Eulogy for Sister Ann Therese Reinhart, Sept. 14, 1924-Jan. 26, 2011

January 27, 2011 by

Jan. 27, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

Eulogist: Bette Moslander CSJ

Sometime ago Sister Ann Therese was quite ill and was taken to the hospital. Not knowing what this incident portended, and realizing that Ann Therese did not have a very extended life review, one of the members of the Leadership Council, knowing that Ann Therese and I had known each other from Marymount days, asked me if I would give her eulogy should she die. I agreed.

As I have reflected on her brief life review and her mission commitments through the years I am deeply moved and somewhat in awe of the mystery of the life of this woman, whom I have known for nearly 70 years and yet hardly knew at all. Her life is an enigma — a revelation of the faith and courage of a woman, crippled from birth by cerebral palsy, and the loving power of God who works in our human brokenness to do impossible things. Medical authorities describe cerebral palsey in the following terms, “Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders affecting body movement, balance and posture. It is caused by abnormal  development or damage in one or more parts of the brain that control muscle tone and motor activity. The resulting impairments appear early in life, usually in infancy or early childhood…. Many individuals with cerebral palsy have normal or above average intelligence.” Now, let me try to tell you a little of the story of Ann Therese Reinhart and her courageous and faithful journey through life.

As for the facts: Maxine Reinhart (Sister Ann Therese)  was born on Sept. 12, 1924, in Carroll, Iowa, at St. Anthony’s Hospital to Frank and Lillian Hess Reinhart. At birth she was diagnosed as having a mild case of cerebral palsy. It was not a severe case, affecting primarily fine motor skills but not her intellectual ability.   She was the oldest of four children, a brother John, and two sisters, Yvonne and Marylyn; all of her siblings have preceded her in death. Bill Bundy , a nephew, has been the family member who has kept in touch with Ann Therese in recent year.

Maxine attended Catholic Elementary School and St. Angela’s Academy in Carroll and after completing high school, she attended Marymount College, Salina, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in French and Spanish and Education and was certified to teach in high school. She graduated cum laude in1947.

Our lives first converged at Marymount. I cannot say I came to know her well during the year we were both students. I was a senior when she began as a freshman. We each went our own way, she was interested in languages and I was about to graduate with a major in chemistry and preparation for an internship in medical technology. Our social lives seldom intersected; her physical limitations prevented her from participating in the extracurricular activities that filled my free time. Our fields of interest — languages and chemistry labs — did not provide ground for common classes or social interests. I graduated in the spring of 1944 and three years later Maxine completed her college work with a B.A. in French. She began her career as an educator teaching in her home town.

What I learned as I moved through the archival material of Ann Therese’s life in preparation for giving her eulogy was that when she finished college she applied to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph but was refused on the grounds that her physical limitations  would make it difficult for her to carry out all of the requirements of convent living and work. It was a great disappointment to her but she set about furthering her own education and her teaching career apparently with another plan for entering the Congregation in due time.

Ten years later, on  June 9, 1957, in a letter addressed to Mother Helena, then Superior General of the Congregation, Maxine asked for admission to the Congregation for a second time. She explained what she had been doing during the 10 years between her first request and this one. She wrote, “After I received my B.A. degree from Marymount College in 1947, I attended Catholic University, Washington, D.C., where I did graduate work in French and education. Last year the opportunity to teach French at Kansas University afforded me the chance for more advanced work. Although I have not acquired the Master’s, I have several hours in that direction. Also I have taken correspondence work from De Paul University and Iowa University.” In addition Maxine indicated that she had been teaching French and English in high school and had translated a Spanish play that had been recently published.  She stated her case without apology, acknowledging that “she mentions the above” in order to show Mother Helena that she  has tried to prove her abilities as an educator and worker.

Knowing that her physical limitations might be a strike against her she wrote “Also in the past 10 years I have not been ill or missed any classes. God has been good to me and now I feel that I am ready to dedicate the remainder of my life to His service, if He so desires.” She reinforced her request with references affirming her ability to live the life from sisters at Marymount, her pastor and fellow educators. In her file there is an interesting letter from Sister Alberta Savoie, head of the language department at the college, who had been Maxine’s teacher during her years as a student. Sister Alberta wrote in support of her being admitted to the postulancy, “Maxine was here during which time her health was perfect; she did not even have as much as a bad cold. She was a model student in every way. As a Major in my department, she did very good work for me both in French and in Spanish.”

Who could pass up such a request?  Mother Helena’s response, of course, was to accept Maxine into the postulancy. Thus 10 years later, in the fall of 1957 the two of us showed up on the steps of Nazareth Convent within a few hours of each other, our diverging paths having once again converged.

Because both of us were experienced teachers in fields that were compatible with the life of Concordia Community of St. Joseph we were pressed into service immediately. Maxine was asked to teach French to her resistant band members and I was asked to teach a course in Sacred Scripture to postulants and novices. Together we progressed through the postulancy. When we received the habit and entered the novitiate, Maxine received the name Sister Ann Therese. We both continued teaching our fellow band members during the course of the novitiate.  Following temporary vows we moved down to Marymount, as was customary, and were ready to begin our mission life as Temporary Professed.

Sister Ann Therese spent nine and a half years teaching beginning Spanish in the Language Department under Sister Alberta Savoie. In 1968, when her services were no longer needed at Marymount, she was assigned to Notre Dame High School in Concordia where she taught for a year. Her next move in the fall of 1969 she went to Manhattan, Kan., where she taught French, Spanish and Latin for 16 years. In the course of her  years in Manhattan, Ann Therese was nominated by her principal as an outstanding teacher in elementary and secondary education. She received a plaque recognizing her exceptional professional achievement and dedicated community service. Sister Ann Therese was listed in the annual volume of “Outstanding Leaders in Elementary and Secondary Education” in 1976.

I have been told that when she returned to Manhattan some years later for a dinner planned by the Development Department she was enthusiastically greeted by former students who circled around her remembering her years in Manhattan and expressing their gratitude for all she had given them during her teaching years.

When Sister Ann Therese left the high school classroom in Manhattan in 1985 she went to Medaille in Salina where she lost no time finding a meaningful ministry working with Sister Margaret Louise. She helped the Spanish-speaking poor and elderly and assisted with work at the federally funded Vietnamese Center. At the time there were over 300 Indochinese Refugees in Salina. At the same time she taught Spanish at Sacred Heart Grade school grade 1-6 and English as a second language. On occasion, whenever Ann Therese showed up at Marymount we would have short visits, remembering our years in the postulancy and novitiate.

I came to realize that as she reflected back on her life it was evident to her that in God’s Providence the limitations she experienced were the charismatic gifts given to her that have enabled her to serve all levels of society, particularly the adolescent students who found in her a competent and patient teacher who understood their struggles and truly loved them. There was no doubt in my mind that Ann Therese was deeply committed to the mission and spirituality of Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Ann Therese retired in 1993 and lived at Medaille Center in Salina until she returned to the Motherhouse in 2004. Her health was slowly declining. She was in need of more and more physical care. During her years at the Motherhouse she acknowledged that she was often discouraged and inclined to depression. She valiantly refused to feel sorry for herself and did her best to be present to whatever was going on in the community. Reluctantly she transferred to Mount Joseph on Nov. 19, 2008. She found the years at Mt. Joseph difficult. Her semi isolation from contact with friends and companions only allowed the depression and behavioral changes to occur more and more frequently necessitating short visits to the hospital in Beloit where health care personnel were better able to deal with her depressive moods. Each time she responded and regained something of her positive view toward life.

As I said in the beginning Sister Ann Therese’s life was something of an enigma. She was, I feel certain, a deeply spiritual and intelligent woman who lived her life with dignity and  a certain nobility, in spite of physical limitations that would have rendered most of us prone to constant depression. As she moved deeper and deeper into the mystery of her life journey, her psychological and behavioral changes confused and were misunderstood by those who tried to be helpful. Communication became more and more difficult if not almost impossible. Actually this was the consequence of the cerebral palsy. But there is paradox in her life. In a way her ministry was always one of communication — in four languages— French, Spanish, Latin,and English. She was, one could suggest, a polyglot.

Finally, in the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 26, in the dark of the night, she came to the end of her journey. Peacefully she let go, abandoning herself freely into the mystery of the God of her lifelong Desire, the Abyss of Love, the loving God whom she had served faithfully throughout her lifetime.

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One Response to “Eulogy for Sister Ann Therese Reinhart, Sept. 14, 1924-Jan. 26, 2011”

  1. Bryan Smith on November 12th, 2019 8:52 pm

    I was a student of Sister Ann Therese at Luckey High School in Manhattan, KS. I graduated in 1973 and have to say that she was one of my favorite teachers having taken 2 years of Latin with her. She persevered in her teaching, overcoming her physical restraints in such a deliberate way that was so inspiring. I know I learned as much from her lessons in life of overcoming obstacles as I did Latin. She had such an endearing personality that many students were drawn to her.

    Like most teenagers, we tested her with playful classroom pranks and she would get us back on track with a simple smile. I can still see her with her back to the class writing on the black board, steadying her writing hand with the other. The effort this normally simple task took had to be exhausting with her physical condition but she never complained or seemed troubled by it.

    I had the opportunity to see her in 2011 at the all school reunion and was one of her students gathered around her expressing my gratitude. I only regret not following up on my intention of visiting her in Concordia later on.

    Bryan Smith

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