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

Wichita Jubilarians – 2019

Sister Ann Diskin, CSJ

(Sister Margaret Ann)

80 years

Sister Ann Diskin was born on March 19, 1923, and was one of eleven children. After living for a time in Alberta, Canada, the Diskin family moved back to the States and settled in the Midwest. Anna went to elementary school and two years of high school in Kansas. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1938 and completed her secondary education. Ann continued her education, earning three masters degrees.

Sister Ann inherited the gift of music from her mother. She loved to dance and was able to teach this in schools for many years, sharing her talent and passion for dance with countless girls. She attributed her ability to deeply touch others to her lifetime of experience with many types of people. Ever aware of the presence of God in her life, Sister Ann prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance. She has said that the Spirit never failed her.

Professionally, Sister Ann spent twenty years in education – five teaching and fifteen serving as a school principal. She then served as a pastoral associate until her retirement to the Wichita Center in 2008. During her years as a pastoral associate, she was active in the Congregation, serving on committees, leading workshops, and providing spiritual guidance to many women and men who adored her spirit and wisdom.

Sister Ann continues to be a dynamic and vibrant member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. Her love of bright colors (especially royal purple and red), different varieties of roses, a continuous pursuit of knowledge, and a desire to serve, all mark a life well lived and serve as a legacy to those who were blessed to know her.

 Sister Margaret Ellen Isenbart, CSJ

75 years

Sister Margaret Ellen Isenbart was born Verda Elizabeth Isenbart on November 21, 1919, on her father’s homestead in Woods County, Oklahoma. She was the eighth of nine children of Henry and Eva Kunzman Isenbart. The Isenbarts were members of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Alva, Oklahoma, where she was baptized and received the other Sacraments.

Verda’s first four years of education were received in a one-room rural school a half mile from home. After the Sacred Heart Parochial School opened in 1929 under the direction of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, the three youngest children received the remainder of their elementary education there.

In her early twenties, with the help and encouragement of her sister, Sister Agnes Mary, Verda, began to fulfill her longtime desire of furthering her education and becoming a teacher. After her freshman year, on June 6, 1943, she entered Mt. St. Mary’s Convent. She made temporary vows August 15, 1946 and perpetual vows July 25, 1949.

After entering the convent, Sister Margaret Ellen completed her secondary education and earned her Normal Training Certificate with which she began her 30 years of teaching in Kansas, Oklahoma and California. Through correspondence and summer education courses she received her B.S. from St. Mary of the Plains College, Dodge City, Kansas and M.S. from Kansas State Teacher’s College, Emporia, Kansas.

After retiring from teaching, Sister received Pastoral Care Training at St John’s Hospital, Springfield, Missouri in 1981. She used these skills in St. Joseph Hospital and Nursing Home, Del Norte, Colorado for 16 years. Returning to Wichita in 1995, she intermittently spent about 2 ½ years doing family ministry and serving for several years in Pastoral Care in Marian Hall.

Sister’s great blessings after returning to Mt. St. Mary’s Convent were the many spiritually enriching privileges available there: retreats, workshops, library materials, time at the Spiritual Life Center, etc. Her hobbies consist of various forms of needlework: knitting, crocheting, embroidery, etc. and making rosaries. Her favorite recreational activity is card playing with her sister companions, family and friends, while also using her gift of humor.

Sister Margaret Ellen’s present ministry is serving the dear neighbor through the Prayer Apostolate, mending and altering clothing, rosaries, chains, etc. Her favorite Scripture passages are: “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Jn 15:16; “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe!” Jer 29:11.

“I have so much to be grateful for,” she said. “All is gift, but most especially for the gift of faith, my religious vocation and our becoming one in the Congregation of St. Joseph.”

Sister Connie Robles, CSJ

(Sister Consolata)

70 years

Sister Connie Robles was born Virginia Ann Robles on June 11, 1933, the fourth of nine children in the Robels family. Her early memories are of delighting in playing in the empty lot adjacent to their home as this spot was popular with all the kids on the block. She attended Sleeth and Lincoln Schools and accepted the challenge of learning with great interest.

Her carefree days were interrupted as she experienced one of the greatest sorrows of her life. Her mother’s death, caused by pneumonia, when she was 10 years of age was deeply felt by the entire family. Her father, Aunt Pauline and Uncle John helped them through grace-filled days. Her cousins became like brothers and sisters and are still very close today. During this time she came to experience God’s use of sorrow, changed into joy.

She first encountered Sisters of St. Joseph while attending vacation Bible school. Since the second grade she had told her mother that she wanted to be a Sister someday! She loved the Sisters and yearned to be a part of them. She helped them clean the church every Saturday. When she told her father she wanted to enter the convent, he felt she should go to High School first. Reluctantly she obeyed, but prayed he’d let her go soon. Pastor Father Holtz, a good family friend, helped to convince her father and by the time she was ready for her junior year, her father gave her permission to enter. Her prayers were answered. Fortified with youthfulness and a willingness to serve the Lord, she entered at Mount St. Mary’s in Wichita on September 2, 1948.

She received the habit March 19, 1949 at the Cathedral because with 26 being received the convent chapel was too small. She was given the name Sister Consolata. Her class called themselves the “49ers” and their novitiate days were very colorful. She made final vows July 26, 1954.

Her ministry consisted mainly of teaching kindergarten as well as grades 1 and 2 for 37 years mostly throughout Kansas, but also in Colorado and Oregon. For many summers she taught arts and crafts to many teachers through St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City. Now retired at the Wichita Center she loves to cook, bake fabulous cinnamon rolls and make peanut brittle.

“Life has woven many intricate patterns upon the fabric of my being,” she said, “sometimes surrounded by brilliant hues, and now and then tinged with dark shades of sufferings, but my song continues to be sung in hopes that I’ll always be ready to respond with a grateful heart for all the good Lord as allowed me.”

Sister Patricia Mae Stanley, CSJ

(Sister Mary George)

70 Years

Sister Patricia Mae Stanley was born on January 8, 1934, in Ashland, Kansas, during a great blizzard. She was born of George Stanley, a Brooklynite, and a child of Irish Immigrants and mother, Bertha Melvina Ford, from Englewood, Kansas, a child of prairie folk. She spent the first three years of her life in the Bronx where she was baptized in the Episcopalian church of the Nativity. Then, when her father found work in Alexandria, Indiana, the family moved there. Later, the family moved to Anderson, Indiana, where she went to school until the 4th grade. While in Anderson, the family grew to include a sister, Virginia Marie and a brother George Edward Jr. When World War II started her father worked as a foreman at an airplane factory and later entered the navy. This necessitated the family moving to live with the Grandparents in Ashland, Kansas. There Patty Mae attended Ashland grade school for grades 4 and 5.

A cousin who was a Catholic invited the family to attend the Catholic Church since there was no Episcopal Church there. St. Joseph Parish in Ashland started a Catholic School administered by the Precious Blood Sisters. There Patty Mae attended grades 6 and part of 7. While there Patty Mae requested to become a Catholic. The whole family, mother and siblings, were baptized in St. Mary Church in Sitka, Kansas. Later her parents divorced after the war and her grandmother was tasked with taking care of her aging mother and her stroke-sickened husband. So the three Stanley children were bundled off to St. Joseph Home in Eldorado, Kansas, administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita. There Patty Mae finished 7th and 8th grade at St. John’s school, administered again by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Wichita, Kansas.

“One summer day, I was invited me to ride to Wichita to see the motherhouse and meet the new Superior, Mother Mary Ann,” she said. “I sat in the parlor with my crochet hook and thread, waiting. When Mother Mary Anne finally came in, she took one look at me and said, ‘She’ll stay.’ So, stay I did, without parental permission, dowry, paper documentation, or clothes (except the ones I was wearing).”

During the 70 years since, Sister Pat taught for 45 years on all levels except kindergarden, earned a BS degree in Ed, an MS in Science Education, and an MS in Computing Science, spent 4 years in congregational leadership, and 2 years as Computer Network Administrator for Diocese of Wichita. Since then, she has helped with computer instruction and administration at Mt. St. Mary.

Sister Pat currently resides at Mount St. Mary in Wichita and is active in prayer ministry.

Sister Teresa Waner, CSJ

(Sister Daniel Marie)

70 years

Sister Teresa Waner was born in Marion, Kansas, to Robert and Annie Waner. She was number fifth of eight children. Her first year of school was in a one room schoolhouse, grades two through four were in a public school and five through eight in St. Patrick’s School. She graduated from Florence Memorial High School in 1948 as salutatorian of the class.

Sister Teresa entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in September, 1948, and received the habit on March 19, 1949. She taught all grades on the elementary level and also served as principal. In later years, she taught music, English and math for a combined total of 35 years in education. She then moved to Mount St. Mary’s Convent and for 30 years gave private music lessons and worked in the Liturgy office. She received her Master Degree in Liturgy from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.

Music was a high priority in her home. Both of her parents were good musicians. Instrumental music was a great joy for her, especially the instrumental bands she conducted in schools. Her favorite instrument was the trumpet, which she played. Music continued to be a part of her life also after entering the convent in 1948.

“I consider music to be the universal language of love,” she said. “The restorative power of music has uplifted me in times of discouragement as well as in times of success. The joining of music and liturgy has been a good combination fulfilling my love of God and neighbor.”

 Sister Rita Marie Thissen, CSJ

70 years

Sister Rita Marie Thissen was born in Kingman, Kansas, on January 14, 1934. She was the fifth in a family of twelve children. She attended grade school at St. Patrick where in grade 3 she was privileged to carry the Baby Jesus to the Christmas Crib and in grade 8 she was chosen to crown Mary with a garland of flowers. A year later she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita and wore the same bridal gown as she had for May Crowning.

Sister Rita Marie continued her schooling obtaining a BS in Elementary Administration (1964) from St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City and an MS (1969) from Emporia Kansas State University. In the meantime she began her teaching ministry in many schools throughout Kansas including Wichita, Lyons, Pratt, Dodge City, Fort Scott, Claflin, Arkansas City, Cherryvale, Derby, and as principal in Parsons, Kansas as well as Sunnyvale and Paso Robles, California, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Ponca City, Oklahoma.

Through all this Sister Rita Maria continued her growth by attending a variety of workshops and seminars including many that focused on education and spirituality. A highlight was a Holy Land/Rome Scriptural Tour led by her brother, Father Kevin Thissen, OP.

In 1991, she became Facility Coordinator at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, followed by Marian Hall Coordinator at Mount St. Mary Convent, then Customer Support Specialist at Via Christi Mount Carmel Medical Center in Pittsburg, Kansas. Throughout her life, Sister Rita Marie used her gifts as a musician whenever she could. In 2006, she volunteered to serve for a year in Malawi, Africa, teaching music to children in grades 6 and 7.

Now retired in Wichita, Sister helps in a variety of ways, particularly taking care of the chapel needs with Sister Guadalupe Martinez.

“My journey reached to the four corners of the earth,” she said. “I have many wonderful memories that surface beauty from different lands, lifestyles, races, cultures and religions. Friendship was and is a way of visitation where we claim our freedom and celebrate our gifts. Our friends assist us in becoming sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of the Son, and spouses of the Holy Spirit. The Heart of God plus our own heart equals the heart of all as one.”

 Sister Mary Clare Doebel, CSJ

70 years

Sister Mary Clare Doebel was born Theresa Marie Doebel in Sterling, Oklahoma, the third of six children to Joe Doebel and Hazel Deeds. Her parents and siblings later moved to St. Paul, Kansas, when her father obtained a job at a local saw mill. Theresa Marie and her siblings attended the Catholic high school there, which was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph and where she first encountered them. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph at Mount St. Mary’s in Wichita and was received into the Congregation in 1949, taking the name Sister Mary Clare.

Sister Mary Clare then attended College in Emporia, Kansas, through a scholarship by the Kennedy Foundation. She taught in elementary schools throughout Kansas in Newton, St. Paul, Parsons, Iola and Wichita. She later completed a Master’s Degree and continued teaching in Derby, Pittsburg and Hutchinson; then in Ponca City, Oklahoma. She retired from teaching in 2008 and moved to the Mount in Wichita where she served as Sacristan in the Chapel for ten years.

Currently, Sister Mary Clare enjoys spending time praying and encouraging others, which is a ministry she finds special. As life slows down, she finds it comforting to view an outdoor statue of St. Joseph from her window, as he stands protective, overlooking her home.

 Sister June Horning, CSJ

(Sister Robert Marie)

60 years

Sister June Roberta Horning was born May 19, 1940, in Eugene, Oregon, with her younger twin brothers. By fifth grade, her parents were able to send her to St. Mary’s School and then on to St. Francis High School. The Sisters of St. Joseph came to Eugene when June was a junior in High School. Thinking about religious life and encouraged by the school principal, she knocked on the convent door and introduced herself. She was struck by their down-to-earth friendliness and their seeming openness to a variety of works. Upon graduating, she traveled to Wichita and entered at Mount St. Mary Convent in September, 1958, and received the habit the following March 19, 1959. She made final vows on August 5, 1966.

Over the years, Sister June taught school in Grades 1 – 8 and also worked several years in Pastoral Care in CSJ hospitals. Much if not most of her ministry has been in California which she felt was good for her as it put her closer to home. In her early retirement years, Sister felt privileged to teach English and citizenship classes to immigrants. She currently lives at the Wichita Center and is as busy as ever. She assists with the music ministry for the Sisters among other things.

“What is true is that God has always been with me and continues to bless my sometimes very weak efforts,” she said. “God is faithful and does not abandon anyone. For that I am grateful.”

Sister Gracelyn Soignet, CSJ

(Sister Bonaventure)

60 years

Sister Gracelyn Soignet was born in New Orleans, La., one of two children of the late Grace Walker and Mertyle Michael Soignet. Her brother Donald and his wife Jeanne live in Metairie, La. Sister Gracelyn graduated from St. Joseph Academy in New Orleans and entered the novitiate in New Orleans in 1956 where she professed first vows in 1959 and final vows in 1964. She has a B.A. in Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans where she specialized in teaching the mentally handicapped. Later she became a Licensed Practical Nurse. Sister Gracelyn became a teacher in parochial schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. and taught special education at a vocational school in Baton Rouge. After receiving her L.P.N. she served as nurse at the Mirabeau Convent and at an apartment complex for the elderly in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Sister Gracelyn moved to Wichita and became a devoted nurse caregiver at Mount St. Mary’s. She is currently retired and living in Wichita.

Sister Rose Ann Wolke, CSJ

60 years

Sister Rose Anne Wolke entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita on September 8, 1957, at the age of 14, one day after her birthday. Since she was too young to receive the habit that year, she became a novice on March 19, 1959 and began a journey she could not have anticipated. She made final vows on August 5, 1966.

Having graduated with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Education from St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, Kansas in 1969, she taught in elementary schools for seven years in California and Kansas. She then attended St. Louis University receiving a Master’s in Social Work in May, 1972.

She then ministered in Health Care in the area of Social Work and Mission Services for the next 24 years serving in Oklahoma, California and Kansas. In 1987 ,she took a sabbatical program at Gonzaga University in Spokane to update in Theology and Liturgy. She then returned to health care ministry until 1995. Desiring to minister in her chosen field of Social Work. she obtained her LSCSW. She then ministered with Catholic Charities in the Dioceses of Wichita, Denver, Oklahoma City and New Orleans (the year after Katrina) from 1995 to 2007. In 2009, she directed the Drop-In Center for the Mentally Ill in Wheeling, West Virginia, for three years, after which she remained in Wheeling until 2015 helping at the center. She then returned to Wichita where she assisted in a variety of ways.

“The last 60 years have been the greatest gift and blessing that God could have given me,” she said. “I cannot express my gratitude enough to Him and to our Community for all that has been my privilege to receive.”

 Sister Mary Catherine Sack, CSJ

40 years

Sister Mary Catherine Sack was born in Independence, Kansas, to Charles and Edna Mae Sack. After graduating from St Andrew’s Elementary School, her parents thought she was too young to enter the convent, so she went on to college instead. After graduating from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, she admits being a Sister was no longer number one on her list.

However after teaching elementary Physical Education for nine years, she was ready to reevaluate her future. She felt Jesus was calling her into a deeper relationship. Having been taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph and having an aunt, Sister Ethelbert, in the community, she felt at home there. Four of her teachers, Sr. Angelica, Sr. Dorothy Jean, Sr. Daniel, and Sr. Eugena were there when she entered. Her postulant year was in Pratt, Kansas, and her novitiate year in Pittsburg, Kansas. Both of these experiences were extremely grace-filled and she experienced the abundant love of God that has never ended.

After profession, she was offered an opportunity to complete her Clinical Pastoral Education and become a certified Chaplain. As always the grace of God was with her. This was a time of hearing the cries of the sick. She opened her heart to Jesus and his people, serving eight years in Pastoral Care and several years in Mission Effectiveness at St. Joseph Medical Center in Wichita. Again, she was offered the opportunity to attend Aquinas Institute to receive a Masters in Pastoral Studies. Having Medical Center experience, she chose prison ministry as her main focus. Her desire was to offer the presence of God’s Love. Returning from Aquinas, she was elected into the ministry of Leadership being on the team with Sr. Veronice as president. Again, she felt called by God to love tenderly, walking with her God and her Sisters. She returned to Pastoral Care at Via Christi and Ascension until 2018. She then made a holy pilgrimage to LePuy and had an opportunity to serve those seeking asylum at the border.

She  says, “Every day is filled with God’s overflowing love and opportunities for deeper relationships with my brothers and sisters.”

Sister Arlys McDonald, CSJ

(Sister Mary Karen)

40 years

Sister Arlys McDonald was born on her grandparents’ farm near Edison, Nebraska, the only child of Christine M. Hays and Floyd H. Carlin. Before she was 2 years old, her parents divorced and she went to live with her grandparents on the farm while her mother found a job and went to school.   She lived with them until age 6 when her mother married Leo McDonald and she went to live with them. Sister Arlys used the McDonald family name from that time on, becoming legal with adoption a few years later. Because of Leo’s work, the family moved often and her education provided mixed history of public schools and parish schools staffed by BVMs, Ursulines, Visitations, and finally Sisters of St. Joseph throughout high school. She entered the Congregation in Wichita on September 8, 1949, and received the habit on March 20, 1950. For the next 18 years, she taught in Wichita, Wellington, Mulvane, Dodge City, and Eugene, Oregon. During that time, she received a B.S. in Music from St. Mary of the Plains and a M.M. in Vocal Performance (Honors) from the University of Illinois Champagne/Urbana.

In 1968 after three years teaching and being Acting Head of the Music Dept. at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, she submitted a request for dispensation which was granted. With no immediate plans in sight, she moved to Arizona to seek employment or possibly return to school.  Through a series of faculty introductions, a window of opportunity opened in the School of Music there. They needed a music librarian and she was hired. Courses at the Library School in Tucson provided her with managerial and library administration courses. For the next 26 years she remained at Arizona State University in Tempe, rising through the ranks to Full Librarian. Upon retirement in 1995, and with the encouragement of a number of Sisters, she moved back to Wichita, expecting to live out her retirement years as an Associate and neighbor of the nearby Congregation Center. God had other plans though and after  26 years in Arizona, she requested to return to the Congregation and was accepted. Her profession was December 4, 1997, and for that she is eternally grateful, especially for the encouragement of members of the Congregation.

A cycle of songs based on Psalms became especially dear to her and have remained so especially at this time of her life… Psalms 149 and 150: “Sing to the Lord a new song of praise … Praise the Lord in the firmament…with the lyre and harp… Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluia.”

Sister Christine Ujiie, CSJ

40 Years

Sister Christina Ujiie was born on February 7, 1939.  She went to public school which had no religious atmosphere, but when she was a elementary student, she visited the Protestant Church several times and this influence remained with her.

After she graduated from high school, she was moved to visit the Catholic Church, and as she worked in the world she always felt an emptiness in her spirit and wanted to live a meaningful life.

After studying the Catechism for 3 years, she was baptized on Easter, 1961.  She was spending her adult life joyfully, working at a Catholic hospital and institution and joining in Catholic action with many friends.  However, she was not still satisfied, and she yearned for a more meaningful way of life.  In those days she desired to do something valuable with her life, but meanwhile, she “made a detour” for years to what God wanted her to do.  In the course of time, she made a trip to Israel and her 8 days’ retreat.  Through these experiences, she felt Jesus very close to her.  She realized that Jesus had been patiently waiting for her for a long time.

Finally she entered in May 1978 without perplexity about her vocation.  She made her first profession in March 1981, and pronounced her final vows in March 1984.

She has been working at St. Joseph Hospital and at Kyoto Diocese for many years. She worked for the Congregation as a member of Vocation and Formation Team.

She really appreciates and is grateful to the Community and to all the Sisters that support her meaningful religious life.

Sister Christina Ujiie’s journey of her life to God reminds us of Maxim 48: Pursue above all the pure glory of God, your salvation and perfection, the salvation and perfection of the neighbor, and not the satisfaction and consolation often found in these pursuits.

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