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

She was glad to be teaching again, although it was now mostly with lay people. The changes in home life among her students became more apparent during these six years she was at St. Agnes. “I can remember the year I had more kids from one-parent families than those not,” she said.

In 1984, Sister Kathleen took on a new ministry. Sister Kathleen Condry was the principal at Queen of the Holy Rosary grade school in Overland Park, Kan., and was also in charge of placing where the other sisters ministered. She was among several people encouraging Sister Kathleen that she would make a fine principal.

Sister Kathleen provides massage to Jean Wolken in this 2005 photo. Sister Kathleen offered massage therapy as a ministry from 1997-2009.

“I never saw myself doing it,” Sister Kathleen said, but she and Sister Helen Smith went to the University of Kansas to get their master’s degrees in school administration. Sister Kathleen served as assistant principal at Queen of the Holy Rosary in 1984, then took over as principal from 1985-89.

“It was not my forte,” Sister Kathleen said. “We did some things well – we started a preschool and a day care – but there were new schools that were draining our students, that was tough.”

Sister Helen, who also served on the Paola council with Sister Kathleen, recalls those tough days of working on their master’s degrees, but remembers more the time they spent in the novitiate together.

“I have called Kathleen a friend for many years,” Sister Helen said. “We have completed one project after another side by side. I can count on her to share a fun evening or a hard day.”

Sister Kathleen has good ideas, is extremely organized, and a master at handling the details, Sister Helen said. These are gifts that will serve the new leadership team well as they begin their six years together, she said.

“I believe our foundress, Saint Angela, would be very proud of her daughter, Kathleen and I know God must smile at the beautiful gift she is to our world and to our community.”

Nurturing the nurturers

In 1989, she began what has become 21 years of internal ministry, which fits her talents well, she said. “I like to nurture those who are nurturing others,” she said.

From 1989-96 she was director of Monica Hall, the nursing facility for the senior sisters at Paola. “I enjoyed interacting with the older sisters, getting them to their doctors,” she said. “We usually had eight to 12 sisters at a time. Most weren’t bedfast, but they needed help with their daily care or their medications.”

It was during this time that tragedy struck the Dueber family. In 1994, her sister Mary Ellen died of a heart attack at age 51, leaving behind three grown sons. Those nephews of Sister Kathleen’s have given her seven great nieces and nephews. Mike Traffis came to the leadership installation Mass, along with his wife Jennifer and their daughter Mary Ellen Lucille. “They call her ‘Lucy,’ but I told them they can call her whatever they want, I’m calling her Mary Ellen,” Sister Kathleen said.

On July 18, 2010, the day she was installed as a councilor on the Leadership Team, Sister Kathleen was visited by her nephew, Mike Traffis, his wife Jennifer (left) and their daughter Mary Ellen Lucille, and her brother-in-law’s sister, Mary Kay Traffis.

She and her sister “fought like cats and dogs” as kids, but were very close as adults. “Of all my family, I miss her the most,” Sister Kathleen said, “even though she played with dolls and I played cowboys and Indians, or baseball with the boys.”

Traffis said he was a sophomore in college when his mother died, and Sister Kathleen stepped in to take the lead in the family. “She was always strong for us,” Traffis said. “She really helped us, just to listen.”

Since the death of his mother and grandmother, Sister Kathleen is the last link to the Dueber side of the family, so it’s been nice in recent years to talk to her about the family, Traffis said.

“When my daughter was born, she gave her a book that outlined Mom’s side of the family, who Mom was, who my grandma was,” Traffis said. “We hope she continues that.”