Sister Bernice Simon, OSB, 72

Sister Bernice Simon, OSB, 72, died Monday, August 28, 2006, at St. Martin Monastery, Rapid City, SD, after battling leukemia for several years.

The sixth child in a family of seven, Bernice Margaret Simon was born March 9, 1934, at New Prague, to James and Mary (Kubes) Simon. She attended Catholic grade school at Veseli with her twin brother, Bernard. Following graduation from New Prague High School in 1951, she attended St. Cloud State College for a year. She entered St. Martin's Convent, Sturgis, SD on August 28, 1954. She received her Benedictine habit July 12, 1955, and made monastic profession July 16, 1956, followed by perpetual monastic profession three years later. Being a nurses' aide during high school convinced her of her calling to that profession. She began nurses' training in the fall of 1959 at St. John's MacNamara School of Nursing, Rapid City, SD and later worked on medical and surgical floors and as night supervisor at St. John's Hospital. She obtained certification as an RN, received a BS in biological science from Mercy College, Detroit, MI, an MS in guidance and counseling from South Dakota State University. A student to the end, she obtained a BS in nursing from University of Mary, Bismarck, ND with emphasis on care of the terminally ill within the last few years. Never a person to concentrate on only one ministry, Sister Bernice was also a classroom teacher. She taught at St. Martin's Grade School, Sturgis, and at St. Catherine's School, Laguna Beach, CA. From 1964-1972, she taught at St. Martin's Academy, Rapid City, SD, where she was also school nurse, dormitory supervisor and coordinator of athletic events. At a critical time in the Academy in 1984, she was also principal for several months. From 1975-1984, Sister Bernice directed St.Martin's Community Center. She served as laison between River Park Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center and the Benedictine community. Her experience in spending a month at a Christian ashram in India in 1976, under the guidance of the late Father Bede Griffith, OSB, and her association with Retreats International spurred her interest in helping others through retreats and spiritual direction. In 1984, Sister Bernice started ministry as a pastoral assistant at St. Richard's Church, Columbia Falls, MT. Sisters Gemma Schatz, OSB, and Lorane Coffin, OSB, joined her in establishing Epiphany Monastery there in 1990. During that time, Sister Bernice began working part-time at the Montana State Veterans' Home, Columbia Falls, and eventually spent more than 20 years there, most of them as assistant director of nurses.She was appointed superior of Epiphany Monastery in 2000, where she also directed the Benedictine Oblates connected to the monastery. Due to illness, Sister Bernice resigned from the Veteran's Home staff in the spring of 2006. She returned to St. Martin Monastery in July, where she celebrated her 50th jubilee of monastic profession on July 22 with Bishop Blasé Capich presiding. Known for her boundless energy, fun-loving spirit, and compassion, Sister Bernice brought a touch of God wherever she was.

She is survived by two brothers, Theodore (Lorraine) Simon, New Prague and her twin, Bernard (Marian) Simon, Anchorage, AK; two sisters, Marion (Bill) Tuma, Le Center, Alice (Marvin) Schanus, Lonsdale; a sister-in-law Angie (Jim) Simon, New Prague, many nieces and nephews; and by her Benedictine Sisters, St. Martin Monastery, Rapid City, SD.

She was preceded in death by her parents; two brothers, Norbert and Jim Simon; and a brother-in-law, Bill Tuma.

The Mass of Christian burial took place on Saturday, Sept. 2, at St. Martin Monastery chapel, Rapid City, SD, where Bishop Blasé Cupich presided with eight concelebrants. Burial was in the monastery cemetery.

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