Remembrance of the Life of Sister Carol (formerly Sister Mary Gerard SSM) Kaiman SL
Carol Mary Lucienne Kaiman submitted an autobiography to the Loretto Heritage Center on June 10, 2014, with a note: “Read at my wake or funeral.” At the same time and in the years since, Carol gave us additional biographical information, much of which we have incorporated into this account of Carol’s life.
Carol began her account: “I was born in Mt. Olive, Ill., and raised in Webster Groves, Mo.” Carol’s birth parents were Robert Braun and Lucienne Deschodt. Very early in Carol’s life, her mother married Lambert Kaiman, who adopted Carol and confirmed the adoption in later years, after Carol’s birth mother had died and Lambert had married Marjorie Sullivan. Carol grew up with three younger siblings, Thomas Lee, Marjorie and Kathleen.
Carol wrote: “I attended Holy Redeemer Grade School in Webster Groves. In fifth grade I had my first call to religious life, inspired by Sister Sheila McCarthy OP. She never talked about it but it was just her presence. After graduating from eighth grade, I chose to go to St. Mark’s High School in St. Louis because the Dominican Sisters taught there. In my senior year we had Sisters from different orders speak to us about their community and mission. The Sisters of St. Mary were one of the groups. (They are hospital sisters who have since merged to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary). They offered my high school class a tour of their motherhouse and St. Mary’s Hospital the following weekend, so I went. While I was in the hospital I filled out an application to work after graduation, but only in the newborn nursery — I was scared of ‘sick people.’
“Graduation came, spring of 1952, and I heard nothing from the hospital so I got a job in the local bank. That lasted about three weeks; the Sisters called and said there was a job as an aide in the nursery and I said I’d take it. The next day I started in the nursery. There were several Sisters working in the nursery who showed me the routine and I felt right at home. It didn’t take long for me to see what a Sister in the health care field did in the real world of joy, pain and suffering. They were a friendly, down-to-earth group who worked right along side of us all three shifts. It also didn’t take long for me to feel called to join this community. There was a statue of St. Gerard Majella on the long hall on the maternity floor so every time I passed it I’d say a little prayer to help me know what to do. I talked to one of the Sisters about the vocation and after asking the mother general and others I did enter the Sisters of St. Mary, July 28, 1952. At reception Feb. 11, 1953, I took the name Sister Mary Gerard.
“After a two-year novitiate, I made first vows, Feb. 11, 1955, and began the bachelor of science in nursing degree program at St. Louis University. I graduated in 1959, took state boards and was immediately dispatched to Baraboo, Wis. My journey continued: back to St. Louis then back to Baraboo and then in 1962 I went to La Paz, Bolivia, with three other Sisters to staff a “clinica” — a 45-bed hospital — which happened to be next door to Colegio Loreto. Being neighbors, we saw each other often — that’s how I met Loretto Sisters Eva Salas, Mary Peter Bruce, Angie Murphy and Lupe Arcinegua. After four years I was sent to Arequipa, Peru, and a year later, September 1968, all of us were called back to the states. I worked in two of the hospitals in St. Louis. Then in 1970 I was asked to help in St. Eugene Hospital in Dillon, S.C., a small town with one tiny Catholic Church. This was mission country. I really do like ‘country’ towns, being one with the poor, a simple way of life, giving yet receiving so much.
“After being head nurse on Pediatrics and Med/Surg, I was asked to start the Social Services department, which I did for about two years. Then I went back into nursing as Director of Nursing Service. I left the congregation of the Sisters of St. Mary in December 1976, and chose to stay in Dillon, feeling called to remain in this small southern community. I worked in a nursing home there, earning a certificate at the University of South Carolina as a Family Nurse Practitioner. I continued in the nursing home as an Adult Nurse Practitioner until 1985, when I started working on the Oncology unit at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, S.C. In 1988 I moved to a newly formed hospice program associated with the hospital. This was and really is my vocation. We saw our patients in their homes, driving many miles in the county. I have to admit it was the love of my life. I really felt like a missionary, not preaching with words, but bringing God’s presence and love to these folks. My philosophy was and is to let people know they are important, smart and can accomplish things. I was blessed in so many ways those years from 1987 to 2000.
“I retired and moved back to St. Louis in 2000, to be closer to my family and to be open to respond to God’s call back to religious life. I did not know how that would happen but it did. My priorities were to find a roof over my head, a part-time job, and God would see that I resumed my vowed life somehow. My friend from high school, Sister Diane Kane, was living at the Loretto Center at 590 and she mentioned to Sister Anthony Mary that I was returning to St. Louis. Anthony offered me a room while I was house hunting. I talked to her about my desire to return to vowed life; she listened and guided me, so that is how I found my way again to the Sisters of Loretto.
“In 2001, following some months of renewing my acquaintance with Loretto, I entered the novitiate, spending the first year at the Motherhouse and the second year in St. Louis. I made my first vows in 2003 and my final vows on Aug. 13, 2006. During that time I worked as a parish nurse in St. Louis and at Bethesda nursing home in Webster Groves. Then I had the opportunity to return again to Florence, S.C., working in my favorite hospice from 2007 to 2010. I retired a second time, returned to St. Louis once again, and found a niche for myself in a parish in the north city.”
Carol’s journey took her finally back to the Motherhouse in 2014. From independent living in the convent area, she moved early in 2017 to personal care in the Infirmary. An unexpected and sudden illness in early December surprised Carol and her family and friends. Through the whole of her life and her sudden death, Carol’s final words in her autobiography ring out clearly:
“I see that the good God, the Father who has watched over me all my life, is bringing me back, full circle to where I began. I have had a wonderful life, trusting in God’s providence and love.”
– By Eleanor Craig SL