I first met her nearly six years ago on a blustery, snowy January evening in Waukesha. I was at St. William Parish to cover one of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s welcome Masses in the archdiocese and she was one of the 600 people or so who braved the weather and nearly a foot of snow to meet the new archbishop.

The tiny, elderly woman approached me and asked whether I had a cell phone. She had to call her ride to tell him to pick her up. I offered to let her use the phone, but asked where she was headed. Perhaps I could help?

It turned out she was heading back to Milwaukee, too, so rather than have her friend leave the warmth of his Brookfield home to drive her downtown in the inclement weather, I offered to drive her since I was heading in that general area anyway.

What a fateful meeting that turned out to be!

I learned she had been a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for many years, but left the order after Vatican II, as she was uncomfortable with the changes in the church. Still drawn to religious life, however, and with the permission of Bishop Leo J. Brust, she took vows as a consecrated virgin in 1976 and goes by the name Sr. Charity.

She dreamed of founding her own religious order as Mother Teresa had, an order that looked out for poor, vulnerable, homeless women. While that was never to be, she ministered to the poor and vulnerable in New York, Chicago and Milwaukee, and met her idols, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, volunteering with them in New York.

In addition to all her charitable outreaches, she had a fascinating way of supporting herself once she left the convent. She created animal patterns that were sold in the well-known pattern books like McCalls. She also created a line of dolls for the Franciscan Friars.

As a Catholic journalist, I was more than intrigued. I could see that she had a story to share and I wanted to tell it, but Sr. Charity Keolsch is a private person and shies away from publicity.

She’s only allowing me to share a bit of her story for this publication as a way to introduce you to her writing.

Several months ago, I learned a bit more about this intriguing woman of God. During a visit to the nursing home where she resides, she told me she spends her time writing stories.

Again, I was intrigued. As a writer myself, I am always interested in the written word. She pulled out pages and pages of lined paper on which she had crafted dozens of children’s stories. She explained that about 15 years ago, she began crafting nice fairy tales in response to what she saw as the “awful, scary stuff that children were exposed to.”

She read several to me and I was captivated by the simple stories, told with such beautiful description, always containing a sweet message or moral.

In this issue of Catholic Herald Family, we present one of Sr. Charity’s stories as our Christmas gift to you.

As you read the sweet tale, found on Pages 8-10, keep in mind that this particular story is autobiographical for Sr. Charity.

She is the little girl in the tale and Papa, with the deep blue eyes, was her father. Her memories of Christmases past no doubt brought joy to her heart; we hope her story adds Christmas joy to yours.

The story is enhanced by the talents of a local, young artist, Melissa Nguyen, a graduate of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, freshman at Marquette University studying biological sciences and member of St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee. Melissa’s gorgeous illustrations help bring Sr. Charity’s tale to life.

Also in this issue, don’t miss the Scobey-Polachecks’ generational look at Catholic liturgies today. For mom and son, Annemarie and Liam, the message is similar: The Mass is at the heart of Catholicism and it should be something people look forward to attending, not something that fails to inspire or energize attendees in the faith.

Liam, a senior in high school, has a particularly poignant message for parents and people involved in catechizing our youth. In the face of studies which show young people are leaving the church in droves, Liam offers suggestions that will make young adults want to stay.
Parents, priests, youth ministers, liturgists – are you listening?

Wishing you and yours a blessed Advent and holy Christmas season!