Sister Kathleen Dueber: Taking the wheel on a new Ursuline pilgrimage

Sister Kathleen visits with former Ursuline Sisters Joan Horan, center, and Peggy Neal on Sept. 25, 2009, during a ceremony honoring the Ursuline Sisters for their involvement in the Lakemary Center in Paola, Kan. The Ursulines founded Lakemary in 1969 to create a safe, nurturing environment for children with developmental disabilities.

(Sister Kathleen Dueber completed her term as a member of the Leadership Council in 2016. She is currently active in the Powerhouse of Prayer.)

Saint Angela Merici was a pilgrim, and one of the most iconic depictions of her is traveling on foot with a staff in her hand. Modern day pilgrimages enlist the aid of vehicles, and it’s behind the wheel of a car that Sister Kathleen Dueber ministers to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph who reside at the Motherhouse.

“I’ve loved to drive ever since I got my license,” she said. “My vacation trips were often with my mom and aunt,” Sister Kathleen said.

Sister Kathleen was an Ursuline Sister of Paola, Kan., from 1963 to 2008, when that community of 23 sisters merged with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph. Since arriving at Maple Mount in the spring of 2009, Sister Kathleen’s main ministry has been driving sisters to Owensboro for doctor’s appointments, the emergency room, or to visit relatives.

As of July 18, Sister Kathleen picked up an additional ministry that also involves steering the community — serving as one of the five elected members of the Leadership Team. She was elected in December, and took office during a special Mass in July. The new members have been busy settling into their new offices in Lourdes Hall, and held their first planning retreat the last week of July.

Being on the Leadership Team may be a bit less daunting for Sister Kathleen than the other members because she served six years in Paola. “There are still a lot of unknowns, this is a bigger community,” she said.

The greatest similarity to her first leadership experience that began in 2002 is in serving the community. “I want to do the best job I can,” she said. A big difference is that in Paola, “I knew every place we’ve served and where all our sisters were ministering.” Most of the sisters in Paola ministered in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., or close by, while her new community has sisters in eight states, the District of Columbia, and in Chile. In Kentucky alone, sisters are serving in 17 different cities.

Sister Kathleen works with Nancy Crowley, center, and Heather George on the 2008 Christmas Boutique in Paola, Kan. The boutique was a major fundraiser each year, featuring handmade items from the sisters.

“I want to get to New Mexico to visit our sisters (in Albuquerque and Aztec),” Sister Kathleen said, “plus all the other places our sisters minister, especially the ones I haven’t met yet.”

It was while serving as a council member in Paola that she became very aware of the need to consider merging with another community. “The five of us on the council knew there were fewer sisters to carry on our ministries,” Sister Kathleen said. “It became obvious we needed to do something.”

She first met members of the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph while attending meetings of the Ursuline Society, a group that unites the seven independent Ursuline communities.

“You get to know other sisters at the Ursuline Society, and it became obvious that we had camaraderie and more in common with Mount Saint Joseph,” she said. “It was a rural community and a better fit.” The sisters also knew that the Ursulines from Belleville, Ill., had merged with Mount Saint Joseph in 2005.

Eleven sisters from Kansas remained in ministries where they were, while 12 sisters moved to Maple Mount. “Some of my best friends in community are still in Kansas, but there is community here,” she said. “What I miss most is being near my family. Being a sister, I can’t afford to buy them big gifts, but I would always be at the ball game or the recital. I miss that.”

Mike Traffis is her youngest nephew, and said Sister Kathleen always wants to know what’s going on in Kansas. “She would try to go to everything,” Traffis said. “When I graduated with my master’s degree in 2009, it killed her that she couldn’t come.”

Sister Kathleen Condry was the superior during Sister Kathleen’s council term, and said she is always willing to help. “When my mom died in 2001, all these people were coming over, I looked up and there was Kathleen,” Sister Kathleen Condry said. “She’d heard about it and showed up. She has a sense of when she’s needed.”