Sister Anastasia Kilbourn, MM

Born: October 10, 1917
Entered: June 24, 1935
Died: April 26, 1999

Anastasia Marie Kilbourn was born October 10, 1917 in Detroit, Michigan, the second of three daughters of Ann and Frederick Kilbourn. After the early death of her father the family moved to Los Angeles, where grandparents had settled and were available to aid in rearing three little girls. Anastasia’s years in Catholic schools endeared her to the Holy Name Sisters although she frequently visited the Maryknoll Sisters in the Home for Japanese children. Her budding artistic talents assisted the Sisters with arts and crafts and children’s plays. These early influences along with Uncle Tony surely sowed her vocational seeds. Uncle Tony, her father’s brother, was a Brother of the Christian Schools, a teacher in several of their Asian Missions.

Anastasia entered Maryknoll on June 24, 1935. A few months later she was in a group of postulants assigned to the Venard. The Venard was a junior seminary for the Maryknoll Fathers near Scranton, Pennsylvania. In the early days of Maryknoll many Sisters were assigned to domestic or secretarial ministries in the Maryknoll Seminaries. One day Sister was asked if the kitchen work was overwhelming. “No,” she replied, “nothing like getting used to the East Coast proprieties and catering to the wet-behind-the-ears high school boys.” She was sixteen! From then on Anastasia was known as one who told it as it was.

First Profession came on January 6, 1938 and on this same date her final commitment in 1941. Having received her B.E. from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1943, she was assigned to the Territory of Hawaii. Here the Maryknoll Sisters were laying the foundations of the parish school system, Catholic Social Services and catechetical programs in the newly formed diocese.

Her memories were laughingly vivid of the wartime freighter which took many weeks to cross the Pacific in its zigzag course to avoid enemy detection. On arriving in the already bombed islands she was given a gas mask and shown an air raid shelter before being introduced to a classroom.

And so began Anastasia’s forty-eight years in Hawaii. From Wailuku, Maui, to Honolulu, Oahu and to Hilo, Hawaii and back to Honolulu, growing each year more deeply in love with the Island people. Sister received her M.A. in Religious Studies from Fort Wright College of the Holy Name Sisters and in 1969 became the Diocesan Co-ordinator for Religious Education on the Elementary Level.

In 1973, with her wealth of background she was asked to join Father George DeCosta’s Pastoral Team in Hilo, Hawaii. His parish, Malia Puka O Kalani (Mary Gate of Heaven); his dream of building a Faith Community among the parishioners of the Hawaiian Homestead land (similar to a Native American reservation) also became Anastasia’s parish and dream. This rewarding and challenging ministry opened her free spirit to many innovative approaches to liturgies for both children and adults.

Since these years paralleled the development of Vatican II, Anastasia spoke of herself as both leaven and learner, loving and being loved by people so often marginalized in their own land. She wrote “I feel my presence is a sign to those beloved Hawaiians that the Church cares for them.” Later, Anastasia shared her love and learning at St. Rita’s in Nanakuli, another Hawaiian Homestead land. In 1982 her Religious Education expertise called her to be Religion Coordinator and member of the Parish Team at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa in Honolulu.

Our multi-talented Sister frequently spent the summer teaching at the Honolulu Art Academy where specialized classes were held for children with exceptional talent. Her intuitive love of people, both children and adults, encouraged them and endeared her to staff and students. Then on February 1, 1991, during the Gulf War and amidst many friends and laden with leis and shopping bags of goodies, Sister bid Aloha to Hawaii for new opportunities in Monrovia.

One of her first interests was volunteering in the Ceramics Department of Santa Teresita Hospital. There, with other senior citizens, Anastasia’s creativity continued to flourish. She also enjoyed being on the Maryknoll Women’s Guild Planning Committee, deeply appreciative of what these tireless women had done for decades, first for the hospital and now for us in our retirement years. In between, Anastasia drove the shopping trips, took telephone duty and volunteered for whatever came her way. Of special joy during these years was getting reacquainted with her family, even discovering “new” cousins. This California girl had come full circle.

Sister Anastasia peacefully went to God at St. Luke’s Hospital on April 26 at 11:30 a.m.

This California girl had indeed come Full Circle in living and dying. She had no fear of death. She once said her mother had taught her early on that death was the door to the life that was meant to be. In her room is a delicately framed picture of herself with her sister, Mary Catherine, taken in Hawaii at Sister’s Fiftieth Jubilee. It has this inscription: “The simple beauty of yesterday times – how the melody lingers on.” Yes, it does. Thank you, Annie.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Sister Anastasia’s relatives and friends. We welcome our chaplain, Father Gerald B. Fessard (Fr. Gary) who as friend and brother will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we joyously remember and give thanks for the life of our Sister Anastasia.