March is a month of celebrating women throughout history. Executive Director of the Manitowoc County Historical Society, Amy Meyer, recognized the contributions of extraordinary women in our own geographical area in a recent guest column for the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter. Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Thomas More Bertels was among those chosen who helped make Manitowoc County what it is today. Who was Sister Thomas More?
Teacher, Author and Public Speaker
“Sister Thomas More Bertels is known locally and in the state as a teacher, author and public speaker.” Sister would be humbled by that description.
Indeed, Sister was one who felt very responsible for her own family’s well-being. After graduating from high school in 1935 in Ironwood, Michigan, she worked at a grocery store for years to pay off her family’s debt from the Great Depression. It was during this time that God called her to be a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity.
This happened quite naturally. She had our Sisters as teachers. Having watched out for her family, the young woman arrived in Manitowoc in 1939 ready to begin her studies to be a postulant and serve others in need.
In 1960, after fruitful years of enjoying teaching herself, Sister Thomas More was assigned to the faculty of the Arts and Sciences division of Silver Lake College of the Holy Family. She was dedicated to her students and desired them to understand the workings of government and empower others to do the same. To acquaint herself with local politics, she joined the League of Women Voters. She became the co-founder of Wisconsin Women for Agriculture. In 1988 she wrote a 350 page book entitled “In Pursuit of Agri-Power: The One Thing North American Farmers and Ranches Can’t Produce.”
Needless to say, Sister Thomas More had a real passion for issues that affected the family farmers, but even more had real relationships with people who humbly fed and clothed the people of the world. In 1993, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association for her heartfelt dedication to the agricultural community.