Sister Jean Theophane Steinbauer, MM

Born: June 6, 1912
Entered: July 3, 1931
Died: April 4, 1994

Sister Jean Theophane Steinbauer died in Phelps Hospital on Easter Monday, April 4th at 10:45 a.m. It is no coincidence that Sister, who spent her entire missionary life in love and service with the Chinese people, was comforted in her last hours by Doctor Hsieh. On Easter Sunday afternoon, as Sister Jean Theophane awaited the ambulance to take her to Phelps, she had the self-awareness that this time was not like any other of her trips to the hospital. She told her companions that her navy blue suit and white blouse were ready for her burial.

Alice Dorothy was born to Anna and Peter Steinbauer on June 6, 1912, one of seven children — four boys and three girls. She attended Public High School in Owatonna, Minnesota and a year later entered Maryknoll in New York on July 3, 1931. She made her First Profession at Maryknoll on January 6, 1934, and her Final Profession in Kowloon, Hong Kong on January 6, 1937.

Shortly after First Profession, in 1934, Sister Jean Theophane was assigned to the So. China Region where, for five years, she worked in Kaying under Bishop Ford doing village visiting, teaching catechetics, doing social work, and helping refugees by assisting in soup kitchens and in clinic work. She also taught in the native novitiate. Her descriptive and goal oriented mind enabled her to study both the spoken and written Chinese language. Her love for the Chinese people made her a ‘perpetual student’, always aiming to maintain the correct Chinese tones and learning additional Chinese characters. Sister Jean Theophane mastered both the Hakka and Cantonese dialects.

In 1949, Sister Jean Theophane returned to the Center. While at the Center she completed her studies and graduated from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1952. After graduation she went to St. Louis where she taught for one year in St. Ann’s School.

In 1953, Sister Jean Theophane returned to her beloved Chinese but this time to Hong Kong, as the mainland of China was now closed to missioners. Here she pioneered in the education of refugee children in the Diocesan school in Chai Wan. As Principal and Supervisor, she was recognized for training teachers and inspiring primary pupils to continue their education at secondary and tertiary levels. In 1964, after eleven years in Chai Wan, Sister Jean Theophane moved to Maryknoll Sisters School. She again assumed the role of Principal and Supervisor and gained the confidence of staff and students. Her students and colleagues became life-long friends.

Sister returned to the Center in 1980. Determined, as always, to return to live and work with the Chinese people. A year later she realized her dream and returned to Hong Kong. In December 1983 she wrote Sister Melinda Roper, “Though I’m not as agile as formerly, I’m grateful to continue even in a limited way. God takes care of the rest…”

Although Sister retired from active ministry in education in 1981 she did not remain inactive. She took up residence at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital convent where she visited patients regularly, was a resource person for patients and was a Eucharistic Minister, taught English to the Nursing Staff, and helped out wherever needed. She also organized groups of former colleagues and students to assist those in need.

In 1988, Sister Jean Theophane returned to the Center for retirement. In a note to Sister Luise Ahrens, she said, “Though hard to realize it yet, I am grateful for being accepted as a member of the Center Community and for all the help given me here… And the spirit here is truly beautiful.” Sister Jean Theophane wrote that her Retirement ministry goal would be prayer and suffering. She wished to bring cheer to her sick Sisters. Sister Jean Theophane, loyal and generous daughter of the church, was full of hope. May she enjoy God’s presence forever.

To Sister’s brothers, to her sister, and to all her family and friends, we extend deepest sympathy and assurance of prayers. We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Larry Lewis, who will preside at this Eucharistic Celebration as we remember and celebrate Sister Jean Theophane’s life and resurrection.