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Sister Teresita Huse, OP, celebrates 80 years a Sister

‘It’s been a happy life’

By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register

In a Sept. 4, 2011 issue of the Southwest Kansas Register, Sister Teresita Huse, OP, noted, “God’s great goodness to me as a Dominican for 75 years boggles my mind, and God willing, there will be more.”
God was willing.
On April 9, the Great Bend Sister celebrated 80 years to the day that she received her habit at the tender age of 15 at the former Immaculate Conception Convent in Great Bend.     
Eighty years later, Sister Teresita belies any indication that she is anywhere near the 95 years she professes to be. On the phone with the Register, she spoke quickly and concisely; she needed to get ready for a retreat, and hadn’t expected a sudden interview.
“I was the only girl,” she said. “I had three brothers. I was the second child.
“The big thing in my life was the commitment of my parents to a Catholic upbringing,” she added. “I was born in Kingman; there was no Catholic school. They wanted us to have a Catholic education, so for nine years, early every morning they would put us in the car and drive 20 miles to Willowdale where Grandma lived. We would attend St. Peter’s School where the Dominicans taught.”
Sister Teresita’s aunt was a Dominican Sister, as was a cousin, so the Sisters were well known to the siblings. “At four in the afternoon on Friday, I would come out of school and Dad’s car was there. In six years, only twice was he not able to pick us up because of the weather.”
In 1931, St. Patrick School opened in Kingman -- about the time that Sister Teresita’s family moved to Wichita.
“When my brother was in high school and I was in the seventh grade, our little brother died at 5. He was sick for only three days. He had spinal meningitis. Our uncle came to pick us up and said that Cletus was really sick. We were quarantined for two weeks, so we couldn’t even go to the funeral.
“There was no closure,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice all these years later.  
Her new school was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, one of whom Sister Teresita approached one day and announced, “I’m going to be a Dominican Sister! That year, they had a skit and there was a Sister in it. Guess who got to be the Sister?”
On the day of the presentation, the future Sister – not even yet a teenager – dressed in habit, and was even mistaken for a Sister by a Christian Brother.
“I was a St. Joseph Sister for one day,” she said with a smile.
A few years later, the habit she wore would be real, and her title not the name of a character in a play. At 15, she became “Sister Teresita.”
“Seven of us became Dominican Sisters April 9, 1934. Sister Petrona Stockemer (born in St. Leo), my only living Dominican Sister classmate, began teaching in 1939. She was an excellent elementary and Trinity High School teacher, and for many years also  ministered as principal and librarian in a number of schools in Kansas and Nebraska. After teaching 57 years, Sister  retired  to the Motherhouse in Great Bend in 1996 and presently resides  in the Convent Infirmary.
“I’m very, very happy with my many years in the convent,” Sister Teresita said. “I’ve been truly blessed.”
Sister Teresita spent many years as a teacher. In 1956, with the admonition of Pope Pius XII to go out and share Christ’s message with the world, Sister Teresita was among those Dominican Sisters who went to Nigeria with the hopes of forming a new congregation. Over the years she’d take three trips to the African nation for mission work, where they presently have 66 African Sisters serving in the congregation.
“Every time I left there,” she said, “I left a piece of my heart. They need health care, education, social services, parishes, water …. The women have to walk miles to the river to get all the water and sand for the men to mix with the cement for the wells. The men have to make 25 big rings of cement [in which to line the wells]. Each well costs only $1,200. We put a sign next to the well: ‘Donated by …’, where they’re from. It’s a nice memorial.”
Sister Rita Schwartenburger, OP, is the director of Hope for the Village Child, which promotes a plethora of worthy life-affirming causes at their Nigerian missions. The Dominican Sisters have enabled the local Sisters to carry on what they started. In the mean time, the local Dominican Sisters of Great Bend went on to become part of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, which is headquartered in Ohio.
With this, Sister Teresita offers a little reminder. “What is today? April 24. On April 23, 1902 Mother Antonina [Fischer] and nine Sisters came by train from New York to Great Bend.”
It was on this day, when several weary Sisters hopped of a train after travelling half way across the country, that the Dominican Sisters in Great Bend began its historic ministry on the soil of southwest Kansas, eventually stretching to the continent of Africa.  
“I love life. God has blessed me with good health. I’ll be 96 in July. It’s been a happy life.”

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