Sister Petronilla Hermann 93, died Thursday, August 16, 2019, at Villa Saint Vincent, Crookston, MN.
Agnes Hermann was born in Georgetown, Minnesota on November 30, 1925, the oldest girl of four of Andrew and Delia (Denery) Hermann. They had a brother a year older than Agnes. When Agnes was born on the feast of Saint Andrew, her parents considered naming her Andrea, but her baby brother was named Andrew, so the name Agnes was chosen instead.
Agnes attended Georgetown Elementary School (a two-room school) for eight years. Her high school years were spent at Mount St. Benedict High Academy in Crookston, Minnesota. After that, she entered the Sisters of Saint Benedict. Upon becoming a novice, she received the Benedictine habit and the name Sister Petronilla. Her sisters Mary (Sister Olivia) and Angela (Sister Agatha) also became members of the community.
In 1944 the community enrolled her at Saint Cloud Hospital School of Nursing in Saint Cloud, MN. Upon graduation in 1947 she was assigned to active duty as a registered nurse for one year in the operating room, followed by ten years as head nurse on the surgical floor first at Saint Vincent’s Hospital, then at Saint Francis Hospital in Crookston.
In 1957 Sister Charitas Brophy, who was the hospital administrator, asked her to give up her beloved surgical nursing for one year to fill in as the director of St. Francis Hospital School of Practical Nursing. Twenty-one years later when Sister Petronilla was requesting to leave nursing, Sister Charitas was chair of the Mount Saint Benedict Personnel Committee. The committee granted her request.
Her years of nursing/nursing education were happy, fulfilling, and successful. As a nurse educator, she recruited a dedicated and efficient faculty,and a strong camaraderie developed.
When Saint Francis Hospital closed in 1970, so did the school of nursing, but Sister Petronilla and her staff became the core-faculty hired by the public school system to direct the newly formed Agassiz Valley School of Practical Nursing. Sister Petronilla was the director of this program and was instrumental in developing a plan by which LPNs could work to become registered nurses without having to repeat classes common to both programs. When this plan was in place in 1979, Sister Petronilla felt called to retire from nursing.
After earning a Masters degree in spirituality/spiritual direction, Sister Petronilla was assigned to the formation department for one year and then to spiritual direction and to working with the spirituality component for the MSB Center Ministry Program.
Living at the Mount was a new experience for Sister Petronilla. The only other time was her novitiate year. Being able to engage in community life, especially the Liturgy of the Hours, was a gifted experience. When Sister Cathi Merck became prioress in 1999, she asked Sister Petronilla to accept the assignment of writing the intercessory prayers for the twice-daily Liturgy of the Hours. Sister Petronilla found that writing these prayers was a life-giving assignment and one that she fulfilled until 2012 when failing vision forced her retirement. Health issues were constant in Sister Petronilla’s life. In 2010 she moved into Good Shepherd Hall, the community’s the Assisted Living Department, and she moved to Villa Saint Vincent in 2018.
Sister Petronilla enjoyed sewing. In any spare time, she was at her sewing machine or doing embroidery or crocheting. With failing eyesight, Sister Petronilla had to give up fine needlework but took up a new needlepoint craft with plastic canvas. Whenever she sent items to the Polk County Fair, she won blue/red honors for her crocheted and craft items.
Sister Petronilla was preceded in death by her parents Andrew and Delia Hermann, brother Andrew and sister Helen Lutgens and Sister Olivia Hermann. She is survived by Sister Agatha Hermann, may nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Saint Benedict of Crookston.
Sister Mary Jean Gust died on July 31, 2019, at Mount Saint Benedict, Crookston, MN.
Sister Mary Jean was the third child of George and Julia Gust of rural East Grand Forks, Minnesota. She said that her childhood days were filled with peace. She loved school and loved to read. She also enjoyed weeding in the family garden, though not neglecting household chores. Sundays were special days of going to church and visiting with grandparents.
When sisters came to her family’s home asking for donations, they often brought a pail of Mount honey and one time brought small rosaries for the children. Mary Jean and her elder sister Margaret had the good fortune of attending high school at Sacred Heart in East Grand Forks and grew to love their teachers, the Benedictine sisters. They appreciated the dedication and interest that they had for each student. In 1946 Mary Jean was inspired to take steps to begin her life as a Sister of Saint Benedict, together with her older sister, Margaret.
Mary Jean and Margaret entered the community on June 24, 1946. They entered the novitiate and were invested with the Benedictine habit on March 19, 1947, when they got their religious names. Mary Jean received the name Sister Ameliana, and Margaret became Sister Cornelia. Sister Ameliana later returned to her baptismal name, Sister Mary Jean. During her first years in the novitiate and juniorate, she grew in understanding the Divine Office and the monastic life. She didn’t really understand what meditation was about but she did her best to practice it, even though she might fall asleep during the meditation period which she admitted was the Lord’s way of showing her she needed more rest.
Her education prepared her for teaching and administration of schools. After eighteen years of teaching, she became the principal at Sacred Heart Grade School, working with parents and students in a loving and supportive way. In 1978 Sister Mary Jean began serving as Director of Schools and Religious Education for the Diocese of Crookston. Under the leadership of Bishop Victor Balke, she served in that capacity for eight years. She put on thousands of miles visiting parochial schools in the rural Crookston Diocese. As such, she developed close relationships with numerous people across the far-flung diocese. She also served in the same capacity in the Fargo Diocesan Office and developed relationships there also.
A special opportunity presented itself when she was able to accompany Sister Karen Violette to Belgium to help a group of contemplative semi-cloistered Benedictine Sisters in their retreat and outreach programs. The year she spent there was blessed with spiritual and physical renewal.
When she returned from Belgium she began work at the Cathedral parish in Crookston, on staff with Deacon Denny Bivens, who introduced her to the parish needs and programs. The pastor at that time, Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, asked if she would consider going to Fertile to be a pastoral presence to the people in the parish and community and to assist him with his parish responsibilities. Sister Mary Jean was a presence not only to Catholics but to the entire community which is predominantly non-Catholic. After many years at Saint Joseph Church in Fertile, she realized that
she needed to retire and return to the Mount in 2016 to tend to her failing health and live a more relaxed Benedictine monastic life.
Sister Mary Jean is preceded in death by her parents, George and Julia Gust, brothers Joseph, Robert, and Gerard and sister Sister Cornelia Gust and sisters-in-law Rosemary, Alice and Risong. She is survived by sister Betty Ann (Burnell) Skelton, brothers Timothy and Philip (Zenaida), sisters-in-law Susan and June Gust, many nieces and nephews and her Benedictine community.
Sister Catherine Merck (76) died February 5, 2019 at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, ND.
Catherine Louise Merck was born in Ada, MN on June 1, 1942, the youngest of seven children of Anthony J. and Margaret (Jerome) Merck.
She attended Saint Rose of Lima school in Argyle, MN from first to eighth grades. She attended Mount Saint Benedict Academy as a five-day boarder and graduated with the class of 1960. In her senior year she entered Mount Saint Benedict convent and that summer received the habit of a Benedictine sister and a new name, Sister Natalie. She made her first profession of vows in 1961 and perpetual profession in 1966. Some years later she returned to her baptismal name and preferred to be known as Sister Cathi.
Sister Cathi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her mid-twenties. Despite the unpredictable and cumulative physical limitations it imposed on her, Sister Cathi attained a broad education and filled a number of responsible roles.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and took opportunities for courses in topics ranging from monastic life to film studies, from team leadership to interior design. Her energy and interests always ran to whatever was uplifting and inclusive.
She used her education, her savvy and talents to contribute in a variety of significant ways to Mount Saint Benedict community and others. She was an engaging and welcome presence on the staff of Corbett College in Crookston, Colegio Santa Maria in Bogota, Colombia and Holy Spirit parish in Fargo, ND. She was monastery treasurer for a time and later the director of community self-study and ongoing formation. She was a subprioress for Sister Cornelia Gust.
In 1999 Sister Cathi was elected as the tenth prioress of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery. During her six-year term she consistently approached the critical issues of the community by calling the sisters to listening and dialogue. She engaged qualified consultants and seasoned facilitators to gain and process solid information for the entire community. She trusted fundamental Benedictine values, met new challenges with an open mind and relied on the monastic chapter to make well-considered decisions. During her term the community took new initiatives for providing care of elderly infirm sisters and began to vacate and remove outlying buildings on the Mount campus. Whether they were concerns of the community or of individual sisters, as prioress she addressed them with discretion, fairness, consultation and courage.
Sister Cathi was a friendly person, light-hearted, interested and appreciative of others. She was gentle in manner, even genteel. Being herself neither defensive nor confrontational, she could be stunned by rudeness.
She was modest about her achievements. She seemed most proud of having established the custom of a continually filled candy dish in the subprioress’ office. Her accepting nature and turn toward enjoyment were matched with a brave inner strength of which she may not have been completely aware.
Due to increasing disability, Sister Cathi moved to skilled care in Villa Saint Vincent in August 2013. Until her last illness, she transported herself around the facility in a motorized chair.
She is preceded in death by her parents, brothers Anthony, Jr. and Leo and her sister, Anna Marie. She is survived by brothers Lawrence Michael, Robert and Edward, her niece Sister Anita Whalen of Mount Saint Benedict, many other nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery.
Sister Lucille Schafer (88) died at Villa Saint Vincent, Crookston, on January 17, 2019.
Lucille Schafer, daughter of Rose (Kuld) Schafer and George Schafer came into this world on December 20, 1930. She was the third of four children, two brothers: Raymond and John and a sister, Sister Yvonne. Sister Lucille said that one of the things she was most grateful for was the Catholic faith passed on to her by her parents.
Lucille started her education in the rural public-school district #63. When she was in the sixth grade, she transferred to Saint Joseph’s School in Red Lake Falls. She attended Mount Saint Benedict Academy for high school. She graduated magna cum laude from the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, MN. Later she received a master’s degree in theological studies from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN.
Lucille joined the Sisters of Saint Benedict of Crookston on January 2, 1948. She made her temporary monastic profession on July 5, 1949 and her final profession on July 11, 1952.
Sister Lucille taught in elementary schools in Crookston, East Grand Forks, Red Lake Falls, Benson, Mahnomen, and Detroit Lakes. She also taught in a catechetical school in Slayton. She served as principal in Red Lake Falls, Mahnomen and Detroit Lakes. Later she served as pastoral associate in Red Lake Falls, and as a foster grandparent in Thief River Falls where she also served as a safe environment worker for Saint Bernard Parish.
Sister Lucille was known for her quiet, gentle ways. She declared that even if she had not entered the monastic community, she would have been a teacher.
Sister Lucille wrote, “Throughout the years I sought and found my way of seeking God in living and praying in community with the Sisters of Saint Benedict. I further tried to pursue God’s call through my ministry of working with people and parishes and schools. Years of true fulfillment were found in teaching, administration, serving as pastoral associate and in tutoring students.
‘I served as a parish pastoral minister and as a school tutor in the Foster Grandparent Program. Opportunities to travel to Rome, Medjugorje and Croatia were added occasions for spiritual and cultural enrichment.
‘Now it is with a grateful heart that I glance back over the past years observing all the favors God has extended to me.”
Sister Lucille was preceded in death by her parents and her siblings. She is survived by many nieces and nephews and by the Sisters of Saint Benedict.
Sister Olivia Hermann (91) died at Villa Saint Vincent, Crookston, on September 24, 2018.
Mary Catherine Hermann, the third of the four girls and one boy of Andrew and Delia (Denery) Hermann, was born on February 8, 1927 in Georgetown. Sister Olivia ascribed the awakening of her call to monastic life to the encouragement, prayer-life and truly happy and Christian attitudes of her parents as they nurtured the growth of their children in their rural Georgetown home.
Her earliest contact with sisters was with her aunts, a Sister of Saint Benedict and a Sister of Saint Joseph who frequently visited at their farm home. Sister Olivia wrote about the visits of these sisters, “I don’t know how excited they were about tramping through our barn or chicken coop, but they made it look as though it was one of the highlights of their visit. These two sisters also joined in games and were just fun to have around.”
During her early school years two sisters from the Mount came each June and taught catechism. She loved this time with the sisters and always wished they could have stayed longer.
Mary Catherine attended elementary school in Georgetown and high school at Mount Saint Benedict, Crookston, MN. From her earliest days her only thoughts about vocation were to become a sister. Only in later years did she realize the influence that the faith of her parents and their love for each other and their children had on this decision.
Sister Olivia related memories about her family. “Since we lived in the country we had no close neighbors to play with. During summer Sundays Mom and Dad often took a nap after our noon meal. During our early years we five children, each a year apart in age, were expected to be relatively quiet. If we met this request Mom and Dad would then join us in a game of softball, anti-over, or horse shoes.”
In this devout Catholic family, the ritual for many Sunday evenings was listening to the Catholic Hour at 5:00 p.m., chores at 5:30, supper, and then 7:00 Benediction at church. Then the family often drove around to look at the crops and later enjoyed a treat of ice cream.
Mary Catherine joined the Benedictine community in 1944 and received the name Sister Olivia. She made her permanent monastic profession in 1948. Her sister Agnes had entered the community in 1941 and received the name Sister Petronilla. A younger sister, Angela, entered the community in 1946 and received the name Sister Agatha.
Sister Olivia studied at Diocesan Teachers’ College in Saint Paul, MN and later received a Bachelor of Music Degree from Alverno College in Milwaukee.
After teaching elementary grades for a few years, she taught private piano lessons. Sister Olivia taught piano lessons for over fifty years at parishes in Red Lake Falls, Moorhead, Osseo, Crookston and Barnesville. She also served as liturgist in Saint Francis parish, Moorhead, for several years. She directed adult and youth choirs in a few parishes and also served as organist. Sister Olivia was the district chairperson for the MN Music Teachers’ Association for ten years.
In Moorhead she participated in the Befriender ministry, visited homes of parishioners on a volunteer basis, and assisted with liturgies at Eventide Home.
After returning home to Mount Saint Benedict, Sister Olivia assisted in tasks around the monastery as she was able. Her health began to deteriorate, and she moved to Villa Saint Vincent.
Sister Olivia was preceded in death by her parents Andrew and Delia, her brother Andrew and her sister Helen (Jack) Lutgens. She is survived by her sisters, Sister Petronilla and Sister Agatha, many nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Saint Benedict.