Vincentia Kaeferstein, BVM died Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Welton, Iowa, on Feb. 13, 1914, to William Gustave and Bernadine Josephine (Brass) Kaeferstein. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1931, from St. Ireneaus Parish, Clinton, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1934, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1939.
Vincentia taught at Clarke University from 1963–1984. Prior to then, she was an elementary and secondary school teacher and also served as principal in Maywood and Chicago, Ill.; Casper, Wyo.; and Dubuque, Council Bluffs, and Des Moines, Iowa. After retirement, she volunteered at Mount Carmel and Clarke University in Dubuque, where she was part of the mentor program.
She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters: Ursula Hahn, Margaret Staats, and Jeanne Bloom; and brothers William, Hugh and Carl. She is survived by nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 85 years.
Sister Vincentia Kaeferstein, BVM
Marian Hall Chapel, Jan. 18, 2017
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of Sister Vincentia Kaeferstein.
Vincentia died on “Friday the 13th,” exactly one month short of her 103rd birthday. Coincidentally, she was born in Welton, Iowa, as Lillian Mary Kaeferstein on Friday the 13th in February 1914. She arrived on a bitterly cold day during a blinding snowstorm. She was the second daughter and fourth child of seven children born to William Gustave and Bernadine Brass Kaeferstein. One brother, Hugh, died of pneumonia as a young child and another brother, Carl, died while fighting in the South Pacific during World War II.
In her autobiography, she wrote, “We were a very poor family, living through the Great Depression, and struggling to keep body and soul together. My parents sacrificed a great deal to give us a good Catholic education, and by their example, taught us to value the things that really count.”
Lillian began her education in a country school near DeWitt, Iowa, until the family moved to a farm in Lyons, Iowa, now known as Clinton. She then attended St. Irenaeus grade school and later Our Lady of the Angels Academy.
When Lillian was in third grade, she received a rather prophetic message. “Sister Mary Vincentia Byrne was principal at St. Irenaeus at the time,” she later wrote. “She said to me one day, ‘When you are old enough to become a sister, I will be old enough to die, and you can be Sister Mary Vincentia the Second.’ Sister died in November 1930, when I was a senior in high school. I entered the BVMs the following September , 1931, and on Reception Day [March 19, 1932] received the name Sister Mary Vincentia . . . I was privileged to possess Sister’s Bible until the fire at Clarke University destroyed all my personal belongings—a real stripping of all attachments to things I cherished.” She professed her first vows on March 19, 1934, and lived 85 years as a BVM. Her niece, Sister Dolores Hahn, entered in 1944 and died in 2008.
Vincentia spent 22 years teaching elementary students at St. Eulalia in Maywood, Ill.; St. Ferdinand in Chicago, Ill.; St. Anthony in Casper, Wyo.; and St. Anthony in Dubuque, Iowa. She taught high school courses at St. Francis Xavier in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and St. Joseph Academy in Des Moines, Iowa. She also served as superior and principal at St. Anthony in Dubuque and St. Joseph Academy in Des Moines. She began teaching biology at Clarke University, Dubuque, in 1963 and remained there for 21 years.
Vincentia had a tremendous impact on those she taught. For her 100th birthday, former students—driven by love, respect and admiration—showered her with cards. Their greetings called her a motivating teacher, an inspiration and a gift, noting her gentleness and kindness. One wrote, “Because of you I always loved school.” Another praised her as “a disciplinarian, teacher extraordinaire, and a model of fairness seldom seen today.” A third beautifully noted, “You provided us with an outstanding education and planted the seeds of faith that have taken root in so many of our lives.”
Vincentia retired from teaching in 1984 and eventually moved to Mount Carmel in 1995, where she stayed active volunteering at Clarke University and at Marian Hall. She visited the sisters, served as a reader and letter writer, participated in a mentoring program at Clarke, and taught bridge at Mount Carmel’s Roberta Kuhn Center, an appropriate activity for an incisive bridge player. She was quoted in a Salt article as saying, “Retirement need not be and should not be a time of inactivity, but a source of creativity, a time to show compassion and love for those who need our help and in doing so, show our love of God in the persons we meet each day. May the Christ-in-us meet the Christ-in-others.” Clearly, she profoundly believed that the message of Jesus in today’s Gospel applied to all people: “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
Vincentia was a beautiful person inside and out, a soft-spoken, steady woman who touched so many lives. Her wonderful humor and delightful laugh brought joy to the people who knew her. The numerous letters to “Aunt Lil” testify to the deep and constant love of her nieces and nephews.
“I would like to be remembered,” she wrote, “as a faith-filled BVM capable of bringing others closer to God by my acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and prayerfulness.” Mission accomplished, Vinnie! Yours was a life well lived. We rejoice for you and with you as enter into eternal life.
Click here to read wake stories.