sister nathanael joseph brune
January 21, 1922 - May 12, 2010
Sister Nathanael Joseph Brune was a person of deep, simple, profound faith who never let her deafness get in the way of doing for others. In many ways she was very childlike in the biblical sense of the word. She truly trusted in God and lived her life in generous service. The fact that she survived her childhood is nothing short of miraculous.
S. Nathanael was born January 21, 1922, in Brinktown, Mo. Her parents, Frank X. and Dorothy Schoenauer Brune named her Cecilia Marie. When she was very young, Cecilia almost died from scarlet fever. She tells of her mother kneeling by her bed beseeching the Blessed Mother to save her daughter. And while her mother's prayers were answered and Cecilia lived, she lost her hearing.
Cecilia's parents sought the best care for her. They eventually chose St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf because they wanted their daughter to have a Catholic education. An extant letter from the principal, S. Sylvania Hoffman, which S. Nathanael kept in her possession, states, "We will take your little girl free of charge if you cannot afford to pay...bring your little one here and I am sure you will find that the Sisters can do more for her than you think. . .Your little girl being afflicted needs the helps of holy religion. She will be taught the truths of our holy faith as well as the regular branches of a solid education."
In gratitude, S. Nathanael gave her whole life to God. She alludes to this when she writes before her final profession: "God has been so good to me to enable me to come to this dear congregation and here live my life for Him alone. If it were not for my deafness, perhaps I would never have thought of entering the convent in which I have experienced these happy years in striving after perfection."
Her whole life was spent in ministry to the children, sisters and staff at St. Joseph's Institute. She spent her energy in diverse ways. She was food manager, keeper of supplies, meal planner, expert pie maker, bookkeeper, mail room organizer, guardian of the doors, supervisor of the residence and recreation, and activity organizer. She scheduled activities and found volunteers to keep all residential students busy and happy. She could take care of 100+ children during play time and know exactly where each child was. All of the children under S. Nathanael's care knew that she loved all of them, listened to them and understood their feelings.
As "keeper of the keys" when the Institute was located in University City, she was the "go to" person for every possible door in the three buildings, including closets. Somehow she would go through her myriad of keys on her huge key ring and find the right one every time.
When she was in high school, S. Ann Gerard Siebert used to help with the residential students at St. Joseph's Institute. She recalls how Sister Nathanael Joseph, then the cook, spoiled all those helpful students by making them the best hamburgers and milk shakes after their work hours.
The staff, too, appreciated her sense of humor and her "down-to-earthness." She assisted many teachers by running off copies for classroom work, but more importantly, she helped all on staff understand the handicap of deafness so that they in turn could better help the children deal with their affliction. Her ultimate goal was to see that all the children received a good education. Many of the alumni consider S. Nathanael their second mother.
In 2005, as her health declined, S. Nathanael moved to Nazareth Living Center, where she lived a ministry of prayer. Ever a faithful Sister of St. Joseph, she now enjoys what "ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love. . ." We rejoice that she now hears for all eternity. May she rest in peace.
S. Rita Louise Huebner