Four Dominican sisters who served at Holy Rosary celebrate jubilees
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., served for decades at Holy Rosary School in Duluth. This year, four of the sisters are celebrating profession anniversaries.
Sisters Martina Finn, Jean Patrick Ehrhardt, Angeline Biderbost, and Katrina Lamkin provided a combined 17 years of teaching and service to the people of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary parish.
Sister Martina Finn, observing 70 years of profession, taught first grade at Holy Rosary from 1945 to 1949. Virtually all her ministerial life was given to the education of primary students, a fact which she still celebrates with visitors to her room at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield. She credits her faith-filled parents with the foundation of her religious life. “Dad always told us, ‘If you make a promise, you keep it.” That simple, solid advice has stayed with me my whole life. It kept me grounded during the days when religious life didn’t always feel like a rose garden.”
Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt, marking her 60th year of profession, taught junior high students during her time at Holy Rosary, 1989 to 1992. She is still actively engaged, coordinating transportation needs for 100 sisters at Sacred Heart Convent, and enjoying her hobby, making fiber rosaries by the dozens. She believes it was her Dominican teachers at St. Mary’s School in Mt. Sterling, Ill., priests, and her family who first planted the seeds of her vocation.
Junior high schoolers were Sister Angeline Biderbost’s specialty including during her years at Holy Rosary, 1981 to 1985. She gave, and continues to give, much of her religious life in the classroom. Professed for 50 years, she now tutors part-time at St. Patrick School in Springfield and greets guests and callers to Sacred Heart Convent at the reception desk. Sister Angeline credits her parents and the “dedication and joy” of her Dominican teachers with influencing her decision to become a Dominican Sister.
Sister Katrina Lamkin, also 50 years professed, taught seventh grade at Holy Rosary, from 1976 to 1981. After decades as an elementary school teacher or principal throughout Illinois, she now serves as assistant principal of Rosary High School, the Dominican Sisters’ all-girls school in Aurora, Ill. She serves on the school’s anti-racism council, committed to the goal of the Dominican sisters to dismantle racism within the institutions they sponsor.
The sisters marked this special milestone in their lives with a celebratory liturgy Aug. 6 at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield. Please join the sisters in a prayer of gratitude for their many years of service to the people of God in our diocese.
St. Scholastica jubilees
The following celebrated their jubilees in August at the St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth.
Sister Victorine Sitter
As a young girl in Berwick, North Dakota, Katherine Sitter worked in her father’s general store and dreamed of becoming a Benedictine sister. She was blessed to have heard the call from a young age. After elementary school she became a boarding student at Stanbrook Hall High School in Duluth and got to know many of the Benedictine sisters. After graduation she entered St. Scholastica Monastery, taking the name Sister Victorine. Her sister Agnes followed her six years later.
Sister Victorine began teaching in the Duluth Diocese parish schools, working mainly with young children. Some of her students still keep in touch with her after many years. When the public school system in Towner, N.D., was hiring teachers under “Title 1” (which provides financial assistance to schools in low-income areas), she returned to her home state and taught English in the public elementary school, where by law she wore secular clothing. She donned the habit again to teach CCD classes at St. Cecilia Parish in the same town.
After her retirement, she served in the monastery transportation office and Benet Hall infirmary. Ten years ago, she was asked to be a proctor at the College of St. Scholastica. There she worked in a quiet and softly-lit room where students whose health problems require a low-stress environment where they can take exams and perform better. She prayed with each person before they began the test, and her loving presence had a calming effect and helped them become their best.
Sister Victorine retired this spring at age 94 and now spends her time in prayer and visiting with Sister Agnes and the other sisters on Benet Hall. “I am glad for a quieter life now, to spend more time in prayer with my Lord,” she said. Her hugs and smiles are legendary.
Sister Ramona Ewen
Born Mary Ewen, Sister Ramona joined the monastery in 1940 and made her first profession in 1942. She studied business at the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota and began her long teaching career at Duluth Cathedral High School, where she introduced students to bookkeeping, typing, and the use of office machines, and occasionally took on a sophomore English class. As the advisor for the Girl’s Athletic Association, she facilitated the purchase of a hand-carved statue of the Virgin Mary for the school from Oberammergau in Germany; after Cathedral High closed, the statue moved to the dining room of the monastery.
Sister Ramona then became assistant professor of accounting at St. Scholastica and was student advisor for the Brainerd campus. In her free time, she tutored younger students who needed one-on-one help in reading, math, spelling, and English. In 1995, she won the Scholastica Inspiration Award for her “commitment, unselfishness, compassion, and friendliness,” and over the years had three scholarships endowed in her name. She also served on the Boards of Trustees for Hibbing General Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center in Brainerd, and facilities of the Benedictine Health System.
In 2000, Sister Ramona visited St. Scholastica Monastery’s Twinning Community of Santa María de Rauten and became friends with the Chilean sisters. She has also travelled to Ireland, Scotland, England, and Quebec, and is an avid Twins and Vikings fan. During the baseball season, one can usually hear the Twins play-by-play drifting from her room.
The next time you read an edition of Pathways, think about Sister Ramona and say a prayer for her. She is the one who named it.
Sister Marguerite Baxter
Florence Baxter came from a close-knit and well-educated family in Houghton, Michigan to attend the College of St. Scholastica, where she studied medical technology. There she found her vocation as a Benedictine sister. She received the name Marguerite, and after her novitiate was sent to teach at elementary schools. It was a difficult time for her, and after a few years she was happy to be reassigned to St. Mary’s Hospital, where she finished her clinical experience and worked for several years in the hospital’s laboratory. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, she returned to teaching, this time at St. Scholastica as chair of the Medical Technology Department, then as co-chair of the Health Science Division. She enjoyed teaching juniors in their early professional career. She left the college in 2000, having been awarded the status of faculty emeritus.
In addition to her professional commitments, over the years she represented St. Scholastica Monastery on the Board of Directors of St. Joseph Hospital in Brainerd and the Benedictine Health Center and St. Mary’s-Duluth Clinic Health System in Duluth.
Next, she worked behind the scenes in the monastery liturgy office, bringing her excellent organizational skills and attention to detail to preparing materials for rituals and liturgies, and keeping the monastery compliant with copyright laws. “I have always loved and appreciated the liturgy. Daily communal Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours keep us centered on the life of Christ and empower us to serve others in Christ’s name.”
In 2015, sister left the Liturgy Office and began her residence in Benet Hall. Grateful for this time to intensify her spiritual life, she now serves as a prayer advocate for others and is always ready to serve as consultant for the Liturgy Office. When asked about the blessings of aging, Sister Marguerite said, “The Lord gives us gifts and we use them to the best of our ability — there is no retirement. Whatever the season of life, we use them in the service of God and others.”
Sister Mary Clare Hall
Raised on a farm near Two Harbors, Claree Hall observed local women working on farms and raising families and found she wasn’t drawn to that life. What attracted her was the life of the Benedictine sisters from St. Scholastica Monastery who came to teach religion to children one evening a week at her parish. She liked their kindness and respect and the way they listened to her. Seeing her interest, the sisters received permission from her parents to let her take a more active role in the CCD classes, so she began to help with the smaller children.
After high school she entered the community as Sister Mary Clare. She was an outstanding elementary teacher and was especially notable for excellence teaching in the first and second grade. She taught elementary school in Duluth, Aitkin, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. The driving force of her ministry was to pass on the love she had received, always looking for goodness in the grade school children whom she taught, telling them, “You are very precious to God, and God loves you.” Her former students, now adults, ask about her and praise her contributions to their lives. She brought spiritual healing to her ailing mother and sister when she took care of them in their last illnesses.
Sister Mary Clare now takes part in the life at Safe Harbor in the Benedictine Living Community in Duluth, where she shares her healing love and compassion with others. She and they struggle with failing memory but know they are always precious in God’s eyes.