A special weekend of laughter, love, hugs & memories


Not everyone made it to the front of the Motherhouse for the group photo
to end the afternoon Saturday, but the majority did (above).
For more photos from getting ready and Friday evening, CLICK HERE.


Many of the former sisters and students who returned for this weekend’s CSJ Reunion remember whispering through the halls at the Nazareth Motherhouse — but no one was shushing them Friday evening as they hugged and laughed and reminisced and shared memories. The three-day reunion brought together nearly 150 sisters, former sisters and Apostolic School students for the weekend’s activities.


“It was just so important that we all be here,” said Marian Grabbe-Warfel of Casa Grande, Ariz., as tears came to her eyes. She was a Sister of St. Joseph for more than 15 years before leaving the congregation in 1971. “This was the place that shaped who I am in so many ways; being here was so powerful, and so energizing.”

Jean Sida of Las Cruces, N.M., was a Sister of St. Joseph for 30 years before she left the congregation in the mid-1990s. “And I’m 68 now,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t wait until they have another reunion; I needed to come back now.”

That was part of the reason the three former sisters who organized the event believed it was so important.

“We’re all getting old,” explained Connie Tavanis with her ever-present laugh. Tavanis, who lives in North Truro, Mass., has visited the Motherhouse numerous times over the years and was here a year ago for a smaller gathering of nine women who all became sisters in 1964.

That’s when planning for this CSJ Reunion began in earnest, with Tavanis putting together an organizing committee with Katie Macke of Kansas City, Kan., and Mary Miller Decremer of Rapid River, Mich., at its core, and numerous others helping out.

Highlights of the weekend included a presentation titled “A Journey of Faith” by Dorothy Mallon of Atlanta, who spoke about leaving the congregation in 1971, falling away from the Catholic Church and then ultimately redefining and reclaiming her faith.

Patricia Ackerman, an associate professor at Kansas State University, Salina, also gave a presentation on her soon-to-be-published book, “Marymount College: A History,” which details the role played by the Sisters of St. Joseph in founding the first college for women in Kansas.

A special guest was Boston-area photographer Lora Brody, who with her husband David came to Concordia specifically to invite the women gathered for the reunion to take part in her “Then I was/Now I Am” photo project. Brody is compiling photographs and short reflections of older women that she hopes to compile into a book funded by a grant from Brandeis University.

Brody set up a portrait studio in a small parlor in the Motherhouse and took individual photos of about half the women who came to the reunion.

Another popular feature was a slideshow of 100 photos submitted by former sisters from their days at the Motherhouse. The slideshow played continuously Saturday, and there were always at least a few women watching it and identifying various photos.

The featured speaker Saturday evening was Sarah Jenkins, communications director for the sisters in Concordia, who talked about “The View from Outside” and her impressions as a non-sister and non-Catholic who moved to Kansas six years ago.

Several husbands accompanied their wives to the reunion, and were treated to a special Saturday tour organized by the Cloud County Tourism Office. They visited the National Orphan Train Museum, Camp Concordia and several other locations and had lunch at the St. Joe Store in St. Joseph, Kan.

In addition to former sisters and students from across the U.S. and as far away as Guam, current Sisters of St. Joseph also came to the reunion. That included about 45 of the sisters who live in Concordia, plus others from across Kansas and from Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska and New Mexico.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have organized reunions for former members and students before, but this was the first time such a gathering was planned by those actually taking part, Tavanis said. And throughout the planning and the reunion itself, she and others quoted author Judy Blume: “We are friends for life. When we’re together the years fall away. Isn’t that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you’ve come?”

“Even though we left, this was such an important part of our lives, and these women were such an important part of our lives,” Tavanis said. “This brings us together so we will never lose that.”

5 thoughts on “A special weekend of laughter, love, hugs & memories

  • September 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

    What a wonderful article with photos………THANKS! I was not able to be there but was in Spirit!
    I am hoping that I can get a DVD of the slideshow that was played during the reunion…….just let me know the cost….So wonderful to see the marvelous women that have been a part of my journey…..THANKS FOR THAT!
    Love, prayerful hugs and blessings to each of you at the reunion & to those who were unable to be there!

  • September 23, 2014 at 4:51 am

    Sarah’s great speech on Saturday night just really tied it all up in a nice way..Our memories of the Motherhouse had become “frozen in time” for many. This weekend allowed us to see how far the community has come. It also reconnected friends that had shared such a unique experience. Thank you all for making the effort to come. Good job,

  • September 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Greetings and prayers to you all as you come together this weekend. I do wish I could be there.

  • September 19, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I was one of three girls in the last freshman class of aspirants. If you see anyone who was there in 1967-68, tell them aloha from Hawaii!

  • September 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Blessings to all of you…….I will be with you in Spirit………and send love, hugs and positive energies to each of you! Will be looking for photos and comments on Facebook and here………
    Love the Motherhouse and my time there……….so many wonderful memories of you and my time with each of you!

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