Reflection for the Vigil Service of Sister Kathryn Zimmer, OSB

In St. John's Gospel that was just read, we hear Jesus conversing with a Samaritan woman at the city well drawing water for her family. Jesus said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water" (John 4:10).

The story of the Samaritan Woman at the well is reflective of the life of Sr. Kathryn. She was a well of living water. Sr. Kathryn referred to herself, and us, as pilgrim people on a journey with Christ as her constant companion. She was a woman who was always exploring ways by which she could respond to the needs of others. She was a visionary who was able to see the broader picture, and pursue ways by which she could serve a need. She effectively used her gifts of vision, perception, courage, enthusiasm, generosity, leadership, and facilitation in service of others. She was a servant Leader way before Robert Greenleaf ever coined that term.

Her life as a pilgrim woman called her to respond to those in need of learning and healing, as she pursued her educational degrees in nursing, social work and education. In her role as Prioress of our community she was committed to lead others down paths of growth. In our community she would help the sisters discern what it is that they needed to do to live out their greatest potential in their ministries to the people of God. One experience that I had with her was: when I came to the community I had no college background. I became a printer and I set up the printing department at St. Alexius Medical Center. I remember one day she said to me, you have greater potential than to be a printer. What in your heart would you really want to do as a ministry? I told her that I always wanted to be a nurse. She encouraged me to start taking college courses to see if I could handle college courses. In her wisdom, she also asked me to go to Garrison Hospital in the summers to work as a Nurse Aide, to see if I really liked nursing. Those two experiences gave me courage to pursue my degree in nursing. I am only one example of how she helped the Sisters discern God's call in their lives, and supported them on their journeys of life.

As a pilgrim on a journey, her vision and attitude of service assisted our community greatly through the major changes of post Vatican II. She lead us through these changes with openness of mind and heart. Those times demanded much patience, because we all came from different backgrounds and perceptions of where the Church was, and how we can best serve the church, as a religious community, in the future. She educated herself about the changes in the church and religious life, and she facilitated those changes in our community with great confidence and poise. She made sure that the sisters were properly prepared for their roles in life, to meet the challenges of the times.

As a pilgrim on the journey of life she retired 3 times. She gave her ALL to the nursing profession by being the chairperson of the UMary nursing department for 12 years. After she retired from UMary she became the director of the nursing program at United Tribes Technical College for 9 years, and worked toward getting that program accredited. After she retired from that, she decided that she would like to volunteer. She called me one day and said, I would like to volunteer somewhere. I said to her, I have the place just for you. How about doing patient visits at St. Vincent's Care Center? She did that for several years and the residents loved her. She was a faithful user of the Bismarck-Mandan transit system to get herself there.

Even after her final retirement she remained active in the our community. Until about a month ago, she still attended community meetings, prayers and meals.

Like the woman at the well, Sr. Kathryn was a pilgrim on a journey of life where she met Christ in the people that she served. She knew that with the love of Christ and the support of her community and colleagues, she brought forth the "living water" of leadership and service, which is a heritage and legacy that will live on forever.

Sr. Kathryn, as you take your journey through the pathways of heaven, wear high-heeled shoes, stop at the well of living water, and pray for all of us, that as we continue our journeys of life, we also may know Christ as the Living Water.

I would like to close with the words from the refrain which we sang after the psalms.
"We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God. a family of believers, disciples of the Lord. United in one spirit, ignited by the fire. Still burning through the ages, still present in our lives."

~ by Sister Gerard Wald, OSB


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