Sr. Antoinette Traeger, OSB: July 24, 1924 – Aug. 20, 2016

September 2016 Posted in People

Sister Antoinette Traeger, OSB, entered into eternal life at the Providence Benedictine Nursing Center on Aug. 20 at the age of 92.

Sister Antoinette was a member of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mount Angel for almost 75 years, rejoicing in monastic life and sharing her prayer and wise perceptions of God’s activity in life with a great number of people over the years.

Born on July 24, 1924 in Timberlake, South Dakota, Sr. Antoinette was the second of nine children born to Anthony Traeger and Grace Gamble Traeger. She attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Timberlake from 1930-1936. In 1936, due to the Dust Bowl, the Traeger family moved to Mount Angel.

The trip was something that Sister Antoinette never forgot. The whole family piled into their Model T and headed west. Her mother was almost nine months pregnant at the time. Sister Antoinette’s brother, Tom, was the only one of the children to be born in Oregon. Sister Antoinette often reminded people that though she hadn’t been born in Mount Angel, she had lived there “since age 12.” Once they were settled in, Sister Antoinette attended McKee School. 

When speaking with others about her life, Sister Antoinette often shared her fond recollections of childhood. She described those years as a happy time and one that required great responsibility for her seven younger siblings. 

When Sister Antoinette was ready for high school, she attended the Benedictine Sisters’ Mount Angel Academy. At about the same time she became aware she had a very strong desire to become a nun. Following graduation from the Academy in 1942, she entered the Queen of Angels Monastery. Leaving her home and family was quite a dramatic event for the eldest daughter. Not only was she the first to leave home, but leaving home to enter the convent added a dimension of mystery.

Sister Antoinette made her first profession of vows in 1945.  During her early years in the community, Sister became ill with a mysterious and serious illness, which caused her to have frequent nocturnal seizures. Because of the illness, she was challenged in her desire to continue her formation and preparation for her perpetual monastic vows. 

Sister Antoinette’s tenacity of spirit and will along with her monastic sisters acceptance and support, allowed her to continue and profess her lifelong vow on Feb. 10, 1948.

Sister Antoinette characterized her journey of faith as one rooted in a desire to follow her early dream of making a difference for God, the Church, her monastic community, and the greater community.

In her first few years in community, she worked within the Monastery doing laundry, embroidering vestments, working closely with sisters on liturgy, singing Gregorian Chant and other tasks. Sister Antoinette always spoke of herself as “One called and loved by the Lord.”

In 1951, Sister Antoinette’s father died of a sudden heart attack. This death brought big changes in her family and Sister Antoinette felt a tremendous loss since she was very close to her dad.  

“I was jolted into a new reality with the death of my father which left my mother at age 50 alone with two teenagers at home.” 

In January 1955, she was asked by the Prioress, Mother Gemma Piennett to take on a new ministry on behalf of the community. Sister Antoinette, along with other sisters, accepted the responsibility of establishing The Village Home, a care center for the elderly and ill in the greater Mount Angel community. 

In 1957, The Village Home was expanded and the Benedictine Nursing Center [BNC] opened just north of the monastery. As the first administrator, Sister Antoinette lead the BNC to become a model of excellence in care and compliance that remains to this day. While she acknowledged she had not earned any formal degrees after high school, she was persistent in self-study, in service, and education opportunities.

 In 1966, Sister Antoinette was called to leadership within Queen of Angels as its administrator. She reflected saying, “Accepting this call demanded of me a belief in the gifts the Lord had given me.”  In 1968, Sister Antoinette was elected by the sisters to serve as their Prioress, a position she held until 1978. 

Her strong and wise leadership was particularly apparent during those years following Vatican II when there was considerable renewal and change within religious life as a whole and at Queen of Angels as well. There were changes in how the community prayed, how the sisters dressed, what ministries were engaged in, how the sisters partnered with others, how the community perceived itself as having a charism for the church. In all this, Sister Antoinette was a leader and invited others to various forms of leadership in the community and church. Sister Antoinette led her community with hope, believing that “I could make a difference”.

After finishing her ministry as prioress at Queen of Angels Monastery, Sister Antoinette took some years of renewal at Notre Dame University and at the Center for Monastic Studies at the University of Texas. She returned in 1982 to be director of Shalom Prayer Center. She was involved in Spiritual Direction, prepared and gave retreats in the area of contemplative prayer and encouraged other sisters to be engaged in spiritual ministry. She served as Assistant Prioress from 1995-1999. 

She became Oblate Director. Under her leadership, the number of Oblates increased dramatically, and more importantly the group become more closely attached to the sisters and one another, deepening their faith and commitment to lay Benedictine life. Through her many years in varied ministries, Sister Antoinette became a beloved fellow traveler on the journey of life for her family, community, oblates, co-workers and friends.

In 2015, Sister Antoinette moved to the Providence Benedictine Nursing Center. The PBNC welcomed back its first administrator, a woman whose picture still graces the lobby. Though her health was fragile and declining, Sister Antoinette continued to minister to her family and friends with words of encouragement. When she couldn’t speak she offered a gracious smile and twinkling eyes.

Sister Antoinette is survived by her community, the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel, her three siblings, Mary Schurr, Regina Scheidler and Gerry Beyer, many nieces, nephews and cousins. 

She was preceded in death by her parents, Anthony and Grace Traeger, and five siblings, Margaret Bernards, Monica Stuckart, Francis Traeger, Leo Traeger, and Thomas Traeger.

A Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated Aug. 24 followed by burial in the monastery cemetery.

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