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A long-overdue visit with a 90-year-old friend

August 4, 2012

The space that was once the Sunken Garden in front of the Marymount College Admin Building is now one of many construction sites as major renovations continue.

There were just a handful remembering their student days from the 1940s, and more from the ’50s and ’60s. Most of those in Salina this weekend were reconnecting with classmates from the 1970s and ’80s.

But they had all come to visit their oldest friend – the 90-year-old building that was the heart of Marymount College and is now the center of a lengthy redevelopment project.

As the 2012 Marymount All-School Reunion went into full swing early Saturday afternoon, the family of Donnie Marrs welcomed alumni to what for nearly seven decades was known as the Admin Building.

Marymount College closed in 1989 and the Marrs family purchased the landmark “castle on the hill” four years later.

For 20 years, architect Donnie Marrs and his family have worked to save the majesty of the old building while converting 28,000 of its 130,000 square feet into residential condominiums.

On Saturday, Donnie and his wife Mona, along with sons Brahn and Dahx and daughter-in-law Colleen served as tour guides to show off the work done so far — including the just-completed underground garage with parking for about 50 cars.

Eventually, there will be 23 condos. Seven have been sold so far, and the first occupants hope to move in by the end of the year, Brahn Marrs said. (To learn more about the project, go to

• • • • • • • •

For the Marrs family, Saturday’s tour offered an opportunity to deliver a friendly sales pitch. But for most of the nearly 250 alumni and former faculty and staff attending the weekend reunion, it was a chance to reminisce.

Walking through what was a third-floor dormitory, now middle-aged women marveled at how little space they had, but remembered vividly where their desks were placed and who roomed where.

Former classmates chatted about exactly where they had lived during their time at Marymount and then exchanged stories about favorite — or not so favorite — professors. And some of those former faculty members, including numerous Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, were seeking out their memorable students.

The Concordia congregation built what was originally an all-girls school and opened Marymount in 1922. The sisters ran it until 1983, when they transferred ownership of the college to the Diocese of Salina. Despite committing more than $2 million to keep the school operating, the diocese in 1989 decided to close it. Three years later, the diocese sold four of the campus buildings to the state to be used for the Kansas State Patrol Training Center. That was when Donnie and Mona Marrs purchased the landmark Tudor Gothic-style Administration Building and its grounds.

During its 67-year history, Marymount had always hosted all-school reunions, but those stopped when the college closed.

Then, in 2003, the Marymount Alumni Association held its first post-closure reunion. Two more followed in 2006 and 2009.

Planning for this weekend’s event was well under way when the longtime alumni director, Sister Lucille Herman, died in October 2011. But the alumni association board, led by Eileen Curran Thibault and assisted by the Sisters of St. Joseph Development Office, carried on with Sister Lucille’s plans.

After gathering Saturday morning at the Ramada Inn in Salina to reconnect and look through old yearbooks and other Marymount memorabilia, the alumni took full advantage of the tours.

Then Salina Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger celebrated a special Mass Saturday afternoon in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at Marymount.

The Saturday evening banquet at the Ramada will include a keynote speech by former Marymount faculty member Dr. Samuel Zeakes, as well as a welcome from Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and a special tribute to Sister Lucille Herman by Jan Saylor, Class of 1977.

The reunion concludes Sunday morning with a special memorial held on the Marymount grounds. Unlike previous years, however, it cannot be held in the Sunken Garden just in front of the Admin Building; that had become a construction area as the underground garage was being built.

“But it will be there again,” Brahn Marrs assured the group he was leading on a tour.

“Then you should add a statue to (the late) Sister Mary Julia (Stegeman),” one alumna suggested. “That’s my memory; she was always there working.”










Concordia missionary to carry Little Dresses to Africa

June 19, 2012

During a visit this week to Neighbor to Neighbor, Chelsey Horkman chats about her upcoming mission to Africa.

The Little Dresses for Africa will soon be headed to Africa, packed in the luggage of a Concordia woman who will serve as a missionary in Burkina Faso for the next three years.

Chelsey Horkman learned about the 100 dresses made by women at Neighbor to Neighbor through a fellow member of The Wesleyan Church in Concordia. In fact, it was that church member, Sandi Hubert, who took the idea for the project to the women’s center in downtown Concordia to begin with.

Sandi Hubert shows off a "Little Dress" made from sunflower fabric as women gathered at Neighbor to Neighbor this week to meet Chelsey Horkman.

When Hubert first learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project from a sewing program on television, she talked with Sister Jean Befort at Neighbor to Neighbor about it. Sister Jean in turn talked with Sister Ramona Medina, another of the three Sisters of St. Joseph who run the center, and before long there was something of a mini manufacturing line of sewing machines set up.

More than a dozen women embraced the project and by early May they were halfway to their goal of 100 little dresses. As word about the project got out, donations of fabrics, thread and other sewing notions flowed in.

Then Hubert asked Horkman to help deliver the completed dresses when she goes to the small West African nation of Burkina Faso next month.

Horkman, a Concordia native and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, has being studying French in Quebec, Canada, for the past year as preparation for a three-year mission with Child Evangelism Fellowship. She leaves for Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in mid-July.

There are three other CEF missionaries serving in Burkina Faso, she noted, but she is the first  non-native to serve there and will be the only one in the capital city.

The small nation of Burkina Faso is within the red square.

Burkina Faso is roughly the same size as the state of Colorado but has about 3½ times as many people. The high population density and limited natural resources — issues shared with its neighboring countries — make that area of West Africa one of the poorest regions in the world. About 60 of the Burkinabe people are Muslim and another 15 percent practice tribal religions, with the remainder predominantly Catholic, according to the World Factbook.

The 25-year-old missionary, the daughter of John and Marj Horkman of Concordia, has already been to the equatorial nation three times, but each visit was for just a month. This time she is committed to a three-year stay with the goal of starting “Good News Clubs” for children and then teaching others to carry on her work.

Her goal in Ouagadougou, a city of about 2 million people, is “building relationships” with children as a way of introducing them to Christ.

That goal seems to blend perfectly with the Michigan-based Little Dresses for Africa Inc., a nonprofit Christian organization that began in 2007.

Founder Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown, Mich., believes that Little Dresses for Africa deliver a small dose of hope and love to girls across the poorest regions of Africa (and now, around the world), in the form of simple sheaths sewn by volunteers using mostly donated fabric and notions and then delivered by individual travelers — whether tourists, mission workers and even a National Geographic photographer — to wherever they’re needed.

So far more than 560,000 dresses from all 50 states have been distributed in 31 African countries, as well as Honduras, Guatemala, The Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico, Haiti and poverty-stricken areas in the United States.

Horkman will add to that flow 100 more dresses — each with a matching hair band and a label that reads “Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA.”

But that doesn’t mean the project is completed for the women at Neighbor to Neighbor, Sister Ramona adds with a laugh. “Now we’ll just start on the next 100.”


More about ‘Little Dresses’

The Little Dresses for Africa — sometimes called “pillowcase dresses” because the simplest way to make them is from pillowcases — are brightly colored sheaths with ribbon ties at each shoulder.

To create them, the downtown Neighbor to Neighbor center has become something of a mini-manufacturing line: On a recent afternoon, it includes one woman to cut the fabric, another to sew the seams, another to add binding to the edges and sew on the ties, still another to add the label (“Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA”) and a final woman to iron and package the dress and its also-handmade matching hair band.

To learn more about Little Dresses for Africa, you can go to the organization’s website:


Discover Camp comes to the Motherhouse!

May 31, 2012

Like swallows to San Juan Capistrano, the Discover Campers arrived at the Motherhouse in flocks this afternoon, eventually numbering 40 girls in seventh through ninth graders. With them came another 20 mostly teenage counselors along with damp directors and other volunteer staff members.

• • • • • • • •

Serving as camp director for the second year is Jessica Thompson of Kansas City, Kan. Sister Beverly Carlin, vocation director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, continues as camp coordinator, and numerous other sisters volunteer to help with the three-day annual event. The theme of this year’s Discover Camp is “Ambassadors for Christ.”

More photos will be posted as the camp continues, Please check back here.

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