Sister Loretta Maureen Gansemer
“I thank my God whenever I think of you, and every time I pray for you all, I always pray with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the very first day up to the present. I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes. It is only right that I should feel like this towards you all, because you have a place in my heart, since you have all shared together in the grace that has been mine, both my chains and my work defending and establishing the gospel. For God will testify for me how much I long for you all with the warm longing of Christ Jesus; it is my prayer that your love for one another may grow more and more with the knowledge and complete understanding that will help you to come to true discernment, so that you will be innocent and free of any trace of guilt when the Day of Christ comes, entirely filled with the fruits of uprightness through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.”
—– A reading from Philippians 1:3-11
This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased!
One thing we know for certain is that God’s compassion was new each morning through the faith-filled life, caring heart and friendship of Sister Loretta Maureen, whose memory we hold in benediction. Her life was a single canticle of praise in gratitude in her provident God for the gift of her life, her baptism, and her vocation as a Sister of Providence, said Sister Barbara Ann Zeller in her commentary for Sister Loretta Maureen Gansemer, who died on Sunday, May 17. She was 85 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 66 years.
Loretta was born in Missouri Valley, Iowa, in 1930, and was the daughter of Helen and Francis Gansemer. To best support his wife and daughter, her father traveled to California in search of good employment and when Loretta was about 6 years old, she and her mother moved to Hawthorne to be with him. It is there that her brother, Duane, and sister, Barbara, were born and raised. She adored and revered her mother and only truly came to know her father much later in her adult life. She was wonderfully proud to call Duane her brother and grew to love, treasure, and take glorious pride in Diana, his wife, and Alyson, his daughter. Loretta was equally proud to call Barbara her sister, as she relished times spent with her and her daughters, Theresa and Robin. Early in her religious life, she was privileged with becoming for all practical purposes an adopted member of the Bussing family. She loved you tenderly, Sister Richard, Frank and Jean, and your more than wonderful sisters, Francis and Eleanor and your families.
Having met the Sisters of Providence at St. Joseph’s parish in Hawthorne, Loretta entered the Congregation in January 1949. In September 1950, she was diagnosed with a grave heart illness, which required major surgery of her aorta, at which time she returned to her California home. After successful surgery and recuperation, she returned to her beloved St. Mary’s and received the habit in August 1951. The greatest joy of her heart always was to say she was a Sister of Providence. She was a devoted student, daughter and follower of Mother Theodore and avidly read every syllable she knew to be written about her; and often quoted her. And how she reveled in the glory of belonging to the Sisters of Providence bands of 1949 and 1951!
She was a person who modeled great love; trying every day to live as her best self – hoping to be a mirror of Jesus, her beloved.
She taught students in the second-, third- and fourth-grades in Texas, Illinois, Indiana and, primarily, in California. She spoke with such pride, fulfillment and joy about the blessing of preparing so many youngsters to receive their first holy communion and knew the ministry was good in spite of all the butterflies she felt prior to each community celebration.
In Los Angeles, she was a CCD Coordinator and for eight years, was the Villa Coordinator for the Sisters of Social Services Retirement Community. Because of her gentle spirit and caring heart, the Sisters at the Villa grew to become very fond of Loretta as did their congregation administration.
Long after her years of ministry with them, many of the sisters stayed in close contact with her by phone, email, cards and letters, continuing to celebrate the good times and the not-so-good times of their lives.
Following her ministry with the Sisters of Social Services, she had the treasured blessing of being a full-time caregiver for her mother until her mother’s death in 2004. Unabashedly, Loretta would name this ministry and this time in her life as the ones she cherished most. Being a caregiver was in her DNA, but the filial bond she shared with her mother was the quintessential inspiration that only one who loves with a daughter’s heart is able to understand.
After her mother’s death, she spent nine years as the Director of the Senior Center at Guerin Woods in Georgetown, Indiana. In her gentle-minded way and with her grace of presence, she had a wholesome and healing effect and left remarkably good and deep footprints on the lives of those whom she served and with whom she served at the Center and beyond.
On hearing of her death, the campus resonated with gratitude for the gift of her as so many were heard to say, “She was the sweetest person; she gave all she had; she was like a big sister to me; she was always good to everyone who came to the Center; my heart is broken.”
On leaving Guerin Woods, Loretta went to Saint Mary’s and, while in healthcare, committed herself to the importance of her prayer ministry for the growth and success of our Providence Spirituality and Conference Center. All of us can rest assured that now she can really do grand things for the Center.
The last two years of her life were probably the hardest for Loretta, as she, the born caregiver, became the one who needed to be given care. During these years, she fought terribly against all odds to be healthy and independent, and even though her body became more and more tired and worn, to her last breath her spirit was fiery and strong as she held on to her desire to live the gospel message and to continue to give to her community, her family and her friends. Just before she breathed her last, she was at liturgy in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in prayerful presence and most probably remembering all of us in prayer to her provident God asking that He who began the good work in her and in each of us will see that it is finished.
Even though she lived her life in grateful response and spent precious time in so many and valued ministries touching the minds and inspiring the souls of so many, at the end of too many days with great anguish, she doubted if she were a success at what she had done for God’s kingdom. But Loretta leaned into the arms of divine providence who painted the masterpiece of her life. The chaos and beauty of her ups and downs, ins and outs, became clearer to her and God’s vision made sense to her as she looked beyond the changing circumstances, always remembering His love and provision.
She prayed every day, “I will do you will today,” while taking a deep breath and asking for the gift of peace; and, she continued to faithfully pray the words of Saint Paul, “I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes. It is only natural that I should feel like this toward you all, since you have shared the privileges which have been mine …”
In life, she may have believed her living left no visible trace, but perhaps in death, she now knows the poetry and the true beauty of life is nothing else but our provident God living in human souls and that that living will go on and on, and her life, though she believed it not to have left a visible trace, will most certainly not have been in vain but was grace filled for all of us blessed in knowing her.
Nearly every day, regardless of the day of the week, of her 66 years as a daughter of Mother Theodore, she would get up at 5 a.m., to pray for all of us and the intentions of our hearts and to live over and over again the words of Philippians, “I thank my God whenever I think of you; and every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the good news …”
So much can be said about the gift Loretta was to each of us, and we will meet her often in memory with grateful and happy hearts.
We will remember her love for the Eucharist; her devotion to Mary; her faithfulness to prayer, to her vows, to her sisters and her friends; and the pride she had in the Sisters of Providence.
We will remember the huge gift of humble generosity and her spacious welcome to everyone she encountered; and how she graciously let go of her wants to do whatever was needed to be done for another in need.
We will remember enjoying California sunsets and touring Olvera Street with her; hearing her talk about her favorite canines: Toby, Willie and Teddy; watching the entertaining rabbits in the courtyard and sipping Cappuccino; sharing her love for vanilla ice cream and New Year’s Eve parties; having breakfast at Scotties on Redondo Beach; cheering on the Dodgers; watching the delight in her eyes as she would spot a Cardinal in flight; walking together with her in spring on the sacred ground of her beloved Saint Mary’s and hearing her passionately telling Mother Nature to “think green;” Watching “Law and Order” and Saturday afternoon westerns on TV; celebrating Cinco de Mayo; taking wonderful pride in her niece’s horse having won international acclaim; her enjoyment of painting on canvas – especially those paintings of old barns; her special greetings on holidays and treasured collections; her penchant for never forgetting the names of anyone she met; beautifying God’s world by planting purple hyacinths and hibiscus; her distinguished and gracious manners; her love for the color pink; her willingness in always asking for forgiveness as she felt the need; and her celebrating her 85th birthday only a few days ago and hearing her describe the day as being so happy and lovely with so many visitors bringing cards, flowers and gifts.
Sister Loretta Maureen, our Sister and friend, you will be missed as much as you are loved. We who have known you and loved you believe our tears are less about mourning than for the breathtaking beauty of your life. Thank you for the memories of abundant grace and simple goodness. Our hearts and lives are full of remembrance. We have heard the melody of God’s great love through all the years we have known you. Now that you are with your provident God for whom you have longed, send us your blessings and pray for each of us that we will imitate the life and love we celebrate in you.
Services for Sister Loretta took place on Wednesday, May 20, and Thursday, May 21, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A wake took place from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, May 20, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m. Mass of Christian burial took place at 11 a.m., on Thursday, May 21.
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