Copyright©2008. Congregation of Saint Joseph.
Sister Sedonia Isenbart, CSJ
Sedonia May Isenbart, daughter of Henry and Eva (Kunzman) Isenbart was born August 12, 1917, on her maternal grandparents’ farm near Capron, Oklahoma. Sedonia was the seventh of nine children, four girls and five boys.
Sedonia completed her first four years of elementary education at a small rural school and finished at Sacred Heart Parochial School after it opened in 1929. Rural transportation to high school was difficult and secondary education was not required at that time so it was after entering the convent that Sedonia earned her GED. Today Sedonia’s mental acuity and recreational needs are enhanced by frequent card games.
The Isenbarts were members of Sacred Heart Parish in Alva, Oklahoma, and it was there that Sedonia’s spiritual life was nourished. It was from there that Sedonia, following her oldest sister, Agnes Mary, entered the convent receiving the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the name of Sister Florian, August 15, 1936. She made temporary profession of vows in 1939 and final vows in 1941. After Vatican II Sister Florian changed back to her baptismal name.
Sister Sedonia has always had a great love for the Bible and has spent much time reading and studying it. With gratitude she recalls John 15:16: “You did not choose me; it was I who chose you and sent you to go and bear much fruit, fruit that will last.” She appreciates her vocation knowing that the convent has furnished opportunity for her to be God’s “fill in” wherever needed. She served the Dear Neighbor in various capacities: housekeeping, hospital dietary work, CAN, home visitation, elder care, religious instruction, second language and GED instruction, classroom sub. Today while waiting and longing for “home” she, as a member of the Prayer Apostolate, serves the Dear Neighbor with her prayers but she says, ”I don’t pray words; I just spend time with God.”
Sister Paula Marie Metz, CSJ
Paula Marie was born at home in Kansas City, KS February 19, 1923. Her mother was born in Medicine Lodge, KS and her father was born in Austria of Slovak descent. They lived in a close-knit neighborhood in Kansas City. Sister Charlotte and her family were among their neighbors. She attended the parish grade school, St. Cyril and Methodius, taught by the Franciscan Sisters from St. Louis (a Polish community). In high school she was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, KS, attending Bishop Ward Catholic high school.
Her aunt from Arizona met some of our Sisters on the train, and with the encouragement of Sister Lambertine, both Sister Paula Marie and Sister Charlotte entered the Wichita community of CSJs in September of 1940. Most of her years in ministry were spent teaching in Catholic elementary schools in several states.
In her later years, Sister Paula Marie taught religious education classes in parishes in Oklahoma, Oregon and Kansas. She also worked as occupational therapist assistant at St. Joseph Hospital in Del Norte, CO; volunteered with Red Cross Nutrition Service in Wichita; and, assisted at St. Anthony Family Shelter and at God’s Food Pantry in Wichita. During the 1980s, she taught English as a second language in the Indo-Chinese refugee program and the Migrant and Refugee Program sponsored by Catholic Charities in Wichita. From 1993 until she moved to Marian Hall “sometime after 2003,” she served at Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita as Family Liaison in the surgery department.
Since the late 1990s, Sister has been the sole survivor from a family of five brothers and one sister. She states that life in community has been very fulfilling and rewarding, believing she has gained far more than she has given throughout her life. “God has been so very good.”
A scripture quotation that has guided her in daily life: John 13:34-35
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Sister Julita Paulie, CSJ
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.” Sister Julita's favorite Scripture quote and a prayer that she has said as long as she can remember, asking our Blessed Mother, again and again, to help her live out her vocation. This is why she believes she has been able to respond whenever God changed the direction of her life.
Sister Julita was the second living child born to Nellie and Joseph Paulie on a farm in St. Paul, Kansas, a family that eventually increased to four boys and five girls. Sister Julita and her siblings were kept grounded by parents who were devoted to the Church, to one another, and to family – not having the greatest amount of material means but wealthy beyond measure in what counts in life. Her mother, planting a vocational seed, would tell her that she was named for a saint who was a woman religious and it could be possible for Sister Julita to follow in her footsteps if that was what God wanted.
On March 19, 1941, Sister Julita was received into the novitiate. Her ministry has ranged from cooking, to caring for two to nine year olds in the orphanage, to elementary school teaching, to Associate Professor of Philosophy at the college level. She served in Congregational Leadership, was General Secretary for the Community, and served on various boards. Definitely, prayer and walking hand in hand with our Blessed Mother brought her to this day.
Always, community life has been important. Maybe I learned that as part of a large family. Now, in these declining years, I am so grateful for the ways we are still included. Every effort is made to keep us involved and to let us know we are an important part of all that is happening. I trust God will give me the grace daily to repeat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”
Sister Charlotte Zelenak, CSJ
Charlotte was born in Kansas City, Kansas on January 1, 1923, the third child in a family of seven children. Her parents were of Slovak and Hungarian roots. She attended the parish grade school, taught by Franciscan Sisters from St. Louis and then public high school because “we couldn’t afford a Catholic high school in the 30’s.” She was introduced to the CSJs by Sister Paula Marie Metz’s aunt and by Sister Lambertine of the Wichita CSJ Congregation.
She entered the community as a Postulant on Sept. 1, 1940. Sister is most appreciative for all the opportunities the Community provided her for study and especially for the blessing of annual retreats. For most of her religious life, she served in the teaching ministries of the congregation.
Sister states in her autobiography: “the daily joy of knowing, loving, living and working with Sisters who touch my life by their holiness, love, beautiful example and goodness cause me to rejoice.” Sister says that this statement is the best summary of what’s best about her life in community these many years.
Scripture passage that has been meaningful: Luke 1:46-47, 49
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Sister Jane Aucoin, CSJ
Jane was born in Baton Rouge and when only two her parents divorced and she went to live with her paternal Grandparents. When Jane ask her grandma about her mother, her grandma assured her that the Blessed Virgin Mary would always be her mother and this has been a lifelong comfort to Jane. Jane grew up fluent in both French and English as her grandma decided to speak only French at home for this very purpose. After graduating from high school Jane entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in New Orleans. She made final vows in 1949.
Jane’s ministry included teacher and principal of both elementary school and high school. In the meantime she also studied theology at Notre Dame University. In 1968 she was elected to Congregational Leadership and served as Assistant Provincial in New Orleans and then Assistant General in France. She then went into parish ministry in New Orleans and San Antonio. Following that she taught Adult Education (GED) among mostly Blacks in Baton Rouge. Then as Archivist in New Orleans she moved their collection to Baton Rouge after Katrina and then to Wichita. After retiring in Baton Rouge for a while, she moved to Wichita in 2014.
One of Jane’s favorite scripture passages is Philippians 3:7-14: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…”
Sister Veronice Born, CSJ
Early in 1931, The PARSONS SUN announced: “…a new girl arrived at the (Born) home February 15. The little Miss has been named Christina May. Johnnie Born, the Father, as his many friends call him, is smiling more than usual if that were possible, and he is now ready to finish getting in his crop.” Christina was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Francis School in St. Paul, KS. Their gentleness and dedication attracted her and this she confided to her 8th grade teacher Sister Veronica. The result was a holy card which she keeps to this day: “Dear Christina, in memory of January 11, 1946, when you decided to answer God’s Call, ‘Come unto Me.’ Give yourself to God, heart, soul, and mind, Dear, and you will never regret your choice. Remember – God chose you.” Less than a month later she boarded a bus to Wichita, and a life of Firsts and Surprises.
With tears in his eyes, her older brother Harold drove her to Mount Saint Mary Convent, where for the first time she saw the place that would figure so prominently in her life. The Mount was a school of formation for her where she received the habit in 1946 and became known as Sister Veronice. Two years later she made First Profession and in another four years Final Vows in 1952.
Among her ministry Firsts was beginning the Kindergarten at St. Patrick School, Wichita, and the Kindergarten at St. Rose School, Perry, OK; and then back to Wichita to teach at Blessed Sacrament, Kindergarten then 6th grade.
Among her Surprises in ministry which followed were opening the first Special Education Program in the Diocese of Wichita at the behest of Bishop Mark K. Carroll after training at St. Coletta’s Special Residential School, Madison, WI. In beginning the program it moved from St. Anthony School to the Cathedral School and finally to Maize Road and named Holy Family Center.
Among her next surprises were: being elected to the General Council of the Congregation, then President of the Congregation, after which she joined Bishop Gilmore in the Diocese of Dodge City as a prayer support. Then in 2014 she returned to the Mount where she had begun.
Two Psalms have had special significance for her: Psalms 42 and 137. When burdens were heavy and prayer was dry these sacred words were consoling along with the touch of the Mother of God.
Sister Patricia Brandner, CSJ
Sister Patricia Brander entered St. Joseph Academy, New Orleans, from Holy Rosary Parish and served her first mission in the parish school. This parish stands out as her first love and after teaching there for ten consecutive years, she returned later as coordinator/principal. Sister states that boys were her favorite students. Sister Francine Nason was an early supporter and special friend. Sister Patricia taught or was a principal in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi schools. Her only sibling, her brother John, still calls her occasionally. In her later years, her time was spent as guidance counselor. Recently, she has retired in Wichita, Kansas.
Sister Jean Louise Diskin, CSJ
Bernadine and Bernadette, twins, joined their family of three brothers and two sisters in St. Paul, Kansas. The family went to St. Francis Church and School. The family moved to California after the death of their dad. In 1945, Bernadine entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita, Kansas, and received the name Sister Jean Louise.
After finishing her secondary education at the Mount, she continued her education at Sacred Heart College, Wichita, and St. Mary of the Plain College, Dodge City. Her first assignment was teaching Headstart for several summers. She taught for 60 years, many of those years in California and she loved all her assignments. Teaching was a joy and brought much satisfaction to her. The children were interesting, challenging and a continual source of growth spiritually and mentally.
In 2006, she retired from teaching and returned to Wichita.Sister Jean Louise volunteer at the front desk, distribute mail to the Villa, and was a member of the funeral committee until recently. She enjoys music, playing “Hand and Foot”, putting puzzles together and visiting with friends.
I am grateful for my life as a Sister of St. Joseph and thank God for His many blessings.
Sister Elizabeth Ann Engels, CSJ
Sister Elizabeth Ann Engels was born October 23, 1928, to Matthew and Elizabeth Engels. She was baptized at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Kansas, and attended Blessed Sacrament School. She also received the Sacraments there. She grew up in a family of six boys and four girls. There was always activity!
September 4th, 1945, was a day she longed for as she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita. She received the habit in 1946 and was given her name Elizabeth Ann. After her education she became a teacher and later a principal. She loved teaching and had a great love for poetry. She is a very gentle person, a woman of prayer, and sharing her vocation with great love with others.
In retirement, Sister Elizabeth Ann is an example of St. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians 4:5: “Let your gentle spirit be known to all. The Lord is near.”
Sister Virginita Hearing, CSJ
Sister Virginita had an awareness of being called to the convent in high school. She wanted to lead the prayers and in her mind thought she could not do so because she was not a Sister. This is what brought her to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her mother was against it but did help her with the preparations. Her mother did not go with her when she left for the convent. It was her dad, who was not a Catholic, who took her.
Sister Virginita taught for six or seven years and then was sent to St. Rose Hospital in California. She was there to help set up the finance department. After nine months, she returned to Wichita where she was an accountant and eventually became the Community treasurer and assisted Sisters on the missions with their finances. Eventually, the laity took over the finances for the Community and Sister Virginita was free to assist wherever she was needed.
I feel blest to be a Sister of St. Joseph and am grateful for the many graces I have received for 70 years.
“God, who is rich in mercy because of the great love he has for us, brought us to life with Christ.” Ephesians 2:4
Sister Patrice Joyce, CSJ
Norma was born to Leone Johnston and John F. Joyce, a couple whose deep love for each other had been proved when John returned from World War I totally deaf as Leone reaffirmed her love for him and they then married. Norma was preceded by four brothers, the oldest, Randal (Jack), who became a Passionist priest, with whom she has had a very close relationship. At two months of age Norma’s mother died at the age of 31. Her Father remarried and she received a little sister. However she then lost this second mother who also died at the age of 31. Her two Aunts Mary and Blanche Joyce came to live with them and helped her Dad with the children.
In Sister Patrice’s words: “I always wanted to be a Sister and prayed to St. Therese of Lisieux to help me know. At the age of 14 I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita in 1945. My vocation was nurtured in a faith-filled family and community of St. Paul, the Passionists , and the wonderful Sisters who taught in our school. In the many joyful experiences and difficult times God has been there with me and for me and I am grateful. A prayer given me on Reception Day, as I received the name, Sister Patrice, by our Sister Adele from Ireland is meaningful: “…as you receive the beautiful name of the powerful St. Patrick – May you travel through the future in a heaven bound express. May you stop at just those stations that are labeled HAPPINESS; Your Guardian Angel, the conductor; Prayer and noble deeds your fare; Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, Coach Companions, OUR LORD, THE ENGINEER.”
Sister Parice taught 53 years in all, every level from first grade to teaching French in College. She taught several places in California as well as many places in Kansas. Her last and longest time at one place was Pittsburg, KS, where she taught English and French in the high school for 23 years, helped in the library for 6 years, and was Minister of the Eucharist for the sick for 6 more years. She is presently retired at St. Joseph Villa in Wichita.
Sister Rosina Van Leeuwen, CSJ
I was born February 9, 1930 in the home of my parents, Jake and Bertha (Jennings) Van Leeuwen on our farm near St. Paul, KS where I was the 6th of eleven children. For the next fifteen years my life revolved around our immediate family, relatives, neighbors and school with the Passionist Community and our Faith that seemed to be the center of most of our activities. These Celebrations still live in my memories after 86 years.
I attended a one-room country grade school and then one year at St. Francis High School before entering the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita, KS where I finished High School. My education continued at Sacred Heart College, Wichita, KS; St. Mary of the Plains College, Dodge City, KS; University of Notre Dame, Indiana.
Beginning in 1948, the year I started teaching, life was in a constant change. My ministries included 34 years of teaching in elementary schools: Coffeyville, Chanute, Kingman, Hoisington, Lyons, Blessed Sacrament and St. Patrick’s in Wichita, Sacred Heart and St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, KS and Eugene, Oregon.
In 1985 I was asked to take charge of Marian Hall (the wing for our retired Sisters) at our Wichita Center. When someone once asked me what I did there I said I did whatever you would do at home and that could change every day. After leaving Marian Hall I spent the next ten years in Pittsburg, KS where I helped in the grade school library and taught 8th grade Religion part of the time.
In 2003 I once more returned to our Wichita Center where I have been able to do some oil painting, take care of the Guest List, help at the Switchboard, and Hospitality. A surprise blessing was to be here when the Medaille Sisters moved here after Katrina and I made a pictorial history of much of this event. Another great blessing has been to be able to be with so many of the Sisters that I had been with through the years. Especially to be with five classmates I had entered with seventy years ago!
I am still amazed how My Seriously, Mysteriously, Humorous God ever managed to get me here in the first place. This is love!
Sister Antonella Bayer, CSJ
From early childhood Psalm 42 has stirred my soul to move ever forward in search of Jesus, the Divine Lover: “As a deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for You, O Lord.”
After Anthony and Anna Belle Bayer became parents of three boys in the early thirties, Rosemary was born on a farm in Western Kansas. Born in 1939, she was the first of three girls and another boy. Her parents sacrificed to send the seven children to a parochial school once one was built in a city fifteen miles away. There the Dominican Sisters provided religious training and excellent teaching which shaped her thoughts and living habits. Childhood desire to be close to Jesus and Mary flourished.
Admiring the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph who had taught her parents, Rosemary entered the convent in 1955 and received the name Sister Antonella. After First Profession of Vows, she began teaching at Holy Savior School in Wichita, Kansas. At the same time she taught Gregorian chant to the other novices and postulants in the evening and played the organ for community liturgies and prayers.
Sister Antonella earned a B.S. in Education, an M.S. in Educational Administration, and an Ed. S. in Counseling and Guidance. These served her well during a thirty-year teaching career in Kansas and Missouri Catholic schools. In the grade schools Sister Antonella was known for her excellent children’s choirs. In the upper grades she stressed good use of English and cultivated vocations to all walks of life centered on Christ-like living. Student teachers were placed in her classroom from a nearby college in order to form good habits and be guided well by Sister. She taught in the theology department of high schools where she was privileged to instruct students in morality and social justice classes.
These last thirteen years have been spent at Sanctuary of Hope in Kansas City, an interfaith retreat center where Sister leads retreats, days of reflection, and prayer groups. Also, she is sacristan, liturgist, musician, and caretaker of the chapel. Professional memberships include National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and Spiritual Directors International. Her interests include reading, writing, art, music, traveling, genealogy, sewing, and cooking.
What community means to me: “I gained hundreds of sisters-in-Christ, people with the same core values and who are living with purpose and creativity. Living with different sisters and experiencing the ups and downs in daily living has meant challenge, service, and labors of love. My community life has been enriched by the wisdom of the elders and the enthusiasm of those younger in age. I have grown in spiritual life and enjoy bonds of friendship to support living out the beautiful call to a dedicated religious life. Offering great gratitude to all who have helped and prayed for me through the years is small payment for the precious gem of community.”
Sister Cecilia Okada, CSJ
Sister Cecilia Hisae Okada was born on April 7, 1926. From 1946 she taught at Primary School in Yamaguchi where her home town was for 8 years. While teaching there, she was baptized and became Catholic in 1947 on Christmas Eve.
In 1954 she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita as a postulant. She made her first profession in 1958. In 1961, she made her final profession. She was sent to study more at Kyoto Teacher Training College and graduated in 1968.
Since her background was education, she taught at our kindergarten for 17 years both at Ikeda, St. Joseph Children’s Home and at Waifu, St. Mary’s Kindergarten. She met many hardships and difficulties when the educational works started at the very beginning. However, she overcame them by trusting in God. She also served at St. Mary Special School for challenged children as a principal for several years. Now she has been spending her prayerful and abundant life at Nansei Catholic Care House where our Sisters minister.
Sister Fidel Marie Sauceda, CSJ
Sister Fidel Marie Sauceda (Irene) was born in Kansas City, Kansas, April 19, 1941. She was the fourth child of six children. She attended St. John the Evangelist with the Benedictine Sisters in the first and second grade. She then finished elementary school at St. John the Divine with the Sisters of St. Joseph. Irene helped Sister Thomasine, her principal, every Saturday cleaning the church. She loved her work and became a very knowledgeable and prayerful sacristan. Sister Thomasine spent time helping her learn to play the organ. She became an exceptional musician. She loved the Sisters of St. Joseph and through prayerful discernment, she decided at the end of the summer following her 8th grade graduation to enter Mount St. Mary’s Convent in Wichita on September 8, 1955. She was received into the novitiate on July 26, 1956 and given the name Sister Fidel Marie.
Her early religious life was spent teaching CCD in Ulysses, Kansas and various counties of western Kansas for five years. She became a full time student at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, Kansas, earning her BS in 1969. She continued her education and graduated from Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a Reading Specialist in 1979. She has taught in California, as well as in Claflin, Dodge City, and Wichita, Kansas (Holy Savior and St. Cecilia). Then in 1996 she moved to Kansas City to care for her aging parents where she continues to teach.
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28), so Sister Fidel Marie, filled with many talents, continues to share her love and service to all!
Sister Joann Schneider, CSJ
“Be utterly given to God by a holy self-surrender, utterly for God by a love pure and completely unselfish, utterly in God by a continuing effort to be more conscious of his presence, utterly according to God by a will, a life and everything conformed to him.”
Throughout her 60 years of religious life, Sister Joann has been greatly blessed as a Sister of St. Joseph. She entered religious life following graduation from high school in 1955. When her novitiate year was completed, she taught in the elementary grades for a number of years. During this time she graduated from SMPC with a B.S. in Education.
In 1965, Sister Joann received her missionary calling to go to Japan and joined our Sisters in Kyoto. Following her studies of the Japanese language, she was assigned to journey with our Sisters in all phases of their Formation. Other opportunities to serve the sick, the homeless, and be present to all people were grace-filled moments to spread the “Good News” of God’s love and mercy. These many years living in a different culture and speaking a different language provided many occasions for self-emptying and being open to do the will of God.
Sister Joann holds a certification for Spiritual Direction by the Institute of Religious Formation at St. Louis University and from the Washington Theological Union, Washington, D.C. She continues to minister as a spiritual companion with others desiring a deeper relationship with God to love and serve the “dear neighbor”.
I am grateful to God, my community, family members and all others who have supported me with love and prayers throughout these many years.
Sister Judith Ann Shimek, CSJ
Sister Judith Ann considers that the sufferings of her weakness at this present moment are nothing compared to the destiny of my glory that God has in store for me later. (Romans 8:18)
Sister Judith Ann was born in Elma, Iowa, with 3 brothers and 4 sisters. Her mother was a good homemaker and seamstress while her father was the community electrician. When her parents moved to Waterloo, Iowa, she remained living with her sister until she graduated from 8th grade. During the next few years she was a local baby sitter and a caretaker of a woman’s 3 children doing light housekeeping.
Being a friend of Sister Oswald, she learned about the Sisters of St. Joseph and their ministries. During the summer of 1955, she entered Mount St. Mary’s in Wichita, Kansas and began her novitiate and made profession. Her journey took her to missions in Kansas as a housekeeper and to Oklahoma where she was supervisor of the housekeepers at St. Ann’s Nursing Home.
Coming to Marian Hall in 1973, she worked with Sister Alban in the kitchen performing her favorite pastime, cooking and waiting on the Sisters. This allowed her time to make baby blankets which she sold. She also had time to read and she loved to do puzzles.
Community means living and praying together as one. I had the opportunity for retreats, spiritual direction, conferences, and quiet prayer time. I thank God for all these gifts. A favorite quote: “During these days, may we dance in our step and keep our eyes fixed on Christ. That loving mutual gaze will brighten our way and light up our world.”
Sister Catherine Switlik, CSJ
60 YearsSister Catherine Switlik was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 29, 1937, to Margaret Agnes and Clem Thomas Switlik, the third of twelve Children. She was given the name Catherine Agnes after her grandmother and her mother.
Sister enjoyed a career teaching children at St. Mary’s in Derby, St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s in Wichita, and Holy Name School in Winfield. She worked and taught at the Holy Family Center and the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities from 1963 until her retirement in 2008. She now resides at St. Joseph Villa in Wichita.
Catherine has always loved and prayed the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
She often meditates on the lines from St. Matthew’s Gospel 7:7 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you shall find; Knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
Sister Elizabeth Ann Switlik, CSJ
60 Years“Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 3 :35)
Sister Elizabeth Ann was born at St. Anne’s Hospital in St. Louis on February 6, 1936 to Clem and Margaret (Currigan) Switlik. Sister Elizabeth Ann's older and younger sisters, Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Catherine, were also born in St. Louis. Her two sisters, Theresa and Cecilia, were born in Tulsa. Eventually, her family moved to Parsons Kansas. It was here that her seven brothers were born. She attended St. Mary’s School for pre-school and St. Patrick’s grade and high school. While she was in high school she worked in the kitchen at Mercy Hospital. She graduated from High School on May 22, 1955.
She entered Mt. St. Mary’s Convent September 8, 1955 and spent the next 6 months as a postulant. On March 19, 1956, she received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Sister Elizabeth Ann pronounced her first vows on July 26, 1958 and her perpetual vows on July 26, 1961. Besides her years at Mt. St. Mary working in the kitchen or as a housekeeper, she was missioned as a housekeeper at St. Joseph Home in El Dorado, St. Michael Convent in Mulvane and St. Anthony Convent in Danville. For seven years she supervised the housekeepers at St. Ann’s Home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and learned to give in-service training to the housekeeping staff. Early in the 1970’s, dmoved back to Mt. St. Mary Convent. Because of construction at our Center, I presently reside at Marian Hall West located at the Adorers of the Blood of Christ Convent.
Community has been important to me because it has allowed me to grow in my love for Jesus and given me a chance to use my gifts in the service of others.
Sister Mary Margaret Switlik, CSJ
60 YearsI, Mary Margaret, named for Our Lady and grandmothers of two generations as well as my mother and several aunts, though born in St. Louis, consider myself a Kansan since we moved to Parsons, KS, in time for me to begin first grade at St. Patrick’s School. On October 28, 1934, I made my debut as the first child of twelve born to Clement Thomas and Margaret Agnes (Currigan) Switlik. I received my early education in both parochial and public systems, graduating from St. Patrick’s High School in 1952, and received a B.S. in Business Administration from St. Mary of the Plains College, Dodge City, KS, in 1965.
Along with my next two sisters, I entered the Congregation of St. Joseph of Wichita in 1955. We three at our reception in 1956 were given the names of Rita Adele, Clement Therese, and Paul Agnes, and in the late ‘60s we chose to return to our baptismal names.
Having taught grade School classes for just over two years, my main service has been in the office area of our hospitals in Hayward, California; Del Norte, Colorado; and the Kansas towns of Parsons, Pittsburg, Dodge City, and Halstead. My hospital service began at Mercy Hospital, Parsons, in 1952. Currently residing at The Wichita Center, affectionately known as the Mount, I’ve served in varied capacities since the mid-‘80s.
Along with the Psalms, one of my favorite quotes is “Mary” and “Rabboni” from John 20:16. St. Augustine’s famed quote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” has sustained me for many years.
One final item is that Sister Elizabeth and I are breast cancer survivors since 2002 and 2004 respectively. Having suffered a major stroke in 2008, Sister Catherine is a survivor with damaged right extremities. Presently we’re holding our own and so far our remaining eight siblings are clear of both! Thanks be to God for all that was, is, and will be!
Sister Mary Virginia Watanabe, CSJ 60 YearsSister Virginia Michiko Watanabe was born on December 13, 1930. Her grandfather was a Shinto priest. She is the fourth child of seven brothers and sisters. Her mother belonged to the Baptist Church, so Virginia was nursed with hymns for lullabies. This is why Virginia longed for Jesus from her earliest years.
Later she was influenced by one of her classmates at normal training school and went to the Catholic Church. When she was teaching in a public middle school, she was baptized and became Catholic in 1951. Moreover, all the members of her family were guided to become Catholic.
In 1953, she met Sr. Charlene and Sr. Julius Marie in the summer course at Sacred Heart College in Tokyo. To her they were so attractive and this meeting let her think about religious life.
In 1954 she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita as a postulant, and was assigned to serve at Kinugasa Church in Kyoto. She made her first profession in 1958. In 1961, she made her final profession. She was sent to study at Sophia University in Tokyo and graduated from the University in 1970. Since then she worked as a social worker at St. Joseph Hospital for many years. She also served two terms as the Regional Superior. Now she has been spending her prayerful and abundant life at Nansei Catholic Care House where our Sisters minister.
Sister Karen Salsbery, CSJ
The journey of my life began in Olathe, KS, on August 29th, 1968. My parents, Larry and Rita greeted me at 10:09 a.m. and named me Karen Marie Salsbery. I had been so eager to be out in the world that I arrived almost two months early and weighed only four pounds. I spent the first month of my life in an incubator so that my lungs could fully develop. Two years later my brother, Ed, was born.
Our family life began in Parsons, KS where both sets of grandparents lived. In Parsons, I attended St. Patrick Catholic School and Lincoln Elementary Schools. At the end of my fourth grade year we moved to Newton, KS, which I consider my home town. In Newton, I attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and Newton High School, graduating in 1987. I attended Marymount College for my first year of college and transferred to Wichita State University where I graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work.
From the time I was in seventh grade I can remember thinking about becoming a Sister. Nourishing my vocation was my involvement in CYO, Teens Encounter Christ Retreats and the follow-up scripture sharing group called THIS (Together Here in Spirit) and a Summer Ministry Program sponsored by the Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph. During high school I also enjoyed running in track and cross country until I decided it was time to get a job and buy a car of my own, an important right of passage!
My high school friends, “The Gang” as we lovingly called each other were and are women with values and compassion. We represented various faiths and were faith-filled young women who wanted to be compassionate in our world. I especially credit my Mennonite friends with nurturing the spirit of going on mission. One of them, Christie actually signed up for the Summer Ministry Program and then encouraged me to do it too…and since I was also interested in the Sisters this was a good deal! With Sonya’s encouragement, I signed up for TEC which helped me continue to develop my relationship with Christ and others.
As I attended WSU, I began to realize that I just couldn’t keep talking about becoming a Sister; I needed to do something about it. What I knew of Religious was that they helped people and treated people well, they were likable and they even risked their lives for others…I was familiar with the Sisters and Lay Woman who gave their lives for the people in El Salvador and this inspired me.
I entered the Congregation of St. Joseph in Wichita on January 8, 1990. My formation director was especially good for me as she helped me realize that even though I was young, I had a voice and a contribution to make. I will always be grateful to her for that great gift. Entering the Novitiate on August 31, 1991, following my graduation from WSU, I took the theme of being molded by a “Potter God” and was proud to have a picture drawn by my Dad on the program booklet. On September 11, 1993, I professed first vows in the Congregation, this time, taking the theme, “Take, Lord, Receive” which spoke to me of the gift of self, Jesus’ acceptance and of the trust it takes to really say and mean that prayer. Finding that God’s love and grace, truly were enough, I professed final vows on August 17, 1996.
I am truly grateful to all the Sisters with whom I have lived in local community and from whom I have learned so much. I am also grateful for the Congregation as a whole who have loved me into deeper life and giving of self over these 25 years. These last 10 years as the new Congregation of St. Joseph have been amazing in solidifying our call and mission in the world…this is what I entered for…on-going growth in service of the hungers of our world…God’s mission...God’s people having what they need.
In ministry I served at St. Joseph Senior Community in Manhattan for two months, at Harbor House as a House Manager for seven months, after which, I moved to Pittsburg, KS to serve at Mt. Carmel Medical Center as a Social Worker. Then at Catholic Care Center in Wichita where I spent five years as Director of Social Services and Director of Pastoral Care. Sensing a need for a stronger theological background I attended Catholic Theological Union where I earned a Master of Divinity degree. Being in Chicago and studying with people from around the world expanded my horizons and I often say I learned as much outside of the classroom as I did in the classroom. Life evolves and the Congregation asked me to serve in Vocations Ministry which I did for almost 8 years. During that time, I am especially happy about the Missions Trips we held for teens and young adults. My belief is that when we serve, we are especially open to God’s grace and call, so I felt those opportunities were important to offer.
Feeling a stronger desire to engage in direct social service ministry, I was hired as an Advocate at StepStone. Walking with and serving women and children, survivors of domestic violence, has been a great privilege. Working in the same building as Dear Neighbor Ministries has also opened my eyes to the struggles people experience within our society and the need to let their voices and needs be heard in a society that often does not understand their situation. I especially appreciate the team with whom I work, all of whom are willing to jump in to whatever needs to be done and to support one another through our best and worst times. They have enriched my life more than they realize.
Favorite Scriptures of mine include: John 17 especially verse 21: That all may be one.
Matthew 13:31-32: Mustard Seed, a pesky weed that grows and spreads, making a home for all
John 21: The disciples decide to go do what they know how to do…there Jesus calls to them from shore to throw their nets to the other side where they proceed to catch 153 fish. Realizing it is Jesus they practically lose their minds…Peter putting on his clothes and then jumping into the water! Jesus invites them to add some of their fish to the fish he is cooking and he says to them, “Come, have breakfast.” I love this! Bring some of your fish and come. There is so much in this passage from the aspect that we meet God in the ordinary of our life…over breakfast, or wherever we are, doing whatever we do. Also, that our ministry is abundant when we listen and that Jesus is among us as one who serves…doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. That passage speaks strongly to me now as I celebrate 25 years!