Sister Catherine Alberta Kunkler
“ … the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:26b)
“Today we talk much about the nobility of service for others, but strangely enough, few want to be known as a servant. Or if we are, we expect to be a well paid servant with all the requisite entitlements including paid vacations and medical benefits,” began Sister Mary Roger Madden in her commentary for Sister Catherine Alberta Kunkler, who died Sept. 1.
“For the religious man or woman, the model of service is Jesus the Christ who said, ‘I came not to be served but to serve.’ His service extended without intermission until his death on the cross, a sign of total love and unconditional service.
“We are encouraged to reflect on these concepts of service as we remember our Sister Catherine Alberta. Her life, like that of Jesus, was given that others might have the freedom to work, study, teach and pray without concern for the more mundane things of life: having a clean, ordered environment in which to live; hot, tasty meals; and clean linen on their bed. It shames us to think today of how we took these blessings for granted,” continued Sister Mary Roger.
Veronica Elizabeth Kunkler was born June 28, 1922, in St. Anthony, Ind., to Albert and Catherine (Brescher) Kunkler. She was one of five children. Veronica attended Harvey Grade School in St. Anthony. “At the age of 15, Veronica came to help in Providence kitchen under the direction of our dear late Sister Zita [Kidwell]. After two years, Veronica felt called to join the Sisters of Providence and much to her mother’s dismay was accepted as a postulant on Jan. 5, 1941,” said Sister Mary Roger.
Sister Catherine Alberta professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1943, and 1949, respectively.
“Sister Catherine Alberta was destined to minister at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for all but 13 of her 68 years of dedicated ministerial life — in Providence kitchen, the Infirmary kitchen, the chaplains’ residence and for 15 years as head housekeeper at LeFer Hall. For four years from 1972 to 1976 she maintained the community laundry when that entailed the personal laundry for novices and professed as well as church and chapel laundry for the numerous places of worship on the campus. She once told me that this was her least favorite ministry because working in the laundry she was so isolated from human contact,” shared Sister Mary Roger.
In addition to her ministries at the Woods, Sister Catherine Alberta spent two years as a cook at Lady Isle, Portsmouth, N.H. From 1976 to 1987, she ministered as the director of food services at Fatima Retreat House, Indianapolis.
In a 1978 issue of The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the quality of food offered at the retreat house was the topic of one article. “Sister Catherine Alberta is quoted there as describing her work as ‘a life of love and service and dedication to God in serving all those who come to Fatima,’” continued Sister Mary Roger.
“Those of us who have lived with Sister Catherine Alberta these last years are mindful of her great love of beauty. We have seen her stand for long periods of time at a window entranced by the beauty of our woods. Sister Rose Loretto [Wagner, RIP], Sister Catherine Alberta’s friend and mentor, had once said, ‘It is easier to find the Lord when you are surrounded with beauty. We are nurtured by beauty. Our souls are nurtured by our eyes.’ We saw these words incarnate in Sister Catherine Alberta who saw beauty everywhere and in every one. Those who cared for her daily were accustomed to being addressed by her as ‘angel.’ No doubt she saw everything they did for her as a loving message from God,” said Sister Mary Roger.
“Sister Catherine Alberta, you taught us the dignity of free and loving service of others; you taught us to open our eyes and see the beauty of God reflected everywhere. We are all in your debt and we thank you,” concluded Sister Mary Roger.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Catherine Alberta was celebrated Sept. 4 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sister, Edna Knebel of Jasper, Ind.
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