Longtime archivist retiring
Sr. Ella Kaster will continue her ministry as a parish visitor at St. Mary in Oshkosh
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
"If you don't like history before you meet her, you'll love history after you meet her."
That's how Sr. Lisa Lucht, OP, describes Sr. Ella Kaster, CSJ, who retired as diocesan archivist on Sept. 30.
Sr. Lucht, newly appointed parish director of St. Paul, Wrightstown, was chancellor of the Green Bay Diocese for five years and worked closely with Sr. Kaster.
"She helps you fall in love with your own history, with the history of the church and with the history of the Diocese of Green Bay, "says Sr. Lucht.
Sr. Kaster has served as diocesan archivist since 1991. She brought with her credentials that include teaching history for 22 years at the now closed St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay, one masters degree in history and a
second in pastoral ministry.
A Green Bay native, Sr. Kaster joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet in St. Louis 54 years ago. She has
taught in elementary and secondary schools in Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Peoria.
Sr. Kaster believes that her work as archivist was a form of pastoral ministry. "It's a good feeling when you can
get people the certificate they need for a baptism or an annulment," she says. Her personal touch included
always asking the wedding date for people who called to get information for a marriage certificate. "I'd write it
on my calendar and pray for them on that day," she says.
The archivist is in charge of the official records for the diocese, from parish historical documents to diocesan
legal papers. The archives include baptismal certificates for every parish in the diocese -- dating back to the 19th
century -- and these are the most common sources of contact the average person has with the archives.
"For most people," Sr. Kaster says, "genealogy is our main contact. If they aren't Catholic, (the archives) may be
their only contact. It's important that they see us as welcoming."
Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs, ANG, diocesan chancellor since July, says that Sr. Kaster's "deep desire to serve people"
has been a hallmark. "She has such a real conviction that we are to be of service," Sr. Grubbs said.
Sr. Kaster will now move to St. Mary Parish in Oshkosh, where she will serve as a parish volunteer -- "helping
out where I'm needed: office work, home visits..."
Her 18 years of membership at Nativity Parish in Green Bay, where she has served on the parish council, the
pastoral services committee, the education committee and as a Eucharistic minister, will no doubt pay off for her
new Oshkosh home.
Sr. Judy Miller, parish director at St. Mary in Oshkosh, says she is looking forward to Sr. Kaster's presence at the
parish. "She has a joyful spirit and a sense of warmth and hospitality that is contagious," said Sr. Miller. "Her
coming here is a real gift to the parish."
For her part, Sr. Kaster sums up her life's work so far as a gift: "I'm one of those people who has been blessed
with everything I've done -- from teaching to pastoral ministry to volunteering."