By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger
The Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton will honor nine Sisters who are marking milestone anniversaries of their entrances into religious life this year. Bishop Martin Amos will preside at a special Mass celebrating the anniversaries July 26 at Prince of Peace Church in Clinton.
Sister Bertha Zeiser, 103, was born in Browns, Iowa, and entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis at Mount St. Clare Convent in Clinton in 1929. Sr. Zeiser spent most of her active ministry in education. At different times she served as a math teacher, religion teacher, and principal. She taught in parish schools in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. She also served as director of the congregation’s temporary professed Sisters from 1962-1965.
After retiring from classroom teaching in 1980, Sr. Zeiser assisted with the English as a Second Language program at Clinton Community College, and then was assigned to a mission in California. She returned to Clinton in 1995 and tutored a core member from the L’Arche community until the fall of 2010. She resides at The Alverno in Clinton, where she reads, stays current on world events and visits with members of the community.
Sister Rose Griffin entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1944 and was active for many years in education and pastoral ministry. She
taught in Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky and Nebraska. After earning a Ph.D. in Modern European History from St. Louis University, she taught history at Mount St. Clare College and served, at different times, as a principal and school librarian in California. Sr. Griffin also served as a pastoral minister in Missouri and as the first certified female chaplain at The Alverno Health Care Facility in Clinton. She resides at The Alverno, after retiring in 2002.
Sister Celeste Hanigan was born in Spalding, Neb., and grew up in Denison, Iowa. She attended Mount St. Clare College for two years before entering the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1954. Sr. Hanigan has spent most of her ministry in education, having earned a bachelor’s degree in education and two master’s degrees in elementary school administration and pastoral ministry. She taught in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa and served, at various times, as a school principal, director of religious education, pastoral associate, and coordinator of adult faith formation in both Iowa and California. After retiring in 2009, she became the Sisters of St. Francis Associate Partnership coordinator and designed a course for individuals desiring to become peacemakers. Sr. Hanigan resides in California and continues to share her faith and wisdom with the community.
Sister Teresa Kunkel was born on a farm near Granville, Ill. and graduated from Mount St. Clare Academy. After entering the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1954, Sr. Kunkel spent her ministry in education and administration. She served at schools in Illinois, California and Iowa. She ministered at Mount St. Clare College in Clinton as the director of admissions, registrar and assistant academic dean. Sr. Kunkel was also a member of the General Council of the Sisters of St. Francis. She earned her master’s degree in theological study from Regis College in Canada and became a pastoral associate in Kentucky. She returned to Clinton to serve as assistant treasurer of the congregation, a position that she presently holds. Sr. Kunkel resides at The Canticle, where she is active on the liturgy committee, in social justice advocacy and is a member of the local Pax Christi organization.
Sister Ruth Cox was a registered nurse prior to entering the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1954, and continued serving in this capacity after making her vows. She worked in Iowa and Illinois, and opened a health clinic in Grand Bahamas with two other Sisters. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola University in Chicago and taught in Florida. She returned to Clinton in 1977 to become The Alverno Health Care Facility administrator, a position she held for 27 years. She also served as a councilor for the Sisters of St. Francis. Sr. Cox has served as an adjunct faculty member at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and on numerous health-related boards. She serves on the Ashford University board in Clinton.
Sister Joan Theiss is a native of Sublette, Ill., and a 1951 graduate of Mount St. Clare Academy in Clinton. She
entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1954 and spent most of her ministry in education. She served as a teacher and principal at St. Boniface School in Clinton and taught elsewhere in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. She served as a pastoral associate for five years in the Sioux City (Iowa) Diocese, and then returned to Clinton to serve as the Mount St. Clare Convent director. She served as the general treasurer for the Sisters of St. Francis from 1990-2008 and, during this time, also served as the director of the Associates and as a hospice volunteer for the Visiting Nurses Association. Sr. Theiss lives at The Canticle and serves on the Clinton Ecumenical Housing board, the Sisters of St. Francis finance committee, and The Canticle liturgy committee. She enjoys gardening and continues to minister in the community.
Sister Jacqueline Herrmann grew up on a farm in Steward, Ill., and graduated from Mount St. Clare Academy before entering the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1964. She spent most of her ministry in education, teaching in California, Illinois and Kentucky. Sr. Herrmann earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago and ministered in parishes in Kentucky, Illinois, and Farmington, Iowa. She especially enjoyed helping to improve students’ reading skills. She currently works as a teacher in an after-school program in Illinois, providing homework assistance and helping children succeed in school.
Sister Gael Gensler was born in Rochelle, Ill., and, after entering the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis in 1964, was active in education and pastoral ministry. She taught in Illinois and Iowa including at St. Patrick and Seton schools in Clinton. She served in the Peoria (Ill.) Diocese’s education office before becoming director of the Institutes for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate in Virginia. After ending her full-time ministry with the forum, she continued to be an active team member while also serving as a pastoral associate in Kansas and Illinois. In addition, she served as the initial discernment coordinator for the Franciscan congregation. Currently Sr. Gensler serves as a pastoral associate in Illinois and is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis General Leadership Team.
Sister Mary Lou Carlson was born in Fremont, Neb., and was taught by Franciscan Sisters throughout elementary school. After attending a vocation fair where she learned about the Clinton Franciscans and Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, she traveled to Iowa. She entered the congregation in 1964. Sr. Carlson was active in education and pastoral ministry. She taught in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky before earning a master’s degree in Human and Religious Studies. She went on to serve as a pastoral minister in Kentucky and as a staff member at the San Luis Rey Retreat Center, Head Start instructor, and pastoral minister in California. She currently resides in Escondido, Calif., where she serves as director of Outreach Ministries at the Church of the Resurrection.