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

October 14, 2019 by  

Sister Geraldine Kokenge died Oct. 14, 2019, at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia. She was 91 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for 72 years. She was born in St. Benedict, Kan., on Feb. 26, 1928, to Lawrence and Frances Rilinger Kokenge, the second of five children, and was baptized Geraldine Mary Ann. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Feb. 2, 1947. On Aug. 14, 1947, Geraldine received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Mary Justina, later returning to her baptismal name, Geraldine. She pronounced first vows on Aug. 15, 1948, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1951.

Sister Geraldine served the community in the food service industry in various institutions including Kansas Wesleyan University and Sacred Heart Jr./Sr. High School in Salina, Kan.

After she retired in 2000, she moved to Medaille Center, Salina; and then to Nazareth Motherhouse in 2006.

Sister Geraldine was preceded in death by her parents, one brother and one sister. She is survived by one brother, Elmer, of Topeka, Kan., and one sister, Lorrine Warner, of Pembroke, Mass.

A Bible Vigil Service will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 16, 2019, in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Marilyn Wall as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 17, 2019, in the Motherhouse Chapel with Father Barry Brinkman presiding. The internment of cremains will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery.

Chaput-Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. Sixth St., Concordia, Kan., is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Geraldine Kokenge may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O. Box 279, Concordia, Kan. 66901.

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

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Panther Pride Garden Club visits Motherhouse garden

September 27, 2019 by  

Friday, Sept. 27, was a beautiful morning for a school field trip. Surrounded by hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, the Panther Pride Garden Club explored the Nazareth Motherhouse organic garden.

This is the first year for the club, said Kristen Peltier, first grade teacher and club advisor at Concordia Elementary School. The members range from kindergarten to fourth grade.

Lyle Pounds, the organic gardener for the Motherhouse, greeted the kids and put them to work as they toured the garden.

Pounds played a guessing game with them where they identified fresh-picked beets, turnips and cucumbers, before sharing a little bit about the organic part of the garden.

“This has been a garden spot for over 100 years,” Pounds said. “This ground is so fertile. It hasn’t rained for a few days, but you can see the ground is still moist from all the organic matter in it.”

He showed the kids a trench filled with kitchen scraps running down a row in between rows of vegetables and zinnias.

“It looks like garbage, but its compost,” Pounds explained. “These are all scraps from the kitchen. Instead of having one giant compost pile, it goes into a row and is covered up. Next year we’ll plant vegetables there. It’s just like fertilizer.”

Pounds explained to the group that the sisters like to keep the garden organic, which means avoiding chemical fertilizers and bug sprays.

Then it was time to get to work. Pounds let them get their hands dirty harvesting radishes, green bell peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peanuts. They even picked a watermelon.

“The peanuts are normally a southern crop,” Pounds said as the kids plucked them off the roots of the plant. “This will be a meal for the squirrels in the wintertime.”

Many of the crops grown were for the benefit of the wildlife. Sunflowers will be used for seed for the birds, the zinnias attract the butterflies and hummingbirds, and one of the highlights of the trip was seeing all the black swallowtail caterpillars on a big bunch of fennel.

The group left with some of the harvest that they had picked, a plate of cookies from the Motherhouse kitchen, and a better knowledge of organic gardening.

From volunteer to vows

August 13, 2019 by  

Sister Christina Brodie made her final Profession of Lifelong Vows as a canonical Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia at 4 p.m. Aug. 2, 2019, in the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Nazareth Motherhouse surrounded by family members from across the country, sisters and friends.

The theme of her celebration of profession was “With One Desire Only,” based on Maxim 73: “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.”

Sister Christina’s path to making her final vows was a long one, with many unexpected twists.

“Seven years ago I arrived in Concordia as a volunteer to help start a new ministry for the Sisters of St. Joseph,” Sister Christina said. “Prior to arriving, the sisters had spent three years on a task force researching rural poverty in the region and exploring programs that could be adapted for this new ministry.”

She applied for a full-time volunteer position, as the coordinator of the then-new Hands Across Our Community program.

“Hands Across Our Community is a ministry that would not give a hand out, but a hand up through mentoring families and individuals through education … helping people learn how to create a better life for themselves and their children through budgeting, obtaining jobs, nutrition, child development, cooking healthy and inexpensively and many other topics as well,” Sister Christina said of the ministry she continues to coordinate.

After applying for the volunteer position, she visited Concordia in October 2012. It was her first time visiting Kansas.

“The first day I came was Oct. 15, which is our Founder’s Day. I spent a week here, and attended a forum where I met all of the social service providers in the community,” Sister Christina said. “When I left, I knew in my heart I had found home.”

Within a month, she had moved to Concordia, was living with Sisters of St. Joseph at Manna House of Prayer — and had become a candidate for membership in the congregation.

“It was a God thing,” Sister Christina said. “God led me here.”

In June 2015, she was received into the congregation as a novice — and then would spend from August to May 2016 in the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation Novitiate, studying and living with four other novices from the U.S. and Canada. On June 11, 2016, she made her initial vows into the community.

An unusual journey

Sister Christina is a native New Yorker who says she “fell into advertising” as a career. After graduating from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, with a degree in history and communications, she went to work for the New York ad agency Lowe Marschalk. By 28, she was the youngest vice president in the company.

She had married while in college, and in 1986 her son Christopher was born. Then, although still working the long hours required of an ad executive on the rise, her priorities began to change, she said: “My guilt-ridden Italian-Catholic kicked in; I realized I didn’t ever see my son.”

It was also during that time that her marriage ended, and she petitioned for and received an annulment through the Church.

With the hope of finding a slower-paced life, she quit her job and moved her toddler son and mother to Florida. Then she returned to work, for McFarland & Drier Miami, and later with Office Depot as the vice president of advertising at its world headquarters in Delray Beach, Fla.

In 2006, she returned to New York and a position as partner and group planning director with Maxus Global, a part of the GroupM media agency network.

She also began attending Manhattan’s St. Francis of Assisi Church and in time joined the Third Order of St. Francis, a fraternity of Catholic men and women often called Secular Franciscans.

After a handful of years with Maxus Global, Sister Christina realized it was time for another change — and this one might very well be the most dramatic so far. First she returned to Florida but remained with the New York City agency by “telecommuting.”

Then she developed a plan to pay off all her debt and divest herself of all but the most basic belongings.

When she was finally ready — with only the possessions that would fit in her car — she started searching the Catholic Volunteer Network for a full-time position where she could live as part of a religious community.

And that’s when she found the ad for the Sisters of St. Joseph Concordia, and now she is the newest sister to profess her final vows.

Sister Christina professed her vows accompanied by Sister and President Jean Rosemarynoski, CSJ. Sister Jean bestowed the ceremonial ring and cross upon her during a ceremony during the Mass. Father Jim Dallen offered a special blessing of Sister Christina at the end of the service. Music was provided by Sisters Bethy Suther and Dian Hall and Teresa Hernandez and CSJ candidate Sarah Ganser.

When asked if she had any regrets, she quickly answered, “None. These are the best years of my life, besides raising my son.”

“I’ve never felt so overjoyed with how my life has evolved,” Sister Christina said. “It is beyond amazing.”

“I want to thank my family, friends and my Community for all their love and support. And most of all, I would like to thank my mother, Annie, for all the love, support and nurturing along this amazing journey,” Sister Christina said.

 

Lourdes Park Grotto gets a facelift

July 24, 2019 by  

The Lourdes Grotto on the Motherhouse grounds is in the process of receiving a new partial facelift. Time and weather has damaged some of the brick and mortar covering the base of the structure.

Justin LeDuc works on the rear of the grotto.

Sister Jodi Creten watches Josh Duvall and Brad Snyder work.

   Motherhouse maintenance employees have been at work this week clearing damaged spots, and are now recovering the lower, damaged parts of the structure with a mortar concrete that they’ve dyed to match the original structure.

“The dying (of the mortar) is a little trial and error, as it changes color as it dries,” said Brad Snyder. “But I think we have it right this time.”

Justin LeDuc is using a sprayer to apply the dyed mortar to the damaged area of the structures. The sprayer allows the texture to mimic the grotto’s existing surface. The mortar mix is finer than regular concrete and able to go through the sprayer without plugging it up. The unique looking device is what is used when constructing swimming pools.

When complete, the repairs should be completely unnoticeable.

Once the repairs are complete, new environmentally friendly, low maintenance plantings will be installed around the base of the structure, which will complement the new plantings that were done in the Lourdes Park gardens previously by Trish Remley, of Grassland Gardens, Nursery & Flower Farm in Miltonvale, Kan.

The grotto and gardens are a perennial favorite location for high school prom pictures, said Jane Wahlmeier, administrative services coordinator for the Motherhouse. “And we really appreciate it when people don’t attempt to climb on it.”

Justin LeDuc uses a sprayer to apply the mortar mix.

The Lourdes Grotto is located in Lourdes Park, which lies to the southeast of the Motherhouse. It is a replica of the site of the apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France.

It is built of “tuff stone,” a petrified vegetable material found along the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. The base of the grotto is a brick and mortar construction with a covering of mortar designed to mimic the tuff stone. That is the area being repaired.

The grotto is 40 feet wide and 55 feet deep. The entrance to the grotto imitates the Ruins of Abbey Moyne, Ireland.

E.J. Koenig of Chicago laid out the park and built the grotto in 1916.

Racial justice was focus of 2019 Theological Institute

July 23, 2019 by  

Racial justice, both in the Catholic Church as well as in the United States in general, was the topic at the July 18-21 Theological Institute at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia. The title of this year’s Institute was “The Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America.”

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams was the instructor and facilitator for the four-day event. She is a U.S. historian with research specializations in 19th and 20th century African-American history and religious history. She has done award-winning research and currently is an assistant professor of history at Villanova University.

“This July’s Institute with Shannen Dee Williams, PhD, was an eye-opener, to say the least. Possibly, it opened our consciences even more,” Sister Marcia Allen, a member of the Institute committee, said. “Dr. Williams, a brilliant historian of African American history, presented a stunning and profound picture of our United States history from the beginning of our nation to the present. Her lectures were made even more accessible through her use of names and faces.”

The keynote address was, “America’s Real Sister Act: Confronting the Uneasy History of Racial Segregation and Exclusion in Female Religious Life.”

“This project began 12 years ago when I was in graduate school,” Dr. Williams said.

“When I started researching and looking (for black sisters in history), I learned that two of the nation’s historical black sisterhoods had been founded in Savannah, Ga., in my mother’s home town. And yet she didn’t even know that there were black nuns,” Williams said. “Indeed, the schools she attended had been founded by these black nuns, and yet by the time she was in those schools in the 1950s, their history had been erased to her.”

“And I had to ask myself a very difficult question. Why? And also, how? How does that happen?” Williams said. “Historians on the African-American experience have always argued that the greatest weapon of white supremacy has not been its violence, but rather its ability to erase the history of its violence.”

“What didn’t I know about the history of these black nuns? What was so potentially dangerous about their historical memory that it had been erased from us? And I started on my path,” Williams said.

Dr. Williams is currently revising the manuscript for her first book, “Subversive Habits: The Untold Stories of Black Catholic Sisters in the United States,” to be published by Duke University Press.

Her research has been supported by a host of awards and fellowships, including a Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, a Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship for Religion and Ethics from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, and the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association.

“Her thesis was that because of the erasure of African-American names and faces our U. S. history itself has been erased and thus missing a key ingredient of what makes our nation what it is today,” Sister Marcia said. “She gave participants in this year’s Institute a new understanding of our U.S. history and thus our place in it — today. ‘We,’ she said, ‘are today’s history!’”

In addition to the keynote address, additional topics and group sessions included, “Reckoning with Christian Slavery,” “Confronting the Silenced Past,” “Slavery by Another Name,” Reckoning with American Segregation and its Legacies,” “Confronting the Contested Past,” and finally on Sunday morning discussing “What Must Racial Justice Entail.”

“Having attended the Theology Institute on racism, I am more convinced of how little we as Catholics have been exposed to Catholic Social Teaching,” Sister Jodi Creten, an Institute attendee, said. “What one doesn’t know, one cannot hope to understand.”

“This institute also opened my eyes to a history that has not been taught in our schools in the past,” Sister Jodi said. “For us to heal as a society, we need to know the sufferings of so many by unjust institutional laws that have kept people ‘in their place.’”

Members of the Theological Institute committee are Sisters Cathie Michaud, Janet Lander, Betty Suther and Marcia Allen, and Susan LeDuc, administrative coordinator for Manna House of Prayer.

Plans are already underway for the 2020 Theological Institute.

“It will feature Anthony Gittins, Holy Spirit missionary, who has through decades of experiencing other cultures come to understand the concept of interculturation, the subject of the 2020 Institute,” Sister Marcia said. “It is an important follow-up of this year’s racism and assumed white supremacy. Mark your calendars for the 2020 Institute on July 23–26. Be prepared to come away with 2020 vision!”

The Sisters of St. Joseph established the annual Theological Institute a way to continue their long-standing educational tradition, exemplified by the schools they founded and staffed, including Marymount College in Salina. The program is held each summer in Concordia. Over the years the Institute has featured a wide range of well-known theologians, historians and social justice advocates.

Cool off inside with the July Messenger!

July 16, 2019 by  

The July edition of The Messenger is always an exciting one, and this year is no different. We are celebrating 1,205 years of love and service at Jubilee, enjoying all the fun and love at Discover Camp and celebrating the 10th anniversary of Neighbor to Neighbor in Concordia. Be sure to check our calendar page for upcoming retreats, seminars and fun events.

The print edition is in the mail today, and it’s available here right now as a flipbook. To open the flipbook edition, just use the black tool bar under the image below to flip through the pages:

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

Jubilarians celebrate 1,250 years of love and service to God and the dear neighbor

June 10, 2019 by  

About 300 sisters, family and friends of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia gathered at the Nazareth Motherhouse on Sunday morning, June 9, to celebrate the Jubilee anniversaries of 20 sisters — together representing 1,250 years of love and service to God and the dear neighbor.

The annual celebration recognizes sisters who are marking milestone anniversaries of the date they were received as novices into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Since the special day comes at the end of the congregation’s annual June Assembly, almost all of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia were able to be present.

The theme of the celebration was “Weavers of the Spirit of Love.”

The celebration began with Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel inside the Motherhouse at 10:30 a.m. Fathers Jim Dallen and Kerry Ninemire were the celebrants.

Sister Marilyn Wall welcomed the Jubilarians and crowd.

“Welcome to this day of gratitude and celebration,” Sister Marilyn said. “Many of you who are our guests today were also guests when these Jubilarians entered the novitiate.”

Sister Mary Jo Thummel led the Jubilarians in a renewal of their vows.

“O my God, I renew my vow of fidelity. My vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, hoping with Your divine grace to observe them faithfully all my life.”

They each were presented with gifts from the Community.

“You have truly been weavers of the Spirit of God,” Sister Marilyn said. “And the tapestry you have woven is magnificent.”

Following Mass, the sisters and their guests enjoyed a festive lunch provided by Larry Metro, food service manager, and his staff.

After lunch, a presentation to honor the Jubilarians began at 1:30 p.m. in the Nazareth Motherhouse auditorium. The room was packed with overflow seating, even up on the stage, to accommodate the large crowd of sisters and well-wishers.

Sister Denise Schmitz was the emcee for the occasion, with music provided by Sisters Regina Ann Brummel and Dian Hall. Sister Jodi Creten wrote a poem to celebrate the Jubilarians.

Learn the art of bobbin lacemaking at a retreat at Manna House of Prayer

June 6, 2019 by  

Hand-made bobbin lace will be the focus of a hands-on retreat set for June 23-30 at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.Presenters Ronna Robertson, and Sisters Janet Lander, CSJ, and Mary Jo Thummel, CSJ, will teach beginners to advanced lacemakers in the art of doing fine hand-made bobbin lace.This year’s theme is “The Poetry of Lacemaking — The Creative Spirit In Our Lives.”

Each day will include instruction in bobbin lace making, both for those new to the craft and for those with some experience with it. Retreatants can also expect a comfortable private bedroom, home-cooked meals fresh from the garden, daily communal prayer and communal conversation, as well as daily spiritual input and a reflection guide for personal prayer.The original Sisters of St. Joseph came together in Le Puy, France, in about 1650, and members of that early congregation made bobbin lace as a way to support themselves and their works.

Today, the Concordia sisters have revived that centuries-old artistry in delicate bookmarks, angels and other decorations. Sisters Ramona Medina and Janet Lander started the event in 2008, Sister Janet said.

Last year, Marla Elmquist, of Lindsborg, attended for the first time.
  “When I saw the sisters doing bobbin lace at the Flower Nook in Salina, I learned about the retreat,” Elmquist said. “I immediately knew I had to come.

“This week has just opened a whole new door for me. It’s been incredible and the religious part fit me perfectly,” Elmquist said. “I’m hoping to go back and talk to people in Lindsborg and get people excited to come.”

“They kept our hands busy, our tummies full and our minds expanding,”
she said.
The weeklong retreat is held at Manna House each year and is open to anyone who wants to learn bobbin lacemaking.

Manna House of Prayer is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
For more information, email retreatcenter@mannahouse.org. The event will take place from Sunday, 5:30 p.m. supper on June 23 to Sunday, June 30, noon meal. Cost: $550 (plus materials). For more information or to register, contact MannaHouse.org, email retreatcenter@mannahouse.org or call 785-243-4428.

Neighbor to Neighbor 10th anniversary celebration attracts friends old and new

May 22, 2019 by  

Neighbor to Neighbor of Concordia, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, opened their doors on May 10 and invited friends, volunteers and the entire community to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

“The years have gone by so fast, it just seems like yesterday that we started making plans for N2N and here we are 10 years later. It was such a gift getting to see and visit with dear friends who have been with us since the beginning, and getting to meet new friends who had never been into Neighbor to Neighbor,” said Sister Ramona Medina, one of the founding Sisters of N2N.

“It was delightful seeing how our guests were enjoying visiting with one another and surprised to see samples of some of the projects that our guests are engaged in,” Sister Ramona said.

More than 100 people visited N2N, located at 103 E. 6th Street, in Concordia, and enjoyed tours, greeting friends and viewing many of the projects that were in progress.

And of course, there were delicious treats, including cookies made by N2N volunteers. Door prizes included homemade wheat bread, gift certificates to the Motherhouse Gift Shop and children’s books.

New director of Neighbor to Neighbor, Sister Missy Ljungdahl, said, “I think one take away for me was the people who came in from town who said they had never been into the place and were really glad to know about it.

There was a great sense of community during the event.

“People were wanting to meet their friends there and they met lots of them and stayed for awhile,” Sister Missy said. “I am so grateful for all the sisters that came to help and enjoyed visiting with so many others.”

Greeting the guests were the original co-founders, Sisters Ramona Medina, Pat McLennon and Jean Befort, along with administrative assistant Myrna Shelton and director Sister Missy.

“N2N couldn’t have been a success without our dedicated staff, Myrna, volunteers and the support of you, our generous donors. It has been such a joy and life-giving
ministry getting to meet so many fantastic women, mothers and children. We have learned so much from one another and I am grateful,” said Sister Ramona. “We have spread our wings and have reached out to our dear neighbors in developing countries through our prayers, making over 2,000 dresses, shorts and shoes to make their lives more comfortable.”

More than 10 years ago, Neighbor to Neighbor founders Sisters Pat McLennon, Jean Befort and Ramona Medina came up with the idea of a support center for women and women with young children. These founders came up with a plan, approached the Sisters of St. Joseph council, and with the gracious help of the council, the maintenance staff of the Sisters of St. Joseph, volunteers and the community, made the Neighbor to Neighbor of today a reality. Neighbor to Neighbor works closely to coordinate with other community resources so that services are needlessly duplicated.

“We met with a lot of social agencies before we started to see if there was a need,” Sister Pat said. “We didn’t want to duplicate things that were already being done.”

“It doesn’t even seem possible that it’s been 10 years,” said Sister Jean. “It has far exceeded my expectations.”

The center offers classes in baking, cooking, painting, exercise, sewing and crafting, as well as supervised play times for young children. Many of the women just stop by to enjoy the camaraderie, a cup of coffee, a game of cards and catching up with friends. There are even laundry facilities available. All of the classes are free.

For more information about Neighbor to Neighbor, email neighbortoneighbor@csjkansas.org or call 785-262-4215.

 

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17, 2019 by  

ST. PATRICK’S DAY

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

— Old Irish blessing

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