Congratulations to this year’s jubilarians, who are celebrating 50, 60 and 75 years of monastic life!
Judith (Joel) Huber, OSB
Sister Judith Huber is a woman of multiple talents and rich life experiences. She was born to Irish-German-Swedish parents, Arthur and Eunice (Paulson) Huber, in Shakopee, Minn., and grew up in Belle Plaine, Minn. As the oldest child in a family of five boys and three girls, she became skilled in caring for her younger siblings at an early age. This experience serves her well in relating to and advocating for children in her current work at Catholic Charities in St. Cloud, Minn.
While a student at the College of Saint Benedict (CSB), St. Joseph, Minn., S. Judith was attracted to Benedictine monastic life and entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery as a college junior in 1966. She was attracted to CSB’s liberal arts and spiritual environment and the sisters who embodied it, the latter including her work study supervisor, Sister Grace (Mary Mark) Donovan. As a young sister, she wrote to the prioress stating: “I am really happy that [God] ‘planted’ me here because I love Benedictinism and this Benedictine community.”
Judith’s educational background includes a B.A. in English from CSB, an M.A. in religious studies from St. Louis University, an M.A. in counseling psychology from the University of North Dakota and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Madison in Wisconsin.
After teaching English and religion at the junior high and high school levels for 13 years, S. Judith returned to the monastery in St. Joseph where she mentored women in the initial formation program and directed the community’s Benedictine Resource Center (1983–1988), now called the Spirituality Center.
A combination of circumstances, including encouragement to consider teaching at the college level and an interest in counseling, led S. Judith to obtain a doctorate in counseling psychology and a license to practice. She began her counseling ministry at CSB in 2000, and after a number of years, she felt called to serve a broader segment of society.
Judith began her current ministry at the Caritas Mental Health branch of Catholic Charities in 2009, where the clinic serves a diverse population with special attention to the underserved. She acknowledges that working with vulnerable clients experiencing health, family and economic difficulties is challenging, but feels supported and valued in her work. She believes it is a service that responds to “the Gospel call to serve the poor in whatever way they may present themselves to us.”
Those who know S. Judith well describe her as bright, multitalented, well read, thoughtful, perceptive and compassionate. The leisure activities she enjoys include time spent with friends and family, the arts, reading good novels and learning in general.
Kerry (Kathy) O’Reilly, OSB
Sister Kerry (Kathy) O’Reilly was born the fifth of six children to Tom and Mary Ellen O’Reilly in Goodhue, Minn. Her close relationship with her mom and dad, her four brothers (Tom, Denny, Tim and Jim) and only sister, Judy, help explain one defining moment in her early childhood. She tells that she came to the kitchen nook one early morning and exclaimed to her folks that she thought she was “the luckiest girl in the world.” They asked, “How so?” She replied, “…because I’m Catholic, Irish and Democrat!” (Actually, “Irish” was first in the list).
All her life, S. Kerry has embraced the gospel of social justice taught by the Catholic Church. After teaching and being involved in high school administration, she spent 15 years in Recife, Brazil, working with the “Base Christian Communities” among the poor and destitute. Life in Brazil deepened her passion to advocate for people on the margins of society and her conviction that God’s kingdom calls for dignity and justice for everyone. When she returned to the United States, she worked in the Office of Social Justice in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Not surprisingly, being Irish has meant that the oral history of the O’Reilly descendants is alive and well. S. Kerry is one of the family resources to remember the names and relationships of the near and the not-so-near relatives. When the “sibs,” as they refer to themselves, gather, they celebrate with stories, wild board games and shared memories. They even have their own brand of “O’Reilly’s Irish Cream.”
Kerry’s keen intellectual curiosity, eagerness to learn and her love for debate is especially evident when the subject involves our country’s democratic system, the world of politics and global concerns. In 2015, she was elected president of the Federation of St. Benedict. Her leadership is effective and insightful at this challenging time for all the 10 communities who are members.
The tight bond of the O’Reilly family has made the early deaths of four family members unutterably painful for S. Kerry and all. Two nieces, MaryBeth and Pam, both died at an early age. Her only sister, Judy, died suddenly at the age of 55 and only this past summer, S. Kerry’s beloved “little brother,” Jim, died at the age of 66. Her faith, family and good friends have helped sustain her during these times. Commitment to community and personal prayer, as well as an active reading of contemporary theology, has been a source of strength and hope for S. Kerry.
Thomasette (Judy) Scheeler, OSB
Thomasette (Judy) Scheeler was born in Aiea Heights, Honolulu, Hawaii. Aloha! Her father was a career navy officer and taught in medical school. Having grown up in Central Minnesota, he attended Holy Cross Grade School in Kimball and was taught by Benedictine sisters. Her mother, Susan Marie DeGidio, grew up in northeast Minneapolis. While they were stationed in Hawaii, Judy Marie (Sister Thomasette), the oldest of two children, was born.
While her father was overseas, she, her mother and her sister, Nancy, lived with grandparents in northeast Minneapolis. They moved to accommodate her father’s career, and thus, the family lived in San Diego and San Francisco. Eventually, they settled in Park City, Ill. After her father’s death, her mother married a local businessman, Roger Larson, who continues to live in a care center in Zion, Ill. Her sister, Nancy, brother-in-law, Robert, and nephew, Eric, live in Illinois and her niece, Diana, and family lives in Iowa. Though her immediate family is small, S. Thomasette has many relatives.
Judy attended grade school in Minneapolis and Illinois. She first met Benedictine sisters when she spent summers at her grandparents’ farm in Pearl Lake, Minn., where her father grew up. After graduating from high school in Waukegan, Ill., she applied to enter Saint Benedict’s Monastery.
As a postulant, her work areas were in the monastery card shop working with Sister Joselyn Dubay and as a nurse’s aide in the monastery infirmary known as “Broadway.” She earned her LPN degree in Mitchell, S.D., in the 1970s. She then worked at St. Raphael’s and St. Joseph’s Nursing Homes in St. Cloud, Minn., and later in the float pool at St. Cloud Hospital. While working as a night nurse in the psych ward, she attended St. Cloud State University (SCSU) and earned a B.A. degree in elective studies with a double major in printmaking and graphic design, as well as minors in photography and women’s studies. Later, she served as an adjunct faculty member at SCSU teaching photo silk screen, drawing and graphic design while working toward an M.A. in printmaking.
Thomasette was eventually granted space to set up an art studio with a printmaking space in the monastery carpenter shop. She was assigned to coordinate a community program as director of Monastic Enterprises, where she provided in-service and oversaw the production and sales of sister artisans’ works.
She currently occupies the Artisan Studio which is a space added on to the loafing/machine shed at the west end of campus where she creates her own art and conducts mini-workshops. She is also involved in the local St. Joseph/St. Cloud art and social justice communities. Mahalo (thank you)!
Adelia (Elizabeth) Sirek, OSB
Sister Adelia Sirek grew up near New Prague on a farm near Vessli, Minn., the seventh in a wonderful family of nine children. One of the most formative gifts she received from her parents and aunts was how to lovingly care for older persons. As a child, she watched how her parents provided for their every need and, at the same time, let them be independent and do as much for themselves as long as possible.
In 1957 at age 18, she responded to God’s call and entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. Although many things were different in the monastery, she was familiar with St. Benedict’s motto of ora et labora—work and prayer—because although her parents didn’t use that terminology, these words summarized the family life she knew so well at home.
After her novitiate, she spent time at St. Cloud Hospital doing office work. However, it wasn’t long before she was asked to begin what became an almost lifetime of caring for older people. Doing this came naturally to her because of the way her family valued and cared for her grandparents when she was growing up. In 1968, she was given the opportunity of earning a licensed practical nursing degree at the School of Nursing in Mitchell, S.D.
As she reflects on her 51 years of caring for older persons, she says, “What I received was so much more than what I gave.” In her compassionate and loving manner, she saw her work as a wonderful way of living out the Benedictine values of hospitality and respect for the dignity of others. She still treasures the wisdom that came from listening to the life stories of those she ministered to daily.
At times, as she worked, the words of a hymn she heard sung at a workshop rang out in her head and heart: “Will you let me be your servant? / Let me be as Christ to you? / Pray that I might have the grace / to let you be my servant, too.”
Sister Nancy Bauer’s motto as prioress, “Let us bring Christ to others, and let us bring each other to Christ,” continues to guide her as she works at the monastery’s reception desk. Although she may not meet some individuals personally, she knows that the way she responds to everyone may be the only way they come to know the Sisters of Saint Benedict. The students she mentors as her Benedictine Friends cherish her and know they have someone who cares for them both by making them feel at home and by praying for them and their families.
Alice (Bernarda) Imdieke, OSB
Sister Alice Imdieke, a native of Meire Grove, Minn., knows that her lifelong love of God and her 60 years as a Benedictine sister continue to create her own personal version of Alice in Wonderland. Although she may not have been aware of it, by having Benedictine sisters for teachers for 12 years in Meire Grove and Melrose, Minn., she was being steeped in Benedictine spirituality long before she ever heard the term and/or entered the monastery in 1957. Her response to God’s call continues to be as wholehearted today as it was when she made her first commitment in 1959 when her heart burned with a desire to give herself completely to God and God’s work. She cherishes St. Benedict’s exhortation and listens with the ear of her heart both in her prayer life and as she listens to the needs of people of all ages.
During the 18 years she directed the faith formation program for Seven Dolors Parish in Albany, Minn., she felt that nothing could surpass the joy of this ministry. However, when her sarcoidosis required her to resign, a door to another land of wonder opened—that of coordinating the chaplaincy and spiritual care for the nursing home, the assisted living facility and Pondview Estates in Albany.
As chaplain, S. Alice leads four communion services weekly, and on six days, she brings communion to the residents who are unable to attend Mass or the communion service. She loves ministering by lending the ear of her heart to those who need social and spiritual companioning. Presiding at the wakes or funerals of residents or family members is a grace-filled experience for her and for those she serves.
Occasionally, family members and/or members of the staff invite her to share her listening ear, her wisdom and her rich-lived experiences to help solve some of the complicated dilemmas that are part of the aging process. Being a Benedictine presence to so many, both young and old, who treasure her hospitality and other gifts she offers as one who sees Christ in all she meets, fills her heart with joy.
As S. Alice reflects on these past 60 years, she is overwhelmed by how God and God’s people have blessed her. She is filled with deep gratitude for the prayers, the love and the support of her family, her religious community and all those she has encountered in each of the wonderlands of her grace-filled life.
Bridget (Scholastica) Donaldson, OSB
“I am an Irish woman—I was born with my heart on my sleeve and a fire in my soul.” What an exquisite description of Sister Bridget Donaldson in her 60 years of benevolent ministry for God’s people. Recognition of her dedicated service is attested to by honors she has received. The Fred Frick Servant Leadership Award was presented to her in April 2016 by the Holmen Area Foundation. Given in appreciation of her servant leadership, it recognized her work in directing the parish food pantry and in assisting other programs. Along with that acknowledgement in 2016, she received the Iverson Freking Ecumenical Recognition Award. Summarizing all of these honors is the recognition conferred on her in 2012. The Veronica’s Veil Award was given to her by the St. Elizabeth Parish Knights of Columbus. She received it for continuous compassion in her ministry at the parish in Holmen, Wis., where she has served for over 30 years. S. Bridget claims she can be a servant leader because others collaborate.
Servant leadership comes naturally to S. Bridget as she experienced it in the lives of her parents, who took in foster children and were there to assist anyone facing hardship. She and her four sisters and three brothers (one brother died in infancy) were encouraged by their parents to reach out to others, especially those in need. The Donaldson family lived by the adage, “All are welcome here.” Warm Benedictine hospitality is a given for S. Bridget as it was a vital part of her home life. Visitors were always welcome at the table. This service was consistently set in the context of respecting another’s dignity and Irish delight and fun.
A family influence of service, living one’s faith and seeking God had an impact on S. Bridget and her older sister, Sister Mary Jo, both of whom became Benedictines at Saint Bede Monastery in Eau Claire, Wis. Over the years, S. Mary Jo related that the happiest day of her life was the day Bridget joined the community.
Whether S. Bridget was teaching grade school children, directing a religious education program or serving on a diocesan or state committee, she served wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. This same passion animates her ministry today as the parish food pantry has expanded to include clothing and hygiene products to 50 families a week. There are over 60 parishioners who are involved in collecting, sorting and packing the donations for distribution. The Christmas Caring and Sharing Program that Sister directs serves over 150 families each year.
With her heart on her sleeve and a fire in her soul, S. Bridget’s Irish presence has touched many lives in her 60 years of Benedictine living.
Cecelia (Josita) Prokosch, OSB
Sister Cecelia Prokosch’s mother, Gertrude (Walter) Prokosch, gave birth to Cecelia on February 28, 1938, at their farmhouse north of Bird Island, Minn. She was the fourth of six children. As a child, she remembers their home was rarely without company on Sunday afternoons. Her parents’ openness and hospitality delighted her. During her first year at the College of Saint Benedict (CSB), St. Joseph, Minn., she saw these gifts in Sister Mary Patrick Murray as she posted homey messages on the bulletin board in her dormitory each week. It was Sister Mary Patrick’s questioning her if she had ever considered entering the community that led her to join the Sisters of Saint Benedict in 1957. She credits Sister Enid Smith and Sister Incarnata Girgen, faculty members at CSB, with initiating her into “thinking outside the box.” Those skills nurtured her natural gifts of openness to new information and innovative planning.
Her concentrations at CSB were home economics, education, philosophy and theology. She taught at Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, Minn., Pierz Memorial High School, Pierz, Minn., and St. Boniface High School, Cold Spring, Minn. After completing her master’s in food service administration at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., and becoming a registered dietitian, she spent 24 years combining the roles of director of the monastic community and CSB food services. Concurrently, she taught quantity food and cultural food in the home and community service department where she allowed dietetic students to engage in aspects of large group food preparation and administration. One of her dreams, having a new food service building for the CSB students, was eventually actualized with the opening of the Gorecki Dining and Conference Center in 2007.
In 1991, Sister Mary Reuter, prioress, appointed her as monastery director of human resources, and in 1995, Prioress Sister Ephrem Hollermann chose her as subprioress. For 14 years, she assisted the prioresses with personnel considerations for approximately 450 sisters. Each of these positions honed her skills as a respectful listener. Therefore, in 2006, she was an ideal choice for beginning her current role as hospitality coordinator for Saint Benedict’s Monastery. Her spontaneous response to visitors and persons coming to the monastery to celebrate jubilees, monastic professions and the wakes and funerals of each sister is consistently warm and welcoming. Her reputation must be well known because often there are local groups and organizations that contact her to give tours and be introduced to the monastic values of Saint Benedict’s Monastery.
Currently, she envisions transformative shifts within the monastic community and the Catholic Church as both move toward ever-expanding renewal and inclusivity. This is coupled with daily prayer for world peace.
Christine (Macrina) Manderfeld, OSB
Sister Christine Manderfeld is like a hummingbird seeking the nectar of life and coming away with honey. As a NOW person, she is intent on learning all about what is happening now. She will laugh with you when you laugh, weep with you if you weep and rejoice with you when you rejoice. What is good in people is excitedly shared as good news. She sees beauty everywhere. In 2004, she said, “Look at these jewels! These dew drops are like jewels for jubilee day.”
Even as a child, she befriended an elderly neighbor who she called Pa. She says, “Pa told me many wonderful stories, taught me to tap dance, showed me sundogs and the inside of flowers in the garden. This friendship was a gift to me.”
Christine is an intuitive musician who loves the sound of music. The words and music must complement each other. An example of her creativity as a musician is the work she did in the Year of Mercy. Sister Delores Dufner gave her mercy phrases and refrains and S. Christine composed music for them. The Scriptures and music she composed blended to proclaim the mystery!
Music was part and parcel of S. Christine’s life. This Springfield family sang together. Her mother, Bernice, the church organist, taught piano. S. Christine and Mary, her sister, enjoyed playing duets with their mother. Chris, her father, was bookkeeper for A.C. Oahs Brick and Tile Company. Grandmother lived with the family for 18 years. Her daily presence and loving spirit are special memories for Mary and S. Christine. Soon, flute was heard because Mary Foster taught S. Christine flute in fifth grade. The Arion Award for excellence in flute was a happy event for high school senior S. Christine. Mary Foster is still a companion musician, who visits yearly. They spend hours enjoying music and memories. What fun!
Former students who sang in her Cold Spring High School choirs still talk about the music they made. The love of music she instilled in them lives on through their membership in choirs. For 30 years, her welcoming spirit encouraged students at the College of Saint Benedict, where she taught music methods and prepared students for classroom teaching. For many years, she directed parish and school choirs, and in 1981, she became the director of the monastic schola. The descants and three and four-part renditions of hymns for the schola filled the dome with prayerful, joyful music. Her directing brings the music to life.
Teaching religion to special needs persons has also been a ministry of love for S. Christine. A visit from Evel Knievel? Ask her about it.
Jubilee blessings, S. Christine!
Elizabeth (Seraphine) Theis, OSB
Sister Elizabeth Theis says about herself within her family of 13: “We prayed, we worked hard, we played hard and learned to share.” The fruit of that early learning is manifest in the entire span of her 60 years as a Benedictine. She knows that she loves God, her family, our community, liturgy and teamwork. She speaks her convictions honestly and feels at home in this Benedictine community.
Elizabeth lives the motto, “Bloom where one is planted.” Her life has borne out the truth of that conviction in the wide variety of ministries in which she has served. Her ability to bloom is amazing to anyone who observes this “behind-the-scenes” kind of woman! Those who have worked with her witnessed her commitment and faithfulness to Catholic education, teaching and administration for 31 years, primarily in elementary education. One of the high points of her high school involvement was being an assistant chaperone for students on a 16-day tour of Europe!
Back at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, she worked in the following areas: Secretarial pool, receptionist, secretary/treasurer of the Federation of Saint Benedict, managing our monastery telephone system and the community flower garden.
Nature is life giving for S. Elizabeth so, in addition to being receptionist, she continues the community flower garden with the help of wonderful volunteers. One volunteer creates beautiful floral arrangements for several areas of the monastery, for special events and for the individual needs of sisters. S. Elizabeth enjoys walking on our monastery lands, in state parks and at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The grace and beauty of deer feed her eyes and heart, as long as they aren’t in the flower garden!
When asked if she believed she has had a special mark on our community, she answered in a forthright manner, so typical of S. Elizabeth: “No, I try to be faithful to the fundamental option I made at profession 60 years ago. I have a great desire to serve God and I have always believed that this is where God wants me to be.” S. Elizabeth says, “I have a sense of gratitude for the friendships, support and our shared monastic life as I celebrate my 60th jubilee.”
Georganne (Dolores) Burr, OSB
Sister Georganne enjoys calling herself a “bonus child!” Having been born the youngest of seven children to George and Alvina (Peine) Burr in Hampton, Minn., the sibling next to her in age was five-and-a-half years older than she. Because she had five older sisters, she claims to have had many “mothers.” She remembers, “They took me here and there and everywhere.” Other memories of her childhood include playing with her dolls as if they were real and with her older nieces and nephews who seemed like her little sisters and brothers. To this day, she loves them dearly.
Georganne attended St. Benedict’s High School, St. Joseph, Minn., as an aspirant and postulant and made her Benedictine monastic profession in 1959. Her mother was a close friend of Sister Mary Anthony Wagner, who along with her eighth grade teacher, Sister Mary Hildebrand Boeckers, may have been the inspiration for her to enter the convent.
Having received her B.A. degree from the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., S. Georganne served as an elementary school teacher and principal for the first 12 years of her professed life in our Benedictine community. A shift in her ministry life came about in 1972 when she received an M.A. degree in counseling from the University of Dayton in Ohio. This, along with chaplaincy training, prepared her to become the first woman chaplain at the St. Cloud Hospital in 1973. Her compassionate and empathetic nature served her well as she learned from patients what they needed at difficult times in their lives. She also ministered to the families of patients who received her kindness and were helped by her ability to listen to what they were feeling at the time of a loved one’s illness or death.
It can be said that S. Georganne has been a trailblazer several times over. In 1986, she
cofounded St. Therese Center for grief counseling, along with Reverend Alfred Stangl and Reverend John McManus, OMI. This ministry served the St. Cloud area and surrounding communities for 25 years under her leadership. She was instrumental in the success of this ministry because of her unassuming nature and her ability to help people face personal crises in a safe and caring environment. “Seeing people heal and find hope,” she said, “filled me with gratitude and humility.” S. Georganne also helped launch Project Rachel in St. Cloud and the surrounding area—a healing ministry for those who regret the decision to have had an abortion.
It has been said of S. Georganne that she has a “way of creating peace and calm around others.” Her nieces and nephews have said that “those who call her advisor, counselor, friend, aunt and sister are forever blessed.”
Geraldine (Beata) Zierden, OSB
Geraldine Zierden was born December 18, 1937, in New Munich, Minn. She was the youngest of 12 children. The Zierdens had six of each kind and, of course, she was the last of the girls! Her father wanted her named Alice while her mother insisted on Geraldine. Sister Lydia Erkens, a very dear friend, commented, “Your dad was just speaking some German when he said, ‘Das ist Allus!’”
Sister Geraldine grew up a very happy child and learned at an early age how to do “stuff” such as tending and caring for the farm animals. When she was little, she would go to the barn with her little tin cup and be treated with warm, fresh milk from their cow. Some of her first words were, “Oh, that was good stuff!” and well into her adult life, she considered herself a “milk baby.” She also believed that beer was the nectar from the gods!
She attended Sacred Heart School in New Munich, which was taught by the Benedictine sisters who, along with her two aunts, Sisters Aninna and Edicta, both members of this community, helped to nurture her Benedictine vocation. At the age of 16, when her dad died unexpectedly, she dropped out of high school to help on the farm, where she learned how to drive a John Deere tractor, skim the cream from the milk and make the best aroma-rich bread.
At the age of 20, she entered Saint Benedict’s Convent, where she had many fulfilling jobs including cafeteria work and being a self-taught cobbler for the community and nurses’ aide before being assigned to her first mission in 1962 to St. Joseph’s Convent in Minneapolis. She became the housekeeper and laundress and helped with meal preparation. In a house of 16 sisters, she felt right at home just as she did with her large family. The “bigness” of Minneapolis for this farm girl was an awesome sight indeed!
Her “other” missions included Red Lake, Minn., Motherhouse Infirmary, manager of the Religious Education Bookstore in Salt Lake City and then back to Saint Benedict’s, where she worked in the college duplicating department for more than 37 years! During these early years, S. Geraldine earned her GED certificate from Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., and nurtured a love of learning, reading and being the recipient of many lasting friendships.
A true highlight of her life experiences was when she was blessed with a trip to Rome as part of a 32-day renewal program. She says, “It was filled with a lifetime of memories” as she visited the birth place of Saint Benedict, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Mediterranean Sea. She was also able to visit Salzburg, Austria, and Eichstätt, Germany, and was able to converse delightfully with the people and sisters in their native German tongue thanks to growing up in New Munich, where German was spoken in her family.
Her last mission is living at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud, helping with the sacristan duties in chapel, working at the reception desk, continuing to bake and share deliciously warm and aromatic bread with any and all who venture close by the kitchen and, of course, occasionally enjoying a good beer from Cold Spring Brewery!
Gracemarie (Madonna) Maiers, OSB
Grace and Henry Maiers viewed each of their 17 children as “a gift; every child is important,” said the mother of Sister Gracemarie, the 15th one growing up on their family farm in Stewart, Minn. That inherited view of her parents has been the inspiration of our 60-year jubilarian throughout her life. She taught elementary grades or served as principal wherever she found herself. When asked what gave her life, she answered, “Oh, the kids and I loved the teachers… the parents, too. I must say that I can take things pretty well; and another gift that God gave me is to accept people as they are. That’s a gift from God and nothing that I did. I don’t always have to have my way. I learned that at home. Ours was a large family.”
At one point during her postulancy, S. Gracemarie was called into the director’s office about something she had done. Her director asked, “What do you suppose your two Sister-sisters would think?” She admits to laughing under her breath and thinking, “This is nothing compared with what Gen and Brenda did!”
Education was important to S. Gracemarie’s parents, and consequently, she and her siblings grew up having the courage to say, “I need something different,” even though she revealed the fact that she is “basically quiet, pretty meek and pretty shy.” She liked Vatican II changes and how it inspired changes in our Liturgy of the Hours, new songs, hospitality and community living. “We are witnesses; we have values, and people know that, whether in the veil OR out of it,” she smiles, convincingly.
In addition to teaching and administration, S. Gracemarie served at St. Benedict’s Center in St. Cloud, Minn., in mission advancement at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., and in pastoral ministry and community life at Saint Scholastica Convent, St. Cloud, where she continues to bring joy and love to our sisters. At one point, she said, “In all the places where I have lived, it was hard for me to move. Each one had its own unique blessings.”
And S. Gracemarie herself is a blessing. She is as Irish as they come; to her great joy, she has even been to Ireland! Finally, when asked whether she thinks she has made a mark on our community, her quick answer was: “I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I am a ‘people-person.’ People see that…and also that I can do what I’m asked to do. I’m a good listener. I’m organized. I’m funny. I have a sense of humor. I’m just a good person.”
And we your people say: “Yes, you are, dear Gracemarie!”
Ione (Jeffrey) Jesh, OSB
She came for the prayer and community life and stayed for the prayer and community life.
Sister Ione Jesh grew up in Albany, Minn., where she learned from her family to love God and sports. “I loved my childhood,” she said. “My bike, my bag of marbles, my books, my baseball glove, family picnics, trading comic books with the neighborhood kids, playing Mass, listening to baseball games on the radio, going for family drives on summer evenings.” Those family drives and picnics included S. Ione’s parents, Othmar and Marcella Jesh, and siblings Louise, Annette, Diane and Dave.
It was as a student at the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., that S. Ione became interested in religious life. At first, she “tagged along” with other college students who went to chapel after supper to pray with the sisters. “I liked watching the sisters move into chapel in procession, wearing choir gowns and singing. It was also semidark which added mystery to the event.”
Eventually, S. Ione started attending daytime prayers and became attracted to “the solidarity of these sisters, their commitment to prayer and the common way of life that I observed.” When she decided to enter the religious community, “Many people I knew did not think I was ‘the type,’” she recalls. “Little did they know that the monastery is full of ‘types.’”
In her earliest years as a Benedictine, S. Ione taught junior high school in various schools around the Diocese of Saint Cloud. Then, she taught for 19 years at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn. During the 1960s and 1970s, S. Ione, who has a heart for the disadvantaged, served in a number of volunteer capacities in addition to teaching. She worked for a summer in South Bronx, N.Y., and spent time with migrants in western Minnesota and with youths at St. Cloud Children’s Home. When she was active in Birthline, she was labor coach for three women, assisting them at the birth of their children. In more recent years, S. Ione has served in various departments at the monastery, including as manager of Whitby Gift Shop and currently in mission advancement.
Ione has enjoyed various forms of leisure and recreation, including needlework, reading, snowshoeing, fishing and camping. She has set up tents in most of Minnesota’s state parks and in Custer State Park in South Dakota. One of her major achievements was running the Twin Cities Marathon when she was 44.
Ione no longer has her bike, or comic books, or baseball glove—and, yes, she has lost her marbles—but she is still a baseball fan, and she is still attracted to the solidarity of the sisters, their commitment to prayer and the common life—the mystery of it all.
Jean (Demetrius) Juenemann, OSB
Service and hospitality. These two Benedictine qualities mark Sister Jean Juenemann’s life, both as a 60-year committed Benedictine and her nearly 50 years of service in health care ministry.
Jean grew up in St. Cloud, Minn. Her parents, Teresa and Leo Juenemann, together with her uncle Herman (godfather) and aunt Margaret, were in partnership in the greenhouse and gardening business. The greenhouse and market were open from early April to late fall. S. Jean remembers learning about growing things from her father and uncle, both very passionate about their work. Among other garden tasks, she spent a fair amount of time each summer carefully picking strawberries and raspberries for sale. This lesson, service with quality, served S. Jean well in her years of ministry as a health care provider of the highest quality.
Jean graduated from the St. Cloud Hospital School of Nursing in 1957 and later received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Seattle University in 1967. She completed her master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Minnesota in 1976, after which she was appointed CEO of the Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague, Minn., a position she held for 27 years.
Under S. Jean’s leadership, Queen of Peace Hospital gained a reputation coveted by many leaders of smaller hospitals. Rather than patients having to travel to medical centers in the Minnesota metropolitan areas of Minneapolis, St. Paul or Rochester, she invited specialists to come to Queen of Peace Hospital to serve patients. Nearly every specialty was available and provided by the services of these specialists. She has also served on 18 nondenominational Christian medical missionary trips to Jamaica under the auspices of Health and Hope for Jamaica (H2Jamaica).
Jean has been honored for her outstanding achievements for providing services in a rural setting. In 1989, she was named the CEO of the year by the American Hospital Association Society for Healthcare Planning and Marketing. In that same year, Governor Rudy Perpich proclaimed July 21 as Sister Jean Juenemann Day in Minnesota.
In addition to health care service, S. Jean was active in the New Prague community. One of her latest involvements was spearheading the formation of a Habitat for Humanity chapter in the New Prague community. This work has continued under very dedicated leadership and has recently completed their seventh home. S. Jean and Sister Catherine McInnis, who also served many years at Queen of Peace Hospital, made the convent in New Prague a welcome place of hospitality. Many sisters of our community needing some R and R benefited from the graciousness provided to them in New Prague.
Joan (Orinne) Schafer, OSB
Orinne was born on a farm near Mayhew Lake, Minn., the eighth of 13 children. Her mother had come to Minnesota on the Orphan Train in 1913. A unique feature on the Schafer farm was the pickle patch, where the family raised acres of pickles for a canning factory. Sister Joan said, “As soon as we could carry a Karo syrup pail, we went along to the pickle patch.”
Orinne attended a country school for her eight years of grade school. She attended Tech High School in St. Cloud, Minn., for two years, then at age 15, she started work at the St. Cloud Hospital in the bakery with Sister Generose Bickler. This was the beginning of her beautiful friendship with S. Generose, one that lasted a lifetime. Two years later, S. Generose was transferred to St. Benedict’s, and Orinne went to visit her. Seeing how hard S. Generose was working, she asked, “Would you hire me to help?” S. Generose knew the quality of Orinne’s work, so was glad to hire her. During this time, Orinne lived in a college dormitory with other hired girls and a sister prefect. After two years, she decided to join the convent. She said she was never sorry she did that.
Joan is a seasoned cook and baker, an artisan and noted for her hospitality. She learned hospitality from her mother, who was always welcoming to everyone. While cooking for the sisters at St. Peter’s Convent in St. Cloud and at the convent in Watkins, Minn., she substituted for any teacher who was sick and taught every grade in the grade school. Her cooking and baking were mostly done for large groups. She worked in the kitchen and bakery at the monastery, at White Earth Indian Mission School where she cooked for the sisters, monks and 250 children, and then at St. Cloud Hospital for the next 20 years. When she was asked to be the supervisor of the bakery there, she earned her GED certificate at St. Cloud Vocational School. She also completed a correspondence course in food management. When asked what she enjoyed about work at the hospital, she said, “Helping other people. We had a good group of workers and we knew we were helping people who were sick and that was just a good feeling.”
Joan uses her artistic hands to make feast days special for the sisters as she decorates the dining room tables. Both times when the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, she decorated baseball cookies. She never misses the birthdays of her many friends. Each person receives a card specially designed for that person. The card is usually accompanied by some humorous note.
Joan has been at Saint Scholastica Convent since 1989 doing whatever needs to be done. She said, “I don’t really stand and analyze things. I live day by day.” Currently, she is in charge of the craft room, visits the retired sisters and personally attends to many of them. She is known for her sense of humor, her dedication to community prayer and her ability to motivate sisters with memory problems. She has a way of getting them to cooperate with their activities of daily living.
Katherine (Aquin) Kraft, OSB
A loving friend and community member—caring, kind, reliable, enjoyable, bright and articulate. Sister Katherine Kraft is all this and so much more. S. Katherine “fell in love with God early in her life.” She says in her oral history, “God was real to me because I grew up in a believing family and community where faith, worship and church were central.”
The ninth of Agatha and Pius Kraft’s 11 children, S. Katherine is the last daughter of seven boys and four girls, her dad an immigrant and her mother first generation among the “Germans from Russia” who settled in Strasburg, N.D. Both parents were smart, hardworking and uncomplaining. She attributes her tenderness and earthy sense of humor to her mother. From her dad, she imbibed curiosity, an appetite for books and movies, a disciplined approach to life and trustworthiness.
She had great fun growing up with her siblings. They built snow forts and spent happy hours sledding, ice skating, creating games and putting on musical shows. A love of reading often took her to the school library and to a corner behind the stove at home where curled up with a book and the cat, she traveled in her imagination. She loves the beautiful North Dakota plains: “Big skies, rolling prairies, vast expanses of space, wind and fields of waving wheat and blue, blue flax in bloom.”
Though poor, her family valued education. With the help of a scholarship and work study program, S. Katherine attended the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. She was impressed with her sister professors—their intelligence, happiness and dedication to serving. Living such a life would make no sense, she reflected, unless they were in love with God. Embracing the restraints of monastic life, this freedom-loving young woman from North Dakota followed an unrelenting attraction to this life, becoming a postulant on the Feast of Gertrude the Great in 1957.
After graduating from CSB, S. Katherine earned an M.A. degree in theology from Saint John’s University and a doctorate in ministry from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. Her teaching at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., and the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, service in campus ministry at Saint Cloud State University and CSB, years as subprioress and in initial formation work, retreat and spiritual direction and now service as monastery librarian have been a gift to many. Former students remember her as an excellent teacher.
“I am profoundly grateful,” says S. Katherine, “for my family, my friends and my sisters in community who have loved and supported me for the past 60 years. I have been richly blessed!” As have we! Thank you, Katherine!
Lucy (Judith) Miller, OSB
Celebrating 60 years of religious profession, Sister Lucy Miller recalls a rich variety of experiences during those years. A native of La Crosse, Wis., S. Lucy had the Sisters of Saint Benedict from St. Bede Monastery for teachers at St. Thomas More School. When she was asked to write her reflections on her Golden Jubilee in 2009, she wrote about her early days: “With the Sisters as my teachers, through those years, the seeds of my religious vocation started stirring.” She graduated from Aquinas High School in La Crosse and entered St. Bede’s in 1957.
After the novitiate, S. Lucy began her professional preparation for her ministry of teaching. This ministry lasted nearly 40 years as she taught primary grades in schools of the La Crosse Diocese in a variety of locations. These included La Crosse, Eau Claire, Richland Center, Ellsworth and Onalaska. In each setting, S. Lucy’s expertise was devoted to the primary grades. She especially loved teaching children to read.
In her professional studies, S. Lucy earned a B.S. degree from Viterbo University, an M.A. degree in religious education from Seattle University and an M.A. degree in parish ministry from St. Joseph’s University in Hartford, Conn.
Her years of teaching in the primary grades helped to prepare S. Lucy for her present position on the staff of Learning in Style (LIS), a school for adult immigrants as they adjust to life in the United States. Located in Minneapolis, the school helps newcomers with literacy skills and citizenship training. The facility is owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and four sessions of an hour and a half are held daily. The staff includes the Sisters of St. Joseph, School Sisters of Notre Dame and other dedicated teachers and volunteers. The daily enrollment of people coming to learn is approximately 90 folks.
The task of S. Lucy and her helpers is to take care of the children while their parents are in class. Her group can include babies and preschool children, up to five years old. She has a vast repertory of games, songs, stories and other learning activities for her charges. They also get a snack and lots of practice speaking English.
The people who come to Learning in Style are from many countries, including Somalia, Togo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and they are in the process of adjusting to a new country, a new culture and a new way of life. S. Lucy thoroughly enjoys her days with the children. “They are the joy in my life,” she recently remarked.
Celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, S. Lucy has had a wide variety of experiences. Nevertheless, through the years, her fidelity to monastic life has endured.
Marina (Margaret) Schlangen, OSB
“Reach out and touch someone.” This old commercial for Bell Telephone can say it all for the 60 years of monastic life that illustrates Sister Marina Schlangen’s life as she has shared it in so many ways with so many people. As the second oldest in a family of 17, those hands reached out to many younger arms for care and love. To this day, let there be a little child around S. Marina, and her hands will reach out to hold the little one.
This reaching out has been a foundation for Sister’s community life and for the various ministries in which she has served the monastery, the church and the wider community of people wherever she lived. To quote her application as to why she wanted to be a sister, she wrote, “To be closer to God and to help others.”
During the first 25 years, her ministry found her in the classroom teaching first and second graders. Preparing these little ones for first communion was a highlight of each year. These years of teaching were in Central Minnesota and at St. Mary’s Mission School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minn.
Following those years in the classroom with young children, Sister made a major switch in her reaching out when she was assigned to Saint Scholastica Convent, our retirement center, in St. Cloud, Minn., where she helped care for our elderly and infirm sisters residing in this center. As S. Marina states, it was not only an opportunity to care for these sisters, but to be with them in death, making their transition from this life to the next. To her, this was a great privilege, but time with little children wasn’t over. From St. Scholastica’s, S. Marina returned to St. Mary’s Mission where she worked in the mission school caring for the library and substituting in classrooms as needed.
Who would have thought that another way of “reaching out and touching someone” would take the next strange turn? S. Marina was approached by the pastor, Father Bill Mehrkens, asking her to do fundraising to assist in keeping the mission school and parish viable. Although this was quite a stretch for Sister, she was very successful in fundraising and establishing relationships where continued support was assured for the church and school.
With this, one would think Sister had exhausted ways of realizing her ability to “reach out.” But, no, there’s one more, her current manner of doing so. When we sisters were no longer able to sustain our presence at Red Lake, S. Marina returned to Saint Scholastica Convent in 2009 where she is the director of the volunteer program. These generous people serve in many capacities under her watchful guidance to assist in giving care, entertainment and other daily assistance that help enhance life for the sisters residing at the facility. Bell telephone doesn’t have a corner on that slogan—S. Marina has surpassed it!
Marlene (Brice) Meierhofer, OSB
Sister Marlene loves parties. “Parties are like bread and butter,” she said. She loves community celebrations with the festive atmosphere, wine, a delicious dinner and engaging conversation. For her, celebrations are great community builders. One celebration she helps people remember is her December 24 birthday. Many of us know she celebrates her birthday the 24th day of each month.
Marlene is the fifth of eight children born in Watkins, Minn., where she grew up on the family farm. She is the oldest of the “three little girls.” One childhood memory is the annual Christmas program her mother encouraged the little girls to create. S. Marlene, of course, was always the director. So, every Christmas Eve before gifts were opened, much to the sorrow of the boys, the little girls had their chance to shine. These continued until S. Marlene left home at age 13 to attend Saint Benedict’s High School in St. Joseph, Minn., where she became an aspirant, the first step in becoming a sister. So, Saint Benedict’s Monastery has been her home for over 60 years.
Marlene received her B.A. degree in elementary education from the College of Saint Benedict and taught first grade for several years, then began serving as director of religious education and pastoral minister in various parishes. During the course of several summers, she earned an M.A. degree in religious studies from Mundelein College in Chicago. A whole new chapter in her life began as she accepted the invitation to serve as vocation director for our community, a position she held for 10 years. She later responded to another invitation and became postulant director for 10 years while serving in pastoral ministry at St. Boniface Parish in Cold Spring, Minn. Her love of community, along with her commitment to personal and community prayer, are the groundwork of her ministry. A common thread in all her ministries was the fact that they were people oriented. “I love to work with people; it gives me great joy. People energize me.” S. Marlene’s vibrant personality is indeed very welcoming.
Over the years, major transitions arose due to health issues, but these did not discourage her. As she explained, “Each transition provided me with an opportunity to grow in faith and deepen my relationship with God.”
For the past three years, she has been living and ministering at Saint Scholastica Convent, which brings her great joy. Her duties include assistant sacristan, working at the reception desk, teaching Community Updates on Tuesday afternoons and doing a variety of odd jobs. S. Marlene loves to work in the garden, tending to flowers and working in the rhubarb patch, but her favorite activity is weeding. Every day she expresses with enthusiasm: “I am being created anew into the woman I am meant to be. And I am filled with deep gratitude for God’s abundant love.”
Mary (Julian) Mandernach, OSB
Throughout her high school years in Paynesville, Minn., Sister Mary Mandernach prepared herself for the business world, selecting courses for this next step in life. After graduation, she continued her study at the St. Cloud Business College in St. Cloud, Minn., and when a job offer came up, she accepted a position in the credit department of Fandel’s in St. Cloud. Although she enjoyed this work and her co-workers, she felt a tug toward the religious life, and, in 1957, entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn.
After her profession in 1959, S. Mary taught in several schools of the St. Cloud Diocese. She received her B.A. degree in education from the College of Saint Benedict in 1969 and later earned an M.A. degree in religious studies at Mundelein College in Chicago. She then served in religious education and faith formation at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, St. Boniface in Cold Spring, Minn., and St. Peter’s in St. Cloud until 1984 when she became consultant for religious education in the diocese for children and adults with developmental disabilities. It was work that Sister loved. During this time, she also wrote regular articles for The Saint Cloud Visitor on timely topics.
After a brief sabbatical in June 1989, Msgr. Daniel Taufen hired Sister for service in the Chancery for the Diocese of Saint Cloud, where she served for 25 years. During many of these years, she was also assistant chancellor. Here, her secretarial and administrative skills and degree in religious studies were put to good use. Reports state that she was dearly loved and admired for her respect and kindness. During this time in the chancery, Sister worked for three bishops: Jerome Hanus, OSB, John Kinney, and our current bishop, Donald Kettler.
Time after the chancery did not lead to retirement, as one would think. From late 2015 to 2019, Sister went “underground” to work as an archival assistant for Saint Benedict’s Monastery, situated in the lowest level of the monastery building.
Clearly, S. Mary has been a “multitasker” in her life’s work. Luckily, she loves variety since yet another level awaited her. As circumstances (God, really) would have it, she was called to serve her older sisters at Saint Scholastica Convent in whatever ways needed. She is happy and anticipates a time of service, as well as time for her own deeper spiritual growth.
In celebrating her 60th anniversary, Sister hopes to live her remaining days guided by the words of St. Paul: “…therefore, we are not discouraged; rather although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16, 17).
Mary (Isaias) Reuter, OSB
Integrity, thoughtfulness and perseverance: all words that describe key aspects of the woman who is Sister Mary Reuter. It’s no accident that when asked to provide a favorite quote from the Rule of St. Benedict, she chose the same for her 60th jubilee as she had for her 50th: “… as we progress in this way of life and faith, we shall run the path of God’s commandment [of love], our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB Prol. 49). This quote exemplifies her life. For 60 years, S. Mary has consistently persevered in following St. Benedict’s advice by reflecting on her monastic commitment and striving to live a life based on the way of Jesus, a way which teaches us to love unconditionally, as God loves.
The eldest of nine children, S. Mary was born in Medicine Lake, Mont., and grew up in Hastings, Minn. She entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery in September 1957. Her spiritual journey as a member of the monastic community has walked hand in hand with ministry as a teacher. This included several years serving in elementary schools, more than 25 years as a theology professor at the College of Saint Benedict and, most recently, as a presenter for the monastery’s School of Benedictine Spirituality.
Mary says of her teaching experience that it taught her how people learn as integrated persons (intellect, heart, body and spirit). She realized that teaching includes drawing people to reflect on their lives and that this is a process which needs to foster thinking, listening and sharing with others. She recalls how, after a presentation on the importance of desiring/yearning for God, a woman (about 90 years old) shared this reflection: “I was thinking: ‘How much do I yearn for God?’” S. Mary says, “When the Holy Spirit uses my words to evoke such reflection and love, I stand in deep peace and joy.”
Along with teaching, S. Mary has also served the community in other roles, including as prioress, subprioress and novice director. She sees these, too, as being the work of the Spirit: “I do what I can and leave the fruits to God.” A gift of this service has been the realization that we never have to walk alone in community; there are always others who have skills and willingness to help.
The fruits of S. Mary’s spiritual journey have been gathered in a book published by Liturgical Press in 2010. Running with Expanding Heart: Meeting God in Everyday Life is a text of insights which highlight the formative possibilities of the events of daily life and entice people to hear God calling them by name in the ordinary happenings that we often judge to be mundane. The book is also a testament to a woman who has allowed the Holy Spirit to infuse her life and has used blessings and challenges as means to draw closer to the God who seeks her and whom she seeks each day.
Patricia (Conrad) Ostrander, OSB
There’s so much to proclaim about the labora of Sister Pat’s life—from 10 years of leadership in education for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to leadership as prioress of St. Bede Monastery; from assisting Bishop Boyle in setting up the Diocese of Mandeville in Jamaica—together with her friend, Sister Naomi Rosenberger—to their successful work with the poor and hosting groups wanting a “mission experience” in Jamaica; from their raising 10 impoverished children in their home to their employment at Food for the Poor, Inc., in Florida, and then, their research on leadership within “new lay communities” worldwide and, of course, their writing and photography abilities…but let us focus on S. Pat’s relationships! Already as a third grader, her poem seemed prophetic:
In a little place way down Deep within my heart I keep a place for Jesus We never have to part.
He stays there in the daytime When I go out to play And in the night when I’m asleep He does not go away.
I want Him to be happy there And so I’ll try to be As good as Jesus wants me to Just you wait and see!
Pat had an abiding faith, trust and loving relationship with God and many others, especially her coworker, S. Naomi, and her best friend, 103.5-year-old Sister Helenette Baltes, whom she daily helps transcribe poetry at Saint Scholastica Convent where they live. S. Pat attributes her vocation to S. Helenette, who wrote the following about her most memorable moment as a Benedictine:
“The most important memory was when I was subprioress and formation director for a class of seven. One sister, whom I thought would make an excellent sister, walked into the prioress’s office and ripped up her vow formula, a half hour before she was to make final vows. I found her crying and took her immediately to the prioress. The prioress allowed her to rewrite her vow formula. I was so relieved that I had indirectly helped her to remain a Benedictine.”
Then, in January 2019, S. Helenette dictated the following to her friend:
“After 63 years I still can’t Understand why you love me like you do. You have so many friends. You shared them all with me. Henri Nouwen was the best for me! Naomi I love. She is so good for you. You both are good for each other. You helped Bishop Boyle, but best of all, the two of you raised 10 children at the same time. You often said you had no time for yourselves until late at night. God sustained you. I will go to heaven with you as my only true friend, but Sister Clement went before us. She will be there when we go home… you or I whoever will be first, waiting for the other. You, Pat, are my friend. You are so transparent. Everybody knows it. I lived in the time when we didn’t say or name our friends. Guess what? Now I can say it: you, Pat, are my spirit-friend and I am yours!”
…and your community prays for both of you, that you may merrily meet in heaven to be there, forever!
Jonathan (Rose) Herda, OSB
Sister Jonathan Herda was born on a farm in Lonsdale, Minn., on February 21, 1923, the fifth of 13 children. Her parents, John and Anna (Trnka) Herda, gave her a rich Czech and Catholic heritage filled with frequent examples of prayer and generosity. When she was ill as a novice, she connected with God in a special way. She had an out-of-body experience in which she remembers hearing, “If you choose to go down, love others with My love. I will be with you.” That experience became her life guide.
She served for 75 years in health care ministries: in X-ray for 31 years and pastoral ministry for 44 years. She was often invited to take leadership roles that typically required a master’s degree. However, her mastery skills came from responding wholeheartedly to whatever clinical need was present at the time with natural leadership skills, compassion and courage. She wrote a manual for Clinical Pastoral Education programs and began such programs at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash. Over time, she received state, regional and national recognition in both X-ray and pastoral care. Currently, she continues her health care ministry at Saint Scholastica Convent, St. Cloud, Minn., by being with ill and dying sisters, especially during the night, and there are countless persons who have received the light and healing presence of her warmth because she noticed that they were forgotten, living in poverty or grieving. She readily anoints them with a small plant, a photo or a special reading accompanied by precious stories and a contagious laugh.
Nature has often been her delight and teacher. Early one morning in Ogden, Utah, she was looking at the clouds moving around the tips of the mountains and remarked, “Those clouds are like the fingers of a blind person memorizing the face of a friend.” Nature also tested her courage as she was able to survive an avalanche in Utah and go over a waterfall wedged in an innertube. She even challenged herself to rope-climbing a 10,000-foot glacier on Mount Eleanor in the Olympic Mountains.
Her current goal remains: “Not to live to be 100 years old, but instead to be faithful to living the Gospel values as a Benedictine with integrity. I want to be open to learning something or having a deeper appreciation of realities every day, like levels of surrender. It’s possible to experience heaven on earth! I have. My mission is to bring the love of Jesus to whomever I meet, wherever I am sent.”
Mary Jane (John Marie) Slaney, OSB
Being a Benedictine for 75 years! Imagine that…consecrated to God and serving thousands of people for three-fourths of a century! This is the fascinating life of Sister Mary Jane Slaney.
Patrick Henry Slaney and Mary Faye Ryan Slaney were the proud parents of four children. S. Mary Jane grew up in a very religious family, with a heritage of several priests and sisters. She is the only living person of her immediate family.
Mary Jane was born in Melancthon Creek, Wis., on October 26, 1923. Her first eight years of schooling were in a one-room school. In 1938, at the age of 14, Sister entered the Scholasticate at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., June 21, 1943, and became Sister John Marie. When other sisters went back to their baptismal names, S. John Marie went back to Mary Jane.
Her first teaching experience was third grade at St. Joseph School in St. Joseph. She had a wide range of students, teaching all grades from first grade through graduate school, as well as various subjects. Her teaching assignments were in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sister was also librarian at Regis High School in Eau Claire, Wis., and at Springfield High in Springfield, Mo.
In 1975, Sister earned an M.Ed. in instructional resources at the University of Arkansas; in 1976, an Ed.S. degree in adult education. In 1981, she completed her doctoral degree in education. Upon receiving her doctorate, two students treated her to a trip to Ireland. She stayed in the Slaney Hotel at the top of Slaney Valley, which is named after her relatives.
In 1985, S. Mary Jane became the parish minister at St. Agnes Cathedral Parish in Springfield. This included many pastoral duties since the pastor was also the chancellor of the diocese. At the same time, Sister taught night classes at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.
While working at St. Agnes, Sister worked with the poor, the elderly, the sick and the dying. She helped establish several programs to assist in regular home visits, nursing home visits and letter writing to parishioners. She organized Eucharistic ministers to take weekly Eucharist to 105 shut-in patients, 27 nursing homes and 5 hospitals. Where did she get so much energy? Sister says, “From the Eucharist and the great faith of the people she worked with.” A parishioner remarked, “Sister Mary Jane is to us on earth what we believe Heaven will be to us.”
This sounds like a 24/7 job, but S. Mary Jane also found time for hobbies, which were reading, cooking, dog cuddling, crocheting and knitting. She crocheted hundreds of angels for cancer patients, nursing homes, newborn babies, parishioners and anyone in need. She also crocheted some for our sales here at Saint Benedict’s Monastery and Saint Scholastica Convent. Along with the angels, she made different sizes of pillows to prevent bed sores.
After leaving St. Agnes, someone remarked, “This is the end of an era!” As of December 2018, S. Mary Jane is now living at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud, Minn.
Click on the different category headings to find out more. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
Because these cookies are strictly necessary to deliver the website, you cannot refuse them without impacting how our site functions. You can block or delete them by changing your browser settings and force blocking all cookies on this website.
Google Analytics Cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visist to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.