Sister Bernadette Stang, OSB, was born into eternal life at 9:52 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in the presence of her sisters and caregivers at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood. She was 85 years old and had been a Benedictine sister for 62 years. She will be remembered for her joy, devotion to prayer, perseverance and spiritual guidance.
She was born Aug. 15, 1935, in St. Martin, Minn. to Matthias and Amalia Stang. A prominent influence in her childhood was praying from a prayerbook that included Matthew 16:26, a verse that questions the cost of gaining the world against the loss of the soul. The verse was influential in her discerning God’s call.
When she was 21 years old, Bernadette came to visit her aunts already professed at St. Gertrude’s. “I could tell right away that the whole focus here was on prayer. I was really touched by that.” A few days after returning home to Minnesota, she knew she had to go back to St. Gertrude’s. After saying goodbye to family and friends, Sister Bernadette returned to the Monastery. She made her First Profession in 1958.
Her first ministry was teaching at Sacred Heart in Boise while completing her bachelor’s degree over six summers at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wis. After 10 years of teaching, she was called to be part of a team directing the training of catechists throughout the state of Idaho, building the foundations of the very first programs in the state.
Her next great change occurred while she was studying in Louisiana. One day with a local priest friend, their car was hit by an 18-wheeler. Her friend was killed, and Sister Bernadette lay in the hospital bed reflecting on what having life meant. “I didn’t die because there was some work that God wanted me to do,” she said. Soon thereafter, she had a dream that she “had to work with the oppressed,” and found fulfillment of that calling in establishing an after-school outreach program for children and women at a migrant workers’ camp in Caldwell. In 2006, she was honored for her service to farmworkers with a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol. Aug. 27, 2006, was declared “Sister Bernadette Day” in Caldwell.
She was called home in 2006 to work with the Monastery’s growing retreat ministry and later the vocations team. Both roles called for journeying with people in their quest for a more profound relationship with God. Everyone who knew her was touched by her joy. She said, “If I can be in the stance of gratitude for all of life, the good and the bad, and for life itself, then I can’t help but be filled with joy.”
Sister Bernadette is survived by her two sisters, Mary Ann Linz and Kathy Olmscheid; three brothers, Harold (Marie) Stang, Jim (Donna) Stang and Donnie (Shari) Stang; sister-in-law Alma Stang; numerous nieces and nephews; and her Benedictine sisters.
The rosary vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4. Both services will be live-streamed from the Monastery of St. Gertrude Chapel. Livestreamed services can be accessed at www.stgertrudes.org. Internment will be at a later date. Memorial gifts can be made to the Monastery of St. Gertrude, 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, Idaho 83522.