Sister Katherine Wawersich died peacefully on December 20, 2017 at the age of 96. Few words come close to truly describing the loving and powerful presence Sister Katherine was to her family, friends and community. A holy woman, gentle and wise and a gifted musician, Sister Katherine lived with a deep sense of gratitude for her Benedictine life.
On March 29, 1921 in Minneapolis Minnesota, Sister Katherine came into the world with her twin brother, who died at birth. Sister Katherine had an excellent Catholic education. She graduated from St. Benedict Academy St. Joseph, MN in 1939 and received a double Bachelor of Arts in Music and History from the University of St. Catherine St Paul, MN in 1956. She went on the University of Notre Dame in Indiana where she earned an MA in Music Education with a special focus in choral music in 1967.
Sister Katherine’s mother, who died when Katherine was only five-years old had a very special love for the Benedictine way of life which held a profound and lifelong influence on Katherine. Entering St. Benedict Monastery in St. Joseph MN in 1937, Katherine became Sister Rochelle and made her first monastic profession in 1941 and her perpetual monastic profession in 1944.
Seeking God in the Benedictine way of life lead Sister Katherine in many unexpected directions. She taught and served as choir director in Catholic schools in Minnesota from 1944 to 1973 including Archbishop Murray High School where she also served as the Chair of their Music Department and Directory of Liturgy. In 1948, St. Benedict Monastery founded St. Paul Monastery in St. Paul, MN. Sister Katherine was a founding member of this new foundation serving as Director of Music and Liturgy for the monastery. There, she taught the new members in formation Gregorian chant, music appreciation, and gave them piano lessons as part of their formation process.
The substantial changes with the Second Vatican Council brought new prospects for Sister Katherine both personally and in her ministry. Vatican II opened areas of freedom for women religious. Using her musical gift outside of her community, she sang with the Minnesota Bach Society which on occasion was accompanied by the Minnesota Orchestra. The liturgical changes called for by the Council gave her an opportunity to be a part of the Archdiocesan Worship Board. She also participated in the revision and simplification of the Liturgy of the Hours.
In the latter part of 1973, Sister Katherine became the Pastoral Associate for St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Minneapolis MN. From 1974-1984, she was the Pastoral Associate and Director of the Befriender Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish Lake Elmo, MN.
Trusting in the will of God for her life, Sister Katherine became a founding member of Spirit of Life Monastery in Lakewood, Colorado in 1981. This new life brought new opportunities for new ministries, ministries that had for the most part been previously closed to women. Sister Katherine became a staff chaplain for Mercy Hospital in Denver, CO from 1984 – 1988. While serving her community of Spirit of Life Monastery as Assistant Prioress, Sister Katherine also served the larger community as Director of Pastoral Care and Outreach at St. Jude Parish Lakewood, CO. In 1999, Sister Katherine became the prioress of Spirit of Life Monastery.
Over the years, women’s communities grew smaller. This was true too for Spirit of Life Monastery. In 1997, with the desire to embrace community life in a fuller way, Spirit of Life Monastery started the process of transfer to Benet Hill Monastery.
Keeping her eyes fixed on God and her commitment to service in love, Sister Katherine celebrated the transfer of her vow of Stability to Benet Hill Monastery where she would spend the rest of her life. Her life at Benet Hill gave her the opportunity to share her musical skills as the Assistant Director of Music for the Benet Hill community, Schola Director and teaching music, Liturgy and Liturgical history to women in formation. It also came with a new ministry of serving on the Oblate team where she taught and mentored prospective Oblates of Benet Hill Monastery in the Benedictine way of life.
Sister Katherine is preceded in death by her parents, Reinhold Wawersich and Catherine (Baumgartner) Wawersich, her infant brother and her brother Reinhold (Tony) Wawersich and his wife, Ann. She is survived by Tony’s four children and numerous grandchildren, her community, and her friend, Sister Charlotte Redpath, who has been with her for fifty years.
Inspired by the words of Gerald Manley Hopkins, “The world is filled with the grandeur of God”, Sister Katherine’s many acts of service reflected her sense of awe and gratitude for hands and prayers that healed and influenced the lives of others.
All who knew Sister Katherine recognize that she was a woman of great compassion and integrity. Her faith gave her the ability to be a person for others, as Jesus was a man for others. We, her sisters, family and friends know that Sister Katherine has not left us but continues her service of love and prayer as she lives on in the presence of her God.