Memorial Mass for Sister Bernadette is Sunday evening at St. Patrick Church
A Mass is scheduled Sunday at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick Church in Hudson in memory of Sr. Bernadette Kalscheur who died Aug. 6 in Milwaukee. A reception follows the service.
Sr. Bernadette, 92 when she died, served in Hudson as a pastoral minister from 1992 to 2008 and was very active in the church and community.
Sister Bernadette, or Sister Herman or Bernie, as she was lovingly called by family and friends, was an extraordinary woman. Words to describe her life include dynamic, energetic, spiritual, relational, committed,family-centered, faith-filled, a go-getter, a passionate educator and a social activist…
Local attorney Sam Cari recalled receiving a phone call from Sr. Bernadette after her arrest at the missile testing site in White Sands, N.M. When Cari questioned her on how she came to be arrested, Sr. Bernadette replied, “There was a line in the sand we were told not to cross and I really had no intention of crossing that line, but then I just felt lifted by the Holy Spirit and the next thing you knew I was over the line.”
Sr. Bernadette was the second youngest of the 17 children of Herman and Helen Kalscheur from Pine Bluff.
Sr. Bernadette and her brothers and sisters attended St. Mary’s School, about one mile from their farm, where she met the School Sisters of St. Francis. When she was 13 years old she took a trip to Milwaukee with Sister Mark to see the convent. Sr. Bernadette was very excited about her trip, but when she returned home she did not say anything to her parents about her thoughts of religious life. It was not until she and her mom went out to feed the chickens and her mom asked, “Bernadette, do you want to go to the convent?”
“Yes,” she told her mom, who immediately lit up with joy. Sr. Bernadette always told people that she got her vocation on the way to the chicken coop!
Some of her travels included missions in India, Latin America and Europe; a jubilee trip to the Holy Land; and an educational journey that she had in 1971 behind the Iron Curtain in Russia, Hungary, Romania, Siberia and Poland.
In 1941 she began her teaching ministry in Nebraska, later she went to New York and Milwaukee; and then in 1954, Bernadette began 20 plus years at Alverno College. After a break to receive her Ph.D. from St. Louis University, Bernadette returned to Alverno to serve as head of the education department.
Stories are many of how she trained teachers, not only for the classroom, but for life. Integrated into everything she taught, Dr. Bernadette was a woman of justice. In the turbulent 1960s she developed programs at Alverno that took students into the inner city of Milwaukee to walk side-by-side with the poor; for four summers in Milwaukee and Chicago she directed the Institute for Teachers of Disadvantaged Youth; with her students she lobbied the Milwaukee Public School Board for equal resources for all children, and she had the incredible opportunity to meet with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She won the Teacher of the Year Award at Alverno in 1968 and received the prestigious B’nai B’rith Human Rights Interfaith Award in 1969.
In 1976 Bernadette was elected to the Generalate Team as the vice president of personnel. She also served on the board for the Benedict Center and the board for Project Equality; leading encounter teams on justice and social change for the Lutheran Church of America; and for 20 years being a very active member of the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Sisters’ Council.
After her term of office was over, Bernadette was asked to temporarily take over as the director of the Development Office at the LaFarge Lifelong Learning Program.
At age of 72, Sr. Bernadette said she was able to make the first career decision she had ever made. She went to St. Patrick Church in Hudson. At her farewell from Milwaukee, Attorney Dennis Purtell, the president of the Development Office Advisory Board, said, “When she gets involved in parish work, the people will not know what hit them!”
In Hudson Bernadette worked with many parishioners and initiated many programs, including RCIA, the Jail Ministry, a group for the divorced and separated, workdays with the homeless at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, and the sister parish relationship with the returned refugees at St. Pat’s School Sister mission in Yalpemech, Guatemala. She also took communion to the homebound, welcomed new parishioners, did bible study groups at retirement homes, met with ecumenical groups and, because she recruited so many men to join, was named as an Honorary Member of the Knights of Columbus.
At the age of 87, Sr. Bernadette left St. Pat’s and moved into retirement at St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport.