Sister Mary Jane Ketter, MM

Born: May 24, 1896
Entered: October 15, 1925
Died: January 8, 1985

As we welcome in a New Year, we gather this morning to celebrate the entrance into New Life of our dear friend and Sister, Mary Jane Ketter. In this, her 60th year at Maryknoll, Sister Jane quietly and peacefully slipped into Eternity last Tuesday, January 8th, around 7:45 p.m., in our Nursing Home.

Veronica Margaret Ketter was born in Mineral Point, Wisconsin on May 24th, 1896, daughter of Peter, an immigrant farmer from Luxemberg, Germany and Margaret Demuth Ketter. She shared a warm, happy family life with four brothers and eight sisters, one of whom also entered the Dominican Order.

Veronica Margaret attended St. Mary’s Grammar School and Mineral Point High School. Following graduation in 1915 she attended Platterville State Teachers College for one year, after which she taught in the rural schools of Iowa County, Wisconsin for eight years. In 1924 she set out on a new career, entering Georgetown University School of Nursing in Washington, D.C., where she was considered an excellent student and a compassionate, conscientious nurse. Her studies at Georgetown were terminated when she applied to and was accepted into Maryknoll in 1925. In 1954 she received her Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College.

Sister Mary Jane entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1925 and she pronounced her first vows on April 30, 1928. In that same year she was assigned to mission in Seattle with the Japanese people, serving as teacher and school nurse. Her skills in both professions won her the respect of her colleagues as well as her students. In 1942, Sister Jane was named Superior and Principal of St. Bernadette’s School, a new mission in St. Louis, MO. Although she had other assignments over the years, St. Louis was always “home” to Sister Jane, and teaching the ministry she loved. Her dedication to the Black community and their response to her open expression of love was outstanding. She was a warm, welcoming person whether receiving a troubled student, a young woman inquiring about Maryknoll, Mother Mary Columba staying over in anticipation of the opening of Valley Park Novitiate, or the many Sisters who just dropped in to visit, all were drawn into the relaxed atmosphere of Sister Jane’s hospitality.

Sisters who lived with Sister Jane remember her as a genuinely good person, a loyal friend, and a delight to be with. Her sense of humor was characterized by an unusual ability to laugh at herself which made her eminently teaseable. She often told the story on herself of how one day a huge dog entered the crowded schoolyard and grabbed one of the boys by the seat of his pants. Sister Jane called out, “Let him bite you, dear, until I get the other children inside.” She had to overcome her enormous fear of dogs and return to rescue the boy!

By the early 1960s other illnesses prevented her from continuing her teaching ministry. She returned to St. Louis at St. Ann’s School to help in the kitchen and do the bookkeeping. At the time Mother Mary Coleman wrote that although Sister Jane’s duties would be light “we feel that her spirit will add much to the happiness of the house.”

Sister Jane’s mission experiences in the U.S. took her from coast to coast and in between. It put her into positions of authority as local Superior and school Principal. It included teaching, nursing, Promotion and domestic work. Many here today remember Sister Jane during their Novitiate years at Valley Park, and in these later years in Maryknoll Nursing Home. We loved Sister Jane and remember her for who she was rather than for what she did.

When Sister retired to Monrovia in 1967 she wrote to Mother Mary Coleman describing her various ministries of tutoring and visiting City of Hope, and noted: “With it all, I find time for quiet periods. I need prayer, as I, for one cannot find God simply by service.”

After seven happy years at Monrovia, failing health necessitated her move to Bethany in 1973, but Sister Jane was not to settle down yet. She was due for Renewal in 1974 which no one but herself believed she would take. Through sheer will power, determination and hard work, she defied all odds and was able to visit her beloved family in California and, to everyone’s surprise, stayed at Monrovia for two more years.

Sister Jane’s last years were spent in the Maryknoll Nursing Home where although her body grew weaker, her spirit remained strong. She was a quiet, gentle woman,who expressed herself in kind words, affectionate gestures and occasionally strong opinions.

We welcome our celebrant, Maryknoll Father Bernard P. Byrne, as we enter with joy into this Eucharistic celebration of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the life of Sister Mary Jane among us.