by Sister Marie Noel Bruch, SCL
Special to The Leaven
LEAVENWORTH — She had never used a computer or a cellphone in her life. Nevertheless, Sister Celine Kobe was able to celebrate her 100th birthday on Feb. 15 in grand style, thanks to modern technology.
Members of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth sang her “Happy Birthday” at the conclusion of Mass, which was offered in her honor and live-streamed to her room in Ross Hall, the long-term care facility at the Sisters of Charity motherhouse in Leavenworth.
Five of her nieces and two of her nephews, from various parts of the United States, extended their greetings via Zoom and wished her a great day.
“It was very special,” Sister Celine said, as she smiled from her room.
When Sister Celine, now a proud centenarian, counts her blessings, at the top of the list includes her 80 years as a Sister of Charity, her extended family and her Croatian heritage.
She was christened “Catherine” by her parents, and was originally from the Strawberry Hill area of Kansas City, Kansas. Sister Celine joined the Sisters of Charity on June 24, 1940, a few months before the grand opening of the motherhouse.
Catherine was born into a large family and possesses happy memories of childhood, which she spent playing with siblings and nearby cousins. Her father, Peter Kobe, died unexpectedly at age 49, leaving his wife Mary with several young children. Catherine, the oldest at age 10, did much of the child care for her three younger siblings while their mother worked to provide for them.
Catherine was always fascinated by the Catholic Sisters who lived next door and taught her at St. John the Baptist Grade School. During playtimes, she sometimes donned a veil and pretended she was a nun. She was first introduced to the Sisters of Charity as a student at Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas — now Bishop Ward. She entered the SCL community soon after graduation.
As an SCL, she spent most of her first 30 years as an elementary school teacher in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Montana. She spent five years at children’s homes in Montana and Colorado.
In 1976, she returned to the motherhouse and served in various secretarial roles for the rest of her ministry. She was known for her magnanimous hospitality, special greetings and copious files of inspirational sayings. She possessed beautiful penmanship and a lovely singing voice. (During COVID quarantining, she could often be heard singing aloud in her room).
In her retirement, Sister Celine loved to sit with a cup of coffee and share stories with friends or shop at Walmart. She was well-known for her devotion to friends and family, and faithfully visited the sick and needy.
In 2017, a few days before Christmas, she transitioned from her residence in the motherhouse to Ross Hall. While she misses roaming the halls and seeing Sisters, she remains spry and clear-minded, often recalling past days with special fondness. After all these years, she cherishes her religious habit as a symbol of her life and ministry.
On her birthday, the SCL community and her family presented her with many birthday cards, flowers, balloons and gifts. She even received a letter and blessing from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
With characteristic humility, however, Sister Celine still isn’t sure what to make of all of the fuss.