Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

Retirement not on mind of nun celebrating 60th jubilee

July 14, 2005

Not everyone gets to celebrate two milestone events in one week.

Sister Marcella Schrant celebrated her 60th jubilee June 12 with the Order of Saint Ursula in Paola. Five days later she turned 79 years old.

"All I can think of is the Lord has been so good to me to do both because so many people at 79 cannot do things like that," Schrant said. "Also because my Ursuline community and family and friends have been so supportive and loving all these years."

The first nun Eudora has had in more than 35 years, Schrant feels right at home in a small town as she continues her devotion to teaching and to God.

A jubilant occasion

A jubilee is like a wedding anniversary. Just like the silver and golden years of marriage, nuns celebrate their time serving the convent and God after 25, 50 and 60 years, and then every five to 10 years after.

"It's just a special way of saying 'thank you' for the many years of service," Schrant said.

Each jubilee is an opportunity for a sister to renew her vows and for people from all over to gather at the convent to celebrate the joyous occasion.

Around 300 people, including Ursuline sisters, families and friends, gathered in Paola to celebrate Schrant's service with the Our Lady of Lourdes Convent since 1945. She shared the spotlight with Sister Jane Falke, who celebrated her 50th jubilee.

Schrant considers this jubilee to be an incredible achievement because not too many sisters get to celebrate 60 years of service, she said.

Nine of the 29 sisters in the convent have made it to their 60th year of service. All but two of them have retired from receiving an outside salary.

"That's pretty outstanding," Falke said of her sisters, such as Schrant, who continue to work after 60 years.

Falke said it's actually more common than not for sisters to reach their 60th Jubilee. Sisters never retire from praying and being faithful in the convent, but maintaining an outside salary after 60 years of service is the uncommon achievement, Falke said.

Watching sisters drop out of the convent, either at the beginning or sometime throughout their service, makes achieving 60 years more special, Falke said.

"It's quite an accomplishment to stay all those years and be very vital," Falke said. "To be able to celebrate because you stay faithful for that many years."

Schrant is proud she has stayed in the convent this long.

"I feel very special the Lord has granted me this many years to serve him and to serve this community and the many other communities I've been with," she said.

In the past 60 years, Schrant has seen a lot including the Holy Land, being present several times at the Vatican to hear Pope John Paul II and experiencing the end of the era of the traditional black garment.

Since joining the Paola convent, Schrant has lived in Kansas City, Kan., and in Roeland Park where, from 1947 to 1990, she taught nearly every grade level through junior high school. She also taught a few years in Paola and worked in Lawrence before arriving in Eudora last August.

A teaching inspiration

Since she was a little girl, Schrant has wanted to teach. She often played make-believe teacher with her dolls. Around that same time she thought about becoming a nun, but that thought went away when she attended a public high school.

However, it returned to her mind shortly after she entered the two-year Ursuline College in Salina in 1945. There she planned to take the 60 hours needed to become a certified teacher in Kansas.

Opportunities changed when four of her friends joined the Order of Saint Ursula convent in Paola. Those four girls, however, backed out before they even got in, leaving Schrant behind.

She said she didn't know why they left, except they were young -- high school freshmen and sophomores -- and probably unsure of their future plans. Schrant has no regrets about staying in the convent, she said.

"Something I enjoyed doing was teaching, and this was something I knew I would get to do," she said.

While a sister of the convent, she completed the 60 hours at the Ursuline College. Then she got her bachelor's degree from the four-year Mount Saint Scholastica, now called Benedictine College.

Of course she couldn't be wrong by joining an Order named after Saint Ursula, a great educator in England. In fact, the founder of all orders, Saint Angela, wanted each order to be named after a great educator, Schrant said.

Schrant said she had doubts at first about whether or not she would enjoy being a nun. But just like when she taught junior high school students -- she thought she wouldn't like that at first, either -- she fell in love with it. As long as she was teaching, she would enjoy the job.

"I enjoyed teaching all these years," Schrant said. "Whatever I was doing, I seemed to like it."

No longer nun-less

Holy Family Church hasn't had a residential nun since the church closed its Catholic school doors in 1968.

Father Ray Burger hired Schrant in August 2004 after she was let go from her 10-year receptionist job at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence.

In order to live in the rectory, Schrant was responsible for visiting the homebound, leading communion and leading the prayer before Wednesday's religious education classes.

But within a month of getting hired, Schrant got back into education when she earned full responsibility of the religious classes. She doesn't teach, but she has all the responsibilities of an education director.

In November, she was trained to grant marriage annulments.

While serving the convent, Schrant lived and taught in the Kansas City, Kan., area for more than 40 years with her fellow Ursuline Sisters, but the Walker native prefers working in a small town.

"I don't think you get to know the people as well as you do in a small town," she said. "The people here are very appreciative of having me here."

No slowing down

Schrant won't let 79 years slow her down.

And as long as church members continue to appreciate the longtime Ursuline sister, Schrant has no plans of leaving Eudora anytime soon.

"I could retire," she said. "But really my health is good and I've enjoyed working, so I've just continued."

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