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Josephine Kallus, OSB

Reflection written and read by Sister Christine Kouba, OSB
2 Cor. 9:6-15
Wake Service December 23, 2020

Sister Josephine Kallus was born on December 15, 1923 in Hostyn, Texas to Cecelia and Robert Kallus. Her baptismal name was Adela and would be a sibling to eleven other children. In her growing up years, she joined her eight sisters and three brothers on their family farm in milking dairy cows, raising vegetables and picking cotton in the flaming, summer heat of Texas. She attended the Hostyn grade school taught by the Incarnate Word Sisters where she learned about the Catholic faith, as well as imbibing the family’s faith life in her Catholic home. Her faith would always give her joy and would play an important role in her life’s decisions.

After high school, she attended the Alamo Beauty College in San Antonio and then secured a hairdressing job at a famous hotel in San Antonio. During her working years there, she developed acute pain in one of her legs for which she needed surgery. While lying in bed recuperating for twenty-one days, she felt her recovery was not very promising. She thereupon prayed through the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for a cure for her and promised that if she would be able to get up again she would dedicate her life to the Lord’s service. Then, through her earnest prayer, her cure was granted and she began to pursue a religious vocation as she had promised to do.

It so happened that she had two sisters, Sister Mary Andrea and Sister Mary Agnes who already were Benedictine Sisters in Lisle, Illinois and it was natural to correspond with them about her intention. Interestingly, she had two younger sisters at home in Hostyn who were also pursuing religious life and they too, were corresponding with their Lisle sisters unbeknown to her. In 1944, all three sisters decided to follow the Lord’s call together, yet, knowing the loss to their parents would be a sacrifice. However, their parents were surprised but willingly gave them a blessing and their enthused daughters left their home arriving in Lisle to join Sisters Mary Andrea and Mary Agnes. After their postulancy, the three sisters were named Sisters Josephine, Virginia and Angelica making a total of five Kallus Sisters in our Benedictine Community. Of course, the Kallus parents were proud of their five daughters and their father jokingly said: “I guess if all my daughters enter religious life, I will have to enter too. ”

Sister Josephine made her first profession as a Benedictine in 1946 and through the next 74 years remained a cheerful giver knowing that, “God loves a cheerful giver.” In her early years in community, since she was an excellent cook she was sent to cook at St. Procopius College kitchen and later to cook in parish convents where our Sisters were teaching. These school missions included Lisle, Chicago, Joliet, Cicero and Wisconsin. She always enjoyed cooking wherever she went and loved doing things for others to make them happy.

With the changes of Vatican !! – starting in the 70’s and beyond, our hospitality became more open and Sister Josephine was needed at the monastery to be a chauffeur; to drive the Sisters to various appointments and to do the shopping. She was a thrifty and cheerful shopper looking for sales and saving coupons in order to be a good steward. She as well became the hairdresser for the Sisters and some friends, rediscovering the skills of her profession from years back; giving shampoos, haircuts and perms. On special occasions, she lent a helping hand in the kitchen preparing delicacies with an artful presentation.

Her manual labor of love was well balanced with attendance at prayer. Being forever mindful of time, she made sure nothing superseded the Eucharist or Divine Office. In fact, she was at prayer way before time both at Mass and at Divine Office. The rosary was the prayer she never omitted either, always thanking God for wonderful people and praying for the intentions she held in her heart and for those who requested her help in prayer. Since she gave bountifully in glorifying God, God made every grace abundant in her.

Her retirement years were well spent as well. She kept the beauty shop in order, helped the new hairstylist in every way she could to make things easier for her, called her many friends, worked on puzzles, participated in exercise activities in the Villa, and on and on.

Then, the day came for her to move to St. Patrick’s Residence in Naperville. We hated to see her leave us but for the sake of her safety, we knew she needed to be watched more carefully to prevent her from falling. With her loving capacity to adjust to a new environment, we found her thriving at St. Patrick’s, making friends, pushing herself around in her wheel chair, spreading joy and peace to those she met and encouraging them to pray the rosary with her in the afternoon. When some of us Sisters would visit her before the Covid restrictions or call her during the pandemic, she would always end by saying, “I love you and tell all the Sisters that I love them and am praying for all of them.” The Carmelite Sisters there took special notice of her outgoing and engaging ways and dearly loved her. Carmelite Sister Raphael, the pastoral minister at St.Patrick’s, spent hours with her as she was dying, praying with her and staying by her side for hours knowing she would be with the Lord very soon.

We are grateful to Sister Raphael who felt it was an honor to be with Sister Josephine as she was dying and to all the Carmelite Sisters at St. Patrick’s who embody the loving kindness of Jesus in their grace filled ways while giving care to elderly patients. May God’s blessings be upon them always! We will always be your grateful friends.

From the Archives

Sister Josephine Kallus, OSB, comes from LaGrange, Texas, one of twelve children of Robert and Cecelia Kallus. Her large family lived on a farm where they grew vegetables and had dairy cows. “The Kallus sisters” have a rather unusual relationship with the Benedictines. Five of the family’s nine daughters joined the community. When Josephine was young and still living in Texas, two of her sisters, Virginia and Angelica were both writing to her and encouraging her to consider a life in community – but neither of those two knew the other was writing! It must have been destiny.

Josephine attended the Alamo Beauty College after high school and was a hairdresser in San Antonio at a well known hotel. During that period, she had trouble with one of her legs and had to have surgery. This active young woman was restrained in bed on her back for twenty-one days. Josephine prayed to the Blessed Mother and made a promise that if she recovered and could get up again, she would dedicate her life to the Lord’s service. Up she got! She honored her promise and joined the Benedictine community in 1944. She recalls that it was difficult to tell her parents that the fifth daughter was leaving the family to go into community. Her father had a good sense of humor – he commented, “If all my daughters enter, I’ll have to enter, too!”

In the ‘50’s and ‘60s, Sister Josephine was busy cooking for the Sisters who were working the missions. She has always enjoyed doing things for others and making others happy and is willing to do whatever is needed. She reflects, “I love my community. It’s my family now”.

In the mid-60’s, when the Sisters were no longer required to cover their heads, there was a need again for a hairdresser in the community. Sister Josephine took a refresher course in Joliet and became the community’s hairdresser. Friends of the community donated a chair and all the hairdressing equipment. Josephine also learned to drive and has for years now helped out by taking other Sisters to appointments or to the train or airport.

Sister Josephine welcomes all the new residents at Villa St. Benedict. She looks forward to the opportunity to make them feel welcome and to help make their days easy. “What greater reward can you have”, she says “than serving others and helping them?”