sister agnes marie baer

 November 6, 1921 - July 14, 2015 

Always other-centered, warm, caring, a woman of prayer.

Sister Agnes Marie Baer was born to Oliver Louis and Agnes (Robineau) Baer in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 6, 1921. She attended Immaculate Conception Grade School, Rosati-Kain High and Fontbonne College. She received a degree in social studies in 1942. Her work at the St. Louis Public Library during college continued until February 1944 when she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. “I wanted so much to be a sister and to do something for God’s people.”

S. Agnes Marie taught in elementary schools in St. Louis: Our Lady of Lourdes (1946) and St. Teresa of Avila (1951). After receiving a master’s in social studies from St. Louis University (1952) and a secondary administrative certificate, she ministered at St. Francis de Sales High, Denver, Colorado, until 1961. That year she was sent to Regina Mundi, to prepare for formation work.

Assigned to Carondelet as director of postulants in 1962, S. Agnes Marie continued that position through 1967 when she became director of novices and postulants. One of those former postulants/novices, Ellen Dukes, CSJA, experienced her faithful friendship for 50 years.

Likely leadership in formation is not easy; I speculate that leadership during the time of the Second Vatican Council was akin to having frequent whiplash. She approached her assignment with grace and care always.

Dodie Sudduth, CSJA, wrote: “Here is what S. Agnes Marie taught me, ‘Love puts sacrifice into perspective so it is no longer a sacrifice.’ She lived what she taught.”

For 10 years, S. Agnes Marie taught or was assistant administrator in secondary schools: Academy of our Lady, Peoria (1968); St Thomas Aquinas, Florissant (1970); and Rosati-Kain, St. Louis (1973). Throughout her five years teaching religion at Rosati-Kain, she spent summers in the Human Rights Office. “I just got saturated with what was happening. I said, ‘If you’d ever find something that you think I could do, let me know.’ ”

In 1978, while ministering in social work at the St. Louis Archdiocesan Human Rights Office, S. Agnes Marie was asked to consider “doing something for prostitutes.” She visited St. Louis judges, the Work House, the city jail. She traveled to the Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City and organizations in St. Louis that worked with the poor, particularly women.

Having learned what she could, in 1979 she became the founder and executive director of the New Life Style Program. Short of staff, the St. Louis Probation System often found it easier to send people to jail than to put them on probation. The New Life Style Program provided a second chance.

Understanding prostitutes and their backgrounds is just something I struggled to understand ...They are people who have had very, very, very little benefits. We would visit them in their homes, and they had nothing. They were trying to survive on nothing, and they didn’t have any skills to help them get a better job ... There is nothing uplifting in their lives ...

S. Agnes Marie became a grant writer/worker at the St. Joseph Development Office (1995) until retiring (1999) to St. Joseph’s Academy where she did volunteer work until 2007 when she moved to Nazareth Living Center.

We remember: St Francis de Sales graduate S. Marion Weinzapfel described S. Agnes Marie as her life-long mentor. “She always had time to talk... She was a pillar in my life. I am happy she is home.”

S. Rose McLarney, considering administration of a new non-profit, Center for Women in Transition, “drew upon S. Agnes Marie's experience and wisdom in working with the non-profit organization she developed... She was very supportive and encouraging to me... ”

Her Le Puy Prayer Group: “We will never forget the undivided attention, the testament of faith, and the love of the dear neighbor that was the essence of S. Agnes Marie Baer. We are privileged to have known her.”

Helen Oates, CSJ

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