Second St. Joseph Home reunion planned June 25 in Abilene

June 9, 2016 by

Childhood friends Bernadine Schieferecke Dickson, left, and Rita Dussault Hisey posed for numerous pictures during the first St. Joseph Home reunion on Oct. 3, 2010. It was all part of reconnecting for the two women, who hadn't seen each other in 65 years.

Childhood friends Bernadine Schieferecke Dickson, left, and Rita Dussault Hisey posed for numerous pictures during the first St. Joseph Home reunion on Oct. 3, 2010. It was all part of reconnecting for the two women, who hadn’t seen each other in 65 years.

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One of the most touching moments of the 2010 St. Joseph Home Reunion was when two childhood friends saw each other for the first time in 65 years.

Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Rita Dussault and Bernadine Schieferecke were two of the nearly 80 children who lived among the Sisters of St. Joseph at the orphanage in Abilene, Kan. And the reunion at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church Parish Hall that October day brought them together again — 80-year-old Rita Dussault Hisey from Hurst, Texas, and 82-year-old Bernadine Schieferecke Dickson from Mountain View, Calif. The two childhood friends seemed like little girls again as they posed for snapshots and caught each other up on family and fond memories.

When the next St. Joseph Home Reunion begins at St. Andrew’s in Saturday, June 25, Rita expects to be there. Her daughter plans to accompany her from her home in Texas. But Bernadine will not be there to greet her; she died peacefully in her sleep on May 3, 2014, at age 85.

Sister Jan McCormick

Sister Jan McCormick

Such losses are one of the reasons Sister Jan McCormick decided to organize another reunion. St. Joseph Home closed in 1958, so even the youngest surviving orphans are in their 50s now — and most are much older.

“We don’t want to lose all their stories,” Sister Jan explained. “We want to come together to remember this history and the people who were a part of it.”

Six years ago, Sister Jan, who lives in Chapman, was the driving force who made the reunion happen. She was then a candidate to become a Sister of St. Joseph and she had been dreaming of an orphanage reunion for more than two years. So she put together a committee of Sisters of St. Joseph and Sisters’ Associates in the Abilene area, and hoped that 35 or 40 people might come.

Instead, there were 137 there that October day, including 18 orphans, seven people who had attended school there as day students, two people whose grandparents had lived there when St. Joseph was also a home for the aged and numerous other relatives and friends. Also on hand were almost 35 Sisters of St. Joseph.

The sole surviving Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia who served at the orphanage is Sister Gilberta Appelhans, who today lives at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia. Due to her frail health, she will not be able to attend the June gathering.

But the reunion may feature photos of her along with many of the other sisters who ministered there. Sister Jan said displays will include lots of photographs and other memorabilia from the home that was located just north of the city.

Working with her to organize this second reunion are Sisters Carolyn Juenemann, Mary Lou Roberts and Cecilia Green.

The daylong event will include a video about the home, a memorial service, reminiscences by people attending and a box lunch catered by the Brookville Hotel.

TO LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF ST. JOSEPH HOME, CLICK HERE.

 

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