By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Sister Kathleen Storms, SSND, is moving from The Prairie to Rome to serve her international religious community as one of five general councilors. Sr. Kathleen leaves behind her beloved ministry as director of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center near Wheatland, while looking forward to her new leadership responsibilities.
Elected to her new post this past fall in Baltimore, Sr. Storms shared with The Catholic Messenger a dream she had as her religious community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, began the discernment process for leadership.
“In the dream I heard a voice telling me, “you are ready, let your sisters call you.” At first I fought the call. I didn’t want to leave the ministry I love at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat. I said, ‘I am too old to take on this monumental task.’ I struggled, I cried, but I couldn’t say no. When I prayed and found peace, I knew that if the call came through the election process, I would be ready to say yes. So, when I was elected, I wasn’t surprised. I was just amazed at how God continues to call. I have felt such incredible peace because I know this is not about me but about the work and the mission of Jesus. I have said this throughout my 50-plus years of religious life.”
The SSND community consists of 2,500 sisters in nine provinces who serve in 30 countries. The newly elected general council, of which Sr. Kathleen is a member, will lead the congregation in implementing the Spirit-inspired direction set by the chapter members. Their new Directional Statement demonstrates strong support for Pope Francis’ message of care for our common home as expressed in his apostolic letter “Laudato Si,” Sr. Kathleen said.
That statement “speaks to the care of creation that I so wholeheartedly have lived at Our Lady of the Prairie (a ministry of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary). This call to care for all creation has been growing in me since the early 1990s. Creation is the first revelation of God. I said yes to serving in leadership because I believe that in this leadership capacity I could share my spirituality and live the Gospel call more fully with my sisters. It is as simple and profound as that.”
Her previous ministries (she started out as an educator) helped prepare her for her new role. “Each one stretched me to believe that I do not work alone and that God is the one guiding me… I have loved what I have been called to do. I have been allowed to be an innovator in each of my ministries. I have learned to trust the leadership of others.”
Asked about insights she gained working with the Sisters of Humility, Sr. Kathleen reflected, “I realized that in both the smallness of the Humilities and the largeness of the School Sisters the bond of community is what counts. From my first days in Davenport as I was learning about the Humility Sisters I felt at home. We have a common mission. We share a common energy for God’s people.” She especially appreciated the wonderful support she received from Sisters Marcia Eckerman and Rae Elwood, who assisted Sr. Kathleen in The Prairie ministry.
She will miss the wonderful friendships she formed and the peace and serenity of The Prairie. “This is sacred ground that nurtures and heals all who come.”
Sr. Kathleen “has built on the strong foundation of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat that was developed by Father Vincent Fabula and Sister Joann Kuebrich,” CHM President Sister Mary Ann Vogel said. “This is evidenced by the increase in program offerings, the growing number of active volunteers, community outreach and fundraising activities.
“Care of the Earth is part of the mission of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and this is certainly the mission of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat where hospitality and service are provided in a sacred space of peace and beauty that promises respect for all creation.
“During Sr. Kathleen’s tenure a Cosmic Walk has been put in place, pollinator strips have been added, solar panels have been installed in order to be more energy efficient, a green house has been built to provide fresh foods year-round,” Sr. Mary Ann continued.
“How wonderful it is to have a place of such beauty in the middle of rolling farm lands welcoming people for prayer, spiritual renewal and solitude; a place to escape to for a few hours, a few days, or even longer. As we search for a new director we want to find someone to, not only carry on, but to continue growing the programs and the awareness of the very special place this retreat center is.”