VIGIL: Nov. 17, 2016, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Judy Stephens
It is my honor to deliver this eulogy tonight for Sister Agnes Bernita Green.
Sister “Aggie B,” as we all knew her, went home to God on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. She died at Mt. Joseph Senior Village where she had come for rehabilitation after a recent fall. Although she had already celebrated her 101st birthday, her death seemed to come suddenly, since the memory of her sparkling eyes and quick wit still linger with us here at the Motherhouse.
Laura Elizabeth Green was born Oct. 4, 1915, in Seward, Neb. Her parents were Edward and Katherine Meadows Green. Laura had a sister named Jean who was 14½ months younger than she. Their mother died of diphtheria on Laura’s fifth birthday. Later she would say, “This was very tragic and traumatic for me. I was very lonely. All my life I have felt the absence of a mother’s love.”
Relatives helped out, and later her father hired a matronly housekeeper. In 1922 they moved to Hastings, Neb., and their father put the two girls in a boarding school, Immaculate Conception Academy, which became the Crosier Monastery. They knew their father was doing the best he could for them, and they were always glad when he came to see them.
In 1928 her father married Clara G. Geesen and so the two girls left the Academy and went home to live with them. They gained two half-sisters, Antoinette and Rosemary, and a half-brother, Fred. Her parents preceded her in death, along with her sisters Jean Woodson, Antoinette Slough and Rosemary Green. Her brother, Dr. Fredric Green, survives and lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. He was unable to be here today because of health issues.
Sister Agnes Bernita says that her stepmother was intelligent and educated, although she never gained a close relationship with her. She graduated from high school in 1933.
Sister Agnes Bernita’s grandmother lived near Concordia and used to tell her how happy the Sisters were and what wonderful lives they led. She says, “I heard but I did not heed. I liked to visit her in August, so I could see the investiture ceremony at the Motherhouse.” She continues: “One day when I was wondering what I would do with the rest of my life, it was as if God said ever so clearly to me, ‘Why don’t you be a Sister?’ ” I told my stepmother of my sudden new decision. Neither of us knew a great deal about the Sisters of St. Joseph. So we went to Concordia to get acquainted.”
An additional inspiration to her was her aunt who entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1920 and was given the name, Sister Agnes Bernita Green! She died at the early age of 23. In the “Grains of Wheat,” it says of her, “She had the same contagious sense of humor that is so characteristic of the Green family!” Much later, in preparing for her own death, Aggie B. asked for cremation and to be buried with her aunt, which we will do tomorrow.
And so Laura entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in February 1934 and was the 10th in a band of 10 postulants. Their mistress was Sister Sabinus and Sister Isabelle was their novice director. She says, “I look back on my postulancy and novitiate as being very happy years.” She entered the novitiate on Aug. 15, 193,4 and received the name of Sister Agnes Bernita. She made first profession on Aug. 15, 1935 and final profession on Aug. 15, 1939.
After making profession, she was sent to Cawker City as the housekeeper. There were five Sisters in Cawker and they were very poor. She made “the best of it,” knowing that this assignment was for only that one school year. In the summer of 1936 several of them studied at the Motherhouse for teacher certification. After being certified, she was sent to Collyer to teach grades 1 through 3. She found first-graders a real challenge and asked Sister Luella Hake in nearby Park for some assistance. Sister Luella helped her a great deal and impressed on her that she was “going too fast” and expecting too much from first-graders! One of those first graders was Sister Rose Beatrice Dreiling!
In the summer of 1937, Sister Agnes Bernita attended Marymount College for the first time. She enrolled in a college algebra class that was a delight for her. Her teacher and students commented on how “smart” she was. “Why shouldn’t I be?” she said. “I had four years of math in high school and there wasn’t much new material in that college algebra course.” But she did enjoy the recognition!
Sister Agnes Bernita returned to Marymount again in the summer of 1940 and every summer thereafter until she earned her degree in 1957. She said, “I used to look forward to Marymount summers. They were intellectually stimulating as well as socially fulfilling. What fun to be with my friends whom I hadn’t seen all year!”
From 1936 until 1958, she taught in the following schools in Kansas: Collyer, Tipton, Park, Vincent, Salina, and Junction City. She also taught in Chicago. She taught every grade from 1 through 8 except the 7th!
From 1958 to 1963, she studied math and physics at Catholic University and Notre Dame during the summers. She spent 17 years teaching at the high school level in Aurora, Kan., Sacred Heart in Salina, Central Catholic in Grand Island, Neb., Notre Dame in Concordia, St. John’s in Beloit and St. Patrick’s in Sidney, Neb. She also taught math at Marymount College in Salina for two years, 1966-68.
In 1976 she left teaching which she always enjoyed but noted that “there comes a time when one must put the chalk down and find something less nerve-racking” to do! She was known as a good teacher, and some of her former students have continued to come to visit her.
After teaching she went to our hospital in El Paso, Texas, and worked in the accounting office. Later, in 1980 she took a course in Clinical Pastoral Education in Independence, Iowa, and then was employed for 10 years at the St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Neb., as a member of the pastoral team. She grew to like this work very much, noting that she was a “people-person” rather than an office person!
In December 1990 she moved to Medaille Center in Salina and served part-time in pastoral care at St. John’s Hospital. In 1993 she worked as a tutor at Little House Adult Learning Center.
In October 2004 she moved to the Motherhouse where she offered to give tours. “I am so proud and grateful when tourists appreciate the beauty and history of our Motherhouse,” she said.
She attended the first Sarah Sabbatical at Manna House in 1990 and noted, “What a marvelous privilege and experience! It was a time of God’s beneficent grace and of spiritual growth for me.” Sister Agnes Bernita continued to seek spiritual direction over the years. Once her director asked her to choose something from a collection of small dainty items. When she chose a rock, the spiritual director asked her why. Her response was, “God is the Rock of my salvation!” She also said that when things go wrong or were in turmoil for her, she would pray, “Be still, know that I am God!” That would put things in perspective for her.
Her favorite Maxim is number 37:
Ask nothing and refuse nothing, unless you judge it absolutely necessary after having prayed to God. Even in that case let it be done as a simple proposal together with a complete resignation [whether this proposal is accepted or not].
Sister Marcia Allen’s commentary on this Maxim says that “one does nothing — except in the heat of the wind of the Holy Spirit and to know this, one prays assiduously, while holding lightly in one’s heart the ever demanding and loving Design of God … it is fierce but always in balance with what is really real.”
This brings us to the “Aggie B” we all have known! Even into her 100 years of living, always “showing up” and being there, with her quick smile and bright blue eyes! Even when the names of her Sisters no longer came quickly to her speech, her recognition of who each person was never stopped.
Of her life she says, “I am grateful to my Community for the many opportunities it has provided me for spiritual growth, education, travel and for the love and support of my Sisters. I love my Community and am proud to be a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia!”
And now, dear Sister, we too who have loved you, are rejoicing with you as you are now united with the mother you longed for and with all those who have gone before you! Now you know that full embrace of God Whose light and love was so clearly reflected in you. May you be in peace!
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Memorials for Sister Agnes Bernita Green 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 Aggie B’s memory, click on the button below: