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Vincentia Kaeferstein, BVM

Vincentia Kaeferstein, BVM died Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, 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 Welton, Iowa, on Feb. 13, 1914, to William Gustave and Bernadine Josephine (Brass) Kaeferstein. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1931, from St. Ireneaus Parish, Clinton, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1934, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1939.

Vincentia taught at Clarke University from 1963–1984. Prior to then, she was an elementary and secondary school teacher and also served as principal in Maywood and Chicago, Ill.; Casper, Wyo.; and Dubuque, Council Bluffs, and Des Moines, Iowa. After retirement, she volunteered at Mount Carmel and Clarke University in Dubuque, where she was part of the mentor program.

She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters: Ursula Hahn, Margaret Staats, and Jeanne Bloom; and brothers William, Hugh and Carl. She is survived by nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 85 years.

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


Mary Frances Shafer, BVM (Francis Edward)

Mary Frances Shafer, BVM (Francis Edward), 90, died Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, at the Caritas Center, Mount Carmel, in Dubuque, Iowa.

Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, 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.

Mary Frances served as president of the BVM congregation from 1980–84 and as vice president from 1976–80. She was director of admissions and Scholasticate director for the congregation and served as liturgist at Mount Carmel.

“Mary Frances Shafer’s leadership was marked by a commitment to the renewal of religious life, a dedication to the education of lay ministers, and a quest for justice and peace,” says Helen Maher Garvey, BVM (Robert Joseph). “She pursued this course with gentleness, courage and kindness.”

She taught theology at Clarke University and eighth grade at Holy Family ES in Mason City. She also taught elementary school and was principal in Pontiac and Chicago, Ill.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Wichita, Kan. She served as administrative assistant to superintendent of schools, Kansas City; director of lay ministry for the Diocese of Great Falls, Mont.; and as personnel director for the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

She was born in Kansas City, Mo., on July 15, 1926, daughter of Frank Edward and Mary M. Aigner Shafer. She entered the BVM congregation on Sept. 8, 1943. She made her first profession of vows on March 19, 1946, and her final profession on Aug. 15, 1951.

She was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers and five sisters. She is survived by nieces and nephews; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 73 years.

Mary Frances Shafer, BVM (Frances Edward)
President, Sisters of Charity, BVM, 1980–84
Eulogy by Helen Maher Garvey, BVM (Robert Joseph)
Mount Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa
Jan. 9, 2016

On behalf of the BVM congregation, I welcome BVMs watching on videostream and on our local channel. We thank hospice and the nurses, aides and activity personnel on the fourth floor for their devoted, sensitive care of Mary Frances and as she lived out her final years.

We appreciate the special fidelity to Mary Frances of Msgr. Barta, Msgr. Toale, and BVMs Deanna Carr (Bernita), Mary Ellen Caldwell (Eugenio), Margaret Mear (Jacoba) and Bernadette McManigal (Lucinus).

Mary Frances Shafer was born July 15, 1926, youngest of the 10 children of Frank Edward and Anna Maria (“Mary”) Aigner Shafer. She was born in Kansas City, Mo., at a time when the United States was on the brink of the Depression. Despite the times, Mary Frances admitted enjoying many childhood “perks” in the Shafer household and her allowance was frequently augmented by doting sisters and brothers!

Following in the steps of older sisters Ann Mary and Rose, Mary Frances made up her mind to enter the BVM ommunity she so admired. She submitted her application, including the results of her physical, and was “devastated” when Mother Mary Josita refused to admit her for reasons of health. With typical determination, and with support from family and friends, she sought a second opinion and her new doctor helpfully agreed that she would thrive in the “regulated life” of a community. (And thrive she did, but whether the life was to be all that “regulated” remained to be seen!)

Who was Mary Frances Shafer?

I did not know her very well when I came to Dubuque for an orientation after our election as vice presidents in 1976. We were driving together to some event and Mary Frances started singing; she continued singing; she found new tunes; she continued singing. I did not know the songs. I did not know the tunes. I did not know anyone who sang with such enthusiasm. “Well,” I thought, “It is going to be a long four years.” Little did I know that these songs echoed the soul of a holy woman who would bring me into the arc of her own generous, lyrical spirit.

We could describe her by the geography of her life—Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana. Her ministries are a testimony to her openness of spirit, a willingness to respond to the challenge of our Constitutions “to live in any part of the world where there is promise of furthering the mission of Jesus.”

We could describe her by the variety of her ministries—elementary school teacher, professor of theology, director of formation, president of the BVM congregation, diocesan director of lay ministry, diocesan director of personnel, director of liturgy. We can imagine her as a young, newly professed sister teaching arithmetic in the seventh grade at Presentation Parish School on the west side of Chicago. We can imagine her as the creator of the lay ministry program, traveling icy roads across the length and breadth of eastern Montana, teaching over 400 parishioners from 1986–1995. We can imagine her here in Dubuque as a retired working resident, making each liturgy a special occasion.

We could describe her by the depths of her scholarship. That scholarship characterized her presentations at Clarke University, at the lay ministry program in eastern Montana, and as president of the BVM congregation. Her work stands the test of time, enriching us all with keen analysis of the spirit of Vatican II. Such thoroughness and care compelled her to edit letters to the congregation, or any document, with a rigor that sent its authors back to the drawing board time and again. More than once Eileen McGovern, BVM and I begged for grammatical mercy!

We could describe her by her humanity. She loved being the youngest of 10 children. She enjoyed being a little spoiled as a child. On the other hand, she found it hard being the last living member of her family. She could drink coke, eat candy, and party with the best of us. She could make fudge for a lonely student on sabbatical. She could say about her ministry in formation, “I found it ‘challenging,’ ‘difficult’ and ultimately ‘disappointing.’” She could engage any small child anywhere with an intuitive understanding.

We could describe her by her spirituality. Mary Frances Shafer’s spirituality was expressed not only in the theology she taught so well and in the prayer that she breathed so faithfully, but in the suffering she bore so graciously. She was, as the poet says, “still under the weathers of God’s will, and had no hurt surprise when morning’s ruddy promise died.”

We could describe her as a deep responder to Vatican II, a prophetic witness to religious life. She expressed the conviction that:

We are witnessing and participating in an evolution of religious life that is as radical and far-reaching as the evolution from the hermitage to the cloister, or from the monastic to the apostolic life. Together, let us beg God to make us all “fit instruments in His (her) hands.”

(Women of Jubilee, Address to the BVM Congregation delivered on the 150th Jubilee of the BVM Congregation, 1980.)

But she was so much more than these separate categories. Mary Frances Shafer was one of the cloud of witnesses. She was and is a holy woman, one who continuously sought the love of Christ. Mary Frances had her priorities straight from the beginning. Writing on her application to the congregation in May, 1943, she declared: “I wish to be a sister in order to gain a greater knowledge and love of Christ and to help others to be closer to Him.”

As Mary Frances grew into her vocation, and as the call of Vatican II intensified, that desire to love Christ matured into a love that seeks justice and peace. On the occasion of the dedication of the Mary Frances Shafer Library in 1980 she declared:

To the extent that we remain true to the reality of the Lord's call, we will spend our future promoting gospel values in a world which rejects them as naive and impractical. Within a society which treasures material prosperity, we will live simply. In the face of apathy and hypocrisy, we will speak the truth which Jesus has promised will set all free. Through personal and congregational witness, we will share a solid, vibrant faith with people haunted by doubt. Whatever the shape of our ministry, we will work to eradicate the roots of injustice within ourselves, our congregation, the church and the world.

She lived this commitment to justice as she marched for the nuclear freeze, spoke out publicly for peace, and acted daily for the poor. Mary Frances Shafer’s leadership was marked by a quest for justice and peace. She pursued this course with gentleness, courage and devotion. In all of her experience, she understood the journey to death and the meaning of it all. At the time of her sister Erma’s death, Mary Frances wrote in a letter to BVM Mary McCauley:

Erma's death brought release for her from a debilitating and crueldisease(Alzheimer's). Italsobrought thepain ofpartingoncemoreto Helen, Genevieve andme. We are the three left of the eight children who survived infancy. It is wonderful to be the youngest while growing up. To be the youngest at this point in life is a different story. However,God is very near and, I'm sure, is using all my experiences to draw me closer every day. One day my death will be natural to me and simply be the final and decisive choice of God.

 (Excerpt from a letter of Mary Frances Shafer to Mary McCauley on the occasion of her sister Erma’s death. September 1993)

Nonetheless, Mary Frances, ever sensitive to the call of God, not only to herself, but also to the BVM congregation, spoke often of the future. Back in 1980, when she delivered the 150th Jubilee Address to the BVM congregation, Mary Frances extolled Mary Frances Clarke’s steady consideration of the future. Mary Frances Shafer and Mary Frances Clarke might well be speaking to us today:

Given our identity and our values . . . I can’t imagine that she (Mary Frances Clarke) had an exalted vision of some aesthetically-pleasing version of faith life in the United States. I think, rather, that in her practical Irish wisdom, she made a solid assessment of the facts at hand, evaluated the situation of God’s people in our country, and was prompted to make an intelligent response that sprang from closeness to God and sensitivity to the urges of the Spirit. In so doing she established a pattern for us to follow and gave an example of genuine trust that God would provide for those who use their human gifts and talents to determine a course of action aimed at bringing the kingdom of God closer to complete fulfillment.

This congregational future promised some fearsome losses for Mary Frances personally. Struggle and humiliation lay ahead, a time of frustration and patient endurance, a time of grace and light. But these times have rarely ever been without a song. Even while attending the recent Christmas party, she sang “White Christmas” one last time with perfect pitch! Song and poetry marked the life and the final days of Mary Frances Shafer—Christian, religious, scholar, minister, leader, friend, wounded one, holy woman.

And though she walks in rags and tatters
Her face is to a sunset turned.
And what she has no longer matters
Before this light that she has learned.

 —Jessica Powers, OCD

 Click here to read wake stories.

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


Frances Ann Schaeffer, BVM (Louis)

Frances Ann Schaeffer, BVM (Louis), 84, died Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa.

A private Rite of Committal and Natural Burial will be held Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. There will be no visitation. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery. A sharing of memories will be held at 10:45 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, followed by a funeral liturgy.

She was born in Davenport on Sept. 25, 1932, to Louis Charles and Frieda (Karstens) Schaeffer. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1956, from St. Paul Parish, Davenport, Iowa. She professed first vows on Feb. 3, 1959, and final vows on July 16, 1964.

Frances Ann worked in the sewing room at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse. She taught elementary school in Davenport and Iowa City, Iowa; and Chattanooga, Tenn., where she was also Montessori Kindergarten teacher and director. She was student and teacher-aide, and teacher intern in Kansas City, Mo. She volunteered for the Edmundite Missions in Alabama.

She is preceded in death by her parents; brothers Louis Albert and Robert Anthony; and sisters Catherine Mary Schmidt and Margaret Alice Schaeffer. She is survived by nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 60 years.

Sister Frances Ann Schaeffer, BVM (Louis)
Memorial Mass Welcome
Marian Hall, Jan. 4, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Frances Ann Schaeffer.

Frances Ann Schaeffer was born on Sept. 25, 1932, the youngest child of Louis Charles and Frieda Karstens Schaeffer of Davenport, Iowa. She had two brothers, Louis Albert and Robert Anthony, and two sisters, Catherine Mary and Margaret Alice. Unfortunately, Robert Anthony and Margaret Alice died before Frances Ann was born.

Her mother, who was born in Schleswig, Germany, converted to Catholicism, attended daily Mass and shared her faith and love of God with her children. About her father, a Davenport native, Frances Ann wrote, “My father’s formal schooling was limited to grade school at Sacred Heart, Davenport, Iowa, where the BVMs prepared him well for his life. Not only was he a man of deep faith and convictions but he had much practical knowhow as well.”

Frances Ann attended St. Paul the Apostle grade school and was inspired into service by her third grade teacher S.M. Brigetta McNamara. Along with her classmate, Sister Mary M. O’Connor (Bertille), she prepared breakfast for Catholic children from a nearby orphanage who attended Mass at St. Paul. Because of the Communion fast required at that time, without that breakfast the children would have gone hungry until the noon meal. Her concern for other people, especially the poor, only deepened through the years. After recuperating from a double knee replacement in 2004, she moved to Selma, Ala., to volunteer with the Edmundite Missions that served people living in poverty in rural areas.

While a student at Immaculate Conception Academy, Frances Ann was lovingly encouraged by S.M. Helen Therese Kiley to considered religious life with the BVMs. However, following her mother’s advice to wait, Frances Ann worked six years at Mercy Hospital and the West Davenport Clinic which, in her words, “gave me the needed maturity to make the decision.” She entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1956, and received the name Louis upon her reception on March 19, 1957. She professed her first vows on Feb. 3, 1959, and lived 60 years as a BVM.

As a novice, Frances Ann was assigned to the sewing room, where she proved to be a talented seamstress. She was sent to the Scholasticate in Chicago to study after her profession, only to be called back to the Motherhouse a few months later to help sew habits for an exceptionally large set about to make vows. “Living and working at Mount Carmel for the next three years brought many spiritual insights and blessings,” commented Frances Ann. For the rest of her life, she generously shared this marvelous gift by repairing clothing and responding to special sewing requests.

Frances Ann began her ministry in education in 1964, teaching first grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga, Tenn. Missions at St. Patrick and St. Mary in Iowa City, Iowa; and St. Paul in Davenport followed. After completing a teaching internship at Bishop Helmsing Early Childhood Center in Kansas City, Mo., she taught Montessori kindergarten in Chattanooga, Tenn., for seven years and then served as its director for an additional 13 years. With her gentleness and patience, she was absolutely wonderful with the little ones.

Frances Ann remained active after moving to Mount Carmel, joining committees and participating in numerous activities. As a distributor of the “Mall in the Hall,” she made sure clothes were washed and repaired before making them available. She also volunteered at the BVM Center receptionist desk. As a dedicated member of the Schola, she sang for the crib blessing and Christmas Eve Mass just two days before her death.

Frances Ann touched the hearts of many because of her true goodness. “The kindest woman I ever met,” declared one set member. She preferred to do her acts of kindness quietly behind the scenes. A friend commented, “Nobody except God knows everything she did.” Probably every woman here has received a Frances Ann greeting: “Hello, pretty lady!” Her address was so natural and genuine that each recipient felt like the only beautiful one. Everyone was the object of her affection—a true characteristic of a loving person who lived a centered and deeply spiritual life.

Almost four years ago, Frances Ann faced cancer with incredible courage, determination, grit and trust in both her doctor and God. After a grueling course of chemotherapy, she wrote, “My deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who have prayed for me . . . Please know that every prayer, card, visit, phone call, and message is very much treasured . . . Every moment of life means so much more than I could ever have imagined. Every breath becomes a prayer of gratitude.”

In the first reading from Isaiah we hear: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! . . . Let us rejoice and be glad that God has saved us!” Frances Ann did rejoice and emerged from the ordeal even more cheerful, thoughtful and generous. She was not only healed, but she healed others with her graciousness and love.

When her set celebrated 60 years in September, Frances Ann surprised each member with a beautiful card containing a promise: On the set member’s birthday, Frances Ann would remember her at Mass and make a holy hour of Adoration for her intentions. Surely death will not stop Frances Ann from keeping that promise.

Upon learning of her death, as a sign of deep respect and pure love, her set members and the residents on her floor immediately gathered outside her room and sang “Jesus Light of All the World.” Frances Ann was a light, her heart a holy place, her life grace-filled.

Frances Ann, thank you being a blessing to all of us. You are and will continue to be greatly missed. Rest in peace, pretty lady.

Click here to read wake stories.

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


Claire Marie McLevy, BVM (Clarene)

Claire Marie McLevy, BVM (Clarene), 92, died Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 23, 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 Kansas City, Mo., on Aug. 4, 1924, to Clare and Claire (Walker) McLevy. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1942, from St. Aloysius Parish, Kansas City. She professed first vows on March 19, 1945, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1950.

Claire Marie was an elementary school teacher in Chicago; St. Louis, Mo., Kansas City, Mo.; and Montrose, Calif. She was also a staff worker at Wright Hall, a BVM residence in Chicago.

She is preceded in death by her parents and brother John McLevy. She is survived by a cousin and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 74 years.

Sister Claire Marie, BVM (Clarene)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Dec. 23, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Claire Marie McLevy.

Virginia McLevy was born on Aug. 4, 1924, the first of two children born to Clare and Claire (Walker) McLevy from Kansas City, Mo. Her brother John completed the family. Her father was a very quiet man who was a clerk at the McKesson Drug Company. Her mother also worked at McKesson until the two met and were married.

Virginia attended St. Aloysius school, as did Sister Ann Regina Dobel, BVM, who, being several years older, had actually pushed Virginia in her baby carriage. Virginia loved high school, especially participating in basketball, school plays, glee club, and playing trumpet in the school band. In an interview, she said, “Being a Sister was far from my thoughts. I expected to go to Hollywood.” After graduation, Virginia worked one year for Hallmark and an insurance company while discerning her vocation.

Virginia entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1942, and received the name Clarene upon her reception on March 19, 1943. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1945, and lived 74 years as a BVM.

Claire Marie taught kindergarten through fourth grade for 41 years. She was missioned at Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago; St Frances Xavier in St. Louis, and Holy Redeemer in Montrose, Calif. In addition, she ministered for 31 years in Kansas City, Mo., teaching at Christ the King, St. Vincent, St. Therese, St. Frances Xavier, and St. Catherine.

Her first mission at Our Lady of the Angels was her favorite. “There were many young Sisters there at the time,” she commented. “Sisters Eileen Duggan, Geraldine Moorman, [and] Aimee O’Neill. She was a scream. Sister Mary St. William Welsh was the wonderful superior. One day she said to me, ‘Clarabelle, you are going to DePaul for summer school.’ The name Clarabelle stuck for many years. While at OLA I had 68 pupils in the third grade even though I knew nothing about teaching third grade. A retired sister taught me phonics and a sister who was recuperating helped me. In time I felt comfortable teaching . . . I was a happy teacher.”

Unfortunately, she suffered the devastating loss of her mother during her first year at OLA. Her father also died at a rather young age. With both parents deceased, Claire Marie alone carried a great concern for her brother, who struggled with health issues his entire adult life and lived in a Kansas City care facility until his death in 1998. The loss of her immediate family left a deep loneliness in her heart.

After retiring from teaching, Claire Marie volunteered at the Willis Adult Care in Des Moines, Iowa, and was absolutely wonderful in her interactions with the clients. Later she moved to Wright Hall in Chicago, where she lived for 24 years. While there, she took advantage of art classes being offered by Sister Mary Eustella Fau. A couple of her paintings are here at Mount Carmel.

Claire Marie was a free spirit. Although very private regarding personal matters, her persona was delightful. Her sparkling blue eyes matched a lively personality that craved to be with people. She enjoyed parties and going out to eat. One of her favored events at Mount Carmel was the monthly social in the Caritas dining room. She loved conversation, laughter, dancing and singing and knew all the words to the hits of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Of course, there was no place better than Kansas City for this native. If her sports’ teams were playing, she was sure to be rooting them on. While enjoying her favorite activities, one was sure to hear her say with a dramatic flair, “Isn’t this wonderful!”

Claire Marie weathered her share of difficult times, but was a happy person overall. Although a bit of a procrastinator, if there was something she really wanted, she could make it happen. When seeking quieter moments, she delighted in viewing nature’s beauty via a ride around a lake or a trip to the botanical gardens. She lived a full, active life, even to her last day when she had planned to visit the Cathedral in Dubuque.

Claire Marie always spoke highly about the Mount Carmel staff. “The nurses and aides here have been very good to me,” she said. “I am grateful.” She loved her BVM sisters but was greatly saddened by the recent deaths on her floor. Today’s first reading from Isaiah reminds us that “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” We continue this celebration of life confident that Claire Marie is attending the best party of her life, “a feast of rich food and choice wines” in heaven. Enjoy, Claire Marie!

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


Anna Priester, BVM (Joseph Ann)

Anna Priester, BVM, 74, died Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Lancaster, Calif. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Burial is in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Calif.

She was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 22, 1942, to Paul and Mary Ann (Blicha) Priester. She entered the BVM congregation July 31, 1960, from St. James the Less Parish, La Crescenta, Calif. She professed first vows on Feb. 2, 1963, and final vows on Feb. 2, 1968.

Anna was an elementary and secondary school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa; and Phoenix, where she also served in parish ministry, as child care aide, and as program trainer for handicapped children. Anna was on the teaching staff at Working Boys’ Center in Quito, Ecuador. She served in parish ministry in Guatemala for many years. She was a volunteer in Lancaster, Calif.

She is preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by a brother Joseph Michael Priester, Colorado Springs, Colo.; a sister, Mary Jo Koman-Kehoe, Lancaster, Calif.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 56 years.

Sister Anna Priester, BVM (Joseph Ann)
Funeral Welcome
St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Dec. 21, 2016

Good morning and welcome to the celebration of the life of our Sister Anna Priester.

Anna was born on Aug. 22, 1942, in Los Angeles to Paul Henry Priester and Mary Ann (Blicha) Priester. She was the middle child, between Joseph and Mary Jo, who are here with us today. Her parents moved to California to be near relatives and to “get work.” Anna was baptized at St. Cecilia Parish and went to school there until the family moved to La Crescenta, Calif., in 1950. She attended a La Crescenta school and Holy Redeemer ES before moving on to Holy Family HS in Glendale, Calif.

It is fitting that we are at St. Mary today, for as a youngster, Anna joined her family in attending divine liturgy on Sundays and singing in the choir. What was of value for her, here at St. Mary, was the family atmosphere and the Eastern spirituality. It was from this tradition that Anna entered the BVM congregation on July 31, 1960. Six months later, she received the name Sister Mary Joseph Ann at her reception. Anna professed first vows Feb. 2, 1963. She lived 56 years as a BVM.

After the novitiate, Anna completed her bachelor of arts degree at Mundelein College, Chicago. In 1965, she began her first mission assignment at St. Joseph Academy in Des Moines, Iowa, teaching high school for five years. She then chose to teach and work at el Centro de Muchachos, in Quito, Ecuador.

Returning to the United States, she relocated to Phoenix, where she held various positions: teacher, parish minister, child care aide, and program trainer for multi-handicapped children. This variety of experience shaped Anna’s skills for what was next. In 1986 she joined BVM Mary Waddell (Valerie) in Santo Tomás, Guatemala, a mission supported by the Diocese of Helena, Mont. She completed 27 years of service there until she retired in 2014 to Lancaster, Calif.

For Anna, her commitment to share Jesus’ gospel values and to live out the BVM core values of charity, justice, education and freedom in service to God’s people, were always in focus. Her personal traits set a clear path for how this was to be accomplished.

She was always clear that love was the root of living. God’s love for Anna and her ability to share love with all, focused her on relationships: with family members, BVMs, and the people of God with whom she worked. All were important to her. All were equal in her eye.

Next, keep life simple. In her words: “My wholeness comes from simplicity and my life is complete when it is simple.” Anna was passionate about liberating the poor and supporting the oppressed. With her values clearly defined, she was articulate and deliberate about her message. Even in the Scholasticate—the BVM college experience—when the focus was on classwork and getting a degree, Anna initiated visits to the Chicago’s projects, such as Cabrini Green, to take art projects and teach Chicago’s poorest children about beauty. For Anna, believing and doing have always been synonyms.

The Priester and Koman families, her BVM community, and the people of God whom she serviced were her essential connections. She shared an open, genuine love with all.

Anna was close to her family. She regularly returned home for visits with her mother and siblings. She was engaging with the nieces and nephews, teaching them to swim, to take excursions, such as to Olvera St., and to create artistic projects. In fact, one Christmas, she and the children created a paper mâché nativity set, adorning the figures they created with real clothes. That crèche is still treasured today.

In the past two years, Anna, along with Mary Waddell, has had the privilege of living in Lancaster with Mary Jo, allowing her to reconnect with the family frequently. She also has had the privilege of sharing with Joe, Mary Jo, and other family members through travel that Joe has arranged. They retraced their grandmother’s trip to the U.S. from the Slovak Republic, went to the Holy Land. and this year traveled to Quebec.

Anna welcomed her time to share with her BVM sisters while being away in Guatemala. She was able to frequently return in the summers to participate in community gatherings and she welcomed the BVM visitor to Santo Tomás. She loved having BVMs participate in the Guatemala mission.

Anna was a strong headwind. She signed a contract to be a catechist in Santo Tomás, and she did teach and train teachers, but before long her work deepened into eradicating the oppression by assisting the widows to independence. Anna also set up scholarships to increase the number of students who could attend school. By 1988, two years after beginning, 46 students were on scholarship. In addition, there was a program to assist the widows to secure housing and develop a means to support their families.

In this same time frame, three homes for widows were built and four more were planned. Securing land for houses was difficult. She and Mary would encourage the women to weave table runners, stoles, bookmarks and purses. They brought boxes to the states to sell and assist the women not only to support their family, but to provide for health care. In some cases, if the weavings were sold to support the clinic, the women had free health care at the clinic for a year.

The goal to liberate the poor through love, education and service was haltingly slow, fraught with unexpected occurrences, violence in the vicinity, and local cultural practices that didn’t always profit the individual. Anna had the ability to see through to the essence of need and teach to it. She would patiently wait until a widow understood what to do and when she finally would appear ready, Anna would be there with support and ideas. What mattered to Anna was clarity of purpose and action: believe in the hope of a better future, one individual at a time.

Anna’s legacy will not be posted on billboards. It lives in the hearts of those who shared in her missions—and in the people of Guatemala, who have learned some independent skills and who can show others that there is hope.

Anna lives on in our hearts, a loving sister, BVM, aunt and friend. But to our God, she says, “You have called me.”

 Tú, pescador de otros lagos, amigo bueno, que así me llamas.

—Cesáreo Gabaráin



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John Thomas Hackett, BVM

John Thomas Hackett, BVM, 94, died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, 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 Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 22, 1922, to John Thomas and Mary Marguerite Flynn Hackett. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1940, from St. John Parish, Sioux City. She professed first vows on March 19, 1943, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1948.

John Thomas was an elementary and secondary school teacher in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at St. Patrick ES and LaSalle HS, where she also served as assistant principal; and in Chicago; Butte, Mont.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Seattle. She later volunteered in Cedar Rapids.

She is preceded in death by her parents; brothers Charles, John Thomas, Gerald and Robert Lawrence; and a sister Mary Frances Marriott. She is survived by a sister, Helen Elaine Costello, Manchester, Mo.; a sister-in-law Marilyn Hackett, Sioux City, Iowa; nieces; nephews;and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 76 years.

Sister John Thomas Hackett, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Dec. 16, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister John Thomas Hackett.

Anna Bernice Hackett was born on Jan. 22, 1922, in Sioux City, Iowa. She was the fifth of seven children, four boys and three girls, born to John Thomas and Mary Marguerite (Flynn) Hackett. Her father worked as a railroad conductor while her mother cared for the children. Anna attended St. Joseph Grade School, graduated from Cathedral High School, and completed one year at Briar Cliff College, all in Sioux City, before answering the call to the consecrated life.

Anna entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1940, and received the name John Thomas upon her reception on March 19, 1941. She professed first vows on March 19, 1943, and lived 76 years as a BVM.

John Thomas taught in elementary schools for 21 years, including Holy Family and St. Thomas of Canterbury in Chicago; Immaculate Conception in Butte, Mont.; and St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was missioned as a secondary teacher at Our Lady of Peace in St. Paul, Minn.; Cathedral in Chicago; Blanchet in Seattle; and LaSalle in Cedar Rapids. History was her preference but as a versatile teacher, John Thomas always rose to the occasion no matter the subject she was assigned to teach. The students loved her and many stayed in contact with her after graduation.

Besides serving as the assistant principal during her 15 years at LaSalle, John Thomas taught economics and government, moderated the student council and cooked for herself and the sisters with whom she lived. Being highly organized, she completed food preparation before going to school and was able to put a hot meal on the table within a half hour of returning home. Leftovers never went to waste but were creatively transformed into new and delicious dishes.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette featured John Thomas in its “Neighborhood Cook” section which included her recipes for favorite dishes like ginger cookies, candied violets, Irish soda bread, Irish brown bread, “special” (made with bacon grease) baked potatoes, and tasty chicken breasts. “I like to put together a party dinner,” she said. “Cooking for 30 people is no big deal when you have a stove with ten burners.” At the time of the interview, she had 100 crepes tucked away in the freezer.

John Thomas was a lifelong learner, an avid reader with an appetite for history and current events. As a contributing writer for the 1984 Salt publication Charting BVM History, she covered the years 1968–72, a period filled with tremendous tensions and great opportunities. While serving as a BVM senator, her perceptive questions and comments enhanced the dialogue at Senate sessions. After retiring from teaching, she volunteered as a docent at the Cedar Rapids National Czech & Slovak Museum and even helped with the initial clean-up after the devastating 2008 flood.

Her love of history naturally flowed into an interest in genealogy. Both of her parents were of Irish decent. Some of her mother’s ancestors were the first settlers to arrive in central Iowa where they established the Murphy Settlement, while others, disenchanted with New York City, continued on to Australia. John Thomas was very proud of her Irish heritage and was blessed with several opportunities to visit Ireland. She also traveled to Australia to personally connect with relatives.

John Thomas was a realist, even tempered, willing to “go with the flow” and graced with a good sense of humor to help weather the rough spots. She never learned to drive, but that did not stop or even slow her down. After learning of plans to turn an old hotel in Cedar Rapids into a shelter for homeless women and their children, she quickly jumped on board helping to convert the rooms into apartments. She gave away household items such as pots and pans to people who lost everything in the flood. Two of her favorite pastimes were working in her flower garden in Cedar Rapids and being involved with the craft group, “Cut-Ups,” after moving to Mount Carmel.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “If you give to charity, do so generously; if you are a leader, exercise your authority with care; if you help others, do so cheerfully. Your love must be sincere.” How beautifully this describes John Thomas! Clothed in generosity and sensitivity, she was a dear, loving and ever so gracious woman. We—her BVM sisters, friends, and beloved family—were as precious to her as she was to us. Everyone who knew John Thomas loved her.

An unattributed quote discovered in her Bible conveys an appropriate reminder for all of us. “With their last breath, those we have greatly loved do not say goodbye, for love is timeless. Instead, they leave us with a solemn promise: when they are finally at rest in God, they will continue to be present to us whenever they are called upon.” Along with Mary Frances Clarke and all our beloved deceased, we know you, John Thomas, are present among us and we thank you.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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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.

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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!

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