Sister Margaret Anne Kramer
When we hear the title “Extraordinary Minister” used in the Catholic Church it usually refers to those individuals who have been commissioned to assist in the distribution of the Eucharist at Mass. Sister Margaret Anne Kramer uses this title to describe her interaction with the sick and elderly as she serves as pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Dubuque. “I believe my ministry is also extraordinary, not so much because of what I do but because of the people to whom I minister.”
Sister Margaret Anne uses a very gentle voice to reflect on the blessings that she has experienced during her 20 years in pastoral care. “As I visit with those who are sick and elderly, I listen carefully to them as they witness to their deep faith and trust in God. At this stage in their lives, they have their priorities straight. Many say that most of their days are spent praying for the needs of their family, praying for the world situation and praying for their parish. They truly know how to live in the present and to value each day.”
Attending to the sick and elderly brings Sister Margaret Anne face to face with the diminishment that is part of their lives – loss of mobility, limitations of sight and hearing, the loss of family members and friends at the time of their death. “I hear the pain and worry as they wonder what tomorrow will bring.”
And yet, she brings comfort and consolation during her pastoral visits. “What I try to bring them is a ‘catechesis of hope.’” She brings the gift of hope, and in turn, is gifted through the sick and elderly. “As I minister to many in their time of need, I receive far more that I am able to give. Their strong faith, their love of Christ, and their acceptance of life’s circumstances are treasures I will never forget.”
Sister Margaret Anne’s visits to the sick and elderly often brings her to another stage of ministry – that of being with the families as their loved ones die. She accompanies families as they experience their loss and grief. Through the vigil and funeral rites, she encourages families to treasure the memories they have of their loved one and to imitate his/her goodness in their own lives.
Sister comments, “This really tugs at my heart. I get attached to these dear people. I see them suffering. And then God calls them home to heaven. It leaves an empty space in my heart.” And, in this end-of-life process, Sister Margaret Anne has shared a special journey with those who are preparing for death. She has brought hope. She has brought peace. And it is this hope and peace that have inspired the sick and dying to say to her, “I’m not afraid, I’m ready to go.” And these words are proof that some “extraordinary ministry” has taken place – a heart-to-heart ministry.
Previous to her focus on pastoral care, Sister Margaret Anne ministered as a primary teacher at St. Columbkille in Dubuque; St. Germaine in Oak Lawn, Illinois; St. Odilia in St. Paul, Minnesota; and St. Patrick in Waukon, Iowa. Additional ministries included house coordinator at the Presentation motherhouse and principal in Waukon.
Born to Margaret and Leonard Kramer in 1944 in Farley, Iowa, Sister Margaret Anne came to know the Presentation sisters during her elementary and high school years at St. Joseph School in Farley. “I saw the sisters as fun loving and I was drawn to them. I recall all the time and energy that Sister Andrew (Ruth Marie) Holtzbauer put into our high school plays. We had a great time.”
Sister entered the Presentation community in 1962 after graduating from high school. “I am so grateful for the education and ministry opportunities that I have had as a member of the Presentation community.”
Sister Margaret Anne celebrates 50 years in religious life this summer. Special celebrations in community and family will provide time for her to reflect on and savor her five decades of service to others – service as primary teacher, as Mount Loretto coordinator, as elementary principal, as pastoral associate. “This life has been a great blessing to me and I am grateful for all those who have graced me with their presence.”
Sister Margaret Anne has walked in the footsteps of Presentation foundress, Nano Nagle. She has been a blessing for many – family, students, parents, community members, parishioners, professional colleagues, the sick and elderly. She has been a sign of hope. She has brought peace. Her life reflects this blessing, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
Thank you, Sister Margaret Anne, for loving well and loving wide. You are truly an “extraordinary minister.”
Left Photo: Sister Margaret Anne Kramer serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Communion for extraordinary people.
Right Photo: Sister Margaret Anne Kramer (middle) shares in the joys of community life with Sister Pierre Kollasch and Sister Karen Jasper.