Reflection on Sister’s Life

Name: Sister Donna Marie Kessler (Mary Therese)Sister Donna Marie Kessler
Date of Birth: February 9, 1928
Place of Birth: Appleton, Wisconsin
Parents: Edward George Kessler and Mary Catherine Langenberg
Religious Profession: June 14, 1948
Date of Death: November 10, 2014

Wake Reflection by Sister Natalie Binversie, Community Director
Mary Therese Kessler was the oldest of 7 children born to Edward and Mary Catherine Kessler. She was born on February 9, 1928 and baptized at St. Therese Catholic Church in Appleton three days later on Feb. 12th and Confirmed on June 1, 1941 by Bishop Rhode. From her earliest memory she wanted to be a Sister and a teacher. Mary was familiar with Sisters from her schooling. She also had two aunts in Religious Life, Sister Sponsa, a School Sister of Notre Dame and Sister Marie Therese in our Community. Both were her father’s sisters. Sister Mary LeRoi, her cousin was also a member of our Community.

On May 3, 1946 the following letter was written in the third person to Mother Edna:
“Dear Mother General: This letter will introduce you to a young lady, eighteen years old, who is interested in your order. She has received her grade school education at St. Therese’s Appleton, her first year of high school at St. Joseph’s, Appleton and the remaining three years at St. Mary’s Menasha. During her high school course she has had Religion, Latin I and II, Algebra, Geometry, Biology, English I, II, III, IV, Civics, American History, Spanish I and II, shorthand, Typing I and II. She has received good marks during her school years and her average at the end of twelve years is a B+. The young lady has come from an excellent Catholic family with seven children all younger than herself. She has received a very good Catholic training. The example of her relatives and the Sisters at St. Therese’s has prompted her to choose your order. She has felt the call to the Religious Life ever since she was very small. This year, being her senior year, she realized the necessity of making a choice. After making the annual high school retreat with the help of the many graces which God showered upon her, she has made up her mind. The young lady visited Sister Mary Doris and Sister Eva at the St. Therese Convent and was advised to write this letter requesting an application form. She hopes that she will be found worthy to enter your lovely order and to share its joys and sorrows.
Sincerely, Miss Mary Kessler P.S. This young lady’s name is Mary Kessler and if you wish to see her personally she will be happy to avail herself.”

One of the letters of recommendation came from her Principal at St. Mary’s High School in Menasha dated August 15, 1946. It reads: “It gives me great pleasure to recommend for admission into your postulancy a very fine graduate of St. Mary High School, Mary Therese Kessler. I say without hesitation that she was an ideal girl and a hard-working student. Her family is held in honor in Catholic circles. You will make no mistake in accepting her.
Yours in Christ, Rev. Joseph A. Becker P.S. I am one of the three nephews of Mother Alexia.”

Mary entered Holy Family Convent on Aug. 18, 1946. Although Mary liked her baptismal name very much another Sister had that name so she found the name Donna Marie inspiring, reminding her of the Blessed Mother, the Madonna, and her sister, Donna! She was delighted to receive this name on her day of reception.

On the anniversary of her 60th Jubilee, Sister Donna Marie reflected on her call to be a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity. “I am filled with gratitude for God’s blessings on our Franciscan Community and for the endless opportunities I have been given for developing spiritually, intellectually and professionally as well as for the rich apostolic appointments I have had in the service of others: elementary and college teaching, principal, director of an adult faith formation program, administration in the Community, and years of service as an archivist, preserving and sharing our rich historical heritage. “

In an interview for the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, August 2, 2003, Sister Donna Marie states, “Archives are not dead. They are places of memory of the community. Everything in them comes alive. Archives are resurrection places rather than repositories.” She went on to say, “When I walk into the archives in the morning it is exciting. It is like walking into the holiness of their lives. I am in awe of the dedication the Sisters have had to their work no matter where or what. If archives are the memories of the Community then the archivist becomes the memory of the Community.” Sister Donna Marie was the memory of the Community. She has left a profound legacy of written documents and has evoked interest, enthusiasm, appreciation and commitment. Her final work and gift to the Community is the book, “A Star of Hope Shown in the Convent Sky” which will be ready for publication by the end of this year.

Over the years Sister Donna Marie has impacted many lives. As a student she wrote her thesis under William Miller, Associate Professor of History at Marquette University. In January, 1961 he wrote to Mother Agna, “I want to state to you my high regard of Sister Donna Marie as a student. From my experience she is among the very best that we have had in history.” Among Sister Donna Marie’s things were awards and acknowledgements along with letters and cards expressing gratitude for her hard work, spiritual knowledge, skill and dedication in teaching. Many of us here have experienced this first hand and we are grateful.

In Sister Donna Marie’s words at the time of her Jubilee “Knowing there will not be another 60 years ahead, I turn with love to our Sisters who have filled my life with memories and inspiration. I ask intercession and look to the day when words sung at my Perpetual Profession will be fulfilled: “Behold what I desire, I now see. What I longed for, I now possess.”
And so that day has come to be. May Sister Donna Marie rest in peace.