I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. ~ John 10:10

I was born on August 8, 1927 in Wood River, Illinois, a small town across the Mississippi River from North St. Louis, Missouri. My parents were William and Theresa Kienstra, and I grew up with an older and younger sister and two younger brothers.

After graduation from the local high school, I attended Webster College for two years – a small college conducted by the Sisters of Loretto, and affiliated with St. Louis University. I then worked for my father and did some traveling. One trip was the 1950 Jubilee Pilgrimage to Rome, France and Switzerland. It was at this time I felt a vocation to religious life.

Being attracted to the Dominicans who professed a life of contemplation and action, I wrote to the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids for information. After receiving several issues of “Come and See,” I made my application. I became Sister Mary Gretchen and received my Certificate of Theology and Masters Degree in Elementary School Administration. I ministered as a teacher and principal of elementary schools in Michigan.

Snapshots from a Teacher and School Administrator

  • “As a teacher, I didn’t just want learning to be book study, we did hands on activities. On Halloween and Valentine’s Day, I arranged with the local roller rink to take the children skating. The parents couldn’t wait and many came along each year. One year, I had car trouble and the local police officer happened by and took me to our skating party. The children laughed about that for some time.”
  • “The younger students were a bit afraid of the big eighth graders, so on Fridays, I would send the older students into to help the younger students with their reading. Then they would see each other in the halls and playgrounds and wouldn’t be so afraid.”
  • “We were such a small school, I enriched our own curriculum by sending the junior high students to West Catholic for science and Spanish language classes. Most students were from farm families and interacted with seasonal workers from Mexico. I thought it was important that they could speak some of the language.”
  • “We used to collaborate on programs with the nearby Lutheran School. They would invite us, and we would invite them for special programs or sports activities. It wasn’t so long ago that the two schools from different faith traditions wouldn’t have been able to collaborate.”