Sister Norma Schlick: June 8, 1930 — April 8, 2019

April 11, 2019 by

VIGIL: April 11, 2019, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen

Norma Schlick was the youngest of five girls born to Walter and Cecilia Bohnart Schlick on a “dusty rural Nebraska farm not far from the little town of Wood River.”
She was born on June 8, 1930. Her older sisters, Leona, Alice, Loretta and Marie, have all preceded her in death. Her brother Theodore “Ted” survives with his wife, Mary.

She says of her early life that they were a happy family and that their social life revolved around their one-room public school that was two miles from their farm. They attended the Wood River Catholic Church and were taught the Baltimore Catechism by a stern Irish pastor, the Rev. T. D. Sullivan, every Saturday afternoon. She said that these classes were scary but she enjoyed getting a holy card when she could recite perfectly.

What she called a “traumatic event” was the sale of their rental farm in 1942. It was sold to the government for the installation of a munitions factory. The family moved to Grand Island and the children were enrolled in the St. Mary’s Catholic School. It was here that Norma met the Sisters of St. Joseph. She gives credit to her teachers, Sisters Alberta Marie, Wilhelmina, Cosmas, Sabina Marie and Ursula, for her vocation. She said she not only admired and was inspired by them but she also simply fell in love with them!

Norma entered the community in September 1947 at the age of 17. She received the habit March 19, 1948, and was given the name Sister Mary Walter. She made first profession March 19, 1949, and final profession March, 19, 1952.

She began teaching in Salina, then moved to the very small rural mission in Collyer and from there moved to the community’s largest school, St. Joseph and St. Ann’s in Chicago. Following this she was asked to go to St. Louis University to study and prepare to teach German language and literature at Marymount College. This she did, earning a B.A. in 1959 with magna cum laude and M.A. in 1961, and then went on for a year of study in the German and Russian languages at the University of Munich, Germany, on a Fulbright Scholarship.

In the summer of 1963, she earned a scholarship for studies at the Institute of Contemporary Russian at Fordham University in New York. In the summer of 1965, she studied German literature at Harvard. In her life review she calls these years of study a turning point in her life. Once her studies in German were complete, she taught in the language department at Marymount College.

In 1969, following the Renewal Chapter, Norma was appointed Director of Placement for the Community. She initiated a procedure which enabled the community to make the transition from assignment of sisters to where they would live and what work they would do to assisting them in their choice of work and where they would live.

In 1971, she was elected to the Executive Council and left Salina for Concordia. She served as Regional Coordinator from 1971 to 1975 and then was elected vice president from 1975 to 1979. At the same time, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Saint Mary Hospital in Manhattan, Kan., and the Saint Joseph Hospital in El Paso, Texas. As vice present, she was director of personnel and ministry for the entire congregation.

It was during these years, 1975–1979, that she contributed to a project that most of the communities of St. Joseph and our members in particular considered her most generous contribution — not just to our community but to communities of St. Joseph in general.

With four other Sisters of St. Joseph — Marie Anne Mayeski, of Orange, CA; Mary Pat Hastings of Cleveland, OH; Virginia Quinn of Rutland, VT; and, Patricia Byrne of Baden, PA, — she spent hours, days and months over several years researching and composing the document that was eventually called our “Core Constitution.” This group spent their summers working in the shadow of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s US Federation Research Team A as that group researched and translated our primitive documents.

The Core Constitution Committee used the material the Research Team provided, plus the contemporary reflections on the CSJ Life produced by the participants of the Federation Life Institutes where members of CSJ communities across the United States and Canada reflected on their lives in mission under the influence of the CSJ spirit and spirituality. All of this material became the sources from which the Constitution Committee drew up a basic template that illustrated the fundamental Rule for all Sisters of St. Joseph, at least in the United States.
What Norma contributed to this work was her ability to clarify and synthesize complex concepts and produce an articulate statement that said concisely what was meant. It was from this Core Constitution that our own post Vatican II Constitution was written. We have Norma to thank for our success in producing the document of which we can be proud to use as our Constitution for our Concordia Community of St. Joseph.

At this time, she said that she was ready for something else. Having spent almost 30 years in the community she “decided to choose works that interested and challenged” her, to use her words. Thus, she became the Communications Director for the Congregation. She loved creating the first newsprint paper, “The Sisters of St. Joseph,” and doing the other public relations work required. After five years of this work, she became secretary for L’Arche Heartland in Kansas City, a non-profit organization dedicated to group living for persons with handicaps under the direction of Sister Christella Buser.

She took a year’s sabbatical in 1986-1987 in what was called the “Active Spirituality Program for the Global Community,” held in Cincinnati. During this program, Norma experienced many opportunities that created a heightened awareness in justice issues.

She attended programs from NETWORK, Quixote Center, Common Cause, Center of Concern, the D.C. L’Arche community and others. With her conscience sharpened, she wrote many letters to the editor. At the end of this program she was appointed General Secretary for the Congregation and continued this work until 1995. She enjoyed these years, she said, because it allowed her to put her gifts and talents to good use for the service of the community.

In the 1990s, Norma became aware of the fact that sisters who were preparing to retire or already in retirement needed assistance in the transition from active employment to what is called in the usual progression of life, retirement. Recognizing that sisters never retire from the mission, but only from specific works of service, Norma began courses at the College Misericordia in Dallas, Penn., over several years that certified her as a “Retirement Planning Specialist Religious.”

Norma had a brilliant mind and was an excellent student. During her studies she became conversant not only in German but also in Russian. She studied these languages for the sake of their literary contributions and could read, write and speak in both.

She was also an impeccable proof reader in English. As I checked back over her transcripts, I wondered why she graduated only magna cum laude and found that she had Bs in chemistry and physics, with straight As in every other subject. I suppose that she can be forgiven this, given the fact that she was fully competent in German and Russian AND English!

Perhaps the gratitude tribute from the community at the end of her years as Congregational Secretary sums up her talent as well as her contribution best. It reads as follows:
“Thank you for your dedication — for remembering, for reminding, for bird-dogging, for record keeping, for your accuracy, for your stable presence, for anticipating vital details and keeping us out of lots of trouble, for helping us do the nice things, for making us look good. Thank you for all the thank you notes, the get well notes, the sympathy notes and the congratulations you sent in our name. Thank you for knowing what to save and what to throw away; thank you for your writing skills, your peerless proofreading skill; your intelligent application of policy and procedures; your perfect sense of the appropriate; thank you for being able to say the important things in 25 words or less; thank you for safeguarding and safekeeping the corporation as well as the Congregation for these years; thank you most of all for your generosity in doing all of this. Thank you for being with us, your sympathy and empathy, your support and your presence. We have relied on you totally and you have been faithful and strong, giving and forgiving. We needed you and you were here — totally here. And what’s more we could rely on your beautiful singing voice. In fact, you taught us to sing German Christmas carols! Thank you so much.”

Toward the end of her life Norma took charge of the prayer board here at the Motherhouse. She received prayer requests from people throughout the country and sometimes, the world, and carefully kept them posted for community prayer. She had a system for posting and reporting and eventually rotating intentions off of the board.
About her personal life she said that she loved, above all, this community … what it stood for and the individuals in it.

She took seriously the life to which she was committed. She said that the Senate decisions were especially precious to her. The one that she particularly treasured was the decision in 1991 in which we emphasized “How we want to be with one another and with the earth.”

She also valued her ties with her family. She said at one point that “the school of human experience has taught me many things about life and death.”
Those family members and friends whom she lost broke her heart, yet, in the midst of this sadness, she said she watched new life spring up as new family members were added and the Community of St. Joseph here in Concordia continued to add new members and retain its fidelity to the charism and mission with courage and generosity.
All of this, she said, taught her that she would have to face her own passage into old age and even into death.

“I want to face life with courage,” she said. “I want to continue to grow in the charism of our dear Congregation — in unity and reconciliation — with myself, my dear neighbor and with God. Most of all, I want to be a good human being, in turn with the universe of whom I am a child. And, someday, I want to see God face to face!”
Thus, ended her life review. I believe that we can say that, indeed, all that she wished she fulfilled — or all that she wished was fulfilled in her.

Norma was that person who had the courage to face life right up to the end. She did it with patience, humility, courage and good humor. And especially, with compassion and gratitude for those who cared for her. We can be sure that Norma, a valiant woman to the end, is indeed enjoying the face of God today.

Norma left this life for another on April 8, 2019.
Norma, may all that you prayed for be yours. Thank you for your love for us; for your gracious service to this community; for your years of fidelity through good times and bad; thank you for you. You have indeed been a gift to this Community of St. Joseph!

May you be enjoying God face to face!

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