Eulogy for Sister Leo Frances Winbinger, June 18, 1930-Oct. 5, 2011

October 10, 2011 by

VIGIL: Oct. 9, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia
EULOGIST: Sister Pat McLennon

“My life of ministry is thanksgiving to God
for all the gifts He has given to me.”


S. Leo Frances Winbinger

This simple mission statement of Sister Leo Frances reveals how she lived her life with acceptance and gratitude to God for whatever was asked of her or given to her.  It was in this spirit that her life revealed God’s presence, and spoke God’s words of acceptance and thanksgiving.

Theresa Elizabeth Winbinger was the first child born to Leon and Frances Baxa Winbinger, June 18, 1930, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia.

In her own words she described her birth: “This bundle of loveliness and joy was very much welcomed in love and thanksgiving.  There was another reason for the joy because I was the first girl baby on both sides of my family.” A few years later her brother Charles was welcomed into the family. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother and nephew Charles.  She is survived by her sister-in-law Kathleen and her nieces Beth, Deborah, Kristine, and Amy and her nephews Matthew and Greg.

Theresa grew up in Cuba, Kan., and she was baptized at St. Isadore Church, a mission of St. Edward’s in Belleville, Kan. She attended Bates Rural School in Republic County. It was a one-room building. She remembered that there were only six students, three in first grade and three students in the eighth grade. She attended religious vacation school in Belleville taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Theresa loved music and her natural talent was discovered at an early age.  She sang her first solo when she was just 2 years old.  She said a vocalist usually needs and accompanist so she began to take piano lessons when she was in the third-grade from a professional teacher. She practiced at home on what she described as a manually operated instrument that supplied compressed air through foot feeders by using pedals. She said she practiced her piano lessons on this instrument as long as the keys held out.  She played for her first High Mass when she was 8 years old.  Later on she wanted to be in the school band and so as a fifth-grade student she began lessons on the clarinet.

When Theresa attended Belleville High School many of her hopes and desires were realized.  She was not only in the band, she was a member of a clarinet quartet woodwind trio, marching and concert band, girl’s glee and mixed chorus.  She continued her piano lessons so that she could perform well and to accompany these music groups.

Theresa was fortunate to receive a scholarship from Marymount College when she graduated from high school. During her freshman year at Marymount she felt called to religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Theresa entered the postulancy on Sept. 7, 1949, and was received as a novice March 19, 1950.  She was given the name Sister Leo Frances. During the novitiate she said she “studied the Constitution and other qualities needed to fit the bill as a prospective Sister of St. Joseph.”  She made first Profession March 19, 1951, and Final Profession March 19, 1954.

Her band members are: Sisters Therese Richstatter, Alice Marie Stalker, Jacquelyn Kircher, Mary Jean Assell, Lila Marie Schmidt and Rita Ann Mazanec. Two of her band members preceded her in death, Sisters Susanna Collister and Dismas Cartwright.

Following the novitiate Sister Leo Frances was sent to teach fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grades in Herndon, Kan. The following year she was sent to Sacred Heart in Salina and it was then that she began teaching classroom music, choir and private lessons. The year she was to make final profession she was teaching in Gladstone, Michigan. She expressed a deep disappointment because she wanted to come home for the profession ceremony but was asked to make her profession in Gladstone due to the distance. In her usual gracious way she expressed her gratitude for the generosity, concern, and hospitality, of the pastor, Father Matt LaViolette who presided at the ceremony.

During her active years of ministry she also taught music at schools in Plainville, Tipton, and Manhattan, Kan.; Chicago; Boonville, Mo.; and Silver City, N.M.

In 1973 she came to the Motherhouse to work at the reception desk.

It was during these years that her health began to fail. During the time I was her regional coordinator it was necessary for her to have a shunt put in to drain fluid from her brain.  The doctor told us that she would gradually loose her ability to walk and she would experience memory loss.  At that time I talked to her about moving from the Motherhouse to St. Mary’s.  I told her about the long-term diagnosis and promised her that we would always care for her.  She expressed her gratitude to me for telling her and she said that she knew she would have very good care at St. Mary’s.  Sister Macrina often spoke about how well she adjusted and how gracious she was to the Sisters and her care takers. She lived at St. Mary’s for ten years and then in 1997 she moved to the newly remodeled Stafford Hall.

During that time she and Sister M. Kevin shared a room together and they became very good friends. They prayed together every day, they enjoyed watching the same old movies on their TV, shared letters and news, and looked after one another when they were not feeling well.  They were both happy and always expressed their appreciation for one another and the wonderful care they received at the Motherhouse.

In 2004 the community made a decision to move some of our Sisters to Mt. Joseph Senior Village.  I visited with Sister Leo Frances and Sister M. Kevin about this decision and asked them to be in the first group to move. They both said they would be happy to move but they had one request; they wanted to room together at Mt. Joseph.  I said that we could arrange that for them. They were both aware that they each could have had a private room.

I helped them pack and move over to Mt. Joseph.  Every time I went to visit Sister Leo Frances would say, “Thank you for letting me be here. We are physically, spiritually and psychologically cared for.”  There were times when I knew she must have been suffering extreme pain, especially in her feet, but she never complained.  Everything was always wonderful and she was always thankful.

When Sister Mary Kevin died, I went to the little gathering room to tell Sister Leo Frances.  It was a sudden death and it was a great loss to her.  She cried and for several months after she would talk about how much she missed her dear friend. Then she would say, “There’s a mother deer and her baby outside our window. I like to watch them.”

What I always appreciated about Sister Leo Frances was her constant spirit of acceptance and gratitude. In her own simple way she had an ability to be present to each encounter and respond wholeheartedly.  Her life was definitely not an easy one.  She experienced trials, doubts, and failures, but she always seemed to counter them with gratitude, trust, and faith.

Sister Leo Frances died Oct. 5, 2011 at Mt. Joseph Senior Village. Her gifts to us of acceptance and thanksgiving have now blossomed into the fullness which she zealously nurtured during her life with us as she is embraced in the fullness of God’s life in abundance. May she rest in peace.

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One Response to “Eulogy for Sister Leo Frances Winbinger, June 18, 1930-Oct. 5, 2011”

  1. Elizabeth (Betsy Gasperich) Miller on January 6th, 2012 5:41 am

    Dear Sister Leo Frances,
    I knew you when you gave me piano lessons at All Saints School in Gladstone, Michigan….and then again at St. Joseph and St. Anne’s in Chicago when we lived there as colleagues….Thanks for all you did and for the “Gift of Music”!

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