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:



Spring into a new Messenger!

April 18, 2018 by  

Spring into a new Messenger

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The April edition of The Messenger is always an exciting one, and this year is no different. We have Sisters and Novices at the border, a Spaghetti Dinner recap, exciting news from the Marymount Alumni Association and a calendar bursting with activities for the future.

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:



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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:


Follow the Yellow Brick Road to annual Spaghetti Dinner

March 8, 2018 by  

Tickets are now available for the 2018 Sisters of St. Joseph Spaghetti Dinner, the biggest event of the year at the Nazareth Motherhouse, 1300 Washington, Concordia.

A winning raffle ticket could win the owner a new CharBroil grill, a hand-crafted quilt, a Keurig machine or cash prizes.

The dinner is set for Sunday, March 18, with dinner being served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Advance dinner tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 5-12, and are available at the Motherhouse, at Manna House of Prayer and at Neighbor to Neighbor. They are also available by calling the Sisters of St. Joseph Development Office, (785) 243-2113, ext. 1225, or emailing

Dinner tickets at the door will cost $10 for adults and $6 for children. (Children 4 and younger eat free.)

The theme of this year’s spring fundraiser is “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” and it features activities for the entire family, tours of the historic Motherhouse and performances by local musicians. There will be drawings for prizes of up to $500 cash, a silent auction and the popular “grab bag,” with gifts for $1, $2 and $3. Homemade baked goods and Easter baskets will be available for sale.

A variety of Easter baskets will be available for purchase.

Throughout the event, the Nazareth Gift Shop will be open.

Tickets for the drawing cost $1 each, or six tickets for $5. Ticket holders in the drawing choose which prize to try for. This year there are cash prizes of $500, $200 and $100, plus a CharBroil gas grill, a Keurig coffee maker and a 69” x 84” quilt constructed by Sister Betty Suther and hand-quilted by Sister Ann Glatter.

Winners will be drawn about 1:30 p.m., but you need not be present to win. Bidding in the silent auction will close at the same time.

In 2017, a record 625 people attended the sisters’ spaghetti dinner, which raised almost $11,000 to support the Concordia sisters and their ministries.

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.

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