“Welcoming, inviting, and gentle.” These words epitomize the spirit and presence of Sister Mary Bernice (Mary Pius) Siemann who truly lived the Benedictine charism of hospitality and to whom no one was a stranger. On April 10, 2008 Sister Bernice was welcomed into her heavenly home at the age of 83.
Sister Bernice was born on June 23, 1924. She grew up on her family farm in Lohrville, Iowa with her parents, Francis and Mary (Huettl) Siemann and her brothers Francis and John. The warmth and hospitality Sister Bernice learned from her family overflowed into all relationships in her life. She says, “The strong faith that was lived and practiced led to reflection time…[and] the love that impelled me to enter vowed religious life with God was truly a deep desire.”
In 1945, Sister Bernice entered Mt. St. Scholastica Convent and made her final monastic profession on January 1, 1950. She received her BA in History from Mt St Scholastic College and her MS in Education from Creighton University in 1955. Sister Bernice became a charter member of Benet Hill Monastery in 1963.
As a teacher and principal both on the elementary and secondary levels, Sister Bernice served in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and California. Most notable in Sister Bernice’s career is her leadership as principal of Benet Hill Academy from 1966-1977. During this time, the school building, the auditorium, the sports center and the tennis courts were built and many young women benefited from a quality private, Catholic, all girls school education. When reflecting on over thirty years in education, Sister Bernice said simply, “I enjoyed the ministry of teaching.”
After leaving her teaching ministry, Sister Bernice served the community in administration as the Assistant Prioress form 1978 to 1983, and then as director of hospitality and of the alumnae of Benet hill Academy.
For Sister Bernice, the thread that ran through sixty-two years of vowed life was gratitude– gratitude for her family, her sisters and the Benedictine tradition, her educational opportunities and the many people her various ministries touched. She said, “I am happy with my chosen vocation. My days are filled with God’s love.”