Remembrance of Sister Judith Osthoff
(Former Sister Mary Judith Osthoff)
July 13, 2017
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
Shared by Sister Helen Smith, OSU
Less than a month ago, Sister Judith was going to the Rainbow Room to eat with everyone else. She began feeling ill and went to the hospital for treatment. When Judith came home from the hospital under the care of hospice, we knew that God was calling her home. Sister Judith died at 11:10 p.m. on Monday, July 10.
Caroline Marie Osthoff was born in Lenora, KS to Frank Clement Osthoff and Anna Margaret Hickert on November 6, 1926. She was baptized at St. Joseph Church, in New Almelo, KS on November 11, 1926. She was confirmed at Immaculate Conception Church in Leoville, KS on March 29, 1939.
Sister Judith was a rather quiet person when she arrived here at the Mount. She offered to help in a number of areas and enjoyed working with the other Sisters. Over the years we have learned a little about her through Barbara, her niece. Barbara, we offer you our sympathy and prayers. Pat, we know the distance has been difficult for you. We are also praying for you as you say good bye to your sister.
While looking through her files, we found a short autobiography that she wrote while she was serving in Scipio, KS. It gives a synopsis of her life. We felt it would be a good way for us to get to know her in her own words. She wrote:
“On a dark, bleak Tuesday, November 9, 1926, just a few minutes before midnight, Caroline Marie Osthoff came to be. I was the third chunky girl in a family of six children, Paula, Betty, Carol, (me), Greta, Carl and Patty.
Mother and Dad, of Catholic Germanic decent, were homesteader farmers so our home nestled on the banks of the Solomon River in the hill countryside of Norton County near Lenora, Kansas. Here we lived, worked and grew. I alternated school grades between the little District One School, a mile’s walk over the hill and the New Almelo parochial one, a distance of three miles.
To this day I feel an appreciation of childhood life in the country, near a creek, that is. For after chores, gardening, housework or whatever, I always discovered many happy hours along the river exploring cliffs and caves, swimming, hunting, fishing, skating, picking wild berries and riding horses. The beauty of living was to share with friends, neighbors and cousins. Often a holiday found a family gathering of friends or relatives enjoying river fun and eating homemade ice cream and goodies.
High school took me to Norton which opened a new phase of living. I lived in an apartment with my older sister, Betty, and her friend. They were secretaries. Dad worked in the Norton AAA office that year so weekends were on the farm. My youngest sister, Patty, was a baby during my freshman year and the following summer, my two older sisters married.
These were war years so my sophomore year and junior year were in a small high school at Leoville. As seniors, my cousin, Rita and I decided to travel south a hundred miles to Hays where her brothers were attending Military School.
After graduation, I worked as a clerk-typist in the Base Intelligence Office at the McCook Army Air Field in Nebraska. Within a year the Air Base was inactivated and although I did not transfer, I took a short business course in Denver and worked as a comptometorist there.
Dancing, bowling and mountain outings were favorite past times but I didn’t find myself saying yes to anyone special. Yet, I did think people were the important ingredients of life so with the encouragement of a friend, I decided to try the wishbone, backbone and funny bone of Ursuline Convent in Paola, KS.
After a few years of formation in a traditional manner of religious life, I found myself a teacher with fifty or more children on the other side of the desk. During the summers, my continuing education was furthered at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS, plus a few hours at Kansas University, Pittsburg and Emporia.
Round and round went the years in Kansas City, Wea, and now Scipio, a small country school, where I teach the “little freshies” or primary grades. At night, it could be, I’m somewhat of a floor prefect for some senior girls at Ursuline.
A Scorpio person by birth, I find living vital and exciting and I like to reach out for new ideas. Having discovered that there are not as many “absolutes” as once thought, I hope to be open to the new age and changing trends. As Chardin stated: “For those who know how to see, All things are sacred-Nothing is profane.”
Sister Judith entered Ursuline on April 19, 1949. She entered the novitiate on October 10, 1949. Her Perpetual Profession was on August 21, 1954.
During her years of teaching, she worked in Kansas City, Garnett, Overland Park, Bucyrus, Paola, Bonner Springs. Most of her years were in the lower grades.
After she moved to Ursuline Motherhouse in Paola, she began taking food to areas around Paola. In an article that was written in 2007, it says, “She was raised on a farm and knows the challenges of rural life. Several days a week, Sister Judith Osthoff delivers food to families or community agencies in rural areas near Paola. Sister Kathleen Condry, Ursuline Superior at the time, said, “When I see Sister Judith loading up the car in the mornings to begin her journey around the countryside to deliver food, I always think of Saint Angela taking bread to the workers in the olive groves. The spirit of our foundress is definitely alive in Sister Judith’s concern for the poor.”
In March 1983, there was an article in the paper about Shalom Catholic Worker House in Kansas City. The house was for transient men in the Kansas City area. It talked about two new staff members who had been added. One of those members was Sister Judith.
Sister Judith had been a teacher for 23 years before helping with community service at the Motherhouse at Paola. She sometimes attended the Friday night sessions on peace and justice at Shalom House and was impressed by the presentation by Sister Bettina Tobin who had spent a year at the prayer and hospitality Center founded by Catherine Doherty.
After hearing the talk, she said, Sister Bettina talked about being too comfortable and I decided that fit me too, I wanted to do something more to build the kingdom of God. St. Francis said the poor were the treasure of the church so I thought this would be a good place to start.”
The article continued by saying, “Her Ursuline community sees Sister Judith as a witness of hospitality and justice.” One of the Sisters added, “You are being a prophet to this community by your witness at Shalom House. This is a mission of the Church today…to become church to others and to see God in the Poor.”
Sister Judith, your life over the years may not have been easy. You answered Jesus call to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. May you now sit at the feet of Jesus and share the gift of eternal life.