Vigil: July 9, 2017 at Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia
Eulogist: Sister Marilyn Wall
“Seek in everything God’s contentment and not anything else, and the better to practice this, remember in the entire living out of your life, in desolation, in sickness, etc., to desire God’s greater contentment without giving a thought to your own interests.” Maxim 26
Sister Gilberta Appelhans was born March 18, 1926, to Joseph and Kathryn (Richmeier) Appelhans in the family home south and east of St. Peter, Kansas. She was baptized on March 19 and named Martina. She was the third oldest of nine living children. Her parents were of German-Russian descent. She has many pleasant memories of the farm and the family that she grew up with. She recalls that when her older sisters went to school she would wait anxiously until they came home because they would tell her all about what happened that day and what they learned. Consequently, she was very ready for first grade when she was six.
When she was 15, a neighboring family needed help. They had six children, five boys ages 2 to 7 and an 11-month-old girl and the mother was pregnant with the seventh child. Since her sister Eleanor was her Dad’s right hand in the field and her sister Mary was needed to help with the cooking, Martina got to go. She said she went and worked harder than ever and loved it.
In September of 1947, Martina applied for a job at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Hays and was hired to work in the kitchen. Sr. Herbert asked her, “Have you ever thought of being a Sister. You would make a good one.”
Also working there was Lucy Klaus. One day Lucy let Martina read a letter from her aunt, Sr. Ermelina who lived at Marymount. In the letter, Lucy’s aunt asked which convent she was choosing, CSJ or St. Agnes. Martina asked, “Are you really going to be a sister Lucy?” “Yes, I am.” she replied, “ but I can’t make up my mind which one.” Martina said, “If you go to Concordia, I will go with you.” Lucy replied, “That is really the place I like best. Let’s go!” The two began making preparations and on Feb. 9, 1948, Martina’s parents drove both Martina and Lucy and their trunks to Concordia. The remaining members of that group are: Sr. Charlotte Lutgen, Sr. Ann Vincent Glatter and Sr. Norma Schlick.
In her life review, Martina wrote: “On August 15, 1948, we were received into the Novitiate. The traditional habit and the name, Sister Mary Gilberta, became mine. I found great joy in being in the Novitiate. One fact that helped was that Sr. Therese Marie, our Postulant Director, was appointed Novice Mistress that same day. I found her to be open to the signs of the times even then and, I believe, she could read into our/my acts. I was very much attached to her.”
After Temporary Profession in 1949, Sr. Gilberta was sent to Marymount to help in the kitchen. Sr. Angelica was the head cook and taught her much. However, during her second year there, Sr. Angelica became ill with pneumonia and Srs. Gilberta, Helen and Regina Marie had to do all of the cooking including for Marymount Day. Sr. Gilberta mentioned that it was at Marymount that she began coming out of herself and learned to laugh at herself.
In 1951, Sr. Ermalina, who was now in Abilene at the Orphanage, came to Marymount and asked for prayers that they find a cook for the Orphanage. About a week later, Sr. Gilberta’s Superior told her that they wanted her to go to the Orphanage and do the cooking. Sr. Gilberta asked “How Soon?” The Answer was Saturday afternoon. When she told Sr. Dolors goodbye, she was washing dishes and did not even look up, but said, “Good-bye, and you tell that Superior of yours I am not praying for her needs again.” Sr. Gilberta said that her time at the orphanage was one of the happiest years of her religious life.
In 1952, she was assigned to Sacred Heart Convent to cook and do laundry work for 23 Sisters. She was there for four years and during that time her mother became very ill and died during her second hospitalization at St. John’s. Because Sr. Gilberta was in Salina she was able to visit and support both of her parents, and she was with her mother when she died.
In 1957 Gilberta was again assigned to the Motherhouse. She liked being there and was cooking. In time she also spent 2 years there in the sewing room sewing habits and coats for the sisters and Novices. During her time at the Motherhouse she also earned an associate of arts degree at the junior college in Concordia. She then went on to school in Houston to complete an Occupational Therapy program. She then was supervisor of Stafford Hall and later also Bookkeeper at the Motherhouse. In 1981, she completed a CPE program at Independence, Iowa. She then returned to the Motherhouse. In all, she spent 33 years there.
Her final mention in her life review was that on Sunday, March 15, 1981, her family surprised her by coming to the Motherhouse to celebrate her birthday. They all liked it so well that they made it part of their lives, a yearly event.
She concluded with “I love my vocation of being a Sister of St. Joseph. The love of God is all around me, in me and in my neighbor.” Indeed, she was a faithful and faith-filled woman.
In 2011, Sr. Gilberta moved to Mount Joseph. Two of her last mission statements are of note: “I have a strong work ethic with limited opportunity to serve, so my focus is ‘making things right.’ I stay attentive by putting puzzles together, doing word finds, reading the daily newspapers and being attentive at Mass, communion services and Rosary and by being a spokesperson for others in the dining room.”
In 2016-2017 she described her mission as, “To manifest gratitude and God’s blessings each day to all at Mount Joseph as well as my Sisters and find meaning in my limited way day-by-day by finding God in all things, people and at prayer.” Faithful to our CSJ charism, her ministry was her presence all of her life.
Sr. Gilberta, your smile and your ‘God bless you’ have touched countless numbers of people.
Now we say …. God bless you for having lived out your life faithfully, generously, and lovingly until at last, God took you home on July 6, 2017. We will miss you, but believe that the angels have led you to God; that there you have also met the saints, and all whose lives you have touched and blessed. We believe that you are at home in the new and eternal Jerusalem! And yet we will look for your blessing and love in our daily lives and know we will see it because we all are ONE. Thank you!
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Memorials for Sister Gilberta Appelhans 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 Gilberta’s memory, click on the button below: