Friday, April 04, 2008

A Nun's Story

First professed at age 12, Sister of St Agnes Claude Feldner went to her reward Tuesday... at age 109.
"It is a loss and a blessing — to have shared in the life of Sister Claude for these many, many years," said Sister Joann Sambs, general superior of the CSA. "Her fidelity for over 90 years stands as a witness for all of us … I ask for her grace and blessing as she is now home with God."

In 1912, when she was only 13, Sister Claude — daughter of a St. Cloud shoemaker — professed her vows. In the decades that followed, she served as a teacher in Wisconsin, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Illinois and Ohio. She also served as a guide and mentor to nun candidates and novices.

Even in her final years, Feldner never completely lost the humility or dry wit that characterized her personality.

"There is a time to be good and we have to use our lives to do good," she mused during a 2006 interview with The Reporter. "How your life goes depends on what you do with your time."
Before her 105th birthday in 2003, the sage sister was profiled by CNS:
When Agnesian Sister Claude Feldner turned 104 last September, a local radio station carried a live broadcast of her birthday celebration at the convent.

During the broadcast, Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan called in and promised to be at her next birthday party, if she would be there.

Sister Feldner, who will turn 105 on Sept. 11, fully intends not only to be there but to host it. She has already decided on a white cake from Everix Bakery as the dessert....

At an early age, Sister Feldner decided to become a nun.
"Our house was at the foot of a hill the church was on," she explained. From convent to church, "the sisters would walk back and forth every day, saying their office (the Liturgy of the Hours) to themselves. I always watched them go by, and I told my mother I would be one of them when I grew up."

She made her first profession as a Sister of St. Agnes in 1917. For the next six years she taught music to grade school students in Hays, Kan. Returning to Wisconsin in 1923, she taught music to young novices at the motherhouse for 41 years.

"I always worked for perfection in Church music," Sister Feldner said, adding she has a special love of chanting, relishing her year studying Gregorian chant at New York's Pius X Institute in the 1930s.

Sister Feldner also was an accomplished violin player; she even played second violin in the Oshkosh Symphony for two years in the 1970s. She played piano, too.

Sister Feldner can no longer play the instruments, but she still sings. Her voice is included on a CD of favorite liturgical songs produced by the Sisters of St. Agnes to distribute to family and friends.

Today, Sister Feldner lives in an assisted living center that is part of the St. Francis Home in Fond du Lac. Sister Dennis O'Connor provides much of her care.

"She's my hands and feet," Sister Feldner said.

Sister O'Connor recalled the 14 years Sister Feldner was the director of novices at the convent.

"She still remembers every one of the novices she was in charge of," Sister O'Connor said.

While Sister Feldner's physical strength is diminishing, mentally she just keeps going. She has discovered the fun of computers, and though she does not go online, she plays computer games such as Canfield and Klondike.

Throughout her 104 years, Sister Feldner has experienced countless ups and downs. Her secret to longevity?

"Take it as it comes," she says simply, with a sparkle in her eye.
Until days before her passing, according to local reports, Sr Claude had been playing piano. Her funeral is scheduled for tomorrow.

PHOTO: Patrick Flood/Fond du Lac Reporter