sister judith marie klump
May 13, 1929 - February 3, 2009
“I’ve lived a blessed life,” S. Judith said. And who would deny that of one who sailed on the Sea of Galilee; who played ping-pong with teenage lepers in Hawaii; who carried and delivered fresh fruit to the inhabitants of Molokai; who climbed a mountain (at age 60) to touch a glacier in Alaska; who rode a camel in Egypt; who danced a Strauss waltz with a “dashing” tour director in Vienna, Austria; and who trekked up 290 steps to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa? All of this and more helped to fill S. Judith’s life to the brim.
When she entered the community in 1949, she felt intensely the leaving behind of her dearly loved family in Perryville, Mo. She was one of twelve siblings. But once she reached Carondelet she entered into her chosen vocation with enthusiasm, eager to please God. From the beginning she excitedly embraced all that was expected of her. With expectant joy she approached each new mission, confident that God was part of her journey in each venture.
Her ministries varied. She was teacher, missionary to Hawaii, pastoral associate, retreat coordinator, and prison minister. Immediately after profession S. Judith began teaching in elementary school settings throughout the province. One of her successes occurred at Visitation in Kansas City, when, in 1962, her class was chosen to sing in the annual Music Festival. That same year included a special grace and challenge for her—an assignment to Hawaii.
That invitation proved difficult, pulled as she was between leaving her family and desiring to serve God as she felt called. She said, “At the time of final vows, in an effort to give myself completely to God, I promised Him that if ever the Community asked me to go to the mission field, I would accept.” And so in June 1962 she embarked on a ten year stay in Hawaii. She loved working there and imbibing the cultures of the Hawaiian people.
When S. Judith returned to the mainland, she worked in religious education at Sacred Heart Parish in Warrensburg, Mo. In 1975, she moved to Kansas City and involved herself in retreat work, as a member of St. Elizabeth House of Prayer, and as a pastoral associate. One of her gifts was to bring the SEARCH program to Kansas City. She was upbeat, filled with energy and enthusiasm to inspire and to teach. Deacon Ken Fuenfhausen of Coronation of Our Lady Parish in Grandview, Mo., learning of her illness, wrote to her within the week prior to her death. He said, “The SEARCH program has grown much over the years since you introduced it and has touched the lives of hundreds who in turn have become active, enthusiastic ministers in the community.”
One of S. Judith’s greatest loves was prison ministry. This she did in Jefferson City; in Clayton, Mo., with the St. Louis Co. Dept. of Justice Services; and in Charleston, Mo, at the Southeast Correctional Center. Angel Garcia, a parent of a prisoner, writes in tribute: “Judith was so supportive
to us when our son was in prison in Sikeston. She helped us navigate the system and understand its flaws were not our fault. She helped us spiritually to believe in ourselves and not be filled with guilt and shame. She was kind and knowledgeable and a true blessing to our family. We are grateful for her touch in our lives for those tough times.” When S. Judith left the Southeast Correctional Center, the staff roasted her at a going away party, recognizing her as a gifted Catholic Christian who followed the Lord inside prison walls where she could share her faith and her great love for God.
S. Judith undertook her final journey with courage and acceptance. Though baffled by this challenge of coping with pancreatic cancer, once she learned that she would not recover she gave herself with steadfastness to the final mission. “It is God’s will and He will not lay on us more than we can bear,” she stated. Thus she determined not to question God’s plan for her, but accept His will as best she could. Her final days were steeped in prayer and reflection, as she filled her heart with love and a desire to continue to please God. One can only imagine the final awe she came upon in eternity.
S. Rita Louise Huebner
Hear an audio of Sister Judith reflecting on her experience with a death row prisoner.