Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

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Eulogy for Sister Eulalia J. Kloeker

March 1, 1934 –  January 25, 2024

By S. Mary Ann Flax and S. Marilyn Wall

The early portion of this Eulogy is in Layla’s own words and taken from her life review and other writings.  In the latter portion we will reflect on her life as we have seen and known it.

“Sister Layla, as I am called in the community, was born on a farm northeast of Marysville, KS (at chore time) on March 1, 1934 to August Henry Kloeker and Mary Johanna Dwerlkotte Kloeker and given the name Eulalia Joann in Baptism at St. Gregory the Great Church in Marysville, KS.

I was the third child in the family.  Francis Kloeker and Margaret (Nemec) were older and I was followed by a younger sister, Cecelia (Stallbaumer).

My mother was an example of faith lived.  Her concern for prayer, sharing in Church activities, and compassion for others was always present.  My father taught us to respect this and he too helped to pack boxes for war victims, sponsored a displaced person and shared harvest time work with Neighboring farmers.

We children all had daily chores like gather eggs, feed the chickens, bring in the wood, bring in water, go get the cows, help milk them, feed calves and do dishes.   

I attended the McDonald Country School for grade one, but in grade two and thereafter I went to St. Gregory the Great School in Marysville. I was scared the first few days.  I had never seen so many kids my age before.

At first I was bashful to join 4H.  The neighbor lady was the leader and I liked her and I became a member. In time I was elected secretary of the club. That is interesting because I have been secretary often.  As an adult it was the teachers’ group in Park, KS. Then at Manna House and the Parish Council Meetings at St. Gregory’s.  That was followed by taking minutes at the Ministerial Group. Now I take my turn being scribe at circle meetings.

As a senior in high school I wondered what I would do with my life.  One summer afternoon when bringing the cows home from the pasture I pondered the same question. I asked my mother about going to school.  I wrote a letter to Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Ks. And one to Marymount. Thinking that I would not be accepted because I was not an academic student, a letter returned from Marymount within a few days, and was handwritten by Sister Euphrasia.  I was accepted.  Attending Marymount was the first time I enjoyed school. I liked the weaving class taught by Sr. Leonida and even earned some money by tying knots for an older student who cut threads too short on her project and was unable to tie them.  Sister Dolors liked my short story in rhetoric class which gave me a boost of confidence.  Sr. Dolors had the story printed in the Marymount paper.

I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on February 2, 1952.  On August 15 I received the habit and the name Sr. Mary de Sales.  I pronounced vows on August 15, 1955.

My first teaching assignment was at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Concordia. I taught there for 10 years. This was followed by 6 years at St. Xavier’s School in Junction City.  (My largest class was 62 children).

The Vatican Council took place and the word ”change” was in many conversations. Sixty years later we have a more accurate understanding of ‘change’.

Our hair styles changed with contemporary dress styles. I cut the neckline for many sisters and gradually went up to the back of the head. While serving at Manna House I was asked to trim an entire head. I was slow and became faster as time went on.  It was nothing to cut 15 to 20 sisters when they arrived for annual retreat. From that experience I received permission to attend the beauty school. I passed the State Examination for Cosmology in Topeka and Sr, Mary Esther Otter was willing to allow me to demonstrate techniques on her. One section of the exam was to pull a card from the examiner’s hand and that was to be demonstrated on one’s model.  I drew “finger waves” and Sr. Mary Esther’s hair responded perfectly.  The examiner whispered over my shoulder, “Very good, ma’am.

In 1979/1980 I received Clinical Pastoral Education in Independence, Iowa.

I began parish ministry in Hanover in 1987.  The location was perfect because of its proximity to Marysville, the home of my aging mother. I would drive there every weekend and share care with my brother and sister.

Later the Pastor of a Parish near Marysville offered me a position that was parish ministry focused on the homebound and elderly.  My residence was to be the vacant rectory in Beattie, KS. In time, as I made my presence known, the list of visitations grew longer.  I had a business card with the words: “ministry to the young at heart and slightly older in other parts.” I became involved in the county ministerial association, parish outreach, food bank, monthly recycling day, hospice and grief support work.  The rectory at Beattie was a hundred plus years old. I dearly loved the old house. The amenities in the parish were countless.  I watched the newborns grow and become toddlers. Young teenagers went off to college and I journeyed with the elderly as St Paul says, “To the finish line.”

I have received wonderful inspiration from the elderly folks with whom I have met.  Their gift of faith and simple ways of having God first in their lives are a daily reminder to me.

Congestive heart concerns, hearing deficiency and arthritis were the basic reasons for ending this portion of my life.  I moved to the Motherhouse July 24, 2017.”

Mary Ann and I have talked about some of our experiences of Layla over the years. We have found her an extremely talented person with a great curiosity around learning. She has learned many crafts from bobbin lacing to woodworking and done them well. At one time she learned and practised clowning and was actually quite good at that also.

Layla also had a compassionate heart, especially for those who needed it most…the elderly and the alone. Her presence and care were always appreciated.

One of the values that Layla learned from a young age was that there was a place for everything and everything should be in its place. She worked hard to find places for objects both common and rare.

Layla was faithful to her friends.  Each of us has experienced times when we were ministering in towns close to Layla. She would reach out for an impromptu visit, lunch together or a mutual trip back to Concordia for a meeting, a wake, a funeral. She was also a great letter writer and kept in touch with many that way. Including her relatives in Germany.

Layla dearly loved her nieces and nephews and loved to tell us about them and their accomplishments.

In her last Mission Statement Layla, was experiencing her own diminishment and said: ”At this stage of my life I ask for prayer and love and I offer you the same in return.”  So Layla, we are counting on your continued love and prayer from your new home with God. Thank you for the life you have shared with us.