Sister Katherine Klackner, OSF

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Katherine Klackner reflects on her call to be a Franciscan Sister. 

Hometown: Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Journey of Blessings

God generously gifts us with daily blessings.  Some we recognize and many we fail to see. At this milestone of 50 years as a vowed woman religious, it seems a good time to ponder the godsends of my unique and blessed journey.

I entered the world on Wednesday, March 12, 6:22am, 1952 at Holy Family Hospital, Manitowoc, WI as the firstborn of Janet Mary (Trainor) and Paul William Klackner. Each year the family grew until at age 20 I had 15 siblings. I lived “community life” quite early in my childhood. We have always treasured family time and as we grow into our senior years, we enjoy each other even more. What blessings!

Mom, an RN graduate from Holy Family School of Nursing, worked part-time at Holy Family Hospital until the fourth child. After my youngest brother started kindergarten, Mom became the first lay full-time RN at our St. Rita Health Center, retiring after 12 ½ years on December 31, 1990. As a young, professed Sister, I was known as “Janet’s daughter”. What a blessing!

Dad served in the Navy with a few harrowing stories to tell, like falling overboard into the Pacific Ocean. Other memories of the aftermath of bombings are left untold. Dad worked in his longstanding job as a night shift machinist at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, later known as the Manitowoc Company. What a blessing!

Growing up memories included: raising Easter chicks and witnessing their demise, supper and rosary every day around a picnic-style kitchen table, drinking milk (½ milk and ½ dry milk) more tolerable when cold,  eating fruitcake made with gumdrops instead of candied fruit, baking for the week every Saturday, finding Christmas gifts wrapped in newspaper lined up neatly in birth order, doing chores, enjoying homemade bread, taking turns for dishwashing, babysitting, having plenty of playmates—a wholesome and full home. We didn’t have a lot of extras, but we had all that we needed. We learned how to share and witnessed the generosity of our parents. What blessings!

Catholic faith was very important. All of us received a Catholic education through high school with lots First Communion and Confirmation celebrations. There was a time when one of us filled every grade at St. Paul Grade School and Roncalli High School. No question about church on Sundays! What blessings!

The seed of my vocation was planted in this large, Catholic family and somehow realized at an early age around 2nd grade. I cannot pinpoint a specific time, but I know it grew with me through my elementary years as I attended more devotions and God became more important to me. My siblings dubbed me “the good one;” I’m not sure about that. Having opened the fall before, Roncalli High School applications were given to us in spring of 8th grade. Since I was the eldest, I didn’t know what my parents’ high school intentions were for us. I clearly remember nervously bringing the application to my mom one evening and telling her that I wanted to go to Holy Family Academy. She didn’t seem surprised at all and was expecting the request.

An appointment was made to go to the Motherhouse. Mom accompanied me on the visit. The Sister who interviewed me seemed interested in persuading me to attend Roncalli. Asking mom what she thought, I distinctly remember my mom’s response: “Whatever she wants to do”. We left with the application papers! And the rest is history. Maybe the daily family Hail Marys prayed for vocations had its impact. What blessings!

Recently a priest in a homily referred to one’s many dwelling places. I have thought about the many dwelling places I have lived in during my religious life. Beginning with the stages of formation each dwelling place included Sisters living in community. There were opportunities to grow spiritually through examples of others, to gain life skills, to be compassionate, and manage the bumps and bruises of life. I appreciate that each dwelling place had its unique community wisdom and gifts moving me along to maturity. And God guides it all! Maturity at each stage of life through God’s grace and love and the companionship of people in community and mission experiences are most cherished in my religious life. I pray that maturity in each future dwelling place I encounter will lead me to the great dwelling place God has prepared for me in eternal life. What blessings!

My talents and life bents led me to the ministry of education. Professional preparation was provided for each mission work from primary teacher to principal to college professor to diocesan superintendent. My life has also been enriched with international travel opportunities to explore the world in Assisi and Rome, Holy Land, and Honduras. Each ministry is an opportunity to bring Jesus to others. No matter the level, the content, interactions, or relationships, the goal is the same–to bring others to Jesus by using those opportunities to act with integrity, compassion, competence, and love. Recently I left education to enter the healthcare field as a mission leader. New and wonderful world but same goal: to bring Jesus to others. What blessings!

“With gratitude to a faithful God who has walked this journey of blessings with me, I celebrate this milestone of religious life. Only God could be so generous with daily graces and blessings!”