Eulogy for Sister Jackie Kircher, Aug. 21, 1931-Dec. 7, 2012

December 9, 2012 by

VIGIL: Dec. 9, 2012, Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen


“Her personality is very pleasant so that she gets along well and easily with her companions.  In every respect I find Miss Kircher a splendid example of good Catholic womanhood and thus I readily vouch for her in every way. I do sincerely believe that the young lady has a religious vocation and will prove herself easily in her calling.”

This quotation from a letter of recommendation by Father Matt La Violette of Gladstone, Michigan in July of 1949, was high praise, indeed, for he was a man who would waste no words on insincerity. For herself, Jacqueline Kircher said “I am committed as far as humanly possible to live an exemplary Christian life in Concordia as a religious and as a responsible citizen.” (Mission Statement, 1993-94.)

Jacqueline Anne was born August 21, 1931, in Escanaba, Michigan, the daughter of Louis and Evangeline McGee Kircher. She was the fifth of five children with three older brothers – Merwin, Alton, and Harry,  and one sister, Juanita. She was born 15 years after the last child of what she called the “first part” and was thus raised as an only child. She has no surviving siblings. She grew up in Gladstone, Michigan and was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. She entered this community in 1949, making her first vows on March 19, 1951 along with 14 other novices. She was given the name, Sister Mary Lorian but eventually returned to her baptismal name, going by the nickname, Jackie. Seven of her original band members remained in the community. Her surviving band members are Sisters Rita Ann Mazanek, Mary Jean Assell, Alice Marie Stalker and Therese Richstatter; those who preceded her in death are Sisters Susanna Collister, Mary Dismas Cartwright, and Leo Frances Winebinger.

Jackie taught for twenty years. Her missions included Clyde, Aurora, Salina, Cawker City and Aurora, Kansas, Monet, Misssouri and Fairbury, Nebraska. She graduated with a BA in English from Marymount College, certification in accounting from Wichita Business College, a BS in Education from Emporia State University and a certificate in Office Administration, and a MS from Emporia State University in Business Education. She taught for 10 years in the Business College in Wichita and worked as an accountant for the Big Sister’s organization. With this background she began her tenure in the business office of Nazareth Convent and Academy where she worked as bookkeeper and accountant. She served in this capacity from 1982 until her retirement in 2008. From 2008 until her death she was active in craftwork of every kind. Although her students showered her with kudos, she described her performance during those 20 years in elementary schools as “inadequate.”  As an accountant and Immersed in craftwork, she was happy and successful.

Her mission statements stated what was perhaps her greatest desire. She said in one way or another that she wanted to be a Christian, to be an example of what it meant to be Christian. The most frequently used term was “exemplary Christian.” So, as I interviewed those who knew her I listened in the context of this goal.

The exemplary Christian. In her life review she describes her mother as an example: “wonderful, good, religious and wholesome.” She gives her mother credit for any good found in herself. Perhaps this was the source of her desire to be a person who communicated the meaning of Christian. Her friends describe her as pious; she watched EWTN, appreciated the televised Mass when she couldn’t attend in person; had favorite speakers, including Mother Angelica herself. At the same time one could hardly describe her piety as divorced from real life. Jackie had a realistic view of life and all of its heartaches and expressed this in a down-to-earth manner. Of her own suffering she did not complain. She lived seeing the humor in situations – her own and that of others.

As an accountant, Jackie was a success and she acknowledged it. She was precise and a perfectionist. She loved numbers. She was at home and happy in numbers! She took a great deal of pride and pleasure in working in the Nazareth Convent and Academy finance department. She derived a great deal of personal satisfaction out of solving a problem. And she loved problems! Her affability and patience made her an easy person to approach. Her “door” was always open. She was ready for any kind of request for assistance. The more tangled and complex the problem, the more welcome it was. Jackie was an investigator and she would dog a problematic situation until its solution became clear. While she was methodical she was also creative and rarely failed in her sense of humor. These three qualities helped her through many a frustrating circumstance. One example that I remember was an invoice from Novalis’ office in Canada. We had ordered from them a large supply of books and had paid the bill immediately. Each month, however, we received an invoice from Novalis with a request to pay the bill. Each month, Jackie would send them a copy of the check which had already cleared the bank with a letter explaining our procedure. Her letters were substantially explanatory and exact but always completely courteous. Finally, she called the company, talked to the representative at the English desk. When that failed she called and asked for the French desk. That didn’t keep the invoices from coming either. Never once did she demonstrate anything except equanimity. One day she had an inspiration. She decided to write to the computer which was generating the invoices. The envelope was addressed to Mr. Novalis Computer; the greeting read “Dear Compy.” We never received another invoice! This was the kind of situation that Jackie delighted in.

In her later years, she took up arts and crafts with her usual playful seriousness. She liked to paint and was good at it (witness the Nativity scene at the west entrance).  She was a prolific crafts woman, working with her partners and best friends, Sisters Susan Marie Stoeber, Leah Smith and Cecilia Green. They sold their products during the Concordia Fall Fest and the pre-Christmas sale that they held each year at the Motherhouse. At one point in time she outlined an explanation of the importance of this work. First of all, it is in the tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph who at their origins were lace makers. Secondly, she and her partners began this work for the sake of the Mission in Brazil. She also tracked their venues for their craft sales, first at Cese’s shop, which they outgrew the first year, then to the south dining room, to the auditorium and once in the front parlor. That event is memorable because of their concern about Sister Bernita Casper’s funeral. To quote Jackie: “It was decided that there was enough distance between the parlors and the chapel that the sale could go on as planned. All went well until Sister Rose Catherine Brungardt, who was attending the funeral, collapsed and expired in the chapel. There was a grand rush to get her corpse to Stafford Hall and of course avoid our customers who were in the main hall paying for their purchases. We had a few anxious moments!” Only Jackie could create such an understatement out of that crisis. They had many helpers with their products such as: crocheted and knitted items, all types of needlework, woodwork, jewelry, quilts and aprons, plants, baked goods, homemade noodles, candy, home canned goods, and dried apples. Their rule of thumb for the sales was “You bring it, and if it is homemade, we will try to sell it.”

Eventually, her eyesight began to fail and she found it increasingly difficult to do the precise work that some of the crafts demanded. It became more and more difficult for her to get around. She did, however, maintain a faithful presence at Mass at Mt. Joseph. Her task there was to ring the bells at the consecration. That this was a prized contribution was made evident when she was in the ER waiting to be admitted. Talking was very difficult for her but she managed to ask: “Who will take care of the bells?”

That was Jackie. A caring, responsible, kind, good-natured person, patient, compassionate, open to others, and proud of her accomplishments. She was always concerned that  responsibilities were honored. This was the source of her question, who will ring the bells. She never needed to be the focus of attention, illustrated by her instruction to Susan to be sure to go to Salina to pick up some materials for their crafts rather than stay with her. She had made it known that she was ready to die. She was frank and unafraid about this. Although she wanted to go to Mt. Joseph she also was willing to let that go.

In community she suffered grave misunderstanding from time to time. She never projected her hurt on anyone else. She never blamed or put anyone down. Whereas she was professional in the workplace and at home she was respectful, uncomplaining, honest. It was difficult to upset her; she kept a positive attitude, was even-tempered. She could do just about anything and would take on any task that was put before her. She could cook (make “divine” fudge), sew, play the piano and organ, loved a party and was a Jill of all trades. She was patient and good humored. She was generous and ready to assist others without prejudice. These, said one who lived with her, were her hidden virtues. She had about her “a quality of life that comes from inner suffering well-accepted.”

She had an easy manner with people, enjoyed talking with them. Her mode of letter writing was much the same. It was friendly, caring and yet had a certain formal style, much as her manner of speaking had. To Mother Helena she wrote: “Since it is still considered the season of rejoicing for the New Marian Year, may I extend to you sincerest wishes for a blessed and fruitful year under the influence of Mary.” She goes on in that vein until she finally asks to make “perpetual” vows. Her letter asking to enter the postulancy is five pages long – she was simply visiting with the Reverend Mother. As often as I have had cause to read these kinds of letters, I have never read any like Jackie’s. Most are about three or four sentences long and one can tell that an older sister coached the writers. Not so with Jackie’s. Her letters are original and characteristic of her style of speaking.

The Christian – the ordinary person, who in the full light of Christ’s leadership, journeyed through life attentive to others, generous, kind, all to all, affable, unassuming, but always keeping before her eyes that one hope – to be a Christian. “ I feel confident,” she wrote in 1954, “that with the grace of God and co-operation on my part I will persevere. . . .” This she did, right up until her death just after midnight on Thursday, December 6, 2012.

It is difficult to do full justice to Jackie’s life. She was a complex personality and her life reflected that. When she was four, she heard about kindergarten. At the beginning of the school year she sneaked off to school and got away with attending until the teacher finally figured out that she hadn’t been registered. After talking with Jackie’s mother it was decided to allow her to go. Jackie spent two years in kindergarten and graduated with honors from high school on. From a precocious child to a woman of many interests on a road to becoming Christian. Jackie, as we contemplate your life so well-lived, we can assure you that you obviously have reflected for us and modeled an exemplary Christian. Thank you!

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Memorials for Sister Jackie Kircher 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. Or you may make a donation in Sister Jackie’s memory online, through a secure server with PayPal, by clicking on the DONATE button below.


3 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Jackie Kircher, Aug. 21, 1931-Dec. 7, 2012”

  1. Missy Ljungdahl on December 10th, 2012 7:16 pm

    What a GREAT tribute! Thanks, Marcia. You really captured her spirit and her person…the gift she was to us. She will be missed.

  2. Loretta A. Jasper, csj on December 8th, 2012 9:33 pm

    One of my teacher’s at St. Theresa’s in Cawker City. Introduced me to classical music. Thanks, Jackie, or Lorian.
    A bright, bright woman, who shared her gifts in a variety of ways during her life.
    Keep us moving along, Jackie, as you live in peace with God.

  3. Jodi Creten on December 8th, 2012 2:29 pm

    Smart as a whip, and so very creative! Thank you for using those gifts so freely in the community, Jackie. Rest in peace!

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