A Marymount College alumna with a deep love for the Sisters of St. Joseph has left a gift of $10,000 to show her appreciation for the women of the Concordia congregation.
Martha Bieber died June 26, 2015, at her home in Castle Rock, Colo. She was 65.
On Thursday (Feb. 18) her husband Jeff and her sister Jeanne Wessling Goodman visited the Nazareth Motherhouse to meet some of the sisters and to see how Martha’s bequest will be used.
Martha was the oldest of five siblings, all of whom attended Sacred Heart Catholic School in Salina. Martha then went on to graduate from Marymount College in 1971; her sister Connie Wessling McLoughlin also graduated from Marymount, and both her brother David Wessling and her mother Ruth Wessling attended the college founded and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
“The strength of Martha’s connection was the quality of education she got from the sisters,” her husband Jeff explained. “It wasn’t just education, though, it was also the spirituality she saw in and learned from the sisters.”
Martha and Jeff met while she was at Marymount and he was a student at Kansas Wesleyan University, also in Salina. They married in 1972, and together they owned and operated Kay Jan Inc., a John Deere farm equipment dealership with multiple locations in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. They raised their two sons, Zachary and Jacob, in Fort Morgan, Colo., and in 2013 retired in Castle Rock.
Throughout the years, the Biebers had given regular donations to the Sisters of St. Joseph. But Jeff didn’t learn of Martha’s large gift until after her death.
“She was very private,” he said. “This was one of several bequests in her individual trust, and I know she’d be pleased to see how much it means to the sisters.”
Jeff said that in conversations with Holly Brown, the sisters’ development director, he learned about the current project to renovate and modernize a “Heritage Center” in the Nazareth Motherhouse. This center is essentially a museum that tells the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph from their founding in 1650 France through the present, and will be open to tourists, family historians and other researchers. The renovated space on the second floor of the Motherhouse will include interactive displays and access to digitalized records.
“Today as sisters talked about ‘the congregation,’ it was the same as talking about ‘family,’” Jeff said during his visit to the Motherhouse. “Family was so important to Martha and I know preserving this ‘family history’ would be something she would love.”
And, he noted, Martha also loved computers, so digitalizing records to preserve them and make them accessible would be another part of the Heritage Center project she would have supported.
As part of their visit to the Motherhouse, Jeff and his sister-in-law spent time in the under-construction Heritage Center with the committee in charge of the renovation: Sister Bernadine Pachta, the congregation’s archivist; Sister Pat McLennon; Sister Carm Thibault; Greg Gallagher, the sisters’ facilities administrator; and Jane Wahlmeier, administrator services coordinator at the Motherhouse. Also on hand was development director Holly Brown. Mark Headrick of Wildside Creative in Concordia is providing design, reproduction and graphics work but was not able to attend the gathering.
After a tour of the Motherhouse, the two visitors were joined for coffee and dessert by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, vice president of the congregation, and Sister Janice Koelzer, who had been one of Martha Bieber’s nursing instructors at Marymount College.