Sister Rita Marie Bechel, a native of Plum City, ministered as a teacher in Wisconsin and Iowa from 1945 to 1982. In La Crosse, Sister Rita Marie served for one year at St. Rose Convent in dietary service and at the Villa as receptionist, sacristan and organist until 2015. She resides at the Villa today.
Sister Rosalia Bauer (Ritalina), from Durand, began a ministry of health care at St. Anthony School of Nursing in Carroll, Iowa. She ministered in nine states and a refugee camp in Thailand in the Cambodian Civil War. She served a pro-life ministry since 1993 with Pro-Life Wisconsin and currently with La Crosse Life League. She resides at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse.
Sister Luanne Durst, a native of Rice Lake, began religious life as a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity. She has served diocesan worship and liturgy offices in Green Bay and La Crosse. Sister Luanne also served the USCCB Committee of Liturgy. In 1986, she transferred to FSPA and currently serves as transportation coordinator at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse.
Sister Kathleen Kenkel (Laura), from Earling, Iowa, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and history and master’s degrees in English and theology. In La Crosse, she served Viterbo as a theology instructor and religious studies assistant professor and the Franciscan Spirituality Center as director. After serving at Villa Maria Retreat and Conference Center, Sister Kathleen retired in 2006.
Sister Marcella Steffes (Ignatia), from Roselle, Iowa, earned degrees in music education, theory and cello. She taught music theory at Viterbo College and private lessons for 16 years. From 1970 to 2010, she was a Viterbo Music Department faculty member. She was also a Suzuki strings teacher and, for 35 years, a La Crosse Symphony Orchestra cellist. Today, she is a volunteer cello and violin teacher in La Crosse.
Sister Shirley Wagner (Theodosia) is a native of Mosinee. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education, taught music in elementary/middle schools and parishes and conducted youth symphonies in Wisconsin and Iowa. Sister Shirley was an orchestra director (Ladysmith College), pastoral associate and civic symphony director in Wisconsin. She presently is a parish volunteer and renowned intarsia artist in Medford.
Sister Donna Weber (Elreda), from Eau Galle, earned a bachelor’s in education (Viterbo), master’s in art (George Peabody College for Teachers) and a master’s from the University of Creation Spirituality. She held several teaching positions in Wisconsin and Montana. She also served as a pastoral associate for 18 years. Now retired at St. Rose Convent, Sister Donna ministers as an artist.
Sister Gloria Aguon (Juan Marie), a native of Barrigada, Guam, earned a bachelor’s in education from Viterbo College and a master’s in reading from Cardinal Stritch College. She taught primary grades for 10 years in Wisconsin. Returning to Guam in 1981, she ministered as a teacher in Barrigada, Agana and Sinajana. Today, Sister Gloria is a spiritual director and serves the Cenacle group as a secretary.
Sister Diane Boehm (Mary Lee), from Wausau, holds degrees in elementary education, educational administration and pastoral liturgy. In Wisconsin, she was a middle/junior high school teacher and principal. Sister Diane served FSPA as Northern Province secretary and formation/vocation director and in hospitality at Marywood Spirituality Center. Since 2001, she has been an instructor/ESL tutor of adults at Literacy Chippewa Valley in Eau Claire.
Sister Betty Bradley (Angelle), of Spokane, Wash., ministered as a primary grade teacher in Iowa, Montana, Washington and Wisconsin; FSPA director of affiliation in La Crosse; and an art educator/pastoral associate in Oregon. A resident of Spokane for the past 24 years, she served Clare Center Franciscan Spirituality Center as director/resident artist and now ministers as an artist.
Sister Rosemary Desmond (Rose Angela), a native of La Crosse, earned degrees in music education and taught in schools throughout Iowa and Wisconsin. For 40 years, her ministries included serving as director of parish music/liturgy in Minnesota and in campus ministry in Iowa. Today, Sister Rosemary lives in Eagan, Minn., where she serves as a Feed My Starving Children volunteer.
Sister Joann Gehling (Mary Carlos), from Carroll, Iowa, holds a degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in theological studies and a doctorate in ministry. She taught primary school in Wisconsin, Idaho and Iowa, religion in Oklahoma and directed CTU’s Israel Studies Program. Today, she ministers at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center as a Spiritual Direction Training Program supervisor.
Sister Mary Ann Gschwind (Mary Pius) is a native of La Crosse. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and an EdS in educational administration. She served as teacher/principal/superintendent in elementary and high schools in Wisconsin, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and California and as Education Department chair/teacher/education director at Viterbo College. She served FSPA for two four-year terms as vice president. Since 2002, she has served as archivist.
Sister Virdean Meyer is a native of Loyal. She taught middle school students in Wisconsin and Iowa for three years and high school science in Wisconsin for 26 years. Sister Virdean served FSPA in vocations/formation for 12 years, Wisconsin Technical School System as an instructor for 21 years and currently, in pastoral ministry in Marshfield.
Sister Mary Morrissey (Mary Johnathan), from Knoxville, Iowa, ministered as a convent homemaker in Iowa and Wisconsin and a skilled nursing facility activities director in Iowa and Florida. She served as a hospital chaplain in Wisconsin. In La Crosse, Sister Mary has ministered as a volunteer at Villa St. Joseph and, currently, as a Catholic Charities receptionist. She resides at St. Rose Convent.
Sister Ione Nieland (Mara), a native of Breda, Iowa, earned degrees in English, history, religious education and pastoral studies and taught middle school students in Wisconsin and Iowa. She served Viterbo in student assistance services and FSPA as novice director and as director of formation and affiliation. She is now retired and cares for her brother in Carroll, Iowa.
Sister Irene Nieland, from Carroll, Iowa, served in the ministry of health care as a nurse in Wisconsin, Idaho, Colorado and Minnesota; a nursing instructor in Wisconsin, Missouri and Africa; and a nursing school director in the Marshall Islands. Now retired, she serves as a spiritual assistant in the Carroll area.
Sister Grace Ann Schiffer, a native of La Crosse, received a bachelor’s in elementary education from Viterbo College. She taught primary grades in Wisconsin and visited the homebound in El Salvador. She then served as a pastoral care associate in Stevens Point, secretarial assistant at St. Rose Convent and, for 32 years, as a massage therapist in Minneapolis. She retired to St. Rose in 2018.
Sister Jo Ann Serwas, from Green Bay, was a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity until 1997, when she transferred to become a FSPA. She holds degrees in music education and private school administration and served in schools throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. Sister Jo Ann has also served the Native American Alliance Project and as a pastoral associate at St. Gabriel Parish in Neenah, where she now volunteers.
Sister Carolyn Heil, from Ingleside, Ill., achieved a bachelor’s in elementary education/master’s from the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality, ministering as an elementary school teacher and pastoral assistant in Wisconsin. Moving to Canada, she served in Ontario as Ecology Retreat Centre’s religious services administrator and at Chippewa Nation Stoney Point Reserve as a teacher. Today, she is an integrative medicine practitioner and the co-director of Camp Winston (serving children with neurobiological disorders) in Toronto.
Sister Lucy Ann Meyer, from Kiel, received a bachelor’s in upper elementary education and a master’s of administration, serving as a teacher and administrator in Wisconsin. A Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, she transferred to become a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in 1995. She has served FSPA as novice director and affiliation co-minister. Now retired, Sister Lucy Ann volunteers at Hamilton Early Learning Center in La Crosse.
Published July/August 2020 Catholic Life Issue