Sister Kathleen Dueber had an aunt who was a Dominican Sister, a great aunt who was a Franciscan Sister, and cousins who were Sisters of Charity and of Loretto. It’s fair to say that religious life was on her mind as she grew up.
Her aunt who was a Dominican visited often. “I got to know them as ordinary people,” Sister Kathleen said. But it was the Ursuline Sisters — who taught her and witnessed joy with each other — who Sister Kathleen wanted to join.
Sister Kathleen was born in Kansas City, Mo., where she lived until the fifth grade. Her older sister, Mary Ellen, was in the seventh grade, and the Catholic Schools only went to the seventh grade in Kansas City.
“My parents wanted my sister and me to go to Catholic school, so Daddy looked for property where he could build a house,” Sister Kathleen said. He found that in the Kansas City, Kan., suburb of Westwood, close enough for his daughters to walk to school.
That school was St. Agnes, where Sister Kathleen first met the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan. “It was so amazing to me; the sisters seemed to like each other and like the kids. I found that in high school, too,” she said. “I saw something in them that I wanted to be.”
George Dueber was a carpenter, and Martha Dueber was a housewife until the summer before Sister Kathleen’s eighth grade year, when she took a job at a dress shop in nearby Fairway, Kan. “It was fortunate she had that income, because my dad died of a heart attack when I was a sophomore in high school,” Sister Kathleen said. George Dueber was only 57 when he died in 1960.
“He was a great guy, a good family man,” Sister Kathleen said. “He was always helping other people. He built the shelter for the Nativity scene at St. Agnes Church. Mom was in the Altar Society and helped with the Girl Scouts. That’s the first place I got the example of serving in the church, from my parents.”
George Dueber’s death was hard on the family. One of her dad’s sisters came to live with the family to help with expenses, and her sister Mary Ellen got a job after graduating high school as well.
Sister Kathleen was a member of the first class to attend all four years of high school at the new Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. She was reunited there with Sister Martina Rockers, who taught her in the sixth grade at St. Agnes, and was then teaching biology at Bishop Miege. (Sister Martina just completed her 57th year at Bishop Miege.)
Other teachers at Bishop Miege included Sister Grace Swift (algebra and history) and Sister Raymond Dieckman for Latin. Both sisters are now retired to the Motherhouse in Maple Mount. “It’s not Sister Raymond’s fault I can’t speak Latin,” Sister Kathleen said.
Sister Kathleen was a member of the Povo Club at Bishop Miege, which stood for “potential vocations.” “We wrote to different communities to get information, we’d go on weekend trips to Paola,” she said. Her pastor at St. Agnes, Monsignor Herman Joseph Koch, was very supportive of religious communities, she said. Upon graduating high school in 1962, Sister Kathleen entered the Paola community, a decision which did not come as a surprise to anyone, she said.
“Starting in the seventh grade, I sang for the 7 a.m. Mass and Mary Ellen played the organ every school day until I entered,” six years later, she said. She sang songs in Latin, even though her Latin classes never quite sank in. “I could sing it, I just didn’t know what I was saying,” she said. “I figured if we were singing it in church, it couldn’t be bad.” She continues to cantor at Mass at the Mount.
Sister Kathleen was a teacher or principal in Kansas from 1965-1989, excluding four years she spent as treasurer of her community. Then she began a series of internal ministries, from being director of the nursing facility for senior sisters to a massage therapist, from sacristan to serving in leadership with the Ursulines of Paola.
Following the merger of the Ursulines of Paola with Mount Saint Joseph 2008, Sister Kathleen moved to Maple Mount in 2009. In 2010 she began serving her six-year term as an elected member of the leadership Council, as well as continuing her love of driving by offering transportation to the sisters.
“What struck me when I first came in contact with the Ursulines was their family spirit,” Sister Kathleen said. “This is what I still enjoy and what sustains me the most – the sense of family, of being in this all together, of being community.”