NEW PHOTOS: Sister prepares for the ‘fuss’ of her 100th birthday

September 6, 2010 by

Just days before her 100th birthday, Sister Generosa Walker reflects on her life as a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, and the view from her second-floor window at the Motherhouse.

Sister Generosa Walker would just as soon no fuss be made over her 100th birthday. But, she concedes with a soft chuckle, it is something of a milestone — even though it’s something she never anticipated.

“I was sure I wouldn’t,” she say about turning 100 years old next week. “No one in my family had ever lived to be 100, and only a very few of our sisters had. So it just wasn’t something I thought about.”

But now she is, if only because so many people keep bringing up the centennial of her birth.

“I’ve decided I’m going to be as peaceful and as gracious as I can be, even when everyone asks questions and wants to make a fuss,” she says. After a moment, there’s that chuckle again: “But it’s going to take patience to be as kind as possible.”

The humor and humility are part of the fiber of her being; she has had a lifetime of practice being both patient and kind.

Gertrude Cecelia Walker was born Sept. 6, 1910, on her parent’s farm about 2 miles outside of Mayetta, Kan. The only girl in a family of seven children, she and her brothers attended a country school about a half-mile north of the farm. And although the family was Catholic, she had little exposure to nuns as she was growing up, and she doesn’t recall as a girl ever seriously considering religious life.

After high school, she attended Wayland Baptist College in Texas for a year and then returned to Kansas to attend Marymount College in Salina, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“They were so pleasant and kind to us,” Generosa recalls of the sisters at Marymount. “I liked the spiritual possibilities in their lives; that appealed to me.”

But not enough to keep her from family and home.

With a teaching certificate from Marymount in hand, she returned to the Mayetta area and taught for the next three years at “country schools” on the Potawatomi Indian Reservation.

The Marymount sisters had made a lasting impression, though, so in 1933 the almost-23-year-old Gertrude Cecelia became a postulant in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. She became a novice — or “took the habit,” as it was referred to then — in March 1934. It was also then that she was given her religious name, and she became Sister Mary Generosa.

She was one of 13 novices received into the congregation in that ceremony, and is one of only three surviving “band” members: Sister Jane Guenette, who was 18 when she became a novice, and Sister Redempta Eilert, who was 20. Sisters Jane and Redempta also live at the Motherhouse in Concordia today.

Sister Generosa would return to teaching a year later, just days after professing her final vows in March 1935. Her first assignment was at the Catholic high school in Aurora, Kan., and she would spend the next 37 years in Catholic school classrooms in the Kansas towns of Concordia, Tipton, Leoville, Beloit and Park; plus Boonville, Mo., and St. George, Ill. Her specialty was mathematics, including algebra and geometry, but small schools required versatility so she taught whatever was needed.

During the last few years of her teaching, many sisters used the freedom given them by the Second Vatican Council to stop wearing religious habits and change to secular clothing. Many of them also returned to their birth names in favor of the religious names they had been given when they entered the congregation.

Sister Generosa didn’t feel a need to do either.

“I never had any reason to stop wearing the habit,” she explains simply. “I just never saw a real need for me to change it.”

And that same simplicity applied to her religious name: “It wasn’t that different from my family name, and that’s how people knew me.”

In 1972, she decided to leave teaching and take on the challenge of becoming the bookkeeper for St. Mary’s Convent, what was then a nursing facility for older sisters in Concordia. She remained there for a dozen years.

But Catholic schools beckoned one more time, and she spent the 1984-85 year in Junction City, Kan., serving as an assistant principal.

In 1985, Sister Generosa returned to Concordia and the Motherhouse for good.

Today Sister Generosa, now the eldest member of the congregation, spends her days quietly praying in a small chapel tucked well away from the public areas of the historic building, playing “team Scrabble” with Sister Margaret Schreck, maintaining correspondence with family and friends — including several students from 70 years ago in Park, Kan. — and watching the world from her second-floor windows that face south from the Motherhouse.

From there she can see the main parking lot and beyond it, the Motherhouse garden and the congregation’s tree-lined cemetery.

“There were only 70 graves there when I entered the community,” she says. “Now there are, what? More than 600.”

But, she adds with another soft chuckle, she doesn’t spend a lot of time looking to the cemetery: “I like to watch the garden, and the cars in the parking lot.”

She is also practicing the patience she’ll need to endure the fuss on her birthday, and the standard questions that are a part of it — such as, What is her secret for such a long life?

“Put God in all things in your life, and keep in touch with him through daily prayer,” she says. “Then surround yourself with kind and loving people like our sisters.”

Comments

7 Responses to “NEW PHOTOS: Sister prepares for the ‘fuss’ of her 100th birthday”

  1. Elizabeth (Betsy) Gasperich-Miller on September 8th, 2010 8:42 am

    Sister Generosa….HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a great gift we have received through you…thank you for all you have done and for the wonderful example of generosity and love that you give each day. Thank you for being a Sister of St. Joseph and living the “LIFE”…..that’s your greatest gift!
    Sending love, hugs and blessings always…

  2. Christine Doman, CSJ on August 31st, 2010 10:16 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS SISTER GENEROSA, AS YOU PREPARE TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF “WHAT A WONDERFUL LIFE !” YOU ARE ALWAYS A WELCOMING PRESENCE AND GENTLE NATURED PERSON TO EVERYONE, YOUNG AND OLD. I HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO SHARE MISSION MINISTRY WITH YOU IN BOONVILLE, MO AT SS. PETER AND PAUL GRADE AND HIGH SCHOOL. YOU ENJOY BASEBALL AND KEEP UP WITH THE NATIONAL TEAMS, OFTEN SPONSORING CONTESTS AMOUNG US DURING THE PLAY-OFF SEASONS! YOU ARE ALWAYS AN INSPIRATION. A WOMAN OF PRAYER, A WOMAN OF PEACE!
    CHRISTINE DOMAN, CSJ

  3. Faye Huelsmann on August 31st, 2010 10:11 am

    Congratulations, Sister Generosa!
    You have always been an example to me of the CSJ ‘double union’ of love of God and love of neighbor. So generous and patient. I remember how helpful you have been to me whenever I was near you, such as with sewing. Wish I could be there to celebrate. Sister Faye

  4. Loretta Jasper on August 30th, 2010 6:32 pm

    It is an honor nad a wonderful gift to have one such as Sister Generosa sharing in our daily lives as a Sister of St. Joseph. “Sharing in our daily lives”; meaning, she keeps track of what I am about when I share a meal with her, without any prompts. That is most noteworthy.
    Generosa, WE deserve to fuss over you on your 100th. Thank you for letting us celebrate your living.
    Loretta

  5. Helen Mick on August 30th, 2010 5:42 pm

    I am one of the lucky ones who had Sister Generosa as a high school math teacher. I have always counted that as one of the blessings in my life. Her gentle spirit is always so warm and welcoming.

    May you be abundantly blessed, S. Generosa, as you celebrate 100 grace-filled years!

  6. Beth Stover on August 30th, 2010 3:07 pm

    Thank you,Sister Generosa, for graciously letting us celebrate your 100th birthday.
    Sr. Generosa is truly an amazing Sister of St. Joseph. She will surprise any visitor or companion at meals with a question about “the day to day happenings in the world”. Be they local, national, or world events, she will know about it, have an opinion about it, and wants to know your thoughts! What a gift and blessing to be in community with you, Sr. Generosa! Happy 100th!

  7. Jodi Creten on August 30th, 2010 7:14 am

    Wise words from a woman of great wisdom and deep prayer.
    Congratulations, Sister Generosa on a life well lived. Keep on keeping on!

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