Eulogy for Sister Geraldine Milke — July 7, 1932 – July 16, 2020
Vigil: July 20, 2020, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Written by Sister Rita Plante and delivered by Sister Mary Jo Thummel
It is a privilege to have been asked by Sister Gerry to give her eulogy. Some years ago, when she asked me to do this, I said I would but please not too soon. She smiled. Her smile was her greatest gift to me and to those close to her, especially in her last years to those who were her care givers and the sisters with whom she lived. We lived together at South Mound here in Concordia in the 90s and both worked at the Motherhouse, she as Charge Nurse and I at the front desk. We lived with Sisters Margarita, Redempta and Evangelista. In 1998 the three sisters moved to the Motherhouse and there we were, a couple of sisters in a big house. That is when we became close friends. There is a book by Leon Bloy entitled “We Have Been Friends Together “ That sort of says it all for me.
Gerry’s favorite scripture verse was from Micah 6:8: “ He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? “ TO ACT JUSTLY AND TO LOVE TENDERLY AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.” And she did.
Gerry was born the youngest of 5 children.: Mildred, Francis, Clarence and Deloris.
She was born on July 7, 1932. She doesn’t mention her parents names but she tells us that her mother was very loving, patient and prayerful. Her mother’s special gift was that if she couldn’t say anything good about a person, she chose to say nothing. Her mother died in May 1968, at the age of 72, in the hospital where Gerry worked and Gerry was at her side. Of her father, she says she saw him as cold and jealous. However, during the last years of her mother’s life, she learned to know him as very loving, hurting and desiring to be loved. At her mother’s death was when he seemed to acquire all her beautiful qualities. Of him she said, “I now saw him as gentle, warm, loving, sensitive and caring.”
He died in December 1968.
She doesn’t say where they lived but I know was in Victoria and Hays Kansas area. Gerry was baptized Geraldine Agnes by Rev. George Karlin O FM Cap.
My childhood is very vague to me , she said. We lived on a farm miles away from town and I loved the outdoors and horseback riding. She attended a country school and in grades seven and eight was taught by Sisters of St. Joseph at a Catholic school. “I greatly admired these Sisters and would feel the desire to be one.” she said.
She graduated from high school as salutatorian of her class and received a scholarship for Marymount College. Her father said she should go to Fort Hays because if she goes to Marymount, she’ll become a nun. To that she said “NOT ME!”
We know the rest of that story. Sister Alberta was her student counselor and a very special person in her life. She entered Marymount in September 1950. During the three-day retreat, she found herself picking up some pamphlets entitled: “Should my daughter be a nun?”
She says she promptly dropped them because she would probably marry someday. During those days, she said she become aware the Lord was calling her to religious life and tried to sleep the thought away, but it remained when she awakened. She prayed about it and then requested entrance into the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She entered on Feb. 14, 1951, and received the habit on Aug. 15, 1951, and given the name Sister Constance. She made her first vows in 1952 and final profession of vows in 1955.
She states in bold letters that “DURING THE FIRST 15 YEARS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE THERE WAS MUCH WORK, LITTLE PLAY AND MUCH SLEEPING DURING PRAYER TIME. I WAS ALWAYS FAITHFUL TO PRAYER TIME BUT FREQUENTLY ONLY PHYSICALLY PRESENT.
From 1959 to 1962 she was in Atwood, Kansas, working in surgery and floor duty. These were good years and much work. This time was followed by a month of Tertianship, Silver City, NM.
From 1962 to 1965 she was in Belvidere , Illinois, where she was supervisor of operating and emergency room. She said she enjoyed that. “The last few months were supervising the medical floor which I found quite painful. This floor needed lots of organization but I embraced the challenge and did all I could.”
From 1966 to 1977 , Gerry went to Concordia, Kansas, to St. Joseph’s Hospital operating and emergency rooms. These are the beginning of what might be called the “Dark Night of the Soul.” During these years her parents died. During these years Vatican II happened and as she says “responsible freedom” entered into her life.
“I did not know how to handle this responsible freedom.”
Gerry sought help and was blessed with many teachers and mentors along the way. Sister Bette Moslander is mentioned as a constant mentor during this time. One of the things Bette suggested was Father Frost’s Personal Growth Seminar. Gerry accepted this and felt gifted to have the experience. She says, “Father Frost reflected Jesus to me in a very special and real way. I appreciated being accepted as a person with all my brokenness.” For her this was the “light at the end of the tunnel”
In 1981, Gerry’s next mission was St. Mary’s Convent in Concordia, of which she says, “I feel very enriched as I listen to and pray with our aged Sisters.”
In 1982, she says she was asked by a priest to be his prayer partner during Lent. Of this she says “I find this both exhausting and humbling.”
Of November 1982 she shares a time of lukewarmness and frequent mood changes. This was very scary for her remembering what Jesus said about being neither hot nor cold … BUT as she reflected upon it she came to an awareness to STRIP SELF OF SELF, PUT ON JESUS CHRIST AND BE ONLY FOR GOD AND ONE ANOTHER.”
Her life story ends in 1982 … with her returning to her baptismal name, Geraldine Agnes. Of this she says, “I feel it is very significant at this time of my life, following the dying process of the past months. I feel called to rise to a new life in Jesus”
But this is not the end of the story … just the beginning …
In 2014, she wrote: I commit myself “ to act justly and to love tenderly and to walk humbly with my God.”
In 2018 Gerry wrote her last recorded commitment which stated “I commit myself to life for time and eternity.”
A Not So Perfect Sonnet for Sister Gerry Milke
Oh quiet friend you are so dear to me
Your smile says much more than I will know
Once your feet walked miles in the halls
Of hospitals,surgery rooms each day you’d go
To be God’s hands and heart in loving care
You rose each day and knelt to Him in prayer
For each patient, doctor, nurse you’d pray
That You oh God would be with them in every way.
But you I only knew at Nazareth
When you were nurse and I receptionist.
Your loving support, I counted on your prayer
I knew you prayed each day in the chapel there.
My thanks I give to God for all your love
And know you are held close in heaven above.
Memorials for Sister Geraldine Milke 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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