sister anne bernadine wackenheim
August 2, 1910 - January 24, 2009
Sister Anne Bernadine was born in St. Louis on August 2, 1910, the third of six children. Within a very short time she was baptized and named Rose Elizabeth. Her two brothers entered the Franciscan Friars; two of her sisters became Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon.
Rose graduated from St. Anthony’s High School in St. Louis. In fact, she was in the first graduating class of that school, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph. When one of her sisters chose to enter the convent, Rose felt that perhaps God was asking her to become a sister too. She said, “Some of the Precious Blood Sisters invited me to join them. There was a little voice that kept nagging and nagging me about the religious life, so I decided it was time to go to Carondelet. So that’s where I went. I never regretted it for one day in my life.”
Rose entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in the fall of 1931 and received the habit and name S. Anne Bernadine on March 19, 1932.
Recounting S. Anne Bernadine’s missions is very easy because she was missioned at one place only—St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. When told in March of 1934 that she was to go there, she said she had never seen a deaf person in her life, but, she stated, “In those days you did what you were told.” She learned on the job.
In 1946, S. Anne completed her degree in education at Fontbonne College and began work on her master’s degree in hearing and speech therapy. As with everything she did, she excelled at her studies. The Institute at the time was not yet well established, and so it was up to the sisters to do the recruiting and marketing. S. Anne told many stories of traveling with children, meeting with bishops and explaining the ministry that was uniquely theirs at St. Joseph’s Institute.
In the beginning she taught very young children; eventually she found herself instructing the 8th grade students. But at that time, the sisters did more than just teach in the classroom. They were with the children 24 hours a day: on the playground, in the dining room, and in the dormitories as well as in the classroom. Because the school was small the sisters knew all the children, a great help, because the children were thus at all times totally immersed in language and lip reading.
When asked if she found it difficult to be ministering at the same place her entire life, she answered, “Never, never, never. It wasn’t monotonous at all, no, no.” S. Anne loved the community and felt blessed to live with other sisters who were as dedicated as she. They helped each other plan lessons and shared the chores. Much work was before them, but no one complained. All worked together and because of their efforts their graduates had the best education possible.
In July of 1992, she knew it was time to retire. Gradually she went from full time teaching to half days. “I knew I no longer had the spark to give the children what they deserved,” she stated, “and that’s when I stopped teaching and began working at the front desk as the receptionist.” She greeted visitors warmly. Little children coming in with their parents to pick up a brother or a sister got a hug and gave one to her.
Eventually she moved to Nazareth Living Center. The transition went smoothly because her heart told her it was time. There she met sisters she had not previously known and felt right at home with them. She shared a dining room table with her Institute friends, S. Anna Rose Kraus and S. Regina Hughes. “Unfortunately,” she said, “whoever sits with us has to listen to lots of stories about the Institute.” To keep herself busy, she made quilts for the Nazareth Craft Fair.
S. Anne Bernadine was an exceptional educator, seamstress, a gentle woman and a faithful daughter of St. Joseph, who blessed her with a peaceful death.
S. Kathleen Karbowski
S. Rita Louise Huebner