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Reflection on Chapter 15:  The Commitment to Transformation 
by Heidi R. Lomangino

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.          Mt. 13 31-32

Reflecting on the story of the Sisters of Saint Agnes, the parable of the mustard seed quickly comes to mind. From its small and precarious beginnings in Wisconsin farm country during the mid-eighteenth century, the community has steadily grown so that it is now present in many parts of the United States and even as far away as Nicaragua, South America. Its roots are faith in Jesus Christ and his church, a courageous and generous pilgrim spirit, and a commitment to the poor whoever and wherever they might be. Throughout its history, the sisters have been engaged with the contemporary world. They have faced their challenges by being guided by faith, commitment, and love. They have often struggled to master the tension between openness to contemporary culture and fidelity to their tradition as women religious.

 
Like other religious communities, the Sisters of Saint Agnes have left an indelible imprint on Catholic education, health care and parish life. They established schools and hospitals and served local parishes in a multitude of ways. Thus they laid the foundation for lay participation in years to come.
 
Although the Sisters have always been in dialogue with the world at large, the latter part of the 20th century with Vatican II, globalization, mass communication, and tremendous political and social upheavals world-wide placed new challenges and demands on the community. Ministering to the poor and oppressed no longer meant just direct service to individuals and groups, but it required to address the large political and social structures and practices which promote and perpetuate injustice and oppression. So the community made a whole-hearted commitment to transformation - transformation within individual sisters, the congregation and the world.
 
The face of God is, indeed, found in our midst, [Sister Jean Steffes] said, in the faces of all those who surround us, but especially in the faces of the poor and the oppressed. Together we humans make up the body of the Christ who transforms us; together we image the God who made us and planted within us the desire for transformation. (482)
 
Community life was transformed by providing members with more options for community living. The sisters were also given more freedom in selecting their individual ministries as well as their habit. They revised their formation program in order to better address the new and diverse needs of today’s candidates. They have been promoting the role of the laity by inviting associate relationship in many areas of the country and by collaborating with laymen and laywomen in parish ministries, and they have been instrumental in furthering the ecumenical movement. 

Sisters moved into new ministries and ministry settings in order to alleviate the problem of poverty [and oppression] among underserved and poor populations... through direct service, advocacy and/ or systemic change. (466)   They established the Justice/ Peace/ Ecology Committee in 1990 to implement its justice and peace agenda which includes participating in peace activities and protests, publishing newsletters, and collaborating with like-minded groups. A strong emphasis has been placed on furthering the role of women in church and society by promoting educational opportunities for women and recognizing discrimination and prejudice against them . The congregation’s mission statement of 1989 proclaims:

 
We are committed to transformation of the world,
the Church and ourselves through promoting
...         systemic change for the quality of life
...         justice for the economically poor
...         furtherance of the role of women in church
and society
...         mutuality, inclusivity and collaboration.
 
At the end of the statement we find the paramount [and perpetual] objective of the congregation:
 
Love binds us together, and by sharing our lives and our faith in community, we support one another to live with singleness of purpose: that among us and in our world the Risen Christ be discovered and revealed. (482)
 
In conclusion, the words of Jesus in Saint Luke’s gospel seem to be fitting for the activity of the Sisters of Saint Agnes in our world:
 
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them...”        Lk 7: 22-23
 
May God continue to bless the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Agnes so that they will continue to be a blessing to the world.       
 
For reflection:
 
How has the associate relationship affected you, as an associate or as a vowed member?
 
The Sisters of St. Agnes made a commitment to transformation within themselves, their community, and the world. Is there a need for commitment on your part to transform yourself, your family life, and the world, while remaining faithful to your calling as a follower of Christ?
 
What would you want to transform and how would you go about doing it?
 
Is the Risen Christ revealed in you? May Jesus’ words in Lk 7:22 – 23 be applied to your activity?
 

Associate Heidi Lomangino from Mobile, AL


Heide Rotraud Lomangino, an associate in Mobile, Alabama, is a native of Germany. She came to the U.S. in the early 1960's as part of the Fulbright Exchange Program. She received her Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education at the University of Mississippi. She retired from the University of South Alabama in 2005 after 30 years of service. She is a graduate of T.I.P.S. (Toolen Institute for Parish Service), a lay ministry formation program of the Archdiocese of Mobile, and has been active in parish work on many levels. She is married to Felice Lomangino, a retired engineer. They have two children and four grandchildren.



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Reflection on Chapter 14:  Hope in Our Hearts
by Ellen Swan

 
The election in 1977 of Sister Judith Schmidt, the youngest Superior General since Mother Agnes,  and a young council began this hopeful, albeit tumultuous, time. Sisters were trying to find their place in the Church, the papacy was ambivalent about Vatican Council II, Nicaragua -  where the sisters had missions for thirty years - was ripe for revolution. The council was faced with re-envisioning and re-writing the rule of life which had guided the community for almost one hundred years. Leadership also was charged to lead the sisters in a corporate spiritual renewal as well as to lead the community in a dedication to societal social justice, especially in regard to the needs of women and children.
 
Many of these topics continue to call to us, or call us again in new ways …
 
How do we, as CSA community of sisters and associates, find our place in the Church today?
 
How can we find hope in our hearts in light of the papacy’s ambivalence toward and perceived withdrawal from the spirit of Vatican Council II?
 
The Needs Assessment determined a focus on internal issues such as fewer vocations, more sisters leaving the Congregation, an aging population. Yet, CSA introduced Hospice, initiated ACTS (Agnesians Caring Through Sharing) grants, formed Hazotte Ministries, acquired Waupun Hospital, opened Unity House. In spite of consolidation, divesting, and withdrawing from several long-standing educational ministries, the Sisters of St. Agnes were present in 19 states and Nicaragua.  
 
The ebb and flow of life stimulates us to consider innovation, while cherishing tradition …
 
What does ‘vocation’ mean? What am I doing to discern my vocation, my call?
 
What is my heart saying to me, to help the Chapter 2009 prototype workgroups birth new ways to BE and BUILD Community?
 
The revolution and subsequent counter-revolution in Nicaragua challenged CSA as it brought torment, disappearances, torture, and murder to the people we ministered with. Dictator out - Sandinistas in - Contras form - U.S. involvement heightens - sisters are terrorized, alliances and loyalties are threatened.   Sisters of St. Agnes followed their hearts and their call to social justice and evangelization … and stayed as the war raged around them.
 
Where does my loyalty lie in this revolutionary world of materialism, consumption, and rape of Earth?
 
Can I stay the course of social justice? What threatens my integrity?
 
Women of faith and their stories of courage, in ways large and small, dominate this chapter. From the young leaders who bore accolades and criticism, to the aging sisters who embraced the ministry of presence, to those who hunkered down under the bullets and stood up to the soldiers, the Sisters of St. Agnes lived this time with hope in their hearts.

Wisconsin Associate Ellen Swan
Ellen Swan became a CSA associate in 2002, and has served as director of associates since 2005. Her work background includes organization management for business and economic development corporations, consulting, coordinating mission services and education programs.From 1994 – 1996, Ellen lived in the Republic of Panama, where she ministered with the people of St. Christopher Parish. The parish is staffed by Capuchin priests and brothers, some of whom had worked with Sisters of St. Agnes in Nicaragua.  A small world, indeed! Ellen currently serves on the Board of Directors for Volunteer Missionary Movement and for the Center to BE, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based spirituality center. She has two adult sons who are both married, with a son and a daughter, each. 


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Reflection on Chapter 13:  Continuing in Faith
by Jean Braun, CSA
 

Sister John Baptist Shaja was elected in the midst of the cataclysmic changes mandated by the Second Vatican Council. As the sisters struggled to become more relevant to the modern world by modifying their prayer life, governmental structures and life style, she was charged with being a “sign of unity.” Everyone in the congregation was learning to live the Interim Constitutions with its emphasis on collegiality and subsidiarity by accepting greater leadership from the general councilors and the five newly elected apostolic councilors. On the local level the houses were asked to hold monthly house meetings, to share in making decisions and were given power to experiment with methods of choosing their local superior. Programs were designed to aid individuals participate in on-going personal formation.  In Nicaragua a revolution was brewing and soon would be precipitated by an earthquake that devastated Managua and revealed the fundamental corruption of the country’s government.
The seventies were a time of endings and beginning.  It was a time of both exhilaration and anguish. For some women, the changes were neither radical nor swift enough; for others any change was unwelcome. Each sister had to rethink her life. Some chose to leave the congregation; some chose different apostolates. Many felt called to different ways of serving and left the classroom and hospitals for social work, campus ministry, directors of religious education, and other related ministries.
As the Chapter of 1973 approached, two questions, “What do you as a community want to become?” and “What do you as a community want to do together?” helped focus the delegates on the issues being faced. Among many changes, the Precious Blood Fathers terminated their services as chaplains, the motherhouse building was razed, Melva Olson became the first CSA associate on January 21, 1975, and in Fond du Lac, an ambitious plan to integrate the parish schools, the St. Mary’s Springs Academy and Marian College under the Hanlon Plan for education in Fond du Lac was undertaken. The community’s hospitals changed as lay people were charged with more responsibilities. In March of 1977 ground was broken for St. Francis Home as the congregation made a greater commitment to serving the elderly.
The Congregation began preparations for Chapter 1977.  Sisters were called to orient themselves to Scripture as they identified  the primary values basic to community life – prayer, community charism, faith, hope, and love,. They then considered their basic commitment to the vows and to the mission of the church, and the apostolate. The preparations proved fruitful as each sister faced another four years of striving to do God’s will in an unstable world.
For Reflection:
What are some of the changes for the future needed in our time which call you to prayer?
How are you strengthened to face the challenges in your life?
Continuing in faith asks of each of us courage and determination. Who in your life helps bring these gifts to you?

Jean Braun, CSA


Sister Jean Braun lives local community with Sisters Julia Wiegerling and Caryl Hartjes in Fond du Lac, WI. She is retired from full and part- time ministry and engaged in a number of volunteer activities. A Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Marian University (College then) and a Masters degree in Education from Marygrove College in Detroit along with Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) proved to be an excellent foundation for her ministries. They include teaching, religious education, parish pastoral ministry and hospital chaplaincy. Sister Jean has been a member of the Vision Circle the last four years.



Reflection on Chapter 12: An Unkown Destination
by Jean Salchert, CSA

Change is definitely a part of life. I am different today than I was ten years ago and I will be different ten years from now than I am today. The fact of the matter is God is continually creating.

Our community began in pioneer times when people were close to the earth and each other. A hundred years later things were very different in the world though religious life remained on an even keel. After Vatican II religious were asked to review their charism and their roots, their life in the 20th century.

July of 1969 was a month of intense work for the delegates at our Renewal Chapter. The whole community had been involved during the year leading up to Chapter with surveys and readings, discussions and proposals. The delegates had all the work of the sisters to read and present their findings. They were organized into four commissions dealing with aspects of religious life. During this time they had to deal with various sources of tension: what one wore affected how another accepted the presentation, view points differed, use of words was important. Yet they all made it through, held the tension and created for the community the where-with-all to experiment with governance, change the way of life from monastic traditions to those that better suit the apostolic work we were doing.

The Holy Spirit was definitely leading the delegates even though some sisters thought we went too far and others thought we didn’t go far enough. These tensions are what we lived with for many years. Yet every sister had a voice and out of that chaos the seed that was planted by Vatican II mandate was taking root and giving birth to a new way of living out our life as apostolic women serving the church where we discovered the need to promote and enhance human dignity in such a way that our lives would reveal God in our midst.

With the help of the lens of the 'decalog,' presented by Sr. Fedelis, the delegates had a framework for the task ahead of them. This covered the way of life, the witness of life in community, our ministries, and personal responsibility for one’s relationship with God and with the community through cooperation in decision making and the sharing of one’s talents and collegial living. This would mean our government structure would need to be decentralized.

"I am doing something new. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:19

We were cautious and had a time for experimentation. The government structure gradually changed over the years. It is more decentralized with every sister having a voice. I praise the delegates who were willing to take the risk and put all their energies into creating what would be good for the community at this time in history. God was creating something new through each sister as they listened and responded to the Holy Spirit working in, through and amidst the congregation.

This Renewal Chapter was like a resetting of the cornerstone of our community which was first placed in Barton and then later in Fond du Lac and now in the heart of each one of us. The cornerstone of our founders, their charism, is the pioneer spirit of zeal, courage, and spiritual depth of which we are heirs. As our founders etched out our way of life through gospel values and trust in God, we too are to 'love tenderly, act justly and walk humbly with our God.' Micah 6:8

We trusted God’s call and the Spirit’s inspiration and continued to follow the path of Jesus in loving service for those whose faith life or human dignity is threatened.

Our witness of life remains simple and honest as we continue to listen to the Spirit among us. The delegates’ work was challenging and a mammoth responsibility at a time when not any of us could ever imagine what the future held. We truly are a discerning community taking the risk to step into the unknown trusting God’s guiding presence. God who continuously creates is creating us a new throughout our existence. We only need to be still, to listen and respond.

How have we accepted the cornerstone, our roots, and placed it in our hearts? What can we do to continue the nurturance of the seed, the acceptance of the time of pruning, and to continue to trust that the fruitfulness is God’s desire?

How can we live up to the challenge that the gospel sets before us in the present time?


Jean Salchert, CSA

Jean Salchert, CSA, is professed for 44 years. She taught primary grades for 13 years and received a BS degree from Marian Unverity in Fond du Lac in education and in art education. In 1982, she received a BA degree in Art Therapy from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For a few years she worked in nursing homes and a home for disabled children until 1984 when she started work in a social service agency in Mobile, Alabama. Jean has been in Alabama for the past 25 years. For the past ten years she has been the on-site coordinator for the Associates in Mobile. She is attending school again to obtain a certificate for Spiritual Direction.
 



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Reflection on Chapter 11:  Gathering Clouds
by Carol E. McIlree
 

Who is to know from gathering clouds what is to come?   Will darkness and electricity fill the air?  Will thunder roar out warning to back off, and lightning streak across the sky?  Is the coming weather a thing to fear, or is it relief from sultry, overbearing heat or a life threatening drought? 
 
Chapter 11 picks up from the one before it immersed in the outrage, turbulence, and challenging time of the “sixties” that extended from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.  The “gathering clouds” of change were everywhere. 
 
When Mother Rosita began her second term in July of 1963, she looked out into a world that appeared to be progressing along with safety and balance into the future.  The number of sisters was growing and what changes coming in “habits” and lifestyle seemed only necessary accommodations to society and the secular world.  Little did she know how the torrential downpour and sweeping winds of those changes would affect all things corporate and individual:  judgments, lifestyles, institutions, and individual expectations.  There came a sharp decline in the number of young women entering religious life.  Children attending Catholic schools also declined.  Philosophies of education were questioned and altered.  Due to economic and staffing challenges, health care moved away from religious to secular care.   In Latin America as in the United States, change was commencing.  Old, traditional ways of managing situations and outlooks were no longer in control. 
 
There is resolution found at the end of the chapter as there is reassurance and freshness after a storm.  The sisters in Nicaragua, unlike in other Latin American countries, found success by combining what was new with what had worked and was familiar from the past.  In the United States, the centennial celebration of the congregation’s founding ignited an interest in preserving the founding charisms and awareness and appreciation of the community’s founders. 
 
For Reflection:
 
Reading this chapter rekindled my fascination for this time period from my own experience, and a great interest in how others were experiencing and contributing to the changes of the times.  The chapter does not conclude the book, nor does any resolution offer permanence in solution.  It does offer hope and perspective for what appears to me another time of turbulence and change. 
 
What are the present clouds gathering to bring, and how shall we prepare?

Wisconsin Associate Carol McIlree

Carol McIlree, is a CSA Associate, a member of the Associate Vision Circle, and the Justice, Peace and Ecology Committee (JPEC). She lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her husband, Joe, her cat and dog. She has two sons, three step children and three step grandchildren. After graduating in the '60’s from Carroll College – now University - with a degree in Sociology, she followed the charge of President Kennedy to “Ask not what your country can do for you, ___“ to teach for three and ½ years in Tororo, Uganda, East Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps. After returning to the United States, she received a Masters Degree in Specific Language and Learning Disabilities from UW-Milwaukee and had the privilege of teaching in that field for 30+ years before retiring.



Reflection on Chapter 10: Changing World, Changing Church
by Susan Schaefer
 
The years between 1957 and 1963, the year of the Eighteenth General Chapter of the Sisters of St. Agnes provided an unprecedented opportunity for energetic discussion and prayerful consideration of the changes in the world, the church, and the congregation. Sister Rosita Handibode, who had become superior general in 1957 demonstrated an orderly, insightful, collaborative style of leadership. She had taken to heart the advice of one of her superiors that “Worry doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit.” Prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit were her foundation.               
A pilgrim travels light. What do we pack for our journeys?   How do we ensure faith and wisdom and courage go with us?
"The centenary year of the founding of the congregation and the election of Pope John XXIII were the beginnings of reexamination, renewal, and reforming of church and congregational life.
In the words of the old Negro spiritual, can we "Sit down, pilgrim, sit down" and let Peace restore us for service to others as we meet the challenges of our day?
Changes in clothing, openings and closings of ministries, adjustments in community practices, increased collaboration between the congregation and the laity, expanded professional and educational opportunities offered so many considerations for the individual sister and the congregation.
As we carry to the world the blessings and goodness of the One who provides a map for our lives, what refuge and inspiration and light can we offer to one another? 

Indiana Associate Susan Schaefer
I live in a little house in a little city near the tip of the great Lake Michigan with my husband, David and my son, Damon. My daughter, Amanda, and my son, Jacob, and their respective families will gather with us at Christmas. My days in Nursing Administration are past and my present is occupied with my passion for CSA, serving at Sojourner Truth House (think S. Peg Spindler and S. Willa Schoch), serving on the pastoral council at SS Monica & Luke Church and the food pantry. I am enriched innumerable times with my contacts with CSA Associates and the Sisters. I look forward to the full inclusion of women in the church and the tender care of earth and all humanity by all persons regardless of our faith perspectives.


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Reflection on Chapter 9: Stability in a Chaotic World
by Sister Marilyn Bever, CSA

During the years between 1939 and 1957 while nations around the world were experiencing the Great Depression, the expansion of communism, the Second World War, fears of the atomic bomb, the Cold War, and the attendant social and political upheavals, the Sisters of St. Agnes were experiencing a time of greater stability and of growth within a rigid life style.

Under the leadership of Mother Angeline Kamp, priority was given to conformity, unquestioning obedience, and strict poverty. At the same time the Sisters’ role in Catholic education and health care flourished and their and, at the invitation of the Capuchin Franciscans, their ministry was extended to in Nicaragua.

Mother Albertonia Licher brought a more compassionate, personal face to the office of Mother Superior even as she experienced great personal suffering. During her administration the Congregation entered a time of greater awareness of world affairs as well as the foundation for the renewal of religious life with the Sisters’ Formation Conference and other movements of renewal within Catholicism. Rapid changes in health care and education called forth new directions and an evolution in the Sisters of St. Agnes’ ministerial endeavors and demanded even more frugality in their life style.

For reflection:
How do current world events affect the living of religious life today?
How might the developments of this time period have prepared the Congregation and individual Sisters for Vatican II renewal?

Some individual Sisters were mentioned in this Chapter for their impact on ministry and mission:

  • The first missionary Sisters in Nicaragua.
  • Sister Blandine Eisele’s personal mission with Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Sister Fidelis Karlin’s vision for Marian College and promotion of the goals of the Sister Formation Conference

    Reflect on one individual story included in this Chapter. What in that person’s life inspires and encourages you?


Arizona Associate Marilyn Bever


Marilyn Bever, CSA, livesin the local community with Christi Ann Laudolff and their extended community, Jean Perry, Jean Steffes, and Rachel Doerfler, in Phoenix, AZ. Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Institute for Spiritual Directors since 2002, she received her formation as a spiritual director at the Hesychia school in Tucson and has a Masters degree in spirituality from Prescott College in conjunction with studies at the Interfaith Theological Seminary in Tucson. She is director of the RCIA process at St. Louis the King Parish in Glendale, is active in teaching spirituality and theology to various adult groups and has a small spiritual direction practice. Marilyn has been a member of the Vision Circle for three years.

 



Reflection on Chapter 8: A Time for Building
by Sheila Boos
 This chapter examines Agnesian life between the years 1926 and 1939. These women seemed to be “alike in their fundamental values, their desire to conform their lives to God’s will.”And, if they were superiors, as were Mothers Joseph Wolford and Aloysia Leikem, their dedication to their sisters and their willingness to develop and support congregational ministries. Yet, the individuality of the sisters and their leaders guaranteed that the legacies they left were uniquely their own.
Reflection: How dedicated am I in  supporting the ministries I encounter in my family and work place?
Do we follow God’s lead instead of acting as if God had no place in making our everyday decisions?
By 1926, when Mother Joseph assumed office, the United States had been rapidly turning from an agricultural to an industrial nation, suffered the consequences of the Civil War, and had fought in the First World War In spite of much anti-Catholic hostility in the country, Catholics had built churches, hospitals, and schools. They were proud of both their Church and their country.
Reflection: Do I take pride in my church? How do I show it? What do I think about the giving of the time, talent and treasures that define stewardship?
Mother Joseph clearly centered her life on prayer, Always busy, she was remained calm and charitable, not exacting with others but demanding much of herself. She began her administration by visiting the missions and made sure that the new revisions of canon law were understood. She devoted time and thought to the education of the sisters. She dealt with the staggering problems that the Depression imposed on both the congregation and its institutions.
Mother Aloysia Leikem was elected when she was seventy-five years old. Archbishop Samuel Stritch encouraged her by reminding her that “It is not you who will govern the Congregation. It is God. Leave it in His hands, and all will be well.” And it was a time of growth in the community. Marian College was founded as well as two hospitals- St. Clare Hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin, and St. Thomas Hospital in Colby, Kansas.
Throughout these busy years, the sisters worked hard, physical comforts were few, but the sisters were sustained by their conviction in their vocations and their relationships with God and one another.
Reflection. How dedicated am I to the state of life that I have chosen? How do I handle the physical discomforts that come my way especially now was our economy flounders?

Hi! I’m Sheila Boos (Ross) and I have been an Associate for 8 years. I had been a Sister in CSA for 10 yrs. counting my formation. I married Barney Boos and we have been married for 33 yrs. We have four children - ages from 25 yrs. - 38 yrs. I have been involved in the Associate’s Vision Circle for three years and “What a Blessing that was.” I mainly taught in Elementary Education 30 yrs. and I am now a Parent Educator for Parents as Teachers and for the early Head Start Program. I love working with families that are going to have children and those that have birth to three year old children.


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Reflection on Chapter 7: Increasing Expectations
by Mary Jagdfeld

How do women of spirit live out their gospel calling in a changing world? Does this question sound familiar? It should, because it is the spiritual quest that the women of CSA have struggled with for 150 years. Many of the challenges that Mother Marcella Kettner and her sisters of the 1920s faced are similar to those facing CSA today. A continuing concern, the shortage of vocations, was expressed by the leaders of the congregation at the Chapter of 1922. There were concerns about the expanding scope of ministry and whether there would be enough sisters to support those missions. Some members of the hierarchy were sending messages to sisters’ communities that seemed to limit the autonomy of the Congregation.

How will we as CSA respond to similar challenges in the days, months and years ahead?
History is a wonderful teacher. Just as we study history in school to learn from those who have gone before us, S. Margaret’s Ordinary Sisters provides us with the framework we need to learn from those strong women of God who have preceded us. Mother Marcella knew the importance of keeping the focus on our Gospel call that took those in religious life out to God’s children wherever they were struggling. Prisons, schools, soup kitchens, homes for the aged, reservations, Central America, wherever there are poor and hurting people is where the sisters have found God and spread the message of love and compassion.
How or where are we being called, both personally and as a group of vowed women and associated women and men, to live out the mission of Christ in the world today?
Mother Marcella believed in a life of mission by well-prepared sisters and nurtured by prayer. She raised the standards of education for the sisters because she believed that this helped them to better serve the world. Today the Congregation continues to value educated women because their perspective of God, prayer and world becomes richer and more vibrant as they open themselves to new learning.
Will we open ourselves to the changing expectations of a mission –focused life? What does that mean for me as an individual and for us as a congregation?
May you be blessed as you face the increasing expectations in your life with the joy, energy, and faith that has been passed down through CSA by those “ordinary sisters.”

Fond du Lac Associate Mary Jagdfeld



Mary Jagdfeld was born and raised in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She has been married thirty-nine years to Jim Jagdfeld. They have three children. Julia is a social worker at St. Francis Home and is married to Dan Scheer; Andrew is a deputy sheriff in Green County, Wisconsin; and Tony, a caddy at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin. Mary has been a social worker for over thirty years at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac. She made her initial commitment to CSA associate relationship in 2002.

 

 



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Reflection on Chapter 6: By Sister Patrice Rog, CSA

Chapter 6 of Ordinary Sisters relates the happenings of the community in the years following the death of Mother Agnes. Upon the death of a foundress or founder, many communities experience a crisis. After the charismatic leader is gone, who could possibly fill those shoes? In CSA, Mother Antonia (Anna) Schmitz was called upon to do just that. Entering the convent in 1869 at age 14, Anna knew Mother Agnes, Father Rehrl, and Father Haas. She witnessed the pivotal events that shaped the early years of the foundation; now she was to follow in the footsteps of those leaders.   As Mother Antonia was elected superior general in 1905, the nation was experiencing rapid change.
 

Have I ever followed another popular person in a ministry? How did I meet that challenge? Was I confident or insecure?

If I were elected to leadership today, what characteristics of Mother Agnes, Fathers Rehrl and Haas and Mother Antonia would I try to emulate?

The chapter is entitled, “Ordinary Time.” Margaret Lorimer describes it as “a time to live God’s word and experience God’s grace in everyday life, in ‘ordinary things’.” (p.179). So much of our lives are just that: ordinary. Yet it is precisely in these ordinary times that we live and grow and deepen our relationship with God, that we faithfully fulfill our vocation and bring God’s love to all we meet.

When the ordinariness of my life settles in, what sustains and nurtures me to continue on for the “long haul”?
In this chapter, we read in detail about one “ordinary sister”—Myra Bodah, Sister Jeannette. From the time of her entrance into the congregation (1909) until the completion of her education in science (1919), we read from her letters to her family and can infer Jeannette’s growth as a young woman religious. 
 
Reflect upon your own growth in your relationships in life, beginning with God and family and continuing with your current life’s situation. It may be helpful to make a time line, adding significant events, naming people or places where you note a deeper growth in your spiritual journey occurred. 
 
The chapter ends with the death of Mother Antonia, and a quote from her writings:
How fast time flies, and as we look on the vanished years, we sometimes feel how empty they have been. Perhaps they are not so empty as we suppose; for it is not only the labors that make an outward show that give value to our lives, but much more are those many acts of the heart of which God alone takes note, and reckons as good works. Let us set about heaping up a great store of these riches. They do not need great talents, for they are gained, not by the head, but by the heart.

How might these words apply to my life ? What are the many acts of the heart which I perform? 

Spend some time conversing with Mother Antonia and thanking her for leadership during this critical time in the history of CSA.

Patrice Rog, CSA

 

Currently, Patrice is pastoral minister at Wright Hall in Chicago, which is a retirement home for the Sisters of Charity, BVM.  Her past ministries include education (from teacher and librarian to administrator), and vocation and retreat ministry.  Patrice transferred her vows to the Sisters of St. Agnes in 2001, and is still loving every minute of life in CSA.



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Reflection on Chapter 5: Women of Courage, Faith, and Vision
by Janice Collins 

Chapter V gives us an insight into the pioneer Sisters of St. Agnes. The story of the congregation is that of women and girls who were willing to give up everything in order to dedicate themselves to God and respond to the religious and societal needs of the time. Although they often fell victims to malnutrition, disease and overwork, the fire they ignited has endured over 150 years.
Becoming a Spouse of Christ
When a young woman was accepted, she hoped to one day take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. After a period of probation, she was given a new name, a religious habit, and bound herself to obey a Rule that prescribed the most minute details of her life. She was to grow in the practice of the virtues of humility, obedience, charity, self-denial, but most of all, to grow in the love of God and neighbor. After the novitiate, she was allowed to make a commitment of three years, and then, her vows were renewed until, after ten years, she was permitted to make a lifetime commitment to God and the community.
Missions
The majority of early missions were rural. The characteristic most had in common was poverty. Usually, three sisters made up the small missions- two teachers and a homemaker. The first out-of-state mission was accepted in 1870 in Defiance, Ohio. Missions followed in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana . In 1879, the first sisters stepped off the train in Herzog, (Victoria) Kansas. Those missions were quickly followed in Kansas, as well as other states.
At Home in Fond du Lac
By 1905, year of the death of Mother Agnes, the Sisters of St. Agnes were almost fifty years old. They had built a large motherhouse, and a farm to feed the sisters. They had built a hospital in Fond du Lac, a home for the aged, and a music academy. More importantly, they were happy. The joy they showed led other young women to join them. They found their happiness in the peace they experienced in their vocation, their friendships within the community, the sense that they were valued by priests, parishioners, and students. Most importantly their happiness was founded in their commitment to follow Jesus and to live their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
For reflection:
In what ways are the pioneer sisters and today’s Sisters of St. Agnes similar? How are they different?
How have societal needs changed from the founding days to the present?
By reflecting on the lives of the founding and present day Sisters of St. Agnes, what are ways we can find the joy and happiness in our lives and vocations?
 

Kansas Associate Janice Collins


Janice Collins has been an Associate for three years and is part of the Vision Circle. She lives in Hays, Kansas, with her husband. They have three sons and eight grandchildren. Janice graduated from Fort Hays State University and received her Masters degree in Elementary Education. She has taught in a classroom and is currently the Librarian at Holy Family Elementary. Education has been an important part of her life for 17 years.



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Reflection on Chapter 4: Coming of Age
by Jomarie Zielke, CSA

Chapter IV explores numerous challenges and changes, growth and losses in the congregation and her mission over a 25 year period (1880-1905). During this time, some 10 years after the move to Fond du Lac, there were 93 professed sisters which grew to more than 220. There was a growth in the number of schools and the areas where the sisters were sent. There were schools in Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York as well as the Dakota Territory, and Texas.

 
One of the challenges faced was the rift with the sisters who were missioned in Texarkana, Texas and those in Fond du Lac. The sisters in Texarkana refused to obey their summons to return to Fond du Lac. While the Irish sisters there did not wish to leave an area where they were so greatly appreciated, underlying their refusal to return to Fond du Lac was the tension between the Irish and the Germans.
 
In 1880, the revised constitutions were approved by Pope Leo XIII giving the sisters recourse to Rome instead of being dependent upon local bishops. By 1895 it was noted that the rules were getting stricter allowing little contact with others outside of the convent and minimal contact among the other sisters.
  
§      What are the challenges that face CSA today?
  
During this continuing rollercoaster of growth, on June 21, 1985 Mother Agnes lost her beloved friend Fr. Francis Haas. This was no small matter, because Fr. Francis had been a support and mentor to the entire congregation as well.
 
In 1889 Mother Agnes responded to a plea for help and took an apostolate far removed from education. The Leo House, a hotel a home instituted for the protection of German immigrants vulnerable to exploitation and to going astray in their Catholic religion, was a new type of ministry apart from education.
 
On the Fond du Lac scene, doctors and businessmen over a period 10 years begged Mother Agnes for a hospital. When Mother Agnes finally agreed to this, it was no simple matter. There was money to be raised so that the building could be constructed and sisters needed to be trained as administrators, nurses and other health care workers. Interestingly, in Catholic institutions the sick were mostly attended to by sisters. Remember, nursing was predominately a charity in those years. That was why businessmen turned to the non-profit sector. Not only that, nursing was only recently becoming a job fit for a lady. On July 1, 1896 St. Agnes sanatorium, the new hospital was opened officially with its share of hardships. First it was a struggle to get patients to come, and when the number patients increased, there was a struggle to keep afloat because food was so expensive. 
 
This then led to the purchase of a farm. In March, 1898, the congregation bought land and a farm with buildings, machinery and animals on the outskirts of Fond du Lac. This land was nourished by the seven springs upon which Father Rehrl had blessed and dreamed: “Oh how I wish that the Agnes Sisters might some day live on this beautiful land watered by the springs”.
 
 
§      What nourishes our dreams of today for the future? 
 
§      What will spring forth as we dream ?
 
Still yet, other ministries beckoned. In the early 1900’s, John Boyle, a Fond du Lac businessman wanted to have a place that would provide care for patients having tuberculosis and other illnesses needing lengthy periods of recovery. Boyle Hall and St. Agnes Hall were built on the St. Joseph’s Springs property as St. Mary’s Springs Sanatarium for that purpose. In addition, he believed care was needed for the elderly of the Fond du Lac community and Boyle Home for the Aged was built to serve this population.
 
§      Are there new ministries waiting for the attention of dedicated sisters, associates, and partners in ministry?
 
§      How are we to listen to the voice of God thorough the voices of the people of God?
 
 
In all of these events, Mother Agnes was a wise and strong leader. But illness and fatigue ravaged her body. In an effort to gain strength and find rest, Mother Agnes wanted to go to the warm climate of Texas. She made it as far as Hays, Kansas were she died at the Beach house on March 6, 1905, at the age of 57. She had served the congregation as general superior for 40 years! Indeed, “who shall find a valiant woman” (Prov 31:10), such as Mother Agnes?
 
 

Jomarie Zielke, CSA

 

 

Sister Jomarie Zielke is a vowed member in CSA for 38 years. She is a member of the Associate Vision Circle. She serves as one of the regional coordinators for the sisters residing in the USA. Prior to this, she has served in nursing related ministries.



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Reflection on Chapter 3:  Mother Agnes in Charge

by Nancy Schmitz

 

Chapter 3 of Ordinary Sisters takes us through the move of the sisters to Fond du Lac in 1870 and the very busy next 10 years of growth of the congregation. The twenty-three year old Mother Agnes was concerned about the spiritual and economic welfare of the growing congregation. She moved the sisters to a new home and focused on the formation of the sisters and the growth of their ministries. Under Agnes' leadership, the number of sisters continued to grow, new missions were started, a larger motherhouse was built and sisters began to make vows for life.  

 

The support and counsel of Father Francis Hass was critical to the decision to move to Fond du Lac. Father Francis wrote the rule for the Congregation based on the rule of the Capuchins which was accepted in Rome received papal apporval in 1880. His paternal guidance of the congregation resulted in the sisters calling  him "Pa."

 

Mother Agnes was clearly able to inspire the young women who were answering their call to the congregation. There were many issues requiring Agnes’ attention -- building the motherhouse, expanding missions, maintaining good relationships with the clergy and townspeople in Fond du Lac. She also had to deal  with difficulties of living in community -- relationships were not without periods of conflict. Mother Agnes understood the need for recreation -- making cleaning and even moving bricks a time for community building.   

  • Vocation/Formation
  • Building Community as Mission
  • Intentional Relationships
  • Being Ecclesial Women
  • Ecology/Care of the Earth

 

How does the music and education tradition begun by Mother Agnes influence CSA life and missions today?

 


 

Wisconsin Associate Nancy Schmitz

 


Nancy Schmitz is a Registered Nurse who has worked at Agnesian HealthCare in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for 30 years. She has worked in the ICU, been Director of Educational Services and Women & Infants. Currently, Nancy is Clinical Informatics Supervisor in the Information Services Department working on developing workflow and adoption of the electronic medical record. Nancy has a Masters in Educational Leadership from UW Oshkosh. She is married with 3 grown sons and has been an Associate for 10 plus years and is a member of the Associate Vision Circle.

 



  Reflection on Chapter 2: Conflicting Vision
by Katie Healy

In chapter II of Ordinary Sisters we come to know more about Fr Rehrl, and are introduced to Mary Hazotte and Fr Haas.  These three individuals, more than anyone, were instrumental in the creation and formation of CSA.  With- out any one of them, would there have been a CSA, or certainly a CSA as we know it today?

Fr Rehrl had the vision (literally- as we read in Chapter I) along with the dedication and determination to see his vision become a reality.  His prayers were answered.  The problem, as I see it, was that he did not know how to grow with his vision.  He did know how to move it forward.  He continued to expand his vision, spreading it thin at times, but it did not change.  It was not flexible.  It did not grow.  It did not evolve.

The congregation was moving forward.  It had to, in order to survive.  Yet Fr. Rehrl was stuck.  I don't think the sisters meant to leave him behind; the congregation had no choice but to move forward.  Fr Rehrl was either unable or unwilling to move forward, and unable or unwilling to help the evolution of the congregation. The sisters had to seek help and direction from someone other then Fr Rehrl for their own self preservation.

Why was Fr Rehrl so reluctant to move forward?  He was a strong, intelligent, pious man.  It's hard for me to imagine that he was afraid to move forward.  He had done so much already to show us that fear was not part of his make up.  Was he just that stubborn?  But at such a cost!   Was he just that controlling that he did not want to take a risk of possibly losing his control over the sisters? 

Mother Agnes saw the vision of CSA going beyond the boundaries placed by Fr. Rehrl.  A wise insightful woman, she was intuitive enough to know that the congregation had to change in order to continue.  Mother Agnes did what she could in order to move the congregation in the necessary direction.  She began to take charge and do what she needed to do with, or without Fr. Rehrl's input. 

Mother Agnes's vision of CSA was different from that of Fr. Rehrl's.  I would imagine that this was a difficult, frustrating and disappointing time for Mother Agnes.  Fr. Rehrl was so much a part of CSA, it could not have been easy for Mother Agnes to move forward while leaving Fr. Rehrl behind.  But their dreams were different.  Not that one was any better then the other, just different.

But as intelligent and determined as Mother Agnes was, she knew she did not have the expertise in the area of religious orders to put together a constitution that would be accepted by Fr Kundig.  If her dream, her vision was to come to fruition, she had to seek direction and advice from a spiritual advisor other than Fr. Rehrl.  Fortunately she had her friend, Fr. Francis Haas.

How torn Mother Agnes must have felt.  I'm sure she had tremendous respect and gratitude for Fr. Rehrl for what he had done so far for the congregation.  Was she now also angry with him?  Irritated? Annoyed that she was placed in a position to have to look elsewhere for direction?   She knew she had to do something with or without Fr. Rehrl.

It was Fr. Francis to whom Mother Agnes turned to help put her vision on paper that would be accepted as CSA's constitution.  Fr. Francis was, in a sense, the brains behind the vision.  Mother Agnes knew she did not have the experience with religious orders to put together a constitution.  How relieved she must have felt to have Fr Francis available to work with her to get CSA the approval from Rome they so desperately needed and most certainly deserved.

Fr. Francis must have had tremendous admiration and faith in Mother Agnes and the sisters.  To put so much work into something so very important you certainly have to believe in it.  Could he have known how instrumental his expertise was in helping with the CSA?  No doubt Mother Agnes knew.

These three individuals all worked, not always together, but nonetheless hard at what they believed was an important mission.  How fortunate we are that they did.   


Wisconsin Associate Katie Healy




 

Katie Healy became an Associate in 2005 and has been a member of the Associate Vision Circle. Katie resides in Madison, Wisconsin. A Registered Nurse for over 25 years, she currently works for the Wisconsin Dept of Health Services as a Nursing Home Inspector.

 

 



Reflection on Chapter I: The Missionary
by Sharon Baudry

 
Chapter 1 of Ordinary Sisters moves us through the early life of Casper Rehrl, his journey to become a missionary, the founding of the society of St. Agnes with its first rule and a crisis in membership with only one sister.
 
No step is lost…
 
Father Rehrl, by the age of twenty-six had accomplished the following: ordained a priest, served in the military (Austrian Army), completed two teacher licenses, and studied eight languages. With his great desire to carry the faith to America, he was able to be a missionary knowing that his family was in an adequate place. His missionary spirit was hoping to serve in the diocese of New York but during his one year of waiting for the chancery and the government to approve his request, a new opportunity opened to go west to Wisconsin. Rehrl journeyed from churches to cabins across every Indian trail in Washington, Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Fond du Lac and Brown counties on his mission of preserving and spreading the faith. 
  •  Do I believe that when I have to wait for an answer to a prayer, that something more important than what I first desired may be awaiting me?
  • How do I participate in Rehrl’s mission of preserving and spreading the faith?
 
No drop of sweat is in vain…
 
Despite Father Rehrl’s pleas for help from European convents to provide teachers for the rural schools he was establishing, he ended up going to Europe to knock on motherhouse doors personally while raising money to finance his plans. After three years of unsuccessful visits, he obtained permission to go to Rome where at the tomb of St. Agnes, he asked the martyr’s help in founding a teaching sisterhood. With his vision of the saint leading the way and his audience and blessing from Pope Pius IX, he returned to Wisconsin confident that he could beg his fellow priests to send him candidates. After the first candidate-to-be, Gertrude Rehberg, had walked miles through a few rural villages to find Father Rehrl to follow her vocation, he asked that she bring some companions along to establish the first society of sisters. Rehrl was not interested in founding a traditional sisterhood but he wanted his community to have the closest possible ties with the universal Church. Besides making three promises for one year, the first sisters were to commit themselves to their perfection and education, to instruct the youth entrusted to them and to perform manual labor. At the beginning of 1860, the society numbered eighteen members but a year later only two remained and soon after only one blind sister was left. All the hours spent in inviting and then the time spent instructing those who responded, had bourne little fruit.  Imagine the spirit of a man, energized by his missionary zeal but the one thing he wanted most seemed to disappear from his grasp.
 
  • What is my story of whom I have invited to “Come and see…”
  • What has been my experience of putting my heart and soul into an activity and finding the result to be disappointing? How do I move from a place of disappointment to that of understanding?
 
If one lives in grace and acts through the love of God
 
Father Rehrl mastered his missionary tasks while living cheerfully and centered at all times. Even after experiencing the reduction in membership of his beloved sisterhood to only one member, his unwavering faith sustained him.
  • How does my faith sustain me?
  • Can I recall when a dream I had was dimmed and then a new dream emerged?  

Wisconsin Associate Sharon Baudry


Sharon Baudry, after completing her Masters in Organizational Development at Loyola University in Chicago and a Masters in Business Administration at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL, has worked as the Director of Education and Organization Development for three different hospital systems over the past eighteen years. Currently, Sharon is the Director of Employee Education and Organizational Development at Columbia-St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she is responsible for all staff and management orientation and on-going development, service excellence, E-learning and the planning for all the orientation and competency training that will be needed when two present hospital campuses merge into a new building in January 2010. Sharon has been an Associate with CSA since 1995 and serves on the Vision Circle, Justice, Peace, Ecology Committee (JPIC) and CSA Development Committee.