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21 Sisters Celebrate Jubilees of Profession

Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by Jean Merry

Twenty-one Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi celebrated their anniversaries of religious profession at a Jubilarian Mass on Sunday, July 23, in St. Francis Chapel on the Motherhouse grounds in St. Francis, Wis.DSC_0080 rev

In calling upon the jubilarians to stand and renew their vows, Sr. Diana De Bruin, director of the congregation, noted that the 21 jubilarians represented a total of 1,230 years of service as vowed women religious.

The Most Rev. Richard J. Sklba officiated. The  picture at right shows Bishop Sklba blessing the two jubilarians who brought forward the gifts of communion. They are (foreground) Sister Ann Stremlau (60 years) and (background) Sister Jeanne Carrigan (50 years).

The 75-year jubilarians are Sisters Charitine Jones, Patricia Weninger and Clarinda Zech, all Wisconsin natives. Sisters Patricia and Clarinda spent their many years of ministry in education, while Sister Charitine served in a variety of child care and housekeeping capacities and locations.

Celebrating 70 years are Sisters Verna Kayser, Camille Kliebhan and Helen Svancarek, who spent a good portion of their ministry years in education, and Sister Rose Marie Kruse, whose ministry centered on child care for children with special needs, and later, occupational therapy. Sister Verna, who initially taught elementary grades, earned a degree in special education and then also worked in that field. After earning degrees in education and psychology, Sister Camille spent her ministry years at Cardinal Stritch University, rising to the position of president in 1974, and then chancellor in 1992, where she remained until her retirement in 2014. The focus of Sister Helen’s ministries was music, serving as a music teacher, organist, liturgical minister and parish musician.

The 11 jubilarians marking 60 years are Sisters Regine Ehm, Bernice Mertens, Anne Stremlau, Mildred Rothwell, Carol Mechtenberg, Rose-marie Klotz, Bea Wagner, Marie Rose Petrie, Valerie Sepenski, Clara Styger and Margaret Ruddy, and all but two were in education. Sisters Regine, Bernice and Anne spent their early careers as elementary school teachers. Sister Anne later changed to computer and religious education, while Sister Bernice switched to business education at the high school level, and Sister Regine became a home health aide. Although Sister Mildred spent her first ministry years as a science teacher, she also worked in special education, emergency services, religious education and pastoral ministry. Child care and primary grade education were the ministries of Sr. Carol until she became a certified nurses aide after earning a certificate in gerontology. Sisters Rose-marie, Bea and Marie Rose all served in the field of education in a variety of capacities and at a wide range of levels. Sister Rose-marie is currently the director of the office of personal development and ministry for the congregation. Sister Bea, who taught extensively overseas, and Sister Marie Rose, who later became a psychologist, are active volunteers. Like many of her classmates, Sister Valerie was an elementary school teacher before switching to formation, clerical work and religious education. She then served as the director of associate relationship for the congregation for seven years.

Sister Clara Styger did domestic work before becoming a nurses aide and a physical therapy assistant. Although Sr. Margaret Ruddy initially also served as a nurses aid, she became an occupational therapist, and then librarian and archivist at Cardinal Stritch University.

The two 50-year jubilarians began their ministry years as teachers. With degrees in art and special education, Sr. Jeanne Carrigan taught art and art therapy, was an art therapist instructor, and became an assistant professor of  art and art therapy. The majority of her work has been in New Mexico and Arizona. In retirement, she volunteers with a mobile technician service, providing nail care, particularly pedicare services, to the needy of Tucson. Sr. Ladonna Woerdeman taught home economics before becoming a clinical dietitian and then a certified diabetes educator and dietitian, mostly at medical facilities. She is currently serving in that capacity at Unity Point Clinic – Diabetes and Kidney Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Earlier this year, she was presented with the Mother Bartholomew, OSF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cardinal Stritch University Alumni Awards event.

Sr. Wanda Sheber, the 25-year celebrant, began her religious life as a Daughter of Charity, transferring her vows to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 2004. With a master’s degree in social work, she has served in that capacity in hospitals, parishes and cancer centers. She is currently the member services assistant at the National Funeral Directors Association in Brookfield, Wis.

In the picture with this post of the sisters renewing vows, across the “front” row, left to right, the jublilarians (with jubilarian years noted) are: Sisters Helen Svancarek (70), Clara Styger (60), Bernice Mertens (60), Carol Mechtenberg (60), Regine Ehm (60), Ladonna Woerderman (50), Valerie Sepenski (60) and Rose-marie Klotz (60).

Jubilarian class pictures are available at The congregation has approximately 184 professed members in the United States and Taiwan.