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Sister Mary Burkert

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Sister Mary Francine Burkert, 87, died on Friday, July 16, 2010, at Anna House at The Sarah Community, where she has lived since May 2010.
She was born Mary Jane Burkert on October 31, 1922, in St. Louis. She was second of six children (four girls, two boys) born to Leo and Regina C. Burkert. She attended Holy Family Parish School and St. Elizabeth's Academy. Knowing that she wanted to join an order of nursing sisters, she spoke first with Sr. Mary Rosaleen Dorlac at St. Mary's Hospital in St. Louis, then with Mother Mary Concordia Puppendahl, superior general of the Sisters of St. Mary. On December 5, 1942, she entered the Sisters of St. Mary, who in 1987 reunited with the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo., to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. She received the name Sr. Mary Francine, and she professed final vows on June 5, 1948. She was a sister for more than 67 years. In 1951, she completed her bachelor's at Saint Louis University with a major in philosophy, a minor in English. In January 1952, she was elected Secretary General of the SSM Leadership Council, a position she held until elected Superior General in 1969. While serving under Superiors General Mother M. Concordia Puppendahl and Mother M. Josetta Witte, she had the opportunity to visit and get to know many members of the congregation. During her years as Superior General and President of the Governing Board (1969n1977), Sr. Francine led the congregation with her characteristic grace, vision, and gentleness through the years of adaptation and renewal brought about by the Second Vatican Council. Sr. Francine handled with sympathy and diplomacy those who resisted change as well as those for whom change could not come quickly enough. She once observed, "Only God understands all the heartaches that went into those changes." Astute and observant yet optimistic and kind, Sr. Francine was a much beloved and respected leader. After her twenty-five years on the SSM Leadership Team, she spent five years providing pastoral care and administrative assistance at Mount St. Rose/St. Mary on the Mount. From 1982 to 1987 she served as vice president of the SSM St. Mary's Health Center Hospital Board of Directors, and from 1987 to 1992 she served as Corporate Director for Mission Values for SSM Health Care, compiling the stories and writing many of the reflections that made up the book Making a Difference: Reflections to Enhance the Living of Our Values, produced by SSM Health Care in 1992. She retired in 1993, but volunteered her services at Villa Marie Senior Center in Jefferson City, Mo., until she moved back to St. Louis in January 2006. Sr. Francine enjoyed sharing stories of her happy family life, her adventures in the novitiate, her observations of the brilliant and yet very different superiors general with whom she served. Always she made allowances for those around her. Even when her memory began to fail her, her demeanor remained calm, gracious, unassuming, and kind. Sr. Francine is survived by: her brother Robert and his wife of St. Louis; two sisters, Mrs. Beryl (Norbert) Schmittgens of St. Louis and Mrs. Jean Noel of Lombard, Ill.; as well as many other relatives and friends. Visitation will take place today from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Anna House chapel of The Sarah Community, 12349 DePaul Drive, in Bridgeton, Mo., with a Funeral Mass immediately following at 4 p.m. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in north St. Louis.

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