Eulogy for Sister Margaret Ann Buser, Dec. 31, 1916-Dec. 7, 2015

December 7, 2015 by

Sister Margaret Ann Buser

Sister Margaret Ann Buser

VIGIL: Dec. 9, 2015, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

Sister Margaret Ann Buser began her life on Dec. 31, 1916, in Halstead, Kan., which she lovingly referred to as the “biggest little city in Kansas”. She was the sixth of eight children born to Dan and Ida Winterscheidt Buser. She was preceded in death by her parents and by her siblings, Angela, Cecilia, Celestine, Veronica, Helen and Sister Danetta. She is survived by her younger sister, Sister Mary Angela.

Margaret Ann was born at the home of a neighbor because the Buser home had burned to the ground a few months earlier. A very kind neighbor, Edith Randall, and her husband took in her parents and the other children.

She was baptized the very next day and given the name Edith Marguerite. Edith means “gift of God.” She was named after Mrs. Randall who certainly was a gift from God for sheltering their family of eight during those long winter months.

As a young child, Edith was sickly. She had pneumonia on several occasions. These were the days before antibiotics so recovery was slow and often questionable. She had a heart murmur, which she outgrew. At age 2, her feet were scalded with hot grease. It was nearly a year before she could walk again. With lots of TLC from the family, she pulled through. By God’s grace at the age of 4 Edith was named the healthiest baby in her age group in the “Better Babies Contest” at the Kansas State Fair.

Edith attended public schools in Halstead so she received religious education at their parish. Her most memorable moment during her first Holy Communion was when one of her friends fainted and was carried out of church. Edith had heard that if you died on your first Communion Day you go straight to heaven. So when Emily fell over the pew in front of her Edith was sure she had died and was excited to know someone in heaven. But about 15 minutes later, in walked Emily just in time to receive her first communion. Edith remembered that she more than a little disappointed.

Growing up in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was active in the Halstead area. She recalled vividly when her family came out of church after Lenten services, and the Klan was burning an effigy of the cross next to the church. Klan members were wearing white pointed hoods and singing around the fire. Her parents told her to get in the car immediately. Her dad turned the car around so he wouldn’t have to drive past them. She was about 8 at the time and the fear of that night stayed with her for many years.

Edith had planned to go to Kansas State University in Manhattan for college. But in early August one of the Sisters of St. Joseph came to their home recruiting students for Marymount College in Salina. But money was scarce so there was no way she could attend a private school and pay room and board. The sisters assured her parents that she was eligible for a scholarship and that she could work for room and board in a home near campus. Her parents were thrilled that she could attend a Catholic college.

For her room and board Edith was assigned to a family near the college. The family welcomed her cordially and gave her a private bedroom upstairs. She was to prepare and serve the evening meal, clean the house on Saturdays and babysit with the two boys any evening that Mr. and Mrs. Stewart were going to be gone.

She agreed to everything and thought that it would not be bad because she was used to cooking and cleaning at home. But the hard part came when she discovered that she would serve the family the meal but she was not to eat with them. She was to eat her dinner in the kitchen along with the 2-year-old son. This was very difficult for her and she was greatly embarrassed to think that she was being treated as a maid. She did not want to tell her parents of this arrangement.

Although she enjoyed Marymount she did not like the work she was doing plus she was very homesick. When she went home for Christmas vacation she told her family that she didn’t think she would go return to Marymount. The family was heartbroken. She would not tell them the real reason she did not want to go back until her brother forced the truth from her.

The whole family became engaged in determining what to do. In the interim, her sister Veronica was a registered nurse working in Kansas City. Veronica offered to pay for Edith’s room and board provided she could do it bit by bit. Her parents were thrilled. The family went to Marymount to talk with Sister Walburga about possible financials arrangements. Sister Wahlberg agreed that whatever she could pay would be fine so Edith was destined to attend Marymount.

Even though Edith had thought about being a sister before now and had friends who entered the convent, she brushed it off as not something she would pursue. While at Marymount, various sisters approached her about the possibility. After a walk with Sister Margaret Mary one evening, she lay in bed that night replaying the conversation and thinking about it. She knew that this is where God was calling her.

When she told her parents that she was going to be a sister, her mother was extremely happy. She cried and said that she always hoped one of her girls would enter the convent. As it turns out her sister just two years older than her, Helen, decided to enter the convent, too. However she was going to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa. They knew that community from having been taught by them in Wichita.

Many years later Helen left the community and married. However, her two younger sisters, Isabelle and Clarice, also joined the BVMs. Sister Danetta died in 2011 and Sister Mary Angela is the sole surviving member of the family.

Edith entered the postulancy on Sept. 8, 1935, and the novitiate on March 18, 1936. She was given the name Sister Margaret Ann. Those were the names of her maternal grandmother and aunt.

The most humorous event that Sister Margaret Ann recalls from her postulancy was that she did not have the standard underwear that all the postulants had. Sister Sabinus, the postulant director, sent her to the storeroom to get the proper kind. Sister Consilia climbed the ladder, pulled down the big box and just handed her three pair without even looking at them — but she did tell her to try them on before they marked her name on them permanently. That evening she tried them on and one of the other postulants told her they fit fine because they would shrink when washed. So they marked her name in permanent markers. However, when Sister Sabinus saw her again, she said there had to have been a mistake. Sister Consilia had given her a size 48. Sister Margaret Ann said that for some reason, her underwear did not shrink when it was washed but seemed to stretch instead.

Sister Margaret Ann professed first vows on March 19, 1937, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1940.

When she was a temporary professed sister, she was studying at Marymount College. Not too far into the semester, she received notice that she was being sent to Tipton, Kan., to teach sixth, seventh and eighth grades for a sister who was ill. She had less than 24 hours to pack, get to Tipton and begin teaching at 8 the next morning. That was not unusual for that era and Sister Margaret Ann recalled that she was “20 years old, green, and inexperienced, but totally willing to learn along with the pupils she would be teaching.”

Her teaching assignments took her to Catholic highs schools in Tipton, Beloit, Aurora, Junction City, Salina and Manhattan — all in Kansas — and to Silver City, N.M., and Grand Island, Neb. She also taught at Marymount College in Salina.

In Beloit, she was to give private music lessons. She explained to the superior that she had never touched a piano in her life. But sister just looked at her with total trust and said, “But you have two weeks to practice before school begins.”

Sister Margaret Ann said it was marvelous what that kind of trust can produce! She managed to give 25 private lessons a week in addition to her regular teaching and came through it all with flying colors.

She completed her degree at Marymount College and during summers earned a master’s degree in English from Notre Dame College in Indiana.

Sister Margaret enjoyed every mission she was on. There was never any doubt that she was a marvelous teacher and well loved by faculty and students alike. She had an innate understanding of adolescents. She could adapt to provide whatever was needed ranging from a listening ear to discipline. She always set her standards high and challenged her students to be the best they could be. In the student newspaper at Catholic Central, Sister Margaret Ann was called the “best grammarian in the business. Even the other English teachers asked her for help.”

Her other ministries included being elected Secretary General of the congregation, an advocate on the Marriage Tribunal for the Grand Island diocese and coordinator of the Stephen Ministry program at St. Mary’s Cathedral, also in Grand Island. When she left the tribunal, Bishop Lawrence McNamara awarded her a plaque thanking her for her many years of loving service and named her Director Emeritus of the Diocesan Tribunal. Father Torpey said of her, “Sister Margaret Ann was an extraordinarily sensitive and caring face of the church to hurting and needy petitioners when they most needed someone to give them time and acceptance. God has blessed our diocese through her. Her whole community should be very proud of her wonderful ministry to the church.”

She thrust her whole self into any ministries she did. Sister Margaret Ann knew the adage, “Bloom where you are planted” long before it became popular. She was an extrovert and immensely enjoyed people. She was 79 years of age when she accepted the invitation to coordinate the Stephen Ministry, which is a program ministering to those experiencing difficult times such as grief, divorce, loss of job, addictions, illness and other crisis. Since this was a new program for their parish, they were all sent to St. Louis for training. One of the younger people said, “While we were in St. Louis, Sister Margaret Ann had more of a social life than we did. She knew a lot of people and had a lot of people to go out with! She was one of the most fun people we ever traveled with!”

Sister Margaret Ann taught British Literature at Marymount for 15 summers and tried to share some of that literary fervor with high school students. She says carried a pipe dream that maybe some day she would visit the places where the literary giants walked. That dream came true when, at the age of 80, former students, friends and family, gave her and her two BVM sisters a trip to Great Britain and Ireland. She enjoyed that trip “to the hilt” and found new friends along the way.

At age 86 she knew it was time to retire. That decision was made somewhat easier by the fact that her beloved St. Mary’s Convent in Grand Island was scheduled to close on Feb. 1, 2004. There were no longer large numbers of sisters living there and the parish needed the building for other purposes.

She left Grand Island somewhat in a daze and arrived in Concordia to find “Welcome Home” placards and flowers. She truly was home. It was still an unsettling transition to move from active ministry to retirement so quickly. As Sister Margaret Ann said, “it made her feel empty.” She felt like a robot going through the motions until one day during prayer she heard the phrase, “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.” The light went on! That was a phrase from the book “The Little Prince” that she had taught her English students for years. It was a reminder of what was really important in life. She experienced an inner conversion no longer needing to do something but rather praying for the grace to be a person who sees with the heart. Through “seeing with the heart” she was simply to be present for others. She knew peace throughout her retirement years and found her life was greatly enriched by that insight.

A heavy cross for her that she never complained about was failing eyesight as she got older. She enjoyed being present to her sisters at the Motherhouse and keeping in contact with former students and friends. Although that was more difficult to do with the loss of her vision those former students and friends were faithful to her and continued to write and keep in touch.

Reflecting on Margaret Ann’s life we can see an abundance of miracles and grace — from a very sickly child, who on several occasions, the doctors did not think would survive, to living a full life just shy of her 99th birthday. She did everything with gusto and touched literally thousands of lives. As John Mueller, a former student, said, “Sister Margaret Ann truly celebrated life.” We give thanks to God for the gift of Sister Margaret Ann and her life among us!

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Memorials for Sister Margaret Ann Buser 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 Margaret Ann’s memory, click on the button below:

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Comments

2 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Margaret Ann Buser, Dec. 31, 1916-Dec. 7, 2015”

  1. Jim Koetting on December 8th, 2015 3:46 pm

    She was a favorite aunt, always smiling and optimistic. When I was four l was in Concordia when she took her final vows.

  2. Marguerite on December 7th, 2015 12:14 pm

    What a dear woman and what a community member! May her soul wing its way to eternal life!

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