Sister Theodora Koehler, MM

Born: October 17, 1902
Entered: April 6, 1930
Died: January 18, 1996

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus promise his apostles: “You who have followed me will sit on twelve thrones to rule the twelve tribes of Israel.”

We rejoice today that Sister Theodora, who so greatly merited Christ’s promise, is now happily sitting among the apostles, no doubt asking them many questions and offering suggestions, just as she did for her own community on earth. She even had a suggestion regarding this appreciation letter, that it be “short and sweet.” Challenging to the end, she left us the task of collapsing 93 years of life into this brief space.

On January 17th, sensing that the end was near, Sister Theodora asked to be brought home from the hospital to spend her last moments here among us. The very next day, Thursday, January 18, 1996, at 7:10 a.m., Sister Theodora died peacefully in our Residential Care. She had been a Maryknoll Sister for almost 66 years.

Emma Justina Koehler was born October 17, 1902 in St Louis, Missouri, the daughter of George Koehler and Augusta Buitz Muller. She had four sisters and one brother.

After graduating from the Rubicam Business School, Emma Justina worked as a legal secretary for eight years before entering Maryknoll on April 6, 1930. As Sister Theodora, she made First Profession on January 6, 1933 and her Final Profession three years later, on January 6, 1936.

Subsequently she received a Bachelor degree in Education from Maryknoll Teachers College. Well prepared for her first mission assignment to Hawaii, she taught 4th and 5th grades at Punahou, Kalihi and Waialua, from 1946 – 1958. She loved to teach and she herself remained a student all her life, taking courses in Social Service, Children’s literature, Catechetics, Spanish, etc. Her interests were unlimited.

In 1958 she returned to the Center to do Promotion work for three years. Thereafter, she served in a variety of positions including Promotion, Mission Education, U.S. Post Office, etc. An avid reader, Sister Theodora maintained an intense and lively interest in current events throughout her life. She was especially known for her keen interest in politics, for overseeing the polling stations and also updating the community on political issues and candidates.

Her intellectual pursuits were balanced by her concern for physical well being. As early as 1972, it was through her initiative that an exercise room was established. In no time, Sisters started to incorporate exercise into their daily routine. Sister Theodora’s influence in health matters is as firmly imprinted in our minds, as is the memory of seeing her walking briskly along the corridors.

Sister Theodora will be remembered for many things. This letter of appreciation would not be complete without a mention of her zest for meetings. She loved to participate and was forthright in expressing her opinions, especially those concerning Maryknoll and the ideals of Mother Mary Joseph. It was her loyalty and deep love for her beloved Maryknoll that prompted her to speak her mind, which, as we know was active and alert right to the end.

We will also remember, in particular, the fruits of her prayer life and deep spirituality through her unlimited acts of kindness. She was always finding something special to do for somebody. Her thoughtfulness was legendary.

Today we welcome Sister Theodora’s family. Her nephew, Fr. James Rodis, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, will preside at our Liturgy of Resurrection. Let us now rejoice with our Sister Theodora as she inherits the fullness of life.