Sister Paul Gabriel Kersting

We commend to your charity the soul of our beloved 

Sister Paul Gabriel Kersting 

who departed this life on June 26, 2012 

in the sixty-third year of her religious life

Age: 84 years, 10 months, 11 days

The arrangements are as follows: Viewing in the Community Room at Providence Heights on Thursday, June 28, 2012 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and on Friday, June 29 from noon-3:30 p.m. Wake Service in the Community Room on Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m. Mass of Resurrection on Friday, June 29 at 4 p.m. in the Mother of Divine Providence Chapel at Providence Heights.

During the week that followed the feast of Corpus Christi, the celebration of the Body of Christ, Sister Paul Gabriel Kersting began preparing for the completion of her life’s journey. In this final phase, she would return her body, which had been blessed and broken during her lifetime, to the God she served so faithfully. After struggling with a number of illnesses over recent years, she knew she was at the end, and this was confirmed by her doctor. She quietly spent her last days with her Community, family and friends, and in prayer. To the very end, she shared her life, her energy, with those around her.

Marian Kersting was the tenth child of Caroline Pfeiffer and Fredrich Kersting. Interestingly, the last three children of this family entered religious life. Sister Paula Kersting, her sister, had entered the Community in 1936, and her brother Gabriel had entered the Community of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a religious brother. In spite of this, she wrestled with the call to religious life. During her high school years at St. Basil’s, she felt a strong call to both religious life and to the nursing profession. Upon graduation, she decided to attend St. Joseph School of Nursing. If she had a vocation, she reasoned, she wanted to be a nursing Sister. Even as she completed nursing school, she continued to feel strongly pulled to religious life. So she entered the Community a month before receiving her nursing diploma. While other postulants finished high school and began college classes, Sister Paul Gabriel pursued advance classes at Duquesne University that would eventually lead to a BS degree. On completing the novitiate, she was sent to Marquette University to learn surgical nursing.

Even though she was a trained nurse, her ministerial life began with a short run in elementary education. In 1956, she finally began the nursing career for which she yearned. She ministered first at Providence Heights as the Infirmarian, then at the newly opened Divine Providence Hospital and, finally, at San Rosario Nursing Home. In 1966, she once again responded to another call—she generously volunteered to go to Korea, where the Congregation hoped to open a hospital. When the hospital did not materialize, Paul Gabriel used her skills to work in clinics operated by the Maryknoll Sisters and the Columban Sisters. In the clinics, she worked with children in immunizing them and treating their illnesses. She also treated the elderly, particularly taking care of their feet. She became known for her podiatry skills. With both populations, she treated many burns, which resulted from the type of stove used in the homes of the people. While ministering in the clinics, she contracted TB in the form of a nodule in her neck, for which she needed treatment for more than a year. In spite of that, she accepted ministry in a “leper colony,” living with and ministering to those persons with Hansen Disease. Interestingly, while Sister Paul Gabriel was ministering in Korea, her brother, Brother Gabriel, was ministering in Africa. Once again, we witnessed a family who fostered a generous spirit within their children, who were willing to serve wherever they were sent and to whomever was in need.

When Paul Gabriel returned from Korea, she ministered internally to her Sisters. She served as receptionist and driver, as needed, and was “house nurse.” In her “retirement,” Sister Paul Gabriel worked with Sister Betty Sundry, Director of Social Concerns, and voted our shareholder proxies, enabling our retirement funds to work for the common good and help those in need.

In her own words, Sister Paul Gabriel once said, “If God is calling you, you will recognize it. It is a strong pulling in your heart. Trust in God and be faithful.” We rejoice with Sister Paul Gabriel, who continues to be with us in the communion of saints. In life she recognized how precious in God’s eyes are the deaths of God’s faithful ones, first of Jesus, and then us, in union with Jesus.

Birthday: August 15

Written by Sister Maria Fest

If you would like to make a gift to the Sisters of Divine Providence in memory of Sister Paul Gabriel, visit our donation page.