Sister Mary Agnes Salber, OSB
1928 — 2019
Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Agnes Salber, OSB, age 90 of Norfolk, Nebraska, will be 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at Immaculata Monastery Chapel in Norfolk. Father Kenneth Reichert will be Celebrant, with burial in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Norfolk.
Brockhaus-Howser-Fillmer Funeral Home in Norfolk is in charge of arrangements.
Sr. Agnes died at the Immaculata Monastery Infirmary on Sunday, April 7, 2019, surrounded by her sisters.
Marie Jermaine Salber was born July 3, 1928, seventh of eleven children to George and Anna Salber on a farm near Raeville, Nebraska. Sr. Agnes recalled, “Those were the difficult years of the depression and drought so life was hard, but the family was close-knit and happy.” All of the children attended St. John Berchman’s School in Raeville with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters as their teachers. Sr. Agnes felt her call to religious life at an early age and left home during the 9th grade to become a candidate of the Sisters, which she said she never regretted. She greatly admired the Sisters as her teachers and her older blood sister, Sister Anella, had already joined the Sisters in Raeville. When becoming a novice, Marie received the name, Sr. Mary Agnes. She made her first vows on November 17, 1947, at the age of 19. Her final vows followed three years later on December 12, 1950.
After working in the business and admitting office in the Holy Trinity Hospital in Graceville, Minnesota, for two years, Sr. Agnes was asked to go for X-Ray training in Minneapolis. There, she and another sister spent their free time working in the Medical Records, Physical Therapy, etc. thereby, paying off their tuition and room and board. She saw all these experiences as added time for learning the medical field better which would prove very helpful later in her mission work. After her return to Norfolk, Sr. Agnes worked for 10 years in the X-ray department, admitting office and switch board at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, along with a variety of many other duties in the hospital. Sr. Agnes realized later this was all a silent preparation for her work in Korea.
Sr. Agnes recalled how her call to Korea came about: In 1960 Prioress General Mother Maria Lucas, came for an official visitation to the Norfolk Priory. “One day all the sisters were gathered for recreation when she [M. Maria Lucas] suddenly asked: ’Who are the future missionaries?’ My hand flew up almost simultaneously. Someone asked me the next day whether I really wanted to go to the missions and I said, ‘Of course, why not?’ She said: ‘Well, if you don’t want to go you better know that Mother saw your reaction .’ I said, ‘Great!’”. A time of waiting followed until the announcement came at Christmas. Sr. Agnes continued the story, “When I took out my prayer book before Midnight Mass, I found a holy card showing the Child Jesus pointing to the globe and there were airplanes flying overhead and ships in the water and caption was, ‘Ubi Caritas’. On the back was Mother’s handwriting which said: ‘I have a secret for you. Are you willing to follow me closer on the way of the Cross? I want you and I shall be with you. [Signed] Your little brother, Jesus”. Sr. Agnes could not believe her eyes. After meeting with Mother Maria Lucas the next day, it was announced that she would be sent to Korea as a missionary.
Sr. Agnes recalled: “I did not know a word of Korean so I tried to learn German because some of the Sisters were German and I could at least communicate that way for a while:” Her mother was already widowed for four years yet told her, “I will not interfere with your vocation”. Her whole family was very supportive and true to her. Upon her arrival in Korea in July 1961 a stack of mail was waiting for her! She recalled that her arrival in Korea was very welcoming but she suffered mightily from homesickness.
Sr. Agnes helped build up the hospital and maternity center in Daegu. She encountered many difficulties: lack of funding, poor planning, lack of staff, etc. Sr. Agnes began working in the x-ray department and trained the young Korean Sisters in this profession in addition to setting up the accounting department. In 1962 Fatima Hospital was opened with 60 beds.
The toughest challenge for Sr. Agnes remained the language. After two years of study she finally felt she could use the language sufficiently for her mission. After being in Korea only six years she became the administrator of the hospital, a position she held for fourteen years. Through her work, Sr. Agnes traveled around Korea quite a lot. Her most memorable trip was to a doctor-less island with 2,000 lepers.
Several times during her 20 years in Korea, Sister Agnes returned to the United States, sometimes bringing Korean orphans who were adopted by couples in the United States; she remembers bringing four babies at once and found it quite a challenge! She returned to the States for good in 1981. She did visit Korea several times after that, and found the changes remarkable each time.
In 1981 Sr. Agnes became treasurer for the Monastery and held this position for eight years after which she became the administrator at Holy Trinity Hospital in Graceville, Minnesota. She served as Prioress at Immaculata Monastery from 1993 to 2001. In January 2003 she joined the staff of St. Augustine Indian Mission, in Winnebago, Nebraska, first as an accountant for the Mission and for four parishes until becoming the business manager in 2008 and superior of the Convent in 2011.
Following a rich and greatly-blessed life of service, Sr. Agnes retired to the mother house in Norfolk in 2014. Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Sr. Agnes, could quickly perceive her joyful, motherly spirit. She loved to tease and make fun. She had a way of making any problem seem manageable; she met challenges with great faith, perseverance and peace. One of her co-workers said about her: “The peacefulness that comes from her relationship with God, the peace that comes from Christ Jesus, is so evident in her. It comes out and affects all the people around her.”
Sr. Agnes died at the Immaculata Monastery Infirmary on April 7 surrounded by her sisters. She is preceded in death by her parents, George and Anna Salber, six brothers: Leonard, Raymond, Jerome, Clarence, Joseph, Wilfred, and three sisters: Lucille Lordemann, Sr. Anella Salber, and Celestine Salber. She is survived by her brother Robert, his wife Delores, and many loving nieces and nephews.
Sister Mary Agnes Salber, OSB