Dad, Mom, Karen, Sister, Aunt Lizzie Uhlenkott, Mayme Mader. Joan and Connie stand in front.
When Gonzaga University opened it's theology program to women in 1958, Sister spent five summers in Spokane and was the first woman to receive an MA in theology from Gonzaga University in 1963. I did not understand the significance of that experience at the time, but had a much better idea when she was featured in the Spring, 2011 Gonzaga Magazine. The magazine quoted her as saying, "Being a farm girl I never expected to travel. If someone would have said that I'd live in Room for nine years, I would't have believed them. I praise God for the many opportunities I was given throughout my life - to experience such a diversity of people and ministries. It's been a good life." Yes, she was blessed with a Mother Superior who saw the potential in her, but she also had the courage to invade classrooms filled with men!
Mom and Dad piled a bunch of kids and some old ladies in the car and drove to Spokane every summer to spend time with Sister at Madonna Hall. Sister wrote in her memoir, "I looked at a map and saw that Spokane was just not too far from Idaho, so I wrote to Bertha, who was expecting Karen. When you write to me to tell me that the new baby has arrived, I'll share some good news with you." One summer Sister invited her mother to travel with her on the train. Grandma spent 6 weeks with us in Idaho, while Sister completed her coursework in Spokane.
Sister wrote hundreds, maybe thousands of letters in her lifetime. I saved a few and found this one yesterday. Tears came to my eyes when I read her sensitive comments. She wrote it after Mom told her that Roy and I had separated.
She quoted her Foundress, "All God's work is wrought through suffering, but then the roots grow stronger and the flowers are lovelier." I'm sure those words eased my pain at the time and did it help this "little flower" grow lovelier? Sister paid attention to the details that Mom communicated to her. She noticed little things and always added a personal comment to every letter. She wrote about her experiences, but she also took time to comment on our activities and accomplishments. I found another letter she wrote in November, 1992, congratulating me on passing the Nursing Home Administrator's test! She wrote, "I know now of one Nursing Home that will be under good management." Wow, that gave me a lot of encouragement!
This picture was taken at Veronica House when the Kopczynski clan visited her in Sept, 2010. She'd invited us to come for her 70th jubilee. Why wouldn't we go - we'd been to her 25, 50, and now 70! She almost made it to the 75th year celebration in August. She loved living on the campus built for retired sisters. She proudly showed us her room, the chapel, the dining room. Her sewing machine had a place of honor, as did the quilt Mom quilted for her bed years ago.
We also took a tour of the Motherhouse at Ripa, with its lovely gardens and view of the Mississippi River in the background.
This picture of the Hoene girl cousins was taken at Martha Habing Stevens home in September, 2010, while still celebrating Sister's jubilee. She loved to tell her stories and this is where we heard about the "what to expect after you are married" story that Kathy Hartke shared with us. We laughed a lot that day, but also realized how Sister deeply had enriched our lives.
I was delighted to be a part of this great group of cousins celebrating Sister's 70th year jubilee. In November, 2010 she wrote, "for myself and others the happy memories linger. I think I've done justice to the abundance of my Jubilee mail. I seldom send just a short thank you because I know what it means if one receives something more personal." On 8/14/2011 she typed, "As I look forward to my 94th birthday, I think it is only fitting that I celebrate with you and have you celebrate with me. Letter writing has been a valuable asset in our family. It was the way that Bertha continued to share with the family she left behind--the day after her wedding. It was also the way for me to share all the new experiences with the family after I left for Ripa on September 2, 1936."
My sad heart fills with gratitude as I re-read her precious words tonight. She gifted me with wonderful insight and the joy of family connections. Maybe I'll get back to writing on my blog because it is the way I continue to share with my family, scattered near and far.