June 11, 1932 – March 13, 2015
Sister Estelle Kessling grew up in a close-knit family in Reading, Ohio. She first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur when she started grade school at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish. There Estelle came to know the story of Saint Julie Billiart, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Her love and devotion to Saint Julie marked the rest of her life, but Estelle had no direct intention of living out her life as a Sister of Notre Dame. When it came time for high school, she did not choose Mt. Notre Dame which was nearby and staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Instead, she went to Our Lady of the Angels which was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters. There she prepared for a life “in the world.”
After graduation Estelle started using her secretarial and accounting skills at a bank in Reading. In 1953 General Electric hired her for a secretarial/accounting job at their offices in Evendale, Ohio. However, by 1956 a small question within her had grown to the point where she had to do something about it. Was God calling her to religious life? Estelle entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur on September 8th of that year.
As a Sister of Notre Dame, Estelle spent twenty-nine years teaching grades two through six. Her first assignment was to St. Michael’s in Sharonville – still a rural area at that time. In 1963 she was sent to an inner-city school in Chicago. She fell in love with the city and the people of St. Peter Canisius Parish. In addition to teaching in the school, she taught CCD and served on the Parish Council. She coordinated the Intermediate Media Center at the school, served as the director of the Intermediate Program for grades four through six and taught remedial classes in the summer. Estelle loved her students and built lasting friendships with her lay colleagues.
After the Second Vatican Council, Estelle took advantage of workshop opportunities to update her own theology and knowledge of Scripture. She studied faith development, liturgy and new methodologies for religious education. During her sabbatical year Estelle attended the Center for Continuing Formation in Ministry program at the University of Notre Dame and traveled to the Holy Land with a program sponsored by Catholic Theological Union. Both experiences helped her prepare for the work in parish religious education which she began in 1991.
At both St. William Parish in Chicago and St. Joseph Parish in Killeen, Texas Estelle was responsible for recruiting, training and supervising the catechetical staff, for running sacramental preparation programs and for coordinating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. Training staff included the basics of writing a lesson plan and how to manage the students. She held regular faculty meetings with the CCD staff and encouraged them to participate in continuing education opportunities. Estelle initiated monthly educational classes for parents to help them in their roles as the primary religious educators of their children. She contributed to the sense of parish community by volunteering for various parish activities. Estelle respected what was in place in both parishes. She offered suggestions for change and initiated new programs only after she had immersed herself in the parish situation.
In community Estelle was known for her great sense of humor, her love of planning and carrying out special celebrations for and with her Sisters, her culinary expertise, accounting expertise and her deep faith. Estelle served as local treasurer for the small communities in which she lived. Her love of cooking and baking found her in the kitchen making hors d'oeuvres and special dishes for community celebrations and surprise parties for the Sisters. While at St. Peter Canisius she would be one of the first to head to the roof for a picnic or a good snowball fight. Estelle enjoyed socializing with Sisters, friends and co-workers. She also used her cooking skills to make gifts for others. Just one example is the time that, with another Sister, she acquired fresh pumpkin and made fifteen pumpkin pies from scratch to give to parishioners who were generous friends of the community. After returning to Cincinnati, Estelle helped organize and hostess gatherings at Maple Street, later organized many parties for the Sisters in Cuvilly and made the hors d'oeuvres and mint juleps for the Mt. Notre Dame Kentucky Derby parties. In her early years she enjoyed playing the piano and appreciated opportunities throughout her life to attend symphony performances. Estelle liked following professional football and loved beauty in all its forms. One of her favorite things to do was spend time at the ocean.
Estelle was deeply loyal to her friends and family. She enjoyed opportunities to travel to her siblings’ homes and to spend time with them and their families. Often, she brought community life and family life together by taking other Sisters along on her family visits and by enlisting the help of family members in her Notre Dame projects. Her family helped her with supplies for numerous parties. When St. Peter Canisius convent closed, her family financed the saving and transporting of a large stained glass window of the Notre Dame Crest to Cincinnati, where it continues to be part of the Notre Dame Heritage. Estelle kept the Sisters informed of prayer intentions of her family and friends, counting on the community to join her in being a powerhouse of prayer for those in need.
Estelle took opportunities through the years to deepen her spirituality, her steadfastness in Notre Dame and her love of Saint Julie. She appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Mini-Arc renewal program that included a Julie Pilgrimage, retreat opportunities throughout her life and the many opportunities for silence and prayer her last years offered. Her deep faith sustained her through the many health challenges of recent years. Saint Julie’s words in Letter 99 could have been addressed to Estelle, “My daughter, my good friend, let us hide in God, let us anchor ourselves in him alone: there is true peace of soul, happiness that is the foretaste of the happiness of heaven.” Estelle’s Sisters, family and friends give thanks for the gift of her life and the many ways she shared God’s goodness. We count on Estelle’s continued prayers for all of us as we celebrate her entrance into the true peacefulness of the happiness of heaven. How good is the good God!
Born June 11, 1932 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Parents: Henry L. Kessling (born in Cincinnati) and Marian E. Dils (born in Cincinnati
Siblings: Bernard Kessling, Genevieve Kessling Leist, Jeanne Kessling Cunneen
Baptized June 19, 1932 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Reading, Ohio
Entered September 8, 1956 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: March 12, 1959
Final Profession: August 13, 1964
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish School, Reading, Ohio
Our Lady of the Angels High School, Cincinnati, Ohio
Bachelor of Science in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1968
Master of Education in Curriculum from De Paul University, Chicago, Illinois, 1974
1959-1963 St. Michael Parish School, Sharonville, Ohio
1963-1988 St. Peter Canisius Parish School, Chicago, Illinois
1989-1991 Community Service, Chicago, Illinois
1991-1994 Director of Religious Education, St. William Parish, Chicago, Illinois
1994-1997 Director of Religious Education, St. Joseph Parish, Killeen, Texas
8/2000-5/2001 Community Service, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
6/2001-12/2008 part time Receptionist, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
2009-2015 Ministry of Prayer and Outreach, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died March 13, 2015
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
March 15, 2015