Women share spiritual path to Saturday’s profession

June 9, 2012 by

Kathy Schaefer, left, and Lorren Harbin bow their heads in prayer before the ceremony this morning in which they professed vows as the newest Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Lorren Harbin and Kathy Schaefer first met just a little over two years ago. And while their physical paths have been markedly distant — one lives near Grand Junction, Colo., while the other lives just outside Wichita — their spiritual paths brought them together in Concordia on Saturday morning.


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Lorren and Kathy became the two newest members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia during a special Mass and ceremony at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Each professed a vow of fidelity to God and to the congregation as an agrégée sister.

The term agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French for “attached to” or “aggregated with.” It is a form of membership in the religious congregation that dates back to its founding in 17th-century France, when Sisters of St. Joseph were either canonically vowed “principal sisters” or so-called agrégée or “country” sisters. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia re-established — and revitalized — this form of religious life in 2006. Today there are six women who have professed their vows as “agrégées,” and another four are in varying stages of the process of deciding if this form of religious life fits them and their spiritual needs.

 To learn more about the Agrégée form of membership, CLICK HERE.

Another agrégée candidate, Dian Hall of Cartersville, Ga., has just entered the novitiate to become a canonically vowed member. She had been an agrégée candidate for about a year.

The congregation received Sisters Lorren and Kathy as agrégée candidates in June 2010. And, they note, they are the first two who entered together and they took their vows together.

Sister Lorren Harbin

Sister Lorren, who lives is Fruita, Colo., now teaches at-risk high school students. But the 59-year-old Alabama native spent 30 years in the tourism industry in Florida before moving to Colorado about seven years ago.

At that time, she described herself as a “Sunday and holiday Catholic.” But, she notes, “Throughout my life, because I was always single, I’d wonder about religious life. It was always a curiosity, but I never pursued it; I didn’t know any sisters.”

That changed in the fall of 2006 when she signed up for a “Just Faith” class at a Grand Junction church and met Sisters Pat Lewter and Faye Huelsmann, both Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“I was being introduced to modern sisters for the first time,” she recalls. And then she met Ann Ashwood, who entered the agrégée program in 2008 and professed her vow as a Sister of St. Joseph in 2010.

“Ann said she wanted what (Sister Pat and Faye) had: Happiness, peace, serenity, fun and an openness to new ideas and adventures,” Sister Lorren says, on the day before she is to profess her vow at the Motherhouse. “I want that, too. My life experience has led me to this.”

And people from throughout that life experience were on hand Saturday when she became Sister Lorren. Her special guests included her mother from Kissimmee, Fla., a sister from Kalispell, Mont., one brother from Houston and another from Dallas, her best friend and neighbor in Fruita and a family from her home parish.

Father Mike Smith, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fruita, was also on hand, to jointly celebrate the Mass with Father Jim Hoover, the Motherhouse chaplain.

Sister Kathy Schaefer

Unlike Sister Lorren, Kathy Schaefer was attracted to religious life early on. “At my eighth-grade graduation, I told my mom I was interested in being a sister,” the 62-year-old recalls. But she was counseled to wait until after high school to make any commitment.

By that time, it felt like the call had lessened, she says now, but it returned intermittently over the next couple of decades.

Finally, in the early 1990s, she entered the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a small monastic community in Clyde, Mo. “The prayer life called to me, but the monastic life did not,” Sister Kathy says now. She remained with the Benedictines for just two years.

It was about that time that she met Jean Ann Walton, who had entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in the early 1980s but left after seven years in the congregation.

So the former Benedictine and former Sister of St. Joseph decided religious life was probably just not for them.

“But God is patient,” Kathy notes with a laugh.

By 2000, Jean Ann had reconnected with the Concordia sisters, and she invited Kathy along to a retreat in Concordia. Here Kathy met Sister Mary Julia Stegeman, who shared her love of gardening.

In 2004, Kathy explains, “Sister Mary Julia asked me if I ever thought about being an Associate, and in 2006 I became a CSJ Associate. Then in 2007 she asked me if I ever thought about being an agrégée, and in 2010 — just two months after Sister Mary Julia’s death — I became an agrégée candidate.”

In the meantime, her friend Jean Ann Walton had also become a candidate; she professed her vow as an agrégée in June 2010.

Today Sister Kathy lives in Augusta, Kan., where she works in the laundry at Lake Point Nursing Center. She also offers informal pastoral ministry to both residents and staff there, and assists at her parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Andover, Kan.

Guests attending her profession will include her brother from Marblehead, Mass., and a nephew from Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as a number of friends from work. A special guest will be Sister Patty Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis who is executive director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation. She and Sister Kathy met while they were both attending a monthlong program at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.


3 Responses to “Women share spiritual path to Saturday’s profession”

  1. Lorren Harbin on June 12th, 2012 9:20 am

    Thank you Sarah for the wonderful article and thank you to all for the glorious celebration and witness to Kathy and my vow ceremony. Everything was just perfect and the joyful, heartfelt embrace of everyone’s love and support will be with us on our journey for life. May God bless us all and keep us close. My love and thanks again to everyone on our special day! S. Lorren

  2. Kathy Schaefer on June 11th, 2012 4:34 pm

    Thank You Sarah, for your talent in your photography and writing our stories.

  3. Jeanette Wasinger, csj on June 9th, 2012 10:14 pm

    What a gifted day for all of us, Kathy and Lorren! The atmosphere of the day reflected your generous, joyful and loving spirit. And, you truly reflect the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia! WE ARE ONE!

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