Born: June 13, 1931
Died: March 1, 2019
Years in the Congregation: 67
Sister Clara Frances Kusek was born on June 13 1931, in Elyria, Nebraska, the youngest of the eleven children of Andrew and Clara (Czuba) Kusek. She was baptized Clara Frances at St. Mary Catholic Church in Elyria. Sister Clara Frances had five brothers – Henry, Adrian, Floyd, Bernard and Andrew, and five sisters – Mildred, Sister Bonaventure, C.R., Sister Lenore, C.R., Marie, and Helen.
Sister Clara Frances grew up on a farm and attended a one-room school house for eight grades, then graduated from Ord High School. She then graduated from St. Francis School of Radiologic Technology in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Like three of her sisters, she felt the call to religious life and entered our congregation on July 16, 1951, entered the novitiate on August 15, 1952, had her novitiate in Rome, pronounced first vows on August 15, 1953 and final vows on August 15, 1958. With her radiology degree, she became the Radiologic Supervisor at Resurrection Hospital in 1953 when the hospital opened. This assignment would be the beginning of 65 years of ministry at Resurrection Medical Center, Resurrection Health Care and Presence Health. With only a two-year break from 1961-1963 to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Radiology, Sister Clara Frances spent 29 years as the Director of the Radiology Department and planned and developed the program for Radiologic Technicians.
The sense of mission, dedication and commitment was deepening within her over the many years of service. In 1982 she felt called to a different ministry within health care, that of spiritual services or pastoral care to patients as fewer priests were available as chaplains. She was the Director of the Pastoral Care department for 14 years, and then, in 1996, all of her energies were directed toward Mission work at a time when health care was expanding and mergers were taking place. For 15 years, from 1996 to 2011, she was the Senior Vice-President and then Executive Vice-President for Mission, where and when she helped create a unified ministry that was mission-driven true to the values of Catholic Health Care and the teachings of the Church and accountable to the wider community. She promoted mission awareness and was instrumental in developing mission statements and core values on local and system levels, and creating the Transformational Leadership Program for employees. During this time Sister Clara Frances was on the Board of Directors of the Sponsors of Resurrection Health Care and Presence Health Care, working with Sisters of other congregations. Throughout her years in health care ministry, Sister Clara Frances served on numerous Boards and Committees, always contributing to the mission of the Sisters and the healing ministry of Jesus to the sick and injured. She developed the Resurrection Intercessory Prayer Network, co-founded the Diversity Committee, and was involved in the Gilead Project for the uninsured.
Throughout her 65 years of ministry, the health care system was blessed with the creative writing skills of Sister Clara Frances. She planned and wrote blessings, blessings for people, for construction and buildings, for liturgies and meetings, blessings for pieces of equipment, for programs, for mergers and consolidations. She had a special talent for finding just the right words to convey the right message to those in attendance. All were brought to a moment of grace and gratitude to God.
Her mission work did not stop upon retirement from the health care system in 2011, as she never really retired. Sister gave countless daily volunteer hours in the Mission Office. People needing some extra personal or financial assistance benefitted from Sister Clara Frances’ compassion and care. Besides Sister’s continued presence in the ministry, she continued her efforts to serve the poor, providing food, clothing, toys, money and gift cards through the ADVENTure program, the e-Cares program, and similar opportunities. The e-Cares program which she created and directed would recognize those who needed items and reached out to those who could provide for those needs. Her hands, heart and compassion reached the poor, the homeless, those in need of food or clothing or money for a taxi ride or bus ticket. Her philosophy of life, her spirituality, her heart, her prayer, her common sense, her generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness permeated her every decision and action. She reminded everyone to “Do the loving thing.”
Sister Clara Frances was steeped in the spirit of the Resurrection, of dying to self in order to rise with the Risen Jesus. She was a gifted and creative writer and leader. In 1976, she and another Sister wrote and directed the high school play about the foundresses of the congregation, Mother Celine and Mother Hedwig Borzecka called “A Work of Wonder.” She was involved in congregational meetings, committees, editor of the province newsletter and other publications, each permeated with Resurrection spirituality. Sister Clara Frances planned liturgies, wrote prayers, and spearheaded many projects and celebrations with the Sisters, as well as writing Daily Reflections for over two years for the Sisters’ website.
Growing up on the farm, Sister Clara Frances had a strong yet gentle appreciation for nature, for valuing and preserving life, for celebrating anything that called for a celebration.
Sister created greeting cards, made delicious soups, jams and desserts, was constantly in search for the perfect brownie, made candles from recycled wax, and arranged flowers for the chapel. She was computer savvy for many, many years, long before some of us even had computers. She treasured visits with her family and kept contact with them through letters and emails, and especially with homemade greeting cards for birthdays and special events. The Sisters, too, were the recipients of her many talents and gifts. It was a joy to be with her. She was a great joke-teller.
Sister Clara Frances’ gifts came from a place deep within her being and heart where she had a relationship with the Risen Jesus in her prayer and contemplation. She was faithful to her religious vocation as a Sister of the Resurrection, faithful to her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, faithful to her ministries, faithful to prayer and faithful to living community life with the Sisters. She indeed lived the motto of the Sisters of the Resurrection engraved on the back of our profession cross: “Through the cross and death to Resurrection and glory.”
Her words of joy and peace coming from pain and suffering were evident in the past few months as she endured a terminal illness. On March 1, she peacefully entered the Presence of her God at the age of 87 and after 67 years as a Sister of the Resurrection.
Sister herself met each day with these words of hers: “It is through the power of the Spirit of the Risen Jesus within us that, in time of sorrow, we are able to put one foot in front of the other, that we have heart to live after the loss of a loved one, that we find meaning in failure or illness or pain, that we can experience healing and reconciliation and live lives of hope, peace and joy.”
Sister Clara Frances, may flights of angels lead you into Paradise. You can now rest in the peace and joy of the Risen Jesus.
The Wake for Sister Clara Frances was held on March 8 at Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home with Deacon Robert Bulger leading the Vigil Service and Jim Croegaert providing the music. The Mass of Christian Burial was held on March 9 at Immaculate Conception Church with Rev. Paul Sims, main celebrant, and Bishop Robert Kurtz, C.R., and Rev. Kevin Fane, OP, concelebrating. Burial was at St. Adalbert Cemetery.
Sister Virginia Ann Wanzek, C.R.