sister katherine zanitsch


August 31, 1929 - January 27, 2009

What was it that distinguished S. Katherine as the happy, loving, welcoming person she was? She must have learned these traits from her family in her growing up years. And although she did not leave many details about those pre-community days, we know that she attended Holy Rosary School in St. Louis, where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Katherine was 23 years old when she entered the community in 1952. She brought with her all the love she had for family, her great sense of humor and her desire to serve God. All these gifts helped her become a happy Sister of St. Joseph and an outstanding primary teacher who could reach every level of intelligence long before “Multiple Intelligence” became part of teaching methods. Always careful, too, about proper manuscript, she would correct teachers who posted notes for children in all capital letters, reminding them that a child’s reader was not printed in “capital letters.” She was especially pleased to prepare her young students to receive the sacraments for the first time. St. Rose of Lima School in Houston was the first of many elementary schools that cherished her stay.

One of S. Katherine’s former third grade students at St. Patrick’s in University City, Mo., remembers her affectionately. Since she was short of stature, he recalls that “even in 3rd grade some of the kids were looking her in the eye.” Tall flip charts were challenging for her, too. He describes S. Katherine as standing on a stool to flip the pages. But even more than that, this former pupil recalls how kind she was to him when he broke his right arm, that she was patient and understanding and even signed his cast.

Yes, Katherine was a wonderful teacher, but teaching is not the whole story. She was also a learner. At Sacred Heart in Shawano, Wis., she accompanied S. Carolyn Strack to parent meetings, as S. Carolyn said, “because S. Katherine wanted to learn and because she did not want me to be alone.” S. Katherine helped her set up materials and get things ready to greet the parents whose children were in the parish CCD classes. S. Carolyn was parish director of religious education at the time.

Maintenance worker? Yes, as a maintenance worker at St. Francis de Sales in Denver, S. Katherine was meticulous and every teacher wanted her services. Because she held the keys to just about every door in the parish complex, parishioners gathering for meetings were told, “Don’t worry about getting the keys from Father; just ask S. Katherine to meet you at the Church.”

It would probably be safe to say that most people in the province knew S. Katherine. That resulted from her being province secretary and from volunteering in the development office. She did all of her tasks with great efficiency and kindness. S. Donna Gunn is mindful of how, when sisters called the provincialate, that often they would then confide in S. Katherine. Facetiously S. Donna wonders “what secrets she carried to the grave with her.”

As a development office volunteer, S. Katherine’s main task was to hand write the anniversary of death announcements and address the envelopes, all of which she did carefully. As do all of us, she had her little “quirks.” Her co-workers knew she insisted on watching “Matlock” from 1:00 to 2:00; they also knew by her ringing timer that she needed to switch her laundry. Throughout her years living and working at Carondelet, S. Katherine was a “delight to be with.”

S. Katherine retired to Nazareth in 1994 but not before inviting personnel at Carondelet to “step right up” to receive good bye hugs. At Nazareth, her love of community extended itself to all who came her way. With a joyful spirit she saw good in all and welcomed her visitors with a friendly smile. May this beloved Sister rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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