Presentation Sisters celebrate 60 years of religious life

DUBUQUE — On July 17, Sisters Benjamin Duschner, Deborah Paige, Irma Ries and Leanne Welch celebrated 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.

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.

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,” she said. “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,” she said. “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 life and 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, 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 as involvement 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, 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 include superintendent 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.”

(left to right): Sisters Deborah Paige, Leanne Welch, Irma Ries and Benjamin ­Duschner. (Contributed photo)