Sister Venard Venus, Feb. 13, 1910-Aug. 26, 2009

August 29, 2009 by

Eulogist: Mary Jo Thummel, CSJ

Vigil: Aug. 27, 2009

Lord, keep me working, keep me fit,
At windows I don’t want to sit.
Watching my fellows hurrying by;
Let me stay busy till I die.
Grant me strength, breath, and will,
A need to serve and a task to do.
Let me each morning rise anew
Eager and glad that I can bear
My portion of the morning care.
Lord, I don’t want to sit about
broken and tired and all worn out;
Afraid of rain, and wind and cold;
Let me stay busy when I am old.
Although I walk at a slower pace
Still let me meet life face to face
This is my prayer as time goes by.
Lord, keep me busy till I die.
This is my prayer as time goes by.


This prayer/poem comes from a notebook in which Sr. Venard had collected prayers, sayings, a retreat note or two and other memorabilia that were meaningful to her life. This evening we gather as community, family and friends to remember and celebrate Sr. Venard’s life as we knew it.

Sr. Venard Venus was born February 13, 1910 on a farm south of Gorham, Kansas. Her parents were John Wesley and Johanna Elizabeth Donovan. She was given the name Mabel Cecilia. Her two brothers, Raymond and Chester and her sister Beatrice Steinert all preceded her in death.

For her first four years of school , Mabel attended Winterset School. This was a one room schoolhouse a mile and half from her home, to which she walked daily. One vivid recollection of these years was of a bitter cold day when Mabel was staying with her cousin because her Mother was in Mayo Clinic. She says, “No one came to get us and we were almost frozen little girls by the time we got home. “

During that summer Mabel’s Mother was in Mayo’s, and Sister Eucharista, her mother and brothers came to live with them.

True to her middle name of Cecilia, Mabel started piano lessons at the age of 7. Her teacher was Sister Domitilla and she was always glad to see her come to the door because she spoke English better than the rest. (Most of the people in Gorham spoke German at that time, as did the Sisters.) Mabel’s father played the violin and taught her to cord with some of his pieces. The first piece she remembers playing with him was “Over the Waves”.

At the age of 9, Mabel and her family moved to Longmont Colorado. There she was taught by the Franciscan sisters until she graduated high school in 1927.

Though she says nothing about this in her life review, I know that in 1924 she had a run in with a car and her right ankle was injured. The injury healed but left her with stiffness and a limp in that leg. I never knew it to slow her down or hinder anything she set her mind to doing.

After graduating high school, Mabel stayed home for 2 years and worked and continued her music. In the fall of 1929 she went to Mary mount. It was there that she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph. Here is what she says about that event. “I was there only one year, but even that was a big sacrifice for my parents, for which I am deeply grateful. For it was at Marymount that my final decision to be a Sister of St. Joseph was made. Mother Chrysostom was the one who helped me. I left home on Aug. 31, 1930, spent time with relatives and on Sunday, Sept. 7, in the company of Mother Chrysostom, Sister Joseph Marie and Sister Collette, the trip to Concordia was made. There are memories, of course, but one stands at the close of the day. I lay on my bed, crossed my arms, and knowing that I wanted to give myself totally to God, – I told Him I was ready to die.”

Sr. Venard makes no mention of how she came to have the name Venard and I don’t know that story.

Sr. Venard mentions only a few of missions on which she served and a significant memory or memories attached to each. Her first mission experience was in Herndon and she speaks of coping with the dust storms there and of how she taught music but also taught 6th and 8th grades when Sister Concordia had to go to the hospital.

She also mentions returning to the Motherhouse, during that time, in order to be there the specified time before pronouncing temporary vows on August 15th, 1936. Sr. Venard’s band members who pronounced vows with her were: Sr. Ann Loretta Moore, Sr. Marie Norbertine Dreiling, Sr. Carmella Heidrick and Mother Therese Marie Stafford.

After pronouncing vows, Sr. Venard was to have her first home visit, but since it was so close to the beginning to the new school year Mother Rose asked her if she would wait one more year. If she would, Mother Rose promised her a month at home. Mother Rose was true to her word and Sister Eucharista and Sister Venard went home from July 9 to Aug. 9, 1937. This was the only home visit Sr. Venard had with her mother as she died to following January.

The next mission experience that Sr. Venard mentions is Lake Linden because it was there that she had the distinction of being invited to teach Latin in the Public High school. She was always proud of that accomplishment and of the students whose lives she touched there. An appreciative student (on the occasion of her 50th Jubilee) had this to say, “I knew you, Sister Venard some thirteen years ago in God’s Country, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You were my Latin teacher, I know, but too, you were something more than that. You were an understanding, sympathetic and most rewarding teacher I had ever known. Your prayers for me each day were for someone who need them, and those prayers, I feel brought to me many high lights in my life.” This student has kept in touch with Sr. Venard all these years and remarked when told of her death that she was someone he loved.

Of the last mission she was on Sr. Venard says, “My last sixteen years on mission were spent in Oakley, KS. Even after retiring, I helped with the Liturgies and became involved in Bible Study groups, and activities in the parish. I left there with many beautiful memories.”
People there also had beautiful memories of Sr. Venard. Mayor Mona Close proclaimed May 3rd, 1991 as Sr. Venard Venus day in Oakley, KS. Her proclamation lauds Sr. Venard for playing an important role in the leadership of the community in basic human, moral, and spiritual foundations…strengthening the school by starting a fourth, fifth and sixth grade band….visiting the sick and homebound…constant care of the prayer board, liturgy planning and participation in bible study.

Along with the missions which she mentioned, Sister Venard also served on our Kansas missions in Salina, Damar, Leoville, Beloit, Park, Junction City, Tipton, and in Chicago and St. George Illinois and Grand Island Nebraska.

Music, of course, was Sister Venard’s priority and her teaching ranged from Kindergarten through High School.

She had a BME in music education from Marymount College and a MME in music education from Chicago Music College in Chicago, Illinois.

I lived with Sr. Venard in Lake Linden, Michigan. After a bout of locking horns, we became fast friends. She had an all school (1st through 8th grades) marching band that won all kinds of awards throughout the Upper Peninsula. The parents help design and make the uniforms and we were all proud of how good our School Band sounded and looked and, of course, Sr. Venard beamed with pride. I was always amazed that she taught music theory from Kindergarten on up and got her grade school bands to sound so good. She commanded respect and yet the youngsters had fun. I wonder how far the used instruments that she collected, cleaned and repaired would reach if placed end to end. It was a whole education to me to see the many parts each instrument had and to watch Sr. Venard patiently take them apart, clean them, and get mellow tones to emerge.

Sr. Venard and I crossed paths once more in Oakley. We worked together there on the musicals she produced. She did the music, of course, and I designed the programs. I have kept some of those works of art and seeing them always brings back fond memories. One memory I have from Oakley, with regards to music, was when a very monotone 5th grade boy was determined to canter for the children’s Masses. Instead of discouraging this young man, Sr. Venard worked with him all through the 5th and 6th grades before he left for public school. A number of years later, when he was in college, I heard Richard sing at his grandfather’s funeral. His voice was rich and full and he sounded wonderful. This is only one of the many acts of encouragement and caring I witnessed Sr. Venard perform with the young and later the old. She was a loyal pianist and accompanists for services in nursing homes and hospital when we were in Oakley and encouraged me in my ability to put together and lead the services.

Along with her musical talents, Sr. Venard was a craftswoman. She crocheted, made fancy pin cushions out of tuna cans, crafted scratchers from milk jug handles and nylon netting, made Christmas ornaments and many other things out of plastic canvas. She even took on bigger projects like helping Father Dion set up the listening lab in Lake Linden where students could use study corrals and headsets to learn foreign languages. It was a sad day for her when she had to lay aside her craft projects because her hands had become too arthritic. Most of what she made, she gave away.

She taught me to crochet and to read crochet patterns while we were in Michigan and was a very patient teacher. I have always been grateful for her calling forth this talent in me. Many a Christmas stocking has been filled because she taught me this skill. Actually she encouraged and mentored me in many areas and my life is enriched because of her.

Sr. Venard had a great love of live and adventure and wasn’t afraid to try anything new. We ventured together to many craft fairs, county fairs, corn festivals, hot air balloon festivals, and card clubs, to name a few. I know she really wanted a ride in a hot air balloon and I think that wish was fulfilled. The fun was in the adventure, the challenge, the trip and those who accompanied her.

People loved doing things for Sr. Venard. She was generous with them and they were generous in return.

One of the highlights in her life was the little care packages Dick Lewis (Sister Eucharista’s nephew) sent her and which she gleefully shared with others.

She also appeared small and helpless. Note I said appeared. Actually, Sr. Venard was anything but helpless. She could hold her own in any situation and back down people who appeared much larger and stronger than she. Not many days went by that she didn’t give me one of her looks and a “much about you” or some other admonition, but I didn’t experience her staying upset for long.

Sr. Venard had this to say about life, “Life for me is an awareness of where I am and what I am about conscious of what is around me. I am absorbed in it.”

In these last months, Sr. Venard had to surrender her life little by little but I know she never let go of trying to pray or be present to God in prayer. Her rosary was constantly in her hands and she appreciated an Our Father or Hail Mary being prayed at her bedside. Many of the things she put into the notebook which she gave me had to do with her spiritual life. In her life review she has this to say on that subject, “Of all the retreats I have made, there are 2 which I really treasure as having a great influence on my prayer life. The first one was given by the Jesuits – Fathers Campbell and McMahon. It was on the different types of prayer. Although I didn’t call it Centering Prayer – I think it was my introduction to it. For, being near Lake Superior, I could sit on the shore and spend the afternoon absorbed in the beauty of God’s world. But I didn’t realize what a beautiful prayer it was until that retreat. The other retreat was given by Father Frank Hoelck. During Mass at the close of retreat, each retreatant knelt on a predieu in the aisle before the altar with Father and Sister Bette Moslander on either side. After renewing vows, Father gave a blessing and spoke of something that was important to me in the retreat. That renewal of vows touched me in ways I can’t explain.”

Sr. Venard’s last Commitment to Mission Statement states: “As I enter into my 100th year of life, I peacefully look to God’s presence in prayer, knowing that all is in God’s hands.”

Sr. Venard finished her life review (written on Tuesday, August 12, 1997) with these words, “ I will finish with the same thought as I did on my jubilee in 1991—The journey which began on Sept.7, 1930, continues and, through the people and events in my life, I know that God walks with me. I listen and witness with my life.”

On the last page on her notebook Sr. Venard has a Resolution written. I believe it might have been something she wrote herself but I can’t be sure. I’d like to share it with you.

My Resolution
I won’t look back,
God knows the fruitless efforts,
the wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets;
I’ll leave them all with Him
who blots the record,
and mercifully forgives,

And then forgets.

I won’t look forward; God sees
all the future,
The road that, short or long,
will lead me home,
and he will face with me it every trial,
and bear with me the burdens that may come.

But I’ll look up — into
the face of Jesus,
for there my heart can rest,
my fears are stilled;
and there is joy and love,
and light for darkness,
and perfect peace,
and every hope fulfilled.

Thank you Sr. Venard for listening and witnessing with your life for 99 years. We are glad you have looked up into the face of Jesus and found joy, love, light, and peace and that your every hope will now be fulfilled.

Comments

6 Responses to “Sister Venard Venus, Feb. 13, 1910-Aug. 26, 2009”

  1. Matthew Patrick O'Brien on August 2nd, 2011 4:06 pm

    Dear Sr. Mary Jo:
    Thank you, Sister Mary Jo, for your beautiful eulogy portraying Sr. Venard’s life of love and service and especially for sharing her favorite prayers. Sr. Venard became my first piano teacher in Lake Linden, MI when I was about 11 years old (about 1966.) I studied with her for a few years until her return to Kansas. We were able to meet again many years later in South Florida. In retrospect, I would have to say her influence on me within that short time frame was enormous, considering the significant amount of time and energy in my life that has been spent in music as a professional pianist and organist, and much of that in service to the church. I am saddened by her death, but encouraged by her stellar example of a life well lived. Thank you and God bless you. – Matt O’Brien (Miami, FL), http://www.facebook.com/mattjava77

  2. Deb Simons on April 6th, 2011 2:38 pm

    I was so happy to read this about Sr. Venard. She was always such a nice teacher. I had her for music when she was in Lake Linden. I was in the band when she started it. I can’t remember exactly what grade I was in, probably 5th or 6th, but she was a great teacher. And looking at pictures of those uniforms, which were hand made, on Facebook, brought up a discussion of her. I always liked her as a teacher. She was so patient, and she really prepared me for band when I entered the public high school there. I would never have been in the band if not for her. I had tried the clarinet earlier in a program with the public school. I didn’t have a good experience, and when she asked me about joining band I shared that with her. She said that maybe I should try something else and she pushed me toward the trombone. Well, I wish I would have thanked her for that because I became a pretty good trombone player in our high school band. And I wish I’d have kept it up because the town I live in now has a community band and I’d love nothing more than to be up there playing with them. I just haven’t played in years and don’t have the strength to start up again.
    It was sad to hear of her passing, but happy to read the eulogy which was very nicely done. I’m happy she had such a good life. And I remember her teaching a class at the high school in Lake Linden while I was attending there, but I thought it was French. She had tried to teach us French at St. Joseph’s school, but it didn’t turn out very well.
    May she rest in peace:)

  3. M. Elliot Carte on September 4th, 2009 5:09 pm

    I never had the chance to know Sister Venard personally, but I’ve learned enough about her to know that she touched the lives of many. One of those on whose life she had a meaningful and positive influence happens to be someone who has had a positive and meaningful influence on my life, someone dear to my heart, someone who now rejoices in the knowledge that Sister Venard now rests in the loving arms of Jesus. I, too, shall then rejoice and feel blessed that God’s love shown Sister Venard was shared with others, and that love perpetuated to those she hadn’t even met, including myself.

  4. Richard (Dick) Lewis on September 4th, 2009 3:55 pm

    What a beautiful and appropriate eulogy for my dear cousin Sister Venard…she was truly a shining star of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She was such a wonderful person, she was exemplary in every way, she was so very kind and loving. I’ll miss her greatly.

  5. Jeanette Wasinger on September 2nd, 2009 10:17 am

    Thank you for this appropriate and loving eulogy for Sister Venard, Mary Jo. You captured her grit, her spirit and her humanness in such an appropriate way. I was touched by her style of presence. She was at home in her own life, and she was generous to share life with so many of us in very caring ways.

  6. Sr. Beth Stover Class of '64 on August 31st, 2009 4:07 pm

    Thank you, Sister Mary Jo, for portraying Sr. Venard’s life so beautifully. She taught me music when she taught in Beloit. I loved every minute of it.
    I was privileged to help lead the singing at her prayerful, uplifting, funeral service.
    Sr. Beth

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