Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a Celebration: IRENE

One of the highlights of our annual Donor Day celebration is the Mother Benedicta Riepp Award, made to a woman who we’ve known for years, and seen living the Benedictine motto of “Work and Prayer”. What a joy this year to recognize someone who’s like part of the family, Irene Pundsack.

Irene wouldn’t claim to be anything other than ordinary, but we sisters know she isn’t. She and husband, Richard, totaled nearly a century of devoted service as our employees. Irene didn’t just do a fantastic job in the bakery and kitchen. She balanced work with prayer, often coming in early so she could join sisters at Morning Prayer and Mass. She listened to their troubles, gave help as needed, and cared for St. Raphael’s Convent when it closed and sisters transferred to St. Scholastica’s (where Irene later followed).

L to r: Sister Karen Rose, Irene Pundsack, Sister Gen Maiers
If Irene shared the life of the Sisters, she also shared her family life with them. Her 7 children had dozens of “sister-grandmas”. Family life was important, so it was no surprise on Donor Day when Irene arrived surrounded by family. And what a family! Only weeks before Donor Day, Irene broke her hip and had surgery. Despite still being in pain and using a wheelchair, she was determined to go onstage to receive her award. Family made it happen. Her sons carried her up the steps, wheelchair and all. Irene received the honor, made a gracious speech, and then her children surprised us all with a tribute to their mother in song – not a dry eye in the house.

Irene continues to shine her Benedictine light to this day. She’s done amazing work building community through her church and work with projects such as Place of Hope and Hope Park. In April, she walked a 5K marathon in support of Earth Day. What a privilege to see her honored by our Benedictine community. No wonder the applause was deafening!


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