BELOIT -- It’s not often that Sr. Joselda Kuhle, pastoral associate at St. Jude Parish in Beloit, is at a loss for words.
||Sr. Joselda Kuhle, left, was surprised at St. Jude Parish in Beloit with celebrations in honor of her 75th birthday. Here she receives a cake from Chuck Gilbert, parish council president, and Sr. Rosalia Bauer. (Catholic Herald photo/Bill Boyce) For more pictures click here.
As she reflected on what became a daylong surprise celebration of her 75th birthday on February 10, she said, “I was really caught off guard. I was put on cloud nine and I’m still there. Words for this escape me.
“I keep thinking, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ I received so many inspirational messages, a bouquet, and balloons. It was wonderful.”
Her special day
Parishioners, friends, and Brother Dutton School students helped Sister Joselda celebrate throughout her special day. The day’s Mass intention was in her honor and a surprise birthday party followed in the Guild Hall.
After lunch with the school students, they presented her with birthday cards, artwork, and a program of songs and square dancing. Religious education students honored her the following Sunday.
“I was not expecting anything on that day,” said Sister Joselda, her voice revealing energy and happiness. “But Sr. Rosalia (Bauer) and her cohorts certainly planned a wonderful surprise.” A large group of adults gathered following the Mass for the party with a birthday cake and a video in her honor.
Though she was surprised, Sister Joselda admitted, “I began to wonder if something was going on. I knew the Mass intention was for me. After I prepared the bread and wine for Mass, I walked into the church and was surprised at the large crowd of adults besides our school students. I had to re-fill the bread and wine (containers).”
‘She radiates joy’
Sister Rosalia worked tirelessly with several parishioners to plan the surprise party. One “cohort,” parishioner Jackie Landers, noted, “I think we all were humbled but also excited at the multitude of emotions that day. There was also such a spirit of camaraderie for Sister Joselda when our group decorated the hall the evening prior to the party, then we went up to the church to pray for her.”
Sister Rosalia praised the honoree for her “faith and commitment. Sister Joselda loves being a Franciscan Sister. We’re both Franciscans and we’re both kindred spirits. We like to celebrate the little things in life,” she said.
Sister Rosalia added, “Sister Joselda is a joy to be with. She knows how to celebrate life; all the little things in life are important to her. She radiates joy.”
A former colleague, Fr. Patrick Umberger, coined a fond nickname for Sister Joselda calling her “Sister Joyselda.” According to Sister Rosalia, “We used that name for our party.”
Sister Joselda has a warm smile and kind words of greeting or encouragement cherished in the parish and in the community.
An active citizen in the community, she’s a friend to many and is upbeat and encouraging. Attesting to that was the large basket of birthday cards that overflowed with greetings, including those from Bishop Robert Morlino and Governor Jim Doyle.
Among her numerous pastoral associate duties at St. Jude Parish, Sister Joselda leads the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, leads Baptism preparation classes, and teaches Bible study classes. Her visits to the hospital and nursing homes are treasured. She’s a member of the Beloit Area Ministerial Association, participating in the Lenten ecumenical services.
Sister Joselda was born in Kieler and said that the Sisters who taught her in grade school inspired her vocation. “They were always happy. I liked that,” she said.
After graduating from Alverno College, she taught and was principal at Catholic schools in Wisconsin and New York. She worked with migrant workers in Endeavor during summer vacations while she served at St. John the Baptist Parish in Montello. “I found I was a social worker as well as a teacher and I liked that.”
Call to pastoral care
She decided to heed a call to pastoral care. She attended St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee while continuing as principal at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in St. Francis. She graduated in 1996.
Sister Joselda was invited to come to St. Jude Parish as pastoral associate in August 1996 by then Pastor Fr. Bill Connell. She’s been at St. Jude the past 14 years.
Describing her pastoral work as “meaningful and very good for me because I am a people person,” she reflected on her life of serving God and the Church.
“The gifts of service I can give people are because of God. Since I’ve been diagnosed as a diabetic, God has blessed me in so many special ways. You know, I talk with him (God). I told him that for all these years, I’ve eaten whatever I wanted. I love chocolate. Now, if he will give me the courage and energy to continue my work, I can do without the foods I should not eat. And I knew his answer was ‘I will.’” She is also a cancer survivor.
Not ready to retire
“I never got caught up with thoughts of retiring. I think at 75 years, I can have the same kind of energy. If I can bring the love of the Lord to people, that is what I want to do.”
She often quips that “I don’t retire; I just recycle.” That has led to what she calls “my fourth career.”
Father Umberger, suggested a few years ago that they lead tours together as a team. The two have led tours the past six years to several areas in Europe including Rome, the Holy Land, Poland, Italy, Fatima, and Lourdes.