In Your Midst


Spring 2001

In This Issue:
The Great Jubilee Year 2000 has ended, but at St. James Cathedral, the year 2001 is also a year of great jubilee – on a smaller scale. Sister Anne Herkenrath and Sister Claudette Conrad both made their first vows as Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1951 and celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

Sister Anne was born Aurelia Anne Herkenrath on November 15, 1930. The idea of a vocation was always with her because both sides of her family were full of vocations, both nuns and priests. In fact, at the time she entered, 10 members of the family from three generations were Holy Names sisters! After graduating from Holy Names Academy here in Seattle, Anne attended Seattle University before entering the Holy Names novitiate in Marylhurst, Oregon, on July 25, 1949 (Feast of St. James). Of the 33 who entered on that day, 19 are still active Holy Names sisters in Washington and Oregon (Sister Claudette among them).

On August 5, 1951, Sister Anne made her first vows and received the name Sister Mary Leonore (in honor of her father and brother, both named Leon), a name she kept until the changes of Vatican II allowed her to take back her family name of Anne. She received a degree in education from Holy Names College in Spokane, and went on to get an advanced degree in physical education from Eastern Washington University. Her first assignment was teaching fifth grade at St. Aloysius School in Spokane. Sister Anne taught in elementary schools for 11 years, mostly fifth and sixth grades, and then taught high school until 1974. (Father Ryan remembers meeting “Sister Leonore” on the playground at St. Anne’s in the mid- 1950s, complete in black habit with white tennis shoes.) She also taught techniques of physical education for teachers at Fort Wright College, and worked as director of retired and semi-retired sisters at Marian Hall and at the Provincial House for seven years.

Sister Anne came to St. James in August 1982 to assist Sister Margaret Jane in the ministry to the elderly. Gradually she moved into administration. Her current title is “Pastoral Associate,” and this title covers a huge range of responsibilities. In addition to a variety of administrative tasks (too many to list), Sister Anne coordinates both infant baptisms and funerals, and various ministries of hospitality including the Cathedral ushers and greeters, and the Sunday muffin makers. In addition, she helps place Cabrini pastoral care ministers with people in need, and often makes herself available for pastoral counseling to people coming to the rectory door.

When she is not busy at the Cathedral, Sister Anne is almost always to be found at the Cathedral Convent, where she lives with seven other Holy Names sisters. She has served the convent many times as superior. The sisters share meals and prayer together several nights a week. Due to their convenient downtown location, they frequently host visitors from around the state and even around the world.

Sister Anne’s favorite recreation is canoeing. Last year she paddled a canoe through Montana, in spite of the forest fires, and has plans in 2001 to canoe 60 miles of the upper Missouri. She also enjoys swimming, boating, kite flying, and just being near the water. Growing up on Lake Washington, Sister Anne learned to swim almost before she learned to walk. Another hope of hers for 2001 is to see the beatification of her great uncle, the Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest. There are hopes that he will be beatified as part of the ceremonies celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Detroit.

Sister Claudette was born Edith Marie Conrad on May 11, 1931, in Spokane, Wash. She was the third of nine children – six girls and three boys. The family home was close to Holy Names Academy in Spokane, and Sister Claudette followed in her mother’s footsteps in attending there. She attended the Academy for 12 years, helping to pay her way by working after school cleaning classrooms. Her mother also worked for the nuns, sewing their habits. The sisters who taught her over the years were a great inspiration and the seeds of a vocation were planted very early. During her childhood she had no desire to be anything but a Holy Names’ sister. This was something everyone understood without talking about; in fact, the first discussion she remembers having on the subject of her vocation was when one of the sisters said to her, “Well, when are you going to write your letter?”

She entered the novitiate at Marylhurst, Oregon, on July 25, 1949, less than two months after graduating from high school. Her first assignment (while she was still a novice) was to teach a fourth grade class at Immaculate High School here in Seattle. At the time of first vows, Edith received her religious name. She wanted the name Claude to figure into her name in religion as a token of love and respect for her father. She was very happily surprised to discover she had been given the name Sister Mary Claudette — “little Claude”!

Sister Claudette went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching, and taught for 30 years at schools in Seattle, Spokane, and Portland, mostly at the eighth grade level. Vatican II brought about some changes, the most visible being the simplification (and eventual elimination) of the old habit. Sister Claudette remembers this being a slow process which began with the adaptation of the old habit (no black serge was wasted!) and ended with most of the sisters wearing ordinary “street” clothes. Another change was the recommendation that the religious be permitted to resume their baptismal names. Sister Claudette thought about going back to Edith Marie, but she decided that Claudette suited her better. She had taken the name in honor of her father and wanted to keep the name in his memory.

Sister Claudette gave up teaching and joined the staff of St. James Cathedral in 1983 as minister to the elderly and homebound. She discovered right away that she loved the elderly. Eighth graders, wonderful as they were, never really understood what went into teaching them, and certainly never thanked you for it. But the elderly, Sister Claudette has found, are overflowing with gratitude even for little things, and this makes serving them a joy. In addition to a large round of weekly communion visits, Sister Claudette oversees many ministries relating to the elderly: two parish van routes for Sunday Mass; the audiotape ministry for the homebound; the Volunteer Chore ministry with Catholic Community Services; and the senior trip eight months of every year. In addition, she is active in the Cabrini Ministry program, and coordinates the Eucharistic Ministers of the Cathedral, who have grown in number from about 30 when she began, to between 80 and 90 today.

Community is still a big part of Sister Claudette’s life. She currently lives with four other Holy Names sisters in an old house on Capitol Hill. The sisters eat meals together several nights a week, pray together and “play together” to keep the sense of community strong.

Plans for celebrating

There are great plans underway for celebrating the golden jubilee throughout the year. The parish is recognizing the occasion by sending Sister Anne and Sister Claudette on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela this month. There will be a special parish celebration in the Cathedral on Sunday, April 29th, at the 10 AM Mass. All are welcome to the Mass and to the reception that will follow. There will be numerous other Holy Names celebrations throughout the spring and summer in Seattle and Spokane, and in Oregon as well. Both Sister Anne and Sister Claudette intend to make the most of this great occasion. As Sister Claudette says, “It will only come once and I intend to go on celebrating every chance I get!”

Maria Laughlin is the Cathedral receptionist and author of St. James the Greater, an illustrated history of St. James Cathedral’s patron.

Back To In Your Midst Page