family members and friends whom she lost broke her heart, yet, in the midst of this sadness, she said she watched new life spring up as new family members were added and the Community of St. Joseph here in Concordia continued to add new members and retain its fidelity to the charism and mission with courage and generosity.
All of this, she said, taught her that she would have to face her own passage into old age and even into death.

“I want to face life with courage,” she said. “I want to continue to grow in the charism of our dear Congregation — in unity and reconciliation — with myself, my dear neighbor and with God. Most of all, I want to be a good human being, in turn with the universe of whom I am a child. And, someday, I want to see God face to face!”
Thus, ended her life review. I believe that we can say that, indeed, all that she wished she fulfilled — or all that she wished was fulfilled in her.

Norma was that person who had the courage to face life right up to the end. She did it with patience, humility, courage and good humor. And especially, with compassion and gratitude for those who cared for her. We can be sure that Norma, a valiant woman to the end, is indeed enjoying the face of God today.

Norma left this life for another on April 8, 2019.
Norma, may all that you prayed for be yours. Thank you for your love for us; for your gracious service to this community; for your years of fidelity through good times and bad; thank you for you. You have indeed been a gift to this Community of St. Joseph!

May you be enjoying God face to face!

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


Eulogy for Sister Margaret Jilka: Feb. 17, 1930 — Dec. 12, 2018

December 17, 2018 by  

Vigil: Dec. 16, 2018 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Layla Kloeker

This evening we come together to honor and pay tribute to Sister Margaret Jilka: aunt, cousin, friend and Community member to all of us.

In 1999, at the time of her 50th Anniversary, Sister Margaret wrote that “We are not so virtuous as the angels, nor so beautiful nor so powerful, but we are much more interesting.”

Sister Margaret’s interesting life began on Feb. 17, 1930, as the youngest of five children to Jerome and Agnes Wearing Jilka. She was given the name of Margaret Mary. The family house was on the east edge of Salina, Kan. Today, we would call it at an acreage for they had a cow and other animals, chickens and ducks and a large garden. In our present time it is an area filled with beautiful homes and curvy streets south of Marymount and the cemeteries.
Margaret recalled that their house burned one night when she was about 3 years old. That house was followed by a brick house in the same location. Her Dad joined his brother Ed in the Jilka Furniture Store in downtown

Sister Margaret’s educational life began at Sacred Heart Grade School and High School in Salina. Her early years
were happy. As a teenager in high school she wrote in her life story that those years were happy but difficult.
“I had a lousy self-image and was very insecure.” She fell into the pressure of peers, joined the crowd and was wild and free! Margaret envied her sister Ruth because Ruth was good and beautiful. Also during high school an-
other girl came to live with the Jilka family. She was an orphan girl who was with the family through high school and college until her marriage.

During high school, Margaret confided to Sister Joseph Patricia her desire to enter the Community of the Sisters
of St. Joseph. Sister Joseph Patricia responded with, “The life may not always be easy, but oh, the Teacher!”

Sister Margaret entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Sept. 8, 1948. She made First Profession on March 19, 1950
and was given the name Sister Mary Eugene. She made Final Profession on March 19, 1953. Living band members
are: Sisters Lucy Schneider, Mary Augustine and Doris Marie Flax. This year, 2019, was to be her 70th anniversary
as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Margaret recalls that her first introduction to Thomas Merton was when his newly published book, “Seven Story
Mountain” was read for table reading the year that she was a postulant. In the novitiate, Sister Margaret admired
Sister Therese Marie, her Novice Director, and was impressed with her spirituality. However, trying to articulate her
own struggles was difficult.

Around age 20, Sister Margaret was missioned to Chicago to teach kindergarten and first grade. With no training,
it was a difficult adjustment. So difficult that she thought of leaving the community. Her next mission was Monett, Mo. Again, five more years at the primary level. She became ill and needed an
emergency operation.

A turning point in her life came at Cure of Ars, in Leawood Kan., where she had the courage to ask for a different grade level and was given grade four. After a year and a half she was transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Concordia, and finished the semester with grade six.

While in New Almelo, Kan., she met Father Bill Killian who took an interest in the sisters. She also appreciated
the wide open spaces in which to walk, think and pray.

During the transitional years after Vatican II, she began a religious education degree. In the 1970s, another rural
setting was Cawker City. She and Sister Jean Befort traveled to a circuit of parishes to help with religious education programs. In 1973, during her time there, her mother came to live with her. Also, she would invite her cousin, Elea-
 nor Wearing, a resident at Mount Joseph, to her place for a vacation.

The family had a pasture north of Salina. She spent many hours there and established a relationship with her
nieces and began picturing herself teaching high school religion. However, she began feeling restless and inadequate
again and visited her cousin who was a member of Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. She also made a
workshop on journaling with Ira Progoff.

This was an interesting turn in her life. Her contemplative eyes were opened. She desired a simpler lifestyle
and she acquainted herself with Fordham University, the Greenwich Village where Thomas Merton had lived and
visited Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker House. Later, she returned to Fordham and completed a masters degree in
theology with a thesis on a portion of Thomas Merton’s writings.

Later, after we had become friends, she handed me a Thomas Merton holy card, “Thoughts in Solitude.” She
said, “That’s me over and over, in years past.”

The card reads: “I do not see the road ahead of me … the fact that I think that I am following your will does
not mean that I am actually doing so. But the desire to please you God, does in fact please me.”

In Margaret’s own words: “The spiritual writer, poet, social critic, contemplative … Thomas Merton has added a
unique design to my life. Because of my love for and interest in Merton’s life and writings, I believe he has made a
vital and irreplaceable contribution to my spirituality and prayer life. His method of writing, his journey and sharing
… the articulation of his faith story profoundly affected and challenged me.”

During her years in Grand Island she helped begin the Search Retreat for students out of high school. Her moth-
er lived there with her also, but when her mother’s health began to decline she moved back to Salina. She worked at Sacred Heart High School for one year. She missed the support of her previous years and took a part-time position
in pastoral care at St. John’s Hospital. This worked out well. Her mother passed in 1990.

Another new experience in the Church now was “Certification in Pastoral Care” and she applied for the CPE
program in Wichita. Later she wrote, “This pastoral care ministry has become very meaningful for me. I plan to
continue after the CPE Program in Wichita.”

Everywhere she went she had appreciation for nature which she called a gift. About her love for nature she
wrote: “The pasture is rich with hills, vast open spaces, bright and fragrant. The pasture is what my beloved is to
me. I walk alone. Solitude nourishes my spirit and gives me opportunity to be or rest in God’s love. I am alone with
God, the Creator of my being. In nature my heart is opened to His love. The presence of love within the ordinary
events of life, like a walk in the pasture fuels and energizes my spirit to spread His love.”

It was not unusual to see a dog accompanying her on these walks.

I think in these last years, if she had been able, she would be quoting Pope Francis, his book “Laudate Si” and his
love for all of creation much like she quoted Thomas Merton on Solitude.

Many people believe that eternal life begins at death. In reality it begins with our Baptism. In a reflection that
Margaret wrote on the occasion of her 50th Jubilee she says: “God calls us to be in touch with our center, the still point, the God within. We each hear that call within our lives. In that call we realize that our ministry is the expres-
sion of who we are. The journey of each of us is to find that depth … to find God at the center of our life.”

For nieces and nephews, and all of Margaret’s friends, you will find that Sister Margaret’s love for you will be a
deeper and fuller love that is enriched by God’s own love and direction for you. Death does not separate us but
deepens our union with God and with one another.

“Live out your life with one desire only:
to be always what God wants you to be,
In nature, grace and glory
for time and eternity.” Maxim 73


Memorials for Sister Margaret Jilka may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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


Eulogy for Sister Christella Buser — July, 29, 1924 – Nov. 2, 2018

November 8, 2018 by  

VIGIL: Nov. 8, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGISTS: Sister Marcia Allen, Michael Buser, nephew, and writing by Sister Norma Schlick

We are here to celebrate the life of a woman of goodwill, good humor and a host of good relationships with family, community, and friends far and near. When Sister Christella asked me to give her eulogy she requested that it be short and humorous. As for short, she then handed me a 10-page, single-spaced story of her life to use. As for humor, I can recall many instances when she used her name to make people laugh. Once when speaking at a drug and alcohol dependency meeting over at St. Joseph’s Hospital she began her talk by telling the participants that they would not always be alcoholics but that she would always be a Buser!

She was indeed a Buser. Eleanor Maurine was born July 29, 1924 in Seneca, Kan., to George and Mary Elizabeth Karnowski Buser. She had six brothers, George, Alfred, Eugene, John, Donald and Burton (Bud). Her sisters were Mary Beth and Judith. She had a warm and happy childhood. Her parents provided well for the family and taught them to live full and productive lives.

She received her elementary and high school education from the Benedictine sisters who staffed the parish school in Seneca. After graduation from high school, she thought of going to Marymount College. The idea came to her when two sisters from Marymount, Mary Grace Waring and Euphrasia Barth, came to Seneca to recruit students for the college.

Her college years at Marymount were filled with serious study while earning a degree in music education and with many happy hours of the usual antics and social life with friends she made at school and with whom she maintained life-long contact.

After graduation she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. She had a cousin here, Sister Margaret Ann Buser, and she was also greatly influenced by the lives of the sisters as she observed them at Marymount. She received the habit and the name Christella on March 19, 1947, made first vows in 1948 and final vows in 1951.

She was excited to get her first mission assignment to Tipton, Kan., to teach music and give private lessons. After five years in Tipton, she taught music at the parochial school in Concordia and then was asked to open a school to be staffed by our sisters in Leawood, Kan., the new Cure of Ars School where she would be the superior and music teacher. During this time through summer sessions she earned a MA in Music from DePaul University in Chicago.

Christella’s music ministry ended with election to the Executive Council in 1965. As vice president for President Therese Marie Stafford she saw many changes begin to take shape in religious life after Vatican Council II. She worked with the community in accepting the changes and was very compassionate with those who decided to leave religious life during the years that followed. She bore the burden of Sister Therese Marie’s illness and death in 1969 and assumed the office of president at her death. During her term as President she encouraged sisters to explore new ways of praying and offered opportunities for 30-day and eight-day directed retreats. With her council she experienced the need for changes in the corporate structure of the hospitals owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. These institutions, along with Marymount College, were undergoing many changes. And at the end of her term these challenges were handed on to her successor, Sister Bette Moslander.

Christella enjoyed many close relationships during her years as president. She and Sister Edwardine Flavin, general treasurer, worked together on financial matters. But they also enjoyed many humorous moments together. Like the time they went to a wedding at the church and then proceeded to the parish hall for the reception. They saw a nice table near the entrance with flowers and long-stem glasses. They decided that would be a nice place to sit. Along came a woman who humbly asked them to move as they were at the table reserved for the bride and groom. Looking back on her accomplishments Christella said with her characteristic self-deprecation that she increased the size of the cemetery and replaced the old barn with a nice six-car garage.

We all know that she did much more than that! As community leader she was called to this service at a pivotal point in the community’s life. In one of her talks to the community she said: “Religious life is not a static but a dynamic experience. Religious pledge to live a Gospel life, to live it meaningfully in these times and situations.”

Furthermore, it means developing our own freedom and richness in order to “become more ready to reach out to our neighbors as well as to other sisters. This is our way to live out the call to self-sacrificing love.” Radical change was a way of life in the early 1970s. She made sure that all of it was surrounded by and founded in deep prayer and personal sacrifice, not only for herself and the council but within the individual members and local communities. All were consistently called to prayer.

The members underwent total lifestyle changes and the congregation itself adapted to the new world ushered in by the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Every part of the system changed, every department was transformed; the governance structure was redesigned; she paid off loans made for building new hospitals, separately incorporated institutions, disposed of three hospitals owned by local civic communities and bought into Social Security. Through it all she encouraged sisters to tighten their belts and to enter into deep prayer. Loss of members meant loss of income and school closures, fewer sisters to operate the hospitals and other institutions. From the struggle to create a House of Prayer to setting up a retirement fund for elderly and ill members, from visits to the Brazilian mission to all the decisions required to almost instantly modernize religious life, Christella was in the thick of it, encouraging and holding the community together with her ready humor and compassionate care for each person, her belief in the mission and the sisters who lived it. With her leadership, individual sisters and local communities branched out in response to local and national world needs. It was a time of intense growth and as all such times require, the chaos of change and experimentation was managed and used as seed for the coming days. And, in spare moments she visited the sick and buried the dead, increased the institutional capacity to care for the sick and elderly and enlarged the cemetery; purchased dozens of new cars and transformed the barn into a garage.

After leaving office she briefly took up the position of communications director then began looking for a new ministry. She explored the possibility of serving in the L’Arche community founded by Jean Vanier and dedicated to serving mentally and physically challenged persons. She served some 20 years in this ministry holding many and varied positions. As the Regional Coordinator and member of the International Council she traveled over and over again to western Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Haiti. She, with Jean Vanier, took some of the residents to meet Pope John Paul II who held one of the children on his lap as they talked with him. She was also privileged to visit Trosly, France, where the first L’Arche home was created. Eventually she founded the Heartland L’Arche home in Overland Park, Kansas. She published a book, Flowers from the Ark, recounting many of her experiences with L’Arche residents. One story she loved to tell was of that of Fred, a resident in Tacoma, who was very outgoing. One Sunday the whole Tacoma community went to the Cathedral for a special service at which the Bishop was to preside. Seated on the end of the front row, Fred stepped out of the pew as the Bishop came up the aisle in full regalia, miter and staff, shook his hand and said, “Well, Bishop, I see you have your work clothes on today.” (Flowers from the Ark has recently been published in the Korean language for the L’Arche communities in Korea.)

From L’Arche ministry she once again spent time as Communications Director for the community. However, she was a people person; direct contact was important for her, so once again she looked around and found a new way of being with others. She created a new ministry called the “Joy of Laughter” with the goal of getting people to enjoy laughter and find positive meaning in their lives. She was invited to present her program to over 100 different groups and continued this ministry as long as she was able.

Christella’s life review attests to her life direction — loving, lover, beloved. Love was the central theme of her life. She was intensely sensitive and wore her heart on her sleeve. Easily hurt and distressed by injustice she responded with compassion. We members of her community — and as Michael spoke – you members of her family – all of us were deeply loved by Christella. She said that the people of the L’Arche community stole her heart, but it was taken long before by the many who moved her heart from earliest years. She was a people person and a courageous lover, ready to accompany those whom she judged to be outside the pale, forgive them and move on. She was fun-loving, enjoyed humor, tolerated gladly the stories we told on her, often misunderstood, but formed by suffering into the compassionate presence we all knew and trusted.

Shortly before her last hospitalization she asked me to accompany her on a mini retreat. The theme, she said, would be love. This was an assignment way too high for me; however, with characteristic insight and determination she led me into a sort of life review. Not of her past, but of her present. She wanted to count the people she loved and who loved her – and at the end of each session we would pray paraphrasing a favorite scripture: “May Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of our life. Thus, we will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that we may attain to the fullness of God.” (Adapted from Ephesians 3: 17-19.)

Christella, you now experience fully this love. Thank you for all the many ways you shared it with us over your 94 years.

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



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