Sister Colleen Stover, Jan. 9, 1937-Feb. 14, 2009

February 15, 2009 by

Eulogy for Sister Colleen Stover
Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas
Vigil: Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009
Eulogist: Sister Janice Koelzer
Eulogy written by: Sister Beth Stover

On Feb. 14, 2009, Jesus reached out his hand to Sister Colleen and she grabbed it. At 2:20 a.m. Jesus took her into his gentle loving arms and guided her to her eternal life.

Colleen Ann Stover was born on the family farm northwest of Beloit, Kan., on a cold snowy Jan. 9, 1937, the third daughter of Paul (Mike) and Marie Grennan Stover. Whenever Colleen talked about her faith, she included that in spite of the bitter cold and deep snow drifts, the very next day after she was born, her parents took her to St. John’s Catholic Church in Beloit to be baptized. Her mother and dad wanted her to be a “child of God” as soon as possible! Colleen was the middle child in a family of five girls —Mary Ellen, Dolores, Jane, and Beth. Colleen brought to this family of “high achievers” a gentle, loving, caring spirited presence. This quality of presence is how Sister Colleen lived out her ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph as described by her students, teens she counseled, co-workers, the elderly she visited, her friends and her family.

Colleen attended a one-room school 1 mile from the family farm for four years. She finished her grade and high school at St. John’s in Beloit, graduating in 1955. Colleen was always proud that in the fifth grade she won first prize in the Salina Diocese CYO essay contest on “Why I Should Be a Good Catholic.” She was the envy of her sisters when she brought home her own white radio as the first prize and proudly placed it in the bedroom she shared with her sisters Jane and Beth! Perhaps that was a precursor for her future education and ministry in Speech and Drama!

She furthered her education with the Sisters of St. Joseph, graduating from Marymount College, Salina, in 1959 with a BA in Speech and Drama. As a senior, Colleen was a candidate for the prestigious “Miss Marymount.” Both Colleen and her college roommate, Rose Mary Stein, knew they were called to a vocation in religious life — Rose Mary as a Sister of St. Dominic and Colleen as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Colleen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 8, 1959, received the religious habit and was given the name, Sister Paul Mary on March 19, 1960. Colleen pronounced her final vows on March 19, 1966. Her band members are Jeanne McKenna, Rita Plante, Veronica Baxa, and her sister, Beth.

Sister Paul Mary taught 22 years at high schools of the Salina Diocese at Nazareth Convent and Academy-Concordia, St. Xavier High School-Junction City, and 18 of those years at Sacred Heart High School in Salina. Sr. Paul Mary’s students excelled in regional and state debate contests, short play presentations, speech contest, and musical drama presentations. Her students knew and spoke of her gentle, accepting spirit of each one. Her study hall periods were the favorite of the football and basket ball players as they found a quiet, calm atmosphere and a ready listening heart accepting each student with their gifts and foibles.

Following Vatican II Renewal in the early 1970s Sister Paul Mary returned to her baptismal name and has since been know as Sister Colleen Stover.

Sister Colleen attended Detroit University, receiving her Masters Degree in Education in 1971.

Colleen’s profound influence on students and faculty throughout her teaching ministry was expressed when the Sacred Heart High School Year Book in 1983 was dedicated to her. I quote:

“Sr. Colleen always expressed her belief in the basic goodness of each student. She was never too busy to listen, to guide and to direct in her gentle and caring manner. Her love for the subjects she taught was always evident. The spirit of this benevolent Sister will always remain in the students and staff at Sacred Heart. Sometimes there is someone who takes time enough to listen. Someone who cares about us when we lose, And who loves us even when we are wrong. Sister Colleen is this someone.”

In March 1983, Sr. Colleen had surgery for a benign pituitary tumor, and had 25 radiation treatments to destroy any residual tumor.

In the fall of 1983, Sr. Colleen returned to teaching in the classroom at St. Xavier’s in Junction City. It was during this time that she tripped over some books in the classroom, hit her head and injured the optic blood vessel that left her blind in her left eye.

After a year of study at Berkley University-California in 1984, Sr. Colleen began a new ministry of pastoral counseling at Marymount College and chaplaincy at the Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Treatment Unit at St. John’s Hospital in Salina. No wonder she was recognized for outstanding service to the teens in the ATU. Here is how she described her vision of youth ministry:

“Give Them a Place”

Give our youth a place! A warm, loving, accepting base;
A home-based atmosphere where hearts are affirmed and self-esteem is nurtured
By caring, self-directed adults.
A place where our youth will see Love lived in daily life’s trials in our many well-traveled miles
On the journey to Eternal Life.
A place where they will feel “at home”; A place where activities and volunteer service bring about much self worth!
So there will be rich meaning for their time on earth.
Give our youth a place..
A place where Jesus is first in their lives, and understanding is given to tears and sighs.
A place and a time for prayer…. A place they know as… WE CARE!

From 1989 to 1993, Sister Colleen served as Pastoral Associate at Sacred Heart Cathedral-Salina
Her departing tribute described her: “Sr. Colleen was known for her unquestionable love of people and her bubbly personality in her work with Religious Education, Commissions on Education and Family Life, Hospital Visitation, and care of the homebound”.

In 1993, Sr. Colleen left the formalized ministry as she was called to be a full-time caregiver for her parents in their Beloit home. After her father’s death in 1994, she continued her mother’s care until a stroke in 1998 left her mother with debilitations that required full time nursing care.

These were both dedicated and enriching years that Sr. Colleen cherished.

Sister Colleen’s own health status began a gradual subtle decline with a diagnosis of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus combined with brain diminishment from the long term effects of previous radiation treatment. Colleen’s gentle spirit and quick smile greeted caregivers and visitors during her residence at the Motherhouse and at Mt. Joseph from 1999 to 2009.

Colleen thoroughly enjoyed many hobbies which she shared with others. She played the piano and clarinet. She took pictures, organized and prepared picture albums of the annual summer family vacations, Christmas and other holiday gatherings. She enjoyed telling a good joke and hearing one as well. One of her favorite and best qualities was her gracious hospitality and entertaining guests with a warm welcome, a good meal, lovely seasonal decorations, birthday cakes, and a fun rhyming toast (personally created and given for each special occasion). Colleen enjoyed a delightful game of bridge and somehow could always find a “fourth” to play.

Sr. Colleen treasured her family and was always ready to help when any of her sisters, nieces and nephews needed her presence and her guidance. Her oldest niece, Beth, lived with Sister Colleen and attended Sacred Heart High School for a semester.

Sr. Colleen was imbued with a deep prayer and spiritual life. As Sr. Colleen participated in meetings and events of the community, she often spoke and reminded us that we are the “Congregation of the Great Love of God.” She was often extraordinary and profound in her simplicity. Peace and respect for one another was a high priority and strong value with Sr. Colleen. One of her favorite prayers was the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

While she was caregiver for her parents, she prayed daily with and for them (and others) to have “Good Health, Long Life, Deep Faith, and Continued Happiness.

We can be certain that Sr. Colleen is also praying that each of us gathered here… her Sisters of St. Joseph, her sisters and their families, her relatives, her long time friends, and those who cared for her during her last days… would have Good Health, Deep Faith, Long Life, and Continued Happiness.

Thank you, Sister Colleen, for the gift of yourself to God and to all of us.

The Mass of Resurrection and Christian Burial was Monday, Feb. 16, 2009, at 10 a.m. at the Nazareth Motherhouse Sacred Heart Chapel and Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Her uncle, Father Jim Grennan presided with her cousin, Father Larry Grennan, and other diocesan priests with whom she ministered: Msgr. James Hake, Father Norb Dlabal, Father Alvin Werth, Father Ken Lohrmeyer, Father Larry Letourneau, Father Charlie Steier, and Father Jack Schlaf, Chaplain. Vigil services and the Rosary were prayed Feb. 15, 2009, at 7 p.m. at the Motherhouse in Concordia. Sister Janice Koelzer gave the eulogy written by Sister Beth Stover.

Comments

One Response to “Sister Colleen Stover, Jan. 9, 1937-Feb. 14, 2009”

  1. Elizabeth Miller/ "Betsy Gasperich" & former Sr. Joseph Bernice on January 25th, 2010 1:20 pm

    Dear Sisters,
    Sister Paul Mary was one of my instructors at the Apostolic School and she was wonderful. She was bright, intelligent, kind, warm, thoughtful, funny and so gracious. Her smile radiated her love and concern. I am grateful that she went to her reward…because when I visited her some years back….she had had brain surgery and wasn’t doing too well…..but she recognized me/my name and returned the hugs that I gave her. I cried with and for her then.
    REST IN PEACE, MY DEAR SISTER…..AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP, KINDNESS AND LOVE! Always you will be remembered with love and gratitude.! A former student and colleague at the Motherhouse. Betsy….Former, Sr. Joseph Bernice

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