Thursday, June 13, 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


Eulogy for Sister Patricia Lewter

April 25, 1935 – November 25, 2023

VIGIL: November 28, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

Eulogy by Agnes Irene Huser, CSJ

WE GATHER TODAY TO CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF Sister Patricia Lewter. On behalf of the whole   Congregation I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Sister Pat’s Brother Thomas or “Tank”; to her cousin Stanley who was not able to make the trip and to Pat’s friends and clients in the Grand Junction area who are with us through live streaming.
When asked to give this eulogy I read Pat’s life review and decided to let her tall her story in her own unique style as much as possible.
Pat was born on April 25, 1935 in Las Cruses, New Mexico to Emma Rosemary Heep. Her grandparents took her to their home on the farm when she was born because her mother was working in town, and her mother came home to see her on the weekends. When Pat was five years old her Mom met Perry Glenville Lewter, and they married when Pat was 7 or 8. Five days before her 10th birthday her brother, Thomas, Matthew Sebastian Lewter was born.
She was sent to St. Mary’s Academy in Silver City where she graduated from High School. The chaplain, Fr. Quigley, asked her what she was going to do after graduation and told her that he thought she would be a good Sister. Pat thought about it for a week and told him that” she guessed it would be OK.” Great vocation story!
Pat entered the community in September, 1953.  Her band members were Carolyn Teter, Marilyn Foot, Marie Rene Morin, Margaret Nacke, Catherine and Mary Ann Flax and Betty Dublansky. Carolyn, Margaret, and Mary Ann are here today.  They received the habit on March 19, 1954 and Pat was given the name Rose Helen.
Her family who had come for her reception stayed about a week.  Every day after lunch her mother would announce “that they were here to see “Pat”.  Sister Louis always answered the door and one day she said to Pat’s mother, “Her name is Sister Rose Helen now” to which her mother responded “You named her that, you call her that. I named her Pat and that is what I’ll call her.” Pat was horrified and was so relieved when Sister Louis laughed.
After First Profession of vows the group went to Marymount. It was the middle of the semester so there was little to do. Pat had asked to be a nurse and was glad when formal classes began.  Mother Chrysostom taught a class in Tanquery and Rodriquis; Pat’s reaction was “Oh, My God!”  Sister Mary Mark who was their mistress did not keep track of them and told them to stay out of trouble, and “Insinuated that they not get caught if they did.”
Sister Pat’s teaching career began when Mother Helena asked her if she would mind teaching for a year before she started her nursing classes.  Pat agreed, and when the scenario repeated itself the following two years, she told Mother Helena she would be glad to stay in teaching since she found that she really liked it!
So began a career of teaching in many different venues: grade and high schools, parish ministries, liturgy, prayer house, clowning, counseling, Agrégées education, reaching out to women who were in need of help, and the list goes on.
Her concern for the people she served – children, as well as adults –  plays itself out in the following story: “I got a job at Bishop Miege High School teaching general science. Miege did level teaching and I had two Level 4 classes.  There were only twelve in each class and eleven were junior and senior boys.  They did not want to learn science, would not do the work in the lab that I so diligently set up.  I started doing some character building classes with them.  I took them to Museums, and got free tickets at the symphony.  I got poets to come in and have class with them. The one thing they liked best was when a dream analyst came in and worked with them.  We watched movies and discussed them.  The boys liked the classes and I did too.  At the end of the first quarter one of them asked what I was going to give them a grade in.  I told them that the report card said science and that is what I would give them a grade for. They asked WHAT grade I would give them. I asked them what they WANTED.  A young man in the class said “I’ve never had an ‘A’ in my whole life”. I gave all of them “A” s. I never had another discipline problem! I also learned that most of them were really smart young men and women.  They just weren’t good students and were discipline problems in other classes.  The administration did not care what I did with them – never asked, except, how they got “A” s. I said I taught them at their level.  It was amazing to me that when they saw their “A” they believed them! The second semester I gave all five of my classes “A” s, and the students in the Level I classes also believed them! I felt wonderful.  Grades are subjective, anyway! Children who hadn’t worked started to work (homework). I was called in and told that I couldn’t give everybody A’s. Really, it was too late.
“The years I was at Central High in Grand Island we were changing to modular scheduling. I helped prepare the schedule input for the computer. That was the first step toward falling in love with computers, and we didn’t even have one. That “love” paid off in a big way when she was celebrating her jubilee. As Faye tells it: “When Pat celebrated her 50th jubilee year, she asked the community for money to take a trip to Italy and Greece. She had never taken a sabbatical so she asked for this and it was granted.  Pat planned the entire trip on the internet: places to go, tickets for planes, trains and busses, and admission fees to places we wanted to see. She was a whiz at the computer and enjoyed the challenge of learning new things.”
After her teaching at Miege in Kansas City, which she happily left, she and Faye began looking for places to use their counseling skills. The best option they could find combined parish ministry with “some counseling” They began work in four parishes in Joplin, Missouri. Pat was deeply immersed in the outcomes of Vatican II, and that was not acceptable. After four years they moved to Montrose, Colorado where the same scenario played itself out again.
An attorney on a baptism ministry team suggested they incorporate themselves.  He offered to do the legal work for them. Thus CEC came into being.  Our 501c3 approval came through in March,1983
In 1982 they applied to the St. Joseph Foundation for a $25,000 grant.  They got the grant but were told they would get the money in March, 1983.  “‘We decided that we would get blue-collar jobs until then, but were unsuccessful. We were living in our tent, and it rained for most of two weeks. Finally, in desperation went to the Franciscan Convent and asked to stay with them. They opened their doors to us.” Through the Franciscans, Jobs were finally found. Faye went to work for the cab company driving a van to pick up handicapped children and adults to take to school and work and back home at the end of the day.
I worked on the loading dock of one of the dairies in town.  I unloaded empty milk crates from three 18-wheelers a day, put them on conveyor belts and sent them inside to be filled again.  Pat says, “We learned a lot about blue collar work and workers.  We learned why people fell asleep when they had to come for evening meetings or instruction and what it was like to get overtime pay only to get moved into a higher tax bracket and get a smaller paycheck. We thought that while we were working we would have time to plan for beginning our counseling adventure. We had no time.  Most days we worked twelve to fifteen hours a day and were exhausted when we got home! We both went to work in the morning (5:30 A.M. for Faye and 4:30 for Pat. We weren’t yet forty. We did not want the community to have to support us while we waited for our grant money – almost a year!
With the grant we rented a residential house with a nice wooden fenced in back yard. We named it “The Magic Garden” to indicate the back door entrance to our office. A high school student made a sign for us in shop class – no charge – his dad was our Land lord.”
Their cats were an integral part of their counsel service.
“While we were working in KC we were both getting spiritual direction from Father Ed Hayes at Shantivanun.  We went there together every month and waited for each other.  He suggested that we work together because we could balance each other.  I was Thrilled Faye said she would think about – she is an stj and I’m a nfp! She did say yes and we saw him a couple of times together.  We asked him what we were going to do for Spiritual direction.  He told us to get a cat and sit with it every day!
Their first cat was Truffles given to them by people in Joplin who had help to get their house ready for them.  Fiver and Quigley came to live with them in Grand Junction. When it seemed that Fiver had run away, a woman offered them a pure-bred named Sheena because of her color.  The next week Fiver came home! As Pat says, “So now we had three.  Thank God, our vet did not charge us for their care for probably ten years. They worked for their keep. They traveled back and forth to the office with us. Clients loved them” Now only Willow remains for Faye to sit with.
“The USCCB asked for volunteers to go to the Eastern European Churches after the fall of Communism to assess their needs. S Mary Savoie and Margaret Nacke urged us to sign up, so we did.  We made three trips to Bulgaria where we had been assigned in 1995, 96, and 97. We stayed in convents that had been returned to religious congregations.  Our assessment was that we could best help sisters’ congregations to get re-established by providing computers and training so it wouldn’t take weeks to get responses to correspondents.  At one point we carried $85,000 in cash under our clothing to give to sisters in Sofia.
Life was not all work and no play. As Pat says “When we moved to Colorado we made it clear that we were going to take time to play. We learned to downhill ski, we went camping and hiking; we learned how to orient and took every opportunity for high Country tours” Later they added cross-country skiing to their repertoire.
Their Counseling program took hold and began to grow in Grand Junction.  That involved a lot of moves, each to a larger facility.  Clients increased, more Counselors were hired, along with support staff. Faye obtained certification as a play therapist and eventually became the most respected play therapist in Grand Junction. Pat became skilled in working with adolescents who were on probation for sexually abusing children. She had a special rapport with teen-age boys and they reacted positively to her. A supportive board helped with business decisions, and when the sisters came home they (the Board) were the ones who decided to keep CEC going.  Today it continues to thrive.
Pat says “This is my story. I have had a good life. This is not all of who I am.” What follows is her version of “A Few of her favorite things”; her life on speed dial:
“These are some of the things I have loved: Onion’s taste, lemons, enchiladas, beautiful roses in my mama’s rose garden, beautiful music, especially classical, the taste of homemade bread with with cream, sugar, and cinnamon.
These experiences I have cherished: AS A CHILD: swimming in the irrigation ditches, making adobe bricks with spice cans and building houses and roads and blowing them up with fire crackers; stealing cigarette papers and smoking hay while talking about growing up; taking care of baby chickens, playing with the sheep and goats; going to school, reading, being read to.
As an adolescent: school, climbing mountains, hiking, reading, going to the academy in Silver City and being a border there, the Postulate, the novitiate.
As an adult: teaching, living in community, especially large groups, reading, studying, wonderful retreats, Clown school, NLP training, Parish work especially as a liturgist, working with Faye, especially in everything we did, art teacher, girls track coach, house of prayer, and counseling. And not least: tent camping, climbing two fourteeners, hiking, orienteering, working like a fool to get CEC started – a fool was needed!”
Pat and Faye returned to the Motherhouse in ­­­1985. Pat love this community passionately, and each sister in it. Over this time, she has not been shy about saying that one of her reasons for leaving Colorado was that she wanted to die among her sisters. In her last Mission Statement, she says, “I want more than anything to do what I am here to do right now, understanding that I may not be doing it! I want to keep moving closer to the Horizon that I know will always evade me, and make the possibilities bigger and better as I move toward that Horizon. Help, Help, Help! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!”
Thank you Pat for sharing your life with and for so many. You have reached the horizon and LOVE has taken you in!