Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Sister M. Bernardine Wiseman SL

Remembrance of the Life of Sister M. Bernardine Wiseman SL

Posted on May 28, 2016, by Loretto Community

A headshot of a woman smiling with short grey hair, glasses, and a purple sweater over a white collared shirt.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL
Jan. 7, 1939 – May 28, 2016

Sister Bernardine was born in Hodgenville, Ky., the third of seven children of Charles Bernard Wiseman of Rineyville, and Christine Margaret McMillen Wiseman of Tunnel Hill, both in Hardin County, Ky. According to Bernardine’s birth certificate, Bernard Wiseman was at that time farming in La Rue County, but soon the family moved to a farm near Elizabethtown in Hardin County.

Six weeks after her birth Bernardine was baptized at Loretto’s Bethlehem Academy, St. John, Ky., where her aunt, Sister Josepha Wiseman, was missioned. The baby was given the name of her paternal grandmother, Sarah Isabell, and was known as Issie.  Little Issie began grade school with the Loretto Sisters at St. James parochial school in Elizabethtown.  The family moved again, to a farm near Henryville, Ind., where Issie completed grades 2-9 in the local public school.  For her final three years of high school, Isabell attended Bethlehem Academy, as a boarding student. Even before graduating, she asked to join the Sisters of Loretto, joining also her older sister Mary, who had just received the habit and the name Sister Theresa Louise Wiseman.

Isabell entered Loretto on June 7, 1942; she received the habit on Dec. 8 that same year.  She took her father’s name as the religious name by which she would live for nearly 74 years, Sister Mary Bernardine Wiseman. Following the novitiate, and her first vows on Dec.  8, 1944, Bernardine was sent to Webster College where her mission was the Sisters’ refectory and other services for the local community.

Bernardine herself takes up the account, in a short autobiography she wrote in 1976:  “After being at Webster College for several years, I went to Bethlehem Academy (1952).  It was a boarding school.  I served as Mother, nurse and teacher to the little children.  After about six years I took up my new mission at Immaculate Conception, Hawesville, Ky.  It was a poor parish but I liked it very much.  Each spring we would pack our trunks to leave for summer school.  To my surprise one summer (1961) I did not return. Our convent had been exchanged for a convent outside St. Louis, in Jefferson County; that was Good Shepherd in Hillsboro, Mo. Then, in 1965 my assignment was to go to Ascension School, Chesterfield, Mo.”  An article in the May 1993 issue of the Ascension School newsletter continues Bernardine’s story:  “Sister Bernardine has served Ascension School for 28 years (1965-1993).  She began her career at Ascension as a first and second grade teacher. During difficult financial times and the threat of closing the school, Sister ‘volunteered’ her services to act as principal until financial stability could be restored.  For the past 10 years, 1983-93, Sister Bernardine has been busy working in the offices of the school and the parish. Just ask any teacher at Ascension how much they depend on Sister Bernardine.”

Seventeen of her years at Ascension in Chesterfield Bernardine shared with her sister, Sister Theresa Louise.  Six of those years their good friends and colleagues Sisters Joyce Reasoner and Charles Maureen Walker joined them in the school.  At some point the school acquired a “poodle in residence” named Buffy. When in 1993 Bernardine and Theresa Louise retired to Loretto Motherhouse, Buffy accompanied them to the home of their sister, Doris Wiseman, in Louisville.

The Loretto directory says that Bernardine devoted herself to “prayer and community service” at the Motherhouse for more than 20 years. She and her sister drove residents to innumerable medical appointments and made themselves as indispensable as they had been at Ascension School. They maintained their close friendships and made new friends.  In recent years Bernardine and Theresa Louise made daily trips to the barn to nurture, protect, and enjoy the cats and kittens.  They also amazed us all with their skill in completing jigsaw puzzles with thousands of pieces.

Sister Bernardine was a quiet woman, consistent, practical, faithful in both her daily chores and in her daily prayer.  Loretto has many reasons to be grateful for Bernardine’s 74 years of steady dedicated service, and most especially for the many hours Bernardine spent in quiet prayer in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. We echo her aunt Sister Josepha as we say farewell to this “Grand little Sister of Loretto.”

A black and white headshot of a nun wearing glasses in front of a brick building.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL, 1948
A nun smiling for a headshot picture wearing dark rimmed glasses, with a grey background.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL, 1972
A nun holding a bouquet of colorful flowers smiling for a picture with school children outdoors.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL with children at Ascension School, Chesterfield, Mo.
A nun wearing a light blue collared long sleeve shirt and glasses smiling for a picture while sitting at a desk with papers in her hand and pink and white flowers in a white vase on the table.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL, 1990
A nun smiling for a head shot, wearing  glasses and a patterned collared shirt with a white background.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL, 1992
Two nuns wearing different striped collared shirts and smiling brightly while holding cakes, one cake is an American Flag.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman, 1993
Two nuns sitting down with another woman to the left, wearing a white collared blouse smiling together with two other women standing in between them for a group picture.
Sister Bernardine Wiseman SL, her sibling Sister Theresa Louise Wiseman SL and friends, 2013
Two women with short grey hair and big glasses smiling together for a picture. One is wearing a striped collared shirt, and a light blue sweater, and the other is wearing a light patterned collared shirt and a darker blue jersey jacket with the words Loretto Motherhouse on the chest.
Blood Sisters – Loretto Sisters Theresa Louise and Bernardine Wiseman
Two women with short grey hair, and big glasses, wearing similar white sweaters over white blouses smiling together for a picture while holding two white small dogs indoors.
Puppy Love! — Using trick photography, from left siblings Theresa Louise and Bernardine Wiseman both hold the same puppy — Buffy.
(Photo courtesy of Loretto Archives)

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