Leap into spring with a Messenger full of updates on what the sisters are doing!

April 16, 2019 by  

It’s time to catch up with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia with the April edition of the Messenger.

Spring is here and the sisters are hard at work. Ever wonder what a sister does every day?

Be sure to check out the Messenger.
 
The print edition is in the mail, and it’s available here right now as a flipbook. To open the flipbook edition, just click on the image below and use the arrows in the bar to scroll through the pages. Need to make it larger? Click on the magnifying glass icon with the “plus” sign in the middle
 

Sister Norma Schlick: June 8, 1930 — April 8, 2019

April 11, 2019 by  

VIGIL: April 11, 2019, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen

Norma Schlick was the youngest of five girls born to Walter and Cecilia Bohnart Schlick on a “dusty rural Nebraska farm not far from the little town of Wood River.”
She was born on June 8, 1930. Her older sisters, Leona, Alice, Loretta and Marie, have all preceded her in death. Her brother Theodore “Ted” survives with his wife, Mary.

She says of her early life that they were a happy family and that their social life revolved around their one-room public school that was two miles from their farm. They attended the Wood River Catholic Church and were taught the Baltimore Catechism by a stern Irish pastor, the Rev. T. D. Sullivan, every Saturday afternoon. She said that these classes were scary but she enjoyed getting a holy card when she could recite perfectly.

What she called a “traumatic event” was the sale of their rental farm in 1942. It was sold to the government for the installation of a munitions factory. The family moved to Grand Island and the children were enrolled in the St. Mary’s Catholic School. It was here that Norma met the Sisters of St. Joseph. She gives credit to her teachers, Sisters Alberta Marie, Wilhelmina, Cosmas, Sabina Marie and Ursula, for her vocation. She said she not only admired and was inspired by them but she also simply fell in love with them!

Norma entered the community in September 1947 at the age of 17. She received the habit March 19, 1948, and was given the name Sister Mary Walter. She made first profession March 19, 1949, and final profession March, 19, 1952.

She began teaching in Salina, then moved to the very small rural mission in Collyer and from there moved to the community’s largest school, St. Joseph and St. Ann’s in Chicago. Following this she was asked to go to St. Louis University to study and prepare to teach German language and literature at Marymount College. This she did, earning a B.A. in 1959 with magna cum laude and M.A. in 1961, and then went on for a year of study in the German and Russian languages at the University of Munich, Germany, on a Fulbright Scholarship.

In the summer of 1963, she earned a scholarship for studies at the Institute of Contemporary Russian at Fordham University in New York. In the summer of 1965, she studied German literature at Harvard. In her life review she calls these years of study a turning point in her life. Once her studies in German were complete, she taught in the language department at Marymount College.

In 1969, following the Renewal Chapter, Norma was appointed Director of Placement for the Community. She initiated a procedure which enabled the community to make the transition from assignment of sisters to where they would live and what work they would do to assisting them in their choice of work and where they would live.

In 1971, she was elected to the Executive Council and left Salina for Concordia. She served as Regional Coordinator from 1971 to 1975 and then was elected vice president from 1975 to 1979. At the same time, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Saint Mary Hospital in Manhattan, Kan., and the Saint Joseph Hospital in El Paso, Texas. As vice present, she was director of personnel and ministry for the entire congregation.

It was during these years, 1975–1979, that she contributed to a project that most of the communities of St. Joseph and our members in particular considered her most generous contribution — not just to our community but to communities of St. Joseph in general.

With four other Sisters of St. Joseph — Marie Anne Mayeski, of Orange, CA; Mary Pat Hastings of Cleveland, OH; Virginia Quinn of Rutland, VT; and, Patricia Byrne of Baden, PA, — she spent hours, days and months over several years researching and composing the document that was eventually called our “Core Constitution.” This group spent their summers working in the shadow of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s US Federation Research Team A as that group researched and translated our primitive documents.

The Core Constitution Committee used the material the Research Team provided, plus the contemporary reflections on the CSJ Life produced by the participants of the Federation Life Institutes where members of CSJ communities across the United States and Canada reflected on their lives in mission under the influence of the CSJ spirit and spirituality. All of this material became the sources from which the Constitution Committee drew up a basic template that illustrated the fundamental Rule for all Sisters of St. Joseph, at least in the United States.
What Norma contributed to this work was her ability to clarify and synthesize complex concepts and produce an articulate statement that said concisely what was meant. It was from this Core Constitution that our own post Vatican II Constitution was written. We have Norma to thank for our success in producing the document of which we can be proud to use as our Constitution for our Concordia Community of St. Joseph.

At this time, she said that she was ready for something else. Having spent almost 30 years in the community she “decided to choose works that interested and challenged” her, to use her words. Thus, she became the Communications Director for the Congregation. She loved creating the first newsprint paper, “The Sisters of St. Joseph,” and doing the other public relations work required. After five years of this work, she became secretary for L’Arche Heartland in Kansas City, a non-profit organization dedicated to group living for persons with handicaps under the direction of Sister Christella Buser.

She took a year’s sabbatical in 1986-1987 in what was called the “Active Spirituality Program for the Global Community,” held in Cincinnati. During this program, Norma experienced many opportunities that created a heightened awareness in justice issues.

She attended programs from NETWORK, Quixote Center, Common Cause, Center of Concern, the D.C. L’Arche community and others. With her conscience sharpened, she wrote many letters to the editor. At the end of this program she was appointed General Secretary for the Congregation and continued this work until 1995. She enjoyed these years, she said, because it allowed her to put her gifts and talents to good use for the service of the community.

In the 1990s, Norma became aware of the fact that sisters who were preparing to retire or already in retirement needed assistance in the transition from active employment to what is called in the usual progression of life, retirement. Recognizing that sisters never retire from the mission, but only from specific works of service, Norma began courses at the College Misericordia in Dallas, Penn., over several years that certified her as a “Retirement Planning Specialist Religious.”

Norma had a brilliant mind and was an excellent student. During her studies she became conversant not only in German but also in Russian. She studied these languages for the sake of their literary contributions and could read, write and speak in both.

She was also an impeccable proof reader in English. As I checked back over her transcripts, I wondered why she graduated only magna cum laude and found that she had Bs in chemistry and physics, with straight As in every other subject. I suppose that she can be forgiven this, given the fact that she was fully competent in German and Russian AND English!

Perhaps the gratitude tribute from the community at the end of her years as Congregational Secretary sums up her talent as well as her contribution best. It reads as follows:
“Thank you for your dedication — for remembering, for reminding, for bird-dogging, for record keeping, for your accuracy, for your stable presence, for anticipating vital details and keeping us out of lots of trouble, for helping us do the nice things, for making us look good. Thank you for all the thank you notes, the get well notes, the sympathy notes and the congratulations you sent in our name. Thank you for knowing what to save and what to throw away; thank you for your writing skills, your peerless proofreading skill; your intelligent application of policy and procedures; your perfect sense of the appropriate; thank you for being able to say the important things in 25 words or less; thank you for safeguarding and safekeeping the corporation as well as the Congregation for these years; thank you most of all for your generosity in doing all of this. Thank you for being with us, your sympathy and empathy, your support and your presence. We have relied on you totally and you have been faithful and strong, giving and forgiving. We needed you and you were here — totally here. And what’s more we could rely on your beautiful singing voice. In fact, you taught us to sing German Christmas carols! Thank you so much.”

Toward the end of her life Norma took charge of the prayer board here at the Motherhouse. She received prayer requests from people throughout the country and sometimes, the world, and carefully kept them posted for community prayer. She had a system for posting and reporting and eventually rotating intentions off of the board.
About her personal life she said that she loved, above all, this community … what it stood for and the individuals in it.

She took seriously the life to which she was committed. She said that the Senate decisions were especially precious to her. The one that she particularly treasured was the decision in 1991 in which we emphasized “How we want to be with one another and with the earth.”

She also valued her ties with her family. She said at one point that “the school of human experience has taught me many things about life and death.”
Those family members and friends whom she lost broke her heart, yet, in the midst of this sadness, she said she watched new life spring up as new family members were added and the Community of St. Joseph here in Concordia continued to add new members and retain its fidelity to the charism and mission with courage and generosity.
All of this, she said, taught her that she would have to face her own passage into old age and even into death.

“I want to face life with courage,” she said. “I want to continue to grow in the charism of our dear Congregation — in unity and reconciliation — with myself, my dear neighbor and with God. Most of all, I want to be a good human being, in turn with the universe of whom I am a child. And, someday, I want to see God face to face!”
Thus, ended her life review. I believe that we can say that, indeed, all that she wished she fulfilled — or all that she wished was fulfilled in her.

Norma was that person who had the courage to face life right up to the end. She did it with patience, humility, courage and good humor. And especially, with compassion and gratitude for those who cared for her. We can be sure that Norma, a valiant woman to the end, is indeed enjoying the face of God today.

Norma left this life for another on April 8, 2019.
Norma, may all that you prayed for be yours. Thank you for your love for us; for your gracious service to this community; for your years of fidelity through good times and bad; thank you for you. You have indeed been a gift to this Community of St. Joseph!

May you be enjoying God face to face!

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

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‘The Wonky Donkey’ to be April’s featured book at Reading with Friends

April 10, 2019 by  

This month’s book for Reading with Friends will be “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith with illustrations by Katz Cowley. Kids will enjoy the award-willing song in the book along with hilarious illustrations.

The book will be read by special guest Dr. Bruce Douglas.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, April 12.

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

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

The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012.

This year’s Reading with Friends is made possible thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Cloud County.

Sister Norma Schlick — June 8, 1930 – April 8, 2019

April 9, 2019 by  

Sister Norma Schlick died April 8, 2019, at Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kan. She was 88 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for 71 years.

She was born in Wood River, Neb., on June 8, 1930, to Walter and Cecilia Bohnart Schlick, the fifth of six children, and was baptized Norma Jean. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 8, 1947. On March 18, 1948, Norma received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Mary Walter, later changing back to her baptismal name. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1949, and final vows on March 19, 1952.

Sister Norma received a BA degree in German Language and Literature in 1959; followed by a MA in German, French and Russian in 1961 from St. Louis University. This was followed by a year of study at the University of Munich, Germany, on a Fulbright Scholarship. She taught at Marymount College from 1962-1969.

In 1971, Sister Norma was elected to the Executive Council of the Congregation and served two terms until 1979. In 1987 she was appointed as Secretary to the Congregation in which capacity she served for eight years. After retirement she moved to the Motherhouse in 2004.

Sister Norma was preceded in death by her parents and four sisters. She is survived by one brother, Ted (Mary) of Grand Island, Neb., and several nieces and nephews. A Bible Vigil Service will be held at 7 p.m. April 11 in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Marcia Allen as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m. April 12 in the Motherhouse Chapel with Father James Hoover presiding. The burial will be in the Nazareth Motherhouse Cemetery.

Nutter Mortuary, 116 E. 6th St., Concordia, is in charge of arrangements. Memorials for Sister Norma Schlick 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 Norma Schlick’s memory, click on the button below:

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‘Lemur Dreamer’ to be February’s featured book at Reading with Friends

January 24, 2019 by  

This month’s book for Reading with Friends will be “Lemur Dreamer” by Courtney Dicmas. Kids will enjoy this beautifully illustrated book that shows the power of friendship!

The book will be read by special guest Lindsay Metcalf.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8.

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

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

The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012. The next Reading with Friends events will be March 8.

This year’s Reading with Friends is made possible thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Cloud County.

The January 2019 Messenger is full of Jubilarians!

January 22, 2019 by  

It’s time to catch up with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia with the January edition of the Messenger.

This month we celebrate and honor our 20 Jubilarians! That’s right! Twenty sisters with 1,205 combined years of service and love to the dear neighbor!

The print edition is in the mail, and it’s available here right now as a flipbook. To open the flipbook edition, just click on the image below and use the arrows in the bar to scroll through the pages. Need to make it larger? Click on the magnifying glass icon with the “plus” sign in the middle:

Eulogy for Sister Margaret Jilka: Feb. 17, 1930 — Dec. 12, 2018

December 17, 2018 by  

Vigil: Dec. 16, 2018 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Layla Kloeker

This evening we come together to honor and pay tribute to Sister Margaret Jilka: aunt, cousin, friend and Community member to all of us.

In 1999, at the time of her 50th Anniversary, Sister Margaret wrote that “We are not so virtuous as the angels, nor so beautiful nor so powerful, but we are much more interesting.”

Sister Margaret’s interesting life began on Feb. 17, 1930, as the youngest of five children to Jerome and Agnes Wearing Jilka. She was given the name of Margaret Mary. The family house was on the east edge of Salina, Kan. Today, we would call it at an acreage for they had a cow and other animals, chickens and ducks and a large garden. In our present time it is an area filled with beautiful homes and curvy streets south of Marymount and the cemeteries.
Margaret recalled that their house burned one night when she was about 3 years old. That house was followed by a brick house in the same location. Her Dad joined his brother Ed in the Jilka Furniture Store in downtown
Salina.

Sister Margaret’s educational life began at Sacred Heart Grade School and High School in Salina. Her early years
were happy. As a teenager in high school she wrote in her life story that those years were happy but difficult.
“I had a lousy self-image and was very insecure.” She fell into the pressure of peers, joined the crowd and was wild and free! Margaret envied her sister Ruth because Ruth was good and beautiful. Also during high school an-
other girl came to live with the Jilka family. She was an orphan girl who was with the family through high school and college until her marriage.

During high school, Margaret confided to Sister Joseph Patricia her desire to enter the Community of the Sisters
of St. Joseph. Sister Joseph Patricia responded with, “The life may not always be easy, but oh, the Teacher!”

Sister Margaret entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Sept. 8, 1948. She made First Profession on March 19, 1950
and was given the name Sister Mary Eugene. She made Final Profession on March 19, 1953. Living band members
are: Sisters Lucy Schneider, Mary Augustine and Doris Marie Flax. This year, 2019, was to be her 70th anniversary
as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Margaret recalls that her first introduction to Thomas Merton was when his newly published book, “Seven Story
Mountain” was read for table reading the year that she was a postulant. In the novitiate, Sister Margaret admired
Sister Therese Marie, her Novice Director, and was impressed with her spirituality. However, trying to articulate her
own struggles was difficult.

Around age 20, Sister Margaret was missioned to Chicago to teach kindergarten and first grade. With no training,
it was a difficult adjustment. So difficult that she thought of leaving the community. Her next mission was Monett, Mo. Again, five more years at the primary level. She became ill and needed an
emergency operation.

A turning point in her life came at Cure of Ars, in Leawood Kan., where she had the courage to ask for a different grade level and was given grade four. After a year and a half she was transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Concordia, and finished the semester with grade six.

While in New Almelo, Kan., she met Father Bill Killian who took an interest in the sisters. She also appreciated
the wide open spaces in which to walk, think and pray.

During the transitional years after Vatican II, she began a religious education degree. In the 1970s, another rural
setting was Cawker City. She and Sister Jean Befort traveled to a circuit of parishes to help with religious education programs. In 1973, during her time there, her mother came to live with her. Also, she would invite her cousin, Elea-
 nor Wearing, a resident at Mount Joseph, to her place for a vacation.

The family had a pasture north of Salina. She spent many hours there and established a relationship with her
nieces and began picturing herself teaching high school religion. However, she began feeling restless and inadequate
again and visited her cousin who was a member of Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. She also made a
workshop on journaling with Ira Progoff.

This was an interesting turn in her life. Her contemplative eyes were opened. She desired a simpler lifestyle
and she acquainted herself with Fordham University, the Greenwich Village where Thomas Merton had lived and
visited Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker House. Later, she returned to Fordham and completed a masters degree in
theology with a thesis on a portion of Thomas Merton’s writings.

Later, after we had become friends, she handed me a Thomas Merton holy card, “Thoughts in Solitude.” She
said, “That’s me over and over, in years past.”

The card reads: “I do not see the road ahead of me … the fact that I think that I am following your will does
not mean that I am actually doing so. But the desire to please you God, does in fact please me.”

In Margaret’s own words: “The spiritual writer, poet, social critic, contemplative … Thomas Merton has added a
unique design to my life. Because of my love for and interest in Merton’s life and writings, I believe he has made a
vital and irreplaceable contribution to my spirituality and prayer life. His method of writing, his journey and sharing
… the articulation of his faith story profoundly affected and challenged me.”

During her years in Grand Island she helped begin the Search Retreat for students out of high school. Her moth-
er lived there with her also, but when her mother’s health began to decline she moved back to Salina. She worked at Sacred Heart High School for one year. She missed the support of her previous years and took a part-time position
in pastoral care at St. John’s Hospital. This worked out well. Her mother passed in 1990.

Another new experience in the Church now was “Certification in Pastoral Care” and she applied for the CPE
program in Wichita. Later she wrote, “This pastoral care ministry has become very meaningful for me. I plan to
continue after the CPE Program in Wichita.”

Everywhere she went she had appreciation for nature which she called a gift. About her love for nature she
wrote: “The pasture is rich with hills, vast open spaces, bright and fragrant. The pasture is what my beloved is to
me. I walk alone. Solitude nourishes my spirit and gives me opportunity to be or rest in God’s love. I am alone with
God, the Creator of my being. In nature my heart is opened to His love. The presence of love within the ordinary
events of life, like a walk in the pasture fuels and energizes my spirit to spread His love.”

It was not unusual to see a dog accompanying her on these walks.

I think in these last years, if she had been able, she would be quoting Pope Francis, his book “Laudate Si” and his
love for all of creation much like she quoted Thomas Merton on Solitude.

Many people believe that eternal life begins at death. In reality it begins with our Baptism. In a reflection that
Margaret wrote on the occasion of her 50th Jubilee she says: “God calls us to be in touch with our center, the still point, the God within. We each hear that call within our lives. In that call we realize that our ministry is the expres-
sion of who we are. The journey of each of us is to find that depth … to find God at the center of our life.”

For nieces and nephews, and all of Margaret’s friends, you will find that Sister Margaret’s love for you will be a
deeper and fuller love that is enriched by God’s own love and direction for you. Death does not separate us but
deepens our union with God and with one another.

“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.” Maxim 73

 

Memorials for Sister Margaret Jilka may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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

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Sister Margaret Jilka — Feb. 17, 1930 – Dec. 12, 2018

December 13, 2018 by  

Sister Margaret Jilka died Dec. 12, 2018, at Mt. Joseph Senior Village in Concordia, Kan. She was 88 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph for 69 years. She was born on Feb. 17, 1930, in Salina, Kan., to Jerry and Agnes Wearing Jilka, the fifth of five children, and was baptized Margaret Mary.

She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph, Concordia on Sept. 8, 1948. On March 19, 1949, Margaret received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Mary Eugene. Later, she returned to her baptismal name, Margaret. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1950, and final vows on March 19, 1953.

Sister Margaret received an BA in English from Marymount College, a MA in religious studies from the University of Detroit, and a MA in theology from Fordham University. She was a religious education teacher at Catholic schools in Cawker City, Grand Island, Neb., and Salina. In 1990, she became hospital chaplain at St. John’s Hospital, Salina, until her retirement in 2006. In 2008, she moved to the Motherhouse and then to Mt. Joseph Senior Village.

Sister Margaret was preceded in death by her parents, three brothers and one sister. A Bible Vigil Service will be held  7 p.m. Dec. 16 in the Nazareth Motherhouse Chapel with Sister Eulalia Kloeker as the eulogist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m. Dec. 17 in the Motherhouse Chapel with Rev. Jim Hoover 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 Margaret Jilka may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.

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

DonateNow 

Eulogy for Sister Christella Buser — July, 29, 1924 – Nov. 2, 2018

November 8, 2018 by  

VIGIL: Nov. 8, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGISTS: Sister Marcia Allen, Michael Buser, nephew, and writing by Sister Norma Schlick

We are here to celebrate the life of a woman of goodwill, good humor and a host of good relationships with family, community, and friends far and near. When Sister Christella asked me to give her eulogy she requested that it be short and humorous. As for short, she then handed me a 10-page, single-spaced story of her life to use. As for humor, I can recall many instances when she used her name to make people laugh. Once when speaking at a drug and alcohol dependency meeting over at St. Joseph’s Hospital she began her talk by telling the participants that they would not always be alcoholics but that she would always be a Buser!

She was indeed a Buser. Eleanor Maurine was born July 29, 1924 in Seneca, Kan., to George and Mary Elizabeth Karnowski Buser. She had six brothers, George, Alfred, Eugene, John, Donald and Burton (Bud). Her sisters were Mary Beth and Judith. She had a warm and happy childhood. Her parents provided well for the family and taught them to live full and productive lives.

She received her elementary and high school education from the Benedictine sisters who staffed the parish school in Seneca. After graduation from high school, she thought of going to Marymount College. The idea came to her when two sisters from Marymount, Mary Grace Waring and Euphrasia Barth, came to Seneca to recruit students for the college.

Her college years at Marymount were filled with serious study while earning a degree in music education and with many happy hours of the usual antics and social life with friends she made at school and with whom she maintained life-long contact.

After graduation she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. She had a cousin here, Sister Margaret Ann Buser, and she was also greatly influenced by the lives of the sisters as she observed them at Marymount. She received the habit and the name Christella on March 19, 1947, made first vows in 1948 and final vows in 1951.

She was excited to get her first mission assignment to Tipton, Kan., to teach music and give private lessons. After five years in Tipton, she taught music at the parochial school in Concordia and then was asked to open a school to be staffed by our sisters in Leawood, Kan., the new Cure of Ars School where she would be the superior and music teacher. During this time through summer sessions she earned a MA in Music from DePaul University in Chicago.

Christella’s music ministry ended with election to the Executive Council in 1965. As vice president for President Therese Marie Stafford she saw many changes begin to take shape in religious life after Vatican Council II. She worked with the community in accepting the changes and was very compassionate with those who decided to leave religious life during the years that followed. She bore the burden of Sister Therese Marie’s illness and death in 1969 and assumed the office of president at her death. During her term as President she encouraged sisters to explore new ways of praying and offered opportunities for 30-day and eight-day directed retreats. With her council she experienced the need for changes in the corporate structure of the hospitals owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. These institutions, along with Marymount College, were undergoing many changes. And at the end of her term these challenges were handed on to her successor, Sister Bette Moslander.

Christella enjoyed many close relationships during her years as president. She and Sister Edwardine Flavin, general treasurer, worked together on financial matters. But they also enjoyed many humorous moments together. Like the time they went to a wedding at the church and then proceeded to the parish hall for the reception. They saw a nice table near the entrance with flowers and long-stem glasses. They decided that would be a nice place to sit. Along came a woman who humbly asked them to move as they were at the table reserved for the bride and groom. Looking back on her accomplishments Christella said with her characteristic self-deprecation that she increased the size of the cemetery and replaced the old barn with a nice six-car garage.

We all know that she did much more than that! As community leader she was called to this service at a pivotal point in the community’s life. In one of her talks to the community she said: “Religious life is not a static but a dynamic experience. Religious pledge to live a Gospel life, to live it meaningfully in these times and situations.”

Furthermore, it means developing our own freedom and richness in order to “become more ready to reach out to our neighbors as well as to other sisters. This is our way to live out the call to self-sacrificing love.” Radical change was a way of life in the early 1970s. She made sure that all of it was surrounded by and founded in deep prayer and personal sacrifice, not only for herself and the council but within the individual members and local communities. All were consistently called to prayer.

The members underwent total lifestyle changes and the congregation itself adapted to the new world ushered in by the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Every part of the system changed, every department was transformed; the governance structure was redesigned; she paid off loans made for building new hospitals, separately incorporated institutions, disposed of three hospitals owned by local civic communities and bought into Social Security. Through it all she encouraged sisters to tighten their belts and to enter into deep prayer. Loss of members meant loss of income and school closures, fewer sisters to operate the hospitals and other institutions. From the struggle to create a House of Prayer to setting up a retirement fund for elderly and ill members, from visits to the Brazilian mission to all the decisions required to almost instantly modernize religious life, Christella was in the thick of it, encouraging and holding the community together with her ready humor and compassionate care for each person, her belief in the mission and the sisters who lived it. With her leadership, individual sisters and local communities branched out in response to local and national world needs. It was a time of intense growth and as all such times require, the chaos of change and experimentation was managed and used as seed for the coming days. And, in spare moments she visited the sick and buried the dead, increased the institutional capacity to care for the sick and elderly and enlarged the cemetery; purchased dozens of new cars and transformed the barn into a garage.

After leaving office she briefly took up the position of communications director then began looking for a new ministry. She explored the possibility of serving in the L’Arche community founded by Jean Vanier and dedicated to serving mentally and physically challenged persons. She served some 20 years in this ministry holding many and varied positions. As the Regional Coordinator and member of the International Council she traveled over and over again to western Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Haiti. She, with Jean Vanier, took some of the residents to meet Pope John Paul II who held one of the children on his lap as they talked with him. She was also privileged to visit Trosly, France, where the first L’Arche home was created. Eventually she founded the Heartland L’Arche home in Overland Park, Kansas. She published a book, Flowers from the Ark, recounting many of her experiences with L’Arche residents. One story she loved to tell was of that of Fred, a resident in Tacoma, who was very outgoing. One Sunday the whole Tacoma community went to the Cathedral for a special service at which the Bishop was to preside. Seated on the end of the front row, Fred stepped out of the pew as the Bishop came up the aisle in full regalia, miter and staff, shook his hand and said, “Well, Bishop, I see you have your work clothes on today.” (Flowers from the Ark has recently been published in the Korean language for the L’Arche communities in Korea.)

From L’Arche ministry she once again spent time as Communications Director for the community. However, she was a people person; direct contact was important for her, so once again she looked around and found a new way of being with others. She created a new ministry called the “Joy of Laughter” with the goal of getting people to enjoy laughter and find positive meaning in their lives. She was invited to present her program to over 100 different groups and continued this ministry as long as she was able.

Christella’s life review attests to her life direction — loving, lover, beloved. Love was the central theme of her life. She was intensely sensitive and wore her heart on her sleeve. Easily hurt and distressed by injustice she responded with compassion. We members of her community — and as Michael spoke – you members of her family – all of us were deeply loved by Christella. She said that the people of the L’Arche community stole her heart, but it was taken long before by the many who moved her heart from earliest years. She was a people person and a courageous lover, ready to accompany those whom she judged to be outside the pale, forgive them and move on. She was fun-loving, enjoyed humor, tolerated gladly the stories we told on her, often misunderstood, but formed by suffering into the compassionate presence we all knew and trusted.

Shortly before her last hospitalization she asked me to accompany her on a mini retreat. The theme, she said, would be love. This was an assignment way too high for me; however, with characteristic insight and determination she led me into a sort of life review. Not of her past, but of her present. She wanted to count the people she loved and who loved her – and at the end of each session we would pray paraphrasing a favorite scripture: “May Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of our life. Thus, we will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that we may attain to the fullness of God.” (Adapted from Ephesians 3: 17-19.)

Christella, you now experience fully this love. Thank you for all the many ways you shared it with us over your 94 years.

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

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“The Pout-Pout Fish” to be featured book at Reading with Friends

November 5, 2018 by  

Swim along with the pout-pout fish at Neighbor to Neighbor as he discovers that being glum and spreading “dreary wearies” isn’t really his destiny.

Bright ocean colors and playful rhyme come together in Deborah Diesen’s fun fish story, “The Pout-Pout Fish,” that’s sure to turn even the poutiest of frowns upside down.

The book will be read by special guest Suzan Haver.

Story time will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9.

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

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

The monthly program has been a part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s regular offerings since September 2012. The next Reading with Friends events will be Dec. 14.

This year’s Reading with Friends is made possible thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Cloud County.

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