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:



Eulogy for Sister Patricia Helen Neihouse

July 27, 2018 by  

VIGIL: July 26, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Janet Lander

Sister Patricia Helen Neihouse begins her life review with Mary’s prayer of praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” (Lk. 1:46) May the story of her life which we recall with gratitude at this time truly be a prayer of praise. For, as that prayer continues, ‘God who is mighty has done great things for me. Holy is God’s name.'” God has done great things in and through her life.

Pat Neihouse was born July 25, 1936, to John and Inez Ella Foulke Neihouse. She was the fifth of their 13 children, six of whom have predeceased her: Margaret Bruce, Marie Lewis, Joan Lust, Julia Ann Wooldridge, Janet Neihouse and Mary Louise Neihouse, who died at birth. Her parents, too, have gone before her. And now, her sister Mary Catherine Billinger has joined her in eternal life. Sister  Pat is survived by her siblings: Elizabeth Hoggatt, John Neihouse, Virginia Gross, James Neihouse and Gerry Parker, as well as nieces and nephews, and extended family.

Pat was baptized at Sacred Heart Cathedral and attended both the elementary and secondary schools there. Her parents valued Catholic education. She loved school and was a good student. In her life review, with fondness, she remembered the Sisters of St. Joseph and others who were her teachers. She was a tomboy who loved sports. She reminisced that when she was small she was always losing her hair ribbons. Later, she played on basketball and baseball teams.

One of her special memories from her growing up years was having her Grandma Neihouse live in their home with them. When she later entered religious life her dad said to her, “You know it was because of your grandma.” Pat also gives credit to Father Wasinger who accompanied the Legion of Mary and impressed her with his help given to alcoholics and to the needy. He supported her desire to be a Sister of St. Joseph, encouraging her to write to Mother Helena.

Pat entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Sept. 8, 1954, part of a band of 14 postulants. Most left religious life in the late ’60s and early ’70s. She is survived by band members Sisters Bernadine Pachta and Agnes Irene Huser. After she made first vows in 1956, she spent a year studying at Marymount College. She then taught in Concordia, followed by one year at Cure D’ars in Leawood, Kan. On March 19, 1959, Sister Patricia made final vows. She finished her studies at Marymount and left for Belém, Pará, Brazil on Feb. 22, 1963, with Sister Patricia Vaughan. She arrived in Teresina, Piauí, Brazil on June 25, 1963, with Sisters Margarida, Rose Dominic, and David, beginning more than 50 years of missionary work. She reflected in her life review: “As I look back upon my years in Brazil, I find myself, along with others, in the midst of a new vision of the Church in the world. How many times the Redemptorist priests and we sisters studied the documents as they were being written during the Vatican II Council. We were very excited to put into practice what these documents meant for us and the people of God.”

Sister Pat was enthusiastic about the formation of the laity, helping them to grow psychologically and spiritually.

Over her years of mission work in Brazil she worked in parishes in Teresina and Amarante. She accompanied workers, and tried to help the poor improve their living conditions, coordinating fundraising for aid to the poorest on the periphery of Escalvado, including beginning a community garden. She also worked in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, after completing a preparatory course in catechetics. Between 1967 and 1976 she completed other certificate courses in areas of psychology and counseling, and a course for those who would become religious formators.

In the years that followed, she took on many other ministries: retreats and spiritual direction, directing Bible groups, Novice Director, Coordination of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brazil, Coordinator of the National Conference of Religious of Brazil in Brazil’s northeast, and teaching Enneagram workshops.

When the Congregation opened a mission in Nova Esperança, in the southern part of Pará, Sisters Janira, Augusta and Rita went with Pat to work with nine base ecclesial communities, living among the people in a little house with a thatched roof. In the Diocese of Conceição do Araguaia they helped the poor to learn about their faith and about human rights, and how to improve their health.

Upon returning to Teresina, she resumed giving Enneagram workshops touching the lives of more than 4,000 vowed religious, priests, bishops and seminarians, as a means of self-knowledge, personal growth and spiritual deepening.

About 10 years ago, when Pat’s sister Jan became ill, Pat spent over a year in the United States. Part of this time was spent caring for Jan. However, Pat also took time for personal renewal. She made the Sarah Sabbatical and also the Bearers of the Tradition programs at Manna House of Prayer. She reflected on the latter saying, “Once again I confirmed my consciousness of how beautiful a gift God gave us as Sisters of St. Joseph, our Charism. Together, with many Sisters of St. Joseph of other states and nations, I shared and received new insights. It was a time of joy and gratitude for having been able to participate.”

Pat returned to Brazil, and resumed ministries in leadership, religious formation and and other ministries. She was blessed by being present for the 50th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the Brazil Mission and her own 60th jubilee of religious life. When Sister Alexsandra took on the study of English, Pat mentored her through opportunities for conversation in English. When I had the privilege of spending six weeks with our sisters in Brazil in 2014, Pat also took me under her wing until I regained enough Portuguese to speak for myself. She was a gracious hostess.

On Nov. 9, 2017, Pat returned to Concordia due to illness. Leaving Brazil did not end her relationship with the sisters there. She continued to write emails and communicate with them through technology, until that became impossible. Since her passing on Sunday morning, I have received various messages of grief from some of the sisters in Brazil. Their Regional Coordinator, Sister Nair, also wrote to let us know that every night the sisters and many others who loved Irma Patrícia, have been saying a rosary for her. Saturday, they will celebrate her life at the “Seventh Day Mass,” a memorial Mass in St. Joseph’s Church in Teresina, with all the sisters, the Redemptorist priests, parishioners and many of Pat’s friends present.

Pat appreciated her five months at the Motherhouse in Stafford Hall, grateful for the care she received and the time she spent with the sisters, especially playing rummy. She loved to go swimming and be outside. Her illness made it necessary to move to Mount Joseph on April 5, 2018. She has expressed gratitude for the faithfulness of family and community members who have visited her, for the care offered by staff and our sisters who minister at Mt. Joseph, and for the little things like jigsaw puzzles, card games with Sister Lucy, watching the birds outside her window, and an abundance of correspondence, even though her illness and “saudades” or longing for the Brazilian community caused significant suffering.

On Sunday, July 22, Pat slipped quietly into the heart of God. In the last part of Pat’s life one of the books she was using for meditation was a translation of “The Sacrament of the Present Moment” by Jean-Pierre Caussade, SJ, an 18th century spiritual classic. In it, the author encourages the reader to live in the moment, finding God present, and abandoning oneself to Christ in every aspect of daily life, accepting even obstacles and finding peace. It appears that Pat so took the message to heart that she shone with its transforming grace. In her life review, she quotes Father Caussade who said, “To live by faith then is to live in joy, confidence, certainty and trust in all there is to do and suffer each moment as ordained by God.”

Pat, indeed, you lived each moment with generous courage and humility. In our tradition as Sisters of St. Joseph, this is to live the zeal of Jesus. And as Jean-Pierre Caussade said, “The way opens up before us as we walk, and we follow it with unfaltering steps.”

With new unfaltering steps may you follow Jesus into the life of unending Love.

Memorials for Sister Patricia Neihouse 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 Patricia Neihouse’s memory, click on the button below:



Eulogy for Sister Margaret Rourke — Dec. 23, 1947 – June 1, 2018

June 11, 2018 by  

VIGIL: June 11, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marilyn Wall

“As for your zeal, it will always be proportionate to the love for God in your heart; see that it springs from a great love and it will be great.” 

— Maxims of Perfection, Chapter XI, No.1

Sister Margaret Rourke was born on a very cold night, Dec. 23, 1927, at her family’s farm home, 11 miles northwest of McCracken, in the southeast corner of Trego County.  She was baptized, Margaret Louise, at St. Mary’s Church in McCracken on Jan. 14, 1928. She was the fifth of seven living children.

Of her childhood, she said, “I grew up close to the soil and close to nature. As a child I spent time contemplating the vastness of the sky and its distance from the earth. I loved to explore the green pastures, play in the waterholes after a rain, climb hills with my brothers and sisters and play imaginary games under the trees or on the hillside.”

Margaret talked about one of her earliest awakenings about God. It was on a bright Sunday morning when she was about five years old. The family was riding to church with the five oldest children seated in the back and she was sitting on a cream can, as was customary.  She asked, “When will we be finished going to Church?”

Her mother and the others tried to explain that they would never get finished. “We will go every Sunday every year all the time.” She said that was unfathomable to her, but it caused her to ponder who this God might be and what was he like.

One of the things she said she really lacked was social interactions with children outside her family and relatives. She went to a one-room school with about 10 students. She had one classmate through third grade, and that classmate was her cousin, Marjorie Rourke. After third grade, Marjorie’s family moved and Margaret was the only one in her class. However, she said her high school years were a good contrast.

When Margaret was ready for high school, her two older sisters, Lucille and Eileen, who had stayed home a year to help during their mother’s illness, were ready for their junior and sophmore years. The three of them stayed at an apartment that her family rented in Ellis and went to school there.

After high school, Margaret went to Marymount in Salina. She said that she felt early in her time there that she might be called to religious life … but she waited until the end of the year to talk about it just in case a young man might sweep her off of her feet. In the end, God’s call was clear. Margaret entered this community of St. Joseph on March 19, 1947 … 71 years ago. On March 19, 1948, she received the habit and the name Sister Mary Thomasine. Living band members are Sisters Christella Buser, Vivian Boucher and Mary Savoie.

Her first mission was Tipton where she taught grades 1, 2 and 3 (about 45 children). Sister Christella, who was in her band, was also in Tipton for the same five years. Her second mission was Leoville, where she taught the same grades but had only about 26 children. Also on that same mission in Leoville was Sister Ann Louis, her principal. The two of them became lifelong friends and supported each other in all areas and especially in their spiritual journeys. After two years in Cawker City, she was assigned to Sacred Heart High School to teach math which was a real stretch for her. But the biggest stretch was going to St. John’s High School in Beloit to teach biology, chemistry and physics. She had taken one course in chemistry seven years earlier and five hours in biology in summer school. With Sister Marie Kelly’s help she survived.

In her life review Sister Margaret relates, “The years after the Vatican II Council were both rocky and exciting. I considered my nine years in Clyde to be more growth-producing that any other nine years in my life.” At Clyde, Margaret worked with Sister Judy Stephens and an innovative team that offered catechetical education and pastoral support to several parishes in the region. In Margaret’s words, “The changes, the new ministry, my readiness to risk growing, my experience with the CPE course under Father Frost at Independence, Iowa, the many workshops, conventions, courses, congregational thrust toward renewal, friendships, outings and travels were all contributing factors.”  

Eventually, Margaret took a position in adult education and parish ministry at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park, Kan. This position lasted for 12 years, and as in all of her ministries, she continued to grow in zeal and in her life with God.

Throughout her life Margaret was courageous in the cause of justice and relentless in the alleviation of poverty. In her “retirement” from active ministry she was mission coordinator for Appeals for our Brazilian Sisters. This she did with the same enthusiasm and diligence as she did everything else. For ten-plus years she organized parish presentations and did many of them herself. When her presentations took her to western Kansas or to Colorado she loved to spend an overnight with her family.

On the occasion of her 50th Jubilee she reflected, “For me this is a moment of facing the NOW at a deeper level of realization of how each of us has become who we are today because of our gifts … gifts that surfaced from our deepest center or gifts from one another and from all of creation.”

Margaret also maintained a close relationship with her family over the generations participating in and planning many family reunions and celebrations and being of help and support whenever someone needed her. Margaret was very close to her nieces and nephews. In these past years she has been a pivotal point for her nieces, who have loved to come here to Concordia from their various home bases to dote over and stimulate Margaret … and to find time to nourish their own relationships with one another. The sisters here in Concordia have also benefited from the joy and fun they bring.

Even as a resident at Mount Joseph, Margaret’s eyes have sparkled with zeal and acceptance. She has exemplified for me and many others the portrait of a Sister of St Joseph: “in her face the reflection proper to our Congregation — continual joy of spirit.  This is the quiet inner glow of the Sister whose life in the service of Jesus has been successful.”

Memorials for Sister Margaret Rourke 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 Rourke’s memory, click on the button below:



Eulogy for Sister Therese Richstatter — Dec. 21, 1929 – April 13, 2018

April 16, 2018 by  

Vigil: 7 p.m. April 16, Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Marilyn Wall

Live out your whole life with one desire only, to be what God desires you to be
In nature, grace and glory in time and in eternity.  (Maxim #73)

Sister Therese Richstatter was born on Dec. 21, 1929 in the Clay Center Hospital.  She was the youngest of two children with a sister named Frances who was a year and a half older than herself.  Her parents were Edward and Martha (Klemm) Richstatter and they lived on a farm south of Greenleaf, Kan. She was baptized in St. Michael’s Church in Kimeo and given the name Anna Elizabeth.

Kimeo, at that time, was a thriving and faith-filled community centered around the Catholic Church. There were families on practically every section and most of the families were large. There were two masses on Sunday morning and the Church was full for both masses. The Church was (and still is) large and beautiful, its steeple can be seen for miles around. Anna and her sister attended a one room school half a mile from their home.  On Saturdays they attended religious instructions.  The Sisters of St. Joseph taught religious vacation school every summer in Kimeo.  It was there that Anna first met our sisters. She and Frances received their First Holy Communion together.  Anna had just completed first grade.

Therese wrote in her life review: “I was born at the beginning of the depression and we were poor.  Because there were no boys in our family, my sister and I helped with the chores on the farm. I attended Green High School in Green, Kan.  I boarded with a family who owned a furniture store there. In high school I played basketball and was in the junior and senior plays.  It was in high school that I first felt called to religious life. I used to read missionary magazines and wanted to be a missionary.  I attribute my religious vocation primarily to my parents who set a good Christian example.  They never encouraged me to enter religious life and I felt that they would rather that I didn’t. But they never did anything to make it difficult for me to do so.”

 “After I graduated from high school in 1948, I worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Concordia. I entered the convent on Sept. 7, 1949.  I received the habit on March 19, 1950 and was given the name Agnes Therese.  I later dropped Agnes from my name.  I made final vows on March 19, 1954. The Novitiate was a most happy experience. There were 15 of us in our band.”

The only surviving members of her band are Sisters Alice Marie Stalker and Rita Ann Mazanec.

 “My mother died July 20, 1954 and my father died Dec. 16, 1958.  My sister, who had crippling arthritis since she was sixteen, died April 14, 1978.  This was one of the hard things for me.  When other sisters went home for visits, I had no family left to visit.”

Therese graduated from Marymount in 1967. She then earned a Master’s Degree in Theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. During her studies there she wrote a paper titled:  “Love in the Epistles of Paul” I will quote from that paper later and that is why the readings tonight and tomorrow at Mass are from St. Paul and on love.

 Therese loved her years of teaching, and said that one of her favorite years was her first mission year at St. Joseph and Ann School in Chicago. She also taught at Concordia, Clyde, Cawker City, Grand Island, Booneville, Tipton and Salina. She particularly enjoyed preparing students for First Holy Communion.  She also enjoyed being Sacristan, and later, Eucharistic Minister and taking communion to the sick wherever she was missioned. In 1987 she earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Emporia State University and then was librarian at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Topeka. She had a great love of learning and was very well read.

 Of her own spirituality, Therese said: “My experience of God is a constant presence, who has always been there in my life as long as I can remember”. 

In her composition on love, she identified this reality also: “Here faith does not mean adhering to God’s word so much as belonging to Christ in a gift of oneself to God which is so total that it permits God to communicate God’s life to us and to work in us.”

Is this not also an apt description of our ministry of presence?

Therese also, over the years of her ministry,  engaged in many activities as volunteer and this speaks to her love and compassion for people. She taught religion in Huntington Beach, Calif., in a program called Sonshine.  She also taught reading in a summer enrichment program on the Oneida Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. In Topeka, she volunteered at the public library and the Better Business Bureau, taught RCIA and passed mail on Saturday mornings at St. Francis Hospital. At Medaille, she volunteered in the Green Thumb Program.

 In her Commitment to Mission and Life Statement for the year 2015-2016, Therese spoke directly out of the experience of life that has been hers in her later years and once again identified her experience of presence to God.  “I sit and wait, unable to do my own care; I wait for when others decide it is time.  My prayer is waiting … waiting for meals, Mass, communion.  May God bless my waiting, and God’s desire in my life.”

Therese, your wisdom, knowledge, sense of humor and your givenness have enriched us all.  We are grateful for your life among us and know that now you are totally in God and present to us and encouraging us in all ways.

I would like to close with a blessing from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3, verses 17-19.
“May Christ, who has dwelt in your heart through faith,
And has been the root of charity and the foundation of your life,
Enable you to grasp fully with all the holy ones,
The breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love,
And to experience this love which surpasses all knowledge,
So that you may attain to the fullness of God”.


Memorials for Sister Therese Richstatter 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 Therese Richstatter’s memory, click on the button below:


Eulogy for Sister Barbara Bader — Jan. 13, 1923-April 7, 2018

April 11, 2018 by  

VIGIL: April 11, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Mary Savoie

Let us tonight, not only pray for Sister Barbara, but also reflect with gratitude for her life among us as a Sister of St. Joseph.

I ask you to walk prayerfully with me during the next 20 to 30 minutes as I present a review of her life, first a biography, secondly information about her education and ministry experiences, and thirdly, and perhaps most important, some of the wonderful and touching inspirations Barbara leaves with each of us.

Aurelia Marie Bader was born, seventh of a family of nine children, January 13, 1923, on a farm in Rhineland, Mo. Her father, Leo Bader, and mother, Petronilla Buecker, raised four sons, Aloysius, Urban, Jerome and Henry, and five daughters, Theresa, Genevieve, Aurelia, Barbara and Nellie. Nellie is currently the only family member remaining and living in Giltner, Neb.

Aurelia Marie Bader, at the age of 19, on May 9, 1942, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas. On March 19, 1943, she received the religious habit and the name of Sister Mary Barbara. She pronounced her first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on March 19, 1944, and her final profession on August 15, 1947.
After completing her novitiate, Sister Barbara earned a B.A. from Marymount College in Salina, Kan., and a M.A. in Educational Administration and Counseling from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Sometime later, she completed training in psychology and became certified in counseling and as a spiritual director.
Sister Barbara’s ministries of teaching and serving as a principal took her to Chicago (1945-50) where she taught first-grade students; to Cawker City, Kan. (1951-54) to teach first through fourth grades; and to Damar, Kan., to serve as principal and teach first and second grades. In 1962, Sister Barbara was instrumental in establishing a new Catholic school in Oakley, Kan.; from 1968-71 she served as principal of the Catholic school in Beloit, Kan., and principal of the Catholic school in Manhattan, Kan., from 1972-79.

Her final active ministry was in Grand Island, Neb., from 1984-2003 where she served primarily as Director of Religious Education. In addition to all of this, during the last 12 summers of her active ministry, Sister Barbara served as Spiritual Director during retreats at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Sedalia, Colo.

Sister Barbara, at age 81, having given lovingly and generously to the service of the dear neighbor for a total of 59 years, on Oct. 17, 2004, retired to live her remaining years, filled with grateful prayers and kindness, at our Nazareth Motherhouse and Mount Joseph in Concordia, as she said: “to semi-retire and take up less demanding ministries.”

As Sister Barbara was preparing for her 70th Jubilee celebration as a Sister of St. Joseph, she was asked: “What best captures for you what these 59 years of active ministry meant to you?”

She quickly replied: “I loved working with children and their parents, their zest for life and new learning challenged me in my own vocation. Certainly, opening a new school in Oakley was a high point in my life as I witnessed the deep desire, sacrifices and enthusiasm of parents to enroll their children in a Catholic school. This convinced me even more of the importance of our teaching ministry as Sisters of St. Joseph. I must say, however, that my ministry in Grand Island was very special. Working so closely with dedicated parents and adult religious teachers taught me so much about my own faith and dependence on God.”
What was the driving force which propelled Sister Barbara through so many years of dedicated service to the dear neighbor?

Visiting personally with her during those years of her living at the Motherhouse and at Mount Joseph Nursing Care Center, and being able to read and reflect on the personal notes she kept during retreats, gave me a glimpse of an answer to that question.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sister Barbara had a deep and compelling desire to always grow in her knowledge and love of God. So often she quoted her favorite scripture passage: “The advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

During a recent retreat, Sister Barbara wrote this of herself: “My desire is to continue to strive to grow in the love of the Lord, to follow His lead and inspiration, and to give my entire attention to prayer and the love of those who assist me each day. I want to be ready to follow the Lord wherever and whenever He calls me. Most of all, I know that the Lord loves me and calls me to an ever closer relationship with Him. I want to take the Lord seriously and live my daily life honestly in terms of His love for me and my response to that love.”
Sister Barbara left this final message which she asked me to share tonight: “To all my dear family, relatives, and especially members of my religious community. I want you to rejoice and be happy knowing that I have now entered into the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My one desire while on earth was to make a return for that great unconditional love I received from sharing with you my life and ministries as a Sister of St. Joseph. I thank you all, especially my loving family, members of my religious community and all who have helped me to grow and deepen my relationship with God. I will be praying for all of you from heaven until we once more will be united never more to be separated. God bless all of you!”

Thank you, dear friend, Sister Barbara Bader, for your life and love.

Memorials for Sister Barbara Bader 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 Barbara Bader’s memory, click on the button below:


Eulogy for Sister Francis Margaret Otter: July 22, 1932 — March 3, 2018

March 5, 2018 by  

VIGIL: March 5, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST:  Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

Sister Francis Margaret left directions for her eulogy. It was to be “short, simple and to the point.” In fact, she said that on seven or eight separate sheets of paper, so I think she meant it. While I will try to honor her request, she lived a full and vibrant life and we want to do her justice.

Sister Francis Margaret was born at home on July 22, 1932, at 4 a.m. She was baptized the same day she was born. She was the second of eight children born to Frank and Margaret Otter and was given name Virginia Ann.

She often said she was welcomed into the family by her parents, older brother Alvin and his pet dog, Daboo.

A little over a year later, Sister Mary Esther was born. She was followed by her brother Marion, then Sister Donna and JoAnn. Francis Margaret was six years old when Donna was born. She shared how she felt that Donna was “her baby doll” and how she delighted in helping their Mother care for her. On her eleventh birthday, her youngest sister, JoAnn, was born. She felt like JoAnn was a special gift to her from God. Two other siblings, Rita and Emory, had died at birth.

Her ancestry on both sides was German and Irish so her parents were good practicing Catholics. She remembers that they attended two masses every Sunday morning and vespers in the afternoon.

They lived on a farm north of New Almelo, Kan., during the Depression years. Because of the drought, the crops were not productive and times were hard; but her parents had deep faith and trust in God. Young Virginia watched her parents during these years and, from their example, learned a deep faith. Yet when the family suffered the loss of the infant children Francis Margaret recalls questioning why a loving God would do this to their family. She began her quest for deeper intimacy with God at a very young age. She continued to be a spiritual seeker throughout her life.

As a child, even though times were lean, Sister Francis Margaret said the cellar was always full of canned vegetables and meat. They were well cared for and felt security in their family. Her parents took time to play with the children and she remembers playing softball on Sunday afternoons with her father.

Francis Margaret enjoyed sports especially playing softball and basketball. She was the pitcher on Father Sanders’ softball team.

One light-hearted story she told was walking home from school every afternoon. Alvin and Marion would always beat them home. The girls would take their time. Her mother would remind the girls to keep up with the boys. Francis Margaret remarked that trying to keep up with the boys was like “asking the unthinkable.”

She entered the convent just after completing high school. She wrote to Mother Chrysostom on her father’s stationary — it says Frank Otter, Clayton, Kansas, at the top. In her own handwriting she writes:

Dear mother,

I wish to tell you that I want to become one of your daughters. I have attended the retreat given at Marymount College and I believe I have received the wonderful inspiration of that vocation. It makes me happy to think that I want to join the Sisters of St. Joseph. I would like to enter in February. Yours sincerely, Virginia Otter, Clayton, Kansas.

She got her wish and entered on Feb. 1, 1951, a day with a huge blizzard. Her pastor at Saint Joseph’s Church in New Almelo, Father Sanders, brought her to Concordia. In his recommendation to Mother Chrysostom for her entrance, he wrote:

Virginia is one of those rare, ideal young ladies, which are rather hard to find these days. She will be a credit to any community. Virginia has never been away from home for any length of time and will probably become very homesick.

When she requested to make final vows, the letters of recommendation from community members said things such as, “she has a generosity and spirit of cooperation,” was commended for her teaching ability and Sister Mary Corona said she “has the distinctive marks of a good religious.”

She was naturally quiet and Sister Germaine said, “She is very, very shy. It surely would be to her advantage if she could overcome this timidity to some extent.”

She professed temporary vows on Aug. 15, 1952, and perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1955. Her living band member is Sister Gerri Milke.

Francis Margaret earned a bachelor degree in social studies from Marymount College in 1965. Over the next several years she took specialized courses in math, reading and the Montessori Method of Education. She took classes from Dayton University in Ohio and San Francisco College in California. Her Montessori training was done in Kansas City, Mo.

Her first teaching assignment was at St. Joseph and Anne’s School in Chicago. Her parents had come to Concordia to hear the mission assignments read and they were in Francis Margaret’s word “aghast” when they heard where she was going … here was a very young girl from a very small town leaving for the very large city of Chicago.

For her Jubilee in 2011, Francis Margaret recounted that story adding, “I traveled to Chicago on the Rock Island from Belleville. When I arrived I was shown to my room, unpacked and was then assigned to my classroom. I was a first-year, inexperienced teacher and would be responsible for 55 first graders. When I learned that I would have 55 I said, “Oh, yes, God, I wanted to teach but we forgot to talk about the number.”

She was blessed that two more experienced sisters, Sisters Franny Jo Hoover and Margaret Jilka,  sat down with her every Sunday afternoon to review plans and strategies. She stayed there three years and enjoyed the experience, but never did get used to big city smog and noise.

From 1953 to 1995, she taught first grade and primary grades in Chicago; Concordia, Manhattan, Junction City, Herndon, Oakley and Plainville, Kan.; and El Paso, Texas; and was responsible for starting Montessori kindergartens in Leawood and Salina, Kan.

Francis Margaret was a marvelous teacher. It is unbelievable how many certificates she earned in courses with titles such as “Motivating the Unmotivated” and “Teacher as Poet.” She had a passion for teaching and kept striving for the more, always wanting to better her skills so that she could reach even the hardest to reach child.

As the school superintendent said of her when recommending re-certification, “Through her life-long pursuit of professional growth, Sister Francis Margaret has kept herself aware of the dynamics of our ever-changing society and its impact on education.” She also noted that Sister had “exceptional strength in classroom management and engages the children in profitable learning experiences.”

Francis Margaret won a grant from McDonald’s for a hands-on math lab. She wanted children to be able to understand abstract math concepts and was innovative in creating ways to do that.

Her students, in turn, loved her. On her 25th Jubilee, her school set aside a special day to celebrate with her. A first grader wrote her a congratulations card. She printed it in block letters on the lined paper children used when learning to print. It read, “I hope you have a good 25th year day. Twenty-five years is a long time and I have missed quite a few of your anniversaries but I sure hope that this one is just wonderful.”  — signed Diane G.

Another time a first-grade student made her a certificate. It read: “This certificate is awarded to Sr. Francis Margaret for: the holiest teacher, the kindest teacher and the neatest hair.”

After 43 years she moved from teaching and became the religious education coordinator at Sacred Heart Parish in Plainville. She remained in that position for nine years before retiring from active ministry in June 2005.

Francis Margaret had a zest for life. During these years, she also spent one summer as a staff assistant at a L’Arche Home for special needs adults in Winnipeg, Canada, went to Brazil to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the mission there, and became certified in Facilitative Family Ministry. That was a ministry to mobilize and educate people on how to find needs of parishioners and be responsive to them.

When she came to the Motherhouse, she continuing to serve in a wide variety of ways: giving tours, leading the Rosary and Litany, distributing mail, preparing food trays for sisters, helping with recycling and handcrafting items for the Nazareth Gift Shop. Each year we give a tour to local fourth graders as part of a class project. Sister Francis Margaret was a tour guide par excellence with that age group. She delighted in doing that.

She had a heart for vocations and offered to be on the vocation committee and would give talks and accompany the vocation directors to Vocation Day Events. So, in her honor — I’m sure she would want me to do this — I’m going to put a plug in here for any single, Catholic women who are here to consider becoming a Sister of St. Joseph.

Francis Margaret had an awareness of what needed to be done. She did not need someone to point it out or tell her. For example, around the Motherhouse Sister Mary Leo was legally blind so she read the “Connections” to her, which is our internal newsletter. She did sewing for others, made gifts for our gift shop and even gave Sister Mary Esther an Ogilvy home perm every three months.

She could be found in prayer at various times of the day or night, in various locations in the house. She prayed the rosary, prayed in the office, meditated on Bible verses and more.

Francis Margaret also enjoyed life and made sure she had time for recreation. In addition to reading and working puzzles, she liked to play pinochle and pitch. Her pitch partners shared that they enjoyed her quick wit and they also knew she would never bid over five.

From young adulthood she began suffering from seizures. That was a cross she bore admirably. She said that it limited her freedom of activities but she adjusted well and compensated for it when she could.

Her life was filled with gratitude. In her file there are several notes that she sent to past councils and various committees graciously thanking them for their work. She wrote one to Sister Polly Kukula responding to a story about Sister Polly on our webpage which had a photo of Polly in the classroom.

Francis Margaret wrote: “Congratulations, Polly. I love your pose — a real teacher style! I wish that every junior high student in the diocese could experience two years with you in their religion courses. How fortunate they would be.”

 That was Francis Margaret. She wanted to spread joy and encouragement wherever she was. It was important to her to be able to laugh and to show appreciation.

Each year we write our mission statement for the upcoming year and ask the congregation to commission us. Her last mission statement 2017-2018 was written with the assistance of Sister Janet LeDuc. It expresses the desires of her heart. It reads:

“I asked the congregation to accept my commitment to live out my life at Mount Joseph Senior Village desiring to be where and how God wants me to be through my presence and graciousness of manner each day with a deep consciousness of God united with the sisters at Mount Joseph and those who share in my life.”

 I don’t know if Francis Margaret would think this is short. It is simple. And here’s the point:

Sister Francis Margaret had an unquenchable thirst for God. Like a true Sister of St. Joseph she was always yearning for “the more” and unreservedly gave herself in service to others. As we heard in the Scripture reading, “Yes,” said the Spirit, “let her find her rest from her labors for her works accompany her.” We have all been enriched by Francis Margaret’s life among us. For that, we give thanks to God.

Memorials for Sister Francis Margaret Otter 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 Francis Margaret’s memory, click on the button below:


Eulogy for Sister Mary Esther Otter, Nov. 22, 1933—Jan. 13, 2018

January 16, 2018 by  

VIGIL:  Jan. 16, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGY:  Sister Mary Jo Thummel

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
our maker to whom we belong
whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
Give thanks to God, bless God’s name.
good indeed is the Lord.
Whose love endures forever,
whose faithfulness lasts through every age.

Sister Mary Esther Otter, born Nov. 22, 1933, to Frank G. Otter and Margaret K. Bates, was christened Irene Fernunda that same day in St. Joseph’s Church, New Almelo, Kan., by Msgr. John B. Vornholdt. She grew up on a farm near Clayton, Kan., in Norton County. She was the third child in a family of eight children. Her brothers are Alvin and Marion and sisters Virginia, (Sister Francis Margaret), Donna, (Sister Donna), and JoAnn (Mrs. Roger Long). Two siblings, Rita and Emory, died at birth.

Sister Mary Esther said, “I live in gratitude for my Faith and value system learned from my parents. Religion meant very much to my parents who were quite contemplative by nature and we shared many hours pondering the Creator, Earth and nature’s contribution to life. My mother was a gentle soft-spoken woman, eager to please. My father felt that the family that prayed together stayed together. Both were creative and we all profit from that talent.”

After attending public grade school taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and high school in Clayton, Sister Mary Esther enrolled in Marymount College in the fall of 1951. After a retreat given by a Passionist Father, she decided to enter. (Mother Chrysostom was the Mother General, at that time.) Sister Mary Esther and three other young women, Christina Meyer, Eulalia Kloeker and Leona Reiter entered on Feb. 6, 1952. Of this experience Mary Esther said,  “I had admired the Sisters at Marymount, my own sister, Sister Francis Margaret, and the sisters from my grade school days who always seemed to be happy and have so little convenience.”

(Sisters Christina and Eulalia remain on the journey with us, but Leona decided that religious life wasn’t her calling and left after a number of years.)

Other significant happenings in Mary Esther’s life at this time were: her father’s death in 1956, and her sister Donna’s entrance into the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mary Esther rejoiced for Donna.

Sister Mary Esther taught for 26 years in Manhattan, Kan., Silver City N.M., Cawker City, Kan., Schoenchen, Kan., Manhattan Kan., and Salina Kan.

Of her years of teaching, Mary Esther said, “My 26 years of teaching were both memorable and, at times, exhausting. I recall many enjoyable experiences and treasure the many years I prepared children for the Sacraments of Penance and their first Eucharist. Often I realize the great responsibility of that trust. In the later years of teaching I also realized that each of the children were so unique and their needs varied so much and I took advantage of the opportunity to try to individualize the curriculum. My frustration with trends in teaching opportunities to meet individual needs and the fact that my feet needed attention were signs that God was calling me to other areas of ministry. Two traumatic experiences stand out in my teaching career. They are my assignment as principal for three years in Cawker City — and my unpreparedness — and witnessing the burning of our school in Schoenchen, Kan., on April 30, 1975.”

During her years of teaching, Sister Mary Esther also assisted with the summer program for migrants in Goodland, Kan., taught religious education classes, and numerous vacation bible schools.

In 1980, Sister Mary Esther was invited to assist in the continuing education program in Junction City, Kan., to help immigrants acclimate themselves to a new country. This was a valuable and broadening experience, but due to limited federal funds and other factors, she left after one year.

Sister Mary Esther saw this as an opportunity to request time for a deeper inner search of God’s action in her life. She entered the Personal Growth program in St. Paul, Minn., where she spent 18 months with 30 sisters belonging to various communities throughout the United States and Canada and realized that the Church was graced with many strong, talented and faith-filled women.

After leaving Minnesota, Sister Mary Esther spent five months assisting in the Emmanuel Prayer House in Iowa, City, Iowa, as receptionist, typist and conveyor of hospitality. During this time, Mary Esther realized the she had to take care of her “ailing feet.”

While waiting to get everything in place to have the surgeries needed, Sister Mary Esther learned of reflexology and arranged to take the International Reflexology Course out of St. Petersburg, Fla. She was able to take this course in Des Moines, Iowa, and received a certificate in the Ingham Method of Reflexology.
After having surgery on her feet and recuperating, Sister Mary Esther felt like she had a new spirit. This gave her the urge to find a new ministry. In January of 1985 she accepted an invitation from Sister Viatora Solbach to assist in opening a hospitality house in Junction City for women and women with children needing a place during crisis times.

At the time of accepting the invitation, Sister Mary Esther also learned that the convent in Junction City was closing. She said, “With only two sisters being in the school the community felt it unfair to have the sisters reside in such a large facility. I also learned that I was coming to a parish community with mixed emotions about the closing of the convent and displeasure over their pastoral minister making plans to live and work in the northeast part of Junction City and predominantly with a black segment of society. But God was having his/her way again.”

In late June, Sister Mary Esther arrived in Junction City. She and Sister Viatora lived with a Mrs. Eleanor Nolan until in August when a third member would be added to their household. She said, “Now I also became a ‘woman in need of shelter’ without income. In retrospect, I realize this was God’s post-graduate classes in empathy and understanding of this ministry not offered in any university.”

Sisters Viatora and Mary Esther wrote for grants and appealed to the administration of our congregation for aid. Sister Mary Esther mentions that the administration team was of great support. During this time, Sisters Viatora and Mary Esther visited other shelters, many churches in Junction City and spread awareness of their cause throughout the city. It was also during this time that Sister Mary Esther’s mother suffered a stroke on Jan. 6, 1986. Because St. Clare House wasn’t yet ready to open, Sister Mary Esther was able to help with the care of her mother.

In February of 1986, St. Clare House was ready for them to move in, and continue readying the house for ministry.

Through the “summer ministry program” Marrayne, a young woman from Los Angeles, was added to the staff and proved to be very valuable to the ministry. Sister Mary Esther said, “I stand in awe at the unfolding of such miraculous happenings of Providence to us all. I believe thoroughly that God had called Sister Vi to this work and each of us to assist at this time.”

In the summer of 1987, Sister Mary Esther experienced her first plane ride to Los Angeles when she and Marrayne attended a religious education congress. Sister Mary Esther felt that perhaps this was a provision by God for her as she would take a longer plane trip to Brazil in late June.

With Sister Donna’s visit to the United States in 1987, a seed of a possible visit to Teresina, Piaui, Brazil, to assist with the 25th anniversary celebration was planted. In June of 1988, Sisters Mary Esther, Francis Margaret, and eight other community members traveled to Brazil. About this trip, Mary Esther said, “For 23 years I could only imagine my sister’s and the other Sister’s surroundings, the climate, the people and all. I read letters of sharings with love, trust, concern and wondering what all was not being shared. How I treasure the experience of actually traveling, landing and meeting the women who also blindly accepted us across the waters in Concordia. I saw Donna in the setting of a people she dearly loved and I saw how loving and graciously accepted she was by these same Spirit-filled people. I witnessed the responsibility placed on her and us in forming native religious to take on the bringing of the CSJ charism to another people and another country. I observed that we had much to learn from this group of women and their passionate zeal, basic communities and Earth spirituality.”

Sister Mary Esther continued to minister at St Clare House through June, 1994. By that time, the old convent in Junction City had been purchased by the Ministerial Alliance and became a shelter for men, women and families. St Clare House, which was deemed to have served its purpose, became a ministry of the Crisis Center of Manhattan that was in need of space in the Junction City-area. Those were years that tried Sister Mary Esther’s strength and blessed her with opportunities to meet God in the dear neighbor of women in need. She said, “I realized each day was full of the profound awareness of God’s presence.”

After leaving St. Clare House, Sister Mary Esther took a sabbatical that she called ‘a year of nomadic ministry.’ She spent time making a 30-day retreat in Republic, Mo., with the Little Portion Franciscan Sisters. She also spent time at Open Door in Junction City and as a driver in Plainville, Kan.

In 1995, she returned to her home parish in New Almelo to care for her mother. While caring for her mother she also ministered at the parish, made craft items for Open Door in Junction City and offered some reflexology treatments. She speaks of learning much from her mother’s suffering during those years.

After her mother’s death and because of her own failing eyesight, Sister Mary Esther returned to the Motherhouse in 2000. As was her pattern, her ministry to the “dear neighbor” continued among her sisters here. She Assisted Sister Mary Julia Stegeman in the greenhouse and with the plants in the Motherhouse, took the Eucharist to sisters within the Motherhouse, assisted with recycling, shared in the weekly rosary at Mt. Joseph and lent a hand wherever needed.

In February of 2017, a fall and broken hip necessitated that Sister Mary Esther move to Mt. Joseph. As she was able, she continued her ministry of loving presence to Sister Francis Margaret, the community of sisters at Mt. Joseph and other residents. Up to her last breath she had a smile and show of appreciation to all who were present with her.

As I reviewed Sister Mary Esther’s life story, I couldn’t help but note the many times she mentioned how she came to see the presence of God in all the events of her life. Often she mentions that she didn’t understand an event in her life but then speaks of a lesson which she thought God was unfolding for her by that happening.
There are nuances throughout Sister Mary Esther’s life history that speaks of the depth of her relationship with God. One that spoke to me was a piece she had written about what might be recorded in her eulogy. The piece has six stanzas the last of which says:

“Yes, let my life be written and care not what is said
of the good, the bad, and the misunderstood
But know instead pages will rot long after I’m dead
And only my relationships written in
the heart of God will be read.”

The reason I started our tribute this evening with Psalm 100 was because of another piece that she had written. Among Sister Mary Esther’s papers I found a sheet of notebook paper with a line from Psalm 100, “Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.” What followed this line was a prayer written by Mary Esther, which I would like to share with you.

How can I pray
You who are beyond the mystery of knowing
beyond what is knowable and unknowable
beyond speech and silence
beyond the only words I know
beyond the prayers I can say
beyond the prayers I trust
Set me free so that for just
this day I can pray to you
not with words
but with wonder and

Dear Mary Esther, I believe your prayer has been answered and that you are joyfully present in amazement before the face of God.

Memorials for Sister Mary Esther Otter 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 Mary Esther’s memory, click on the button below:


Eulogy for Sister Veronica Ann Baxa, Nov. 12, 1941 – Nov. 15, 2017

November 16, 2017 by  

Vigil: November 17, 2017 at Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia

Eulogy: Written by Janet Lander, CSJ, and presented by Eulalia Kloeker, CSJ.

Tonight, we celebrate the life of Sister Veronica Ann Baxa. We offer our sympathy to her family: her siblings, their spouses, her nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews and extended family. We also offer our sympathy to her friends, the nursing staff who helped care for her, the Motherhouse community with whom she lived, her Circle of community life, and in a special way her band members: Sisters Beth Stover, Betty Maschka and Rita Plante.

Sister Veronica Ann Baxa was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia, Kan., on Nov. 12, 1941, to Fred and Lottie (Oborny) Baxa, and given the name Veronica Ann Baxa. She grew up on a farm near Cuba, Kan. Veronica was the oldest child. Her younger siblings are: Fred Baxa, Larry Baxa, Ella (Baxa) Rudolph, Marvine (Baxa) Orbony and Marian Baxa. The youngest brother died in a car accident, but the others are living and here among us.

Veronica was baptized at St. Isadore’s Church in Cuba, when she was 11 days old. Veronica recounted that her father had wanted a daughter who would become a Sister, and even gave Veronica a “Sister doll,” so her thoughts of becoming a Sister started early in life.

Reflecting on her childhood faith, she said, “As a small child I remember attending the Stations of the Cross once a week during Lent. The Sixth Station, “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus,” always made me feel important, as my name is Veronica.”

She first met the Sisters of St. Joseph in vacation school at St. Isadore’s, and when she was in sixth grade she announced at a family meal that she wanted to be a Sister. The next year, Sister Josephine Loretta Geis encouraged her to go to the Apostolic School at Nazareth Convent in Concordia for high school. After completing elementary school in a country school called Prairie Home near Cuba, Veronica attended high school at the Apostolic School for four years, graduating May 15, 1959.

Veronica entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept 8, 1959. On March 18, 1960, she was received into the novitiate and given the name Sister Mary Lawrence which she had requested, as these were the middle names of her parents. She made first vows March 19, 1961, and final vows March 19, 1966.

During the year 1961-62, she assisted Sister Mary Julia Stegeman in the laundry at Marymount College, and took some courses. The next three years she worked at St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Salina, Kan., doing housekeeping and helping first and second graders with homework.

The summer of 1965, Veronica Ann began 23 years of service at the Motherhouse. Until 1980 she did heavy work in the big laundry. However, in 1970 she also attended beauty school in Grand Island, Neb., in order to open a beauty shop at the Motherhouse, so that she might serve the sisters by giving haircuts and perms. She gave of her talents for 18 years in the beauty shop. Some of those who lived with and knew her during those years have said, “Veronica was a very hard working person. Whenever she was given a job, she took hold of it and made sure it was done right … She had a terrific memory for dates and could recall them at a moment’s notice, as well as sharing the stories around the events. Her letter writing was detailed and always included each member of her family and what was happening in their lives. We were blessed to receive many of her letters when we moved to Concordia.”

From 1988-90 Veronica Ann lived in Clyde, Kan., ministering in social service and pastoral visiting at Park Villa Nursing Home. She also visited the elderly in the parish. During this time she became a CNA (certified nursing assistant). During the summer of 1989 she greatly enjoyed a sabbatical course in Erie, Pann., for Sisters of St. Joseph.

In 1990 Veronica moved to Minneapolis, Kan., and began working at the Good Samaritan Center Nursing Home in the inventory control department, ordering all the supplies needed for care of the residents. She was self-taught on the computer when this technology became necessary for her work, because, as she says, “You have to keep learning to keep up with the times.” She found working with the elderly to be a rewarding ministry, especially praying at the bedside of dying residents. She was also very active in Immaculate Conception parish, as a Eucharistic Minister, member of the Council of Catholic Women, singing in the choir and serving as the Catholic Register correspondent for the parish. Reflecting on these years of living and ministering on her own, she says, “I learned to be responsible for many things, including taking care of the car … Some of our Sisters who are my friends … hear me say, “I have come a long way baby.” She also said that living alone blessed her with more time to spend in prayer.

In her life review, written in 2008, she wrote, “My Christian faith calls me to empty myself in service for those in need. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do that … I am grateful that God called me to this vocation. It has brought me much joy and peace.”

Two of her friends said of her, “She had a servant’s heart.”

Sister Veronica Ann moved back to the Motherhouse in Concordia in July of 2012 because of poor health. Nevertheless, she was known to have a happy spirit and hearty laugh. When reading Sister Veronica’s yearly commitment to Mission over the years, one finds that nearly every one of them includes prayer for world peace and for those whom she was serving. She often spoke of her desire to serve and give witness, be faithful and be a presence to others. In last year’s (2017-18) commitment she said, “I will be of service to our Sisters at the Motherhouse, as I am able. I will accept God’s will for me at this time in my life.” She ended her life review with the words, “Thank you, Jesus, for taking good care of me.”

Yes, thank you Jesus for your call and loving fidelity to Veronica. And thank you, Veronica, for your ‘yes,’ and the myriad of ways you have cared for us your community and your family. May Jesus now welcome you home.

• • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Veronica Ann Baxa 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 Veronica’s memory, click on the button below:


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