Intercom Feature Articles
Looking to Our Future
S. Annie Klapheke (front row, second from right) with her small group members.
Once a month, on a late Thursday afternoon, there’s a small table in the employee dining room at the Motherhouse that receives some added attention. Laughter travels through the air and causes heads to turn and peek over to ask the questions what in the world is going on, or who could possibly be having so much fun?
The small group that is gathered around the table includes Associates Marti Barnes, Maureen Maxfield, Barry and Mary Jo Mersmann, Sisters Caroljean Willie, Joyce Brehm, Mary Ann Humbert and Annie Klapheke. Their joy is contagious and their welcoming presence made this writer feel at home instantly. The reason for today’s visit was to learn more about one of their newest small group members – S. Annie Klapheke. It was two years ago that – at the invitation of the group – Annie became a member.
S. Joyce recalls: “Annie was going to be moving to Cincinnati and I said to the group, ‘What if we invite Annie?’ … it was unanimous. The most memorable piece for me, though, was Annie’s response – she said it felt like she was being invited to the prom! She was so excited to be invited.”
As a newer, younger member to the Community and the small group, one might wonder what gifts Annie has brought to them. “She has this aura of positive energy about her,” says Marti. “She brings fresh ideas, a youthful perspective – we all strive for that but it doesn’t always happen. It’s refreshing, and as young as she is, the level of wisdom is amazing.”
“I am so touched by her depth of sharing,” added Maureen. “She looks at the everyday through the lens of God, and that has brought something different to us.”
“She has a certain youthful interpretation of everyday experiences,” said Barry. “Her experiences in Guatemala were so insightful. I don’t know that I would have picked up on those myself if I were in the same position. The topics we discuss, as varied as they may be, she brings that youthful interpretation that we don’t quite have. Her presence and perspective sometimes takes us in a different direction.”
While Annie’s childhood experiences, and historical perspective, may be different from others in the small group, it seems to only add depth to the relationship. “With some of our discussion, we find similarities like in relationships, and struggles and challenges,” says S. Mary Ann. “Ours may be different but what helps is that we find a commonality.”
“She listens,” adds S. Joyce. “She tends to be on the quiet side but I appreciate the risk she takes in a response. Because she listens, she is able to help us look at the positive piece or to look at the topic differently. She weighs what she is going to say.”
Annie’s ability to bring new conversations to the group has certainly been appreciated. Numerous mentions were made to a conversation they had regarding the Body of Christ. After listening to S. Simone Campbell speak and discuss how she considered herself the digestive juices in the Body of Christ, Annie brought this topic to the group. It led to a discussion about what part of the Body of Christ each small group member would be. Their recollection of the discussion was still vivid in their minds and continued to bring about great conversation and laughs.
Like proud parents they each discussed Annie’s growth throughout the past two years. “She might feel a little freer, now that she’s gotten a feel for us,” says S. Mary Ann Humbert. “She kind of knows that anything goes,” she laughs.
Adds S. Caroljean, “I’ve been a part of the group for six months – it’s been fun to watch her. When we did the workshop at EarthConnection on dance, she was a marvelous teacher. For someone who tends to be quiet, she came alive and everybody was engaged!”
“When she was preparing to lead the retreat for homeless women through the Ignatian Spirituality Project, she talked about being nervous, but then she came back and told us how wonderful it was,” remembers Mary Jo. “It’s so genuine and sincere; what she talks about is from her heart.”
When asked if each group member could describe Annie in one or two words, their honest and immediate responses give you a clear glimpse into the person she is: grounded and mature, sincere, enthusiastic, alive, graceful and wise, inviting and true, and holy.
Described as an excellent listener, with a good sense of humor, Annie holds a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. During the past year, as an Apostolic Novice, she spent 10 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala, in language immersion as well as continues to volunteer at the Good Samaritan Free Health Center in Price Hill (Cincinnati) as a nutrition counselor/registered dietician.
“When I hear her talk about her work at the clinic,” says Mary Jo, “I can hear her love for the patients she works with, and the people she works with.” “And her desire that they be healthy,” adds S. Mary Ann.
Says Barry, “She’s deeply empathetic, and I’ve thought on occasion, if she were my daughter I’d be very, very proud.”
On Dec. 10, 2016, S. Annie Klapheke pronounced First Vows in the Motherhouse chapel surrounded my Sisters, Associates, family and friends. The celebration was filled with joy and love as the Community and friends came together.
“Our future is in good hands!” says S. Caroljean. “I think I see that with all our young people. They have had to make a choice far more difficult than we made because there were others doing it when we did. They are making it in a world that doesn’t really value that. I think that’s why they are at a deeper level than perhaps I was at that same age.”
“[She] makes me want to be stronger in my commitment to her and to this Community because of who she is and who our ancestors are. I don’t want to let them down. I want them to know that we are here to support them in whatever way we can,” adds Mary Jo.
“They are very positive and upbeat, and I find that brings out the better part of us. It feeds each other,” said S. Joyce.
Says Marti, “When I look at pictures of these younger Sisters, I look at them and feel they are in many ways like Mother Margaret George [founder of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati]. They are pioneers; they are moving into a totally new, different future.”
While Annie came a little late to our dinner discussion, it was touching to see her expressions and gratefulness to the kind words and sentiments expressed. When asked how important this relationship is to her, she responded: “This is one of my most valuable sets of relationships in the Community. It’s been such a life giving group for me. I look forward to these meetings every month; I go home feeling energized; we laugh so much, share so honestly. The wider congregation has taught me a lot about listening to one another, being honest, being real in conversation. I feel like this is a very safe space to share with one another, and I’m very grateful for that. I feel so supported.”