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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 www.marymountproperties.com.)

• • • • • • • •

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Sisters welcome guests to annual fundraising dinner

March 25, 2012

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, right, helps Holly Brown and James Willcox mix up all the tickets in the drawing for $500 cash during Sunday's Spaghetti Dinner at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Some 430 guests plus scores of volunteers and Sisters of St. Joseph packed the Nazareth Motherhouse this afternoon for the annual fundraising Spaghetti Dinner.

• • • • • • • • • •

Part of the lure was a hearty dinner, complete with ice cream and beverages, along with performances by local musicians throughout the afternoon, a bake sale, grab bags and showings of the “Sunflower Journeys” 2008 segment celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. But drawings for nine prizes — all donated for the event — also drew participants to the Sunday afternoon event.

The prizes, listed with each winner, were:

  • $500 cash — Deb Blackwood of Clyde, Kan.
  • Apple iPad — Megan Nulf of Bartelsville, Okla.
  • Kenmore Gas Grill — Keith Sells of Belleville, Kan.
  • Quilt, handmade by Sister Betty Suther — Margaret Denneler of  Colby , Kan.
  • Handmade Stuffed Dinosaur Pair — Elijah Tremblay of Emporia, Kan.
  • $250 Rod’s Gift Card — Kenneth Hammerbacher of Belleville, Kan.
  • $100 Target Gift Card — Leanna Rexford of Ponca City, Okla.
  • $100 Lowe’s Gift Card — Mary Ann Palmquist of Concordia
  • $100 Applebee’s Gift Card — Maxine Boling of Clyde, Kan.

Musicians who performed during the dinner were Jane and Amanda Wahlmeier, Sarah Harvey, Gina Sanders and Sister Lucy Schneider.

A special guest at the dinner was Irene Saulnier of Concordia, who attended with numerous family members. Emcee Cheryl Lyn Higgins introduced Mrs. Saulnier to the crowd and had them join in singing “Happy Birthday” to her, in advance of her 100th birthday later this week.

March 2, 2012: Music helps visualize a beautiful path to peace, by Barbara Akers

March 2, 2012

I never cease to be amazed at the way God weaves life moment by moment.

While playing the piano one morning, I received several welcomed phone calls from family and friends. Before returning to my piano, I checked for any new emails and was surprised to see I was asked to write a column for the Blade-Empire. My first thought was could I ever compose a piece worthy of printing in the time allowed. Within minutes though, I realized my morning was already writing the piece for me. The theme — “building community, nurturing relationships: a path to peace” — was exactly what my phone conversations and piano music had been speaking to my heart.

During my phone visits, no world peace treaties were signed, crimes continued to be committed and injustices and poverty still overwhelmed people’s lives. That morning, though, found me coming alongside family members and friends as we each poured ourselves out, the good, the bad and yes, even at times the ugly. There was some laughter and even once the choking back of tears. The conversations were filled with life: births anticipated, relationships desired, choices being made, thankfulness for each other and even amazement at dire situations playing out to perfection. We were a community; we are a community. We are there for each other, always striving to build each other up and never tear down.

The song I was playing that morning was “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. I never tire of the continuous practice as it fills my soul with joy.

One word is printed above the first note to describe the manner in which it should be played, “flowing.”  About midway through the song the flow changes with larger chords, different runs and even a brief new rhythm. I find my fingers stretching and my mind tensed trying to accomplish the passage. Shortly, it quiets down to very simple flow again. Someone unfamiliar with the song could easily think it is about finished.  The soft passage is leading to an impressive key change and powerful flowing music to the slowed end. Throughout the music there are a numerous instances of notes played together that normally would be thought to clash, yet when mixed in with other notes they bring the perfect blend of harmony.

There are two phrases in the lyrics that lend well to the message of this article.  The first is “how beautiful the tender eyes that choose to forgive and never despise.”

We all have at times been on the giving or receiving end of hurtful words or actions. Can we choose today to ask forgiveness from those we have hurt and offer forgiveness to those who brought us pain? Can we feel the “how beautiful” already showering down on us?  Romans 12:18 states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The whole forgiveness issue depends on each of us individually. As we are able to offer and accept forgiveness, we will experience inner peace. Forgiving is always worth the cost.

The other phrase is “how beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live,” which takes me straight to Galatians 5:22-23a:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Just think what a ripple effect could occur if we each could be humble enough to allow those “fruits” to flow from us to others. Can we choose today to work on having that beautiful outpouring from us to others rather than no outpouring or worse yet, harsh words, impatience, hatred and tearing down? The fruit of the Spirit when shared will always build up and nurture.

The phrase “how beautiful” occurs 20 times in the song. If even one were removed, the lyrics would be incomplete.

We will each desire the song of our life to be one of beauty. How many times will we allow the Master Composer to insert “how beautiful” in our composition? Will we choose to have a simple flow from start to finish or will we welcome more challenging passages that stretch and tense us and develop strength and growth within? Will our life song build towards the finish? As our responsibilities from earlier years change, we may just find opportunities to serve, give and come alongside others knocking at our door.

Will we want those notes that should clash interspersed throughout our life song? Think for a moment. Every one of us is capable of being a clashing note. Beautiful harmony is only achieved as we look beyond ourselves. As we slowly master that more difficult task, we will realize that community is being built, relationships are being nurtured and the path to peace is almost visible.

How Beautiful.

— Barbara Akers is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Concordia.

Advocates gather in Dodge City to discuss immigration

March 2, 2012

     “We are a nation of immigrants. I think we forget that. Mine were German immigrants in the 1880s. If we told those stories more, if we remembered that, we might become more welcoming. “

— Kathy Denhardt,
mobility manager for Dodge City and Ford County

DODGE CITY — Nearly three dozen people from throughout southwest Kansas packed a meeting room in the Catholic cathedral in Dodge City Thursday afternoon, all with the same question: How can we better ensure that immigrants are treated fairly and humanely?

• • • • • • • •

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia had organized the meeting to bring together representatives from social service agencies, religious congregations, city governments, political entities and the community college as well as individuals who advocate for immigrant rights.

But, as organizer Cheryl Lyn Higgins pointed out at the beginning of the meeting, the Concordia-based congregation of Catholic women doesn’t presume to have all the answers.

“Our goal is to become better informed advocates for our brothers and sisters, whether documented or undocumented,” she said. “I believe, collectively, we can generate the outcome we all want to see.”

Higgins, who is coordinator of the sisters’ Neighborhood Initiatives office in Concordia, had organized a similar meeting in Salina in January.

Both meetings come on the heels of the congregation’s unanimous support last November for a “statement on immigration” that calls for a comprehensive national immigration policy, including:

  • A pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for the undocumented persons currently living in the United States;
  • A process to reduce the backlog of family visas in order to ensure family unity and reunification;
  • A guest worker program that ensures labor protections and equitable wages;
  • A border security and enforcement policy that is humane; and
  • A process whereby undocumented students living in the United States can earn a college degree and become gainfully employed.

Higgins and the other members of the congregation’s immigration committee — Sisters Esther Pineda, Anna Marie Broxterman and Judy Stephens — handed out copies of the statement during Thursday’s Dodge City meeting.

Many participants had ideas on what needs to happen, particularly in southwest Kansas where the Hispanic population is continuing to grow.

Garden City Mayor John Doll said that a pressing need is a local immigration office.

“People now have to go to Wichita or Kansas City,” Doll said. “Having services available here is a key.”

For Maria Musick of Dodge City, another key is learning about the immigration issue “so we can tell the difference between fact and myth.”

Johnny Dunlap, chairman of the Ford County Democratic Party and a representative of the League of United Latin American Citizens, agreed — but he added that action is also needed.

“We need to raise awareness on the hearings (legislative) in Topeka and in D.C.,” he said. “We need to inform our communities and immigrants so that they may speak against  (proposed anti-immigrant legislation).”

Sister Esther Pineda, who was in Topeka during February for hearings at the Capitol, reported to the group on the status of several bills being considered by the state Legislature.

She urged the group to pay particular attention to House Bill 2576, the so-called “Anti-Harboring Bill,” as well as House Bill 2712, a measure that would require the Kansas Department of Labor to identify labor shortages and then create something of a “guest worker” program to help eliminate those shortages. The bill, which was drafted by a coalition that includes agriculture groups and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, has drawn strong support from immigrant rights advocates across the state and equally strong opposition from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and others.

Arturo Ponce, who works with the United Methodist Mexican American Ministries in Liberal, said that three elements are needed to advocate for immigrant rights: collaboration, cooperation and communication.

“This meeting, bringing us all together, is an example of all three,” Ponce said.

But Robert Vinton, ESL/migrant director for USD 443, expressed concern that more needs to be done.     “There hasn’t been an adequate response from this country that allows immigrants to stay,” he said. “In 20 or 30 years from now, these people are going to become people we’re going to need to depend on. They can become lawyers or doctors. We as a country have been fighting it, but at some point we have to see that it’s reality.”

At the end of the two-hour session Higgins said the sisters’ Immigration Committee is compiling all the information and ideas from both this meeting and the earlier one in Salina, as a first step in an action plan. “What I’m hearing today is that we need to be more vocal,” she said.

 

 

 

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