Celebrating Sister Marion Renkens
Sister Marion retires after 17 years
as motherhouse administrator
by Jenny Beatrice, director of communications
For the past 17 years, Sister Marion Renkens has embodied the CSJ charism of hospitality in her role as motherhouse administrator. Her retirement in December 2016 has brought a focus on her accomplishments and legacy, having made the motherhouse a place of beauty and a place of welcome for all who walk through its doors.
It all began in 1999 when S. Marion was living in Kansas City, happy in her role as the director of a retreat center for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Then she got the call that would change her path. She was asked by province leadership to be the motherhouse administrator. The catch—the renovation of the motherhouse was about to begin. “I had some experience in renovating but not as big as the motherhouse,” she says.
“Hiring Marion was not by chance, but choice,” says Sister Barbara Dreher, who was in province leadership at the time. “We knew by personal experience and the comments of others that she was a woman of integrity and vision—a CSJ with a holy and contagious commitment to sustain and advance our Carondelet presence and service to and with others.”
On January 3, 2000, S. Marion’s first day in her new position, the renovation of the west side of the building began. “I didn’t have time to have an approach,” she says. “I made sure that I was around a lot, walking the project, attending weekly meetings and asking a lot of questions. I learned a lot in those two short years.”
“She lived up to and surpassed our expectations,” S. Barbara says.
S. Marion did everything from climbing scaffolds to picking furnishings, but the experience went well beyond bricks and mortar. “I thank the community for the opportunity, for taking a chance on me to renovate and restore their house. I learned how much faith people had in me and how grateful they are that they call the motherhouse their ‘home,’ either as a visitor or a resident.”
The renovations may have been S. Marion’s biggest challenge, but it’s not her only accomplishment. She is responsible for the “greening” of the motherhouse, instilling practices that are environmentally-friendly, like composting, using natural cleaning products and switching from paper to cloth napkins in the dining room.
She is well-known in the CSJ community for putting on wonderful celebrations, such as jubilees. “Some were challenging with 400 guests,” she says. She also started the Celebrating Our Heritage Committee with Province Archivist Sister Jane Behlmann to plan a yearly event for Founders Day. And she always made sure to have a welcome gathering for new employees as well as marking the birthdays of staff and sisters in the house. “I wanted sisters and staff to feel a part of the community, so celebrations during the business day and for the members was important.”
For the public, her creation of the Linger Over Breakfast speaker series in 2005, which closes with her departure, offered thousands of guests the opportunity to share the spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the hospitality offered at the motherhouse. And her orchestration of the 175th Open House in 2011, when more than 700 people walked the halls of the motherhouse, was an enormous feat.
For the dear neighbor, she is credited with bringing the Ignatian Homeless Retreats to the motherhouse, giving homeless men and women the time and space to focus on their spirituality.
S. Marion feels these successes were not done alone, but with the cooperation of the CSJ community, “I'll hold dear the generosity of the sisters and associates who volunteered to serve at so many events.”
S. Marion’s commitment to the dear neighbor did not stop at the motherhouse doors. She is a presence in the Carondelet community, especially through her involvement with the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation (CCBF) and the YMCA. “I will continue to be involved with CCBF, especially the summer concerts, the Carondelet Park board, the YMCA-Carondelet Recreation Complex board and the YMCA International Committee,” she says.
She will also continue working on the homeless retreats as well as serving on the Generosity of Joseph Gala and Celebrating Our Heritage committees. And she will still be on-call at Nazareth Living Center once a month. In her spare time, she plans on traveling and reconnecting with friends.
S. Marion was honored at the motherhouse on January 5 with a staff luncheon and evening open house. The outpouring of affection from sisters and staff was overwhelming to her. “You never know what people will remember about you and how that will impact their life,” S. Marion says. “Holy cow, how I am loved!”
Sister Rita Marie Schmitz of province leadership sums up the feelings of many when she says, “There are no words to adequately express my thanks to Marion for her 17 years of generous service as motherhouse administrator. Gracious hospitality was Marion’s greatest gift.”
It was always this mission of hospitality that drew S. Marion to say “yes” to the invitation for the motherhouse ministry.
“Hospitality is a part of the CSJ ministry and mission and number one priority at the motherhouse,” she says. It has been my privilege to offer hospitality for the last 17 years and to have empowered others to provide this same gift to each other and to those who come to the motherhouse.”