This year, the Dubuque Presentation Sisters have seven sisters celebrating a jubilee year of 50, 60 and 75 years of religious life.
Sister Mary Lois Lehmann
Sister Mary Lois Lehmann celebrates her 75th jubilee, remembering God’s love and faithfulness with gratitude for a life of service as a Sister of the Presentation. Originally from Worthington, Iowa, Sister Lois is the daughter of the late Anton and Frances (Honkomp) Lehmann. She entered the Sisters of the Presentation on September 8, 1944, from St. Joseph Parish in Farley, Iowa, and professed final vows in 1950.
In a 61-year journey of carrying Presentation foundress, Nano Nagle’s lantern in full-time ministry, Sister Lois walked many steps to spread the Good News spending 43 years as an elementary teacher and 18 years as a pastoral minister. “Like Nano I traveled many roads to serve God’s people in 12 Catholic schools and parishes in Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois. Teaching gave me a love for each child; I rejoiced at each one’s progress.”
Sister Lois assisted with Catholic liturgical preparation, music, religious education and bereavement for grieving families at wakes and funerals among the Catholic parishes of Dayton, Ogden and Boone, Iowa. She was recognized for outstanding involvement, service and her ecumenical presence.
Today, Sister Lois is happily engaged in community prayer and service with a deep appreciation that she has been able to walk with others. “I was able to be a visible presence of Christ and the Church, to bring the consolation of prayer to the dying and to minister to people of all faiths. To offer hospitality was always my goal – in sorrows, pain and joys,” she states as she continues walking her journey.
At this time in her life, Sister Lois feels that she continues to make a difference for others. “Although my ministry is more limited, I am still able to encourage, affirm and be an example of faithfulness to prayer and to my vocation as a follower of Nano and keep her lantern burning brightly,” she states. “And I know that I continue sharing Nano’s charism.”
Reflecting on 75 years of religious life, Sister Lois says, “I am grateful for my faith, family and Presentation community. I have a deep gratitude for the many people with whom I journeyed over the years. I pray that I helped spread the Gospel message by sowing seeds of love, joy, hospitality, generosity and peace.”
Sisters Benjamin Duschner, Deborah Paige, Irma Ries and Leanne Welch will celebrate their 60th anniversary of entering religious life with the Sisters of the Presentation. They entered the Presentation community in 1959 and professed final vows in 1967.
Sister Benjamin Duschner
Originally from Farley, Iowa, Sister Benjamin Duschner is the daughter of the late Ben and Dorothy (Klaren) Duschner. Presently, she serves as pastoral minister at St. Elizabeth Pastorate for the parishes of Bankston, Epworth, Farley, Placid and Peosta, all in Iowa. In addition, Sister Benjamin volunteers as receptionist at the Presentation Motherhouse (Mount Loretto) in Dubuque, Iowa.
Sister Benjamin has 20 years of experience teaching in primary grades in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota. For 30 years, she served as principal in Catholic schools throughout Iowa. In 2008, she started working with elementary students as a reading specialist at Resurrection School in Dubuque, Iowa.
Since Sister Benjamin entered the convent 60 years ago, beautiful changes have transformed her into the person she is today. Her unique way of making people feel special is truly one of her many attributes. She continues to seek God among those to whom and with whom she ministers. “Seeing the parishioners’ faces light up when I visit brings me so much joy. They express such appreciation for the gift of the Eucharist and our prayer time together. I see the call to live out the life of Nano by incarnating the hospitality of God. God has gifted me with freedom, joy, laughter and an inner happiness that are fuel for my life. Joy is the laughter of my soul. I try to listen and care for others by offering hope and love to those who bear heavy burdens and are in need of a listening ear.”
In celebration of her jubilee, Sister Benjamin states, “My greatest blessing has been my family, my Presentation community and all the dear people whom I have walked with throughout my ministry. May God continue to provide me with good health so I can be of service in bringing God’s message and Nano’s spirit of love and hospitality to others.”
Sister Deborah Paige
A native of Elkader, Iowa, Sister Deborah Paige is the daughter of the late Will and Josephine (Boland) Paige. Presently, Sister Deborah is dedicated to community prayer and service and gardening at the Presentation Motherhouse (Mount Loretto) in Dubuque, Iowa. Both acts are her way of feeling closer to God and all creation. “Everyone has been given special interests and talents by God and gardening is one of mine. It is so special to see plants grow according to God’s plan.”
For 46 years, Sister Deborah taught business education in Catholic schools in Algona, Waukon, Fort Dodge and Dubuque, all in Iowa, where she deeply valued the joy that comes from education. “Nano Nagle was a great educator and I see our work as teaching as a way to carry her lantern to today’s world. I feel education of young people is the most important work we can do, and that is what I did for 46 years,” states Sister Deborah.
In her retirement, Sister Deborah feels she can make a real difference through her prayer lifeand cherishes her time spent at the Power of Prayer Adoration Chapel where she feels a special closeness with Jesus. “I think our prayers bring untold graces to so many people and in so many situations. We do not know God’s plan, but so many prayers are answered, so God must be listening to us.”
She is extremely grateful for 60 years of being a Presentation Sister. “It is a chance to stop and note milestones. Also to be grateful for the many daily blessings of the wonderful sisters with whom I live. My Presentation community is my family. They encourage me to live simply, care deeply, love generously, speak kindly and leave the rest to God.” says Sister Deborah.
Sister Irma Ries
Originally from Ryan, Iowa, Sister Irma Ries is the daughter of the late Matt and Julia Ries. Currently living in Manchester, Iowa, she enjoys many community and parish volunteer opportunities such asinvolvement on the RCIA team, Parish Providers team, Eucharistic minister to the homebound and a member on the Religious Education Board.
Her past ministries include congregational leadership member from 1993-1997; principal, teacher and director of religious education in various schools in Iowa and Monticello, Minnesota; pastoral minister; human resource director and, later, executive director of Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA), a center for the homeless and near homeless of Muscatine County; sexual abuse prevention educator for schools in Clayton County and advocate and educator for various justice issues.
Sister Irma has entered a time for slowing down, reflecting and enjoying the memories of people, places and opportunities. “As I reflect on the past 60 years of religious life, I am overwhelmed with the opportunities of building relationships with people from so many different ages, cultures and economic levels. Each person who comes into my life has gifted me by expanding my horizon and deepening my understanding of the realities of life and how it is shaped by the family, community and nation from which they originated.”
At this time in her life, Sister Irma is most aware of the blessing of her upbringing, “My parents nurtured love, joy, compassion, prayer and hard work in each of their 13 children, as well as showed us their deep love for each another, recalls Sister Irma. This has been the strong foundation that has enabled me to reach out in love to so many over the years.”
Sister Leanne Welch
Originally from Waukon, Iowa, Sister Leanne Welch is the daughter of the late Leo and Anna (Laughlin) Welch. Presently, Sister Leanne volunteers at Dubuque Food Pantry and Dubuque Public Library.
Formerly Sister Leanne served in congregational leadership from 2008 to 2018. Her other past ministries includesuperintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama; curriculum director for Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Dubuque; elementary administrator and teacher in various parishes in Iowa; and adjunct professor at Clarke University and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Following in the footsteps of our foundress, Nano Nagle, has been a privilege and an honor,” states Sister Leanne as she reflects on her 60 years as a Presentation Sister. “Nano gave much of her life to educating young people in need. I am blessed that I have been able to give most of my life to helping teachers and principals provide quality Catholic education. Specifically, to have been the catalyst and shepherd for getting Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School (a Jesuit model serving the poor) started in Birmingham, Alabama. I am most thankful for all the people who have called forth my gifts and challenged me to use them for God’s young people.”
In looking toward the future, Sister Leanne adds, “My dream for religious life and our congregation is that we use our Presentation charism of radical hospitality to welcome all and to witness to the world that we can be warm and caring people who live simply, pray steadily, love living and are open and willing to do God’s will.”
Sisters Paula Schwendinger and Lynn Mary Wagner will celebrate their 50th anniversary of entering religious life with the Sisters of the Presentation. They entered the Presentation community in August 1969 and for 50 years they have faithfully companioned one another, their Presentation community and many others.
Sister Paula Schwendinger
Originally from Epworth, Iowa, Sister Paula Schwendinger is the daughter of the late John and Marian (Bartels) Schwendinger. Presently, Sister Paula ministers in Hispanic outreach to the cities of Dyersville, Farley, Petersburg and Epworth, Iowa. She most recently authored and published the book, “Silent Voices in the Shadows: Stories of Undocumented Immigrants.”
Early in her ministry, Sister Paula served as an elementary teacher in Catholic schools in Iowa and Illinois for 15 years. Before moving back to Iowa, she served as a pastoral associate for Guadalupe Catholic Mission in Wahneta, Florida, for over 25 years. In addition, she received certification in spiritual direction.
Celebrating this jubilee moment and the meaning of her religious vocation, Sister Paula reflects, “I see this celebration as a graced time, as I look back on my journey these 50 years as a Sister of the Presentation. Nano’s lantern has led me through times of darkness and light. I have been gifted by my Presentation community, who have nurtured and supported me, as well as the many people I have met along this path. I have been challenged to leave the familiar path and go on the ‘road less travelled.’ Through this, I have been privileged to walk with and listen to the voices of other cultures for more than half of my religious life. This has broadened my vision, and enabled me to see more profoundly how our foundress, Nano Nagle, has commissioned us to radical hospitality.”
She continues, “My life has been enriched by each person whom I have journeyed with during these 50 years. Some encounters have been brief, some a life-long gift, and each person has shown me a glimpse of the presence of God in our midst.”
Sister Lynn Wagner
A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Sister Lynn (Linda) Wagner is the daughter of Irwin and Dorothy (Brewer) Wagner. Presently, Sister Lynn ministers in both the food service department as the community baker and the development office as an assistant at the Presentation Motherhouse (Mount Loretto) in Dubuque, Iowa.
Previously, Sister Lynn served as a junior high school teacher for 10 years before pursuing other ministries. With a love for cooking and baking, she found herself drawn to the kitchen, on and off, over the years serving as a food service coordinator. In 2002, she managed the Dubuque Food Pantry where she tended to the needs of many for 14 years, taking great pride in serving others. Her past ministries also include administrative assistant, pastoral associate, buildings coordinator and co-director of the Presentation Associate Partnership. Wherever Sister Lynn ministered, she always found time to create delicious sweets for all to enjoy.
Reflecting on her 50 years as a woman religious, Sister Lynn states, “Like Nano I’ve traveled many lanes in the last 50 years, from junior high teacher to working with women and children in transitional housing in both Des Moines and Minneapolis. I was grateful to return to Dubuque and serve in the area where I grew up, offering hospitality and service to those in need. It has been a privilege to walk these many roads and learn from so many different peoples and cultures. Life has been good to me these years taking me on roads I otherwise may not have traveled.”