Sister Wilma (Hildegard) Schlangen, OSB, 94, died peacefully on February 1, 2010 at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho.
Born fourth of thirteen children in Richmond, MN, to Jacob and Catherine (Braegelmann) Schlangen on December 6, 1915, Sr. Wilma entered the Monastery of St. Gertrude on September 14, 1937. She was professed there on March 21, 1939 and celebrated her Golden Jubilee on June 23, 1989. Two of her sisters were also members of St. Gertrude’s.
Following her graduation from St. Benedict’s Academy in St. Joseph, MN., Sr. Wilma worked on the family farm until age 21 when she and her older sister, Sr. Florentine, joined St. Gertrude’s. Five years later their sister, Sr. Cyrilla, also entered St. Gertrude’s. Sr. Wilma spent 10 years working in the Monastery’s kitchen, garden and laundry. In 1949, she began managing the laundry at St. Valentine’s Hospital in Wendell, Idaho. 1950 marked a significant transition as her work nourishing the body was enhanced by the opportunity to nurture the soul. It began by managing a kitchen serving students and monks at St. Martin’s College and Abbey in Olympia, Washington. For 10 years she brought words of encouragement, acceptance and deepened spirituality to the 500 students and 80 monks there. In 1959 she was called home to become Head Cook for St. Gertrude’s. After a 1-year Home Economics course in 1964, she moved to St. Benedict’s Hospital in Jerome, Idaho, serving as Dietitian until 1970. Once again she came home; once again she assumed responsibility for St. Gertrude’s kitchen. Refreshed by a year-long sabbatical, Sr. Wilma came full circle to her starting point: caring for the Monastery’s garden. Even after retirement in 2001 she contributed her insight and expertise to the domestic operations of St. Gertrude, continuing to assist in food preservation and making raspberry jam, which is for sale in the Monastery’s Book & Gift Shop.
Her large family, the monastic community at St. Gertrude’s and her countless friends will long remember Sr. Wilma as filled with zest for life, accepting them just as they were even while encouraging them to grow and keep a positive attitude, a person who strove to grow in gentleness and understanding. She was a woman of enduring strength physically and inwardly. Novices and guests who worked in the gardens with her or helped serve shortcake at the Raspberry Festivals say she worked circles around them. She inspired others by her groundedness, joyfulness, simple delight in everyday miracles, and her unfailing commitment to the community’s way of life and its broad spectrum of outreach to others. Above all she grew into a woman of prayer with a profound abiding awareness of God’s goodness and mercy.
Sr. Wilma was preceded in death by her parents; brothers Paul, Raymond and Benedict; sisters Lidwina, Theresa, Sr. Cyrilla and Sr. Florentine; and three siblings who died in infancy. Sr. Wilma is survived by sisters Cecelia and Sr. Lucille.
A Vigil Service was held in the monastery chapel on February 5, 2010 and a Mass of Christian Burial was held on February 6.
Memorials may be made to Monastery of St. Gertrude, 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, ID 83522.