Sr. Dorothy Koenig, O.S.B.April 28, 1921 ~ April 26, 2018 (age 96)
Sr. Dorothy was born Mary Koenig, on a farm near Ewing, in the sandhills of Nebraska, USA. She was born into a loving, Catholic family, and raised in the faith by her parents, Joseph and Anna Koenig along with three siblings: John, Victor, Agnes, Felix, and Alfred. Sr. Dorothy had such a great love for her family and had a special joy when opportunities brought them together. Her parents and four siblings: John, Victor, Agnes and Felix have preceded her in death.
Mary felt a calling to religious life as an elementary student, but became clearer of her vocation sister while she attended one year at the Catholic High School in Raeville, Nebraska, not far from the family farm. At the age of 15, Mary met the Missionary Benedictine Sisters who were teaching in Raeville, and something of a spark struck her ready and open heart. Mary asked to enter the community of Sisters in the Norfolk Priory two years later.
Being accepted into the Monastery and having received the name Sr. Mary Dorothy from the Prioress of the Monastery, she took her first vows on June 26, 1941. It was only three years later that Sr. Dorothy pronounced her perpetual profession as a Missionary Benedictine Sister on August 22, 1944. Sr. Dorothy sought God in many avenues as a faithful bride of Christ.
A dream came true for Sr. Dorothy when she was sent to Japan on September 31, 1947, with her chanting: “to the mission, to the mission let me go, dear Jesus”. She arrived with another Sister, after a wonderful flight, to the land of her holy desire. The Bishop of Osaka, Japan, provided a very nice residence for the sisters, along with a spacious kindergarten, filled with 130 little Japanese children, studying, playing, singing, and smiling with these dear sisters.
In discussing her international missionary experience, Sr. Dorothy said that the desire for mission comes from God. The she said, “When you get there, you have to let go and really get involved in the culture, the language, respect for the people, and be patient; all that goes with it.” Her experience in Japan remained a special part of her life. She said, she had to get used to the diet. She recalled, in the beginning, they were hungry and like the people they served, they didn’t have enough to eat. She said the kindness of the people really touched her.
In 1961, Sr. Dorothy received the news that she was to return to the Norfolk Priory. As she prepared to return, Sr. Dorothy recalled that while cleaning out her things, she came upon a photo of a little Japanese boy who had been baptized shortly before he died to tuberculosis. At that point the efforts of her fourteen years seemed small in comparison to the needs of the people, but his little face reminded her that making such a difference in one child’s life was enough for her.
When flying back to the States, Sr. Dorothy crossed the International Dateline and arrived in California the day before she left Japan. After being gone for 14 years, there was a grand home-coming. The Chronical of the Monastery said that her dad came the very next day to see her. He shook with emotion at the happy reunion. Sr. Dorothy summed up her international mission experience saying it helped her to grow in her missionary charism and deepen her joy and faithfulness in being a Missionary Benedictine Sister.
During the 57 years since her “coming home”, (from 1961 to 2018), Sr. Dorothy was assigned to our home missions in several communities and ministries of the Norfolk Priory. Sister worked in the Norfolk Priory house; St. Augustine’s Indian Mission, Winnebago; Jackson, Kentucky; Wayne; Columbus and then again to the Norfolk Priory House, never shying from the challenges that faced her. Sr. Dorothy’s joyful presence enlivened every person she met. Her sense of hard work and cheerful service showed itself in every aspect of her cooking and home-making.
In her senior years, Sr. Dorothy loved to reminisce her childhood as well as her missionary days in Japan. She enjoyed singing songs that she was taught at home, repeat poetry that she learned as a very young child. A special glisten came to her face when she would speak of the Japanese children she cared for during her during her mission in Japan. Certainly, she was a faithful missionary wherever she was sent. She was a woman who brought love and joy to all no matter the circumstances or challenges.
Sr. Dorothy slept quietly away in the early morning on April 26th, two days before her 97th birthday. We are grateful we could share so many precious years with this joy-filled, committed sister during her time on this earth. As we celebrate her life, we believe she is embraced now Eternal Joy.
Prioress and Sisters of the Norfolk Priory