Remembrance of the Life of Sister Katherine (formerly Sr. M. Katrien, then Sr. Catherine Siena) Misbauer SL
Katherine Ann Misbauer was the oldest of four children born to Joseph Albert Misbauer of St. Louis and Katheran Bellovich Misbauer of White City, Ill. Katherine was baptized at St. John Nepomuk Church on the near Southside of St. Louis. In time Kate was joined by three brothers —Joseph, John and Michael — and the family moved to the outskirts of Florissant, northwest of St. Louis, where Kate attended a one-room public school for the first five grades.
Kate described her coming to know Loretto in an autobiographical note in 2010: “My parents transferred me to St. Ferdinand Parish School for grades six to eight. It was a big change as there were four classrooms and more than 85 students. It was there I first met the Sisters of Loretto. … My high school education continued with the Sisters of Loretto at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves. … It took an hour and a half and four public buses to arrive on time each day. .. I was able to finish most homework assignments before arriving home each afternoon.
“I enjoyed and was enriched by my years at Nerinx … It was the example of Sisters who taught me in grade and high school that made me want to become a Sister of Loretto. They were strong teachers who seemed to really like and support each other, encouraged us as students, opened my eyes to the teachings of the Church and caused me to think in-depth about social justice issues. I loved how their encouragement made me think seriously about many topics.”
Just after graduating from Nerinx Hall in 1955, Kate began corresponding with Rev. Mother Felicitas about entering Loretto. She assured Felicitas that her parents had given their consent and that her spiritual adviser had urged her to apply. Kate wrote in August, “Dear Mother Felicitas, My parents plan to drive me down to the Motherhouse [Sept. 7th]. … I am writing to ask if the Motherhouse has accommodations for a family. The party would include my parents, three younger brothers and two postulants, [as] we are bringing another postulant with us.” Felicitas’ reply was immediate: “It will be a pleasure to meet your dear parents and three brothers and it will be a satisfaction to them to see your new home. Then they will be able to visualize the scenes about which you write in your letters home.”
Kate arrived with her family Sept. 7, 1955, the youngest in her postulant class. She was received on May 24, 1956, first taking the name Sister Mary Katrien but soon changing to Sister Catherine Sienna. In the late 1960s, she resumed use of her baptismal name, Katherine.
Following her first vows on May 24, 1958, Kate went to the St. Louis House of Studies with most of her classmates and enrolled at Webster College. Completing her undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1960, Kate’s first assignment was to teach elementary grades, of course, at Good Counsel Parish School in Kansas City, Mo. But that only lasted a month. In October 1960, Kate and her elementary teaching certificate were sent to Newman High School in Sterling, Ill., where she began a 14-year stint as a high school Spanish teacher and principal. Three years at Newman were followed by seven years at St. Augustine High School in Lebanon, Ky., where she also was a founding member of Lebanon’s Human Rights Commission and active in community affairs. It was with great pain that Kate, in her role as St. A’s principal, had to close the school for good in 1970. Still hurting from that loss, Kate moved from Kentucky back to Missouri to Webster Groves and her alma mater, Nerinx Hall. There she taught Spanish and served full-time as assistant principal for four years.
Early in Kate’s teaching career, she earned a master’s degree in Spanish at Notre Dame University, an achievement and a university of which she was very proud. Along the way, she also earned life-time certificates to teach Spanish from kindergarten to 12th grade in Missouri and Kentucky. Her love of Spanish led her to summer experiences among Spanish-speaking Indians in Santa Fe, N.M., and, in 1976, she volunteered eagerly for the Loretto Third World Experience, working in the Philippines with the Maryknoll Sisters for a year.
Following her 14 years as a high school teacher and principal, Kate served for 15 years at the elementary school level in Louisville, Ky. She taught at Christ the King Parish School in the West End for a total of nine years, including five as teaching principal. Kate’s file includes a certificate dated May 16, 1984, acclaiming her “an honorary copilot in the Pepsi-Cola Hot Air Balloon” — the flying culmination of her years at Christ the King. From the West End, Kate moved to St. Francis of Assisi on the east side of Louisville, for six years. There she developed and taught a highly respected Spanish language curriculum for all eight grades.
A Louisville student of Kate’s wrote, “I admired her enthusiastic and good-natured engagement with social justice issues. She was a persistent protester, [but] she was too filled with love ever to fall victim to anger.”
In 1990, after three decades of teaching, Kate responded to an invitation to apply for the newly created job of coordinator for the Convent Community at Loretto in El Paso, Texas. She served for a three-year term, during which time she not only carried out administrative and counseling duties in support of the local Community, but also served as chair of ECLEP and local chair of the 1992 Loretto Assembly in El Paso, while co-editing Interchange and serving as trustee for the Loretto Charitable Trust.
From El Paso, Kate moved once again to Webster Groves and Nerinx Hall High School, this time as school registrar from 1993 to 1998. She continued as Interchange co-editor and served on a number of Loretto boards and committees. She also traveled: with her mother, with her good friend Dominican Sister Clarellen McGinley from Louisville days and with her dearest friend Betty McGrath. Kate enjoyed adventures as diverse as a barge-cruise on the Mississippi and trips to Mexico and Alaska. Kate’s final trip was to Belgium with Anndavid Naeger, to visit the home and the family of Charles Nerinckx, Loretto’s beloved priest and mentor.
In 1998, Kate accepted still another invitation, to take charge of the Loretto Archives. Moving once again to Kentucky, she and Betty McGrath made their home near Lebanon and immersed themselves in Loretto and neighborhood community life. Kate served on the boards of The Caring Place in Lebanon and Casa Guadalupana in Springfield, Ky. But Kate’s big task was to create a new home for the Archives in the “Auditorium” next to the old Academy Building. Working in stages over the next 14 years, Kate organized the physical transformation of the building, then the rehousing of 200 years’ worth of precious documents and artifacts, and finally the creation of a modern, professionally designed museum which opened on Loretto’s 200th anniversary April 25, 2012. For three of those years she also served in the leadership of the Archivists of Congregations of Religious Women.
Kate said at the time of her retirement “One of my proudest achievements is how many of our Community members regularly make use of the archives and Heritage Center. … Capturing our history helps us know who we were, and are and may be.” The photos of Kate that we treasure capture something of the gaiety, resilience and frank open-heartedness with which she completed a lifetime of practical good works as teacher, community activist, citizen of the world, lover of history and Sister of Loretto.
– By Eleanor Craig SL