New book recalls ‘The Sisters Who Loved Me’

April 24, 2010 by

Sister Marie Coleman

As Marie Coleman tells the stories, life for a little girl in the 1920s at an Abilene, Kan., orphanage was a daily adventure as she discovered the many kindnesses of the Catholic sisters who were in charge.

The stories also make clear this was a different world, at least from our 21st century perspective. Early deaths were not that unusual, hand-me-down clothes were the norm and “begging sisters” helped ensure there was food on the table…

The 24 stories in The Sisters Who Loved Me offer Marie Coleman’s tender and touching memories as an “orphan” in the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph, combined with a nuanced view of how tough times really were in the years she lived at St. Joseph Home in Abilene.

She was just a year and a half old when she arrived in 1922, after the death of her mother; she would remain at the Home until 1934. And the rest of her life story makes it clear that she was shaped by those years: In 1939 she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. She was formally accepted into the congregation — or, as they called it then, “took the habit” — a year later. This year she celebrates her 70th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Sister Marie, who is now 89 and lives at the congregation’s Motherhouse in Concordia, says she started thinking about gathering the stories from her childhood about 10 years ago. At the urging of Sister Bette Moslander, also of Concordia, she began writing them down.

But it’s only been in the last year or so that the idea developed to gather them into a book. Sister Marie worked with the congregation’s archivist, Sister Bernardine Pachta, to find photographs of each sister to go with her story. She also worked with Sarah Jenkins, the congregation’s communications director, to edit the stories and design and layout the book. Many others in the congregation — including Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia; Sister Lucy Schneider of Concordia; Sister Jodi Creten of Atlanta, Ga.; and Jan McCormick of Chapman, Kan. — helped with history and factual details.

 

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