FEBRUARY 2004: SISTER JOSEPHA SCHAEFFER
How on earth did a young woman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada find her way to the Springfield Franciscan Sisters in Springfield, Illinois?
The story began when Margery Schaeffer was still in grade school. Rose Martin lived with the Schaeffer family while she attended nursing school. Upon graduation from school, Rose was not able to find a job in Winnipeg, so she joined two other nurses and traveled to China. Rose worked with the Hospital Sisters for about three years while she was in China. When they returned to Winnipeg, Rose again lived with the Schaeffers’ for several months; then she and her friends decided to move to the USA to find work. At that time, Rose had been contemplating a call to religious life.
One of the women, Agnes Schaeffer, Margery’s second cousin, found a job at St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, Illinois. Soon Rose joined the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield. The year was 1940.
At that time, Margery was only eight years old. She lived in Winnipeg with her parents and her two brothers and two sisters. As a child, Margery enjoyed playing with dolls and learned at a young age to sew clothes for them. She became involved with the Girl Scouts where she learned swimming, canoeing, and row boating. At home, she learned to can and garden.
On The Road to America at 16
Margery attended Catholic grade and high schools in Winnipeg. During high school, she began to feel the call to religious life. She did not think that she would be a good teacher nor did she feel like she was being called to a French community. She did, however, think that nursing interested her. In 1948 when she was sixteen years old, Margery traveled to Springfield with her mother for Rose, now Sr. Vincent Martin’s profession of final vows.
Following this trip to Springfield, Margery began to receive letters from the Provincial Superior, Mother Magdalene. Her interest in nursing and the correspondence from Mother Magdalene coupled with her growing interest in religious life culminated on September 8, 1950 when Margery entered the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.
After completing her postulancy, Margery entered the novitiate and became known as Sister Josepha. She professed her religious vows on June 13, 1953 and enrolled at St. John’s School of Nursing in the fall. She completed her basic nursing education in 1956; later she obtained both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nursing.
Professional, Traveler, Athlete...Now She's a Role Model
Sister Josepha has served in a variety of settings. Within the realm of nursing, she has been a staff nurse, a head nurse, and a Director of Nursing. Later she worked in the corporate offices of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS). There, she was the Secretary-Treasurer for both the Illinois and Wisconsin hospitals. From 1988 until 2001, Sister Josepha was the Chair and President of the Board of Directors of the eight HSHS hospitals in Illinois. Now in “retirement,” Sister is the Community Archivist.
How does Sister Josepha spend her time in “retirement”? First, she spent six months with the Hospital Sisters in India helping them with a variety of nursing and organizational issues. Later she made a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome and the Community’s General Motherhouse in Muenster, Germany. She enjoyed a three-month sabbatical at Sangre De Cristo Center in Sante Fe, New Mexico. In her spare time, Sister Josepha continues to enjoy cycling, jogging, and swimming as well as participating in the Senior Olympic Games.
Now it is clear how a young Canadian woman found her way to Springfield, Illinois and how she has spent the past 54 years. Stay tuned because Sister Josepha shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon! This story is far from over.