NDCA membership believes that chaplaincy is a calling.
Instead of raising one above another, a worthy chaplain is featured rather than given an award.
Sister Debra was born and raised in the small town of Washington, Illinois, near Peoria. She is the oldest of three. Her dad worked for the Caterpillar Tractor Company and her mom was a stay-at-home mom. Both her parents had a deep faith and church was a very important part of their lives which they passed on to their children. Sister Debra attended St. Patrick Catholic Grade School in Washington (IL) where she became acquainted with the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation. After one year at the College at St. Francis in Joliet (IL) Sister Debra realized God was calling her to consider Religious Life.
Pursuing this calling her parents drove her to Valley City (ND) and she entered the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation at Maryvale in 1967. Sister made her vows in 1970 and went on to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education with a major in early childhood development from the College of St. Teresa in Winona, MN. Upon finishing her degree Sister returned to Valley City and taught 2nd grade at St. Catherine Catholic School for several years. Her dream of starting a kindergarten became a reality when an anonymous donor gifted money so a kindergarten could be started.
Sister Debra returned to Illinois and taught 1st grade in Princeton. During that year her father died and she moved back to her home town of Washington to be a support for her mother. While in Washington Sister taught 1st grade at St. Patrick Catholic School in the very same classroom where she had been a first grader. After 3 years at St. Patrick, she was asked to return as Vocation Director for the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation and also engage in campus ministry at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. While doing this for 10 wonderful, grace-filled years she also attended Gonzaga University in Spokane (WA) during summers to earn her Master Degree in Religious Studies.
Following her years at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church (UND campus), Sister Debra was asked to serve on the Leadership Team for the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation which she did for 5 years. In 2001 Sister relocated to Fosston (MN) where she was the Pastoral Associate at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for 12 years. While on a mini Sabbatical in Texas God nudged her to look into pastoral care in a health care setting which she fulfilled at St. Gabriel’s Benedictine Living Center in Bismarck, ND from 2014-2019. From Bismarck, Sister Debra came to SMP Health-St. Raphael in Valley City which is sponsored by the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation Health System in Fargo, ND.
Sister Debra says visiting the residents, bringing them Communion and being with them in their passing has been a very sacred part of her ministry over the last few years. The residents have taught her how precious the gift of life is and to treasure each day as a GIFT from God.
Sister Suzanne Stahl, Religious Leader of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation, states, “Sister Debra is an excellent listener and is very dedicated to the ministry of the elderly and sick.” Administrator Maren Gemar of St. Raphael adds, “Sister Debra shows God’s love in her daily life, lives out the mission and encourages others to do the same. She is hardworking, compassionate, intentional and a team player. We are honored to have Sister Debra’s heart and service recognized.”
Over the years Sister Debra has enjoyed doing counted cross stitch, needlepoint, decorating, cooking and baking. She enjoys being out in nature and breathing in the wonders of God’s creation. She is an avid walker and when she cannot walk outside she may be walking the mall or the halls at Maryvale.