"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

God is Enough: S. Annie Klapheke Professes Final Vows

By Erin Reder

S. Annie Klapheke professed perpetual vows during a Mass on Saturday, May 7, 2022 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse.

It wasn’t until the age of 26, and a graduate student at The Ohio State University, that S. Annie Klapheke first realized a call to religious life. Even though faith had always been central in her life; she was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school and found life in her faith, discerning a call to religious life never crossed her mind. It wasn’t until a dear friend directly wrote to her and asked, “Have you ever thought about religious life?” that all her previous thoughts and feelings finally started to make sense.

Looking back now S. Annie can see the Spirit at work. As an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton, she says the experience had a significant impact in helping her grow in her faith and finding a love of living in intentional community. She lived with five other women and felt drawn to that way of living. “UD was also my first taste of a religious charism, the Marianist charism,” she recalls. “I wasn’t familiar with religious orders but loved the Marianist charism and it was a big part of my college experience. My time at UD formed me and motivated me to do some full-time volunteer work after graduation.” This call led S. Annie to Anchorage, Alaska, where she did a year of volunteer service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps of the Northwest, living in intentional community with seven other volunteers and working in a homeless day shelter in their social service office. She spent the year immersed in direct service, community living, intentionality, spirituality, simple living – and loved it!

After her year in Alaska, it was time to return home and S. Annie was left craving the intentional living, service and faith life that she was steeped in while living in Alaska. She kept asking herself, ‘Where do you find these things as an adult?’ She enrolled in graduate school to study nutrition and dietetics and as she continued to struggle with the question, a new question was posed to her that changed everything. Friends from UD, Sisters Tracy Kemme and Annie had kept in touch through the years and continued to correspond through mail. S. Tracy ultimately popped the question in a letter that changed her path’s trajectory. ‘Have you ever thought about religious life?’ S. Tracy wrote. ‘I think it would bring you a lot of joy.’

Sisters Annie Klapheke (front, center) and Tracy Kemme (middle, left) process in to the May 7 liturgy.

“When I read that question I thought, maybe that’s what I am looking for,” S. Annie recalls. “Maybe this is how you do it as an adult. I hadn’t considered it before. Looking back, I now see how I was being formed. I was desiring all the aspects of religious life but didn’t know it could be found in religious life until someone asked the question.”

Quickly she began discernment and soon found herself getting to know the Sisters of Charity Community. She was immediately connected to its welcoming spirit, vibrancy, joy and charism. While there were fears and concerns, those were soon eased as her call became more and more clear. “It’s not that I didn’t at one time desire to get married or to start a family,” she says, “but I felt that this life was where God was calling me. There were still hard moments to grapple with but I came to peace with that God had invited me to love in other ways.”

One of the greatest blessings she received during the formation process was the relationships formed with many other Sisters of Charity. She met first-hand models of faith-filled women who were willing to go wherever they were called, and who trusted that God would use them in the best way they were needed in that time. She met wisdom figures, giant figures in the Community who modeled the true spirit of the Sisters of Charity. And while some have since passed – Sisters Annina Morgan, Paula Gonzalez, Florence Cremering and Kateri Maureen Koverman – she is grateful to have known them personally and to get a little touch of their spirit.

(From left) Sisters Annie Klapheke and Tracy Kemme receive a blessing from the Community. The pair were excited to have the opportunity to celebrate the special liturgy together.

In addition, through intentional community living at Casa de Caridad in Anthony, New Mexico, and the Novitiate House, Bayley House and now Visitation House here in Cincinnati, she found nourishment in the intentionality, daily living and prayer life; playing together, serving together, having meals together were all important in affirming that this is the life she is called to. “A huge part of my formation is the relationships I have formed with Sisters across congregations, especially in Giving Voice,” she adds. “All those women feel just as important in my vocation as my own Community members. I don’t feel that heaviness of diminishment. Of course there’s sadness in thinking of who we will say goodbye to but I still see so much life and vibrancy in religious life today and have so much hope for the future.”

Annie’s faith and trust in God throughout this journey has guided her and brought her the certainty in knowing religious life was her call. Throughout the joys and struggles, the ups and downs, God has been faithful and led her to perpetual profession feeling at peace with this commitment as well as excitement and joy in knowing that it’s from a place of total freedom.

“I’m grateful for all the people God has gifted me with and who have led me to this point,” says S. Annie. “I look back at my life and see how my family and friends have been a part of my faith journey and how all the Community members and Sisters have helped form me and support me through it all. I am grateful I have a ministry [as a registered dietitian at the Good Samaritan Health Center in Price Hill] I truly enjoy and am continuing on the legacy of our Sisters that first started Good Samaritan Hospital.”

(From left) Sisters Annie Klapheke and Monica Gundler smile after signing the book and adding her name to the list of Sisters of Charity professing final vows with the Community.

Timing of her final vows was influenced by the pandemic, but S. Annie only looks at the added blessings it provided as she prepared to make that final commitment. “I feel like my life was a little more spacious because of the pandemic,” she reflects. “A lot of the busyness and commitments came to a halt and there was more time for prayer and reflection. It drives home the point of being able to trust in God and God being enough. When everything else in life is turned upside-down, whether it be our personal health, global health, jobs, economy, God is the one constant. The pandemic is a reminder of that. In this vocation that I’m committing to, can God be enough? Yes, God is enough!”

And fittingly, she made her commitment with S. Tracy Kemme by her side. During her liturgy on May 7, 2022, the Community gave thanks for S. Tracy, who professed her final vows in July 2020, during some of the most restrictive days of the pandemic. As an important companion in her own vocation journey, being the one who dared to ask the question – have you ever considered religious life, S. Tracy directed Annie’s heart to the path she had been destined for.

And as she looks to the future with hope, S. Annie will continue to trust in God. She knows there will be changes to come, but she is confident that God will call the women who are needed at that time, however many that might be. “I see a lot of hope and new life in our own congregation and across congregations,” she says. “There will be dying’s and letting go’s – but with each new letting go, there will be new life and resurrection that comes from that.”

God is enough!

(From left) Sisters Whitney Schieltz, Annie Klapheke, Tracy Kemme, Andrea Koverman and Romina Sapinoso have companioned each other throughout their discernment and formation processes.

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