From Russia With Love — The Story of the Keller Sisters

December 1, 2021 by  

Compiled by TOM KELLER

Magdaline Keller was born, the first child of Peter and Mary Volk Keller, on Dec. 30, 1898, in the German town of Bezilvoka in southern Russia near the Black Sea port of Odessa. Clementine Keller was born in Russia, Sept. 25, 1906. She was the third girl in the family. Both parents of Magdaline and Clementine were born in Russia, along with their first six children. In 1908, the family came to the United States settling in Collyer, Kansas. Magdaline was 10 years of age and Clementine was 2.

Ten years after arriving in the United States, Magdaline entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, at the age of 20 and was given the name Sister Mary Francesca. In 1922, at the age of 15, Clementine also entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Renilda. In 1938, at the age of 21, Mary Keller, their younger sister, entered the congregation and was Sister Mary Antoniens Keller and later, Sister Mary Keller.

Sisters Francesca and Renilda shared memories of their time in Russia and their travels to the United States. Recently, Sister Francesca and Renilda’s cousin, Tom Keller, completed the genealogy of the family and sent a copy for the archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. In the genealogy, the story of the sisters’ family leaving Russia and traveling to the United States was included. In one of the sister’s files, it is written that “the migration was a response to Catherine the Great’s 1763 offer of free land, freedom of religion and freedom from taxes and military service. But when some of these freedoms were abrogated, many people moved to America.”
Sister Francesca recalled the long tiresome, seven-day voyage on the big steamship, “Kaiser Wilhelm II”. They settled at Collyer, Kansas, in the heart of the rich wheat land of Kansas. Eight more children were born there, bringing the total to 14 children.

She spoke of her life in Russia, her memories and where they lived and then began her story of her father, Peter Keller and family, emigrating to the United States. He was the first one in the Keller family to leave and so was her mother from her side of the family (Volk). Three years later, Francesca and Renilda’s uncles Tony and John, along with their families, migrated to America as well, leaving Russia because of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Sister Francesca wrote, “In the spring of 1908, Dad (Peter Keller) decided to migrate to America. This was a difficult step to take, because America was so far away. It took much preparation. The whole family had to go to Odessa to have our eyes examined. Dad had to go across one corner of the Black Sea to Nikolaiev to get our passports. We had to sell everything we had except the feathers, which we took along, and our clothes of course. Dad said if we dress like Americans we won’t have a hard time.

“Some said we should have an agent to bring us over like many of them did, but Dad said we will find our way without one. We finally sold everything we had to Uncle Valentine including our home place, 12 horses, 10 cows, pigs, poultry, machinery, wagons and our carriage. If I remember right, he paid us $12,600 for everything we owned.

“We decided to go by rail as far as Germany then take the ship, instead of taking a ship in Odessa across the Black and Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. That would have put us on the water all the way. Everything was packed into two big trunks made out of reeds, also a smaller one in which we kept the food. The feathers were packed into two big strong mattress covers that had served as mattresses on our beds. There were well marked in red paint with our names.

“The last day all our relatives, on both sides, including Grandma Volk, went to Razdelnia from which place we took the train. They all had supper together as a farewell meal. I came from Odessa with a friend of ours. When our eyes were examined, I was the only one with white spots on my eyelids called trachoma, so I had an operation to remove them. I was blindfolded for about a week and the good people I stayed with took me to the doctor every day. I came out fine even if my eyes were still a bit red.

“We visited around until midnight when the Flier train came through. Everybody seemed so sad and were crying when we left. They all stood by the train close to the window where we looked at them for the last time. Mom was inside and Grandmother on the outside and both of them wept bitterly. Dad was out on the platform waving his white handkerchief at them until they could no longer see us. As young as I was, this was one of the saddest times of my life and I am sure the folks would have said the same. The next morning, I remember Mom saying, ‘Now we are far from home,’ and she wept again.

“We rode on to Warsaw, Poland, which at that time was still under Russian rule. It was a beautiful city, what we could see of it. There were so many passenger trains and the cars were all different colors which impressed me. We stopped for some time then went on until we reached the German border where we had to get off and take another train. Before they let us on the train, they examined us, especially our eyes. We all passed.

“We rode on until we reached Berlin, what an immense city to see. We finally stopped on the west side of it and changed trains. On the way, we saw so many tall and beautiful buildings, even Kaiser Wilhelm II’s mansion. From Berlin, we went to Bremen. We had to wait around there for a couple days, as we came too soon. We all knew what the ship would look like as it had been advertised in Odessa on several big windows. It was the largest ship that then sailed the Atlantic. It had four big funnels and several stories with two big decks, one in front and the other in the back. The name of it was ‘Kaiser Wilhelm II’ which was written in large letters on the outside. It belonged to the North German Loyd Company.

“We again boarded a train and rode about an hour to get to the harbor where the ship was docked. The harbor was called ‘Bremerhaven.’ While the people got on, the orchestra played. It took quite a while to get the people and the freight on board. We were taken to the hold under the deck with a lot of people as we were traveling third class which we were told was a good way to go. Dad didn’t like the looks of this so he asked one of the lads if we could have something a bit more private. Yes, on the same floor of the deck there were two rooms, a small one for Mrs. Kraft, who was traveling with us, and a large one for us. This was fine as all our meals were served there too, so we had real privacy. It cost Dad 75 marks extra for these rooms.

“Finally, we were on our way, down the English Channel and we stopped at Dover, I believe, and took on more people and freight. Then on to France. We did the same as in England. After we sailed awhile, a small ship brought some more passengers and their baggage. It didn’t take us quite seven days to cross the Atlantic. We had four days of terrible weather, the worst in months, but the rest of the time it was nice. One evening they had a big dance on deck. All of our family except Dad and myself, including Mrs. Kraft, got sea sick. Dad took me to the boiler room where the engines were. That was quite an experience. They also had a map down there which had flags pinned on it showing where we were. Several times we passed ships which were going the other direction to Europe and people would wave at each other from the deck.

“Our last day aboard was beautiful. We sailed into the New York harbor which had many ships in it. We finally got to our dock with the help of several tug boats. This was about 6 p.m. All first and second class passengers unloaded right away. The third class had to wait until next morning because we had to be taken to Ellis Island to be examined again. I forgot to mention when we passed the Statue of Liberty, Dad said, ‘That must be a statue of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America.’

“At Ellis Island, they again looked at our eyes as well as the rest of our being. From there, we went to a big depot, purchased our tickets and some food to head on West. We didn’t know how to pronounce Collyer, so every time we changed trains. Dad pulled out his long ticket from New York to Collyer and the conductor took a piece off the ticket.

“We left New York at midnight and the next morning went through some pretty hilly country and Dad said, ‘If all America is like this I won’t stay long.’ However, when we got into Indiana and Illinois, it looked quite nice and much better. We went through Missouri at night and got into Kansas City in the morning. About 10 a.m., we rode through beautiful Kansas wheat fields for miles and miles. This was on Saturday, the 23rd of May. When we got to Victoria, quite a number of people got off.

“They came from the Volga in Russia. Many of their relatives were there to meet them. This must have been around 6 p.m. We finally got to Collyer, Kansas, around 10 p.m. and nobody was there to meet us. Dad had sent a telegram from Chicago to the Millers, but the agent was new, didn’t know who they were, so he didn’t bother. While we were there talking and wondering what to do, a young lad about 11 years old came to us and asked who we were looking for. We told him Franz Miller. He said, ‘They live just a short way across the railroad track and I’ll be glad to take you there.’

“It was about a quarter of a mile to the Miller house. We settled in a two-room house right next to the Millers, which belonged to them, until we got our own place later on about 5 miles south of Collyer. Dad helped the Millers with their wheat harvest which was very good that year.

We bought 160 acres of land without any improvements on it for $17 an acre. We had to fence in the 30 acres of pasture, make a well, and build a barn and house. We built the barn and lived in it until the house was ready. Our house was built of lumber and was 161’ x 321’ with just two large rooms. We moved in before it was completed because it got too cold in the barn. The barn was not all that tightly built and we woke up one morning with a bit of snow on us.

“In 1911, we got word that Uncle Tony Keller and Uncle John Keller wanted to migrate over here. They arrived in June of that year and what a welcome and rejoicing there was! There were now 30 Keller children in all.
The Keller brothers farmed as much as they could, but we didn’t get much of a crop the first year, and the second wasn’t much better. In 1912, we had so much snow that the roads were all closed but that did produce a better crop. Those were hard times and we even had to buy our seed wheat one year. We just couldn’t make much of a go of the farm, no crops, no feed for the stock. A number of horses died due to lack of feed. “Uncle Tony started to build a home with stone east of us. Time passed and we didn’t get any crops, so he gave it up. One year, the grasshoppers ate everything, so there was always something it seems. No wonder they gave up. Living that close together had its drawbacks, but I always enjoyed it.

“In the fall of 1912, Dad decided to go to Russia. He had asked Grandma Volk if he could come over and sell Mother’s inheritance and she said to come ahead. He left home right after our Barbara was born on Oct. 28, 1912. He had also gotten permission from Aunt Barbara’s children in Hague, North Dakota, to sell their inheritance that Grandfather Keller left them. It took some time to find a buyer and there were further delays, sending paper back and forth that our mother had to sign. He sold the land and sent them the money, and they would have lost it when the Revolution came. Dad got $3,000 for Mother’s property. We had such hard times in those days, so it really came in handy.

Dad visited all of his folks. He stayed with Aunt Mary. He finally came home in April of 1913 and we Kellers were all together south of Collyer in those days.



Fall into our October 2021 Messenger

November 29, 2021 by  

Be sure to check out our Fall Messenger! It’s on its way to your mailbox, but you can always read it online.

In this issue we celebrate Fall Fest with the sisters in Concordia, and we celebrate with Sister Philonise Keithley as she professes her first vows!

If you would like to be on the Messenger mailing list, just give Ambria Gilliland in the Development Office a call or email at: 785-243-2113 ext. 1225, To read online, just click on the page below and use the magnifying glass tool to zoom in and use the X tool on the right of the gray tool bar to make it full sized so you can enjoy the full page.


Sister Jean Ann Walton wins at annual Veterans Art Show

September 9, 2021 by  

Sister Jean Ann Walton’s quilt entry in the recent 3rd annual Veterans Art Show brought home a first place win.

The show, Aug. 19-30 at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas, is an annual competition for Veterans treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs national health care system.

“My quilt was entered in the Cut and Sewn Fabric category of the Visual Arts Division (VAD),” Sister Jean Ann said. “My first place win at the local level qualifies me for the national NVCAF against other 1st place winners in the spring of 2022.”

The quilt is named “A Study in Black and White with Turquoise Squares.”

Other categories in VAD are Combat Experience, Mixed Media, Acrylic Painting, Oil Painting, Watercolor Painting, Monochromatic Drawing, Color Drawing, B&W Photography, Color Photography, Special Recognition for Mental Health, Metalwork, Wood Model Kit, Applied Arts, Assemblage, Ceramics, Bead Work, Sculpture, and Mosaic.

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) is the celebration and grand finale stage show, art and writing exhibition, which are the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to further the rehabilitation milieu for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

Sister Jean Ann was a Vietnam-era Marine and served six years on active duty and five years as a Marine Reservist. When on active duty, she served as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor for women and as an illustrator.


Obituary for Sister Philomene Reiland — April 11, 1941 – Aug. 2, 2021

August 3, 2021 by  

Sister Philomene Reiland died Aug. 2, 2021, at Cloud County Health Center in Concordia, Kansas. She was 80 years old and a religious sister for 62 years. She was born in Aurora, Illinois, on April 11, 1941, to Edward and Philomena Monaco Reiland, the second of three children, and was baptized Barbara. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Feb. 2, 1959. On Aug. 15, 1959, Barbara received the habit and was given the name Sister Philomene. She pronounced first vows on Aug. 15, 1960, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1963.

Sister Philomene received a bachelor of science degree in music education in 1968 from Marymount College, Salina, Kansas. In 1976 she received a master of arts degree in church music from St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana. Sister Philomene did post graduate work in organ performance at the Julliard School of Music, New York.

Sister Philomene taught in Salina, Kansas; Chicago, Illinois; and Grand Island, Nebraska. She was the parish director of music in Concordia, Kansas, and Sterling, Illinois; assistant profession of music at Sauk Valley Community College, Dixon, Illinois, and director of music in Libertyville, Illinois. She gave private piano lessons in Grayslake and Sterling, Illinois, while serving as director of music at St. Mary Parish in Sterling, Illinois.

Sister Philomene was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by two brothers, James of Montgomery, Illinois, and Thomas of Raleigh, North Carolina. A Bible Vigil Service will be held 7 p.m. Aug. 5 in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Mary Jo Thummel as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m.  Aug. 6 in the Motherhouse Chapel, Father Barry Brinkman presiding. Masks are required. The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Chaput Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. 6th St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Philomene Reiland 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 Philomene Reiland’s memory, click on the button below:


July 2021 Messenger available online

July 27, 2021 by  

Be sure to check out this summer’s Messenger that is full of news about our Jubilarians, sisters being active in the community, immigration and a new book!

If you would like to be on the Messenger mailing list, just give Laura Hansen in the Development Office a call or email at: 785-243-2113 ext. 1221, To read online, just click on the page below and use the magnifying glass tool to zoom in and use the X tool to make it full sized so you can enjoy the full page.


Eulogy for Sister Ramona Medina — March 14, 1937 – July 16, 2021

July 20, 2021 by  

Sister Ramona Medina was born on March 14, 1937, in La Jara, Colorado, the 13th child of fourteen born to Celina Romero and Juan Medina. She passed away on July, 16, 2021, here at the Motherhouse. Ramona was preceded in death by her parents and these siblings: Adelmo, Marie, Sister Lucia, Joe, Sister Dora, Sister Aurea, Celina, Sister Joseph Mary and Gilbert. She is survived by: Sister Celinda who is in Atchison, Luis in Alamosa, Colorado, and Sister Rufina in Framingham, Massachusetts. Ramona was baptized Elvira Elidia and was called “Vera” by family and friends.

           In August of 1939, when Ramona was 18 months old, her mother Celina died in childbirth. With the oldest of the 13 children being Adelmo in his teens, the death of their Mother was a great loss. I quote Ramona; “Relatives and friends offered dad advice … ‘Give the two or three youngest children out for adoption, split them up to live with other families.’ Dad listened, but then called a family conference. Our grandparents and the older children had a say in making the decision. It was decided that the family would stay together.”  

Their plan was that when each of the daughters graduated from high school, she would remain at home and care for the younger children until the next girl graduated. Then she was free to pursue further education.

            Ramona has more to say about growing up in this family!

“Regarding my childhood days…I am so grateful for the opportunity to have lived on the farm/ranch … .enjoying and savoring God’s presence in nature and all of creation with my dear dad and with a loving, caring and fun family. Dad was strict, but gentle; he taught us by his example and deep faith, the importance of prayer in our daily lives, having a grateful heart, caring for one another and those we encountered daily,” especially the less fortunate. “There was always room for one more!”

            She continues, “Since we couldn’t afford to have store-bought toys, we learned to be creative and made our own toys and had fun coming up with our own games, making mud pies, making stilts, ice skating during the winter months and played baseball or whatever, with our many cousins …. I have such fond and treasured memories of my childhood days …. I truly believe mom has cared for each of us from heaven. I have always felt her presence as a child growing up and even now, as I am growing older.”

            Juan Medina instilled strong values in his children: faith was foremost, love and care for family as well, the importance of education and hard work, and welcoming the stranger. As Ramona’s siblings completed high school, they studied for their careers and became successful.

            Here is Ramona’s story about her life choices, “During my high school years, I tried not to think about being a sister because I felt that I was being expected to follow in my sisters’ footsteps (Six of her sisters had already entered different religious orders!). During my senior year my boyfriend and I were talking about marriage following graduation from college. However, during the senior prom as my boyfriend and I were dancing, I suddenly felt an emptiness deep within and I knew at that moment that NO human person could satisfy me. God was calling me to be a sister! I knew at that moment that my one and only true lover was GOD. I entered the Benedictine Order in Atchison, Kansas, in 1955. I treasure the 19 years I spent with the Benedictines. I grew spiritually and formed fond relationships during that time ….. I transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia, Kansas, in 1980 because I sensed I had an apostolic and not a monastic heart. My heart was at home and at peace with the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

She stated that her “one desire is to continue working daily towards total union with God, to serve God, the dear neighbor and to care for our earth with tireless love and dedication as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

            Her education: Sister Ramona attended Mt. St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 1970. In 1983 she received a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

            Her ministries are many: While with the Benedictines she served as an elementary teacher for 15 years. After transferring to the Sisters of St. Joseph, she served in occupational therapy from 1981 to 1999 in a number of hospitals and nursing homes in Kansas City, Lakeland, Florida, and in Kansas — Onega, Ellsworth and McPherson. In 1999 she was elected to the Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph, where she served as a Regional Coordinator until 2009. After serving in leadership, she joined Sisters Pat McLennon and Jean Befort as co-directors for creating a ministry called Neighbor to Neighbor for women and children here in Concordia. That ministry continues on today. In 2012 Sister Ramona moved to the Motherhouse.

            A bit more about Ramona’s professional life as an occupational therapist. In 1987 she was named Employee of the Year at Swope Ridge Health Care Center in Kansas City. In 1988 she applied for a copyright for her creation of seven dolls and two puppets for working with adults with physical limitations. In 1990 she received a certificate of appreciation for her work with students at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

I quote: “You have been an excellent role model for our students. You are the epitome of the words ‘caring’ and ‘giving.’ Your creativity and resourcefulness help our students understand the unlimited potential for occupational therapists to serve.”

When Ramona was in Ellsworth she began an occupational therapy program in 1993 for the residents of Good Samaritan Village, helping them “progress to the point where they can return home or at least become more independent.” In 1995 she established an occupational therapy department at Memorial Hospital in McPherson. She is quoted as saying, “What I like most about my job is that one can be extremely creative. It is very challenging. I guess the rewarding part is that you really give patients a new lease on life.  Make them productive and functional as possible. We help improve the quality of their life.”

            Sister Ramona was also an artist. Her paintings are of detail and of beauty, even as her eyesight began to fail her. She was an excellent instructor of painting and taught women at Neighbor to Neighbor to paint.

            She also excelled in lace-making! This was an original craft of our first Sisters in the 17th century in France and now blossoming again here in our congregation. Sister Ramona created many intricate and beautiful works of lace and was also an instructor of lace-making.  She was invited to create a lace tabernacle cover for a parish near Kansas City. Eventually, that same pattern was used to adorn the outside of the church structure.

            Ramona used her crafting skills in endless ways here at the Motherhouse! She created many centerpieces and projects upon request. And always, many of us signed up quickly to work with her.

            So much about Ramona cannot be captured in words. She lived with such energy, creativity and with presence to each person. Her joyful spirit was evident, even when she wasn’t feeling well. She lived with a positive attitude. She truly reflected the Jesuit saying, to live with “glad and practical cooperation” with God’s grace.

            Sister Ramona’s health began to fail her in the fall of 2019 and she was diagnosed with melanoma cancer in November. She lived this part of her journey with the same courage and energy, never withdrawing or losing hope. At the end of May, she wrote this message to all of us: “Spare me perfection. Give me instead the wholeness that comes from embracing the full reality of who I am, just as I am.” (David Brenner)

Her words: “…embracing the full reality of who I am” has led me to choose Hospice. Yesterday I made that decision and immediately knew an incredible peace in my spirit. I am grateful to God for that grace and grateful to each of you for the support I have known on this journey with melanoma …With gratitude beyond measure, Ramona.”

            These are her closing words in her life story in which she uses Jesus’ words from John’s gospel. “Loving and gracious God, ‘I have glorified you and finished the work you have given me to do.’ (John 14:4) Please welcome me to my/our ETERNAL HOME where I/we will rejoice and see you face to face.”    

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




Obituary for Sister Ramona Medina — March 14, 1937 – July 16, 2021

July 16, 2021 by  

Sister Ramona Medina died July 16, 2021, at Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas. She was 84 years old and a religious sister for 66 years. She was born in La Jara, Colorado, on March 14, 1937, to Juan and Celina Romero Medina, the thirteenth of fourteen children, and was baptized Elvira Elidia. She entered the Atchison Benedictine Order in 1955, then transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph, Concordia, Kansas, on Dec. 21, 1980. On Dec. 11, 1955, Elvira received the habit and was given the name Sister Ramona. She kept this name when she transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas. She pronounced first vows on Dec. 16, 1956 and final vows on Jan. 1, 1959.

Sister Ramona received a B.S. in education in 1970 from Mt. St. Scholastica College, Atchison, Kansas. In 1983 she received a B.S. in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas. Sister Ramona worked as an occupational therapist in Shawnee Mission, Kansas City, Onaga, Ellsworth and McPherson, Kansas, and in Lakeland, Florida. She was elected to the Leadership Council of the Congregation in 1999 and served for eight years as a regional coordinator. In 2009 she co-founded the Neighbor to Neighbor ministry in Concordia, Kansas.

Sister Ramona was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers and six sisters. She is survived by two sisters, Sister Celinda Medina of Atchison and Sister Rebecca Medina of Framingham, Massachusetts; and one brother, Luis of Monte Vista, Colorado.

A Bible Vigil Service will be held 7 p.m. July 20 in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Judy Stephens as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m. July 21 in the Motherhouse Chapel, Father Barry Brinkman presiding. If you have not been fully vaccinated we ask that you wear a mask and social distance out of consideration for those who are immunocompromised.

The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Chaput Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. 6th St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements.

Memorials for Sister Ramona Medina 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 Ramona Medina’s memory, click on the button below:


Eulogy for Sister Barbara Ellen Apaceller — June 5, 1946 – June 26, 2021

July 1, 2021 by  

Vigil: July 1, 2021, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Vera Meis

My deepest sympathy to you who are mourning the death of Sister Barbara Ellen Apaceller, our community, Barbara’s family, her sisters Anna and Linda and their children, cousins, her aunts, brother priests, bishops, former members of our community and the youth of the diocese.

Barb’s birth was unique. She was born in an Austrian train’s boxcar, enroute to Germany. The year was 1946 and the Russians had taken over the Apacellers’ native Hungary, so the family was headed for what they thought would be a better life.

Sister Barbara Ellen was known to most of us as “Sister Barb”— a woman of Great Love who touched the hearts of many people. She had a special gift of being able to relate to the youth of our Diocese. I believed Barb learned about loving and creating community from her mother, Barbara. Barb’s mother created a community with the children in the neighborhood by teaching them German songs and plays. She wanted them to know their heritage.

Barb had a special love for the youth of the Salina Diocese and desired to teach them the richness of their Catholic Faith. She loved them and they love her.

Barb was all about relationships, the importance of them which brought her to being nominated for the Extension’s Lumen Christi Award among many other forms of recognition.

The youth showed their love by attending retreats, going to National Catholic Youth Convention, helping with Prayer and Action and many religious programs. She had over 1,000 youth attend National Catholic Youth Conference. Other Diocese called Sister Barb with offers of a position in their Diocese. No one could miss the smile on Sister Barb’s face as she listened to the Young Church as they professed their faith in talks and actions.

Our Sister Barb had a deep and lasting love for the Church and her God and His people. She kept in touch with all the women who were in her group when she entered the convent. They formed a lasting bond with each other and continued to meet for years.

Our Sister Barbara Ellen had many challenges: she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and had to take treatments for cancer. She also needed both knees replaced. Barb was like the “Energizer Bunny” constantly moving so she could get back to her ministry in a short time. She had many good friends. She related well with the Clergy beginning with getting to know them and supporting them in their ministry. They became friends. Sister Barb would stand up to them if she didn’t agree with them but always did that with respect. She respected them and they respected her.

Sister Barbara spoke of her prayer life. How she would give the first hour of the day to God in private prayer then would attend Mass.

In Barb’s name I wish to say to you what she would want me to say. “I love you.” She believed we should tell people we love how we feel. So if they are the last words we can say to them you and they will feel blessed.

So in her name I say to you:   “I LOVE YOU”

To make an online donation in Sister Barbara Ellen Apaceller’s memory, click on the button below:


2021 Theological Institute

June 28, 2021 by  

Ecology and Theology: A Profound Invitation to Choose New Life

July 15-18-2021

This year’s Theological Institute will be held virtually via Zoom

The Theological Institute is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas. It is an adult learning experience aimed at deepening our roots in the Christian tradition and exploring its implications for living the Gospel in the contemporary world.

Contemporary understandings of ecology affirm a relational vision of life. All is connected! A living sense of faith also draws us into the reality and deep mystery of interrelationship.

This institute will explore the dynamic interface between ecology and religious consciousness. It will do so within the unprecedented context of our times, perhaps best described through a lens that points to intrinsic connections between environmental degradation, the devastation of Covid-19, poverty, racism, prejudice, unjust economic and political structures, alienation, isolation and a rise of nationalism.

Limited number of partial scholarships available for lay participants on first-come, first-serve basis. Inquire at Manna House of Prayer, 785-243-4428.

Register online at

We are living in hard times in which such connections have a negative, disruptive and suffering impact on individual lives, communities and the world. Hidden in the challenges and struggle of these times, though, is a profound invitation to choose new life inspired by relations expressed in ecology and faith. These relationships promise transformative, hope-filled gifts for our time and for the future.


Mary Rowell, CSJ, is a Sister of St. Joseph in Canada. Sister Mary teaches moral theology and Catholic social teaching at the University of Toronto. Based at Villa St. Joseph Ecology and Spirituality Centre in Cobourg, Ontario, Mary is also a spiritual and retreat director. She leads retreats and workshops, lectures extensively and provides facilitation services across Canada and the United States.

Currently, Sister Mary is the Vocation and Formation Director for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada and President of the National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors (Canada).

Formerly a nurse and nurse educator, Sister Mary has worked in health care and education in the U.K., Canada, and numerous countries in Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Eastern Europe, where she specialized in opthalmological care and blindness prevention programs. She also has worked in the field of clinical bioethics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ontario.

Formerly director of graduate programs in bioethics at the University of Toronto, Sister Mary is also a researcher for the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and works in consultative roles for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Schedule of events (held virtually on Zoom)

JULY 15: Opening Session: 6:30 – 8 p.m.

JULY 15: Morning Session: 9:15-11:30 a.m. Afternoon Session: 2 – 4 p.m.

JULY 17: Morning Session: 9:15-11:30 a.m. Afternoon Session: 2-4 p.m.

JULY 18: Concluding Session 9 – 10:30 a.m.

Institute fees

Pre-registration required by July 1, 2021.

$50 non-refundable pre-registration fee required, applicable to total cost.

Limited number of partial scholarships available for lay participants on first-come, first-serve basis. Inquire at Manna House of Prayer, 785-243-4428.

Register online at

2021 Jubilee video

June 13, 2021 by  

Click on the link to watch the slide show that was shown at the June 2021 Jubilee Program honoring nine sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

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