Sisters of St. Joseph welcome community for open house

December 9, 2019 by  

It was standing room only for a while as families packed the Nazareth Motherhouse auditorium for the annual Christmas Open House on Dec. 8. Beautiful weather and the return of last year’s popular Santa and Mrs. Claus — who on other days are known as Dell Lee and Annette Boswell of Leon, Iowa — led to some long lines through the auditorium. Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for photos with all the children during the free event.

Many Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia were on hand to serve ice-cold milk and punch and a selection of Christmas cookies to the crowds waiting to meet Santa.
“I think we served more than 450 cookies,” Larry Metro, food service supervisor for the Sisters of St. Joseph, said. The iced, sugar cookies were a definite hit.

Other Sisters directed guests through the historic Motherhouse so that visitors could view the Heritage Center and Christmas decorations.

Some people might wonder why a convent would offer a visit with Santa, said President Jean Rosemarynoski, CSJ.

“We do it for several reasons. Many young families have not met religious sisters and this is an opportunity for a short visit with sisters, a tour of the Motherhouse and to learn more about us,” Sister Jean said. “There were adults who toured our new Heritage Room and afterward sought out a specific sister whose story they read to learn more about her and her work. That provided for a wonderful conversation!”

“Having Santa at the Motherhouse also provides a no-cost, fun experience between parents and children. There are coloring sheets for the kids and parents sit with them at the table,” Sister Jean said. “Many parents and grandparents were appreciative of having a place to share this experience with their children in a relaxed, welcoming environment.”

“Everyone had so much fun! Most of the kids were overjoyed to see Santa and Mrs. Claus but there were a few that were a little unsure,” said Ambria Gilliland, assistant director of development for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. “We had a great crowd! The sisters truly enjoyed interacting with the kids. Santa and Mrs. Claus are such good sports. Santa even traded hats with a little boy and had fun trying to coax a smile from the kids by getting them to say ‘Pepsi’ instead of the usual ‘Cheese!’”

This year’s event also offered a drawing for a free door prize.

The door prize was a hand-crafted wooden sign with the words “O come let us adore him” and a manger painted on it. It had battery-operated lights that looked like stars in the night sky. Danielle Haskett, of Concordia, was the lucky winner.

“I was so happy with the crowd we had,” Gilliland said. “Seeing the joy on the kids’ faces truly made the whole event worth the work.”

Obituary for Karma Imogen Smith-Grindell, CSJ Associate

November 25, 2019 by  

Karma Imogen Smith-Grindell passed peacefully in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2019, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Karma was born Nov. 28, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio, at 1:14 p.m. When first measured days after birth, she weighed 3 lbs. 10.5 oz. Her estimated birth weight was 3 lbs. 13 oz. She was born about 6 weeks early, and her twin brother who preceded her in birth died shortly after her arrival. She was not expected to survive, but defied the odds and returned to the home of her mother and father, Margaret Hayes Smith and Laban Conrad Smith, on Dec. 31, 1940. Her name was a testament to her birth story: Karma (Sanskrit — “Destiny”) Imogen (Greek — “Beloved child”) and (Gaelic — “Maiden”).

Karma’s younger brother, Hartman, was born in 1944. Karma’s father was a Navy officer, and the family relocated numerous times during her childhood for his postings. Her homes included Auburn, Ala., Galveston, Texas and the Canal Zone, Panama. She remembered with particular fondness the years in Panama. The family eventually settled in Terre Haute, Ind., where her father was a professor of English at Indiana State University. They enjoyed summers at family farms in Wisconsin, and had a litany of pets, including several dogs, ducks and chickens.

After graduating from Wiley High School in 1957, Karma spent a summer in France as a camp counselor. She then attended the University of Michigan where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She entered Harvard graduate school in 1962, where she was re-acquainted with her high school debate partner, Michael LR Donnelly, who would become her first husband.

They were married in 1964, and had two children: Anna Callysta was born in Boston in 1966, and Maxwell Conor was born in Madison, Wis., in 1969. The family would move to Manhattan, Kan., in 1972. Karma worked at Kansas State University as director of the English as a Second Language program, and was a doting and attentive mother. After the dissolution of her first marriage in 1981, Karma stayed in Manhattan for several years, then lived in Concordia, Kan., where she became an ecumenical member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Although not Catholic herself, Karma remained a committed and active participant in the CSJ Associates for decades thereafter. She also lived briefly in Pendle Hill, Penn., at a Quaker community.

After leaving academia in 1983, Karma became a Licensed Practical Nurse, providing hospice and home care to elderly residents in the farm country surrounding Manhattan, Kan. She later added skills in massage and energy work (shiatzu and jin shin jyutsu) which she applied generously to any who suffered the slings and arrows of physical or emotional injury. Fascinated by human psychology and the puzzles of our inner beings, Karma was for many years a learned practitioner of the Enneagram personality system, and an active participant in the vibrant international community of Enneagram students.

Karma married the love of her life, Rob Grindell, on July 8, 1989. For more than a decade, Rob and Karma traveled the world and reveled in the joys of each others’ company. Destinations included many of our United States by small plane (Rob piloting, Karma navigating), Greece, Mexico, Canada, Belize, Hawaii and Europe. Karma also made a memorable solo trip to Leh, Ladakh, as a participant in an international Buddhist women’s conference. Karma spent much of her adult life pursuing spiritual growth, and considered herself a Quaker catholic Zen Buddhist (lowercase “c” intentional).

After a long battle with cancer, Rob passed away on Dec. 19, 2000. Karma remained in Manhattan until 2006, where she was a beloved member of multiple spiritual communities. In 2006, she packed house and home and moved to Colorado Springs, where her brother Hartman and his wife Nancy lived. She continued to travel extensively, including many trips to California to visit her daughter Anna and grandchildren Maya and Dante. Her son Max’s family — wife Kelly and daughters Claire and Caroline — were blessed to have her nearby, and she was a frequent short-term guest in their household in Littleton, Colo., where the resident dogs would celebrate her arrival with wags and kisses.

Throughout her life, Karma was beloved by her community and friends as an individual who personified kindness. Alzheimer’s never robbed her of her inherently sweet and loving disposition, and to the end her caregivers adored her.

She is survived by her brothers Hartman and Nancy Smith of Jacksonville, Fla., and brother Forrest and Shiela Smith of Terre Haute, Ind.; her children Maxwell and Kelden Donnelly of Littleton, Colo., Anna and Burman Deshautelle of Agoura Hills, Calif., and Michael Grindell and Jennifer Grindell of Atlanta, Ga.; and grandchildren Claire, Caroline, Dante, Maya, Maclean, Samantha and Grace (all over the place).

A service in Karma’s memory will be held in the spring in Manhattan, Kan.

In lieu of flowers, please direct donations in Karma’s memory to Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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Sister Lucy Schneider — Jan. 15, 1927 – Nov. 10, 2019

November 11, 2019 by  

Sister Lucy Schneider died Nov. 10, 2019 at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia, Kan. She was 92 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for 70 years.

She was born in rural Salina, Kan., on Jan. 15, 1927, to John and Lucy Seramur Schneider, the youngest of six children, and was baptized Agnes Adele. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 8, 1948. On March 19, 1949, Agnes received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Lucy. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1950, and final vows on March 19, 1953.

In 1948 Sister Lucy earned a B.A. in English from Marymount College, Salina. In 1956 she received a M.A. in English from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis. She then received a Ph.D. in English from Notre Dame University in 1967. She taught in institutions staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Grand Island, Neb., Concordia, Manhattan and Salina. She also taught on the Indian reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. In 1991 Sister Lucy retired from teaching and served the community in various positions at the Motherhouse. Music played a vital role in Sister Lucy’s life as she wrote many song parodies for special occasions.

Sister Lucy was preceded in death by her parents, three sisters, and one brother. One sister, Mary Elizabeth Ryan, survives. A Bible Vigil Service will be held 7 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Nazareth Motherhouse with Sister Betty Suther as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 13 in the Motherhouse Chapel with Rev. Bob Schneider and Rev. Barry Brinkman presiding.

The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery. Chaput-Buoy Mortuary, 325 W. Sixth St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Lucy Schneider 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.

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Fall into our latest Messenger

October 22, 2019 by  

We hope you enjoy our October edition of the Messenger. It’s a big one!

Learn more about the mission work our sisters are doing in Brazil. Follow along as some of our sisters take a trip to the Mexico border. Rejoice as two sisters profess vows … and be sure to check our calendar page for upcoming retreats, seminars and fun events.

The print edition has been mailed, 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!

Eulogy for Sister Nancy Meade — Dec. 10, 1938 – Oct. 14, 2019

October 17, 2019 by  

Vigil: Oct. 17, 2019 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Faye Huelsmann

I am privileged to share some of the life of Sister Nancy.

Music and musicals — only two of the gifts that defined Sister Nancy Helen Meade’s life. Nancy had a naturally cheery and welcoming smile and typically called people ‘sweety’ or ‘honey’. Even as I touched her arm to get her attention when she was bent over and simply waiting, waiting … she asked, “Honey, What can I do for you?”

Nancy was born Dec. 10, 1938, in Abilene, Kan., to Cornelius Samuel Meade and Minnie Belle Lake. Born two months early and weighing 3 pounds, she was baptized immediately. Nancy was the youngest of six children. She had three brothers and two sisters, all of whom are deceased. Her sisters were Frances and Mary Ann. Her brothers were Jack, Robert and Larry. She has several living nieces and nephews.

Nancy’s brother, Jack, gave her the nickname “Bird” during their early years because she was always singing.

After completing grade and high school in Abilene, she attended MaryMount College in the fall of 1957. Her plans were to major in music and chemistry and maybe be a med-tech since she had a sister who was a med-tech. During that year, Nancy made the decision to follow a religious vocation. I quote from an article written about Nancy when she celebrated 25 years of service in Boonville, Mo. About her vocation, she said, “You don’t really decide to become a sister. It’s like there’s this little voice that keeps bugging you saying, ‘Maybe this is the kind of work you need to be doing. Do the Lord’s work.’ ”

The following September 1958, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, the sisters who opened and staffed MaryMount College. She stated that she has never ever regretted the decision to become a sister.

Following her formation years, she was assigned to Aurora, Ill., to teach music, her first love and her first mission. She taught classroom music in the following years in Gladstone, Mich., and then went to Boonville, Mo., where she spent a total of 28 years. She also gave piano lessons.

She taught music in New Mexico for two years before returning to Boonville. During all those years she also obtained a master’s degree in music education from the University of Colorado, a degree in theater from Stephen’s College and obtained a certificate in youth ministry.

In regard to her music, she said she really loved doing musicals. To quote her, she said, “It was a blast.” For many years she involved the junior high students from the Catholic school and local community in the production of many musicals. Asked which was her favorite musical she readily said, “Peter Pan.” This even included the flying part! She had many who helped her in whatever way they could. A few of the other musicals she directed were “Oliver,” “Brigadoon, “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Oklahoma.” She produced a musical every year in Boonville during her years there. Someone told me she had it down to a science and each year most of the same crews came back to do their part, such as lighting, piano help and construction.

The students vied for playing the chosen main characters. Boonville’s famous Thespian Hall Theatre invited her to use their location after several seasons. That was a rewarding invitation! Those who worked with her acknowledged how good she was at getting people involved. Indeed, there was plenty to do and Nancy did a good job of directing so that everything ran smoothly.

In addition, she made sure you were having fun while you worked.

Nancy was accomplished in being the youth minister in the parish, a ministry she was invited to do in the 90s. She accepted this work after being assured that she could still teach religion in the school and work with the youth the rest of the time.

She loved taking students on trips to Washington D.C., helping with youth retreats and offering support to student groups. I imagine she went canoeing with some of them. Certainly Nancy loved canoeing and in one incident they got in a swirl and were dumped from their canoe — along with her dog — but managed to hang on to a log until they were rescued.

Nancy said she quit working when her hearing became impaired.

That was about 2004. Nancy was always an avid reader and during retirement years she had time to read. Those who supplied books to her had a hard time keeping up with her.

Even though she was retired, she did accept an invitation from Sister Pat Lewter and myself to come to Grand Junction, Colo., to live with us and help at our counseling center with office work for a year. She took on a project of making about 15 drums from various items she collected, decorated them and taught drumming to some of the adolescent groups held at CEC.

Now for a fun incident! A sister friend of hers from The Sisters of Charity, Linda Dean, lived in Grand Junction. Before Nancy knew it, her friend had talked her into submitting a peach pie for the Peach Festival held every year in Palisade. She had a delicious fresh peach pie recipe and to the astonishment of all of us, she won first prize! And of course, I got her recipe.

In her life history she stated that while living at the Motherhouse, she enjoyed helping out with jobs that needed to be done such as helping in the vegetable room — all the veggies brought in from the garden needed to be prepped!

Also included in what she said about her final years was, “My desire now is to grow spiritually through making retreats, reading and sharing with others. I am grateful for having grown up in a wonderful family. We loved each other, prayed together and shared experiences together. I loved the Mass and my years as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

In summary, I believe Maxim 64 fits her life: “ Strive to be kind always to everyone and unkind to no one.”

Memorials for Sister Nancy Meade 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 Nancy Meade’s memory, click on the button below:

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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.

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