SHA teacher, principal celebrates 100 years


Many who attended Sacred Heart Academy remember Sister M. Mechtildis, who served as teacher at the Academy from 1946 to 1959, and as principal from 1960 to 1965.

On Dec. 29, 2011, Sister Mechtildis, now known as Teresa Palsmeier, ASC, celebrated her 100th birthday.

Teresa Palsmeier, ASC '35, '37, seated, with fellow St. John's Academy and Sacred Heart Junior College alumna Evarista Durler, ASC '36, '38 at the Wichita Center.

Over a decades-long career of service that took her to Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Germany and Italy, she has served as educator, provincial superior, volunteer and catechist. Along the way, she said, the sisters of the ASC community and God have guided her path.

Born in Okeene, Okla., and baptized Theresa Catherine Palsmeier, she moved with her family to Garden Plain, Kan. (a 10-day journey by covered wagon), and attended school at St. Joseph Parish in Ost. There, young Teresa was taught by ASC sisters, and at age 19 decided to enter the order.

She was received into the congregation in 1932, taking the name Sister M. Mechtildis. She made her first profession in 1933, and her final profession in 1938. Palsmeier earned a diploma from St. John’s Academy in 1935, and an associate’s degree from Sacred Heart Junior College in 1937. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Marymount College and a master’s degree in education from Marquette University in Milwaukee. She permanently changed her name to Sister Teresa in 1968.

Palsmeier said she chose her vocation because that was what God wanted her to do. When she joined the Adorers, the sisters did mostly teaching, and she was asked to do the same.

“In my time we really didn’t do what we wanted,” she recalled. “We were asked what we loved to do, what we were capable of doing, and then we did what we were asked to do, and what we were capable of doing.”

Palsmeier said during her teaching career she taught every grade level as well as the subjects of math, history and religion. She described the most fulfilling part of being a teacher as witnessing her students make progress – although she also fondly remembers outwitting students who tried to play tricks on her and other teachers.

Palsmeier later served as superior of the ASC then-Province of Wichita, worked in other capacities and locations noted above, then returned to the ASC Wichita Center upon her retirement in 1997. Over the years, she has witnessed Newman change from an all-girl boarding school to an institution that accepted “day-hops” (students who didn’t live on campus) to a high school, college and the university it is today. Her observations about the school’s changes are encouraging: “The best days of Newman are now.”

On her 100th birthday, friends held a party for Palsmeier at the Wichita Center, where she was also fêted by her fellow sisters the following day. Having lived for a century, her advice to current and future generations of young people is both simple and profound.

“In everything you do and plan, first find out what God wants you to do and you will be happy. Once you look back a number of years you will find out. . . God knows best.”