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Therese Miller, BVM (Therese Emile)

Therese Miller, BVM, 87, died Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Natural burial Rite of Committal was on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016,in the Marian Hall Chapel. A memorial service and Mass will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on May 15, 1929, to Paul Anson and Theresa Graef Miller. She entered the BVM congregation Feb. 2, 1950, from St. Mary Parish, Iowa City. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1952, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1957.

Therese served as BVM congregational employee, ministering as nurse aide and laundry worker at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, and worked as convent cook in Davenport, both in Iowa. She was an elementary school teacher in Chicago.

She is preceded in death by her parents; brothers Clifford, Peter, Louis, Carl and Joseph; and sisters Alta Miller Reber, Agnes Rocca, Maglene Parizek and Theresa Eckrich. She is survived by nieces, nephewsand the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 66 years.

Sister Therese Miller, BVM (Therese Emile)
Memorial Mass Welcome
Marian Hall, Nov. 30, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Therese Miller.

Kathryn Miller was born on May 15, 1929, in Iowa City, Iowa, the only child of Paul Anton and Theresa Graef Miller of Iowa City, Iowa. Both of her parents were widowed with children when they married. Kathryn had nine older half-siblings. Her family lost everything during the Depression, but managed to live on produce grown on the family farm where she learned to garden. Kathryn attended St. Mary HS and was a member of the Sodality.

“In my wildest dreams, I never thought of being a sister.” Those were the first words uttered by Therese in a 2008 interview. She continued, “I had my life all planned out. Work on our farm and raise horses. But maybe—maybe. So I mentioned it to Sister Mary Dolors Shaffner, BVM . . . My mother surprised me by saying she had wanted me to become a nun . . . When they said a February entrance date was possible, I said, ‘I think that is what God wants.’” Kathryn entered the congregation on Feb. 2, 1950, and received the name Therese Emile upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1950. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1952 and lived 66 years as a BVM.

Therese’s first mission was at Immaculate Conception in Davenport, Iowa, about which she commented, “I was put in charge of the kitchen, totally inexperienced . . . I was able to take a course in quantity cooking . . . I did love to bake.” She taught second and third grades in Chicago at Blessed Sacrament, Holy Cross, St. Agatha and St. Thomas of Canterbury. She credited S.M. Paulus Gensert, BVM, who taught first grade at Blessed Sacrament, with working “miracles” and helping her become a better teacher. Therese served 11 years as a teacher, but her true calling was yet to be revealed.

In an aptly chosen passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus says to his apostles, “If I, therefore, the teacher and master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Therese left the classroom to care for her mother who had had a series of strokes, subsequently dedicating the rest of her life answering the call of Jesus by “washing the feet” of others. After her mother’s death, she worked as a nurse aide and laundress at Marian Hall for 31 years. The sisters used to give their stained garments to her instead of to an aide because she could make them look like new.

Someone who ministered with Therese wrote, “I like to think of her as the servant of the servants. Day in and day out she saw to it that the clothing of our sisters was washed with care, dried, folded to perfection, and if necessary ironed! And if she saw the need for a button or a bit of repair, she either did it herself or brought it to the sewing room. I loved her and was so very grateful for her quiet gentle service.”

A former pastoral care minister recalled the words that our deceased Sister Francis Shea, BVM, at the time a Marian Hall resident, spoke about Therese. She called her “the most holy person she met in her lifetime” and that she went about her daily work “in a quiet, contemplative way in which she attended to each sister’s needs in a very compassionate, gentle manner with a pleasant smile and presence.”

While the words “Therese” and “saint” have been uttered together in recent days, years ago Therese simply commented, “I loved working there. I could do for the sisters all the things I had learned to do for my mother.”

Therese was a spiritual person, one whose sensitive, thoughtful and loving care was generously spent in service of others. She resisted any self-pity and never let her Parkinson’s disease stop her from living her life to the fullest. She enjoyed recordings of Western novels written by Louis L’Amour, going out for a meal, and participating in Mount Carmel activities. She absolutely loved spending time at Two Spiders, especially time spent fishing. She was a great gardener, well known for her tomatoes, grown from plants started from seed in her room. Through the years, she shared the fruit of her vines with those at the Motherhouse and others around town. Her generosity was gift to all in more ways than one.

Therese was a calming presence who left others feeling better, often without even saying a word. She was loved and admired by all who knew her as a simple, humble woman, a true model of Mary Frances Clarke. Thank you, Therese, for all the years of loving care of your sisters. Now we bid you farewell. Rest in peace.

If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


Veronica Grennan, BVM (Ita)

Veronica Grennan, BVM (Ita), 103, died Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Sterling, Ill., on Sept. 17, 1913, to John and Mary Loran Grennan. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1931, from St. Mary Parish, Sterling. She professed first vows on March 19, 1934, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1939.

Veronica was an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator in Cascade, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, Iowa; Chicago, Berwyn and Cicero, Ill.; Clarksdale, Miss.; Portland, Ore., and Seattle. In Rock Island, Ill., she was a secondary school counselor and teacher and served in pastoral ministry.

She is preceded in death by her parents, brothers Francis and Edward, and sisters: Mary Manetta Grennan, BVM, Marie Brophy, and Evelyn Barry. She is survived by a sister, Mary Alice Butler, Jacksonville, Fla.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 85 years.

Sister Veronica Grennan, BVM (Ita)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Nov. 28, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of the life of our Sister Veronica Grennan.

Veronica Grennan was born on Sept. 17, 1913, in Sterling, Ill. She was the fifth of seven children born to John and Mary Loran Grennan. Veronica described her family as “an Irish Catholic family where the faith was strong, where Christian values were lived and where the children and parents were loved and respected.”

As a senior at Our Lady of the Angels High School in Clinton, Iowa, Veronica decided to enter the Sisters of Charity, BVM after graduation because she was drawn by the “prayer and the beautiful example of BVM sisters.” She entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1931, joining her sister S.M. Manetta Grennan, and her aunt S.M. Laurencita Grennan. Veronica received the name Ita upon reception on March 19, 1932; professed first vows on March 19, 1934; and lived an amazing 85 years as a BVM.

Veronica served 47 years in education. She taught junior high at St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and in Illinois at St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago; St. Odilo in Berwyn and Mary Queen of Heaven in Cicero. She taught in high schools in Iowa at St. Martin in Cascade, Regina in Iowa City, and St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids; in Portland, Ore., at Portland Central; in Seattle at Blanchet, and in Rock Island, Ill., at Alleman. “I was a firm teacher in the classroom,” she commented, “but friendly with the students outside of the classroom. I loved them.” She was a successful teacher who was twice asked to present at BVM teacher workshops and once at a diocesan workshop.

Veronica’s most challenging mission was at Immaculate Conception ES/HS, an all-black school in Clarksdale, Miss., where she served as principal for six years. The sisters struggled financially and had to raise money creatively to help provide the children with a good education. But that was not the only obstacle. Veronica wrote, “This was the most difficult and shocking assignment not only from the standpoint of a different geographical area or a different race, but from the standpoint of a difficult pastor . . . [I] leaned heavily on prayer and trust in God to pull me through what seemed an impossible mission.” Her reliance, trust and gratitude is beautifully expressed in Psalm 138: “Lord, on the day that I cried out for help, you answered me.” Veronica refers to that mission as a turning point in her religious life. She wrote, “This ministry made me realize my success depended on God, not on me,” her words echoing the prophet Isaiah, “My strength and my courage is the Lord.”

After 10 years in the Northwest, Veronica returned to her home state and for eight years served as both teacher and counselor at Alleman HS in Rock Island. As her golden jubilee approached, another Alleman counselor said to her, “Sister, you are an excellent counselor, but don’t stay at it too long. Get out while you are on top. Find something that you would like to do and do it.”

Veronica took these words to heart. After praying to the Holy Spirit and spending two summers working at Marian Hall with “our beautiful, suffering BVMs,” she was led to a pastoral care ministry at Sacred Heart Parish in Rock Island where she served for 19 years. Reflecting upon this mission, she wrote, “Although I spent many happy years in the educational field, I feel especially blessed by the Lord who has given me the privilege to visit and pray with suffering people in hospitals, rest homes, and private homes, and who has given me the special privilege of carrying Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to them.”

Veronica was kind, compassionate and a lifelong learner. She loved her large family just a wee bit more than she loved Notre Dame football! She remained engaged with people, events and issues of the time beyond her 100th birthday even though profound hearing loss made interactions challenging. During the Apostolic Visitation, she expressed her abundant happiness as a religious sister. She viewed the changes in religious life initiated by Vatican II as a significant improvement in lifestyle and greatly appreciated experiencing other forms of prayer, especially centering prayer which profoundly deepened her relationship with God.

Upon reviewing her autobiography, Veronica wrote, “I [have come] to the conclusion that my religious ministry has been challenging, stimulating, and rewarding . . . May Jesus continue to bless and love me until the day when He puts His loving arms around me and says, ‘Come home, Veronica, and receive the rewards I have prepared for you from all eternity.’” Veronica, Jesus has called. Enjoy your eternal rest in his loving arms.


If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


Laurian McDonald, BVM

Laurian McDonald, BVM, 87, died Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Arrangements are pending. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Alhambra, Calif., on Nov. 9, 1928, to Lawrence and Laura McCall McDonald. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1947, from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Santa Barbara, Calif. She professed first vows on March 19, 1950, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1955.

Laurian was an elementary school and religious education teacher in Phoenix, Ariz.; Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Glendale, Petaluma and Santa Ana, Calif. She served in pastoral ministry and adult education in Mesa, Ariz., and in parish ministry and as director of religious education in Glendale, Calif.

She is preceded in death by her parents and brother Lawrence. She is survived by a sister Gloria Foley (Edward), San Jose, Calif.; nieces; nephews;  and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 69 years.

Sister Laurian McDonald, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Oct. 11, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Laurian McDonald.

Phyllis Ann McDonald was born on Nov. 9, 1928, in Alhambra, Calif., the second of three children of Lawrence and Laura Minerva (McCall) McDonald. Her father was a native of Jefferson, Iowa, who remained in California after serving in the army during World War I. Her mother was a native of Pennsylvania who went to California to care for her aunt. As a convert to Catholicism, her mother lived an inspiring faith life and made many sacrifices to send her children to Catholic schools.

During the Depression, her father moved the family north to Santa Barbara to find employment. In 1940, the BVMs went to Santa Barbara to establish a coeducational school. In her autobiography, Phyllis wrote, “The BVMs who pioneered this mission were great women, and it warms my memory . . . to recall their names and the role they played in our lives . . . [Sisters] Paul Joseph Pollard, Elrita Archer, Austin Dehnert, Denis Gregory, and Agnes Celine Stokes were members of the first BVM group who planted the seeds of love and gratitude for the BVM congregation.”

After graduating from Santa Barbara Catholic, Phyllis worked as a correspondence clerk for an insurance company for almost a year before pursuing her religious vocation. She entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1947, and received the name Laurian upon her reception on March 19, 1948. Although Laurian entered with her parents’ blessing, her mother felt personal pain at the separation. However, after visiting Mount Carmel in 1948, her mother said she would never doubt her daughter’s decision and life choice again. Laurian professed her first vows on March 19, 1950, and lived 69 years as a BVM.

While her profession was a time of great joy, the events prior to her final profession remained seared into her memory. On the night of July 18, 1955, Laurian was living at the Motherhouse when the fire broke out in the infirmary. On the 50th anniversary of the fire, Laurian was interviewed by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. The article reads, “Firemen directed [the young sisters] to get the elderly sisters out to safety. McDonald carefully helped two infirmed sisters outside—one by picking her up and carrying her . . . McDonald recalled another young sister who, against firefighters’ orders, rushed back into the burning building to rescue one last nun she knew still was inside. ‘I remember seeing her bring out this bundle. Just as she came out, the roof fell in where she had been,’ said McDonald, overcome with the emotion nearly 50 years later . . . ‘It was an absolute miracle of God’s abiding love that we didn’t lose anyone that night.’”

Laurian was a fun-loving and creative elementary school teacher who “thoroughly enjoyed” this ministry for 37 years. She was missioned at St. Agnes and St. Matthew in Phoenix; St. Aloysius in Kansas City, Mo.; St. Charles in Oklahoma City, Okla.; St. Joseph in Wichita, Kan.; and in California at Incarnation in Glendale, St. Anne in Santa Anna, and St. Vincent in Petaluma.

From her early years in Santa Barbara and throughout her many years of ministry in the Southwest, Laurian had a special affection for Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Hispanic people. She taught English in grades sixth through eighth as well as other subjects in seventh grade classes at St. Matthew in Phoenix, a school with 85 percent Hispanic students from families who struggled with living on minimum wage salaries. In an interview for Salt magazine, she stated her goal as their teacher: “Their world was very small; [I] helped move them into larger worlds.”

She also served as director of religious education and in parish ministry at St. Vincent Parish in Petaluma, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Glendale, and All Saints Parish in Mesa, Ariz. After retiring in 1996, she remained in Phoenix and volunteered at St. Louis the King Parish in Glendale until moving to Mount Carmel in 2002.

Laurian was a very positive, common sense person who loved people. She was deeply spiritual and prayer-centered. She formed close friendships and at times served as a spiritual advisor. She enjoyed traveling and loved knitting, with a number of her creations resembling Native American shawls. Declining health exacted an emotional and mental toll at times, but on one very good day about two months ago, she could be heard singing tunes from The Wizard of Oz.

The BVM community was very important to Laurian, who supported and encouraged the younger sisters and enthusiastically participated in congregational activities. In 1989, “spurred on by a keen desire to return to [her] roots,” she spent part of her sabbatical year serving at Marian Hall. She wrote, “My love for the congregation has been deepened through my contacts and visits with the sisters in residence . . . I have appreciated the quality time to visit, celebrate, and pray with them. I feel blessed to be a recipient of the wisdom that these life travelers have to give . . . I have never been close enough to celebrate anyone’s resurrection in the chapel at Marian Hall, and this experience has been a rich part of my personal renewal.”

From Isaiah, we will hear: “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” While anticipating her golden jubilee, Laurian wrote, “God’s faithfulness to me has been overwhelming!” She would readily affirm that God “strengthened [her] hands” and “[made] firm [her] knees” on her earthly journey. As we celebrate her life, we rejoice for and with Laurian as she “meet[s] her God with gladness and joy.”

Click here to read wake stories.

If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


Jane McDonnell, BVM (Bonaventure)

Jane McDonnell, BVM, 95, died Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on March 17, 1921, to James Anthony and Mary P. Oliver McDonnell. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1943, from Corpus Christi Parish, Fort Dodge, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1946, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1951.

Jane was on the faculty of Clarke University, Dubuque; and served in parish ministry at St. Edward Parish in Waterloo, Iowa. She was a secondary school teacher in Sioux City, Iowa; Chicago; and Glendale, Calif. She served in pastoral ministry in Medicine Lake, Mont.; Minot, N. D.; and Chicago.

She is preceded in death by her parents and sisters: Catherine Louise Sheehy, Billie Joanne Rodenborn, and Elizabeth Kiefer. She is survived by nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 72 years.

Sister Jane McDonnell, BVM (Bonaventure)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Sept. 6, 2016

 Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Jane McDonnell.

Mary Jane McDonnell entered this world on St. Patrick’s Day in 1921, the perfect day to be born for a woman who was proud of her Irish ancestry. She was the first child of James Anthony and Mary P. (Oliver) McDonnell of Marshalltown, Iowa. After the birth of her sister Catherine, the family moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Billie and Betsy joined the family.

Jane’s father worked as a boiler and radiator salesman and was frequently on the road. During the week, her mother held down the fort. Jane described her as “a hard worker and serious, very devoted to duty, but very loving when she thought that the proper approach. She would keep a list of our transgressions and present the list to Dad on his return. He would immediately hand out correction, reproofs or harder punishments, depending on the offense. He called it ‘supporting Mom,’ and it was.”

“I was a tomboy when I was young—loved any game that used a ball, but [I] liked reading and writing just as much as sports. I loved my father’s stories and the wonderful world of books. All these preoccupations made my early life full and interesting.” Her father instilled in her a love of history saying, “We’re Irish, so we like history.” Before leaving town, he would assign a chapter from a history book which they would discuss upon his return. “It was wonderful to spend [those] hours with him,” she commented.

Jane attended Corpus Christi Academy in Fort Dodge. “I got an excellent education from the [BVMs] who taught there,” she wrote. “They were good teachers. Best in my life was [Sister M.] St. Miriam [Casey], my English teacher. She gave me lots of extra work, carefully guided but not censored . . . When I graduated I was probably as good a prose writer as I am now [many decades later].” Jane continued her education at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, on a scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and history.

Being a religious never entered Jane’s mind until the spring of her senior year in college. She had planned her life—write for a newspaper, then a magazine and then, down the line, write books. “All of a sudden, an urgent inner voice spoke to me about going to Mount Carmel,” she wrote. “I couldn’t believe it, got short of breath when I allowed myself to consider the path.”

Jane entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1943, and received the name Bonaventure upon her reception on March 19, 1944. Before entering the novitiate, her postulate mistress, Sister M. Angelice Sullivan, gave her some good advice. “[She] wanted me to promise her that I would be attentive to and a student of BVM history through my life. She had the feeling that it would be most important to me,” recalled Jane. “The promise she exacted was a solemn one.” Jane professed first vows on March 19, 1946, and lived 72 years as a BVM.

Jane taught high school English for 13 years at Cathedral in Sioux City, Iowa; The Immaculata in Chicago; and Holy Family in Glendale, Calif. She supervised students involved in journalism and often started writing clubs.

One experience while living in Glendale left a huge impression on her. She wrote, “There was to be testing of atomic weapons in the desert, over the mountains and about 300 miles from Glendale. The explosion would be big, the papers said. I got up about 4 a.m., went to the patio. The sky lighted up for several minutes and I heard a dull explosion. It horrified me. I never forgot that, prayed about it, decided that I needed to commit myself to some peace/nonviolent group, and joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation . . . [which] later became Pax Christi.”

Jane returned to Iowa in 1959 to teach literature and theology at Clarke University. “It meant a lot to me to be asked to teach at my alma mater,” she shared. A former Clarke student wrote, “I always respected her intellect, her sense of justice, and her ability to have a good laugh.”

In 1979, Jane transitioned into parish ministry serving in Waterloo, Iowa; Medicine Lake, Mont.; and Minot, N.D. She also worked as the coordinator of an ecumenical peace and justice organization in Chicago. She returned to live at Mount Carmel in 1990 and spent the next 19 years as a volunteer researcher and writer in the BVM archives, calling it “a wonderful and exiting way to cap my interests.”

Jane wrote, “One of the great interests of my life is, and always has been, writing—poetry, non-fiction information articles, feature stories, opinion pieces, etc. It is an interest, mainly, I suspect, because it matches a talent and an urge I have that is God-given. Like anyone who writes, I find it hard work, but the satisfaction I derive from it is relaxing, clarifying, and a way of exploring myself and my world that is right for me.”

Jane penned over 2,000 poems, of which over 500 have been published along with numerous nonfiction articles and book and theatre reviews. Writing for BVM Vista and Salt provided her the opportunity to practice historical writing. She also served as an editor for Salt and Charting BVM History 1833–1983. About the impact of her work, Jane wrote, “Hopefully these pieces will contribute one little mosaic to BVM history, as these pieces have helped to shape the mosaic of my own life.”

Reflecting on her religious vocation, Jane wrote, “Religious life is about a growing relationship with God as Father and Mother, with Jesus as Savior and Lover, with the Holy Spirit as the One who enlightens . . . and teaches.” Her relationship with Jesus is beautifully reflected in her choice of Song of Songs as the first reading: “My lover speaks; he says to me, ‘Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!’” How long she waited for Jesus to call her home! What joy must fill her soul!

Click here to read wake stories.

If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM

Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM, 80, died Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 10–11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Joliet, Ill., on Dec. 5, 1935, to Stephen Harry and Kathryn Elizabeth Donahue Keller. She entered the BVM congregation Feb. 7, 1954, from St. Ferdinand Parish, Chicago. She professed first vows on March 19, 1956, and final vows on July 16, 1961.

Mary Jamesita was an elementary school teacher in Chicago, Rock Island and Round Lake Ill.; and Phoenix, Ariz.

She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by a brother, James, Gurnee, Ill.; cousins; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 62 years.

Sister Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Aug. 26, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Mary Jamesita Keller.

Donna Kathryn Keller entered this world on Dec. 5, 1935, as the first surviving child of Stephen Harry and Kathryn Elizabeth (Donahue) Keller of Joliet, Ill., and was later joined by a brother James.

At the time Donna entered the congregation, her father was working as an egg salesman in Chicago. However, while she was growing up, the family moved several times when her father worked for the East Anheuser-Busch company and dabbled in the stock market and commodities. He was sociable, ambitious and optimistic, able to “roll with the punches.” Her mother was realistic, bashful and a good listener. Their very different personalities must have been complimentary as they were married for 70 years.

Reflecting on her parents, Donna remarked: “In my elder years I noticed that I take after both my parents. I share my father’s love of people and my mother’s value for punctuality.”

Donna attended grade schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Davenport, Iowa, before enrolling at St. Ferdinand Grade School in Chicago where she met Sister M. Delphine White, BVM who influenced her decision to enter religious life. After graduating from Notre Dame HS in Chicago, she entered the congregation on Feb. 7, 1954, received the name Jamesita upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1954, professed her first vows on March 19, 1956, and lived 62 years as a BVM.

Jamesita taught in elementary schools for 43 years, ministering many years as a reading specialist in the primary grades. She was missioned at St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Eugene in Chicago; St. Joseph and Sacred Heart in Rock Island Ill.; St. Joseph in Round Lake, Ill.; and St. Agnes, St. Theresa and Paradise Valley Preschool in Phoenix. As an extremely dedicated teacher and tutor, she gave her all to instill a love of reading in her little ones.

While at St. Agnes, Jamesita was selected as a finalist for the 1977 Arizona Teacher of the Year, the only sister in Arizona to ever receive this award. A friend of hers wrote, “Jamesita was a master teacher in early education. She willingly shared her creative skills with many teachers. She had a special gift of making her students feel good about themselves. Among many thank you letters to her from parents, one wrote, “God walks with you. I see His glow.”

In 1988, Jamesita opened an in-home school called The School of “I CAN!” As described in Salt, she saw “the overwhelming need for the development of basic skills among students in grades one through eight . . . The positive environment of The School of ‘I CAN!’ motivates students’ interest and accelerates learning . . . Classroom teachers remark how students’ self-esteem increases with their new academic confidence.”

Jamesita described herself as spontaneous with an adventurous spirit while a friend commented that she was generous and always willing to help in any way possible. She inherited her parent’s love of nature and found a home in creation-centered spiritually. Her copy of Earth Prayers was well-marked and falling apart! She loved flowers, but it was the beauty of Arizona that truly fed her spirit. She enjoyed all types of books and named Mary Oliver as one of her favorite poets. Her artistic talents were expressed through needlepoint and creative projects such as sewing and decorating Christmas stockings for children of families served by St. Mark Community Center here in Dubuque.

Jamesita was extremely dedicated and loyal to her family and friends. Among her closest BVM friends were Sister M. Cecily Criswell and Sister Mary Francis Leahy. Their deaths in December of 2007 and February of 2008, respectively, were a tremendous loss.

Cecily and Jamesita lived together in Arizona for three decades. Cecily, although 14 years her senior, was always ready to join in whatever Jamesita wanted to do. She introduced Jamesita to farm life – riding on a tractor and whistling to bring the cows home – and together they traveled across Canada, to Mexico, and even rode mules down into the Grand Canyon. It may have been on the Criswell farm that Jamesita developed a love for horses. Mary Francis met Jamesita, the new student at St. Ferdinand, in the fourth grade and they remained friends for life. She once toasted Jamesita as “the richest lady in the world” because she had two good friends.

An anonymous friend wrote, “During her lifetime, Jamesita suffered with physical illness. This struggle, however, did not prevent her from expressing a deep love for her family and the BVM community to which she lovingly and conscientiously committed herself in ministry. She continued to engage in stimulating reading and praying with the elderly in the neighborhood. She had a great empathy for them. We thank God for her presence with us.”

As St. Paul reminds us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.” Jamesita was very grateful for her BVM life and the support and opportunities she received from the community. We, too, are grateful for her presence with us as we celebrate and rejoice her entrance into eternal life.

Click here to read wake stories.

If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


Elizabeth Welter, BVM (Prudentia)

Elizabeth Welter, BVM, 93, of Caritas Center, 1130 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, passed away Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, at Caritas Center.

Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel, followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

Elizabeth was an elementary school teacher at St. Mary/St. Raphael, Dubuque, Iowa; and an elementary and secondary school teacher in Casper, Wyo.; Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz.; and Los Angeles, Pasadena, Burbank, Tujunga and San Francisco, Calif. She also served in various office positions in Mission Hills and North Hollywood, Calif.

She was born in Chicago on Sept. 9, 1922, daughter of John and Elizabeth Ries Welter. She entered the BVM congregation on Feb. 2, 1939. She made her first profession of vows on Aug. 15, 1941, and her final profession on Aug. 15, 1946.

She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by a sister, Mary Josephine Tanner, Palm Desert, Calif.; her nieces; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 77 years.

Sister Elizabeth Welter, BVM (Prudentia)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall Chapel, Aug. 22, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Elizabeth Welter.

Elizabeth Susan Welter was born on Sept. 5, 1922, in Chicago, the first child of John and Elizabeth (Ries) Welter. She was later joined by her sister Mary Josephine. Her father worked as a salesman, a very difficult career during the Depression, and sometimes faced unemployment.

Elizabeth attended St. Andrew ES and the Immaculata HS. Halfway through her junior year, possibly hastened by her mother’s death, she entered the congregation on Feb. 2, 1939. She received the name Prudentia upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1939, professed first vows on Aug.15, 1941, and lived 77 years as a BVM.

Elizabeth taught in elementary schools for 26 years. Her first mission was at St. Anthony in Casper, Wyo., followed by St. Mary in Dubuque, Iowa. In Arizona, she was missioned at All Saints in Tucson and St. Francis Xavier, St. Agnes and St. Matthew in Phoenix. Her missions in California included St. Bernard in Los Angeles, St. Philip in Pasadena, St. Robert Bellarmine in Burbank, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Tujunga.

Elizabeth recalled those early years when extremely large classes were the norm, including one year when she had over 70 fifth grade students. At least she wasn’t the first grade teacher with 90 students! “The students and their parents were most responsive and worked with us,” wrote Elizabeth. “It was always, ‘Sister says . . .’ and they did it.” In 1967, she transitioned into secondary education and for the next 16 years taught high school mathematics at Xavier and Brophy in Phoenix and Loyola in Los Angeles. Even though she was a perfectionist, she was well-liked as a teacher and a tutor for her patience, understanding and guidance.

Eventually, Elizabeth sought employment in the public sector, including an accounting position at Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills, Calif., a residual administrator position for Columbia Pictures, and as a word processor at the Women’s Care Center in North Hollywood. In her autobiography she wrote, “It is amazing and startling that even without [knowing that I’m a religious] they treat[ed] me with respect and at times ask[ed] to speak to me . . . about their problems—searching for answers and help. For all I know that may be where our ministry lies—to be a healer, to work among [the people] and represent Christ in the marketplace.”

Elizabeth was a woman of stately appearance, rather quiet and private, but pleasant, friendly and multi-talented. She used her artistic abilities to create spectacular bulletin boards for her classrooms. An incredible seamstress, she was able to sew clothes that looked professionally made. She could crochet and knit and, after moving to Mount Carmel, taught both at the Roberta Kuhn Center.

Unknown to many, Elizabeth was a marvelous baker who enjoyed making cinnamon rolls for special occasions. She was accomplished on the computer and used it, along with the Mount Carmel bulletin boards, to stay informed about community and world events, as well as enjoying a few games of solitaire in the afternoon. She loved the desert southwest, but also enjoyed the beautiful flower gardens at Mount Carmel. She was proud of her Luxembourg heritage and delighted to have visited the country during her two trips to Europe.

Elizabeth was afflicted throughout her life with multiple physical problems which at times hindered her ability to engage fully in ministry. When asked if she would choose religious life all over again, she responded, “Yes I would. For the simple reason that I did not do it to achieve a high position in an academic field or any other. Nor was it for any person or to be regarded with awe when met by others while wearing the [traditional] garb that was very much in vogue in the early 1800s! My reason was and still is a deep commitment to Our Lord to do, to endure, and to accept whatever was in His all-providential plan.”

Certainly Elizabeth endured and accepted, but her suffering has ended. From the prophet Isaiah we will hear, “For the yoke that burdened [her], the pole on [her] shoulder . . . [God,] you have smashed . . . You have brought [her] abundant joy and great rejoicing.” We now celebrate her life and rejoice with her as she enters eternal life.

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M. Gabrielle Hagerty, BVM

M. Gabrielle Hagerty, BVM died Tuesday, July 12, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Tama, Iowa, on April 2, 1919, to John Philip and Mary Margaret Whalen Hagerty. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1942, from St. Patrick Parish, Tama, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1945, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1950.

M. Gabrielle taught elementary school and was principal in Sioux City, Manly, Boone, Burlington, Washington, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, Iowa; and Wichita, Kan.

She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Jean Doloris Benda and brother John Francis Hagerty. She is survived by a sister Loretta Helen Campbell, Marshalltown, Iowa; a brother Lawrence W. Hagerty, Tama, Iowa; nieces and nephews; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 73 years.

Sister M. Gabrielle Hagerty, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, July 19, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister M. Gabrielle Hagerty.

Mary Gertrude Hagerty was born on April 2, 1919, in Tama, Iowa, the first child of John Philip and Mary Margaret Whalen Hagerty. She was later joined by siblings John, Loretta, Jean and Lawrence.

“My father, John, was a quiet man,” she recalled, “but what he said, he meant . . . We [laughed] because [my mother] was ‘too frail’ to be a religious, yet she raised five children and two sick dogs and lived to within a month of her 99th birthday still lucid!” Since the family lived on a farm, they had enough to eat during the Depression because they either raised or grew it. Her father sold oats to a neighboring cattle farmer and these earnings were used to buy the staples the family could not produce.

Mary Gertrude attended a country school about a mile from her home. Since the family lived eight miles from town, Mary Gertrude stayed in town with her aunt to prepare for First Communion. When the Franciscans Sisters abruptly left Tama, the Sisters of Charity, BVM replaced them and her aunt became their housekeeper. Mary Gertrude commented, “She loved the BVMs and we learned to love them, too. It was as if we had known them all our lives.” Mary Gertrude transferred to the Catholic school in the seventh grade. She attended a normal high school for teacher preparation and then taught first through eighth grades in a country school.

Mary Gertrude felt a calling to the religious life, but dismissed joining the BVMs because she wanted to do missionary work. However, when Sister Mary Ann Esther Mahedy asked her why she didn’t want to be a BVM, she replied, “I don’t think you have enough to do.” Sister Mary Ann Esther simply said, “You’ll find out.” So Mary Gertrude entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1942, and received the name Gabrielle upon her reception on March 19, 1943. She professed first vows on March 19, 1945, and lived 73 years as a BVM.

Gabrielle was a good and patient teacher who ministered in elementary education for a total of 54 years, 49 as a BVM. She was missioned in Iowa at the Cathedral in Sioux City, Sacred Heart in Manly and in Boone, St. Paul in Burlington, St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City Catholic Grade School and Regina Elementary in Iowa City, and in Kansas at St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita. She also served as principal for 21 years in Wichita and in Washington and Burlington, Iowa.

In 1981, Gabrielle discerned a call to pursue professional development in the area of learning disabilities. She wrote, “My choice of program was based on the growing awareness of a need in our schools for personnel with skills, not only in discovering children who have problems, but also in diagnosing and prescribing the techniques designed to help remedy the problems . . . The work has been even more interesting that I had anticipated, and certain aspects of it were very challenging. I have learned something about life and living from the handicapped. I have a greater awareness of their various situations and their common problems, and I have a real appreciation of their courage and spirit.”

Gabrielle was hired as the language and math resource teacher as well as the learning disabilities teacher for Regina Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa. Later her work focused on students challenged in reading, especially immigrants. She had a sense of fun which carried over into clever ways to motivate her students to read.

She received the 1992 Golden Apple Award given by a local television station to educators for excellence in teaching. The administrators who nominated her wrote, “Sister Gabrielle Hagerty is a crucial component to the vitality of our school. She is highly knowledgeable in the area of children with learning disabilities and children who need something more than the determined curriculum . . . In some schools, there would be three different persons to assume these roles, whereas, Gabrielle accomplishes all these tasks wonderfully.”

After “retiring” in 1994, Gabrielle remained in Iowa City and tutored Regina students during the summers and worked with an adult literacy program. She also enjoyed extended stays with family in Scottsdale, Ariz. She marked 60 years of religious life in 2002 with a celebration at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City where the pastor extolled her virtues saying, “[Gabrielle] has given the gift of herself as teacher, principal, tutor and friend to countless numbers of people who have found in her someone who listens, who cares, and who generously shares the love, patience and kindness of God.”

Gabrielle was a delightful, sweet lady. She was faith-filled, a person of prayer who aged with grace, a person who kept life in perspective and lived it to the fullest. She loved nature and people and was faithful to family, friends and God. She was quick with a smile and a gentle hand, generous, gracious, humble and a good listener.

Gabrielle enjoyed a good time. She celebrated her Irish heritage often, relished her Irish coffee, and had a wonderful time touring Ireland with her sister Loretta. She enjoyed singing in her church choir in Iowa City and with the Mount Carmel Schola. When the distance to the Motherhouse Chapel became too difficult to traverse, she continued to sing with the Schola in the Marian Hall Chapel. She also enjoyed outings to the casino for a good meal and a little gambling, always limiting herself to $20.

We heard this morning in Revelation: “Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord . . . Yes, let them rest from their labors for their deeds accompany them.” Gabrielle’s deeds were as numerous as the lives she touched. She was indeed a woman of hospitality and a great companion on the journey of life. Rest in peace, Gabrielle.

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