Wheeling Jubilarians – 2019 – Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Wheeling Jubilarians – 2019

Sister Rita Marie von Berg, CSJ

80 Years

Sister Rita Marie von Berg, a native of Wheeling, entered the Congregation of St. Joseph in 1939. A graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy and Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing, she later received a bachelor of science in nursing from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and a master’s in education from Ohio University in Athens. In the health care field she ministered as a nurse and educator at St. Mary’s Hospital in Clarksburg and as director of nursing at St. Francis School in Charleston. She provided leadership as director of the School of Nursing and as administrator of Wheeling Hospital. From 1964 until 1991, she continued to lead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg, first as administrator and then as chairman of the Board of Directors. From 1989 until 1993, Sister Rita Marie was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling Leadership Team. She now resides in Torch, Ohio, is a member of St. Ambrose Catholic Church, and continues to contribute her talents to the congregation and throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley area.

“I’ve had a Love affair with the Sisters of St Joseph since I was in the first grade. From grade one through twelve, the sisters were in my life – my teachers, mentors, counselors. I wanted to be one of them and that’s what happened! I started my journey in 1939 and after 80 years, I love them as much today as I did in the first grade. My religious life has been an array of good experiences and great relationships. My favorite memory over the years is the day in 1941 when Mother Aquinas and Mother Magdalen told me I would be going to Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing to become a registered nurse. My time and experiences in the health care field over 50 years – sisters, medical personnel, coworkers, and patients – are remembered with great affection. As I approach my 97th year on this earth, 80 of which have been as a CSJ, I feel that ‘I rode the waves’ pretty well! I thank God every day for the graces and blessings He has bestowed on me and for the gifts of body and soul given to me. A favorite Motto is ‘LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH.’ I believe in my heart that I live life to the fullest, I love God and all He has created with a passion, and I laugh a lot. I know I am loved in return. In whatever years are left for me, with God’s help, they will be lived in a spirit of ‘gentleness, peace and joy’.”

Sister Caroline Benken, CSJ

70 Years

Sister Caroline Benken was born in Milford, Ohio, and baptized Rita May, one of nine children of the late Evelyn Motz and Edward Benken. Her sisters Loretta B. Kaeser, Mary Ann B. Mofford, and Caroline B. Spahn, and brothers Edward (Pat) and Richard Benken all live in Cincinnati. Sister Joyce B. Appelmann lives in Moscow, Ohio, and brother James lives in Waynesburg, Kentucky. Her sister Rose Anne Benken, CSJ, is deceased.

Sister Caroline graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in Cincinnati and entered the Congregation’s founding community of Medaille in 1949. She professed first vows in 1951 and final vows in 1954. She earned a B.S. in education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, a Masters in Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Masters in Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. Sister Caroline taught at parochial schools in and near Cincinnati for 28 years. She was principal at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Cincinnati for three years and at St. Thomas More in Withamsville for 13 years. After a sabbatical year of study she served in pastoral ministry at St. Xavier Church in Cincinnati for 18 years. In 1999, she began ministering as a General Councilor for the founding community of Medaille which she did for eight years.

Sister Caroline retired in 2007 but stayed active serving on a number of internal teams including the Congregation’s Peace & Justice Team and Editorial Ideas Team. She currently resides at Mount Saint Joseph in Wheeling and is active in prayer ministry.

Sister Mary Ellen Clark, CSJ

60 Years

A native of New York State, Sister Mary Clark first entered religious life with the Newburgh Dominicans in 1959. She received her B.S. Ed. degree from Mount St. Mary College and her M.S. Ed. degree in Special Education from the College of New Rochelle in New York. Following a three-year transfer process, she professed her vows anew in 1987 as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the founding community of Wheeling.

Sister Mary came to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in 1978 and served first through its Office of Religious Education. Subsequently she provided pastoral ministry at St. Peter Parish in Fairmont, St. Patrick Church in West Union, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling, and the L’Arche community in Erie, Pennsylvania. Since 1997 she has been engaged in congregational ministries as Director of Vocations and a summer volunteer program; Director of Associates and Director of St. Joseph Retreat and Spirituality Center in Wheeling.

Sister Mary currently resides at Mount Saint Joseph in Wheeling and, having completed the Shalem Spiritual Direction Program in 1996, provides spiritual companionship to many directees who seek her out for regular spiritual direction. She is also active in prayer ministry.

Sister Karen Kirby, CSJ

50 Years

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Sister Karen Kirby was the last of nine children born to Florence and Thomas Kirby. She attended Saint Joseph Academy and earned her B. S. in Education from St. John College, both in Cleveland. After a year spent as a CSJ Associate, she officially entered the Congregation of St. Joseph on July 20, 1969, from St. Brendan Parish in Cleveland.

She began her teaching career in 1973 at St. John in Lorain, Ohio, and then taught at St. Peter, Akron; St. Thomas Aquinas, Cleveland; St. Thomas More, Brooklyn; Our Lady of Good Counsel, Cleveland; and St. Angela Merici, Fairview Park. After her many years teaching, sister went onto serve the community in 1993 by managing the WellSpring bookstore in Elyria, where she also served on the board of the South Elyria Neighborhood Development (SEND). In 2006, sister joined Pflaum Publishing Company as Religious Education Consultant. She then became the Adult Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Bernard parish in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 2008. In 2010, she joined the staff at Gesu parish in University Heights, Ohio, as Director of Religious Education.

Sister Karen currently serves on the Pastoral Care Team at Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, where she also resides.

“In addition to my more formal ministries, some of my fondest experiences over the years have been contributing to and editing the second and third grade phonics texts for Modern Curriculum Press, assisting with the medical mission trip of Gesu parish to Honduras, volunteering in McAllen, Texas, and a pilgrimage to Le Puy, France, the birthplace of the Sisters of St. Joseph. I am ever grateful to the CSJ community and to God for the many opportunities I have had over the years and the wonderful people I have met along the way. I am blessed and humbled to be celebrating 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph!”

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