In Remembrance of Sister Martina Rockers, OSU
Bishop Miege High School, Kansas
June 10, 2018
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
On June 5 a little before noon, God called Sister Martina Rockers home. She answered that call after serving for sixty-nine years as a teacher. She was kind, compassionate, caring, and humble as she lived her years as an Ursuline Sisters. Her greatest love was this school. Dr. Pasentino will share some thoughts about her years here in a moment.
I would like to share some things about her life. Martha Rockers was born on April 23, 1926. Her father, Edward Rockers and Mother Magdalena Wolken Rockers lived in Scipio, Kansas. There were eleven children in her family. She was in the middle with five older and five younger We offer our sympathy and prayers to her siblings who are still living–Hilda, Agnes, and Martin. We are praying for you and all the nieces and nephews who are also here today.
She attended the East Scipio public school the first four grades, taught by the Ursuline Sisters. In the fifth and sixth grades, she attended the one-room West Scipio School, where there were no Ursulines, then returned to East Scipio for the seventh and eighth grades. Despite the influence of the Sisters, it was Miss Highberger at West Scipio who prompted her desire to be a teacher.
She entered the Ursuline Community on January 2, 1942. She knew from an early age what she wanted to do. She said, “During my postulancy when I was 16, I definitely thought this was going to be my life. I look at these high school seniors today at 18 or 19, I was a substitute teacher by that age.” She entered the community with Sister Emerentia Wiesner. Sister was not able to travel from Kentucky to be with us today. On January 4, 1943 she made her first profession when she took the name Martina and five years later on January 6, 1948 she made her final profession.
In 1946, she began her ministry of teaching at Queen of the Holy Rosary Grade School in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas. She was going to school during the summers which was the case with most of our Sisters. They were teaching during the year and going to summer school for many summers. She taught the first four grades at Queen of the Holy Rosary, then moved up to the fifth and sixth grade.
In 1953 she moved to St. Ann School in Prairie Village. The Ursulines were stretched thin to fill the teaching needs at all the schools they were in, so the sisters left St. Ann in 1955. Sister Martina went to St. Agnes Grade School for a year, which the Ursulines started in 1928. She loved her years there but really wanted to move up to high school.
She got her first degree in education, with a minor in Math, from St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1956. She needed to do practice teaching at a high school, so she taught for a year at Ursuline Academy in Paola. She said, “I taught biology to 18 to 20 girls, and also had charge of a dorm. I saw them in class, put them to bed and got them up in the morning.” After one year there, she moved to St. Agnes High School. “I knew they needed more teachers at St. Agnes, it was all Ursulines other than the coaches.” The Ursuline Sisters opened the high school in 1945 in the converted basement of the church and the rectory, several rooms in the grade school and a bungalow across the street. Sister Martina taught at St. Agnes in its last year, 1957-1958 as Bishop Miege was being built on the hill next door.
The children she taught in the sixth grade at St. Agnes Grade School were the first freshman class at Bishop Miege. Among those students was the future Ursuline Sister Kathleen Dueber who is here with us. Sister Martina taught Sister Kathleen biology. Sr. Kathleen said. “She was always full of life. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She made the subject matter come alive for us. She was one of the Sisters who came to our basketball and football games.
Sister Martina continued to go to school herself. She had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a minor in Math. She got a Master’s Degree from Notre Dame in zoology and a minor in botany. After that she studied something every summer at some very prestigious schools—St. Louis University, Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, Loretto Heights in Denver, Colorado, Boston College, State University in Potsdam, NY, Florida State University, Europe, and Emporia State. She never stopped learning, so she could give as much as she could to her students.
Sister Martina’s only other ministry as an Ursuline was her tenure as a councilor on the Community’s leadership team from 1978-1982.
Sister Martina cannot be described in words alone. She had so many remarkable qualities. You know what those qualities are. I imagine here in this room we have the children and grandchildren of some of the first students who were here when Sister Martina started teaching here in 1958. When she got sick in 2013 and had to come to the Mount to have surgery and recuperate, she counted the days until she could come back here to Bishop Miege. When I brought her into the school that afternoon, we didn’t announce that she was back, but it only took one student to see her and spread the word. Within minutes people were swarming us. I had to tell them not to squeeze her too hard because it might hurt her.
In 2005, there was a small article in the Miege Matters that asked Sr. Martina “Why Miege Matters”. I will close my remembrance with her words from that newsletter. Her title was “Why I Love Teaching at Miege.”
“Have you been or dreamed of being with people who are open to your ideas, challenge you to do your best, allow you to take risks and are ready to give you love and support when life’s journey has stumbling blocks? The Miege community consisting of students, parents, faculty, administrators and alumni have done and been all of this and more for me.”
When the Stags moved from St. Agnes buildings to the new school on Reinhardt Drive in August 1958 that budding, intangible spirit of the Stags continued to grow and blossom. Each fall another class of students becomes involved in the challenges of a high school career and in the spring another class of seniors, graduate. To be a part of this four-year cycle in the lives of many students has been my good fortune. As each of those years have come and gone, I have enjoyed teaching, sharing, and dreaming of the future with students and the Miege community. The mission statement of Miege “a Catholic/Christian Community, strives for student excellence through spiritual growth and academic success, community service and physical development” reminds me each day to be thankful that I’m a part of one of the most rewarding profession on earth, in a place and with people I love.”
Sister Martina, thank you for your commitment to teaching through your example and knowledge. You have lived a life for others. Your love for Bishop Miege will live on in the students you taught here. Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.