Vigil: November 17, 2017 at Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia
Eulogy: Written by Janet Lander, CSJ, and presented by Eulalia Kloeker, CSJ.
Tonight, we celebrate the life of Sister Veronica Ann Baxa. We offer our sympathy to her family: her siblings, their spouses, her nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews and extended family. We also offer our sympathy to her friends, the nursing staff who helped care for her, the Motherhouse community with whom she lived, her Circle of community life, and in a special way her band members: Sisters Beth Stover, Betty Maschka and Rita Plante.
Sister Veronica Ann Baxa was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Concordia, Kan., on Nov. 12, 1941, to Fred and Lottie (Oborny) Baxa, and given the name Veronica Ann Baxa. She grew up on a farm near Cuba, Kan. Veronica was the oldest child. Her younger siblings are: Fred Baxa, Larry Baxa, Ella (Baxa) Rudolph, Marvine (Baxa) Orbony and Marian Baxa. The youngest brother died in a car accident, but the others are living and here among us.
Veronica was baptized at St. Isadore’s Church in Cuba, when she was 11 days old. Veronica recounted that her father had wanted a daughter who would become a Sister, and even gave Veronica a “Sister doll,” so her thoughts of becoming a Sister started early in life.
Reflecting on her childhood faith, she said, “As a small child I remember attending the Stations of the Cross once a week during Lent. The Sixth Station, “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus,” always made me feel important, as my name is Veronica.”
She first met the Sisters of St. Joseph in vacation school at St. Isadore’s, and when she was in sixth grade she announced at a family meal that she wanted to be a Sister. The next year, Sister Josephine Loretta Geis encouraged her to go to the Apostolic School at Nazareth Convent in Concordia for high school. After completing elementary school in a country school called Prairie Home near Cuba, Veronica attended high school at the Apostolic School for four years, graduating May 15, 1959.
Veronica entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept 8, 1959. On March 18, 1960, she was received into the novitiate and given the name Sister Mary Lawrence which she had requested, as these were the middle names of her parents. She made first vows March 19, 1961, and final vows March 19, 1966.
During the year 1961-62, she assisted Sister Mary Julia Stegeman in the laundry at Marymount College, and took some courses. The next three years she worked at St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Salina, Kan., doing housekeeping and helping first and second graders with homework.
The summer of 1965, Veronica Ann began 23 years of service at the Motherhouse. Until 1980 she did heavy work in the big laundry. However, in 1970 she also attended beauty school in Grand Island, Neb., in order to open a beauty shop at the Motherhouse, so that she might serve the sisters by giving haircuts and perms. She gave of her talents for 18 years in the beauty shop. Some of those who lived with and knew her during those years have said, “Veronica was a very hard working person. Whenever she was given a job, she took hold of it and made sure it was done right … She had a terrific memory for dates and could recall them at a moment’s notice, as well as sharing the stories around the events. Her letter writing was detailed and always included each member of her family and what was happening in their lives. We were blessed to receive many of her letters when we moved to Concordia.”
From 1988-90 Veronica Ann lived in Clyde, Kan., ministering in social service and pastoral visiting at Park Villa Nursing Home. She also visited the elderly in the parish. During this time she became a CNA (certified nursing assistant). During the summer of 1989 she greatly enjoyed a sabbatical course in Erie, Pann., for Sisters of St. Joseph.
In 1990 Veronica moved to Minneapolis, Kan., and began working at the Good Samaritan Center Nursing Home in the inventory control department, ordering all the supplies needed for care of the residents. She was self-taught on the computer when this technology became necessary for her work, because, as she says, “You have to keep learning to keep up with the times.” She found working with the elderly to be a rewarding ministry, especially praying at the bedside of dying residents. She was also very active in Immaculate Conception parish, as a Eucharistic Minister, member of the Council of Catholic Women, singing in the choir and serving as the Catholic Register correspondent for the parish. Reflecting on these years of living and ministering on her own, she says, “I learned to be responsible for many things, including taking care of the car … Some of our Sisters who are my friends … hear me say, “I have come a long way baby.” She also said that living alone blessed her with more time to spend in prayer.
In her life review, written in 2008, she wrote, “My Christian faith calls me to empty myself in service for those in need. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do that … I am grateful that God called me to this vocation. It has brought me much joy and peace.”
Two of her friends said of her, “She had a servant’s heart.”
Sister Veronica Ann moved back to the Motherhouse in Concordia in July of 2012 because of poor health. Nevertheless, she was known to have a happy spirit and hearty laugh. When reading Sister Veronica’s yearly commitment to Mission over the years, one finds that nearly every one of them includes prayer for world peace and for those whom she was serving. She often spoke of her desire to serve and give witness, be faithful and be a presence to others. In last year’s (2017-18) commitment she said, “I will be of service to our Sisters at the Motherhouse, as I am able. I will accept God’s will for me at this time in my life.” She ended her life review with the words, “Thank you, Jesus, for taking good care of me.”
Yes, thank you Jesus for your call and loving fidelity to Veronica. And thank you, Veronica, for your ‘yes,’ and the myriad of ways you have cared for us your community and your family. May Jesus now welcome you home.
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Memorials for Sister Veronica Ann Baxa 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 Veronica’s memory, click on the button below: