sister catherine mary boucher

November 23, 1927 - May 18, 2014

Love and discipline were the hallmarks of her care

On November 23, 1927, Elmer and Catherine (Janssen) Boucher of Green Bay, Wis., welcomed their daughter Marion Ruth to join their busy, happy family of two girls and five boys. 

It might have been the example of the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. John’s School or perhaps the example of her mother who sewed for local orphan children, but in elementary school, Marion announced she wanted to be a sister and work in an orphanage. Graduating from St. Joseph’s Academy in 1946, Marion entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. When the community offered the opportunity to suggest three possible religious names, she wrote “Catherine Mary” on all three spaces! Catherine was for her mother and Mary was for Jesus’ mother to whom she had great devotion. She received the habit and her chosen name in 1947.

Assigned to St. Joseph Indian School, Keshena, Wis., in 1949, Sister Catherine Mary assisted in the kitchen and with child care. At St. Joseph Hospital in Hancock, Mich., in 1951, she began helping in the kitchen but soon became director of the gift/coffee shop. She served as a clerk at St. Joseph Hospital, Kansas City in 1952. Then S. Catherine Mary enjoyed being a child care worker/houseparent at St. Joseph Girl’s Home, Kansas City (1953-1958). 

While at St. Joseph Home for Boys in St. Louis she received a certificate in residential child care from Washington University. During her 30 years at the “Boys’ Home,” S. Catherine Mary gave her boys a steady combination of discipline, encouragement and love. “She was strict but in a warm sort of way,” remembers S. Pat Murphy, who described Sister as a “mother figure for many young men over the years.” 

S. Catherine Mary spent a brief time on staff at the Carondelet Day Care in 1988, quickly moving on to St. Louis Cathedral Grade School as a teacher aide until 1994. Though primarily assisting Kindergarten students, she also gave individual attention to young readers, helped in the library when needed and did lunch duty. S. Phyllis Bardenheier remembers a day the two of them were on duty in the lunchroom when S. Catherine Mary saved a child from choking to death. “She was very proud of having been able to do that,” said S. Phyllis. 

As a friend of S. Kate’s niece, Patricia, S. Shawn Madigan recalls how happy her [Kate’s] brother Walter and family were during the summer when expecting sister’s visit. “So now I know her brother Walter, who was always excited when "sister is coming” can finally stop his anticipation of sister is coming and wait no longer!”

S. James Patrick Corbett joined her good friend (and reception) while she was at St. Joseph Home. For the next 35 years they lived together. From 1996-2005 they shared an apartment. S. James says that they got along well. S. Kate (as many affectionately called her) was an excellent cook; S. James did cleaning and laundry, and they both shopped for groceries. Neither of them drove, so they were not strangers to walking or taking the bus. When that became difficult they relied on friends to get them where they needed to go.

When S. Kate decided to go to Nazareth Living Center in 2005, S. James chose to do the same. (S. James tells the story that when they arrived at NLC, they were asked if they could sew on buttons. Their affirmative answer promptly put them in charge of the sewing room!) 

The last year of her life illness confined S. Kate to Skilled Care. S. James visited every day, continuing the friendship they had shared for 67 years. Now it is S. James who is looking to S. Catherine Mary to take care of her.
by S. Helen Oates
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