Written by Judy Stephens, CSJ and Mary Jo Thummel, CSJ
Given by Mary Jo Thummel, CSJ
Feb. 5, 2010, at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia
“The time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and have kept the faith, and now there is waiting for me the victory prize…”
(2 Timothy 4:1-8)
Doris Porter was born May 3, 1916, in Edmond, Kan. She was one of six children born to Thomas and Alice Porter – Larry, Jerry, Alice Ault, Doris, Betty Reichert, and Catherine Byers. (all deceased)
Doris entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on May 26, 1942, and was given the name Sister Mary Stanislaus. She made final profession on Aug. 15, 1947.
Sister Stanislaus has a long and distinguished list of achievements in the field of education. She graduated from Marymount College in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in English and from Marquette University in 1958 where she earned her master’s degree in speech with psychology as a minor. She also attended many other universities for refresher courses throughout the years.
Sister Stanislaus taught school in Jewell and Saline counties before entrance into the community. Her first mission after entrance was to St. Vincent’s parochial school in Silver City, N.M. There she helped organize this new school. (One of the sisters who lived with her there mentioned that they were very poor but always had a good time.)
Following that she taught at Catholic schools in Concordia and Cawker City and then served as assistant director of the Apostolic School for young women here at Nazareth Convent from 1954 to 1959. From there she went to Abilene, Kan., where she helped organize a school in St. Andrew’s parish. Then it was on to Central Catholic High School in Grand Island, Neb., where she taught speech and drama.
From 1966 to 1978 she returned to Silver City, N.M., as principal of St. Mary’s grade and high school. These were years of great transition; the school became a day school and no longer provided boarding facilities for students. A kindergarten was opened and a lay school board was formed. Programs for youth in the area were developed under the direction of the EI Paso Youth Department. Search and Antioch retreats were held at St. Mary’s for high school and college students.
In 1980, Sister Stanislaus returned to Kansas where she served as administrator of Medaille Center in Salina until 1984. From there she served as parish minister in Beloit, Glasco, Cawker City, Mankato, Esbon and Smith Center for the next 16 years. Then she retired to the Motherhouse, and in 2004 moved to Mount Joseph.
As this brief resume of Sister Stanislaus’ life isn’t enough, I will mention that she also received numerous awards during her life. Probably her proudest moment was being named “Outstanding Citizen of Silver City and Grant County” in 1978 for ‘holding aloft the light of education for people of all faiths and circumstances.”
Sister Stanislaus is quoted in the newspaper as saying, “I was very happy and very surprised at receiving the honor. The real credit for this honor goes to the parents, all of the community, all of the civic clubs, all the businesses, who have seen what we are doing and are helping. They have shown an appreciation for our efforts in continuing Christian education.” The paper notes that Sister Stan (as she was referred to at St. Mary’s) said all this in a gentle, persuasive, disarmingly enchanting way, known by every citizen and business in the community.
Sister was honored at the annual chamber of commerce banquet on April 25, 1978. Chamber President Leona Skillman said the large stack of letters nominating Sister came from a general cross section of the community. They spoke of Sister Stanislaus’ enthusiasm and strong support of education for children of all faiths
I believe we still have a mission and presence today in Silver City, thanks to “Sister Stan.” She stayed on and stood her ground at a time in the 1970s when everyone else was leaving the Southwest and it looked like we would close that mission. For a few years she was the only Sister living there at St. Mary’s. Then gradually a few others returned and a variety of ministries have continued. In June 2006 the mission celebrated its 80th anniversary and Sister Stanislaus was remembered often by many.
In between the lines of this brief history, we see a bold and courageous woman, and one who didn’t hesitate to break out and do what she needed to do! This two-sided gift of hers led her far, and she usually left no stone unturned. Stanislaus lived life “large.” She knew no stranger and reached out her hand in hospitality to all. She truly lived our charism of bringing the love of God to all among whom she ministered. She probably came by this trait naturally from her home training. She is quoted as having said that once when they were having a snowstorm, near her home and people were stranded, her father brought the people to their house and her mother put them up until they could be on their way.
Her uniqueness of character deserves to be mentioned! She was always vivacious and full of life. She had a twinkle in her eye that folks could not refuse and she won the support and help of many. She was a whirlwind of activity and quite hard to keep up with! The quote which I used to open the eulogy tonight reminds me of these qualities. Stan was my teacher in the Apostolic School and she probably reminded us to conduct ourselves with the greatest possible decorum because she seemed to always be racing somewhere to accomplish something. Nothing that she did was done in small measure. She conducted great stage dramas, in many of the places where she was missioned, with all the dressings. Part of her ability to do this might have come from her talent for sewing, which wasn’t much mentioned, but was evident in her productions and the way in which she kept her person. I hear that she designed and sewed many coats and dresses for her nieces and even created hats, which she wore. She decorated with great flair. In Beloit, at Christmas she would dress up the front porch and put up a beautiful outside Nativity scene. Some of her parishioner friends would go to the country with her to get the trees and greenery that she needed. She received prizes and special recognition several years for the beautiful scene.
One of Judy Stephens’ favorite memories of Stanislaus is the trips back to Kansas she would make yearly for meetings here at the Motherhouse. She and Sister Neria, whose vision was clearly fading, would travel together. Sister Stan had a rather heavy foot at the wheel, and Sister Neria would be posted in the front seat as a look out for “cherry-tops” on the highway to avoid any possible speeding tickets. The two of them were quite a pair.
I had my own experiences of Sr. Stan’s fearless driving ability when I lived with her in Silver City. Stanislaus loved to explore the surrounding areas and some of our outings took us along steep mountainous roads. Stan talked and drove vivaciously with at least two wheels on the road at all times — at least that’s what it felt like to me as I fervently prayed for safe passage. What I really took away with me from those times was Stanislaus’ sense of adventure, love of life, and importance of taking time for fun. She truly loved life and everything about it!
Sister Stanislaus’ faith matched the strength and determination of her other undertakings in life. The importance of prayer to her is evidenced by her well worn and much used Bible with many passages underlined and notes written in the margins. Many of her Commitment statements speak to surrendering herself to the will of God that Jesus may work in and through her. She sought the guidance and intercession of God’s mother Mary. She speaks of faith as a journey in which she cooperates with God’s grace in ministering to and working with God’s people to build up the Kingdom. Summed up in her own words, “Love must begin within me as one of God’s unique creations. My mission is to strive for complete self surrender to my loving God, so that Jesus may live within me, to minister, as He will to His People. I unite in prayer with the Perfect Christian – God’s Mother Mary.”
On the occasion of her 50th Jubilee she wrote of gratitude for the gifts of her faith, her vocation, her band members and all her Sisters of St. Joseph. She says, “Life is a Journey of Faith. There will always the joys and the pains on our journey. Yet as I live each day, I learn a little more about the real meaning of life and the path I have chosen. In spite of the trials and difficulties, joy has always come through.”
In her later years, Sister Stanislaus seemed delicate as a fine doily, still always the lady, yet more and more quiet and gentle. Bit by bit her life was more and more surrendered to God until its completion at her death this past Tuesday. She expresses all this in a message she wanted shared with all of you and which harkens back to the scripture with which we began:
<em>“I wish to thank God for my faith, for grace to be a Catholic and member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, I ask for prayers. I ask that the Bible Vigil and Mass be filled with great joy that I have finished my “Journey of Faith” on planet Earth and have gone to my resurrected Lord. Alleluia. The Bible readings I choose because they have been of great strength in my life.”
Dear Stanislaus you have indeed “done your best in the race, you have run the full distance, and have kept the faith…” And we commend you to God for your victory prize.