Newman University mourns passing of longtime professor, scholar Madeleine Kisner, ASC

Nov 20, 2009

Wichita, Kan. – Newman University alumnae, longtime professor of English and respected scholar of John Henry Cardinal Newman and his works Madeleine Kisner, ASC passed away at 12:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 20 in Wichita. She was 82. A Wake Service will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 in the Woman of the New Covenant Chapel at the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) Wichita Center, 1165 Southwest Boulevard. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 23 at the chapel, with Father Tom Welk as presider and homilist. Burial in the ASC community cemetery will follow. Sister Madeleine was a professed Adorer for 66 years.

Born May 26, l927, to Peter and Emma (Basgall) Kisner, she was baptized Dorothy Ann at St. Joseph Church, Offerle, Kan. Her family later moved to a farm near Plains, Kan., where she attended Plains Consolidated School. The middle child of seven, she was raised in a religious household, and at age 14 decided to follow her older sister Mary into the ASC religious congregation. She entered the novitiate in 1942 and received the name of Madeleine. She pronounced her first vows on July 1, 1943 and her permanent vows in 1948.

Sister Madeleine attended Sacred Heart Academy, a predecessor institution of Newman University, from which she graduated in 1945. She then taught at several parochial schools in Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1957 from Sacred Heart College, another predecessor of Newman, and a master’s degree in English in 1971 from Creighton University, Omaha, Neb. She completed a doctoral degree in English at the University of Michigan in 1975, and immediately joined the faculty at Newman as professor of English and creative writing, where she taught until 1991. She later did post-doctoral work at the University of San Francisco in California, and lived and studied in Durham and Cambridge, England. Over a teaching career of close to 50 years, she taught at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels, including overseas stints teaching basic English in Romania, and was known for her dynamic teaching methods.

“She was a very popular teacher and was our own ‘Auntie Mame,'” said Charlotte Rohrbach, ASC, professor emerita of history and now director of mission and archives at Newman, who was a colleague and friend of Sister Madeleine. “She didn’t know a stranger. She just loved to be with the students, and often attracted the students who needed help of one kind or another, but they needed the kind of attention she gave them. She didn’t always do things the way other people thought they should be done, but as she thought they should be done. She definitely marched to her own drummer.”

Sister Charlotte added that Sister Madeleine’s love of people and relish for life had far-reaching effects on students, ASC Associates – a group of individuals who have an affiliation with the Adorers – colleagues, and many others.

“So many of our alumni say they went on beyond their education at Newman or went into the field they did because of her,” she said, “and there are so many people who are ASC Associates and friends of the university and the Adorers, her religious community, because of her. Several of the Associates in this area joined the group because of their relationship with Sister Madeleine.”

Sister Madeleine also enjoyed traveling, and after leaving the classroom because of health issues she took up research on John Henry Cardinal Newman, the university’s namesake, including extended study in Dublin, Ireland. She was later named a Newman Scholar and spearheaded a drive for works by Newman and artifacts and information about Newman that now make up a significant collection in the university’s Dugan Library and Campus Center. In 1997 she took a position at the Newman Center on the campus of Wichita State University and served as a volunteer for about 10 years.

Sister Madeleine was also known for her poetry, which signified her spirit, insights and emotions. In “Live Fully in His Love,” one of her most recent works, she wrote:

“Let your eyes be opened to the wonders of God’s nature,
for He goes before you in all your worries and your doubts …
Indeed, live in His Love, His Life,
for your dream world will open to transformation in Christ.”

Sister Madeleine was preceded in death by her parents, and her sisters Esther, Ruth, and Rosalyn, ASC. She is survived by her brother John, sisters Helen Borth and Mary Hedlesky, several nieces and nephews, and her ASC community.