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Local News in Brief - August 2015

The Northern Cross
Local News in Brief


The following golden and silver jubilarians of St. Scholastica Monastery will be celebrated Aug. 22.

Golden jubilee (50 years)

Sister Beverly Raway

Sister Beverly Raway was born and attended school in Hastings. She attended the College of St. Scholastica and entered the Benedictine community in her sophomore year. She taught biology at Duluth Cathedral High School, studied nursing, worked at St. Mary’s Medical Center, attended graduate school at the Catholic University of America, and taught nursing at CSS for 22 years. Sister Beverly serves on health-care ministry boards for the Benedictine Health System and Essentia Health. She has enjoyed exploring the natural world via backpacking, canoe trips and hiking. Sister Beverly also organizes service learning opportunities for CSS students on trips to the monastery’s “Twin” (sister monastery) in Tanzania. Sister Beverly, the newly elected prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery, says “My journey in life has been sustained by the rhythm of daily prayer, the unconditional love of family, friends and colleagues, and by the sisters with whom I have lived and worked these 50 years.”

Silver jubilee (25 years)

Sister Patricia Anne Williams

Sister Patricia Anne Williams was born in 1951 and grew up in New Jersey, the oldest of three children. As a young adult she was active in her church, serving on the parish council and singing in the choir. In 1973 she became a registered nurse. In 1980 she moved to Phoenix to work for the Indian Health Service. While in Phoenix she became friends with the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery who were in ministry there and slowly began to discern a calling from God to join these Benedictine sisters. Sister Pat made her first profession on July 28, 1990, and her perpetual profession on July 26, 1993. She has since had several nursing ministries at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth and for the sisters on Benet Hall. Photography and crafts are special “extracurricular” interests.

The following diamond jubilarians will be celebrated Sept. 13:

70 years

Sister Melanie Gagne

Sister Melanie Gagne was born in 1925 and grew up in Proctor, the third child in a family that had moved to Proctor from Quebec, Canada. After high school she worked in the railroad yard in Proctor as a hostler’s helper. Sister Melanie entered St. Scholastica Monastery in 1943 and made her first vows in 1945. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Scholastica and a master’s degree from Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, Calif. Most of her career involved teaching elementary and junior high school. She taught in the Diocese of Duluth and in Chicago and Arizona. After 44 years of teaching, she became a chaplain and worked for 10 years in that field. She now volunteers at the Benedictine Health Center and enjoys reading, playing cards, cooking, making greeting cards and visiting with family and extended family.
60 years

Sister Agnes Fleck

Born in Delaware, where her father was a teacher, the family moved several years later to her father’s hometown, Virginia. Sister Agnes entered the community just after graduation, taught school in Cloquet, Wayzata and north Minneapolis and also catechetical classes in Ely for several years. She was then brought back to the monastery to complete her college education. Sister Agnes’s love of Shakespeare was encouraged by further studies at Berkeley and by her attendance at Shakespeare Association of America meetings. Sister Agnes wrote papers for such meetings across the world and in 2002-03 taught English for a semester in Henan, China. She feels how blessed she has been these 60 years by her friendships, her monastic community and her opportunities.

Sister Barbara Higgins

Sister Barbara Higgins was born in Duluth and grew up in Duluth’s West End. At the age of 18 she became a postulant at St. Scholastica Monastery. She taught in Brainerd, Cloquet and at St. John’s in Duluth — mostly first grade. In the early 1970s her ministry at the Diocesan Youth Center helped to meet the personal and spiritual needs of teens. In the 1980s Sister Barbara served as housing/residential director at CSS, campus ministry chaplain, and subprioress at the monastery. From 1995 to 2014 she was in ministry in Arizona. Sister Barbara says, “Celebrating my 60th jubilee here at St. Scholastica Monastery is pure gift. I thank God every day for his many gifts to me as well as the encouragement and support of my family, friends and my monastic community.”

Sister Clare Marie Trettel

Sister Clare Marie Trettel grew up in Cloquet and attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School. She studied at the College of St. Scholastica and there decided to join the Benedictine sisters. She began her college studies in nursing but changed to education because of the need for teachers in diocesan schools. Sister Clare Marie taught for many years, served as principal for 15 years, became superintendent of schools for the Duluth Diocese and taught at. She served as prioress of St. Scholastica Monastery from 1987 to 1993 and returned to where she continues to work in the School of Education. Sister also serves on a number of boards of health-care institutions. Of her 60th jubilee, she says, “I am grateful for the many opportunities and blessings I received during these 60 years.”

Sister Marie Therese Poliquin

Sister Marie Therese Poliquin, a Duluthian and St. Jean Baptiste parishioner, was spiritually moved by retreat master Father Joseph Cashen in Grade 9. Graduating from the College of St. Scholastica in music and French, she taught at Stanbrook Hall, pursued a graduate degree in music at the University of Michigan and taught in Belding, Michigan, public schools before seeking admission to the Benedictine sisters. She taught at St. Clement in Duluth, St. Francis in Brainerd, served as the diocesan supervisor of music, taught at Cathedral Junior High, St. Jean’s (West End Parochial), St. John’s, Cathedral High School, and at St. Bridget, Minneapolis. “Retired,” she served as pastoral minister and volunteer coordinator at St. Raphael in Crystal. She says, “The Lord has been good to me. It is with joy that I look forward to celebrating my diamond jubilee with six amazing people who have survived the 60 years of seeking the Lord together.”

Sister Mary Christa Kroening

Sister Mary Christa Kroening was born in Springfield, where her father ran a fruit and vegetable shop and had a truck farm where she tended many a seed potato. In 1947, she worked four years as secretary at a local milling company. In 1953, while a student at the College of St. Scholastica, she entered the monastery and made her first profession in 1955. She taught in elementary schools in Hibbing and Crosby and then at Sacred Heart in Duluth. She earned master of arts degrees in systemic theology and liturgical studies at St. John’s University and became the monastery’s director of liturgy for 16 years. In 1997 Sister Mary Christa became senior consultant for liturgical and ritual services for the Benedictine Health System. Retired in 2014, she says, “I am thankful for the gift of perseverance that allowed me to follow God’s call.”

Sister Mary Josephine Torborg

Sister Mary Josephine Torborg grew up in Richmond. She knew from eighth grade that she wanted to be a sister. After graduating from Stanbrook Hall High School, she entered the monastery in 1953 and made her first profession in 1955. She taught in north Minneapolis and Brainerd and then earned a degree in dietetics and became director of food service at the College of St. Scholastica. She was also a dietician at St. Mary’s Medical Center. She earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in formative spirituality from Duquesne University and in 1986 began teaching at CSS, serving as chair of the Theology and Religious Studies Department for five years. She currently teaches online spirituality courses. Sister Mary Josephine has served on boards for the Benedictine Health Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Essentia Health East. At CSS she has also served on various committees and as chair of the College Garden Committee for more than 15 years.

Sister Sarah Smedman

Sister Sarah Smedman and her family moved from Upper Michigan to Hibbing, where she met Benedictine sisters at Assumption Hall School. She says, “As a ten-year-old Marilyn, coming from a class of 13 in Upper Michigan, I loved my fifth grade teacher, Sister Marilyn, who challenged and kept 50+ students in line — and read us memorable books.” After graduation from Hibbing High School and the College of St. Scholastica, she joined the Benedictines in Duluth. After earning a master’s degree and a doctorate, both in English, she taught at CSS, then the University of North Carolina Charlotte and Minnesota State University Moorhead. She has served the monastery as a member of the council and staff as well as trustee of several sponsored institutions. “God has guided me,” she says, “and richly blessed me, and my Benedictine sisters have supported me. I am inexpressively grateful to both.”

Father O’Donnell honored with quilt

On July 13, 2014, friends of retiring Father John O’Donnell got together at Holy Spirit Church in Virginia to honor him for his 42 years of dedicated pastoral service to his parishioners in the Duluth diocese. Friends wrote their good wishes on quilt squares which was made into a remembrance quil for Father O’Donnell to take with him to his new home in Ireland. On Sept. 23, friends of Father O’Donnell, who were on Father Charles Flynn’s Blessed Ireland tour, presented him with his quilt at the Malton Hotel in Killarney Ireland.

Catholic Daughters donate to seminarians

On behalf of the Minnesota chapter of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA), Kathy Bastianelli, state chairperson for the “Support our Seminarians” project, presented a check to Bishop Paul Sirba for the Duluth Diocese seminarians. The Minnesota CDA membership has committed to daily prayer for seminarians in all five Minnesota dioceses, as well as the archdiocese.

Knights News

The St. Raphael’s Knights held their ninth annual KC golf outing June 9 at Pike Lake AAA Golf Course; 21 golfers participated. Awards, refreshments and trophies were handed out after the group finished. Members volunteered to do Eucharistic Outreach in assisted living facilities and signed up as substitutes for adoration prayer at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Duluth.Upcoming Knights events include the eighth annual sporting clay shoot Aug. 4 and the tractor show at St. Raphael’s parish picnic Aug. 9.

Duluth Columbian Squires invites groups to service project

The Duluth Columbian Squires invites all Catholic youths, Knights of Columbus and Squires State Convention attendees to help with a service project from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 15 to kick off the 90th anniversary of squires in Minnesota and in celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life. The project will assist the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist on their land. Please contact for more information.

Handmaids discuss vocations at Blessed Sacrament

The Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, from New Ulm, gathered at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hibbing with girls from grade four to college age for a meet and greet dinner and discussion. The religious order of diocesan sisters met with the students to answer questions aboutwhat it is like to be a sister. They explained that it was not a career they embarked on but a vocation they were called to by Jesus, in which they dedicated their lives entirely to God. Jesus makes a proposal to be a bride and mother. Their yes to the Lord makes them the spouse of Jesus and mother to all the people of the world. They said they are called to have a life in community with the other sisters which includes praying, working, eating and recreating together, just as other families do. They take three vows, which are ways to live as Jesus did, in obedience, in poverty and in chastity. Though the Handmaids work in the community and parishes they take no wages for their labors but live on the generosity of others by way of God’s providence. They explained that every religious community has its own charism, a gift that flows from God’s love. Their charism is to live in imitation of Mary, the Mother of God, to serve the children of the church, to be a servant who lives close to the Master and live as Mary who always said yes to Jesus. The girls who attended noticed the joy the sisters expressed. All girls were invited to spend time in prayer and in the silence, to listen to their heart to what vocation God may be calling them.

Father McKusky speaks on supporting the military

Pro Deo et Patria, “For God and Country,” is the motto of the Chaplaincy Corps of the United States Army. Father Kris McKusky, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth and an Army captain, spent an evening discussing with the parishioners of Blessed Sacrament in Hibbing and with the community ways civilians can help support the troops and their chaplains. The event began in the church with scripture and recitation of the rosary, then moved into the social hall for refreshments and information. Father McKusky noted that the Chaplaincy Corps, one of the oldest in the Army, was founded in 1775 by George Washington, who recognized the spiritual need of the military for prayer, guidance and counseling. Presently, there is a great needfor Catholic priest chaplains, he said. For example, in Iraq, one priest covers half the country. Chaplains lead prayer services as well as advise troops in morals, ethics and morale issues. They likewise provide religious support to the families of the troops and to authorized civilians. Catholic priests serving the military also say Mass and administer the sacraments. In response to the inquiry of how to be a more military friendly parish, prayer for the military and for more priests to serve was the priority request. A number of other suggestions were made and will be considered for implementation. Father McKusky was given rosaries made by parishioners to distribute to the troops, along with a pledge to make more.