MARCH 2002: SISTER VIRGINIA BAUER (entered eternal life on May 19, 2005)
Sister Virginia Bauer is the third of ten children as well as the third generation of Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in the family. The first American-born novice in the Community was her father’s aunt, Sister Johanna Lauf. She began begging with the Sisters in Belleville shortly after they arrived in 1875. Sister Johanna entered the novitiate within a year and, by special permission, made her Profession of Vows on her deathbed in 1878 when influenza struck and took her to eternity. Her niece, Sister Virginia’s aunt, took her name and became Sister Johanna Bauer.
All in the Family
The Hospital Sisters have always been part of Sister Virginia's life. She had two aunts in the Community, was born at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Belleville, Illinois, and her grade school was across the street from the hospital. In the summer after 7th grade, she had the opportunity to visit the Motherhouse with a friend. In the Adoration Chapel when the Sisters were praying, she felt so moved, so awed, yet so at home, that she knew she would be back some day to be one of the Sisters. When she announced her intentions to her Mother, she was told that she was too young to make that decision and had to go to high school at home. But her wise and loving Mother promised that later, if she still wanted to join the Hospital Sisters, she would help her get there.
Making The Commitment: A Mother's Help
After graduating from high school, Sister Virginia worked as a maid at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital cleaning rooms and carrying dinner trays. One day, Mother Canisia, the Provincial Superior, was visiting the bishop and spoke to Sister Virginia’s uncle, Msgr. Bauer, asking if any of his nieces had a religious vocation. He suggested she ask them herself. She came directly over to the hospital, called three of the Bauer girls individually to the office and asked each of them if they were interested in religious life. Sister Virginia then indicated her interest in becoming a Hospital Sister.
Mother Canisia invited her to visit the Motherhouse, brought Virginia's two aunts down from Green Bay for the weekend, and made arrangements for Sister to speak to the Novice and Postulant Mistresses. She "signed up", took home the lists of things needed, clothes to bring, and forms for medical checkups. But she did nothing for two weeks. Her mother then reminded Virginia of the promise she had made to help her. She made the required doctor and dentist appointments and assisted with the shopping. On entrance day, she packed a picnic lunch for the family, piled as many in the car as it could hold, and brought them to the Motherhouse door. There she found out that Virginia would not be coming home at Christmas-and not for six years! Tears began to flow from both of them, and they had a very weepy separation as the family got back into the car to return to Belleville.
God, the Community, and time have been very good to Sister Virginia. God blessed her with some wonderful "natural" talents: a beautiful, strong singing voice coupled with a love for music and liturgy, a brain that readily stores information and is curious about how things work, and a deep desire to help people in whatever way she can. The Community nurtured the gifts and gave her the education and encouragement to use them in the service of others.
Career Variety: Hospital and Spiritual Ministry
She reports that presently she is in her fourth career as a Hospital Sister of St. Francis. Initially, she studied for a career in the hospital laboratory and blood bank, which included teaching and supervision. When she had just completed her education, she was made supervisor of the laboratory. It was not long before she knew that was not her forte. She asked for a change and for five years she coordinated the training of lab students; then for seven years, she worked as a medical technologist in the laboratory at St. Vincent Hospital, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In addition, her work in spiritual ministries has been almost as long. She was asked to work with the young women entering the Community in their years of preparation and incorporation into religious life. Later, she worked with the Lay Associates and guided them as they deepened their relationship with the Community. While working with the Lay Associates, Sister Virginia also coordinated the liturgy for the Motherhouse. The opportunity to be of direct service to the Sisters as a member of the Provincial Council was one that called on the greatest variety of her God-given talents.
Now, she is exploring new avenues in the land of computers--learning how to put the hardware and software together to make them support and enhance the work of the employees at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her biggest challenge and most satisfaction on the job is getting people over their resistance to enjoy using computers in their work. She is hooked on computers and when she is enthusiastic about something, she wants everyone else to enjoy it, too.
There is no ending to her story…yet! So, Sister invites you to come to Chippewa Falls to visit and continue this conversation. She will gladly listen to your story, too!