Last Sunday, the sisters at Mount St. Scholastica celebrated the 101st birthday of Sister Elena Hernandez. Born in a village in Mexico, she was already lining up the other children for catechism lessons at an early age. She worked as a seamstress to support her family until, at the age of thirty, she was finally able to come to the U.S. and join the Benedictines. She was able to receive an education and serve in pastoral ministry in Oklahoma until she and her community came to join the Atchison monastery. At 101, she is still up and about, short of stature but standing tall in her joy and dedication.
That was just the start to a special week. On Wednesday, the community celebrated the diamond jubilee of four sisters. Yes, you heard that right – diamond – as in 75 years of religious commitment, a total of 300 years of prayer and service at the Mount.
Sister Celinda Medina came from a little town in the highlands of southern Colorado where the Atchison sisters had missions. For more than 40 years, she was devoted to lovingly teaching little children in the primary grades, more than two decades in Kansas City, Ks. When she stopped working full-time in the classroom, she set up the Read-on Center at the Mount where she could use her skills as a reading specialist to tutor students of all ages.
By contrast, Sister Seraphine Tucker only came a few blocks to enter the monastery from her home in Atchison. Her love of science led her to some years of teaching high school and furthering her education through a series of grants for summer study. In the early 1970s, she was asked to be the maintenance supervisor for the community. In an era when few men in the building trades had to answer to a female boss, she won the respect of the workmen, the boys who helped during summers and weekends, and the contractors with whom she could happily discuss major projects in construction and engineering.
Sister Mary Kathryn Taylor was taught by the Atchison sisters at Lillis High School in Kansas City, Mo. After entering the monastery, she spent more than 30 years of her religious life teaching high school English. As a reading specialist, she was able to face the challenges of urban Kansas City, Ks., students in her later years of teaching. Before returning to Atchison, she spent some years assisting in a care facility for the elderly where her friendliness and hospitality welcomed and cheered many people.
The best word to describe Sister Marie Louise Krenner, also from Kansas City, is creative. As a primary teacher, she used her love of word and art to enrich and entertain her students. She even wrote and illustrated two books for children on the lives of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica: The Twin Who Ran Away and The Twin Who Tagged Along. She left teaching to become the Mount’s archivist and has continued her creative pursuits as the maker of whimsical cloth nativity sets.
All now in their 90s, these four women have grown old in grace and wisdom. They, along with the centenarian Sister Elena, continue to be examples of a life well lived. Every day, they show the happiness and faith that can come from prayer and openness to God’s will. Regardless of their physical abilities, by their very being they preach to the sisters and to the Dooley Center staff that God is good. Few people have so long to keep doing good and living well, but each of us can be grateful for people like these whom we have known, and grateful for each day we’re given, regardless how many we have left.