“You learn a lot from visiting the sick,” Sister Mary Juliana Droste said of the 32 years she served in Marceline.
She recalled arriving just in time to visit a patient in the hospital before he died.
He suddenly sat up in bed, looked off into the distance, smiled and said, “Oh, how beautiful!”
Then he lay back down and died peacefully.
“Don’t tell me nobody comes to meet you when you die!” she said. “Things like that put an impression on you that you just don’t forget.”
Sr. Juliana, 99, died peacefully June 1 at The Sarah Community near St. Louis.
The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on June 5 in The Sarah Community chapel. Burial was in Resurrection Cemetery in St. Louis.
She spent more than 75 years in religious life, often infected with contagious joy and gratitude.
“I thank the Lord for my vocation at every Mass and Eucharist,” she said 15 years ago. “Life seems but a dream.”
Raised in a large, Catholic farming family during the Farm Crisis and the Great Depression, Sr. Juliana learned early on that she needed to “bring life’s little crosses to the foot of the big cross.”
“I wouldn’t trade farm life for anything,” she once said. “Except religious life.”
She was born March 19, 1920, in Godfrey, Illinois, the second of 13 children (nine girls, four boys) born to Theodore and Mary Anna (Brinkman) Droste.
Baptized with the name Mary Anna Droste, she attended St. Mary School in Alton.
When she was in eighth grade, her mother became sick with diabetes. The oldest daughter stayed home and helped take care of her brothers and sisters for 10 years after graduating.
She would pray three “Hail Marys” each day, asking the Blessed Mother to help her discern what God wanted her to be.
While she was attending a reception at the convent where two of her aunts were nuns, the mother superior approached Mary Anna, commenting that she’d heard of her interest in religious life and asking her when she was planning to enter.
On March 21, 1944, her 24th birthday, Sr. Juliana entered the congregation then known as the Sisters of St. Mary at their motherhouse near St. Louis, and received the name Sr. Mary Juliana.
“I became a sister because that’s what Lord was calling me to be,” she said, noting that three of her sisters also entered religious life: one as a Dominican, another as an Ursuline, and another as a Sister of St. Mary.
The Sisters of St. Mary have been known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary since combining with the Sisters of St. Francis of Nevada, Missouri, in 1987.
Sr. Juliana professed final vows Feb. 11, 1950.
She worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis until June 1954, when she took charge of the laundry at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
Early in 1957, she returned to the motherhouse in St. Louis to serve as assistant novice mistress for three years.
She worked from 1960-64 in the new laundry and in housekeeping at St. Mary of the Ozarks Hospital in Ironton.
She then managed the laundry at St. Mary’s Hospital Jefferson City, for more than 11 years before heading to the new Arcadia Valley Hospital in Pilot Knob, where she served as executive housekeeper and worked in the laundry from 1975-80.
In August 1980 she moved to St. Francis Hospital in Marceline and served as an activities therapy aide for her first two years there.
She stayed in Marceline for many years after the hospital closed, ministering to shut-ins and patients in hospitals and nursing homes, providing pastoral care and bringing Holy Communion to them.
“To bring the Eucharist to the shut-ins is one of the greatest blessings, a special privilege,” she once said.
Well known for her faithfulness and self-sacrifice, she loved the opportunity to reach out to the elderly and lonely.
“Everyone loved her,” said Father Jerry Kaimann, pastor of St. Bonaventure parish in Marceline and Immaculate Conception parish in Brookfield.
“We’ve all worked with her,” said Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general for the diocese, who knew Sr. Droste from his days as pastor in Marceline and Hurricane Branch. “And she worked with us very kindly.”
She drove people to Mass on Sundays and to Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays.
She hosted a Scripture-study group in her convent each Lent.
She made a point of attending all local funerals and wakes, Catholic or not, praying for the ones who had died and comforting loved ones in their grief.
She helped other volunteers gather and pack up donated clothing for Care ’n Share in Wien.
Fr. Kaimann recalled that she collected “huge amounts of banana boxes.” There, the boxes were used to store and ship used clothing and household items to people in need.
She told a reporter in 2002 that she found her time in Linn and Chariton counties to be the most fruitful years of her religious life.
“I feel like I am using more of my gifts and talents by helping people who can’t help themselves,” she said.
Roots of an angel
After 32 years in Marceline, she moved to The Sarah Community in Bridgeton in November 2012.
“You bet I’m going to miss it!” she said with a huge smile. “My roots here run deep.”
Surviving are two sisters: Gertrude Droste and Julia Mulrean, both of Godfrey, Illinois; a brother, Paul Droste of Alton, Illinois; a sister-in-law, Margie Droste of Godfrey; and a brother-in-law, Louis Hesse of Burgaw, North Carolina; as well as many beloved nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.
Preceding her in death were her parents, six sisters and three brothers.
“What a sweet-natured woman!” said Sandy Ashby, director of public relations for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in St. Louis.
“She really was an angel.”