by Steve Buckner
Special to The Leaven
RICHMOND — Sister Mildred Katzer, OSU, greets a visitor with a twinkle in her eye, a wry smile on her lips and a firm handshake. The handshake leaves an impression.
These are the hands of a Kansas farm girl and former teacher who has crafted hundreds of miniature habits for dolls that are sold at church bazaars and through the mail.
“I’m 99,” Sister Mildred said. “I guess I’m supposed to make some more yet. It keeps me out of mischief.”
Make them she will. Currently, a few of the dolls are waiting on a rosary, one of the details that Sister Mildred attends to when properly outfitting the dolls. Another three to five dolls are being worked on.
Most of the dolls she has made are clothed in the habit of the Ursuline Order, which Sister Mildred belongs to. She also sews baptismal bonnets, strings together rosaries of different colors, knits afghans and produces pillow cases.
She also wrote verses for a coloring book that she developed titled, “The Christ Child Visits the Farm.”
“And, as I get older, I take more naps, too,” said Sister Mildred.
One of her dolls, which stands 20 inches tall, resides in a museum in Lourdes, France. Another doll, a conventional 13-inch variety, calls a cathedral in Washington, D.C., home.
Sister Mildred grew up on a farm situated four miles west of Garnett. She was one of five girls and had five brothers. Two of her older sisters, Dorothy and Josephine, joined the Ursuline Sisters in Paola before Mildred.
“Mother had prayed that one of her girls would be a Sister,” Sister Mildred said. “And her prayers were answered.”
Sister Mildred began sewing the habits “years ago” when she was teaching vacation Bible school. She has continued to pursue the hobby to inspire vocations.
Now retired, she lives in Richmond with another Ursuline nun, Sister Loretta Roeckers. Both volunteer at St. Therese Church, which was established in Richmond in 1926. As a young girl, Sister Mildred attended the blessing of the church’s cornerstone with her family (Richmond is north of Garnett) and recalled that the church ran out of ice cream during the event.
Sister Mildred taught school from 1943 to 1999. Her assignments took her to St. John School, Greeley (1943-45, 1973-85); Holy Name School, Kansas City, Kansas (1945-54); Queen of the Holy Rosary School, Overland Park (1954-58, 1960-73); St. Agnes School, Roeland Park (1985-90); and Holy Angels School, Garnett (1990-99).
She also taught in Tulsa and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Most of her career as an educator was with kindergartners, first- and second- graders.
People interested in Sister Mildred’s dolls can order them by writing to her at 530 Bungalow St., Richmond, KS 66080. The cost is $20 plus $4 for shipping.
“I’m delighted,” she said of people’s interest in her dolls. “I feel blessed.”