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:


New year, new Messenger!

January 23, 2018 by  

The January edition of The Messenger is always an exciting one, because we begin a celebration of our Jubilarians! And 2018 brings us nine wonderful women whose combined 555 years of service deserves to be celebrated.

Yet that’s just the beginning of the news and information packed into this edition. You can also learn about changes on the Motherhouse grounds, Sisters being honored for their service and ministries and upcoming events for the new year!

The print edition is in the mail today, and it’s available here right now as a flipbook. To open the flipbook edition, just click on the image 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:


Dancing polar bears entertain kids at Reading with Friends

December 12, 2017 by  

“Did you know polar bears could dance?” asked guest reader Margo Hosie, quickly getting the attention of an active group of Concordia preschoolers. “Well they do in this book!”

The book was, “On the Night You Were Born” written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman. And the reading was Dec. 8 at Neighbor to Neighbor, as part of the ongoing Reading with Friends series. The book tells of all the wonderful, fanciful things that happen on the night a baby is born.

After reading the book with the children, Hosie shared a quilt that her mother gave her as an infant.

“I’m probably older than even your grandma,” Hosie said as she held up the quilt to giggles from the kids. “And this was given to me by my Mom on the day I was born.”

Reading with Friends offers story times for children 3 to 5 years old on the second Fridays of the month at 10 a.m. at Neighbor to Neighbor, 103 E. Sixth St. Each session includes playtime and a snack for the children, plus each child receives a free copy of that day’s book to take home.

There is a limit of 30 children per session so parents must register in advance. This was the third “Reading with Friends” program this fall. The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012. The next date will be Jan. 12, 2018.

To make reservations for January’s story time, call Neighbor to Neighbor at 785/262-4215 or email

This year’s Reading with Friends is made possible thanks to a generous donation from Betty Drake of Beloit.

Reading with Friends announces December offering

November 21, 2017 by  

Do you know a very special preschooler? Then treat them to a free reading of “The Night You Were Born,” a book that celebrates the uniqueness of every child, at the next Reading with Friends at Neighbor to Neighbor.

The birth of a baby —”the one and only ever you” — causes jubilation throughout creation in this quietly celebratory picture book by writer and illustrator Nancy Tillman.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 8. Margo Hosie will be the guest reader.

The story times for children 3 to 5 years old are all on the second Fridays of the month and all begin at 10 a.m. at Neighbor to Neighbor, 103 E. Sixth St. Each session will include playtime and a snack for the children, plus each child will receive a free copy of that day’s book to take home.

There is a limit of 30 children per session so parents must register in advance. Call Neighbor to Neighbor at 785/262-4215 or email

This is the third “Reading with Friends” program scheduled this fall. The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012. Upcoming dates will be Jan. 12. In the new year, the program will continue through May 2018.

This year’s Reading with Friends is made possible thanks to a generous donation from Betty Drake of Beloit.

Santa Claus is coming to town for Motherhouse Open House!

November 16, 2017 by  

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will return to our Christmas Open House this year! And they’re bringing delicious cookies made by Mrs. Claus. Bring the kids by for snacks and crafts and a chat with St. Nick while you take in the beauty of the historic Nazareth Motherhouse.

All ages are welcome from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10.

The Open House will include holiday music, coloring and crafts for the kids and, of course, cookies, along with punch and coffee. Also included will be guided tours of our five-story landmark home, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. Numerous Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia will be on hand to welcome guests, lead tours and serve refreshments.

Last year was the first time Santa Claus was invited to be part of the sisters’ Christmas Open House, and organizers were pleased by the turnout. Several children were reluctant to take up the traditional seat on Santa’s lap, but were willing to try a turn sitting with Mrs. Claus.

“I’m so surprised — and pleased,” one mother said of her 3-year-old son. “He seemed a little afraid of a big man in a red suit, but went to her right away.”
Last year’s hit Santa and Mrs. Claus — who on other days are known as Dell Lee and Annette Boswell of Leon, Iowa — will return again this year to delight their young guests. Be prepared for an entertaining time making Christmas memories and photographs that will last.

“I was so happy to see all the young families who came out,” said Ambria Gilliland, assistant development director for the Sisters following last year’s event.
The easiest access is from the east parking lot (between the Motherhouse and the Community Garden). The event is free and open to the public.

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:


Fall into our fall edition of the Messenger

October 18, 2017 by  

Be sure to check out our fall edition of the Messenger. It’s full of a wrap up of some of our summer activities, including repairs to the Motherhouse and the pipe organ, but includes information you’ll want to have for upcoming events like the Motherhouse Pumpkin Patch, Neighbor to Neighbor Holiday Boutique and Christmas Open House.  The new issue is in the mail, or if you just can’t wait, click on the icon below to open the flipbook.

A statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

August 15, 2017 by  

LCWR Assembly Statement on the US-DPRK Crisis

This week, while tensions between the governments of the United States and the People’s
Republic of Korea quickly escalated, 700 members of the Leadership Conference of Women
Religious meeting in Orlando, FL issued a public statement imploring President Donald J. Trump
to engage in dialogue and negotiation.

At this critical moment for our country and global community, we – the 700 members of
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious gathered in assembly – have discerned
the Gospel call to embody love for the sake of the world.
We believe that love is more powerful than fear, dialogue more productive than rhetoric,
and connection more transformative than threats of destruction.

We call on President Trump to engage in constructive dialogue and negotiation to
resolve the current crisis between the governments of the United States and the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a manner that guarantees the peace and
security that all people seek.

We commit ourselves to promote nonviolence and a compassionate response to the
thirst of the world for integrity and communion.

LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United
States. The conference has nearly 1300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women
religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively
carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

What can you do about the human trafficking crisis?

July 30, 2017 by  

Today, July 30, is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. 

But what is Human Trafficking and why should you care? And what can you do, personally, to help? 

Human trafficking is considered to be modern day slavery.

There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of trafficking.

While most human trafficking in the U.S. occurs in New York, California and Florida, Wichita, Kansas, is the fifth largest city in the U.S. for human trafficking. This is due to it being a hub in relationship to I-35 and I-70. 

Many victims can be found at truck stops, on the streets such as Broadway in Wichita, casinos, bars, strip joints shopping mall and motels.

Human trafficking isn’t just the sex trade. It includes forced manual labor and human organ harvesting, although prostitution encompasses the largest portion.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. It is estimated to be a $32 billion industry and growing.

What can you do?

One real thing you can do right now is 

  1. Grab your smartphone
  2. Look for the TraffickCam app and download it for free online from the Apple app store or Google Play.
  3. Use the app to take and upload photos of your hotel room every time you travel.

How does this help?

The TraffickCam app empowers travelers in the fight against sex trafficking by taking photos of their hotel rooms and anonymously uploading them to a national database, which will be used by law enforcement and investigators to locate victims and their pimps. Human traffickers often post pictures on the web of women and children they are advertising for sex. Hotel conference planners can help identify the hotel and the chain, and sometimes even the city just by the background in the photo. 

Photos taken and marked with a location are sent to a large database available for law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The app has already had significant results.

For more information on human trafficking, visit these sites out of Wichita, Kansas out of Wichita, Kansas out of Kansas City, Kansas

Or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-373-7888 This hotline can help victims safely and securely begin to rebuild their lives by connecting them to basic services including housing, health care, immigration assistance, food, employment and legal assistance.



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