SASKATOON — Seventy years of witness and service by Sister Catherine Seemann, NDS, was celebrated at Trinity Manor in Saskatoon on the World Day of Consecrated Life, marked on the Feast of the Presentation Feb. 2.
Seemann made her first profession of vows as a Sister of Sion in 1947 in Prince Albert, at the age of 21.
The celebration included eucharist with Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner presiding, with many representatives of several religious communities, as well as Sisters of Sion, participating.
In his homily, Wiesner spoke of this day as being the day of the Consecration of Religious Life and thanked Sister Seemann for her fidelity, her witness to the community and to the church. After the homily Seemann renewed her vows in a strong, clear voice. Everyone applauded with joy,” reported Sisters Josie Germaine and Phyllis Kapuschinski, NDS, who helped organize the celebration. An anniversary tea was held later that afternoon.
Sister Maureena Fritz, NDS, who made her first profession along with Seemann in 1947, was celebrating in Jerusalem, and the two connected by phone.
“To both of these wonderful women we can say, Rejoice greatly, daughters of Sion. The Lord has done marvels for you — and through you — and we love you,’ ” said Germaine.
Seemann grew up with six brothers and three sisters on a farm at Mazenod, Sask. In Grade 11 and 12, she attended Our Lady of Sion Academy in Moose Jaw, where she came to know the Sisters of Sion.
“They were kind and loving, and cared for the children very much,” she said.
Seemann had already developed an interest in teaching, which began in Grade 9, after she was permitted to help fellow students whenever the teacher was busy with older grades in a combined Grade 9-12 classroom.
Seemann entered the Sisters of Sion in 1944, as soon as she finished high school, spending two and a half years in Prince Albert, completing her novitiate.
She was trained as a piano teacher, but began her teaching career as an elementary school teacher, teaching Grade 2, 3 and 4 in the Academy of Sion in Saskatoon. and then Grade 2 in Moose Jaw, before being sent to Dearborn, Mich. in 1951 to serve in a parochial school beside the Ford factory. There was a lot of poverty in the area, and many of the children came from immigrant families, Seemann recalled. Classes were large: one year she taught a class of 63 children, including four who couldn’t speak English.
She worked on her BA in the summer, taking a couple of subjects each year at the Academy of Sion in Kansas City. In 1960, she moved to Kansas City permanently, where she taught for the next 30 years, earning a master’s degree in librarianship along the way.
In 1976 she travelled to Rome for a catechetical meeting with other catechetical teachers of the NDS congregation, and in 1983-84 she went to Spokane, Wash., for a year of renewal that ended with a trip to Israel — an unforgettable experience that brought new insights into the congregation’s commitment to Jewish-Christian relations, she said.
In 1987 she was asked to take on the role of principal for Notre Dame de Sion School on Locust Street in Kansas City — a temporary assignment that went on for three years. On her retirement, she spent a year in Rome, assisting wherever needed and setting the NDS library in order.
“I just saw everything,” she said, describing her love of Rome. After another visit to Israel, she began serving in Toronto, in work related to Jewish-Christian relations.
In 1996 she arrived in Saskatoon, assisting the elderly in the retirement home of the Sisters of Sion, until it closed. After a 12-year term at St. Ann’s Residence, in 2016 she moved to Trinity Manor. She has also served as a longtime volunteer at Queen’s House, assisting with the retreat house library beginning in 1996.
Over the years in her spare time, Seemann has pursued a longtime interest in her family history, producing five books about her family tree. Her deep and abiding interest in the “how and why” of things also led Seemann to look more deeply into the history of the Sisters of Sion in North America.
A French order, the sisters came to Maine in 1892 and moved into other parts of the United States and Canada. In 1904, four sisters went to Australia and a large group went to Brazil to support work that had begun there, she related. A group of 24 arrived in Prince Albert in 1904, braving prairie winters and pioneer conditions.
“Wherever I went, I tried to find out more about the how and the why of these things,” Seemann said. During her time in Rome, she went through the NDS house journals on file there, making copies and later translating them into English.
Reflecting on the charism of the Sisters of Sion in relation to the Jewish people, Seemann expressed her conviction that the Blessed Virgin Mary inspired this charism in the hearts of the order’s founders in 1842.
“Our Lady knew the Holocaust was coming. She could see that something was drastically wrong,” said Seemann. “Something had to be done for her people.”
“The focus on Jewish-Christian relations is no longer the charism of just our religious congregation. Even though our numbers are declining, the work itself has been taken up by the church after Vatican II.” Most dioceses now have at least one interfaith group working to bring about understanding among all peoples and faiths, she noted.
Reflecting on her 70 years as a Sister of Sion, Seemann said, “To me, the important part is God. God has been so faithful, through thick and thin. Without God, there would have been nothing. So to God all thanks and praise is due.”