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Join the 50th Jubilee Celebration of Sisters Gerard Wald, Patricia Schap and Mariah Dietz
Sisters Celebrate 50 and 75 Years of Joyful Service
The public is invited to praise and thank God with our jubilarians on the 50th anniversary of their monastic profession for Sisters Gerard Wald, Patricia Schap and Mariah Dietz. Eucharistic liturgy will be Sat., June 14, 1:30 p.m., at Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel, Benedictine Center for Servant Leadership. A reception will follow from 2:30-4:00 p.m.
Sister Rose Schweitzer will celebrate her 75th Jubilee at a later date, July 11, at Annunciation Monastery.
Sister Gerard Wald, OSB – 50 Years
“I remember dreaming about being a sister…”
As Sister Gerard Wald prepares to celebrate her 50th year as a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery, she recalls the journey to fulfill her vocation. She was born and raised on a farm south of Napoleon, ND, the youngest of 11 children born to Stanislaus and Katherine Wald.
Sister Gerard credits the German priest from her home parish with encouraging her vocation as a sister. “He talked vocations all the time and interwove that into his homilies, stressing the importance for children and families to consider religious life and the priesthood.” She says, “I remember dreaming about being a sister and a nurse. The tug in my heart would come and go, but it would never go away.
Sister Gerard says she felt an incredible sense of peace when she came to Bismarck to attend Priory High School in 1962. “I never questioned if this was the right vocation for me because, in a deep sense, it always felt right.”
Her varied ministries include starting the printing department at St. Alexius Medical Center. She loved that line of work but still felt called to be a nurse. She completed her GED and began the nursing program at Mary College, and graduated in 1973. She served as residence director at Mary College and worked as a nurse at St. Alexius. Her love of caring for people inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in adult health from St. Louis University. Upon returning, she directed and coordinated staff and patient education at St. Alexius for two years and then became coordinator of adult education services at the University of Mary (now known as University of Mary Worldwide). She held this position for 15 years until the fall of 1997 when she became director of student volunteers at the university and became vocation director at Annunciation Monastery.
Currently, Sister Gerard serves on the monastery sponsorship team, the St. Alexius board of directors and many committees at the University of Mary. She continues in her ministry as director of student volunteers at the University of Mary. Sister Gerard cherishes the Benedictine, monastic life of prayer, community and service. She believes having prayer structured into every part of each day is meaningful.
“I love how strong and active our community life is; I’ve always been in love with education and healthcare so our commitment to our sponsored ministries is very life-giving.” She feels Benedictine hospitality is key to serving one another. “Our life supports prayer and being continually challenged and enriched with opportunities to learn, grow and serve one another with love.”
Sister Patricia Schap, OSB – 50 Years
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” John 1:1
This Scripture verse from John is a favorite of Sister Patricia Schap. Her life has been full of beginnings as she followed Jesus to her calling, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Sister Patricia was born in Valley City, ND, to Loren and Frieda Schap and her brother, Dallas (all deceased) and a sister, Sharon.
With a degree in education from Presentation College in Aberdeen, SD, Sister Patricia’s first teaching job was at Cathedral school in Bismarck, ND. It was here that she met the Benedictine sisters, most notably, she found a mentor in the teacher across the hall, Sister Michael Kaliher, a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery.
Sister Patricia recalls taking a drive and discovering an interesting, mysterious building outside of town. This place on a hilltop south of Bismarck was none other than Annunciation Priory. She found out it was the convent, where women who were preparing to become sisters lived with other sisters. That spring Sister Patricia read the diocesan paper, The Dakota Catholic Action. It was an issue devoted to vocations. One story inspired her to keep reading it over and over. “It was about a woman who was searching for her place in life. It resonated with me.” Sister Patricia talked with Mother Edane Volk, prioress, and entered the convent in September of 1962.
God and teaching are the great loves of Sister Patricia’s life. She began her teaching ministry right out of the novitiate at St. Mary’s grade school in Bismarck. She taught at Christ the King school in Mandan and again at St. Mary’s as director of religious education for 23 years.
When the sisters moved to their new home just south of the University of Mary in 2000, Sister Patricia accepted Prioress Sister Susan Berger’s invitation to serve as subprioress, a role she fulfilled for eight years. She also became the director of the oblates of Annunciation Monastery, a group of people of varied faiths who desire to associate with a monastery and live according to the Rule of St. Benedict. She fulfills her love of teaching by volunteering at St. Mary’s Grade School where she helps children with their reading.
Sister Patricia served on the St. Alexius Board of Directors and is on the University of Mary Board of Trustees, Annunciation Monastery’s monastic council and is a certified spiritual director and retreat director. In addition, she does domestic work in the monastery.
Sister Patricia feels fulfilled daily by the richness of communal and personal prayer. As she reflects on the past 50 years, she explains, “To live with others who seek God together and support one another on the journey to God, is a blessing. We love one another, we have fun, and we live the Gospel values. Each day is a new beginning to grow in God’s love.”
Sister Mariah Dietz – 50 Years
“I am grateful I was chosen for this life…”
“I’ve been so blessed. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in my 50 years of being a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery. As a sister, teacher and nurse, I am grateful for the opportunities to care for others.”
Sister Mariah is the oldest daughter and the fifth of nine children born to Herman and Maria in Sentinel Butte, ND. Her parents were both teachers who instilled the love of learning and love of the Eucharist in their children.
Like many young women, Sister Mariah had dreams of getting married, having her own home and a house full of children. She was a freshman at Mary College when her boyfriend asked for her hand in marriage. Confused, she called her mother for advice. She took this motherly wisdom to heart, “Pray. Don’t tell the Lord what you want to hear. Be open.” Sister Mariah recalls praying in the sisters’ chapel and noticing the sun glinting off of the gold leaf wall of the chapel, when it struck her; she was supposed to become a sister. “From that day forward, I never doubted my decision,” she says.
As a teen, Sister Mariah often went to daily mass with her dad. Her mother, a convert to Catholicism, passed on her love of the Eucharist to her children. Sister Mariah was only 20 years old when her mother died. She recalls with admiration how her mother told her that her dad would be lonely, and if he remarried, the children should accept her into the family. “That was a gift and a great example of loving with open hands,” she says.
The most difficult thing for Sister Mariah to let go of was her desire to have children. A natural caregiver, the thought of not having children grieved her. While attending school in Chicago, she told the Lord, “I will continue to be a sister if you will give me opportunities to be with children.” And God provided. “I babysat, I spoiled my nieces and nephews. I have taught so many students; they are all my kids.”
Sister Mariah graduated with a degree in nursing from Mary College in 1966. Her desire to be a nurse grew out of caring for others. “I like to take care of people; it makes me feel I have something to offer.”
Sister Mariah was working at St. Alexius Medical Center when she and her coworker, Frances Jorgenson, started the hospital’s very first intensive care unit. Frances was the chair and Sister Mariah was assistant. One day her father came to visit her at work and Sister Mariah introduced him to Frances. The two started dating and they married shortly after. “They were great together, I know my mom would have approved.”
Most of her professional life has been teaching nursing courses at the University of Mary. She loved this ministry and her students. When she retired from teaching in 2010, she had another dream to fulfill—to serve in a nursing home. She was spiritual director at St. Gabriel’s for three years. She served on the St. Alexius Board of Directors, the Sponsorship Council for Annunciation Monastery and is a director of women in initial formation.
Sister Mariah currently serves as vice president of Mission Effectiveness at St. Alexius Medical Center where she feels she is back at home. “This is the perfect job. Working with others to engage in the mission of Jesus is what we are all about. When we walk under the arch, we are reminded to ‘Let all be received as Christ.’ We hear the morning and evening prayers over the intercom every day. We see the photos of our founders. We are reminded of how we are all called to serve.”
In her free time, Sister Mariah enjoys cooking, planting and reaping in the garden (not weeding), visiting friends, talking about things that matter, and reading (primarily novels and history).
Sister Mariah says her greatest gifts of the past 50 years have been her sisters in monastic community. “I have been mentored by the best women ever. They taught me to pray. I love the Divine Office and lectio divina (private reflection on the Scriptures). It brings you back to God, hour after hour. You may be tired, but you get refreshed by the Word of God.”
She feels being a sister is a great option for women who are called by God. She says, “This life hits at the very essence of who we are. We are created to know, love and serve God? You get so much support and encouragement in our community. I am grateful I was chosen for this life.”
Sister Rose Schweitzer – 75 Years
“I have always been happy in this life…”
A positive attitude and joyful spirit are what keeps Sister Rose Schweitzer young at heart. She celebrates 75 years of monastic profession with amazement at how God works in her life. Whether her call from God began in the little sod house on the Schweitzer homestead where Sister Rose was born, or at the farm near Dodge, N.D., she grew up in a loving family where faith was central. She, along with six brothers and four sisters, was born to German immigrants from Russia, Sebastian and Johanna.
All of the Schweitzer daughters became sisters with the exception of Frances, who was called to married life. The first daughter to enter religious life at St. Benedict’s, St. Joseph, Minn., was Sister Delora (deceased), followed by Sister Rose and Sister Francis. Another sister, Sister Ella (deceased), also joined St. Benedict’s. When the Sisters of St. Benedict were called upon to establish a new independent community in Bismarck, N.D., the three sisters (Delora, Rose and Francis) were surprised to find that they had all volunteered to transfer their commitment to the new Bismarck community. They were among the 144 sisters who became Annunciation Monastery.
Sister Rose learned to cook and bake at an early age. Her mother passed along her talents in the kitchen. Sister Rose’s first assignment was having kitchen charge in a convent in Albany, Minn. Food service became her lifelong ministry. She particularly enjoyed baking and did so in hospitals, care centers and convents in Red Lake and St. Cloud, Minn.; and Dickinson, Flasher, Richardton and Bismarck, North Dakota. She thoroughly enjoyed baking at St. Alexius Medical Center for 20 years.
In 1990, she retired and lived at the convent in Garrison Memorial Hospital where she was well-known for her wonderful breads, pies and ability to raise beautiful African Violets. She now lives at Annunciation Monastery and recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She says, “I have always been happy in this life; community life and prayer brings peace. And, we have a lot of fun besides!”