LOWELL, MI (05-04-2016) – Sister Theophane Wurzer, FSE, entered eternal life on Thursday evening, May 4, 2016 at the Franciscan Life Process Center where she has lived for the past 25 years. An avid worker and dedicated professional, Sister Theophane tirelessly contributed her talents to the Church and the Franciscan Community as a professed religious, maternal-child nurse, gardener, quilt-maker and wholehearted card player.
Sister Theophane was born on June 27, 1921, in St. Lucas, Iowa, the fifth of twelve children of Konrad and Barbara Wurzer. She was named Theonilla. After attending St. Luke School in St. Lucas, she finished her junior and senior years at Aquinas High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1940, she entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, and in 1941, as a novice, was named Sister Theophane. She professed first vows in 1943. In 1973 Sister Theophane became a founding member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.
Sister Theophane attended Viterbo College in La Crosse and the Catholic University of America from where she received a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 1952 with a focus on pediatrics. She obtained a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Indiana University in 1967. She spent a total of 21 years in La Crosse teaching pediatrics and maternal-child nursing in St. Francis School of Nursing and Viterbo College. Her post-graduate work was at the University of Windsor. From 1959 to 1966 she was the medical and pediatrics supervisor at Sacred Heart Hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Her nursing experience also included four years as an instructor in the St. Luke Nursing School, Duluth, Minnesota, and six months in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
As a motivated, goal-oriented professional, Sister Theophane accepted the challenge to begin a nursing program for Bethlehem University in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus’ birth. For a religious woman whose specialty was maternal-child nursing, this position was an opportunity to bring forth new life in the very place where the Blessed Virgin Mary and her baby became the model for mothers throughout the world. At times Bethlehem University temporarily closed classes due to pending violence. Sister Theophane, however, continued teaching, arranging for students to meet in an alternate location to carry on classes. This determination and bold dedication to a mission has characterized Sister Theophane throughout her religious life. She began a program of teaching new mothers in five Palestinian villages techniques of infant massage to increase parent-child bonding and to promote physical and psychological health for these babies.
Returning to the USA in 1991, Sister Theophane became an integral member of the Lowell, Michigan center where, as a nurse, she cared for the elderly Sisters in the Center. She coordinated a group of volunteers known as Franciscan Friends to assist with projects at the Franciscan Life Process Center including producing numerous quilts for charity events. She taught young Sisters the skill of canning and freezing the garden and orchard harvest each year. She was an industrious co-worker at the annual Franciscan Christmas Fair at the Meriden, Connecticut motherhouse.
Sister Theophane’s special feast day was the Feast of the Visitation on May 31st when the Church celebrates Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. As Elizabeth heard Mary’s words of greeting, the baby in her womb leapt for joy. In ministering to mothers and their newborn babies for so many years, and in teaching young nurses maternal-child nursing skills, Sister Theophane has helped many persons leap for joy as they found the presence of Christ in her life.
Sister Theophane is survived by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, the Franciscan Brothers of the Eucharist, the Franciscan Apprentices, her five sisters, Irma Hageman and Alvina Hemesath Murray of Lawlor, Iowa, Rosaria Einck of Festina, Iowa, Alma Hemesath of Ossian, Iowa, and Doris Smith of St. Lucas, her sisters-in-law Margaret Wurzer of St. Lucas and Sis Wurzer of Waucoma, Iowa, and many nephews and nieces.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Anton, Edwin, Carl, Francis and Alvin Wurzer, her sister Ann Kuennen, eighteen Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and a Franciscan Brother of the Eucharist.
Funeral arrangements are in the care of Gerst Funeral Home and Sister Patricia Glass, FSE, Funeral Director. A wake will be held on Thursday, May 12th from 4-7 p.m. at the Annunciation Chapel of the Franciscan Life Process Center, 11650 Downes St., Lowell. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, May 13th at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Great Mother of God Church, 402 Amity St., Lowell. Burial will be in the Franciscan Cemetery.